|An English soldier surveys no-man land for signs of enemy activity.|
I have been away for nearly a month now but I have been busy. It seems my will to comment on current affairs has pretty much died, or at least it is asleep. for now.
My artistic instincts however are undulled and during this time I have composed several poems, wrote a short story or two and even begun a novel. Following is a brief piece of fiction I wrote several weeks ago, it is technically classed as flash fiction, and it recounts not more than a minute in the life of an English soldier of the Great War on the receiving end of an enemy assault:
The Mad Minute
For a minute I sat crouched in the shallow trench, my ears still ringing from the blast. I went as if to grab another clip for my rifle's magazine but I found that my hand shook too violently to articulate well enough to do it. I was done for, I knew my rifle was empty, I knew my bayonet lay bent and broken on whichever part of the floor, wherever the blast had threw it and worst of all, I knew that the rest of my section had fallen, every man other than myself had been taken by Jerry's artillery shells.
As the roaring and shouting of battle-cries became louder, I found that every breath seemed longer and longer and every shout of 'Gott Mit Uns!' became ever more drawling and slow. As the approaching wall of sound stretched and grew louder, my mind seemed to become clearer and I was at ease in the hell that I found myself in. I took my last clip of five rounds from the pouch on my right hip and thumbed the .303 rounds into my Enfield rifle, I discarded the strip of metal that allowed them to be loaded swiftly and pushed the bolt forward. As I did this it dawned on me that
crouching in an inconspicuous position as I was, I would not be seen. German soldiers began to reach the trench. I could see the shadow of the tips of their pointy helmets to my left.
When the first Pickelhaube wearing head turned towards me, the hollowpoint round that blasted his skull into shard came completely unawares, the heroic triumph was still written in his face as his body flopped to the ground. Two more of the Hun made it into the trench, leaping with their bayonets fixed and their eyes filled with fury, both turning towards me with a vengeful look as they took in the sight of their fallen comrade. My next shot, with my rifle cocked as the two sets of Prussian feet touched the ground, rang out loudly, this second .303 round claimed one of the Hun, with a blow to the chest, he was barely a boy, his face bare and his eyes wide as he fell clutching the hole where his heart used to be.
The other German, an older man with a thick red beard charged at me, angry with grief and a tear in his eyes. As if by instinct I had lifted my rifle by the upturning of my left hand and held it as a club in anticipation of the bayonet thrust that was finding it's way towards me. I sidestepped and hammered the butt of my rifle on to the benthandled bayonet the Hun had fixed to his rifle and almost as if one action I sent the butt of my Enfield right into his cheekbone, shattering blood, bone and meat into the air. As the bearded German fell, I noticed more Germans that had filed behind him into the trench. My rifle still in mid swing as it was, was useless to me and I was helpless to stop the shot that filled my lungs with blood. The world was brought back into focus, the flat mud puddle of Belgium, the sounds of explosions and battle-cries, the German and English corpses strewn around the trench, I screamed inside as I fell on to the earth. And yet another white man fell in the mud of Flanders, joining the thousands who had fell before, another faceless tragedy.
-Dedicated to all the European soldiers who fought in the Great War 1914 to 1918-