Today I'm pleased to interview Maj. Wm. Harker of His Majesty's British Army. Major, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me today.
Er...quite. Right then, for the record, can I have your full name, please?
Major Harker of the 75th of Foot.
No, I mean your actual name. You weren't christened that, were you?
Oh. No. It's Will Harker. William. But no one's called me that since my mother died.
Can you tell me a bit about your background? Before you joined the army?
I was born, I grew up, I joined the army (Pause. He realises a bit more is needed). My father was a weaver. He and my sister both died when I was a teenager. I never got the money together to go to the grammar school--this was in Leicester--so I took whatever work I could to support my mother. When I was old enough I joined the army. It offered decent prospects to a lad of humble origins. O'course, there wasn't a war on then.
So you were a recruit, not a conscript?
Yep. Joined of my own free will. Turned out I was good at it, too. Made sergeant when I was twenty-one.
And then you received your commission...?
I mean, how did that come about? It's not common for officers to be promoted from the ranks.
I worked hard. I made friends. And yes, I did get engaged to a young officer. But I wouldn't advise any critics present to suggest she had a hand in my commission. General Wheeler ain't stupid. She might take a recommendation, she might even take a backhander, but she wouldn't make me an officer unless she knew I could do the job. And I had to work twice as hard to prove I could do it. With every rumour, I worked harder. So yeah. Maybe I had a hand up. But that don't mean I didn't deserve it.
Okay, all right, don't shoot me. I was only asking.
Sorry. Bit of a sore point.
All right. Now, you mentioned your fiancée. Would that be Saskia Watling-Coburg?
Speaking of sore points. Yes. We were married seven years. Divorce came through last year.
Can you clear something up for me? I believe you, like the majority of the country, are Roman Catholic? (he nods) Then how was a divorce possible?
It's possible in law, even if the Church don't recognise it. After Charles and Diana petitioned the Pope for their divorce it got a whole lot easier for the man on the street to do it. So yes, in the eyes of the law we're divorced. In the eyes of God, however, we aren't. Makes it somewhat difficult should either of us want to remarry, but it ain't on the cards for me and I'd be surprised if Saskia finds anyone else who can put up with her.
I see. When you say it's not on the cards, does that mean there isn't a woman in your life right now?
There are bloody dozens of 'em, the General and my CO and my Lieutenant are all female--but I do know what you're asking, and no, there isn't. Got enough else on my mind without worrying about romance, and I ain't the type to have cheap affairs. Not saying I wouldn't like to settle down one day, but after the war, maybe, when romance is the only thing I have to worry about keeping alive.
There are plenty of rumours about you and your Lieutenant, Charlie Riggs...?
Yes, there are, aren't there?
Er...right. They say you have the best casualty record of any officer. That you rarely lose a man. How do you account for that?
I take care of my lads. Although yes, before you say it, these days a lot of them are lasses. Bloody conscription. I reckon it's any soldier's duty to take care of his mates, to watch their backs--and once you're in command then every soul under you is in your care. In all honesty I don't understand the type of officer who treats casualty numbers like a cricket score and says it just can't be helped. They're lives, not points or penalties.
Good point, well made. Now, one last thing before I go. Half of London is talking about the alien that fell into the river last night. (he groans) I'm told you were the one who pulled it out?
Yeah. Blue skinned, it was, with one huge wing. No, it was human like you and me. The wing was one of them flyer thingies. She was half drowned. That's really all I can say.
That's not quite the same as 'all you know', is it, Major?
(He winks) No, it's not.
The Untied Kingdomis out on Friday (eep!)