When I chose this photo of soldiers on-board a ship on its way to or from the Middle East in 1941 or 1942, I noticed, for the first time, the hat shadow. And then I thought about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince. Perhaps Saint-Exupéry had seen soldiers’ hats when he was in North Africa in the 1930s. If the on-board photo is flipped horizontally, the shadow looks just like the Little Prince’s “drawing Number One”:
If you’ve never read his story, you won’t know that the Little Prince showed the grown-ups his masterpiece and asked them if his drawing scared them. “Why be scared of a hat?” they asked. But he tells us, “My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.”
But back to the photo challenge: these soldiers are going on (or have been on) a journey that most of them will regret. Yet they look pretty relaxed here. Actually, pretty hot. They were probably travelling close to the equator. My father wrote some poetic lines about the boredom and wretchedness of being on-board a troop ship for weeks at a time. When you’re 20 years old and volunteer to go abroad to defend your country, it probably feels adventurous. And then you sail off, no turning back.