At any moment he might arrive, laughing, holding out a crumpled paper bag with a penny’s worth of peppermint lozenges. Sun-sparking green eyes, scatter-shot of freckles across the bridge of his nose. A tousle of red hair, stray curly strands he would blow away with a whistling pout of his lips. Standing proud in his uniform, teasing of all the French girls he would woo. Asking for that one last kiss before he went away, then stealing ten more. Promising to write, to return.
She stood before the Menin Gate, touching the cold surface that bore the names of the missing, those fallen never to be found. She did not need to count the rows up and columns over to know his name was there. And, yet, for a brief moment, there was a whistle on the wind, a laugh, and the smell of peppermint.
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium bears the names of 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who went missing during the First and Second Battles of Ypres (1914; 1915), and Passchendaele (the Third Battle of Ypres; 1917) during World War One.
Among those names is that of my Great-Uncle Earle who was lost (and his body never found) during the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917.