Tommo imagines Charlie as he is led to his execution. “He is not stumbling. He is not struggling. He is not crying out. He is walking with his head held high, just as he was after Mr. Munnings caned him at school that day.” Tommo likes to imagine there are birds there too. If they try to put a hood over Charlie’s head, Tommo knows “he will not have it.” Instead, “he looks up to the sky and sends his last living thoughts back home.” As Charlie waits for the moment of his death, he is singing “Oranges and Lemons,” as Tommo is now also doing.
Charlie has carried his courage with him throughout his life, from his school days to his adult life. Tommo imagines that he is facing his execution in exactly the same way as he faced his caning at school as a child: with dignity, and his head held high. Charlie’s loyalty to his family also endures until his very last moments: Tommo imagines that he is sending his thoughts back home, and singing “Oranges and Lemons” as a reminder of Big Joe and the rest of the family as he dies.
Tommo hears the shot, and feels that part of him has died with Charlie. However, as he turns back to camp he finds he is “far from alone in [his] grieving.” Everyone is standing to attention outside their tents, “and the birds are singing.”
Everyone in the camp clearly shares the opinion that Charlie’s death was a pointless tragedy. Everyone respected Charlie for his bravery, and they honor him now as he dies.
Later that afternoon, Tommo goes to collect Charlie’s belongings. The men at the camp tell Tommo that when he was executed, Charlie “walked out with a smile on his face as if he were going for an early-morning stroll.” They tell Tommo that Charlie “refused the hood, and that they thought he was singing when he died.”
Tommo visits Charlie’s grave, and decides that Charlie would like the place where he is buried. It is in the countryside, and next to open water. Six of the men who had been in the dugout with Charlie on “that day” stand vigil over Charlie’s grave until nightfall. As each one leaves, they all say “Bye, Charlie.”
The men who were with Charlie in the dugout clearly also agree that he was unjustly punished for his actions. They witnessed everything, and still have the utmost respect for Charlie, as demonstrated by their poignant vigil.
The next day, Tommo’s regiment leaves for the Somme. All he can think of now is that he “must survive.” He has “promises to keep.”
Charlie’s death has resolved Tommo in his will to survive the war, so that he can return to care for Molly and her baby.