How Many Miles to Babylon – Jennifer Johnston
Pg 70 We learn that Alec spends the next six weeks training to be a soldier. Alec lets us know that he would be considered for nothing other than an officer. Here is where we first meet Major Glendinning as he voices his disgust at what he sees as the poor quality of his men, “Illiterate peasants, rascals and schoolboys”.
Pg 71 Glendinning tells Alec that he has been watching him and that he needs to mix. Glendinning has the impression that Alec feels he is better than everyone else. Here Alec suggests he would join the ranks and is met with “Damn stupid thing to say”.
Pg 72 Alec meets Jerry and Alec remarks that Jerry does not look like a soldier. As Jerry leaves we see that already he is breaking the rules of etiquette expected of a soldier.
Pg 73 Alec’s trip to France is uneventful but he does tell us that before they land one soldier had slit his wrists.
Pg 74 Alec discusses his living conditions and makes a remark about a dog whose “Only interest left being survival”.
Pg 75 Bennett goes off to get three horses and Alec goes to get Jerry. Jerry is referred to by the N.C.O. as “you good for nothing” when summoned.
Pg 76 Jerry and Bennett meet and exchange pleasantries.
Pg 77 They all remark on Jerry’s speed and racing a horse and also his poor carriage.
Pg 78 They head back.
Pg79 They talk about their reasons for joining the war. They chase after a fox.
Pg 80 They discuss Alec and Jerry’s future plans and Bennett believes it is a good idea. A Major appears and asks the men what they think they were doing and that he had been watching them for the last twenty minutes.
Pg 81 The major asks for their names and rank. When he finds out that Jerry is a private his reply is “What is this man doing with you?”
Pg 82 The major informs the men that he will be letting Major Glendinning Know of their little adventure. Bennett takes the horses away.
Pg 83 Jerry remarks that for an Englishman Bennett is not that bad. The next morning they head to the trenches and Alec describes the conditions.
Pg 84 Alec tells us of how he constantly would wake from nightmares and try to focus on feeling sorry for himself.
Pg 85 They drink tea with rum and Alec gets ready to go on his rounds.
Pg 86 Bennett remarks on how they are like dogs waiting to be whipped to do as the master desires.
Pg 87 Bennett tells us that the men like Alec because of the respect he shows them but would not follow him into war. He also says that the men do not like him and would not follow him into war either. Bennett believes that it is Glendinning that will make the men fight.
Pg 88 Alec asks Bennett what he sees when he closes his eyes and Bennett replies dots. Alec says he sees the slaves revolting.
Pg 89 Alec goes on his rounds and when he meets Jerry he gives him the last of his rum to warm him up. Jerry says he heard two swans passing.
Pg 90 The Major appears and remarks that a soldier noted that Alec had come that way a while ago and seemed delayed.
Pg 91 When the Major finds that the soldier Alec was talking to his reply is “Ah”. The Major asks that the trenches be better looked after and asks Alec to follow him so he can speak with him.
Pg 92 The Major asks Alec what his relationship is to Jerry and When Alec says that they live close to each other at home the Major replies “Let it be known once and for all that I will have no talking between the men and the officers”. He also says that he “never asked for a bunch of damn bog Irish” and that he will make professionals of them all. Glendinning also says that he heard about the horse outing and that it is not to happen again.
Pg 93 Five days later they are back at base and Bennett has arranged for some horses. Alec says they cannot but Bennett says that it has been arranged with Jerry already.
Pg 94 They get ready for the day and Alec describes the state of his legs as he puts powder on them.
Pg 95 Bennett remarks that Alec lacks the respect for authority because he did not go to school. Alec tells us he is a “home ruler”.
Pg 96 Bennett is dismissive of Alec and his home rule idea. Bennett wants to grow a moustache.
Pg 97 Jerry suggests that he will look to move to the horse lines. Bennett makes reference to the Irish sentiment and then to how “It’s no wonder we don’t think you’re fit to rule yourselves”.
Pg 98 They race the horses but Alec trots behind. They decide to go to a bar.
Pg 99 They are served in a French bar and Bennett engages the man in conversation as Jerry calls for glasses.
Pg100 They drink and they salute each other. The bar man tells them that his son was killed in the war.
Pg 101 Jerry tells the others that he is a Republican.
Pg 102 When Bennett asks Jerry why he is in the war he says that he is learning to shoot a gun. When Alec suggests Home Rule again Jerry says “I shit on your Home Rule”.
Pg 103 Bennett suggests he is in favour of Jerry’s ideals. Alec shows he has no ambition only his horses.
Pg 104 They drink and get up to leave.
Pg 105 The next morning Glendinning gets the men to be ready to leave for the front at ten.
Pg 106 Jerry steps forward to ask Glendinning if he can join the horse lines because of the poor conditions of the horses. Jerry believes he can look after them better. Major Glendinning tells Jerry he has had his eye on him as a trouble maker. Glendinning asks Sergeant Barry.
Pg 107 Bennett and Alec discuss what happened to Jerry. Alec is reading a letter from home that suggests he has not wrote home in a long time.
Pg 108 Alicia says in her letter that she feels wounded by his silence. Alec feels that news from home is pointless as if he returns home he will return a changed man and home will be irrelevant. Bennett tears Alec’s letter and asks Alec why he does not react and Alec is passive.
Pg 109 They go back to the front. Alec does his rounds and then Jerry visits.
Pg 110 Jerry apologises for what happened with Glendinning. Jerry asks Alec if he remembers the peace of home.
Pg 111 Jerry talks about home when he goes home every town and village will be a trench. Alec tells Jerry that he makes him uneasy.
Pg 112 It is time for the men to head back to rest. Bennett says that Glendinning is on his way to see the clean up before they head back.
