Private Peaceful

by

Michael Morpurgo

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Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful Character Analysis

Tommo Peaceful is the narrator and protagonist of the novel. Tommo is a kind boy who is fiercely loyal to his brothers Charlie and Big Joe, as well as his mother, Mrs. Peaceful. Throughout the novel, he struggles with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, especially surrounding his father’s tragic death. Tommo’s father was crushed by a tree as he was rescuing young Tommo from the same fate. In an unfortunate coincidence, the way that his father’s body was positioned when he died meant that his finger was pointing right at Tommo, which Tommo interpreted as a sign that he was to blame for his father’s death. By the end of the novel, Charlie assures Tommo that the death was not his fault, and Tommo finally comes to terms with the loss of his father. Tommo also initially considers himself to be something of a coward after an old woman accuses him of being a “chicken” for hesitating to enlist in the First World War. In an effort to prove his own bravery, he enlists to fight alongside his brother Charlie, even though he is technically too young to fight at just fifteen years old. The youngest in the family, he also feels left out of Charlie and Molly’s relationship as they begin to fall in love and grow up faster than Tommo. Tommo loves Molly, so he is jealous of Charlie in particular. Tommo later also falls in love with a girl called Anna in France, although she is killed not long after they meet. Tommo also loves his family, and their letters buoy him throughout the war. Charlie is a great inspiration to Tommo throughout the novel, often inspiring Tommo to be brave by example of his own courage. Charlie is in fact executed because he refuses to leave Tommo on the battlefield when Tommo is too injured to walk, demonstrating great courage and brotherly loyalty. This in turn inspires Tommo to try and survive the war, so that he can repay Charlie for his sacrifice by caring for his family, including his and Molly’s infant son, Little Tommo.

Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful Quotes in Private Peaceful

The Private Peaceful quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful or refer to Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Private Peaceful published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He is on his back, his face turned away from me as if he doesn’t want me to see. One arm is outstretched towards me, his glove fallen off, his finger pointing at me.

Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:

A swallow swoops over our heads all through the prayers, all through the hymns, flitting from window to window, from the belfry to the altar, looking for some way out. And I know for certain it is Father trying to escape. I know it because he told us more than once that in his next life he’d like to be a bird, so he could fly free wherever he wanted.

Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Big Jimmy gets it first, and he keeps crying out: “Ow, sir! Ow, sir! Ow, sir!” But when it’s Charlie’s turn, all we hear are the whacks, and then the silences in between. I am so proud of him for that. I have the bravest brother in the world.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Jimmy Parsons (speaker), Charlie Peaceful , Mr. Munnings
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

I was once told in Sunday school that a church tower reaches up skywards because it is a promise of Heaven. Church towers are different in France. It was the first thing I noticed when I came here, when I changed my world of home for my world of war. […] There are not many steeples left now. I have seen the one in Albert, hanging down like a broken promise.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker)
Related Symbols: Church Towers
Page Number: 87-88
Explanation and Analysis:

Suddenly someone prodded me hard in the small of my back. It was a toothless old lady pointing at me with her crooked finger. “Go on, son,” she croaked. “You go and fight. It’s every man’s duty to fight when his country calls, that’s what I say. Go on. Y’aint a coward, are you?”

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

We had a brew up with our prisoner in the dugout before they came for him. He smoked a cigarette Pete had given him. He’d stopped shaking now, but his eyes still held their fear. We had nothing to say to one another until the moment he got up to leave. “Danke,” he said. “Danke sehr.”

“Funny that,” Nipper said when he’d gone. “Seeing him standing there with not a stitch on. Take off our uniforms and you can hardly tell the difference, can you? Not a bad bloke, for a Fritz that is.”

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Nipper Martin , Pete Bovey
Page Number: 137-138
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

I feel a surge of triumph welling inside me, not because we have won, but because I have stood with the others. I have not run.

Y’aint a coward, are you?”

No, old woman, I am not. I am not.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Charlie Peaceful
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

From then on, every waking hour of every day, Hanley was at us. […] By the time we went back up into the line, Hanley snapping at our heels, his voice had become a vicious bark inside each of our heads. Every one of us hated him like poison, a great deal more than we had ever hated Fritz.

Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

I looked up at the church steeple, a dark arrow pointing at the moon and beyond, and tried with all my heart and mind to believe she was up there somewhere in that vast expanse of infinity, up there in Sunday-school Heaven, in Big Joe’s happy Heaven. I couldn’t bring myself to think it. I knew she was lying in the cold earth at my feet. I knelt down and kissed the earth, then left her there.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Big Joe Peaceful , Anna
Related Symbols: Church Towers
Page Number: 171-172
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

“The whole court martial took less than an hour, Tommo. That’s all they gave me. An hour for a man’s life. Not a lot, is it? And do you know what the brigadier said, Tommo? He said I was a worthless man. Worthless. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, Tommo, but none of them ever upset me, except that one. I didn’t show it, mind. I wouldn’t have given them the satisfaction.”

Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

It is the moment. I have to do it now. It is my last chance. I tell him about how Father had died, about how it had happened, what I had done, how I should have told him years ago, but had never dared to. He smiles. “I always knew that, Tommo. So did Mother. You’d talk in your sleep. Always having nightmares, always keeping me awake about it, you were. All nonsense. Not your fault. It was the tree that killed Father, Tommo, not you.”

Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

They tell me he walked out with a smile on his face as if he were going for an early-morning stroll. They tell me that he refused the hood, and that they thought he was singing when he died.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Charlie Peaceful
Related Symbols: “Oranges and Lemons”
Page Number: 194-195
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Private Peaceful LitChart as a printable PDF.
Private Peaceful PDF

Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful Character Timeline in Private Peaceful

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful appears in Private Peaceful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Five Past Ten
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
An unnamed man (later revealed to be named Tommo) decides that he must stay awake for the whole night. He can’t dream or sleep... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Many years earlier, when Tommo is about five years old, Charlie (Tommo’s brother) is walking Tommo to school for the... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
 Big Joe (Tommo and Charlie’s other brother) has never had to go to school, which Tommo thinks is... (full context)
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Charlie offers Tommo a piggyback ride to make him feel better. Charlie always understands when Tommo is feeling... (full context)
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Tommo sees a dead crow “hanging from the fence” and guesses that it has been shot.... (full context)
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Tommo then thinks about his garden, and remembers burying his dead father’s belongings in the ground... (full context)
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Back on the journey to school, Charlie tells Tommo that the first day of school will be tough, but in general school is “not... (full context)
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...rows in the schoolyard. Mr. Munnings “cracks his knuckles,” and everyone falls silent. He spots Tommo, the only new boy, and warns him that at school, Mr. Munnings is Tommo’s “lord... (full context)
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The children are ushered into their respective classes, with Tommo in the younger “Tiddlers” class and Charlie in the older “Bigguns” class. When he is... (full context)
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Tommo’s shoelaces are undone, and his teacher, Miss McAllister, tells him to tie them. Tommo doesn’t... (full context)
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Tommo remembers his father. He recalls how it was just the two of them in the... (full context)
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Suddenly, Tommo hears a sound above him and realizes that a tree has started to sway. It... (full context)
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At the funeral, Tommo, his mother, Big Joe and Charlie sit on the front row. Their father’s coffin is... (full context)
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The Colonel steps up to the pulpit to make a speech about Tommo’s father, James Peaceful. During the speech, Tommo thinks of all the things his father used... (full context)
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When everyone is gathered round the grave, Tommo wishes that the vicar would stop talking so that Tommo’s father could hear the birds... (full context)
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As the family walks home after the funeral, Tommo reflects on his “horrible” secret: that he has “killed [his] own father.” If his father... (full context)
Chapter 2: Twenty to Eleven
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The present-day Tommo isn’t hungry. He thinks to himself that it is a good job that Grandma Wolf... (full context)
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Tommo recalls one evening when the three boys, Charlie, Tommo, and Big Joe, had just gone... (full context)
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...at school, a boy named Jimmy Parsons has just insulted Big Joe in front of Tommo, for which Tommo has tried to start a fight Jimmy. Tommo is losing the fight,... (full context)
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Molly comes over to Tommo after the fight and carefully cleans up his wounds. She then tells Tommo that she... (full context)
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...this moment on, Molly practically becomes one of the Peaceful family. She comes home with Tommo and Charlie nearly every day after school, and it seems like she never wants to... (full context)
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One day there is a knock at the door, and Tommo’s mother seems to be expecting it. The Colonel arrives, and asks to talk to Mrs.... (full context)
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Tommo’s mother has no choice but to take the job, so the only relative the Peacefuls... (full context)
Chapter 3: Nearly Quarter Past Eleven
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In the present day, the teenage Tommo finds that there is a mouse sitting next to him. The mouse leaves, and Tommo... (full context)
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...has been raised well, by which she really means that Molly has been raised “strictly.” Tommo says that Molly’s mother and her father are indeed very strict, and often send her... (full context)
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...that Mrs. Peaceful is no longer working. Everyone is getting hungry, so Charlie, Molly, and Tommo decide to go poaching on the Colonel’s land. It is Charlie’s idea, and he knows... (full context)
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Tommo, Charlie and Molly often roam the countryside after school. They swim and race through the... (full context)
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One day, Molly and Charlie take off all their clothes and go swimming together, but Tommo feels too embarrassed to join them. Eventually, a few days later, Tommo decides to take... (full context)
