Dear Mrs. Bean,
It is my sad duty to inform you of your son’s unfortunate passing on the night of the 23rd February 1916, at approximately 0100 hours. Although tragic, his demise was a noble, valiant one; Jack fell to save three fellow members of his platoon. There was an unexpected bombardment and, according to the men who were with Jack in his final moments, there was room for only three men in the dugout. Showing the courage of a true British soldier, your son Jack volunteered to be the man left outside.
Jack’s final words were that he was dying for King, for country and for his dear mother back at home. Jack’s was a fate any mother should be proud of. His name will live on in the minds and hearts of those who survive; Jack will be sorely missed both as a man and as a soldier.
Although now is a difficult time for those left behind, please remember Jack has reached the ultimate reward for any soldier – eternal peace. When we remember Jack’s life, we must not feel too much anguish. We should instead celebrate the passing of a genuine war hero.
His dog tag should be returned to you within the next three months. In the meantime, I offer you my most sincere condolences.
Colonel R.P. Brooks
My name is Jack, Private Jack Bean, and I am writing to ask to be sent away from the front line. I have to go home to help my mother; I think she needs me and I am worried about her. You see, my dad died a few years ago and I just know she won’t be coping without me. I am not really the soldier mother saw in me. I am not frightened of war, but sometimes the sounds of the guns make me tremble quite a lot and it is hard to walk. It’s all because I’ve got this problem with my ears. I’ve had it since I was a child. I have made many friends here, too many to count, but I get very worried about my mother and my ears hurt and none of my friends can distract me from it. They are all very brave and don’t seem to mind life here in the trenches. I suppose they don’t have problems like I do. I think they’ve developed some sort of numbness. I can’t understand it. Often the other soldiers get angry or mock me because they think I am weak, although I have lots of friends here too. They don’t know about this problem with my ears. I feel I am letting them down. I get these strange dreams, and then sometimes when I wake up the monsters haven’t gone away. I think maybe I am ill. Please let me go home. Last night I watched a corpse feed a family of rats, and unless I get away from here I might give up and end up like that man. It’s mainly because of my ears. The idea that you will receive this letter and send me home keeps me going. I think my mother will be in trouble without me.
Yours sincerely Jack Bean
William: Do you remember Bean?
Peter: What? Bean?
William: In our platoon, that fellow named Bean. The young one, something Bean. He died that night at Wicked Corner. Remember?
Peter: Oh yes. He was a fool. He used to shriek in the night. Had a twitch. I remember Cyril thought he was going to kill himself.
William: I don’t reckon he was brave enough to kill himself. He used to nearly scare himself to death before every attack. I wonder what his first name was?
Peter: I don’t know.
William: He was very young. He can’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen.
Peter: I was only sixteen when I joined up. I remember Bean now. I remember his face. How did he die?
William: It was a mine. It went off and he panicked. He ran the wrong way, towards it.
William: He did realize though. I was shouting at him. He tried to run back, but he tripped on the edge of the duckboard. He looked up for a second and I saw his face. I think he was screaming, I couldn’t hear, and his face looked much older that I expected. He looked weary, and his eyes looked small and bloodshot. That was the first time I made eye contact with him.
Peter: Clumsy fool.
William: Yes. I think his first name may have been Edmund.