Ena's Brief Encounter was a two-part piece of Coronation Street fiction which appeared in TV Times magazine for the issues dated 22nd December 1979 to 4th January 1980 and 5th to 11th January 1980. Written by programme scriptwriter Leslie Duxbury, the instalments were illustrated by Jeff Cummings.
It is Christmas 1917: Ena Schofield is working as a bus conductress on the trams and at the age of nineteen lives with her parents at Alliance Street. Her “young man” is Alfred Sharples who is over on the battlefields of the western front near Poelkapelle having survived the Somme and Passchendaele. He has evolved his own methods for surviving the trenches, keeping his head down and being able to “crawl with the rapidity and agility of a greasy snake” through the trenches. He has recently met ols schoolfriend Albert Tatlock after two years apart on the front and Albert has found his own survival methods, ones of crafty cunning involving volunteering for training or driving, anything to get him away from the edge of No Man’s Land.
Back in Weatherfield, Ena hears from widowed Mrs Watson, next door but one, that her son and a childhood friend of Ena’s, Will, is home on leave after six weeks’ training after joining the army. The next day, Ena bumps into the shy nineteen-year old lad in Mrs Shuttleworth’s Corner Shop on Alliance Street and they swap pleasantries as he tells her of his seven-day’s leave. Two days later, on Sunday 23rd, on a weak sunny dinnertime, Ena passes Will’s house as she returns from the service at the Mission. He invites her for a walk and she agrees, much to her mother’s disapproval although her father gives his consent. The two go to the Clough, a wooded area near Bullen’s Farm that the factory builders had somehow missed out in developing and sit on a wall. Will tells her he’s received a telegram and that he must report back to the army tomorrow in Ashton as his regiment is being sent to France, although they haven’t finished their training. He is circumspect about the move, fully expecting to be killed in action although he does regret that he’s done nothing in his life, not even kissed a girl. The two hold each other and walk home arm in arm, though they do respect a distance between each other as they near the terraced streets. It isn’t enough though to stop Bessie Vickery seeing the two together and she mentions this in a letter to her fiancé Albert Tatlock, voicing the opinion that Ena must have forgotten all about Alfred Sharples…
Part 2 - Six little words and then he was gone
Ena and Alfred reach home to a disapproving greeting from her mother. That night, Ena realises that she is in love with Will as well as Alfred and cries herself to sleep on her pillow.
Over the channel, Albert Tatlock is disgruntled that the leave he and Alfred expected for Christmas has been postponed until New Year. Bessie’s letter to him arrives and he reads of her sighting Ena and Will together. Alfred and Albert previously had a bet of ten bob that Alfred would get Ena to marry him within two years of him arriving home. Albert is torn: Bessie’s news means that he’s won the bet and while the comradeship of the trenches includes an unwritten rule that while the menfolk can sow wild oats while on leave in France, their girls back home are expected to behave and save themselves for their returning heroes. But Albert, seeing Alfred’s disappointment that he has not received a letter from his Ena, decides to withhold his gossip for now.
Almost immediately afterwards, Alfred is sent on a mission with his reckless Captain, Oliver Todd Benson, a man who will return from the war to be his father’s executive skivvy in his tallow factory and therefore is making the most of his life at the front. Benson has spotted what he thinks is a pattern in a German sniper’s habits of using a cart track each morning and evening to get to a dug-out from where he can pick off the Tommys. Benson decides that he, Private Sharples and a Geordie called Thompson will go the track that night and ambush the man, despite the fact that the Germans frequently shell the place they are making for. They fail to return for three days, during which Albert frets for his friend and the possibility that he is dead. Miraculously they turn up on the back of a French army lorry, having had to escape from the cart track during a bombardment and sheltered with a group of French soldiers in an abandoned farmhouse, fortified by fine wines. Alfred’s relief at his survival is so transparent that Albert again resolves not to tell his friend of Ena’s betrayal, besides which, he’s lost Bessie’s letter in an attack on the trench…
The two men make it home for their New Year leave. Bessie and Albert spot Will at the station as he leaves home to go to France. That night, Alfred makes his way to Alliance Street and, with her parent’s permission, takes Ena out to a dance at the Mechanic’s Institute, together with Albert, Bessie and Minnie Carlton. Albert sees Ena and Alfred’s infatuation with each other has not lessened “unless she’s a good actress”.