Reg Markham walked back home, it was lunchtime. Mabel stood in the kitchen, a worried look on her face. He knew what had come. She open handed him the envelope, a brown envelope marked OHMS. He had known this day would come, in fact, he had thought it would have come sooner.
'Don't upset yourself' he said 'I came back last time, didn't I.'
'I still don't like it.'
He put his arms around her. 'It will be all right, you do understand. Anyway I'll be here, not all over the place like last time.'
Mabel's memory went back to the last war. Reg had served in North Africa, Italy and France. Not a scratch in all that time. This time she wasn't so sure, she just had a feeling.
'Do you think it will be the Black Watch again?.'
'It doesn't say. It only says to report to the drill hall on East Road.'
'Friday morning.' Then a smile. 'What's for lunch? Anything good?'
'Well now we have more bread how about some jam sandwiches?'
'How did you get hold of jam?'
He was going to ask which one and how she had gotten hold of it, but that was something he would rather not think about. But he did, most likely Wal. After all he did for the older ones on his milk round, they tended to offer the stuff they didn't need.
50 minutes later he walked back to The Star Brewery. The whole 100 yards. When he got there he went straight to the office. To his surprise he wasn't the only one, four of them in all.
'I suppose you got a letter as well then Son?' said Mr Price
'You're right there.'
'Friday morning 07.30.'
Two of the other men laughed. 'That make three of us then Son. Back to the Black Watch?' It was a standing joke at work, a Cambridge boy wearing a skirt with a bunch of Jocks.
'It doesn't say, I just thank God I wasn't in the Cambridgeshire's.'
That made them stop laughing, his own brother in law, only just out of bed nearly a year after getting back home.
They talked for the next twenty minutes. As it was now Wednesday afternoon they would work until six and then no need to come in again. They would still have a job when they came back. If they came back. They tried not to think about that part of warfare.
Reg left home at just after 6.45 on the Friday morning, when a thought crossed his mind, would they let him keep is stripes. He was a Sargent when he was de-mobed. He arrived at the Drill Hall on East Road less the ten minutes later. He was, be no means the first there. Quite a few others were they before him including his brother, Bill. They had made the national papers the last time. Brothers Meet in Dessert was the headline. They had only seen each other Tuesday night, at the Burleigh Arms, cheap beer for the workers, as it was the Star Brewery's pub. They chatted, with some others they knew.
By 7.15 it seemed that all that were coming were there and the doors opened. The usual, big headed RSM shouted at them. He was told were to go in no uncertain terms, they were back in the army. They were ordered to form up, which they did. Then, too much their surprise a Rear Admiral addressed them. Reg thought it may be a Major, or a Lt Colonel. But an admiral thing must a lot worse than they had heard, let alone thought.
Later they were spilt in the groups depending on which branch of the services they had served in and then to down to which type of unit. As Reg had been in the infantry, so he lined up with the rest of them. There were a number of tables around the room and one by one they stepped up to the one to which they were called, Reg was one of the last, the very last in fact. He was asked for his name, rank and number, which he gave. The corporal checked the list.
'Please report to Major Whitbread, Sargent. Reg had no idea who this Major was let alone where he might be. He turned back to the corporal, but he had already left the desk. Reg had no choice but to walk around looking for officers.
He found the major without too much effort, he was the only major he could see and he was alone. Even though he was not in uniform he stood to attention and saluted. 'Sargent Markham reporting sir.'
The major returned the salute and read down the list of names he had.
'Stand easy Sargent major.'
'I'm sorry sir. It's Sargent Markham.'
Whitbread smiled 'Didn't anyone tell you? Well they mustn't have. It's Sargent major Markham now.'
'Well Markham I will now outline the duties you will have to perform.' Son listened.
The duties Company Sargent Major Markham was given was not the kind of thing he had expected, more like the Home Guard than anything else. More young men for a start, properly equipped and mobile. Many of the older men were now were air raid wardens and or serving in the small storehouses dotted around the town and just outside it. In many ways it was an easier job than working at the brewery.
Still at living home, when he could and home cooked meals. That was a very big plus. Especially as no food was going to Europe now. All his family were within a mile of each other, and so they tried to get together at least once a week. Pulling the rations together was a big plus a small joint was possible and now with a lot of veg still to pick.
It was the best they had eaten for a long time. Reg had the feeling that this was going to be very different from the last war. The German officers seemed to care about the men they commanded. The Russian didn't. More like the first war. Weight of numbers. That was what they cared about, so what if 10,000 died, plenty more where they came from, and women as well, from what he had heard. The news reels said so.
He didn't know if he could do that.