Drama – Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff

PowerPoint for Revision – Journey’s End

Follow the links on the PowerPoint to scenes from the play on YouTube

The questions below have all appeared in past SQA exams. Clicking on the link below will take you to notes for each of the four essays for the play Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff.

(Page numbers are from the Penguin Classics 2000 edition.)

ESSAY NOTES AND STRATEGIES

 Remember that you need to back up any points you make with evidence from the play.

Click here for advice on USING QUOTATIONS.

1. Choose a scene from a play in which suspense or tension is built up.

Show how this suspense or tension is built up and what effect this scene has on the play as a whole.

2. Choose a play which you feel has a dramatic final scene.

Describe briefly what happens and explain how effective the ending is in bringing to a conclusion the central concerns of the text.

3. Choose a play in which there is an important relationship between two of the main characters.

Describe the nature of the relationship, and explain how it is developed throughout the play.

4. Choose a play in which there is a significant conflict between two characters.

Describe the conflict and show how it is important to the development of the characterisation and theme of the play.

Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff

(Page numbers from the Penguin Modern Classics 2000 edition)

Click here for an introduction and scene summaries.

Journey’s End  (Click here for a copy of the notes which follow below.)

 

Themes

 

War

In his autobiography “No Leading Lady” R.C. Sherriff wrote that he tried to show his audiences ‘how men really lived in the trenches’. The play was a tribute to the many men who ‘had not returned’.

Mud, trenches, rats, the endless waiting and eerie quiet all contribute to the image of war that would be familiar to many ‘not a sound or a soul … yet you knew thousands of guns were hidden there … thousands of Germans were waiting and thinking’. They would also understand it when soldiers like Stanhope and Osborne are seen having to follow orders, unable to disobey their commanding officers or change events.

The audience would have recognised Raleigh’s youthful enthusiasm and Stanhope’s hardened cynicism as typical reactions to the war. (We have to keep reminding ourselves that Stanhope is only three years older than Raleigh.)

Raleigh arrives with certain idealistic expectations about war. Osborne tries to preserve this image for him. He tells him: ‘Think of it all as romantic. It helps.’ Raleigh sees his being chosen for the raid as an honour: ‘I say – it’s most frightfully exciting!’ Yet the raid changes him, as he begins to see what war is really like. It does not, however, stop him from doing his duty.

The men are presented as worthy characters whose lives are sacrificed for no reasonably justifiable cause. In the raid, seven men die and little information of any worth is extracted from the German prisoner. When Osborne and Stanhope talk of worms going the wrong way, Stanhope uses the conversation as a metaphor for the men’s feelings of hopelessness and futility. Just as in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (quoted by Osborne), where nothing makes sense, so this world seems to make no sense itself.

Sherriff himself won a Military Cross for bravery. He may not have set out to criticise the war but he does expose the truth in his play simply by showing how the men – as represented by the characters in the play – suffered both physically and emotionally.

 

OSBORNE: I wonder what it is they put in the water.

HARDY: Some sort of disinfectant, I suppose.

OSBORNE: I’d rather have the microbes, wouldn’t you?

 

HARDY: Sometimes nothing happens for hours on end; then – all of a sudden – ‘over she comes!’

A dugout got blown up and came down in the men’s tea. They were frightfully annoyed.

OSBORNE: I know, there’s nothing worse than dirt in your tea.

 

OSBORNE: I hope we’re lucky and get a youngster straight from school. They’re the kind that do best.

 

OSBORNE: You get many rats here?

HARDY: I should say – roughly – about two million; but then, of course, I don’t see them all.

 

OSBORNE: Rugger and cricket seem a long way from here.

 

OSBORNE: We never undress when we’re in the line.

 

RALEIGH: How frightfully quiet it is … I thought there would be an awful row here – all the time… It’s not exactly what I thought. It’s just this – this quiet that seems so funny… It seems – uncanny. It makes me feel we’re – we’re all just waiting for something.

OSBORNE: …When anything happens, it happens quickly. Then we just start waiting again.

