Why we Fight

Mystics versus Dunsford at Chapel Field, 25th July 1999

"Crikey, lads," squeaked the subaltern, "another one's bought it."

The captain's whistle blew, and the next white-faced "volunteer" went over the top to face the enemy. He made his way across No-Man's Land to the strip, passing the Red Cross stretcher-bearers as they returned with the bloody corpse of his predecessor. Anxiously he checked his helmet, adjusted his box and turned to stand against the onslaught. Somewhere through the smoke of the battlefield, he heard movement. A blurred shape appeared, and a ruddy nemesis hurtled up off a length towards him...

...Distant voices and the brush of starched cotton against silk. He tried to open his eyes, but it had no effect on the blackness. He tried to move his arms, but could not be sure if anything happened. He tried to remember. To remember who he was. To remember how he had got there. A glimmer. Oh, God, yes. The horror. The slaughter. The Battle of Chapel Field.

He remembered young Cook's valiant caught and bowled to get rid of that filthy fifth columnist, von Chave, just as he was threatening to burst through our lines. He remembered too the last ball of their innings. A family divided. Brother against brother. A cocky young hopeful brought down by that glorious in-swinging yorker.

He remembered the tempered optimism in the dugout as Baldrick brought round the cappuccino. "We can do this, we really can."

After this he remembered nothing clearly. A few indistinct images, and the sound of screaming. "What happened?" he asked the blackness. "Who won the game?"

The rustle of cotton, and he felt someone beside him.

"Quiet now," said a familiar voice. "You need some sleep."

"Who won the game?" he repeated.

"Dunsford. Off the last ball." The familiar voice again. "Bryan was terribly brave. He and Derek seemed to have rescued us. With three overs to go, we needed 12 to win with three wickets in hand. Then that rascal, Ernie, stumped Derek, and Chris was run out. Donna went in last. She scored the single that brought us within one run of their score. Two runs to win off the last two balls. Bryan refused an easy single off the next, perhaps chastened by the run out in the previous over. The last ball and two still needed... "

The invalid drifted back off to sleep, wondering what it was all for in the end.

(Note that shortly before this magazine went to press, Dunsford scored 297 on the same ground. Poppies grow on the fields of Flanders.)

Jim Thomson

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