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...Molly’s parents turn them away. They seem angry at the boys for some reason, and Tommo thinks how miserable Molly must be in “that dingy little cottage with a mother and... (full context)
Chapter 4: Ten to Midnight
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Back in the present, the teenage Tommo claims that he’s “not sure [he] ever believed in God,” even as a child in... (full context)
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One evening, Charlie and Tommo go poaching, but they have to go without Molly, as she is still ill with... (full context)
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Charlie and Tommo return home and tell their mother everything, to which she promises that the Colonel will... (full context)
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...the hunting hounds in the kennels. They have a particular favorite, a dog named Bertha. Tommo claims that Bertha’s big eyes are the same color as Molly’s, so she reminds him... (full context)
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...boys return home to find Molly waiting in their house. Her hair is shorter, and Tommo says that “she wasn’t a girl any more. She had a different beauty now, a... (full context)
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Again, Tommo starts feeling left out with Charlie and Molly, because they are outgrowing him. Molly moves... (full context)
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Tommo barely sees Molly anymore because she works so much, and when he does see her... (full context)
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Tommo recalls one rare occasion when he felt like a “threesome” with Molly and Charlie again.... (full context)
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Tommo has his humbugs confiscated at school, and the spiteful Mr. Munnings gives him six strokes... (full context)
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That night, Charlie tells Tommo that he’s in big trouble. He has stolen Bertha the dog, because the Colonel said... (full context)
Chapter 5: Twenty-Four Minutes Past Twelve
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 Back in the present, the teenage Tommo remarks that since he’s “been out here,” he hasn’t seen any foxes, though he’s heard... (full context)
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...a new job at Farmer Cox’s farm, which is just past the village. The teenage Tommo interjects that Charlie should have been happy there, as he loved the animals and the... (full context)
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...visits her cottage, but Molly’s parents won’t even answer the door. One day, Charlie sends Tommo with a letter instead. Molly’s mother opens the door and shouts at Tommo, telling him... (full context)
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As he is turning to leave, Tommo spots Molly frantically waving to him from a window. She sneaks out, and they meet... (full context)
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Tommo gives Molly the letter, which she opens, and tells Tommo to say “yes” to Charlie... (full context)
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Over the next few months, Tommo delivers dozens of letters between Molly and Charlie, which he doesn’t mind as it means... (full context)
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Soon, Tommo leaves school, and his mother arranges for him to go and work on Farmer Cox’s... (full context)
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One day, Tommo and Charlie return home to find Molly and Molly’s mother waiting for them at their... (full context)
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Tommo is so angry and hurt at the news that he doesn’t speak to Charlie all... (full context)
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...keep her from wandering off. One afternoon, Bertha goes missing for a long time, and Tommo, Big Joe and their mother go looking for her. As Tommo is about to give... (full context)
Chapter 6: Nearly Five to One
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 Teenage Tommo remembers how when he was younger, he would turn coins in his hand because he... (full context)
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Everyone races to the church tower. Charlie falls over, so Tommo goes up first, and eventually reaches the top of the stairs, where he finds Big... (full context)
Chapter 7: Twenty-Eight Minutes Past One
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Tommo remembers how he was once told in Sunday school that a church tower is “a... (full context)
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 On an evening a few weeks later, Tommo and Charlie come home from work to find Molly crying in their house, being comforted... (full context)
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Tommo finds that he avoids spending time with both Charlie and Molly after the wedding, as... (full context)
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 One day, Tommo is in a nearby village when he comes “face to face with the war for... (full context)
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When the display is over, Jimmy Parsons, the bully from Tommo’s school days, goes up to enlist. Others follow him. Suddenly a toothless old woman standing... (full context)
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As Tommo runs away he reconsiders what he’s just seen. He is filled with shame at himself,... (full context)
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Charlie accepts his fate, saying that he’s been feeling guilty about not enlisting recently anyway. Tommo immediately decides that he will go with Charlie. At not even sixteen, Tommo knows he... (full context)
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Tommo doesn’t know why he made this decision looking back on it, but he supposes it... (full context)
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Only two days later, Charlie and Tommo leave for the war. Charlie thanks Tommo for coming with him as they leave, and... (full context)
Chapter 8: Fourteen Minutes Past Two
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 Tommo looks closely at his watch. Charlie once told him that it was a “wonderful watch,”... (full context)
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Tommo and Charlie meet Sergeant “Horrible” Hanley at their training camp in France. Hanley “ha[s] it... (full context)
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Tommo remembers when he enlisted with Charlie. He stood up tall, trying to pass for seventeen,... (full context)
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After enlisting, Tommo and Charlie are sent to an initial training camp at Salisbury Plain in England, where... (full context)