OSBORNE: Think of it all as – as romantic. It helps.

 

TROTTER: …you’ll feel you’ve been ’ere a year in about an hour’s time.

 

OSBORNE: We must have pepper. It’s a disinfectant.

TROTTER: War’s bad enough with pepper – but war without pepper – it’s – it’s bloody awful!

I never knew anything like a war for upsetting meals.

…Must have your revolver to shoot rats. And your gas mask.

Standing up there in the dark last night there didn’t seem a thing in the world alive – except the rats squeaking and my stomach grumbling about the cutlet.

 

RALEIGH: I feel I’ve been here ages.

OSBORNE: I expect you do. The time passes, though.

 

OSBORNE: How did you feel – in the front line?

RALEIGH: Oh, all right. It seemed so frightfully quiet and uncanny –

 

(distance to the German front line) OSBORNE: About the breadth of a rugger field … I always measure distances like that out here. Keeps them in proportion.

 

RALEIGH: The Germans are really quite decent, aren’t they? I mean, outside the newspapers.

OSBORNE: I remember up at Wipers … our fellows stood up and carried the man back and the German officer fired some lights for them to see by … Next day we blew each other’s trenches to blazes.

Heroism

There are many forms of heroism in the play.

Raleigh asked to join C Company because of his ‘hero worship’ of Stanhope. For him, war is an extension of school life.

Stanhope has a Military Cross. He has been at the front the longest. He is admired by his officers, despite his drinking. He volunteers for the raid knowing full well the dangers. Despite his own heroism, it is his knowledge of the likelihood of death that makes him afraid for himself and others. He wants to protect Raleigh from the truth and preserve his view of him as a hero. Stanhope is sure that Raleigh will reveal the truth in his letter – that is why he is determined to censor it. Osborne, however, believes that Raleigh’s admiration of Stanhope will continue. He is proved right when he reads Raleigh’s letter.

Sheriff shows us both heroism and its cost. Osborne’s death shows Raleigh the futility of the attack. He is described as ‘walking as though he were asleep’. The colonel promised him the Military Cross – an award for bravery and heroism – but his courage comes at a terrible price.

It is this recognition of the cost of war that is the reason for Stanhope’s anger towards Hibbert. He views Hibbert’s cowardice as dishonourable in the light of the bravery and heroism of others: ‘If you went – and left Osborne and Trotter and Raleigh and all those men up there to do your work – could you ever look a man straight in the face again – in all your life?’

Osborne’s death and the deaths of the others on the raid are pointless, particularly in the face of the complacency of the colonel and his superiors, but they are heroic nonetheless. To Sherriff, the men of C Company represent all the men who died in WWI. (At the end of the war 908,371 British men and women had been killed and two million injured; 1,773,700 Germans were killed and four million injured.)

Like Stanhope, Sherriff views these men as worthy of loyalty and admiration.

 

Comradeship

The constant threat of death and the men’s reliance on each other create a special bond which is apparent throughout the play. Osborne takes Raleigh under his wing, explaining to him what trench life is like. The others call him ‘uncle’ suggesting not just his older age but also the family-like relationship the soldiers share. Trotter is equally welcoming. Osborne is close to many of the officers: he shares memories of gardening with Trotter; talks to Raleigh of home and rugby; Mason confides in him about the mix-up over the pineapple chunks. He tells Hardy: ‘I love that fellow. I’d go to hell with him’ when he defends Stanhope. Stanhope considers Osborne his ‘best friend’ and his death is a severe blow to Stanhope and the whole company.

That Raleigh and Stanhope knew each other at school and are family friends causes a great deal of conflict in the play but their bond is evident in the final scene when Raleigh is injured. It is highly significant that Stanhope prepares Osborne’s bed for Raleigh, the bed he had earlier ordered him to get off, and he stays with him till his death.

It is this bond, this comradeship, which Stanhope draws on to persuade Hibbert to stay – ‘Shall we see if we can stick it together?’ – and which leads us to believe that they all die at the end of the play.

