John Mullen

historian

Dear Fred,
I remember you well. I remember when you took a second job on the docks in the evenings, so your old parents wouldn’t have to go to the workhouse and be separated after so many decades together. The boss your gardener father worked for said he wouldn’t help, that it was not his problem.
I remember when your third son died at five years old; if only you’d had the money for the doctors a year before that, he would have grown up. You never said so, but I know he was your favourite.
I remember the strikes a few years before the war. You never gave in, you stayed out till the end of the strike, even though union funds were not enough to feed your family more than one measly meal a day, ffor weeks on end.
You were my hero at all these times. Noone high up thought you were a hero, then.

Then you were called up, went off and killed two Germans before being cut down by machine gun fire . Suddenly they gave you a medal, and here we are a century later being told you were a hero because you died for empire. Empire!