Twenty four year old Jamie Conrad was the youngest first lieutenant in the British Special Air Service. He was quickly gaining a reputation for being a capable and well respected young officer. Everyone in the SAS knew his Company was a crack group of airmen and their surgical strikes and heroism was known of far and wide. When the young officer was charged with being AWOL it was a shock to everyone who knew him.
* * * *
The twenty seventh of May was a day of rest for the Company. They had just come back to their base in Hereford from a particularly bloody campaign in which two officers lost their lives. Word of the battle got around to the families of the officers and men of Conrad’s unit and Jamie’s own mother had been among the first to call.
“Jamie, darling! Are you alright?” His mother asked, sounding weak and worried.
“Yes mum, Don’t worry. You sound dreadful. What’s wrong?” There was silence over the line for several seconds. “Mum?”
“Jamie, mummy is ill darling.” The young officer’s heart jogged in his chest.
“Ill? What do you mean? What’s wrong with you?”
“I don’t want to upset you, son…” Suddenly the phone changed hands and his step father was on the line.
“Yes sir. What’s going on? What’s wrong with mum?”
“You had better sit down son.” Jamie lowered himself into a chair.
“Alright. Now tell me.”
“Your mother has been diagnosed with cancer.” A white hot dagger of unbelievable sadness stabbed him in the heart. He felt the room sway sickeningly.
“Cancer?” It was all he could say.
“Yes, son. I’m sorry to say she hasn’t long to live.” There was silence on Jamie’s end this time. Tears began to coarse down his hollow cheek and splash on the desk at which he sat.
“How…how long?” He managed to croak.
“A week if she’s still. You’d better come straight away.” Jamie hung the phone up, his face pasty white. A hard knot formed in his throat and stomach and he knew he had to maintain his composure if he were to do what he had to do.
* * * *
“I’m terribly sorry, lieutenant but you cannot obtain compassionate leave this quickly. Even on an emergency basis it takes a few days to clear command. I’m terribly sorry.” The Colonel looked into Conrad’s pleading blue eyes compassionately.
“I’m going sir. I must!” The young officer replied.
“Where is your mother, Conrad?” he asked.
“Let me see what I can do. Come back in an hour.”
“Yes sir.” Jamie said, snapping to attention and saluting the man. As he left, he knew he would be going whether the man succeeded or not. Career be damned. Prison be damned, he would not miss his mother’s last days! He had his answer in less than an hour.
“Good news, Conrad! I was able to arrange for a seventy two hour compassionate leave for you.” The Colonel stated, smiling.
“Thank you sir. I really appreciate it.” Jamie knew the trouble the man had gone to and he was truly grateful.
“Pack a bag and I’ll have a jeep waiting for you. Please give my best wishes to your family.”
“Thank you sir, I will.” The Colonel’s words pricked his heart painfully. He hurried to pack a bag and jumped into the waiting jeep. The driver sped along, taking only three and a half hours to make it to the Hospital at Harrogate.
Jamie was directed to his mother’s room by a sister, who personally guided him. He dreaded seeing her, knowing that it would be emotionally shredding for both of them. When he entered her room his sweet mother, the woman who had cuddled him through bad dreams, gently doctored skinned knees and made countless jam butties lay in her hospital bed. She was pale and looked impossibly small to him. She had lost a lot of weight and had not been a stout woman to begin with. He moved to the bedside, tears rolling down his cheeks and took her pale hand.
“Mummy?” He said, rolling himself back to the small child he was. She stirred and opened her eyes, smiling when she saw her precious child.
“Jamie! Mummy knew you’d come.” Her voice was thin and scratchy. James fell on her, holding her tenderly and crying his eyes out. “Shhhhh.” She cooed. “It’s alright darling. Don’t cry. Everybody dies my son.” She stroked his hair gently, as she always did to soothe his pain.
“I love you mummy!” he sobbed. At that moment he didn’t care that he was a grown young man, an officer in an exclusive part of the Royal Army. Right now he was a small child, crying for his mother.
“I’m glad you came darling. Don’t be sad. Mummy is not afraid.”
“I know.” Jamie replied, sniffling back tears. “I just don’t know what I’ll do without you.”
“Oh, I think you’ll get on just fine. You are such a good boy my darling. Your father would have been so proud.” Jamie smiled through his tears. Leave it to his mother to comfort him even in the wake of this devastating news.
“Mama I promise you I will live my life honourably. I will always try to be the kind of man you could be proud of.”
“You’ve already achieved that, sweetheart. Mama is so proud of you.” She began to weaken and Jamie feared he was taxing her.
“Go to sleep mummy. I’ll be right here, by your side.” His mother closed her eyes and smiled, drifting off to sleep.