 

Public School and Class

All the officers, except Trotter, have attended public schools and speak in an upper class accent. At the start of WWI only men who had been to public school could become commissioned officers but by the end of the war the traditional officer class no longer existed. It was possible to gain promotion without having been educated privately.

The central focus on public school life – the rugby, cricket, schoolmasters – acts as a bond between the men and allows them to view life at the front as an extension of school life. The importance of this shared background is clear: Osborne measures distances by relating them to rugby fields; Raleigh relates his fatal injury to the one he suffered playing rugby; Osborne is the wise, old housemaster, Stanhope, head boy, and Raleigh, the new boy who has to learn the rules.

Stanhope sees a clear divide between the officers and the other men – ‘My officers are here to be respected – not laughed at.’ Trotter’s promotion to second-in-command is evidence of the way the class system was beginning to change.

 

Structure

 

The three acts span four days. The confined time-span and setting and overwhelming feeling of doom help create a sense of unity in the play. Events do not fit neatly together nor do they lead naturally on to the next – such is the nature of war.

In Act I the characters and setting are introduced with Raleigh’s arrival suggesting a potential complication. There is a build up to a mini climax with the conflict over the letter which is resolved half way through Act II. The next complication is the raid. There is conflict between Hibbert and Stanhope. By the end of the first scene of Act III the raid has taken place and Osborne is dead.  Raleigh and Stanhope quarrel. In the final scene Raleigh dies – as, we assume, do the others.

The mood of the play varies from moments of calm to tension, from light relief to drama, humour to sadness, and anger to peace.

The events of war are indicated through sounds and lighting. R.C. Sherriff wrote that ‘everything depended upon the realism of the sounds of war outside’. The war setting allowed him to include extremes of emotion which are only to be expected in stressful situations.

 

CHARACTERS

 

When studying characters you must take into account not only what a character says, thinks and does but also what others say and think about them.

 

Captain Dennis Stanhope – the son of a vicar and commander of C Company. We first learn about him from Hardy and Osborne’s conversation at the start of the play. He may be a heavy drinker but he clearly commands loyalty. Osborne says: ‘He’s a long way the best company commander we’ve got.’

He believes that his needs come second to the well-being and morale of the company.

However, it is obvious that his experiences at war have affected him both physically and psychologically. According to the stage directions: ‘Although tanned by months in the open air, there is a pallor under his skin and dark shadows under his eyes.’ He admits to Osborne that he does not want Raleigh’s sister, Madge, to see what he has become but must ‘get fit’ before he goes back to her. He wishes to protect her from the truth and is upset when Raleigh’s arrival threatens to expose that truth. That he cares for her and her opinion of him matters so much allows the audience to see another side of him.

Stanhope has high standards. Hygiene, tidiness and order are important to him. This is understandable given that lack of organisation in the trenches could cost lives.

Raleigh’s arrival complicates an already strained situation for Stanhope. He feels a responsibility towards him – over and above that for all the men under his command – but is unhappy about being surprised and even resents Raleigh’s presence. Raleigh ‘hero worships’ Stanhope and has gone to great lengths to great lengths to join his company. He recognises Stanhope’s true worth which we see in both his comments to Osborne and in his letter to his sister – much to Stanhope’s surprise.

In his autobiography, Sherriff wrote, ‘Dennis had everything a boy desired: good looks and charm, supreme ability for games and a gift for leadership.’

Stanhope is only 21. He commands a company of men some of whom (like Osborne) are older than he is. He won a Military Cross. His experiences at Vimy Ridge have driven him to drink but there is plenty of evidence that his men are loyal to him even though he is not without his faults.

Mason is obviously afraid of Stanhope’s reaction to the mix-up over the pineapple chunks; Stanhope insists on censoring Raleigh’s letter and forces him to hand it over; he calls Raleigh a fool for eating with the men rather than with the officers after the raid; his threat to shoot Hibbert is unreasonable. However, his leadership qualities are not in doubt. He has orders to follow but he questions Raleigh’s selection for the raid; he volunteers himself and apologises to Osborne. This is not a man following orders blindly and without compassion. He is aware of his duty. He may have flaws but he is still heroic. He has clearly lost a friend when Osborne dies and he is kind and gentle to Raleigh as he lies dying.

