A Mother’s Answer
This letter was published in ‘The Morning Post’ newspaper in England as a response to a letter from a solider that had appeared earlier in the week complaining about conditions in the war. ‘Tommy Atkins’ is not the real soldiers name but rather a common slang term for any soldier in the British Army.
A MOTHER’S ANSWER TO “A COMMON SOLDIER”
To the Editor of The Morning Post
As a mother of an only child – a son now in training and waiting for the age limit to do his bit – may I be permitted to reply to Tommy Atkins, whose letter appeared in your issue of the 9th August? Perhaps he will kindly convey to his friends in the trenches, not what the Government thinks, not what the Pacifists think, but what the mothers of the British race think of our fighting men. It is a voice which demands to be heard, seeing that we play the most important part in the history of the world, for it is we who “mother the men” who have to uphold the honour and traditions not only of our Empire, but of the whole civilised world.
To the man who pathetically calls himself a “common soldier”, may I say that we women, who demand to be heard, will tolerate no such cry as “Peace! Peace!” where there is no peace. The corn that will wave over land watered by the blood of our brave lads shall testify to the future that their blood was not spilt in vain. We need no marble monuments to remind us. We only need that force of character behind all motives to see this monstrous world tragedy brought to a victorious ending. The blood of the dead and the dying, the blood of the “common soldier” from his “slight wounds” will not cry out to us in vain. They have all done their share, and we, as women, will do ours without murmuring and without complaint. Send the Pacifists to us and we shall very soon show them, and show the world, that in our homes at least there shall be no “sitting at home warm and cosy in the winter, cool and ‘comfy’ in the summer.” There is only one temperature for the women of the British race, and that is white heat. With those who disgrace their sacred trust of motherhood we have nothing in common. Our ears are not deaf to the cry that is ever ascending from the battlefield from men of flesh and blood whose indomitable courage is borne to us, so to speak, on every blast of the wind. We women pass on the human ammunition of ”only sons” to fill up the gaps, so that when the “common soldier” looks back before going “over the top” he may see women of the British race on his heels, reliable, dependent, uncomplaining.
The reinforcements of women are, therefore, behind the “common soldier.” We gentle-nurtured, timid sex did not want the war. It is no pleasure to us to have our homes made desolate and the apple of our eye taken away. We would sooner our lovable, promising, rollicking boy stayed at school. We would have much preferred to have gone on in a light-hearted way with our amusements and our hobbies. But the bugle call came, and we have hung up the tennis racquet, we’ve put his cap away, and we have glanced lovingly over his last report, which said “Excellent” – we’ve wrapped them all in a Union Jack and locked them up, to be taken out only after the war to be looked at. A “common soldier”, perhaps, did not count on the women, but they have their part to play, and we have risen to our responsibility. We are proud of our men, and they in turn have to be proud of us.
If the men fall, Tommy Atkins, the women won’t.
Tommy Atkins to the front
He has gone to bear the brunt.
Shall “stay-at-homes” do naught but snivel and but sigh?
No, While your eyes are filling
We are up, and doing, willing
To face the music with you – or to die!
Women are created for the purpose of giving life, and men to take it. Now we are giving it in a double sense. It’s not likely we are going to fail Tommy. We shall not flinch one iota, but when the war is over he must not grudge us, when we hear the bugle call of “lights out”, a brief, very brief, space of time to withdraw into our own secret chambers and share with Rachel the Silent the lonely anguish of a bereft heart, and to look once more on the college cap, before we emerge stronger women to carry on the glorious work our men’s memories have handed down to us for now and all eternity, - Yours &c.,
A LITTLE MOTHER