In Wounded: a Great War novel, Snow is wondering how it came to be that he ended up in the war. He thinks about Connie, ‘… she who vowed undying love and showed me the white feather of cowardice when I didn’t enlist immediately, marrying Tom the electrician practically the minute the troop ship cleared Sydney Heads. … Now, there’s Connie, starting a family back home and here’s me stuck in a khaki column marching to battle in France.’
The idea for this came from a letter to my mother from ‘Tom’, which I found inside an embroidered card in dad’s shed. I believe Tom and my mother were engaged but she broke off the relationship and soon after met and married my father (in 1921). As George tells Gilles in 2009 in Wounded: ‘… Lily peeked through a crack in a paling fence and saw him, “bright as a brass button with a beer in his hand” …. Her sisters warned her not to get involved. Certainly, break off the engagement with the plumber who’d returned mentally ill from the war, but getting in with another returned serviceman was “jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.” Lily didn’t care, she loved dad at first sight ….’
Here is an abridged version of the letter from Tom to my mother I found inside the card.
My Dearest Doris
Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living and am keeping in the best of health. We are out having a good rest and am not having too bad a time of it but I am full up of it all. …The weather over here is very cold and one cannot get his feet warm. It is only about five o’clock now and I am laying in bed writing this note and am shivering and my feet are like a block of ice. I only wish I had someone to keep me warm. … A lot of the boys think the French girls lovely. They can all think for mine as I think they are not a patch on the dear old Aussie girls…. I suppose you are having lovely weather in Sydney about this time. I only wish I was over there having some of the good old times we use to all have down the beach. Doris, do you remember that last Sunday you were over at Mosman before I left and how I tormented you while we were waiting for the boat down at the wharf. Well, that will be nothing to what you will get if god spares me to return to the old home again. You may think I have got use to being away after being over here so long but I will tell you the gospel truth. There is not a night that I lay down to sleep and I am not thinking of you all and wondering how long it will be before we shall be together again ….Well, my dear, I don’t think I have any more news to tell you this time so will close with love to all out home and heaps of love and kisses to your own dear self.