 

HARDY: How is the dear young boy? Drinking like a fish, as usual? … It’s just the natural thing to ask about Stanhope.

OSBORNE: He’s a long way the best company commander we’ve got… When a boy like Stanhope gets a reputation out here for drinking, he turns into a kind of freak show exhibit.

HARDY: Stanhope really is a sort of freak … he didn’t go home on his last leave, did he? … I suppose he didn’t think he was fit to meet his papa.

OSBORNE: …he’s been out here … Nearly three years. He came out straight from school – when he was eighteen. He’s commanded this company for a year – in and out of the front line. He’s never had a rest. Other men come over here and go home again ill, and young Stanhope goes on sticking it, month in, month out. I’ve seen him on his back all day with trench fever – then on duty all night … and because he’s stuck it till his nerves have got battered to bits, he’s called a drunkard.

HARDY: Not a drunkard; just a – just a hard drinker;

 

OSBORNE: He was out here before I joined up. His experience alone makes him worth a dozen people like me … There isn’t a man to touch him as a commander of men. He’ll command a battalion one day if –

I love that fellow. I’d go to hell with him.

 

RALEIGH: We were at school together … He was skipper of rugger at Barford, and kept wicket for the eleven. A jolly good bat, too … our fathers were friends, and Dennis used to come and stay with us in the holidays … I was frightfully keen to get into Dennis’s regiment … I expect Dennis’ll be frightfully surprised to see me.

I’ve got a message for him … From my sister… They’re not – er – officially engaged – …She’ll be awfully glad I’m with him here:

You don’t think Dennis’ll mind my – sort of forcing myself into his company?

 

OSBORNE: You know, Raleigh, you mustn’t expect to find him – quite the same … You see he’s been out here a long time. It – it tells on a man – rather badly – he’s a little bit quick-tempered.

RALEIGH: Oh, I know old Dennis’s temper … He was so keen on the fellows in the house keeping fit. He was frightfully down on smoking – and that sort of thing.

OSBORNE: You must remember he’s commanded this company for a long time… It’s – it’s a big strain on a man.

 

Despite his stars of rank he is no more than a boy; tall, slimly built, but broad-shouldered … there is a pallor under his skin and dark shadows under his eyes.

 

Stanhope stares at Raleigh as though dazed.

 

STANHOPE: She doesn’t know that if I went up those steps into the front line – without being doped with whisky – I’d go mad with fright.

OSBORNE: … You’ve done longer out here than any man in the battalion. It’s time you went away for a rest.

STANHOPE: I’ll stick it out now. It may not be much longer now. I’ve had my share of luck – more than my share. There’s not a man left who was here when I came.

It was all right at first … It was after I came back here – in that awful affair on Vimy Ridge. I knew I’d go mad if I didn’t break the strain. I couldn’t bear being fully conscious all the time… There were only two ways of breaking the strain. One was pretending I was ill – and going home; the other was this. [He holds up his glass.]

It’s a slimy thing to go home if you’re not really ill.

I didn’t go home on my last leave. I couldn’t bear to meet her, in case she realised …

 

THE LETTER

 

I censor his letter – cross out all he says about me … Then we all go west in the big attack – and she goes on thinking I’m a fine fellow for ever – and ever – and ever.

Officially I’m supposed to read all your letters. Damn it all, Uncle! Imagine yourself in my place – a letter going away from here – from that boy –

OSBORNE: Why can’t you treat him like any other youngster?

 

RALEIGH: I haven’t said anything about – where we are –

STANHOPE: It’s the rule that letters must be read.

RALEIGH: … I’ll just leave it, then.

STANHOPE: Give me that letter!

RALEIGH: But it’s – it’s private.

