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Wallace’s War

Second Place One-Act Play Winner

Wallace’s War

A ONE-ACT PLAY

by Dale Hink


CAST OF CHARACTERS

WALLACE: 42. Has been in the military for many years, and worked his way up to his current position. Stoic and rational, but the devastation of this war is finally getting to him

MARSHALL: 32. A good soldier who has great respect for Wallace. He is very loyal, but is not afraid to ask questions or make suggestions. Also worked his way through the ranks to be in the officer position he is in today.

THOMPSON: 22. A young, and extremely passionate officer. Got into his position as an officer because his father (a high-ranking politician) bought his son a spot in officer’s school.

THE TIME

The action of the scene takes place in the late morning, moving into the afternoon

THE PLACE

Arras, France 1917. A couple of days after a massive battle there. 114 miles from France.

Act One. Scene One. Wallace’s quarters, late morning.


fade in: morning, THE COMPANY IS PREPARING FOR a retreat when WALLACE receives a message.

THE MESSAGE

In local HQ, about half a mile from the trenches at the front line.

(general WALLACE bursts into his quarters angrily)

WALLACE

What nonsense! Stay and fight? This is suicide!

(WALLACE reads through the telegram again)

WALLACE(CONTD)

(takes deep breath, angrily shakes head)

Stay and fight at all costs? Horne, and Joffre haven’t been to the front lines in months! They have no clue how futile trying to hold this position is!

(WALLACE slams the telegram onto the map on the table which has the current military positions on it)

WALLACE(CONTD)

They’re ordering 9,000 men to just stay and die! Bullshit!

(WALLACE begins pacing, pondering his choices)

WALLACE(CONTD)

How convenient as well, right after I ordered the retreat to begin. I’m going to crush these men’s hopes even further if I change my mind

(WALLACE leans over the table with map on it, and thinks for a minute)

WALLACE(CONTD)

It could be bad either way of course…we have little time regardless. I need input.                               

(WALLACE waits while smoking his pipe, hears a knock at his door. Gets up to let his men in)

WALLACE

Major Marshall, and…oh who might you be young man? What happened to Second Lieutenant Baxter?

MARSHALL

He was lost to dysentery late last night sir. This is Second Lieutenant Thompson who was promoted to his place.

THOMPSON

(THOMPSON salutes)

Sir! Ready to serve King & Country!

WALLACE

Christ I’m losing good men left and right……At ease Thompson. Would you boys like some whiskey?

 (WALLACE moves to grab their whiskey as the other two position themselves around the map)

WALLACE

I’m sure you’ve noticed I put a halt to the retreat

MARSHALL

I did notice sir; the men are not pleased by this sudden change of plan. What brought it on?

 WALLACE

Have a look at this.

(WALLACE hands him the telegram)

 MARSHALL

What in God’s name?

 (MARSHALL hands Thompson the telegram)

THOMPSON

So, you’ve called off the retreat to stand and fight? Strong showing sir!

WALLACE

Fresh out of boot camp I see.

THOMPSON

What do you mean by that, Sir?

WALLACE

Just your fighting spirit Thompson. It’s admirable.

MARSHALL

So, what? Are we staying now?

WALLACE

(WALLACE downs his whiskey)

This quandary is exactly why I’ve brought you two here.

WALLACE(CONTD)

I’m following the order for now, but I am still considering full retreat. Staying would be certain death and defeat.

THOMPSON

Retreat? Defying orders? What are you a coward?!

MARSHALL

Thompson, stand down.

THOMPSON

I will not! I was told our leaders were fearless like the Brits of old! Apparently, this is not the case!

WALLACE

I assure you that fear is a good thing. It keeps you from making stupid decisions on the battlefield.

THOMPSON

I ought to report you……in fact I think I will

(THOMPSON heads for the door, Marshall moves to block the door)

MARSHALL

Now Thompson let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s hear Wallace out.

THOMPSON

I’ve heard all I need to hear, now let me pass or I’ll report you too!

WALLACE

Don’t bring Marshall into this. If you want to report me that’s fine. All I ask is that we debate this, and if you don’t like what you hear you can report me. Does that sound good?

MARSHALL

But, Sir!

WALLACE

It’s okay Marshall. I appreciate the loyalty, but Thompson does have a point. What we are discussing would carry a charge of insubordination, and cowardice with it.

WALLACE(CONTD)

Well Thompson, what do you say?

THOMPSON

(THOMPSON turns and walks to the table, and downs his whiskey)

Yes sir!                                               

 (WALLACE, and THOMPSON return to their spots on the table)

WALLACE

(WALLACE points to a place on the map)

I was thinking of retreating to Amiens. It isn’t too far, and allows us to join up with another division.

MARSHALL

What about our artillery? We can’t just leave it here.

WALLACE

We would rig them up with explosives, and blow them on our way out.

MARSHALL

Plan seems alright.

THOMPSON

I don’t like it. If the Germans respond quickly enough we’ll all have bullets in our backs.

WALLACE

It would be a night retreat, they wouldn’t be able to respond quickly enough to do much damage.

THOMPSON

They would once they heard the sound of our guns blowing sky high!

