September 1914

He’d seen the tram down at the Swinegate Depot. All done up like a bloody dog’s dinner, God Save The King in lights on the side and Berlin as its destination.
Dog’s dinner was right. He read the slogan on the window – Wanted At Once, 5000 Recruits From Leeds. British Bulldogs. Airedale Or Yorkshire Terriers. Line them up and watch them run at the Hun. Still, he couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride.
There was already a queue hundreds long waiting to join up. In one end of the tram, out the other with big smiles on their faces. He joined at the end, smoking, listening to lads chattering away, full of spunk and fire about how many they’d kill and still be home by Christmas.
He didn’t care when it was over. However long it took, it would be better than what he had here. Grafting away in a factory for next to nowt. No future, just years of the same. His dad drunk Friday and Saturday nights, battering his mam when he came home.
Finally he stood in front of the corporal. The uniform was neat, the moustache clipped, buttons glinting in the light. Eyes full of pride.
‘Name?’
‘James Morgan.’
The corporal looked up.
‘If you want to be in the army, son, you’d better get used to rank.’ He pointed at the stripes. ‘See those? They mean I’m a corporal. So you address me as corporal or sir. Got it?’
‘Yes, corporal,’ he answered. It was like talking to the foreman.
‘Address?’
’31 East Park Road. Corporal.’ And he’d be glad to get shut of that place, too. No room, nowhere to think. Not that he expected the army to be much better. But at least he’d be a man, not just Tommy Morgan’s son.
‘Age?’
‘Eighteen, corporal.’
The man snorted.
‘Pull the other one, lad, it’s got bells on. How old?’
‘Seventeen.’
‘Then come back on your birthday.’ He looked down the line. ‘Next!’
Outside, all the ones who’d joined up were congratulating each other, off for a drink to celebrate. He walked off, hands in his pockets.

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