Private Crag

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

3 Madrigal Court, Yorke
7 September 1017


I’ve no idea why I’m writing to you today; both m’mother and m’sister are certain that you’re on your way back to the Old Lands to see to your mother by now, and so I’ll be seeing you long before you’ll see this.

But never mind; I’ve got things to tell you.

First of all, I shall soon be a published author—if “author” is the word I’m looking for. I should rather say that the slender volume A Lieutenant’s Campaign in Malague and Provençe is soon to be coming off the presses with my name on it; and I tell you truly, Armand, there’s so little of me in the thing that I feel like an imposter and a sham.

Having reviewed the despatches and records and spoken with a few folks who were there I was able to put together a coherent outline of where I must have been and what actions I’d fought in through the course of the campaign—which was more than I was able to do at the time. Then I spent a drunken week filling in the details: commonplace observations about camp life, all of them wholly bloodless; brief descriptions of the towns and scenery, mostly swotted up from pre-war travel books; and a touching, utterly factual, and utterly misleading account of my injury and shipment home.

And all of it written in the persona of a bluff, hearty soldier. By the end of the week I was dropping the pronouns from the beginning of my sentences when I spoke to people.

Felt I should, old chap. Must get into character, don’t you know. Glad to do it, glad I say!

But it’s done, and I don’t need to think of it any more.

Meanwhile there are two other books in my head, both clamoring to be written now that the first is out of my hands. The second is the account for His Lordship, regarding the various escapades, pranks, mishaps, and other chaos that trailed along behind us. That, alas, will need to be printed privately if at all.

And then there’s the third, which is the book of all the real details: the mud, and the sweat, and the flies, and the tedium, and the loathsome food. The loss of one’s comrades. The throbbing I felt (and still feel at times) from the leg I no longer have.

I don’t rate a personal servant these days, but I looked up my old batsman the other day. Craggart, his name is, and “Crag” I used to call him. It was a joke of His Lordship’s when he was a captain and I a brand new lieutenant.

“Here’s Crag, Montjoy, and I wish you much joy of him,” that’s what he said.

So we talked of what I’d been up to, and had a good many laughs at the incidents I mean to record in the second book; but about the third he said, “Not that ‘un, sir. Leave ‘un for t’other sojers. Over a pint, like.”

He’s right, of course, and I shall heed his advice.

Meanwhile, I’m quite looking forward to seeing you—it will make a change from my quiet days at the War Records Office.


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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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