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Remembered Today:

Desmond7's Blog

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Ch 15




I ventured out of the hallowed halls of research and purchased a cup of warm liquid which was described as coffee. Anyway, it was hot, but it lacked the punching power of my two spoonfuls of instant back home.

I gazed out the window, lost in thought about the document I’d just read.

And one phrase kept coming back to me in large print. By the end of their little shove in the overall scheme of the ‘big push’, the Muddies had virtually ceased to exist as a unit.

Sipping the coffee, I turned my mind once more to the job in hand. It was time to tot up the takings so far.

I opened the trusty note book and started to jot down bullet points.

1. Hartley – to all extents and purposes a perfect example of a young subaltern. Yet he is fingered by Bertie McCallion as a what? A murderer? ‘Hartley did it’ !!!

2. Bertie dies. The CWGC says so. But he didn’t die as Hartley claimed. Not according to the Irish guy, Billy Swinton.

3. Willie McCallion comes through the whole show and ends up as Mill owner and all-round nice guy. Go figure.

I chucked the plastic cup in the waste bin and strode back into the archive arena. I’d have to do some more digging in the files but I was convinced the major link in the chain would be Swinton. I was hoping Markinbelfast would have the low-down on Billy by the time I got back up north.

In the meantime, I was going to play a hunch.

The lady at the the counter was most helpful. Yes I could order the remainder of the Muddies’ diary on-line and yes she did have a direct line for Harry Betts.

Which is how I found myself at the Imperial War Museum surrounded by a Japanese tour party who moved with lightning speed through the various displays. Their guide led from the front, a red umbrella raised like a Samurai War Flag.

“Desmond! Glad to see you my boy,” chimed Harry Betts, scattering the Oriental Hordes asunder with his blustering entry.

Harry is a cyber-mate of mine. I’d also met him on a few trips to France where he ate well and drank copiously. He was also a poker shark. He took half my arm off once in a game with another shyster by the name of Clive Maier.

I stuck out my hand. Harry grabbed it and pulled me straight out the imposing front doors and past the monstrous naval guns which greet visitors to the world’s best war museum (ever).

“Lunch is on you Des,” laughed Harry, waving down a taxi. “I’m but a poor educationalist, dedicated to the service of the nation and charged with duties too onerous to mention!”

In short, Harry was one of the record keepers at the IWM and I wanted to pick his very large brain.

Two hours later, after a three course meal and coffee, we were drinking whiskey and talking memoirs.

“I can tell you right off that we have no record of a memoir for Hartley himself,” confided Harry, swirling his Bushmills with one hand and twirling his fighter pilot moustache with the other.

“In fact we have only two serious memoirs for the 7th Mudshires. One is a collection of letters and poems by that Langley-Baston fellow and the other is a rather nice essay by that other chappie, O’Brien.”

I signalled for a refill and lit up a Benson: “Hartley get a mention anywhere Harry?”

“Being the decent fellow I am, I checked along those lines just after you rang me from the NA this morning. Turns out he and O’Brien were in the same hospital in Blighty for a while but Hartley was moved on to a new location.”

I knew Harry was about to deliver his theatrical masterpiece, so I obliged him.

“And I don’t suppose you know where he was sent?” I fenced.

“Desmond, Desmond … we are talking Harry Betts here,” he riposted. “Of course I do my lad, your Hartley boyo ended up in Craiglockhart with shell shock.”

Which opened up a whole new can of worms.



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