STANHOPE: Don’t ‘Dennis’ me! Stanhope’s my name! You’re not at school!

OSBORNE: Good heavens, Stanhope.

STANHOPE: Oh, God! I don’t want to read the blasted thing!

OSBORNE: You’ll let it go then?

OSBORNE: (Reading the letter) He looked tired, but that’s because he works so frightfully hard, and because of the responsibility … a sergeant … said that Dennis is the finest officer in the battalion, and the men simply love him … I’m awfully proud to think he’s my friend.

______________

 

OSBORNE: I’m afraid he’s not well.

TROTTER: Nobody’d be well who went on like he does … last night …He looked as white as a sheet. God he looked awful; he’d drunk the bottle since dinner … He just said, ‘Better got to bed, Raleigh’ – just as if Raleigh’d been a school kid.

 

 

Raleigh is the youngest officer in C Company. He is straight from school, naïve and inexperienced. He has a ‘boyish voice’ and his enthusiasm is evident in his early exchanges with Osborne. His expectations of life at the front are unrealistic and ‘romantic’.

Raleigh’s admiration for Stanhope persists even though Stanhope has clearly been changed by the war. He is proud to be chosen to go on the raid but sees the truth when Osborne and the others are killed. He cannot face what he sees as a celebration dinner with the other officers. His emotional response is clear – the confrontation between Raleigh and Stanhope shows just how badly both men are affected by Osborne’s death. Stanhope has lost a friend and Raleigh has lost his naivety and unrealistic expectations. Both know that the attack the following day is likely to end in them being killed but both are not afraid to face the danger and do their duty. Even on his deathbed he says to Stanhope, ‘I feel rotten lying here – everybody else – up there.’

 

He looks round, a little bewildered. He is a well-built, healthy-looking boy of about eighteen, with the very new uniform of a second lieutenant.

 

RALEIGH: I only left school at the end of last summer term.

 

OSBORNE: Good-looking youngster. At school with you, wasn’t he? … He’s awfully pleased to get into your company … He seems to think a lot of you … small boys at school generally have their heroes.

STANHOPE: … it’s rather damnable for that boy – of all boys in the world – to have come to me. I might at least have been spared that.

 

STANHOPE: He’s not a damned little swine who’d deceive his sister. He’s up in those trenches now – still wondering – and beginning to understand.

 

OSBORNE: I believe Raleigh’ll go on liking you – and looking up to you – through everything. There’s something very deep, and rather fine, about hero-worship.

 

STANHOPE: He’s a little prig.

 

TROTTER: ‘E’s a nice young feller.

 

Osborne is the oldest member of the company at around forty five years old. He is a former schoolmaster and second-in-command. He is described as ‘hard as nails’ physically but in character he is ‘quiet and sober’ and the one everyone (including Stanhope) confides in and goes to for advice. He is dutiful and loyal to a fault to Stanhope. He respects his commander even when he does things that he considers wrong such as decide to censor Raleigh’s letter.

He does not boast about his achievements such as playing rugby for England. He accepts his role in the raid even though he is fully aware of the dangers. He tries to protect Raleigh from his real thoughts and lies about why he has taken off his wedding ring. His death marks a turning point in the play for both Raleigh and Stanhope.

 

a tall, thin man … with close-cropped, iron-grey hair. He looks about forty-five – physically as hard as nails

 

HARDY: You know, Osborne, you ought to be commanding this company … what a dear, level-headed old thing you are.

 

HARDY: God! You are a worker.

 

OSBORNE: You’ll find the other officers call me ‘Uncle’

 

Trotter is the only officer who has not been to public school. He is ‘homey looking’ with a ‘red, fat and round’ face and there are a number of references to him being overweight. He eats for comfort just as Stanhope drinks. Often his conversation helps to relieve tension. He and Osborne share memories of home, their marriages and gardens. He and Stanhope do not have the same bond as Stanhope and Osborne but he too is loyal to Stanhope and promises to do his best when he is promoted after Osborne’s death.

 

RALEIGH: I like Trotter.