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...boarded the ship for France, “the good times ended.” Even the journey is hellish, as Tommo and Charlie and most of the others are struck with violent seasickness. As they finally... (full context)
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As a result of his profound dislike of Charlie, Hanley starts picking on Tommo, too. By now, everyone in the company knows that Tommo was not Charlie’s twin, but... (full context)
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Tommo soon becomes exhausted from all the punishments and extra sentry duty. One day, Hanley accuses... (full context)
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...his punishment with dignity, making a point of holding his head high and smiling at Tommo whenever he passes. Tommo is upset seeing Charlie being punished. Charlie reminds him of Jesus... (full context)
Chapter 9: A Minute Past Three
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Tommo finds himself falling asleep, but wills himself not to. “After this night is over,” he... (full context)
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...to the front line in Belgium, the boys become almost cheery from the singing. Soon Tommo and Charlie start singing “Oranges and Lemons,” and everyone else joins in. Tommo can’t believe... (full context)
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
...company are heading for a quiet sector, so everyone is quite relieved. In fact, all Tommo has seen of the enemy so far is a group of disheveled German prisoners. He... (full context)
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...drinking “like camels filling up at an oasis.” The daughter of the owner smiles at Tommo as she serves him, and the others tease him for it, but he continues to... (full context)
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...back the other way, and the “haunted, hunted look in their eyes” says everything that Tommo needs to know about what he is going up against. (full context)
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Tommo’s experience on the front line is, at first, a quiet one. Day after day, his... (full context)
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...men to work cleaning them up to avoid rats. The rats inevitably arrive anyway, and Tommo is the first to discover a nest of them. Luckily, Little Les from their village... (full context)
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Captain Wilkes and Charlie also help to keep morale up with their positive attitudes, and Tommo claims that there isn’t a “man in the company who doesn’t look up to” Charlie... (full context)
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...road and, best of all, egg and chips and beer at the estaminet in Pop.” Tommo particularly enjoys these visits because he gets to see the “beautiful girl with the doe... (full context)
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Winter arrives and brings snow with it. Tommo is actually pleased about this, as the snow is no colder than the rain, but... (full context)
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...out and investigate the German regiments that have just arrived in the trenches opposite them. Tommo points out that this seems fairly pointless as there “are spotter planes doing that almost... (full context)
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Tommo’s turn for patrol comes, and he is slated to go with Charlie, Nipper Martin, Pete,... (full context)
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...a German soldier leaves the dugout. He sees the men, and runs back inside screaming. Tommo says that the man should have surrendered and gone with the British, and that he... (full context)
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...German soldier is “beside himself with terror.” He is whimpering, “naked, blood-spattered and shaking,” and Tommo notes that he himself is also shaking. The British men give the German a coat... (full context)
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Tommo’s company manage to escape the German trench, but as they start heading back towards their... (full context)
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Tommo hears the German prisoner praying to himself and realizes that they both call “God by... (full context)
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Tommo and Charlie go to see Wilkie at the hospital. Wilkie has already been transported back... (full context)
Chapter 10: Twenty-Five Past Three
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Earlier, the other soldiers came and asked Tommo if he “wanted someone to stay with [him] through the night,” but he refused. He... (full context)
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Tommo remembers how the next time the company were sent up to the front line, it... (full context)
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...from England and seems young and inexperienced as a result, and everyone misses Captain Wilkes. Tommo comments that Buckland seems even younger than Tommo does. (full context)
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...with even deeper mud than in their last trench. The dugout itself is better, but Tommo still finds that he can’t sleep for fear of what lies in store. (full context)
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The next morning, Tommo is on stand-to duty, and observes no-man’s land all around him. There is barely anything... (full context)
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...it to stop, for the earth to be still again, for there to be quiet.” Tommo knows that when the bombardment stops, the enemy will attack, but he would rather that... (full context)
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When the bombardment stops, Tommo sees the enemy approaching in the thousands, with their “bayonets glinting.” Charlie reassures Tommo that... (full context)
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...Suddenly, the first of many German shells flashes in the air, starting their surprise counter-attack. Tommo looks frantically around for Charlie but can’t see him. Tommo flattens himself into the mud... (full context)
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Hours pass, and still Charlie does not return to the dugout. Tommo tries to reassure himself, hoping that maybe Charlie is just waiting for the right moment... (full context)
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Tommo goes on sentry duty. He thinks about Charlie and his father, and tries to imagine... (full context)
