by Nikolas M., 13

Liam walked into the kitchen and asked, “Mum, could I please join the British Army? I want to fight for Great Britain and the King.”

“You’re not going to join the British Army, Liam. We’ve been over this,” Liam’s mom answered, “You know the stories I’ve heard from friends of mine? Some of them even lost their sons.”

“But Mum, I think this would be good for me, and I’ve always wanted to join the army, please?” Liam pleaded.

“No and it’s final,” Mom replied back.

Liam walked back upstairs to his room, stomping with every step in anger. “I really want to join, why won’t mum let me?” Liam said, talking to himself. “But what if I forged my parents signature and lied about my age? Surely that would work, and how would they even find me after that? It’s foolproof!” Liam exclaimed to himself, then got to work on forging his parents signature and thinking of a plan.

The next day while he was walking home from school, he saw a recruitment office full of people waiting and decided to join them in this long wait. “Why are you joining the army?” Liam asked a fellow in front of him.

“I want to fight for Great Britain, the King, and to help our soldiers fighting on the Western Front,” the boy replied. “What is your name, by the way?”

“Liam Charles, you?” Liam answered then asked.

“James Harris, nice to meet you!”

“You too.”

After a while of waiting to get to the front, Liam finally got into the office. He talked with an officer for a while before signing some papers, and resumed what he did until Saturday. On Saturday, he went back to the recruitment office where he got into a truck and left for training in the Army, then ready for deployment.

“Liam Charles, you’re being deployed near Arras, France,” the commander told him. Soldiers cheered for Liam’s deployment, and were excited to wonder where they were being deployed.

“James Harris, Arras, France,” the commander said once again. Everyone cheered once again, but Liam cheered even more as they were being deployed together.

The next day, Liam sent a card to his mom before they were being sent to Europe. “Sending a letter to your mum too?” James asked.

“Yeah. I feel a bit bad. She probably doesn’t even know I joined, and if she did she wouldn’t know where I’d be.” Liam responded back, “I’ll see here again though.”

“You will, war shouldn’t take too long, we’ll be home by christmas!” James exclaimed. They both laughed before packing up and boarding the ship to France. 

James and Liam took their things off the ships and onto the shore and were assigned to their units. Sadly James was sent into a different unit than Liam was in. “See you later, I guess.” James told Liam.

“See you later as well.” Liam responded. They both got into lines and marched into battle.

Liam looked at the battlefield once it came into view. Craters, disease, rats and more. Disgust came across his face. “Incoming!” a commander shouted. Shells from the Germans landed closely. Men ran into cover or laid down, some died by the shells, some wounded, some survived without a problem. They got back up, and marched to the trenches.

An officer greeted every soldier entering the trenches, telling them protocol and such. Liam was a bit disappointed, he didn’t think of this, but he couldn’t go back now. “Tomorrow we will be charging towards the German trenches in an attempt to take it. Prepare yourselves now,” a commander revealed to the men. Everyone looked either upset, annoyed, tired, or exhausted. It can’t be that bad, can it? Liam thought. It would be worse than he could imagine.

The next day, men prepared, and officers got ready. Liam knew what would commence this charge, a whistle with a different tone. He heard it and practiced while in training, now it would be real. A whistle blew, and men charged out of the trenches quickly, running into no man’s land with no cover. Liam ran out and followed them all, witnessing bodies fall, fly from shells, cries and some losing grip of their rifles. Will I make it home, or will I be dead? Liam thought after witnessing it all, and a shell landed near him. Liam fell into a crater from another shell, crying from the huge wound caused by the artillery shell. Very slowly, he started to lose his vision and it fell more silent. With the last of his strength, he said, “I should’ve trusted my mother. I’m sorry.”

Red Bank, New Jersey

Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: This story is a heart-wrenching portrayal of the devastating impact of war on young soldiers and their families. The author successfully conveys the emotional turmoil and inner conflict of the protagonist as he grapples with his desire to join the army and his mother’s desires, ultimately leading to a tragic ending that underscores the reality of war.