by | Mar 16, 2024 | Stories | 0 comments

His voice cut the air like a sharp knife in the stuffy classroom that warm summer day in 1948. ‘Who can name me a famous battle?’ An arm shot up in the second row desk, the boy waving his hand for added effect.
‘Yes boy, what’s your name?’ commanded the teacher with that added air of authority.
‘Sir, please sir, Wilson, Danny’ He said it with a slight waiver in his voice as if he was now wondering what he had done.
‘Right, Wilson, Danny. Now tell me the battle that you are referring to.’
‘Sir, please sir. The battle of Agincourt’ He said it as if he was surprised at his own response. He pronounced the ‘court’ part, rather than the French version.
‘So, Wilson, Danny, you seem to be the class historian, please tell me where you learnt about this battle. Was it in this class, in this school?’
‘Please sir, no sir. When I’m poorly at home, my Mum lets me read what were once my Dad’s cyclelopedas. Well, I don’t read much but I do read the words under the pictures. I saw this one of the battle of Agincourt but it didn’t look much of a battle to me. It was a long time ago and they didn’t have any rifles or guns, just long poles, bows and arrows and swords. Not like the battles in the war. And they all wore metal armour, I think it was called.’ He exhaled as he got the words off his chest, he wasn’t used to speaking up in class.
‘Well, Wilson, that’s not a bad effort on your part. Of course, the weapons that were used in World War II that’s not long over, were invented at a much later date. Things had changed a lot. Agincourt was over five hundred years ago, the English used the long bow and the swords had long handles so they could be used with both hands.’
He exhibited with an invisible ‘air’ sword, swishing both hands together from left to right in an imitation of a sword in battle. ‘Next time Mum lets you look at what were once your Dad’s books, might be handy to look those up.’

The teachers name was Simon Mitchell, formally Captain Mitchell of the Buffs East Kent regiment. He had spent the war fighting with the regiment in Egypt and Italy and was slightly wounded on one occasion. When the war ended and he was finally demobbed, he trained to become a teacher and got this job teaching in an outer London school. He was one of many who chose education as a future career. At the school he was at he knew that several of the staff were ex military. There was Mr Lamb, a name that hardly befitted a highly decorated ex Commando. Mr Guest, who specialised in music as a subject. His renditions of Chopin could often be heard in the corridors, he was an ex Battle of Britain fighter pilot. Mrs Pryor had been a WREN engaged in secret work at a place called Bletchley Park and didn’t speak much about it. They replaced retiring staff and also teachers who had been called up into the military and had never returned.

During his service in the war, he had been engaged in several battles, some that haunted him to this day. The position of rank, the responsibility for the men under his command, their trust in his decisions all had weighed heavily on him. It was a loneliness that only fellow officers in the same position could understand. He had been awarded medals, some were the same as everyone got, one or two for special reasons. To him the medals were small compensation for the good men that he had seen die in action. One man in particular stood out, Lance Corporal Daniel Wilson, a Londoner, a soldier who risked his life to save a comrade cut off by enemy fire and at the cost of his own life in trying to get back to their lines. Captain Simon Mitchell had reported it in despatches and commended his action for a posthumous military award.


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