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...until night to make his way back. He is taken to the hospital immediately, and Tommo manages to see him a few days later. Charlie looks very happy, and tells Tommo... (full context)
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On the night Charlie leaves for England, Tommo goes to the estaminet and drowns his sorrows and his anger at Charlie. He is... (full context)
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When Tommo is outside getting some air, the girl from the estaminet comes out and speaks to... (full context)
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Two weeks later, Tommo returns and does exactly that. The girl’s name is Anna, and they talk for a... (full context)
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When he arrives back at camp, Tommo’s good mood is shattered when Pete tells him that their new sergeant will be Sergeant... (full context)
Chapter 11: Nearly Four O’Clock
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Tommo realizes that it is nearly morning now, and reflects upon the fact that all of... (full context)
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After Charlie left, a new batch of recruits joined Tommo’s company. Many of the original company were either dead or wounded or ill by this... (full context)
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...a rare chance to get dry and warm. There are still rats and lice, but Tommo describes it as a “picnic” in comparison to what they had been through before. (full context)
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After this period of quiet comes a horrible and sudden awakening. Tommo is writing a letter when someone suddenly shouts, “Gas!” Everyone freezes momentarily in terror, even... (full context)
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At last, Tommo runs clear of the gas, only to find himself at the feet of an enemy... (full context)
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Later at the hospital, Tommo realizes how many men were injured and killed in the gas attack. He got off... (full context)
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Tommo returns to camp to find Pete alone in the tent. He, too, was very lucky... (full context)
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...at his post, and receives Field Punishment Number One, just as Charlie had before him. Tommo claims that these were the “darkest days we had ever lived through. Sergeant Hanley had... (full context)
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...before they are sent back up into line, so they head to the estaminet again. Tommo hopes to see Anna, but can’t find her anywhere, so he goes to her house.... (full context)
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Tommo goes to visit Anna’s grave. He wants to believe that she is in heaven, which... (full context)
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A huge bombardment of shelling starts, which lasts for days. Tommo describes it as a “titanic duel.” All the soldiers can do is huddle in the... (full context)
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...by the British before they can even make it to the trenches. All at once, Tommo and the others receive orders to go over the top of the trench. Tommo follows... (full context)
Chapter 12: Five to Five
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Tommo realizes that there are only “sixty-five minutes to go” and tries to decide how to... (full context)
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Back in battle, Tommo wakes “to the distant shriek of shells.” He realizes he is not dead after all.... (full context)
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...the dugout and attack the German trenches instead. Everyone knows this is a suicidal order. Tommo concernedly whispers to Charlie that he won’t be able to stand up because he is... (full context)
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...“the firing squad” and executed. Charlie tells him that he understands, but he can’t leave Tommo behind. Hanley calls him a “miserable little worm,” and threatens to kill him there and... (full context)
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Tommo drifts in and out of consciousness in the dugout. At one point, he wakes up... (full context)
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...in his eyes.” Eventually he decides it is time for them to leave. Charlie carries Tommo the whole way back to the trenches. (full context)
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When Tommo is placed on a stretcher at the trenches, he looks up to see Charlie being... (full context)
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Tommo is finally allowed to see Charlie on the day before his execution, but only for... (full context)
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Charlie describes his court martial to Tommo. Charlie tried to tell the judges the truth, but they would only listen to the... (full context)
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Charlie tries to be optimistic about his fate, reminding Tommo that the thought of death is “no more than [they] were facing every day in... (full context)
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Tommo finally brings himself to tell Charlie about the guilt he feels for their father’s death.... (full context)
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Finally, in their remaining minutes, Tommo assures Charlie that he is not worthless. Then the boys start singing “Oranges and Lemons”... (full context)
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When Tommo returns to camp he expects sympathy, but instead finds people smiling, because Sergeant Hanley has... (full context)
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Tommo is stationed at an empty farmhouse close to where they are keeping Charlie. Everyone at... (full context)
Chapter 13: One Minute to Six
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Tommo imagines Charlie as he is led to his execution. “He is not stumbling. He is... (full context)
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Tommo hears the shot, and feels that part of him has died with Charlie. However, as... (full context)
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Later that afternoon, Tommo goes to collect Charlie’s belongings. The men at the camp tell Tommo that when he... (full context)
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Tommo visits Charlie’s grave, and decides that Charlie would like the place where he is buried.... (full context)
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
The next day, Tommo’s regiment leaves for the Somme. All he can think of now is that he “must... (full context)