Loyalty or A Boy Born of Two Fathers - REVISED
The letters and diary entries below were recovered amid a clear-out at the residence of a Mr. Arthur Loveday, at his home in Kendal Avenue, Edmonton, North London – three days following a fatal heart attack at the age of seventy-two in 1981.
L O Y A L T Y
Or A Boy Born of Two Fathers.
I8 . 04 . I944.
First and foremost, my condolences, I heard about Ethel’s sudden decline in health from our sister. I express my sorrow and apologies to you and the boys for not attending the funeral; I anticipate there was a great turn out. It couldn’t be helped. She was a fine woman and will be sorely missed.
Thanks for your letter old man. Upon receiving it I was at once filled with high spirits.
It didn’t last. Once aboard our ship, The Empress, the Colonel called a conference of all officers and informed us we are headed Eastwards. The cogs have been set in motion for my lads to join the War in the East. I’m not most keen on the idea. Pass on my love to Mother and Sister, thanks for checking on the wife.
24 . 04 . I944.
Since I last wrote we’ve parted the Suez Canal and are crossing the blasted Arabian Sea.
We’re headed for Nagaland, via the Brahmaputra River and along the Assam Valley. Yes. Fighting the Japs in North-East India.
The mood aboard has changed with the wind.
The lads, as well as I, are dreading the fatal exercise to Burma. Tensions are high. A boxing ring has been erected in the lower levels to calm things. Officers are forbidden to take part in such activities. However, one has chosen to break this rule; Lieutenant Kenworthy. The lads respect him and I will attempt to honour him likewise.
Yesterday evening the lads piped up and two men, with enough towel rations for a fortnight, bundled –being the appropriate word, in and prepared to fight. One man entered the ring, taller than Kenworthy, with short dark hair and furry eyebrows – Private Johnson,
a terrible gambler. The men applauded the Staff Sergeant as he made quick double jabs and sharp right hooks. Glamorising it all and heightening the imbecilic air about him. His eyes flashed red. Johnson was bashed about despite being a monster in comparison - 6’ 4” - he was battered by the cruel bodied man. The chaps roared with excitement and I can imagine you doing likewise. The air was much too stuffy so I quit the room and joined the officers down in the Mess Decks for drinks.
At 21.00 hrs, I decided to have a tinkle on the piano. I was contented with the reception I received – song. The tune, “Boys of the Southern Cross”, had raised their spirits and, to best explain were ready to claim
Kohima once more for the British. I returned to my quarters, around 22:30, somewhat drunk, and caught a glimpse of Kenworthy, t he cocky bastard, on the stairway to the Upper Decks. Later I sat on my bunk and thought of Eleanor. Winfrey, the splendid lad I share a cabin with, was snoring again and so went without sleep.
Hope you’re holding up O.K. following the funeral.
27 . 04 . I944
Orders have come ! Tomorrow we land after a week offshore.
We’re to rendezvous with Indian forces to the east of the Assam Valley. The Japs have brought the 1st Infantry Division (15,000 bodies) for us to play with. We are to lead a second wave frontal assault with the Chindt Brigade on flank.
Us officers stood about in the boardroom, smoking cigarettes,
consoling ourselves. Comments included:- “THEY must have an alternative plan.” Will THEY hell!
We went on down to the Mess Decks where the men stood about ready.
Sad to say although, I wondered, looking over them, who would be killed first - Kenworthy rallied the troops, flexing his muscles. The idiot.
Wish Mother a happy birthday. I don’t have it in me to write to her right now, it’ll be some time before you hear word from me.
CAPT. R. LOVEDAY’S DIARY
[TYPED, COMPILED AND CHRONOLOGICALLY INSERTED BY THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM]
NO. 1 28th April ‘44
I’ve begun this diary to chronicle our time in Kohima. An extraordinary scene unfolded before me on deck. I was directing the men into the landing crafts when both Sergeants Robson and Stephens were brutally mowed down by machine gun fire. Both telegrams will include “quick deaths” I should imagine. They’re calling this the Stalingrad of the East, and they’re bloody well right.
Invasion conditions were terrible. Nonetheless, we gunned our way across the choppy waters: straight into the line of fire. A strong wind came up, there was a heavy swell and the smaller vessels (theirs) were slung from wavetop to wavetop.
One of the lads radioed in air support. Three RAF bombers soared overhead and blew [the snipers], taking pot shots at us, to kingdom come. I was in the boat, swigging from my flask, admiring the prodigious performance: the planes, dancing amid the plummeting bombs in the orange skies above. I could almost taste that coppery blood smell in the air.
The sea eventually calmed and we bailed out of the landing crafts. I fired a few shots at the treeline for good measure: no retort came. We amounted a heath of scorched soil and burning bamboo, dropped into prone positions and waited. Watching. Nine wounded Japs, each with their arms raised in surrender, tip-toed closer to us into our line-of-fire.
“No shoot.” A bespectacled fellow cried.
There was a whistle from over my shoulder. Sickening cracks. Rifles tearing them apart. Popping heads. Flailing limbs. Guilt in my heart. We had slaughtered them.
