Ypres 1914

(Cut to usual opening shot of close up of harmonica being played by tommy. CAPTION: YPRES 1914 Slow zoom out to reveal set-up as before with no extraneous characters.)

Sergeant: Jenkins.

Jenkins: Yes, sarge?

Sergeant: What are you going to do when you get back to Blighty?

Jenkins: I dunno, sarge. I expect I'll look after my mum. She'll be getting on a bit now.

Sergeant: Got a family of your own, have you?

Jenkins: No - she's all I got left now. My wife, Doreen... she... I got a letter.

Sergeant: You don't have to tell me, son.

Jenkins: No, sarge, I'd like to tell you. You see, this bloke from up the street...

(Enter a young major.)

Major: OK, chaps, at ease. I've just been up the line...

Sergeant: Can we get through, sir?

Major: No, I'm afraid we'll have to make a break for it at nightfall.

Sergeant: Right, sir. We're all with yer.

Major: Yes I know, that's just the problem, sergeant. How many are there of us?

Sergeant: Well sir, there's you, me, Jenkins, Padre, Kipper, there's five, sir.

Major: And only rations for...

Sergeant: Four, sir.

Major: Precisely. I'm afraid one of us will have to take the 'other' way out.

(Crash zoom into revolver which the major has brought out. Jarring chord. Close up of faces looking tense from one to the other. Tense music.)

Padre: I'm a gonner, major. Leave me, I'm ... I'm not a complete man anymore.

Major: You've lost both your arms as well.

Padre: Yes. Damn silly really.

Major: No, no, we'll draw for it. That's the way we do things in the army. Sergeant, the straws!

(The sergeant gives him the straws. The major arranges them and hands them round)

Major: Right now, the man who gets the shortest straw knows what to do

(They all take the long straws. Including the padre who takes one in his teeth. The major is left with a tiny straw. A pause.)

Sergeant: Looks like you, sir.

Major: Is it? What did we say, the longest straw was it?

Sergeant: No, shortest, sir.

Major: Well we'd better do it again, there's obviously been a bit of a muddle. (they do it again and the same thing happens) Oh dear. Best of three? (they go through it again and he gets left with it again) Right, well I've got the shortest straw. So I decide what means we use to decide who's going to do... to... to... to er .... to do the thing ... to do the right thing. Now rank doesn't enter into this, but obviously if I should get through the lines, I will be in a very good position to recommend anyone, very highly, for a posthumous VC. (he looks round to see if there are any takers) No? Good. Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. Right. (counting out) Dip, dip, dip, my little ship sails on the ocean, you are (comes back to himself)... no wait, wait a minute, no I, I must have missed out a dip. I'll start again. Dip, dip, dip, dip, my little ship, sails on the ocean, you are ... (it's back on him again) No, this is not working out. It's not working out. What shall we do?

Jenkins: How about one potato, two potato, sir?

Major: Don't be childish, Jenkins. No, I think, I think fisties would be best. OK, so hands behind backs. After three, OK, one, two, three. (everyone except the padre who has no arms puts out clenched fist) Now what's this... stone, stone, stone, (looks down at his hand) and scissors. Now. Scissors cut everything, don't they?

Sergeant: Not stone, sir.

Major: They're very good scissors (then he suddenly sees the padre) Padre hasn't been!

Sergeant: No arms, sir.

Major: Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I'm afraid I didn't... tell you what. All those people who don't want to stay here and shoot themselves raise their arms.

Padre: Stop it! Stop it! Stop this ... this hideous facade.

Sergeant: Easy, padre!

Padre: No, no, I must speak. When I, when I came to this war, I had two arms, two good arms, but when the time came to... to lose one, I .. I gave it gladly, I smiled as they cut if off, (music under: 'There'll Always Be An England) because I knew there was a future for mankind. I ... I knew there was hope... so long as men were prepared to give their limbs (emotionally) And when the time came for me to give my other arm I... I gave it gladly. I... I sang as they sawed it off. Because I believed... (hysterically) Oh you may laugh, but I believed with every fibre of my body, with every drop of rain that falls, a... a flower grows. And that flower, that small fragile, delicate flower... (two modern-day ambulance attendants come in with a trolley which they put the padre onto and wheel him away; he is still going on)... shall burst forth and give a new life. New strength! (cut to a present-day ambulance racing out of TV Centre in speeded-up motion; it man through the streets, and arrives at the casualty entrance of a hospital; the doors swing open and the padre is rushed out on stretcher [still in fast motion] totally under a blanket; we hear his voice) ... freedom. Freedom from fear and freedom from oppression. Freedom from tyranny. (the camera picks up on sign which reads: 'Royal Hospital for Over-acting) A world where men and women of all races and creeds can live together in communion and then in the twilight of this life, our children, and our children's children and . .. (by this time he has disappeared in through the doors of the hospital for over actors)

Continue to the next sketch... The Hospital for Over Actors