It’s time to share some backstory on how Danel Bophendze was able to join the Postal Marines at sixteen.
I’ve been to lots of different places and met a lot of peculiar people. In the Postal Marines series, I find some of those more interesting people found their way into shades of characters. I’ve not figured out who Bophendze is yet, but there are a few others where I had somebody in mind. One of those is the scouting couple in Imbroglio.
Danel is an orphan. It’s clear from the early parts of the series he has no idea who his father was. He was raised by his mother until she died when he was sixteen. Part of this series is his learning the richness of his heritage and has to come to terms with it. This is no Harry Potter, however. (Spoiler alert: Bophendze learns more about his heritage in Imbroglio).
The Imperial Postal Service has an interesting provision in its recruiting policy. It will recruit as young as sixteen. The young lads are part of an auxiliary. They are paid at recruit rates but are not expected to join the service until they are eighteen. The exception is for orphans. They can ask to join active service immediately. This provides them with room and board an a chance to promote earlier. the Emperor extended this as his benevolence to the orphan who has nobody in the world to care for him. The minimum enlistment period for such a privilege is a decade.
The idea for the auxiliary came from an interaction I had with members of the Queen’s Own Highlanders. The unit has changed since I met them. It has been twenty years, so there’s a good chance some of them are still serving. For a few hours in the early 1990s, I had a chance to get a glimpse into their world, after their tour in North Ireland. Among those was a the different recruiting and retention methods of their unit. It is from my recollection of that encounter that influenced the Imperial Postal Service’s policy to recruit orphans.
The problem with recruiting men so young is their emotional and physical disadvantages. In Bellicose, Bophendze is still emotionally raw from the loss of his mother. Psychologically, he is ill-adapted to the transitions he is exposed to. It took the pivotal moment of Tannenberg Gate before he could find equilibrium with his new environment.