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Ron’s mates at home would be down the pub and Norm, Malcolm and Phil from basic training would be sunning themselves in Malaya, Korea and Tripoli. After he'd come down with chicken-pox in training, they'd been gallivanting abroad while he recuperated in quarantine. And where was he now? Ass-End, Yorkshire in the snow. He didn’t need National Service for that, he could just have found a job on a farm.

They were supposed to have picked him up from the station but the bloody army couldn’t even organize that. So, after waiting three hours, he was trudging along a snow-covered dirt track and hoping that the locals had given him directions to the right place. His boots had rubbed his heels raw, his hands were freezing and his shoulders ached from carrying his kit-bag. He could only feel his toes because the heat generated by walking for miles through the country had kept them warm.

His mother had told him he should volunteer for the Navy instead of waiting to be called up. For the first time he wished he’d listened to her, at least he might have ended up in Tahiti or Weymouth. The most exotic place the army had sent him so far was a tent in the Lake District.

Since passing the pub at the edge of the village he had only seen a couple of drunks and some shivering sheep. The thick clouds above blocked out everything but a few stars peeking through the gaps, and they didn’t provide enough light to see much.

Pretty soon he was going to turn around and find somewhere to sleep. If the villagers were having a laugh and he ended up spending the night in a barn he was going to go back there and teach them some manners.

Finally he spotted a tin sign propped up at the side of the track. As he trudged toward it he tried to read the words in the dim light. Then he wished he hadn’t.

Danger, unexploded bombs.

He stopped by the sign and looked up the track. He didn’t mind watching out for unexploded bombs in the day, but he could tread on one at night and not even realise until he was a hundred yards up in the air with no legs.

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