Friday 1st July, 2016 was the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Nearly 20,000 British soldiers lost their lives.
On that one day alone.
That’s the kind of number you hear bandied about and understand it’s a LOT but don’t really understand the scope of.
Not without seeing it…
I still haven’t seen it.
But I’ve seen a couple of hundred of guys in uniform.
And that was enough.
I was in the fortunate (well, that’s not the right word exactly, but you understand what I mean) position of being a small cog within a much larger, phenomenal machine on Friday.
And it meant I was faced with hundreds of the 1400 boys around the UK in era-specific uniforms all representing one of the soldiers who’d died on that first, fateful day.
I was stage managing a group of around 15 guys (shout out to #teamtash!) but over the whole day, I was privileged to witness a couple tonnes more of these costumed fellas en masse.
As I looked around and saw faces of kids who looked no older than 14 and men who could have been fathers, as I saw faces of all colours, as I saw helmets and hats and turbans and berets, I realised that the number of men lost in that war was unfathomable.
I thought about the sheer slaughter of boys who’d been so eager to fight.
I thought about the generation of women left behind with all future hopes of having families, dashed.
I thought about the parents in eternal mourning for children lost.
And I teared up.
More than once.
When the day was done – when the battle was fought and won (music theatre nerds, #yourewelcome) – I watched as the National Theatre studio became filled with Millennials once more.
Boys revved up on adrenaline.
Guys triumphant in a joint goal.
Men becoming buoyed by alcohol.
Those lost soldiers becoming ghosts once more.
And the party began!
The tunes came on.
The drinks were flowing.
The chats developed from sharing their experiences throughout that day, to sharing their experiences throughout their lives.
And, for the few of us ladies scattered around the place, the flirting began.
Faces that had been serious and sombre throughout the day became animated with expression.
Voices that had only been heard to sing their one, poignant song all day, were suddenly heard, raised in joy and laughter.
If they wanted to flirt, thought I, then I was going to save time.
I was happy to enjoy the tunes and energy so decided to save wasted time and sent my preferences out via my soldiers.
I specified that any possible suitors must be:
Older than me, taller than me and sexy.
I knew there weren’t many to meet all of these requirements.
The first was already ruling out 70% in the room – considering the average age of the guys was early/mid 20’s.
But bless them, a few suggestions were made.
They were all vetoed.
There were two brothers in #teamtash.
They became my #wingmen for the evening.
And that is where our lesson lies this week…
I have used variations of the “no man gets left behind” call before.
Particularly in Lesson 12 – where #nocoyotegetsleftbehind became particularly relevant.
On Friday, it seemed particularly fitting that my soldiers were ensuring that they looked after me.
After all, isn’t in exactly these circumstances that the expression began?
The one boy I’d mentioned finding attractive had been AWOL for most of our day.
I assumed he’d ended up in a group that was using a different base location.
I was sad, but I moved on.
It wasn’t the worst thing to have ever happened to me.
With one final song before eviction – we had a sighting…
He was there!
He was there!
Without a word, the brothers were in #actionmode – one led me onto the dance floor by the hand, the other following behind me.
Both having a conversation over my head, with a deliberate volume.
“Tash was such a great stage manager today!”
“Yeah! She’s the best!”
“We LOVE Tash!”
“And I’ve heard that she’s great in bed!”
I laughed VERY hard when I heard this…
It was text-book high school #wingmanning –
And I loved it!
Well… I loved the sentiment behind it.
And it worked.
A slightly awkward conversation between myself and Private Man-Face followed.
THEN – it was party over.
A large number of people decided we would move on to another location.
Lieutenant Sex-on-Legs had said he’d be heading in that direction, so I had no doubt in my mind it’s where #teamtash would be headed.
But the brothers were calling it a night.
Because it’s a #nomangetsleftbehind situation, and despite the fact they WERE leaving me behind, they grabbed another of our soldiers and entrusted me into his company on the proviso that he get me where I needed to be…
LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND.
Although, in this case, it was Leave No Tash Behind.
When you have each other’s backs, things are more entertaining, more enjoyable and more of an adventure!