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I saw 1917. I am a not a native English speaker and had to watch it in OV without subtitles, and I had dificulty understanding everything during some scenes because of the British accents.

There is one scene in particular that I did not understand: Why did Will trade his medal for wine?

He says something like

I hated it when I was told that I was sent back home. That I wouldn't see them again...

and then stops because he is about to cry.

Did I understand this correctly? Am I supposed to understand what he is talking about?

  • It felt to me that he considered the medal a "replacement" of himself, a compensation - if he died, his family would have the medal, they wouldn't have him. – Roberto Jan 24 at 2:17
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There are two different questions in your question.

1. Why did Will trade his medal for wine?

The answer to this is clearly given by Will.

Will: I didn't lose mine.

Blake: What happens to it then?

Will: Why do you care?

Blake: Why do you not?

Will: I swapped it with a French Captain.

Blake: Swapped it?!

Will: Uh-huh!

Blake: For what?

Will: Bottle of wine.

Blake: Why would you do that for?

Will: I was thirsty.


2. Did I understand this correctly? Am I supposed to understand what he is talking about?

After this, the conversation escalates where Blake suggests to Will that he should have kept the medals or given them to his family back home. To which Will responds by calling them "a bit of bloody tin." Obviously he does not regard those pieces of metal more than human life. Probably because he has seen many battles and is less enthusiastic about a suicide mission of delivering a message by going through German lines.

Will then goes on saying,

I hated going home. I hated it. When I knew I couldn't stay, when I knew I had to leave and they might never see 'em...

Not

I hated it when I was told that I was sent back home. That I wouldn't see them again...

Here he is reluctant to go home, as he knew he would again be called for duty. He does not want to go through the pain of separation again and again. Or maybe he does not want his family to possess those medals and ribbons in case he gets killed in the war, as that would be a constant reminder.

After this conversation, Blake also tries to understand Will's perspective.

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  • 2
    Speaking of reminders: how many comrades did Will lose in the battle that earned him the medal? How many men did he see die, or killed? That medal may have been a constant reminder of the horror... – Matthieu M. Jan 24 at 14:47
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Will earned his medal fighting in the Somme, over a million men were killed or wounded during the fight making it one of the bloodiest battle in human history [Wikipedia entry]. Medals are often prized by soldiers but he comments that "its just a bit of tin". To him the medal is meaningless, he doesn't take pride in being a part of that battle and would rather have something that he actually wants like wine, perhaps to numb the pain of perhaps just a small luxury.

I think the quote you mentioned is him talking about how he hated being sent back home because he knew he couldn't stay and going to see his wife/family just made it all the more difficult because he knew he had to leave again. Its part of the same scene but not directly linked to him trading away the medal.

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