Conscription

William and I had been best friends since I could remember. When we were toddlers, we used to walk around in our nappies together. When we started high school, we’d get into trouble together. He was like a brother to me. His house was much nicer than mine, his family was much nicer too. I always went to his house, either to hang out with him or to get away from my father. If I ever knocked on his door at 12 pm he’d understand why. He was the best mate anyone could ask for.  

When walking through town, I noticed a poster placed on ‘Tommie’s barbershop’ window. I walked over as Will flirted with Mr. Thomson’s daughter. I closely examined the poster not believing what I was reading. ‘Do you want fame, glory, and respect? Well, it’s your lucky day! You can sign up NOW to not only fight but honor your country’. 

Finally, the great war had arrived in our small town.

Underneath was a picture of a man not much older than me wearing a military suit looking all handsome and proud. I was astounded, it was exactly what I wanted. I wanted respect from my father, and I wanted glory. Living in a small state like Tasmania meant that no one knew your name except the locals. 

I called out to Will, but he just ignored me.

A ladies man he was.

After puberty, he developed golden locks that could corrupt just about any girl he came across. While I remained a brown eyed, black headed boy.

 Eventually, I had to drag him away from her. ‘’See you darling’’ he winked at Sara, in return he received a flirty wave ‘’Goodbye, Will’’.

‘’What do you want Isaac?’’.

He turned his head toward the poster and as he read a massive smile began to form on his mouth. It was like he was reading a letter from one of his secret admirers. We had heard about the assignation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and about the great war but to be a part of it was just plain awesome.

I was 19 and he was 18.

 Although he was old enough to join, he had to be 19 to be sent overseas but we desperately wanted to get out of there together. When we went to sign our souls away, we had to provide our age before they could even take a second look at us. I proudly told them I was 19 but Will took a little longer to answer. 

‘’Sir how old are you’’ beckoned the man with the broad shoulders and chipped tooth.

‘’I’m 19, Sir’’ he stuttered. 

I was in shock; he was the most honest bloke I knew.

‘’You better not be lying, cause if you are, tell me now son, it’s for your own good’’.

I thought to myself, what’s so bad about the war that a man like him would warn a couple of kids like us?  I wish I had listened to him then.

‘’No Sir I’m not lying‘’, he replied bravely.  

He gave us a sympathetic look.

‘’Well you now need to take a physical test” We both nodded excited that 5 years of footy would finally pay off.

 

These stories were written in our Factory Feedback program, which was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.