Blunden's War - Part 20: The Talisman - Sgt Worley
Almost half a lifetime ago, when Blunden was only two weeks into his service in France, he meets the man who was to become his 'henchman, pioneer, steward, patrol assistant...for ...over two years.' In fact their friendship lasted until Frank Worley's death in 1954. Together they faced every danger the war could throw at them. Worley, formerly a butcher in Worthing, returned home to become a fishmonger; he was completely unable to face the dead meat of his former trade. However, during the war his calm of purpose, his friendship to the youngsters, his comforting words to them as shrapnel burst low over the fire bay, would find him saying, without altered tone: "don't fret, lay still."
One morning, back in the Cambrin sector in the Festubert area, young Blunden was talking to a sentry at their left hand post when two trench mortars fell and smashed it. At the other end of their trench was the then Corporal Worley brewing cocoa over some shreds of sandbag and a candle. He offered cocoa to Blunden. As Blunden grasped the mug the pair were assaulted by two rifle grenades. Worley remained undisturbed, and they were unhurt.
The battalion, as previously mentioned, was not relieved to Lens or Egypt. But, under fire, Blunden collected abandoned equipment from the battlefield of the Ancre, and the battalion finally left. "Hardly believing what was happening, we came though places...Greenness, even if it was only November greenness was our dream scenery." They took the train in cattle trucks at Doullens 'and so we have come North' to an unknown M Camp in Belgium.
"I am warmed by the sight of my old confederate Sergeant Worley, in the exit of the siding; he gives his usual candid views on the situation ...on the whole favourable to it."
"Quartermaster Swain, and transport officer Maycock, stamping their feet, rejoice with me, and Maycock seizes my shoulders with gloved hand and pretends to dance. These invincible officers have a surprise for us." Although it was midnight, they repair to a wooden tavern where a cheerful Belgian girl runs to provide food and drink:
"We will take our ease at our inn, by the red hot stoves. We have come through."