I remember sitting in the train.
Though it seems ages ago, I figure that
no more than a couple of weeks have elapsed since then.
I also remember the thoughts racing in my mind. I'd read that before going
into battle, even the most ardent veteran soldier feels the pangs of fear,
and I wondered why I only felt a sense of numbness in my stomach and legs.
During training we'd been told by our senior officers always to keep our
carbines clean of grime.'Cleansed mine for what might have been the fiftieth time, whilst rolling
through the French countryside listening to the distant thunder.By then I didn't realise that it was the mellow booming of
heavy artillery, shelling our line. Or, maybe, ours shelling theirs?
I'd heard that even if you're dug in, in a shelter, the big howitzers
could get you.
In the train I split a cigarette with a guy from back home. This was his
second trip to the front. He told me how his former company was set to dig
out a bombed cellar, and how the people they found had been uninjured by
the shrapnel and fire. They had been crushed by the pressure of the
detonation - their lungs had been pushed through their mouths.He also told me to swap my bayonet for a field shovel at any
"When you're at close quarters, a sharpened field shovel can lob the head
off a mans shoulders. And it won't break or get stuck in the ribs like a
bayonet." That's what he said.His name is Liam, or was Liam. As I'm writing this, I can hear him
screaming. I can just barely make him out in a crater next to the German
trench. Horribly entangled in barbwire. He's not screaming for his mom or
anything. Just screaming. Maybe his throat has been lacerated. It sounds
kind of gurgling