Dad's Army. Years after the war, members of the old Home Guard reunite for Private Godfrey's funeral and realise that not much has changed when it comes to loyalty.
Mainwaring nodded approvingly, seeing that it was a good turnout. Fair enough too; Godfrey had been well liked, so no wonder most of Walmington-On-Sea had turned up for his funeral. It would be a good send-off for a loyal and brave old friend. Mainwaring stood to attention as the Vicar arrived; it was starting.
The Verger looked almost tearful already, Mainwaring noted. And there was Hodges, hat being twirled in his hands and a solemn expression on his face. After the war he and Mainwaring had made their peace, although Hodges still called him Napoleon from time to time. There stood Pike, hair combed neatly, standing next to his mother and Sergeant Wilson, who looked awfully smart in his uniform from the First World War. Sergeant Wilson had recently proposed to Mrs Pike and the wedding was scheduled for next month.
Mainwaring's stomach flipped sickeningly as he spotted Godfrey's two sisters, Dolly and Sissy, staring at the coffin with wide eyes, almost as though they still couldn't believe that this was their beloved brother. Their jaws were clenched, expressions somewhat numb. Mainwaring promised himself he'd look out for them from now on.
There was Frazer, dressed in his morbid undertaker's outfit. He'd made the coffin for Godfrey, taking great time and pride in constructing the smartest box he could, yet charging the sisters only half of what it was worth. He was a good man, Frazer, when it came to things like this. Jones stood next to his wife, who was already clutching a damp handkerchief to her face. Mainwaring still found it awfully confusing to address her as Mrs Jones when he still knew her as Mrs Fox. He supposed he'd get used to it one day.
Private Sponge stood reverently with the other old members of the Home Guard, chins raised and proudly displaying their medals. Mainwaring recognised most of the other people there; people from around the town but also various others he assumed to be relatives and old friends. What seemed like only moments later it was time for Mainwaring to do his eulogy. He got to his feet and walked slowly to the front of the church, realising that his heart was hammering in his chest.
Pull yourself together man, he thought. Think of what you've lived through: wars, countless air raids, living with Elizabeth… How could a simple speech make you any more nervous than that?
"Ahem," Mainwaring said, clearing his throat as he gazed out at the gathering. "Private Charles Godfrey. He was… Well, not really any words can quite describe what Godfrey meant to everyone. But I'll start with how I knew him. Walmington-On-Sea needed a Home Guard during the war, to defend our coast against the Germans. Godfrey fought bravely in previous wars, but in this particular one his age and health wouldn't permit. So, he signed up for our Home Guard. Such a simple decision resulted in such a change for his life."
Mainwaring paused for a moment, taking a deep breath before he continued. "Godfrey did his duty, arming our coast against the enemy, becoming a dedicated member of our platoon, experienced medical orderly and keeping up a constant supply of hot, sweet tea."
The crowd murmured approvingly, most having tasted Godfrey's tea. He had quite a knack for making it taste good and strong, even with rationing.
"He was always loyal to the platoon and to his country, but most importantly he was loyal to his sisters. Dolly and Sissy meant the world to him, and he would do anything for them. What kind of a man puts his family first, no matter what? A marvellous man, that's all I can say. And that's how I'd describe Charles Godfrey. Marvellous."
There was a round of applause and, as Mainwaring looked down at Godfrey's two sisters, he felt a pang in his heart. He quickly blinked back tears and stood for a moment, just smiling at Dolly and Sissy, heart thrumming as they smiled back, applauding louder than anyone else in the church. Mainwaring knew, right then, that Godfrey was watching. And he was crying. Crying with happiness at this perfect send-off, seeing all those dearest to him gathered, and Mainwaring could hold it no longer. He saluted the coffin and staggered back to his seat with the tears swimming behind his glasses. Sitting down he silently wished Godfrey the best.
Eventually the gathering made their way towards the cemetery, pallbearers leading the way with Godfrey's coffin. They all sang as they walked, a slow and melodic tune, and all could feel Godfrey singing along with them. The Vicar said some words over the coffin and most people were holding themselves together. Then, as the coffin was being lowered into the hole, The Last Post was played and everyone fell apart. The sisters clung onto each other, sobbing desperately into handkerchiefs and even Mainwaring could feel the sobs and grief building up inside him as tears ran unchecked down his face.
Glancing around he saw that all the men, including the platoon members, were crying. Resentment worked its way up and Mainwaring decided that he hated it all. Society, everything. How dare they suggest that men be stronger than women! How dare they say that soldiers must be brave and never cry? We're all human, for God's sake! We cry. Especially when we lose a fellow soldier. A fellow friend.
Soon enough it was all over and everyone walked despondently back down from the cemetery, dabbing at their red and swollen eyes. They made their way back to the Godfreys' cottage for light refreshments and conversation. Dolly and Sissy caught Mainwaring unawares as he was biting into a cucumber sandwich.
"Mr Mainwaring," Dolly said and he turned around to face them.
"Ah," he said, not sure what to call them. First names were too personal but he couldn't call them Miss Godfrey and Miss Godfrey. "My condolences, ladies."
"Thank you very much," Sissy said. "We really appreciate everything you've done. The eulogy was lovely."
"Charles would've been so happy," Dolly said, her voice wavering with emotion. "So proud… This is the perfect send-off for him."
Tears were glittering in both the sisters' eyes and Mainwaring didn't know what to say. Thankfully Sissy spared him.
"You don't have to say anything, Mr Mainwaring. We know it was hard for you today also."
"Yes, well," Mainwaring said. "Like I said, he was a very loyal member of the platoon, and dare I say it, a very good friend."
"He always spoke very highly of you," Dolly said and her voice cracked, tears spilling down her pale cheeks once again. "He always liked you."
"And I liked him," Mainwaring said, wondering if the tears would ever stop forming in his own eyes. "So we must remember him as that. Fellow soldier and friend, brother, confidant, optimist and always loyal."
And that was when Mainwaring realised; the whole platoon had been based on something he'd never realised. It wasn't the thrill of adventure. It wasn't to protect their country. It was loyalty. And that was all that had ever been displayed throughout the war years. Loyalty. And it had been shown here today even. Though the war had ended several years ago the old platoon members had all come along to pay their respects and show their never-ending loyalty.
And that's what made Private Charles Godfrey such a marvellous man; he was loyal. And the Home Guard would always remain loyal to each other, no matter what.