On the right flank came Lieutenant Kenworthy and his contingency of delinquents, draping smoking weapons over their shoulders, like medals, boasting about what they’d done. Kenworthy stopped at the boy in spectacles, whose eyes bore into his, nudging his face away and stepped over him like a piece of [litter].
“This isn’t war!” I spat. “It’s murder!”
His eyes rolled at my truth. “Tell someone who gives a [damn] Love-day. These slanty-eyed [men] killed two of your chaps and a few of mine. If we didn’t shoot them, they’d have killed us.”
I cursed at him, we could’ve easily taken them prisoner.
“Funny that, your magazine is empty too. You do come out with absolute [rubbish] Loveday!”
He was implying something, under that tobacco ridden breath of his, in his tone, that I was equally to blame. So I hit him. He wasn’t as tough as I seemed. I couldn’t have him belittling me in front of the lads, I’m a Captain after all. So, I broke his nose and put him on his arse for it. When he got back up, rubbing his square chin, he then did the dirty on me, a head-butt. Then, we went for it like children, rolling about in the mud. I’ll have him for it.
No. 2 1st April ‘44
These past days have been the most fascinating in my life. Every evening I wonder at the end of my bunk, flask in hand, the state of the human condition and how loyalty can come and then go with servicemen. Fatigue is high and morale is low. We have set off into the wilderness of the Indian jungle in search of the Japanese first infantry division, somewhere out in the bush.
Along our journey a quote from Thomas Hardy recurred in my mind within this fantastical landscape: “The languid perfume of the summer fruits, the mists, the hay, the flowers, formed therein a vast pool of odour which at this hour seemed to make the animals, the very bees and butterflies drowsy.” Not to mention the liquor also.
Out amidst the bulrushes there was a pop. A lad named Livingston was killed. No sniper was spotted. And after waiting a good few minutes we carried on. Winfrey, damn brave fellow, was on flamethrower duty; filling in for Johnson after his hospitalization in the underground boxing match.
Winfrey led a path for us of smouldering earth. Then, after traversing through the jungle for near on an hour there was a rustle from above. The Devil’s breath, engulfed a tree and a Jap, tumbled down from the its bosom, ankle tangled in the rope, aflame. Kenworthy tore the poor sod to shreds with a Lee-Enfield rifle. The Jap looked to be smiling.
No.4 4th May ‘44
I haven’t slept since the Jap. A great many atrocities have occurred under my command. Many men have died in this Battle for burnt-out land and a road. I’ll be one of them. I tell myself this daily, wondering how long we can last. I have a family waiting back home for me: a mother, sister and brother. I have a wife but we didn’t end on great terms when I departed for Africa many months ago. I need to write to Arthur, his wife recently and I need him to pass on a message to mine and possibly save what is left of our marriage.
We are to set off and capture the Imphal road.
No. 5 6th May ‘44
Few more dead. Nothing to show for it apart from a corpse and two empty boxes of ammunition. We’re only out here to safeguard trading interests, nothing of fight for the free world. The Japanese are human too surprisingly. Kenworthy and I are to attend a meeting tomorrow evening.
CAPT. R. LOVEDAY’S LAST LETTER.
19 . 05 . 1944
Dearest Mother and Arthur,
The war for me is at an end. I have been wounded in a grenade attack that has tragically claimed the lives of many men and the courageous, altruistic Lieutenant Kenworthy.
I will inform his family upon my return.
The doctors have described my condition as stable after a fortnight here in the Camp hospital, being treated for a few minor wounds.
You have been on my mind a great deal on my travels across the sub-continents of Africa and India. Upon my return, I will make amends for being gone these past months.
Your loving son and brother,
Captain R. Loveday.
P.S. Arthur, you are to receive a letter, read it well.
This letter will be posted to you anonymously. I’ve done something terrible. On May 7th, I planned to divulge evidence of an execution in a meeting, conducted by Lieutenant Kenworthy and myself to Lt. Colonel George Brown. I bid that boy I told you about, Jon Winfrey, farewell and went to the command post, a hut. Kenworthy saw my advance to the Colonel and came at me. A grenade was tossed in and we were blown out of it. I swear it wasn’t me who threw it. I was thrown clear of the escarpment and into the grass below – for the most part unscathed.
I came to a few hours later, the ensuing gunfire had died down, the Japs had run for it. By the escarpment, I found Kenworthy. His torso had been splintered and the better part of his face blown off. I didn’t know what to do, I had a think, a drink and decided to kill him. I shot him in the kneecap, then twice in the head, then three times in the face. I’ve kept a few of his teeth. Planes soared overhead, a finer display of fireworks has never been given. There was a squelching sound beneath my boots, the sound of bombs dropping overhead and satisfying Japanese screams. Winfrey struggled up the escarpment after me and said nothing. He’s seen what I’ve done. They’ll have me for this once I’m out this hospital.
Winfrey will be back for me, I know it, sooner or later.
Accept this as my admission of guilt, what I intend to do now, I don’t know, but I am certain of this, you will never hear of me again.