Before The Parade Passes By
By the time the Warmington-On-Sea platoon arrived at the church hall, cold, wet, and disheartened, Mrs Pike was already there ready and waiting for them.
"What are you doing here Mrs Pike?" Captain Mainwaring demanded as he led his men in behind him – he wasn't a particularly patient man, and although rather fond of Mrs Pike in his own way didn't particularly appreciate her calling round unannounced, disrupting his platoon at all hours of the day and night.
Mrs Pike looked over each of the men as they lined up, clucking disapprovingly and evidently taking in their bedraggled appearance.
"Well," She explained, "Frank and Arthur… I mean Sergeant Wilson… didn't show up for dinner this afternoon, and I'm not going to stand back and watch good food get wasted, even on your account Mr Mainwaring, there is a war on you know!"
"Yes I am perfectly aware of that Mrs Pike."
Sergeant Wilson and Private Pike were the last of the men to enter.
"Frank," Mrs Pike descended upon her son immediately, "Where on earth have you been? You're dinner's been on the table for half an hour, and what have you been up to? Look at the state of you! I must say I'm surprised at you Arthur, letting him get into such a mess, you know the state of his chest!" She added rounding on Wilson.
"Now, there's no need to fuss Mavis!" Sergeant Wilson replied in a strained tone, doing his best to pacify the well meaning but frequently overbearing woman. The barbed wire had cut deep into the flesh of his thigh and his leg was still rather sore.
"Oh, not now mum!" Frank whined, long sufferingly. "We've been catching a ram!"
"Well where is it?" She asked, looking around but seeing no sign of the animal.
"We lost it!" Frazer spat vehemently.
"That's enough of that Frazer." Mainwaring warned.
"Arthur, what's the matter with your leg?" Mrs Pike asked, noticing for the first time as the Sergeant continued to hold his wounded thigh, his stance stiff and awkward in his discomfort.
"He had a bit of a run in with a barbed wire fence." Walker smiled.
"Oh don't fuss Mavis!"
"Mr Mainwaring," Mrs Pike exclaimed with this, "I am going to take Frank home with me now! It's not right you keeping him out all day like this, you know how delicate his is! Arthur you come back with me and Frank now and I will take a look at that leg, and I must say Mr Mainwaring," She added, eyeing the men with a critical gaze, "you all look as though you could do with a good scrub down with the carbolic yourselves! You're filthy!"
Captain Mainwaring cast an eye over his troops – soaking wet and dirty – and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Argh, yes," He considered, "of course, I was just about to suggest that." – They did after all all look to be in quite a state. "Right then men, go home, get yourselves cleaned up, we'll reconvene back here in half an hour!"
When Private Pike rejoined the rest of the platoon when they regrouped half an hour later however Sergeant Wilson wasn't with him – so Captain Mainwaring called him aside.
"Pike, where is Sergeant Wilson?" He asked.
"Resting." Pike replied.
"Resting? What do you mean he's resting?" Mainwaring snapped.
"Well," Pike explained, "Mum said I was to tell you that Uncle Arthur…" – Mainwaring gave him a cross and impatient look – "I mean Sergeant Wilson, wasn't to go overexerting himself…"
"I don't think there's any danger of that happening!" Captain Mainwaring interrupted.
"And that he wouldn't be returning to parade tonight, as he's to rest his leg!"
"I think I'm going to have to have a word with your mother Pike. This really won't do you know, I'm trying to run a front line fighting unit, not Sainsbury's! What would happen if Hitler invaded right now, I could hardly say 'sorry Mr Hitler, would you mind coming back another day please, my Sergeant seems to be indisposed?" Mainwaring demanded, before noticing the sheepish look upon the boy's young face. "Oh, alright, rejoin your rank Pike." He spoke impatiently.
When Pike rejoined the platoon he turned to Walker who was standing to attention beside him, and as Captain Mainwaring passed them, whispered something into his friend's ear.
"I think Uncle Arthur really wanted to come." He explained, with a small smile upon his face. "But mum can be awfully persuasive at times. She hid his trousers!"