MARSHALL

Thompson does have a point. They would surely respond to the explosions.

WALLACE

I…suppose we have to leave the guns behind then.

THOMPSON

And leave them for the enemy to take? Are you daft? I’m going to have your job in no time after the trial!

WALLACE

Quiet down Thompson! You said you would hear me out and all you’ve done is challenge me!

THOMPSON

With all due respect sir, I did hear you out, and your plan sounds horrid.

MARSHALL

I admit it does have a few holes in it

WALLACE

Bloody hell! What would you have me do then?

THOMPSON

Not retreat that’s what! To fight, and die like men!

WALLACE

I’m tired of losing men! Tired!

MARSHALL

It isn’t your fault.

WALLACE

Who’s is it then? Tell me Marshall whose fault is it?

MARSHALL

It’s just a fact of war, sir. Death is unavoidable.

WALLACE

You aren’t wrong Marshall, but at this level? Have you seen how many men we’ve lost here at Arras alone?

(MARSHALL and Thompson stare, shocked)

WALLACE(CONTD)

How about in 1917 alone? Do you know the number?!

MARSHALL

I…admit I do not.

WALLACE

(WALLACE looks at THOMPSON)

I’m sure you don’t know. They probably withhold casualties of war from new soldiers.

THOMPSON

No sir, I do not know the numbers.

WALLACE

(WALLACE looks at MARSHALL, and then THOMPSON)

158,000 here in Arras….279,566 this year alone

THOMPSON

Those men knew what they signed up for.

MARSHALL

Easy thing to say for a politician’s son whose father bought him a spot in the officer’s school.

THOMPSON

(smugly)

Is that a bad thing? I was just using the resources I had to my advantage.

MARSHALL

You sound exactly like your father.

THOMPSON

Good. That means I sound like a patriot. Unlike some people in this room.

WALLACE

If you direct one more insult at us I’ll have yo…

THOMPSON

(interrupts)

Have me what? Court marshalled? Did you forget whose arse is on the line here?

WALLACE

(looking defeated, angry)

No. No, I have not.

(WALLACE takes a deep breath)

WALLACE

Well then Thompson, if my plan is so bad what do you have for us?

THOMPSON

Simple. Stand and fight as we are ordered to. For Queen and Country!

WALLACE

How do we win with 9,000 men?

THOMPSON

Feign weakness in the middle, and crash in from the flanks.

WALLACE

With 9,000 men if we “feign” weakness in the middle, then we won’t have a middle!

THOMPSON

Cowardice. Pure Coward…

WALLACE

(WALLACE interrupts by throwing a punch)

I’ll show you cowardice you bastard! (throws another punch) I’ve lost too many men to this fucking war! TOO MANY!

MARSHALL

(MARSHALL moves to break the two up as they trade blows)

Thompson! Wallace! Stop it! Fighting each other will get us nowhere!

(the three men stand, tense for a moment until they calm down a little)

THOMPSON

(THOMPSON wiping blood from his mouth)

That’s it. That’s the final nail in your coffin. I’m reporting you.

MARSHALL

Thompson, please. Things just got stressful for a moment.

THOMPSON

No! I heard this “leader” out, and all it got me was a wallop.

WALLACE

You gave me nothing of the sort. All you did was come in here with blind loyalty. I hope you know those people you swore your allegiance to don’t give a rat’s ass about you Thompson! All you are to them is cannon fodder!

THOMPSON

You’re wrong, and I’ll prove you wrong when I see you at trial.

WALLACE

(WALLACE tired, exasperated, and giving up.)

I’m wrong…yes…tell that to the boys out there dead in the mud…for what…what are we even fighting for? Can either of you tell me that?

MARSHALL

It’s been so long I’ve honestly forgotten.

THOMPSON

To defend Britain, and her allies from invading Germans trying to take over!

WALLACE

I only wish that were true Thompson.

(in the distance they hear artillery fire beginning)

MARSHALL

Those were not our guns sir…the Germans!

(MARSHALL, and WALLACE look mortified knowing their fate is sealed, THOMPSON looks disturbingly excited)

WALLACE

Fucking hell! A surprise attack!? No! This was not supposed to happen

THOMPSON

(THOMPSON gets wide eyed, and smiles)

Looks as though we’re fighting after all! We’ll show these Jerrys what true resolve is! See you on the battlefield boys!

(THOMPSON exits excitedly leaves Wallace’s quarters)

MARSHALL

Should I go rally my unit, sir?

WALLACE

(WALLACE voice shaky)

Yes. Go to them, they’ll need you. Godspeed, Marshall.

(MARSHALL salutes WALLACE, and leaves the quarters)

WALLACE

(WALLACE pours himself another shot of whiskey, and stares at it for a moment)

(WALLACE says this to himself)

At least this attack has spared my men from national shame…

(WALLACE downs his shot, and draws his pistol)

(We continue to hear gunfire, artillery, and other sounds of war as WALLACE pauses for a moment staring at his gun, and then exits his quarters. He blows into his whistle as he shuts the door behind him. Shortly after an artillery shell strikes the quarters, and we cut to black)

THE END

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