She lingered on for four days, finally passing in her son’s loving arms. The young soldier wept his heart out. The funeral wa set for two days from then and he rang the regimental office for permission to stay on.
“Lieutenant you have already stayed a full day past your leave. I’m afraid you will have to return immediately or be declared AWOL.”
Jamie had already decided that he didn’t give a hang about an AWOL charge and stayed on for the funeral. After the graveyard services ended there were two officers waiting for him on the edge of the cemetery. He was immediately arrested and driven back to Hereford for disposition.
The kindly Major General, named Price was on duty when he was brought to the regimental headquarters. The young officer stood, unblinking, awaiting whatever jail sentence he would be given.
“I was terribly sorry to hear of your mother’s death, Jamie.” The older man said softly.
“Thank you sir.”
“At ease, son. Sit down.” Jamie sat down obediently, his face sad and wan.
“When was the last time you’ve eaten or slept?” To the man’s surprise, Jamie burst into tears.
“I don’t know sir.” He squeaked, swiping at his eyes tiredly.
“You’re exhausted, poor fellow. Right. I want you to go to the officer’s mess and have a meal. Then I order you to bed. When you’ve rested come back and see me. Oh, by the way, you are confined to base.”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir.” Jamie said, trying hard to straighten up. The older officer stood and pulled him into a hug.
* * * *
When he awoke, Jamie cleaned up and presented himself to General Price for discipline. He stood before the man at attention, grim faced and still.
“At ease, son. Right. What shall we do? You were definitely AWOL, but with the best reason I’ve ever heard of. I can’t see the justice in punishing you too severely for being a faithful son to your dying mother.” Jamie winced at the mention of his mother.
“You are an exemplary soldier and a very fine young man. I wish I could put paid to it but I am forced to take some disciplinary action.” The man stood and walked over to Jamie, taking his arm. “Come on, young Jamie. I know just the thing.”
He led Jamie to his swivel chair and sat down on it. In one swift, practiced move, he drew the young officer over his lap. Jamie drew a sharp breath as he was positioned. Before he could react a big, meaty palm crashed down on his upturned bottom, stinging and well placed!
“Ouch!” Jamie cried before he could think to prevent it. The General began to spank his bottom crisply, imparting a wicked sting. Jamie cried out and tensed his back with each swat, feeling like a small child as he was disciplined. This was a proper hiding, but not overly severe. This was a sound, old fashioned spanking, delivered with mercy by the elderly officer. It was decidedly unpleasant but there was something else. Something about being over this nice old man’s knee, being lovingly corrected that soothed and settled his aching heart. It was strangely parental. He felt cared for, for the first time since his mother died. His bottom was stinging but he felt safe. Jamie yelped and was shocked to find tears running down his cheeks! He was being spanked and crying over it! The whole thing would have been comical had it not been for the fact that it was this dear, old man who administered it and he was sad as he did it.
“Poor lad, I hate to spank you but I must. We must have discipline in the military my boy. Now lie still for me. There’s a good boy.”
“Ow! Yes sir. OW!” Jamie said as his bottom was tanned expertly. After five minutes of professional bottom warming it was finally over and he was helped to his feet, his behind stinging like fire! He rubbed his scalded bottom and brushed tears from his eyes. “I’m sorry for crying sir.” He squeaked.
“There, there, Jamie.” The old man said, dabbing at the young officer’s eyes with his hanky. “It’s a spanking my boy. All boys cry when they are spanked.” He pulled the young man in for a warm hug. The kindly gesture stabbed at Jamie’s already ragged heart and he burst into tears, clutching the general tightly. “Oh, you poor lad! I know, sweet boy. I know. Cry all you like. I know what it is to lose your mother.” Jamie cried for a full five minutes, being cuddled and patted by the compassionate man.
When the storm passed, Jamie thanked him and straightened up. “Thank you for correcting me sir.” He said, offering the elderly man his hand to shake.
“You’re welcome, Jamie. Listen to me. You are not alone in this World. I care about what happens to you and so do your men. Never hesitate to come and talk to me when the need arises.” The man smiled warmly at the young officer. Jamie felt something heal in his heart and he returned the smile.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now. Go and have your tea if your bottom isn’t too sore to sit for it. I’ll be along in a few minutes. I just have some paperwork to fail to do.” Jamie looked at him quizzically and left. He was almost to the Mess tent when he realized what the old man meant. He was not going to turn in official paperwork on his AWOL charge.
As years went by, Conrad depended upon General Price for sage wisdom and a caring ear. Even after he retired, Jamie consulted him. Even after the kindly old man passed on, he never felt alone again.