This is the third part of Jimmy Morgan’s story, to be updated month by month, until 1918, if Jimmy survives that long.
While you’re here, I’d be very grateful if you’d glance through the site and take a look at my books, too – right now all the Richard Nottingham ebooks are on sale. After all, writing is what I do (that was the ad segment).
It had been a sombre Bonfire Night. No one had been in the mood, not with so many lads already away. There’d always been a big fire at the end of Jimmy’s street, boys out chumping for weeks before, stuffing straw into old clothes and begging for a farthing for the guy.
Not this time. Not when the country was at war. His mam had made parkin, Mrs. Wilson at number 36 had her special cinder toffee, but it was only the kids who were eating as the stood around the small blaze.
‘You’re eighteen tomorrow,’ Teddy Wilson said. He’d joined the month before, now he was just waiting for his notice to report.
‘Aye,’ Jimmy said. ‘I’ll be down at the depot first thing.’
Teddy glanced over at Jimmy’s parents.
‘Do they know yet?’
He didn’t answer. They must have guessed. In the last two months they’d been over it a dozen times. And from tomorrow they couldn’t stop him.
‘What about that lass you’re walking out with?’
Mary. They’d met on the second Sunday in October. The weather had been balmy, even some sun, and Jimmy had taken the tram out to Roundhay Park. They’d met in the queue for an ice cream and he’d ended up buying her a cup of tea. The next Sunday he took her to the pictures at the Hyde Park. She was a maid in one of the big houses past Headingley, but no side on her for all that. A cheeky smile and dark hair. She made him laugh, then more when she gave him a kiss.
‘I talked to her,’ Jimmy told him. ‘She’s dead proud.’
She wouldn’t be a maid much longer, she’d told him that. Soon enough they’d want women for war work, that was what she believed, and she’d be off like a shot. No more yes sir, no sir and working all hours for next to nothing. She was ambitious, was Mary, and she didn’t mind anyone knowing.
There was drizzle in the air the next morning. Jimmy washed and dressed, ready to be out of the house early. Sod work, he had something better planned. Serve the King and see a little glory while he could. If they were right he’d be home in the New Year, anyway. He’d just made a pot of tea and was scraping dripping over a slice of bread when his father came into the scullery.
‘That’s right,’ Jimmy answered.
‘Are you going to do it?’ his father asked.
Terry Morgan gave a small nod.
‘I think you’re daft. But if you’re sure, cut me a piece of that loaf and I’ll come down with you.’
‘You won’t change my mind.’
‘I know that, lad,’ Terry said quietly. ‘It’s your right. But I’ll testify that you’re old enough. If I were them I’d not believe you otherwise.’
It was easily done, quick enough. In as Jimmy Morgan, out as Private Jimmy Morgan. They measured his height and his chest and gave him the nod.
‘Go home and back to work,’ the NCO told him. ‘We’ll send you a letter saying when and where to report.’ The man sounded bored, the words spoken too many times.
‘Yes, Corporal.’ Jimmy stood at attention, back straight. ‘Thank you, Corporal.’
‘Next,’ the man called, already looking down the line.
The Scarborough Taps was close by.
‘Fancy a drink?’ Terry asked. ‘Celebrate your birthday.’
‘Aye, all right,’ Jimmy said. He’d never had a drink with his father before. If they called him to fight soon, who knew when he would again?