Tuesday, 28 April 2009
The bigger picture.
Tony was called up during the first days of World War 2 and sent to Norway. He was eighteen with prominent teeth and a concave chest. Apart from summer holidays at Broadstairs, he’d never been outside Rotherhithe before and the sea voyage, despite the U-boat threat, entranced him.
Not very long after they had landed, they sat Tony beside a fjord with a Carr’s anti-tank rifle and told him to cover their retreat. A column of Panzer tanks was imminent and it was his job to hold them up. He left with a very small quantity of chocolate, even less ammunition and an encouraging pat on his helmet.
He lay there in the glorious sunshine, his anti-tank rifled trained on a distant bend in the road around which the first Panzer tank would soon rumble, and thought how wonderful the morning was. The air was crystal clear, the waters glittered and a soft breeze rustled through the green, clean grass.
A roly-poly famer’s wife appeared round the distant bend in the road with a cow on a halter. Tony listened to the tinkling of its bell on the wind and averted his aim. He hoped she would be well clear before the Panzers arrived, and then tried not to think about the Panzers at all.
As the farmer’s wife and the cow made their way slowly towards him he could see she had an affable smile on her face, to match the morning. He wondered if he should say something as she passed. Something sociable, to dissipate the tension in him, the fear he couldn’t quite acknowledge
As she drew near he shouted over a polite if nervous, “Good morning!”
“Bollocks!” she called out genially. Then, having observed the necessary proprieties, she walked on, leaving Tony waiting for the Panzers.