OSBORNE; He’s a good chap.

RALEIGH: He makes things feel – natural.

OSBORNE: He’s a genuine sort of chap.

 

STANHOPE: He’s no imagination … Must be rather nice.

 

 

Hibbert is established from the outset as not contributing fully to the team as evidenced when he goes to bed rather than join in the meal and the conversation early in Act I. Stanhope calls him a ‘worm’ and ‘an artful little swine’. He believes that Hibbert is faking his illness. However, it is clear that Hibbert is suffering psychologically and Stanhope has to threaten and then manipulate him into staying.

We may sympathise with him and yet still see that he is failing to do his duty. Osborne and Raleigh do not judge him. When Hibbert says Raleigh is ‘too keen on his duty’ we are aware that the opposite is true of Hibbert. Any sympathy we may feel for him when he agrees to stay and see the attack through is lost when he deliberately tries to postpone going up into the trench as the attack begins.

 

a small, slightly built man in the early twenties with a little moustache and a pallid face

 

HIBBERT: I don’t think I can manage any supper tonight, Stanhope. It’s this beastly neuralgia.

 

STANHOPE (to OSBORNE): Another little worm trying to wriggle home … Artful little swine! Neuralgia’s a splendid idea. No proof, as far as I can see.

OSBORNE: You can’t help feeling sorry for him. I think he’s tried hard.

STANHOPE; How long’s he been out here? Three months, I suppose. Now he’s decided he’s done his bit … Well, he’s mistaken … No man of mine’s going sick before the attack. They’re going to take an equal chance – together.

 

TROTTER: Can’t understand that little feller, can you? … Funny little bloke, isn’t ‘e?

 

The Colonel represents the complacent decision makers who show little regard for human life. Whilst he agrees the timing of the raid is poor, he squashes Stanhope’s bitter comments after the raid.  His choice of officers for the raid makes good operational sense but his pleased and insensitive response to the insignificant information gleaned from the German prisoner and his failure to ask about casualties lead us to lose all sympathy for him also having to follow orders.

 

Mason is a fighting soldier even though he acts as cook and servant. He does not question his orders and is obviously loyal. He reminds us of the normal activities – cooking, tidying, washing up etc. – that have to continue despite the war.

 

Hardy provides our first insight into Stanhope as well as providing a contrast with him. He also gives us an insight into Osborne and the relationship between Stanhope and Osborne.

 

a red-faced, cheerful-looking man

 

REALISM

 

Sherriff’s aim is to depict real life with the actors behaving naturally. Whilst the language is now old-fashioned, ‘cheero’, ‘old chap’ and ‘rugger’ etc. are of the time and typical of the 1920s public schoolboy. Mason has a Cockney accent (‘noo shape’)with dropped letters ‘asn’t’. Trotter uses words like ‘bloomin’ ‘blinkin’ and ‘damn’  where the others say ‘beastly’, ‘frightfully’ and ‘damned’. His crude rhymes contrast with Osborne’s recitation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Osborne is calm, his speech is controlled and reserved – he shows little emotion. Stanhope shows moments of tension when he is speaking in confidence to others or feeling extreme emotion. Raleigh’s speech reveals his innocence.

The characters’ use of understatement shows how normal the war has become. Hardy, for instance, says the men were ‘frightfully annoyed’ that their dugout had been blown to bits, Osborne says ‘There’s nothing worse than dirt in your tea’ and, Raleigh refers to the destruction of trenches and lives as ‘silly’. Stanhope is bitterly ironic when he says, ‘How awfully nice – if the brigadier’s pleased.’

 

The lighting and staging are symbolic. Stanhope moves to shadows on stage when sad or ashamed. The red lights are used to suggest danger or death.

 

 

THE ATTACK

STANHOPE: …it’ll come while we’re here. And we shall be in the front row of the stalls.

OSBORNE: Oh, well –

 

STANHOPE: …when the attack comes we can’t expect any help from behind. We’re not to move from here. We’ve got to stick it.

OSBORNE: I see.

