Charlie!! The high-pitched voice rang loud above the children’s laughter. Miss Sutton is at the end of her tether. In 30 years of teaching, she’s never had a pupil quite like Charlie – even moving him next to her at the front of the class made no difference. His eyes never left the lone oak that stood outside the classroom window.
Searching for answers in the school library, she discovers that there was once a forest of oaks where the school now stands. They were cut down to build the warships that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar. Intrigued, she travels to the Royal Navy Museum. There in the records was the story of two children press ganged into the Navy.
Puzzled, standing by the oak, she asks what is it that you see, Charlie?
I see two children through the smoke! Cannons spewing flames, blood curdling screams, dreadful, terrible screams, Miss! The children are slipping in the blood as they heave bodies from the splintered beams, the men at the cannons doubled over, exhausted, retching, coughing blood, the ship’s ablaze…. it’s beginning to fade, Miss. Look there, Miss! Can you see them, under the large branch, it’s the children!
Charlie, the school records show that their Mother was dying, so she blessed them by tattooing each with Angel Wings so they would never be separated. She made plans for them to live in the country with her sister, safe from the press gangs who believed it was lucky to have twins aboard a fighting ship. However she died suddenly, leaving them alone, destitute and easy prey.
They found their charred bodies lying side by side, holding each other’s hand, the Angel Wings were the only part of their bodies not burnt or covered in blood – their Mother’s wish had been granted, they were together to the end.
But why the oak, Miss?
The Royal Navy left one oak standing, Charlie, as a memorial and tribute to their bravery.
It also marked the end of the press gang.