Private Michael Boyd was not cut out for war. Or for a life in the army for that matter. He was too slight in build, too short in stature and too vibrant in spirit.
But when war was announced he signed up, caught up in the fervour of patriotism. He had never met a German before, nor an Austrian, nor a Hungarian, but he knew they were the enemy.
With basic training behind him, in which he passed without excelling, he was shipped over to France and marched onwards to Ypres in Belgium.
There he adapted to life in the trenches. He suffered trench foot in the wet winter months and lost a big toe to gangrene, but was ordered back to the front. He suffered split eardrums from a shell exploding close by and never lost the ringing in his ears.
He lost many comrades by his side but soldiered on because by then he knew nothing else. He was nineteen when he killed his first fellow man. By twenty he thought nothing of killing another.
He made it through Ypres and the Somme and was in France when the end of the war was announced. The German prisoners-of-war celebrated alongside him.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest medal, along with 626 of his fellow men.
He returned home a hero, but found no employment or house or loved one waiting for him. He thought then of the men he had killed and the friends he had lost.
His mother took him back in and he lived out his days in the shadow of the Great War.
A shadow of the boy he had once been.
One of the army of shadows lucky enough to return at all.
I recently guest posted on Sue’s blog to talk about my new novel and some of the ideas behind it. You can read that post here: GUEST AUTHOR: IAIN KELLY ~ A JUSTIFIED STATE.