The first of the wounded they picked up that night was young. Maybe nineteen
years old. His tunic, soaked through with blood, had turned purple. It was the
only thing holding him together.
''Mother,'' cried the boy. ''Mother.''
''Run, kid, run,'' yelled the stretcher-bearer. This time Charlie gave no thought
to his head bouncing over the top of the trench. He just ran. . . .
''I hates it when they does that,'' said the stretcher-bearer, who plunked himself
down on a crate and fished around his tunic for cigarettes.
''Calls out for their mother. Means they are going to die.''
Charlie slumped down, his back pressed up against the mud wall of the trench.
''Is it always like this?''
Yes, it is always like this when you are an under-age medic in France during World War I.
So, how does Charlie Wilcox get from the outport of Brigus to Beaumont Hamel? An
interesting blend of fact (Charlie Wilcox is the author's great-uncle) and fiction, Sharon E.
McKay's novel tells the story. Charlie Wilcox is a Newfoundlander, born into a family of
sailors and sealers. But, a club foot and the constant reminder that ''He's not made for
the ice'' make it unlikely that he'll follow the tradition. As a result, his family sends him off
to St. John's for a higher education than the local school can provide, and that trip
provides an opportunity that changes everything. Finding his way down to the harbour,
he boards a boat, believing it to be a sealing vessel. In fact, Charlie is on his way to
Europe with other Newfoundland soldiers heading for the front. Barely fourteen, he is far
too young to be fighting, and arrangements are made for him to be sent home. In the
meantime, Charlie becomes a medic, begins searching for Lily Mackenzie, aka Mac, the
beautiful young nurse who cared for him when he was in hospital in St. John's, and is
exposed to the horrors and heroism of war.
Although it sounds like a typical ''boy goes to war and grows up'' adventure story,
Charlie Wilcox is more. Its strong historical context provides a window on life in
pre-Confederation Newfoundland, as well as a grimly realistic depiction of the weary life
of the common soldier. There's romance, there's humour, and a fast-moving story that
will appeal both to male and female readers.
About the Author