by David Lewis Pogson
Sam’s father killed Germans. He was an infantryman. It was his job. Germans tried to kill him. He never talked about it to Sam but he dreamt about it. Sam’s mother told him.
When they were old enough he told Sam and his two brothers that he never wanted any of them to go through similar experiences to him. He promised to do his best to ensure that. He kept that promise up to the day that he died in 2008. They never dreamt about war.
He was a fitter at the locomotive sheds but he took pleasure in digging. In the war he’d dug his way from slit trench to slit trench across North Africa. Then he’d dug his way from the Normandy beaches into Germany. When he came home he dug his allotment. He worked overtime at weekends shovelling ballast in the plate-laying gang on the West Coast Mainline. He helped dig the foundations when the community built the village hall.
He gave the brothers good rules to live by: “Be honest.” “Study hard.” “Stay out of trouble.” “There is no God.” “Get an education.” When they left university he said: “Get a job with a pension.” “Join the union.” “Never enlist in the army.” “Always vote Labour.” They voted for Harold Wilson’s Labour governments. He smiled when conscription ended in 1963. He smiled and whistled a tune when Wilson prevented them from joining America in Vietnam.
In 1975 the brothers walked to the polling station and followed him in. Wilson had called a referendum. Sam’s father had already said to all of them, “I don’t like Germans but I know this much. It is far, far better to work with them than to fight them. And that goes for the rest of Europe. It won’t be perfect. There will be things about it that we won’t like but we can work to make it better.” They voted to stay in the European Common Market.
In 2016 Sam walked alone to the polling station and voted again to remain in the European Union. His father would have approved. His brothers voted elsewhere. He was part of a minority within the country.
Unless something goes dreadfully wrong in the near future, Sam’s son may never have to fight in a war as he will be too old to enlist. He has never had to dream about war. Sam did his best to achieve that for him by following his father’s advice. However, Sam’s son cannot promise Sam’s grandson that it will be the same for him. Sam thinks that people in this country have forgotten the lesson of history. They have voted to distance themselves from Europe again. They take peace for granted. They think that because it is peaceful now that it will always be so. They think what people thought in 1913 and 1938. They do not realise that peace has to be worked for. Sam hopes that they continue to sleep well without dreaming of war.
David Lewis Pogson is fiction writer for ACES’ The Terrier magazine, living in north Lancashire, England. He has been published in a variety of media. He has won the Cumbria Local History Federation Prize for The Ulverston Bank Clock, the Freerange Theatre Company’s Playframe short story competition and Microcosmsfic.com flash fiction competitions.