Death of a ‘Hero’
The following actual incident is related by Robert Graves in his recent book “Goodbye to All That.” The person referred to as the “Actor” was an officer—British.
“At last Thomas’s orderly appeared, saying, “Captain’s orders, sir: A Company to move up to the front line.” It seems that at that moment the storeman appeared with the rum. He was hugging the rum bottle, without rifle or equipment, red-faced and retching. He staggered up to the Actor and said, “There you are, sir, then fell on his face in the thick mud of a sump-pit at the junction of the trench and the siding. The stopper of the bottle flew out and what was left of the three gallons bubbled on the ground. The Actor said nothing. It was a crime deserving the death penalty. He put one foot on the storeman’s neck, the other in the small of his back, and trod him into the mud. Then he gave the order, “Company, forward!” The Company went forward with a clatter of steel over the body, and that was the last heard of the storeman.”