Pg 113 Glendinning arrives that night and orders tea.
Pg 114 Alec notes how Glendinning gets the exact he asks for. Glendinning puts lemon in his tea. Glendinning looks questioningly at Alec as he removes his writing from the table.
Pg 115 Glendinning tells Alec that he has been doing a good job getting the trenches ready but that they need to work harder as more men will be coming soon. Alec asks if they are going over the trenches and Glendinning tells him it is not for him to know.
Pg 116 Glendinning hears a noise out in the trenches and tells Alec that he will go over the trenches to investigate when he is finished his reports.
Pg 117 Alec and Glendinning go over the trenches to find the man.
Pg 118 They continue their search. Glendinning kills the man. Alec speaks out loud unintentionally and Glendinning tells him to shut up.
Pg 119 They return and Glendinning asks for tea and hot water. Glendinning tells Alec to get out of his clothes before he gets sick. Glendinning tells Alec that he is “dismal”.
Pg 120 Glendinning tells Alec that Bennett explained that Alec never went to school. Glendinning tells Alec that it was a huge mistake on his parent’s behalf. Glendinning tells Alec that school would taught him to accept manhood.
Pg 121 Glendinning tells Alec he will make a man of him. They remain in the trenches for three more days.
Pg 122 They head back to rest on the fourth day.
Pg 123 Jerry arrives to talk to Alec and helps him take off his boots as another soldier enters.
Pg 124 Alec gets a letter from home from his father. Frederick tells Alec that he does not like writing letters.
Pg 125 Frederick tells Alec that he found his last letter amusing but it upset his mother and asks him to write and apologise.
Pg 126 Alec tells us that Glendinning had them working hard on drills.
Pg 127 Bennett and Alec chat.
Pg 128 Jerry arrives to speak to Alec.
Pg 129 Bennett leaves and Jerry shows Alec the letter from home that says his father is missing.
Pg 130 Alec agrees to ask Glendinning if Jerry can have some leave to go and find his father.
Pg 131 Glendinning tells Alec no to his request and tells Alec “It’s time, Mr. Moore, you dissociated yourself from Private Crowe”.
Pg 132 Alec delivers the news to Jerry and then they get ready to move to the trenches.
Pg 133 Alec and Bennett return from the trenches and they discuss the obvious absence of Jerry form the front line. Bennett believes that he is sick.
Pg 134 Alec believes that Jerry “has done a bunk”. Bennett thinks he is going to die and Alec tells him to be quiet.
Pg 135 Sergeant Barry comes to ask Alec if he has seen Jerry. Alec says no and Alec asks Barry if he has told Glendinning. Barry says he would come to ask Alec first as none of the other men know where he is either.
Pg 136 Barry goes and to tell Glendinning and Alec is summoned. Glendinning tells Alec that Jerry has not got a good record. He also asks Alec if he knows of Jerry’s political views.
Pg 137 Glendinning talks about Irish traitors joining the Germans. Alec suggests that it is because they feel like they are fighting for their own country. Major Glendinning says that Jerry will be found and a court martial will decide his fate.
Pg 138 Alec walks back to his room thinking of Jerry.
Pg 139 Alec is asleep when he is woken by Jerry. Alec gets jerry a change of clothes and puts him to bed to warm him up. He also gives him brandy.
Pg 140 Jerry explains that he found out his father is dead. They discuss Jerry escaping.
Pg 141 They discuss the future at home.
Pg 142 Jerry drinks a lot of brandy.
Pg 143 Jerry decides to stay and Alec says he will speak on his behalf.
Pg 144 Jerry breaks the brandy bottle and O’Keefe enters surprised to see Jerry in the room.
Pg 145 O’Keefe suggests that Alec goes for a walk and he will try and get Jerry out of the room and somewhere else. Sergeant Barry enters before Alec can leave.
Pg 146 Barry calls for two soldiers and Jerry is carried away. O’Keefe remarks that there will be trouble and then sets about making Alec comfortable.
Pg 147 Alec is summoned to Glendinning. Alec refers to his uniform as fancy dress and Glendinning strikes him with his cane.
Pg 148 Major Glendinning suggests Alec is the one pushing him to these measures. Glendinning tells Alec that there will be a push in the front line and that he has no desire to punish him at the moment as it would be bad for moral.
Pg 149 As Alec marches his men they see swans and one of the men shoot once. Alec is horrified.
Pg 150 Alec is again summoned by Glendinning.
Pg 151 Glendinning tells Alec that Jerry has been sentenced to death. Glendinning suggests that Jerry may have been a traitor and Alec dismisses this much to Glendenning’s anger. Alec and Glendinning argue on the value of human life. Alec is told he will command the firing squad.
Pg 152 Alec suggests he will not do it and Major Glendinning says it will not help Jerry and only bring shame on his family.
Pg 153 Glendinning tells Alec to command his men to shoot straight in the interest of humanity. Alec goes to the prison to see Jerry. Alec brings Jerry a drink. Jerry asks if death will be bad.
Pg 154 Alec asks Jerry if he saw they priest. Alec gets Jerry talking about their time together. Alec talks about the feel of the gun in his hand.
Pg 155 Jerry tells Alec that they took his laces and his belt. Alec asks Jerry to sing. Alec takes the gun out of his pocket as Jerry looks out the window. Jerry has tears in his eyes. Alec puts his hand on Jerry’s. Alec notices Jerry’s blue eyes and smile just as he shoots him.
Pg 156 Soldiers enter and take the gun from Alec and lead him away.
“They will never understand. So I say nothing. The guns throb constantly and louder up the line. The building trembles. Because I am an officer and a gentleman they have not taken away my bootlaces or my pen, so I sit and wait and write.”