Granddad’s War

Granddad’s War

 A short play

By

Christopher Preston

 

Characters 

Granddad: (George) 70’s tall and frail with bright twinkling eyes – a gentle man.

Charlie: His eldest grandson 18.  Also plays the young George

Vicky: His eldest granddaughter 17. Also plays the nurse.

Colin: A Quaker 30’s a stretcher bearer in the medical corps.  Also plays Henry, George’s son.

Scene 1: The back lawn of a suburban garden in a small provincial city.   George is sitting in a comfortable chair asleep and surrounded by wrapped presents. He stays onstage throughout. Charlie enters with a sack.

Charlie:          Happy Birthday Granddad.  Here’s my present.

George:          Thank you Charlie.  I wonder what it can be.

Charlie:          You should be able to guess.

George:          It’s either pine cones or sheep manure.

Charlie:          Brian’s got you the pine cones – not so messy to gather.

George:          My tomatoes will be very pleased and Nana will be able                             to light the fire. Thank you.

Charlie:          There’s lots of food.  Mum’s done her stuffed eggs,                                          Aunty Dawn’s brought a pav and Aunty Lizzie has made                            her famous brandy snaps – all the usual.

George:          Good. Any sign of Henry?

Charlie:          No, they were supposed to be leaving an hour ago.

George sighs

Vicky enters with a parcel

Vicky:             It’s here Granddad, your medal that Mum applied for.                                  She said I should bring it straight out to you.

Charlie:          Can we open it Granddad?

George:          We should wait for Henry.

Vicky:             Oh, please Granddad, they’ll be ages.

George:          Alright, but the presents have to wait.

George un-wraps the parcel

Charlie:          That’s a pretty flash box.

Vicky:             It’s huge.  What does it say?

Charlie:          1915 The Donkey and the Wounded ANZAC. What                                       does that mean Granddad?

George:          Charlie, go and see if there’s any sign of Henry. There’s                                a good boy.

Charlie exits

Vicky:             (Turns the medal over) Australia and New Zealand 5                                        stars,  G.Barker …  Granddad, what was it like at                                              Gallipoli?

George:          Well, we arrived on boats, there was a beach and we                                     had to line up for kit inspection.  We were supposed to                                 supply various things ourselves.  For example we had to                             have three kinds of soap: Shaving, bathing and laundry                               and were ordered to produce the items when they were                             called out. There was a small chap, Jones, I think his                                       name was, didn’t have much in his kit.  When the                                             sergeant called out ‘Bath soap’ Jones brought out a                                       small bar of white soap from his kit, held it up and then                               put it back. When the sergeant called out ‘Shaving                                         soap’, he pulled out the same small bar of soap and held                               it up. Finally the sergeant called out ‘Laundry soap’, and                            Jones, again pulled out the bar of soap and held it up.

Vicky:             I always like that story, it makes me laugh … you never                                talk about the fighting.

George:          It’s all such a long time ago … there’s nothing much to                                 tell.

Vicky:             Mum says you got shrapnel in your lung …. Not long                                      after you arrived.

George falls asleep.

Vicky:             Granddad?

Fade.

Scene 2:

The camp-site at Gallipoli, It is very cold.  George enters in a great-coat with rucksack on his back. There is sound of sporadic firing throughout the scene.

George:          Hello, They’ve moved us, I think I’m supposed to be                                       sharing with  you.

Colin:             Gidday, you just arrived?

George:          Yes, a few days ago. George Barker, infantry.

Colin:             Colin Levinson, medical corp.

George:          Are you doctor?

Colin:             No, just a stretcher bearer.  You a conscript?

George:          Yes.  What about you?

Colin:             I’m a Quaker … Couldn’t afford the hundred pound fine                             or going to prison.

George:          I’m an Anglican.  I don’t know anything about Quakers.

Colin:             We don’t believe in war, so this was the only option.

Pause

Colin:             Take your pack off mate and sit down, you’re a sitting                                    duck standing there.

George:          Rightey oh.

Colin:             That’s more like it young fella.  How old are you?

George:          Eighteen, I left school a year ago.

Colin:             Brothers and sisters?

George:          Two older sisters.