 

HIBBERT AND STANHOPE

 

HIBBERT: This neuralgia of mine. I’m awfully sorry. I’m afraid I can’t stick it any longer…I’ve tried damned hard; but I must … go down the line.

STANHOPE: You’re going to stay here … No man’s sent down unless he’s very ill … You’re going to stay here and see it through with the rest of us.

HIBBERT: I shall die of this pain if I don’t go!

STANHOPE: Better die of the pain than be shot for – deserting. It’s a hell of a disgrace – to die like that.

Good man, Hibbert. I liked the way you stuck that … Stay here, old chap – and see it through – I know what you feel – I feel the same – exactly the same! … We all feel like you do … Shall we see if we can stick it together. If you went – and left Osborne and Trotter and Raleigh and all those men up there to do your work – could you ever look a man straight in the face again – in all your life! … just go on sticking it because … it’s the only thing a decent man can do.

 

THE RAID

 

COLONEL: … the general wants us to make a raid to find out who’s come into the line opposite here … He said tonight.

STANHOPE: Oh, but that’s absurd!

COLONEL: I told him so.

STANHOPE: You want me to go with them, sir?

COLONEL: Oh, no Stanhope I – I can’t let you go … I suggest Osborne, for one. He’s a very level-headed chap. He can direct it.

I’m thinking of that youngster I sent up to you last night … Just the type. Plenty of guts.

STANHOPE: He’s awfully new to it all – … it’s rotten to send a fellow who’s only just arrived.

 

STANHOPE (to OSBORNE): I’m damn sorry.

OSBORNE: That’s all right, old chap.

 

TROTTER: Joking apart. It’s damn ridiculous making a raid when the Boche are expecting it.

TROTTER: Sorry to ’ear about the raid, skipper.

 

RALEIGH: Were you and I picked – specially?

OSBORNE: Yes.

RALEIGH: I say!

 

STANHOPE (to the COLONEL): …didn’t you suggest we altered our plans and made a surprise raid farther up the line after dark?

They can’t have it later because of dinner, I suppose.

 

COLONEL: Look here, Stanhope, I’ve done all I can, but my report’s got to be at headquarters by seven this evening. If we wait till it’s dark we shall be too late …

I can’t disobey orders.

… it’s no good getting depressed. After all, it’s only sixty yards … Osborne’s a cool, level-headed chap, and Raleigh’s the very man to dash in …

Well, good luck, Osborne. I’m certain you’ll put up a good show.

… And, Raleigh, just go in like blazes … if you succeed, I’ll recommend you both for the MC.

Remember, a great deal may depend on bringing in a German. It may mean the winning of the whole war. You never know.

 

OSBORNE: If anything should happen, would you send these along to my wife? (Having pulled off his wedding ring.)

STANHOPE: You’re coming back, old man. Damn it! What on earth should I do without you?

OSBORNE: How d’you feel?

RALEIGH: All right.

OSBORNE: I’ve got a sort of empty feeling inside.

RALEIGH: That’s just what I’ve got!

 

RALEIGH: I’m sorry to keep talking about the raid. It’s so difficult to – to talk about anything else.

 

RALEIGH: I say, here’s your ring.

OSBORNE: Yes. I’m – leaving it here. I don’t want the risk of losing it.

 

OSBORNE: I’m glad it’s you and I – together, Raleigh.

RALEIGH: So am I – awfully.

OSBORNE: We must put up a good show.

RALEIGH: Yes. Rather.

 

COLONEL: Splendid, Stanhope! We’re got all we wanted…

STANHOPE: How awfully nice – if the brigadier’s pleased.

COLONEL: …are they all safely back?

STANHOPE: Did you expect them to be all safely back, sir?

Still it’ll be awfully nice if the brigadier’s pleased.

COLONEL: Don’t be silly, Stanhope.

 

Stanhope is staring dumbly at the table – at Osborne’s watch and ring … he turns his haggard face towards Raleigh, who sits with lowered head.

STANHOPE: Must you sit on Osborne’s bed?

