The memory of daffodils

Reads: 108  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 3

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of two British soldiers during the battle of the Somme in WW1.

Submitted: July 14, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 14, 2017

A A A

A A A


A memory of daffodils

 

The Somme, Friday 13th October 1916

Dark clouds hung low in the sky like a deathly shroud, as a heavy downpour turned the battlefield below into a quagmire. The deadly expanse of no-mans’ land was waterlogged; the myriad of shell holes, which pockmarked the ground slowly filled with dirty brown muddy water.

Miles of barbed wire fencing  criss-crossed the field, rusted and deadly, like metal thorn bushes, and tangled amongst its metal vines was the grotesque, twisted lifeless forms of fallen soldiers, their tattered and torn khaki uniforms stained dark red with the spilling of their life blood, where they had been brought down by sniper fire and the deadly maxim machine guns which defended the Huns lines.

The shelling had been going on for over twenty four hours. The thunderous boom of the heavy artillery swept over the landscape followed by the high pitched shriek of the shells as they flew over head.

The ground trembled with the impact of another shell as it exploded to the left of Charlie Parish’ trench. The screaming of injured men filled the air as shrapnel fragments ripped into their bodies, wounding, maiming and killing.

Ducking, Charlie closed his eyes and covered his ears with his trembling hands, trying to block out the cries of the dying men as a shower of claret stained mud and water rained down over his soaked form.

Charlie stood in a trench filled with cold stagnant rainwater, which reached up to his knees. He could not remember the last time his feet had been dry; his trench foot ached terribly. Charlie’s uniform was covered in mud and stuck to his body; he was soaked to the bone, hungry and weak and shivering constantly from the cold and the early onset of shell shock.

Charlie looked to his right where Reg Colby crouched in the trench next to him, he was seventeen years old, a vicar’s son, and should have been at home in the bosom of his family, not here in this hell hole next to him.

Reg had been in France only three months and his once fresh innocent plump face had quickly been replaced with dark sunken eyes and drawn in cheeks; a nasty thick knotted scar covered his forehead. if Reg was lucky enough to survive this war then he would always have a reminder of its hell every time he looked in a mirror.

Wiping the mud from his face, Charlie remembered how Reg had got the scar;

 

The whistles had blown and the men had poured over the top of the trenches, shouting their battle cries like warriors of old as they ran toward the enemy lines. The mud made it difficult and heavy going for the men to advance. With every step they would sink up to their ankles in cold wet sucking mud. Spurred on by their commanding officer as he blew his whistle and waved his webley pistol above his head, the men trudged on toward the Huns lines.

The enemy machine gunners opened up, spraying death in all directions. Brave men fell all around, cut to pieces by the German machine gunners. Captain Forrester fell amongst a hail of bullets as they ripped into his body tearing half of his head away. His body slumped to the ground, where it was caught in a tangle of barbed wire as his webley slipped from his dead hand.

Charlie had grabbed young Reg as he huddled in a shell-hole shaking with fear, and dragged him back toward the safety of the British lines. Slipping in the mud, Reg became entangled in a deadly cluster of barbed wire; Charlie tugged violently at his webbing dragging Reg free as bullets flew all around them. When they slid back into the trench, Reg looked up, his eyes wide with terror and his face awash with blood as it oozed from a nasty gash in his forehead. Ever since that day, Reg had stuck to Charlie’s side like glue.

Managing to smile at his young companion, Charlie reached into his tunic and pulled out a worn tan leather wallet.  Opening it he pulled out a piece of folded grease-proof paper. Unfolding the paper he looked at the dried yellow daffodil. Holding the flower close to his nose he breathed deeply, the faintest scent from the pressed flower could just be made out. Closing his eyes, Charlie left the thunder of the artillery and the stench of death, which haunted the trenches behind, as the terrible images of war slowly melted away like a spring thaw.

 

The flower gardens were beginning to look colourful as the early spring bloomers pushed their way up through the damp soil. The last of the frost of winter had finally melted away and the sun’s rays brought warmth to the spring air.

