Someone struggles to wrap puttees around their calves. Eventually they get it right and get up. Only now we recognise Ettie’s pale, female face. She’s in Army boots, puttees and khaki trousers. She’s naked from the waste up. Ettie looks at her breasts in a mirror. She’s gamine … androgenous.
“I’ll see you two when I get back.” Ettie says, addressing her breasts.
Ettie binds her breasts against her rib cage with a length of bandage. She undoes her hair. It drops below her shoulders. She cuts it off with a cutthroat razor. Etties’s intentions are clear – to pass herself off as a young soldier. Ettie cuts her hair regulation short. Ettie then tries on a soft, peaked Machine Gun Corps cap … and then a Tommy’s steel helmet. This gives her another worry. While looking in the mirror she prepares to speak.
Attempting a masculine voice Ettie tralks through some of the lines of the favourite songs. ‘When … the Boys Come Marching Home.’ ‘Pick up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag.”Keep the Home Fires Burning.’
(WHO WOULD BE HER HELPERS IN THIS?)
Ethne Murray and Marion Lubbock – on the way out changed to a Tommy soldier she is ticked off by the Matron for being in the nurse’s quarters? Someone, Richard, must know what she is up to?
Ettie takes the steel helmet off. She picks up a bowl of red/brown muck. No one is coming. She checks. She puts her fingers in the stuff then covers her chin, the side of her face and above her lip, then down to the neckline. This is all it takes to make her look like a weatherbeaten and exhausted young soldier.
“I’d feel it if he were dead.” She was banging her clenched fist to her heart. “ I felt it when my eldest brother Ridley died, I felt it when my brother Stuart died and I felt it when my brother Billy died a few hours ago. I probably felt it when my mother died too, only two days after I was born.’
Satisfied, she leaves.
Ettie sets off, her steps measured at first as she consciously tries to walk like a man and lose the swing of her hips. Soon she thinks she passes as a soldier with ease – as an officer no less. It is dark. It is busy. It is chaotic with soldiers, with horses, with limbers, and artillery going in. A couple of Red Cap pass. Ettie salutes. She smiles at herself at the way she successfully passes herself off.
The boots give her blisters causing her to hobble. She is spotted by a young Captain
“You there. Stop!” Calls Captain Murray.
Ettie comes to a halt. She looks around for the voice.
Ettie sees a Captain at a table outside an estimanet. She goes over. She salutes. Of all the people she should bump into it would have to be Richard Murray.
“What the hell are you walking like a bloody pansy for?”
Ettie thinks fast.
“Boots, Sir. Blisters, Sir.”
Ettie musst look him in the eye but would prefer not to. She thinks fast for an excuse.
“I’ve a good mind to put you on a chaarge. What’s that accent you’ve got. Are you a Consett lad?”
Ettie won’t give this away. No point in jogging his memory too far. She does her best to give her accent a little bit of a Welsh turn.
Says Murray “And see to your trousers. You must be feeling the draft.”
Ettie finds the front of her trousers are open. She does them up. Ettie is compliant … not defiant.
“Dismissed.” Says Captain Murray.
Ettie salutes and leaves.