 

THE MEAL AFTER THE RAID

 

HIBBERT (of RALEIGH): That lad’s too keen on his ‘duty’. He told me he liked being up there with the men better than down here with us.

 

TROTTER: I reckon that raid shook ’im up more’n we thought. I like that youngster. ’E’s got pluck.

STANHOPE: Oh, for God’s sake. Forget that bloody raid! Think I want to talk about it? … We were having a jolly decent evening till you started blabbing about the war.

 

STANHOPE (of HIBBERT): Little worm gets on my nerves.

TROTTER: I reckon ’e only wanted to keep cheerful.

STANHOPE: Doesn’t his repulsive little mind make you sick? I envy you Trotter. Nothing upsets you, does it? You’re always the same.

TROTTER: Always the same, am I? Little you know –

 

STANHOPE: You realise you’re my second-in-command now, don’t you.

TROTTER: I won’t let you down.

 

STANHOPE: My officers are here to be respected – not laughed at.

You insulted Trotter and Hibbert by not coming… My officers work together. I’ll have no damn prigs.

 

RALEIGH: I’m awfully sorry, Dennis, if – if I annoyed you by coming to your company … You resent my being here.

STANHOPE: I don’t know what you mean. I resent you being a damn fool, that’s all.

RALEIGH: How can I sit down and eat that – when – [his voice is nearly breaking] – when Osborne’s – lying – out there –

STANHOPE: My God! You bloody little swine! You think I don’t care – you think you’re the only soul that cares!

RALEIGH: And yet you can sit there and drink champagne and smoke cigars –

STANHOPE: The one man I could trust – my best friend – the one man I could talk to as man to man – who understood everything – and you think I don’t care –

RALEIGH: But how can you when – ?

STANHOPE: To forget, you little fool – to forget! D’you understand? To forget! You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?

 

THE FINAL SCENE (Act III scene 3)

 

Begins towards dawn

 

RALEIGH: Do you want me to go up? [He goes to the steps and turns shyly.] Cheero – Stanhope.

 

STANHOPE (to HIBBERT): You’re just wasting as much time as you can.

STANHOPE (to MASON): Mr Hibbert’s coming up now. You can go along with him. Mr Hibbert’ll show you the way up.

 

The Sergeant Major: Mr Raleigh’s been ’it, sir. Bit of shell’s got ’im in the back … Fraid it’s broke ’is spine sir; can’t move ’is legs.

 

[The Sergeant-Major comes carefully down the steps carrying Raleigh like a child in his huge arms.]

 

[The Sergeant-Major lays the boy gently on the bed … looks furtively at the palms, and wipes the blood on the sides of his trousers.]

 

RALEIGH: Hullo – Dennis –

STANHOPE: Well, Jimmy – [he smiles] – you got one quickly.

RALEIGH: Something – hit me in the back – knocked me clean over – sort of – winded me – I’m all right now.

It happened once before – I got kicked in just the same place at rugger; it – it soon wore off.

…But I – I can’t go home just for – for a knock in the back.

…It’s awfully decent of you to bother, Dennis. I feel rotten lying here – everybody else – up there.

STANHOPE: It’s not your fault, Jimmy.

RALEIGH: Could we have a light? It’s – it’s so frightfully dark and cold.

STANHOPE: Sure! I’ll bring a candle and get another blanket.

 

Raleigh is alone, very still and quiet … The dawn is deepening to an angry red … Stanhope lowers Raleigh’s hand to the bed … He sits … and stares listlessly across at the boy on Osborne’s bed … the dark shadows under his tired eyes … Stanhope rises stiffly and takes his helmet from the table … pauses for a moment by Osborne’s bed and lightly runs his fingers over Raleigh’s tousled hair…

 

… the timber props of the door cave slowly in … There is darkness in the dugout … Very faintly comes the dull rattle of machine-guns and the fevered spatter of rifle fire.

2 Responses to “Drama – Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff”

  1. Susan Pascoe Says:

    Thanks!


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