‘It’s been a joy and a privilege to read all the entries to Altrincham Word Fest’s historical short story competition for schools during lockdown. At a time when many of us were barely able to concentrate, it’s so impressive that the students were able to research and put together such wonderful, sensitive stories; it was truly moving to read them during our own challenging moment in history. I congratulate each and every one of the young writers who entered. ‘ Carolyn O’Brien, author of ‘The Song of Peterloo’ and our head judge for the competition.
Third Prize in the Years 7-8 Category – Darcey Burke
‘The Bravest Street in England or Not?’ by Darcey Burke
4th August 1914
Father always gets up early to get his paper, but when he returned home this morning, I could tell something was wrong. We were all asked to gather around the kitchen table, it was small, but we could all fit tightly around it. When Father walked into the room, we all fell silent, John and William immediately stood up, but me, Mary and Elizabeth stayed seated. Father indicated for John and William to be seated, Father had a different expression on his face today he seemed sad and confused. He took at big deep breath and told us what none of us wanted to hear. He told us that last night at 11pm, war was declared with Germany. Our Prime Minister Mr Asquith had written a statement in the newspaper to tell the public. I don’t really know what to think.
16th August 1914
It has been two weeks since we received the news that we were at war with Germany. I am still struggling to take it in, my father had said that it will all be over soon and we just had to hang in there, but it doesn’t show any signs of stopping. We are now on rations, and everyone knows that I love my food. Mother has had to change what we eat to save our rations. We only get one tiny slice of cheese each week and I love cheese. The war thing is so confusing, I keep on hearing Mother and Father talking about it, I don’t like snooping but sometimes I just can’t help it. I can’t hear everything they are saying, but I can catch a few words. Today I was walking past the kitchen and I heard them talking about someone leaving I thought nothing of it because they were probably just talking about one of the lodgers, we do have some very annoying lodgers, they are very loud.
The last month has been very hard for all of us, Mother and Father have been working harder than ever, and we still have rations. The war is still going on and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Father was in Manchester all today. When he arrived home, he had that same look on his face that he had when he came home with the papers on the 4th of August. It was like the same day was happening again we were all told by Mother to gather around the kitchen table because Father had something, he wanted to talk to us all about. We were all sitting in the same places and Mother also had the same face that she had on the day we found out about the war. Father walked in and the same thing happened John and William stood up and me, Mary and Elizabeth stayed seated. Father signalled for them to be seated and he walked into the centre of the room. This was the day that was going to change my life forever, I would never forget this day. Father told us that he had been at a meeting in Manchester all day and the meeting was about the war. Father now thinks that he should go to war with John and William to fight for our country. The meeting had been held by a man called John Redmond. I did not understand why father wanted to go to war, I get that he wanted to make his country proud, but I couldn’t believe that he was going to leave me to fight other people, I remember when I was little Father use to tell me that he would never leave. He said that they would be leaving in exactly a week, and we would all have to help them get prepared.
Today was the day that Father, John, and William left for war. The past week has gone by so quickly, I still couldn’t quite get my head around why they were leaving me, Mary, Elizabeth, and Mother, but Father said it was their duty. This morning when I woke Father, and my brothers were already awake and packing. Many people from our street were going, in fact I heard from Mother that is was 161. The day flew by, before I knew it, it was lunch and they were leaving just after lunch. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to say goodbye to the three of them. I know John and William did annoy me sometimes, but I really was going to miss them. We had pea soup for lunch, I didn’t particularly like it, but it was the best we could do with the rations. No one talked much through lunch we were all too nervous. Once we had all finished, we stood by the front door and said our goodbyes. I know that it is possible I am never going to see them again. But I can’t help thinking that they are going to come home next week, and all will be fine, but I know that won’t happen. As they walked out the door, I rushed to the window to see them for the last time. As I looked out the window, I could see so many families on our road all stood by their doors waving goodbye to their loved ones. There were so any men walking down the road, I could hardly believe that our country really needed this many men, and surly three men would not make any difference. But I couldn’t do any thing about it now. Father, John, and William were gone, and I didn’t know how long it was going to be before I saw them again. I will never forget this day; it has changed my whole life.