Colin:             Only son eh? I dunno. It’s such a waste.

George:          What is?

Colin:             Just … this fight. (Pause) But, she’ll be right if you keep                                 your coat on and your head low.  Bullets and the cold is                               what’s killing men here.

George:          Are you married?

Colin:             Fifteen years.  I’m just hoping all this will be over by the                               time my oldest is seventeen.

George:          Over by Christmas they told us.

Colin:             Can’t see it myself, but what do I know?  The British                                       generals are hopeless.  See all those bridges there and                                the steps over that way.  We and the Ozzies organised all                          that.  You can even have your hair cut down there by the                            store.  No, it would be over by Christmas if we were in                                  charge.  Let’s have a look at your chitty.  Nah, you’re not                              with me, you’re further down the line.  Just remembered,                           you infantry blokes have to be together, ready to go over                           the top.

George stands and puts on his rucksack.  There is a tremendous burst of gunfire. There are ricochet sounds of bullets bouncing off cliffs. George is hit and staggers.

Colin:             Hold on there mate.  Where are you hit?

George:          Here, it hurts.

Colin:             Help.

There is another burst of gunfire and Colin is hit.  He falls to the ground. The scene fades into the hospital ship where both men are lying side by side.

 Scene 3

Nurse:            It’s shrapnel.  The surgeon says it’s in your lung so we                                     can’t operate.  You might have to live with it for the rest                             of your life.

George:          Live, Nurse?

Nurse:            Yes, you’re one of the lucky ones.  You’ll be able to tell                                   your children about it.

George:          But I didn’t do anything, didn’t fire a shot, except in                                       training.

Nurse:            It doesn’t matter. You were here.

George:          Where?  Where am I?

Nurse:            You’re on the Hospital ship Gascon.  They’re shooting at                            us as well, but you should be OK down here.  Now try to                              get some more sleep, that’s what you need just now.

She exits.  George looks around and sees Colin.

George:          Colin … Private Levinson. They carried us out on                                             donkeys …  Are you alright?  Hello.

With difficulty, George gets up and gives him a prod. Pause

George:          I’m sorry mate.

George drifts off to sleep as the lights fade.

Scene 4

George is asleep again. Vicky enters.

Vicky:             We’re all starving, can’t we open the presents?  Uncle                                  Henry might be ages.

George:          Just a few more minutes.

Vicky:             Granddad, what about the food in the war.  What did                                    they give you to eat?

George:          Well, there was a shortage of flour so there wasn’t                                         much bread or cake.  One day, the cook found a sack of                               flour sitting behind a shed.  He was so excited that he                                   made a batch of scones.

Charlie enters with a bag of pine cones.

Charlie:          Mum makes great scones.

Vicky:             Shh. Granddad is telling another war story.

Charlie:          (whispers) They all tell the story of the scones.

Vicky:             How did the scones turn out Granddad?

George:          Well, they looked great but when the men tried to eat                                  them they were as hard as rocks.

Vicky:             What did the cook do wrong?

George:          The sack of flour turned out to be Plaster of Paris.

Vicky:             Oh. What was that doing at Gallipoli?

Charlie:          For setting broken arms and legs.

There is a sound of a car arriving, doors opening, greetings and adult and children’s voices. 

Charlie:          They’re here Granddad.

Vicky and Charlie rush off. George looks again at his medal then falls asleep.

Henry enters.

Henry:            Sorry we’re late Dad.  Had to sort out some sheep this                                morning. Anyway, Happy Birthday … Dad?  Are you                                      asleep again?  Come on, wake up.

He gives him a shake. There is a pause.

Vicky enters followed by Charlie

Vicky:             We can open the presents now that you are here Uncle                              Henry. Shall I call the others?

Henry:            No, Vicky. Granddad isn’t going to wake up.

Charlie:          Is he dead?

Henry:            Charlie, go and ask Nana to come out here please, and                                 Vicky make sure none of the kids come out.  Find them                                 some games to play out the front … or something.

They exit

Henry picks up the Gallipoli medal and looks at it.

Henry:            You never did tell us about it, not properly, just the                                         funny stories. Now it’s too late.

Fade to black.

 

 

                       

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