Charlie and his fiancé, Amy Birchall strolled arm in arm through the park, Amy was dressed in her Sunday best,  a deep green dress with matching bonnet, her long yellow hair had been swept up into a bun neatly tucked inside of her bonnet.

‘What did you think of the vicar’s sermon this morning?’ asked Charlie.

Amy thought for a moment before replying, ‘it was-very sad,’ she said.

‘Sad? How do you mean?’ Charlie asked.

‘When the vicar said those prayers for our troops in France, it really made me want to cry, Charlie. In a few weeks I am going to lose you when you go off to do your training.’ Amy’s voice became strained as she tried to fight back the pain she felt inside.

‘You are my world, Charlie parish, I don’t know what I would do if anything would happen to you!’

Stopping by a bed of bright yellow daffodils, Charlie squeezed Amy’s hand reassuringly,

‘You know, by the time I’ve done my training and been shipped out to France, the war will probably be over,’

Amy put on a brave face and clung to Charlie’s arm more tightly.

‘I never noticed it before,’ Charlie said staring at the daffodils, ‘but from now on whenever I look at a daffodil I will think of you and your beautiful yellow hair!’

Amy grinned as her mood lightened slightly, ‘why Charlie parish, that is the most romantic thing you have ever said to me!’

Charlie felt his cheeks reddening.

With a smile, Amy stepped forward and plucked a daffodil from the flower display; much to the disapproving glances and tutting noises of passers-by. Ignoring them, Amy kissed the daffodil and handed it to Charlie, ‘then take this with you, my love as a reminder of me.’

Charlie took the daffodil.

‘For I have been told that these, French mademoiselles are very pretty and eye catching.’ Amy said trying her best to make light of the heart-wrenching situation.

Looping arms, Charlie and Amy resumed their stroll through the park cherishing every moment of their time spent together.

 

Charlie stirred from his heartwarming memory, his mind dragged back to the cold grim reality of the Somme and its miles of stinking waterlogged trenches, by the sound of his commanding officer’s voice.

‘Come on, lads ready yourselves now, check those Enfield’s, were going to give that blasted Hun a run for his money, aren’t we, lads!’ he shouted, his voice full of self-righteous conviction.

‘Aye, sir!’ replied the cold shivering soldiers as they gripped their rifles.

Charlie looked on as Reg pulled out a small gold crucifix, closed his eyes, mumbled a silent prayer and kissed the cross before tucking it safely back into his tunic.

‘I hope you whispered my name in that prayer?’ Charlie grinned.

‘Always, Charlie,’ Reg replied.

The sound all of the soldiers dreaded pierced the air; the high-pitched wail of the whistles. Charlie slapped Reg on the back, ‘here we go again, lad, stay close to me, do you hear?’

‘Aye, Charlie, you can count on that!’ Reg said gripping his Enfield tightly in shaking hands.

Shouting at the top of their lungs, Charlie’s company scrambled over the top of the trenches and charged toward the enemy lines. Tracer bullets flashed through the air, whizzing passed the advancing British troops, and then the German machine gunners opened fire.

 

Two figures stood amidst the endless rows of white headstones. The approaching dark clouds threatened rain soon. A slight breeze blew from the west ruffling old woman’s silver hair. The old man at her side leant heavily on his walking stick as he rubbed a consoling hand over her shoulder; her body trembled as she wept. Wiping a tear from her red eyes the old woman sighed,

‘My brave Charlie, here we are again!’ she said as she bent down and placed a single daffodil at the foot of the gravestone.

Are you alright, Amy?’ her companion asked.

‘Yes, Reg, I’m fine thanks’,’ Amy replied as she took Reg’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly.

‘Would you look at the state of us!’ said Amy wiping a tear from her eye, ‘a couple of old fools.’ Amy shook her head.

Old maybe, but fools never, Amy. We are loyal friends, whose lives were touched by a good, brave man, who was taken from us too soon.’

After long moments of silent contemplation, Amy turned to Reg,

‘Do you remember the first time we met, Reg?’

‘Aye, Amy, I’ll never forget it, you had received my letter from the front and had come to the hospital to meet me when I had returned to England.’

‘Please, Reg, tell me what happened again?’ said Amy, her voice sounding far away.

Reg sighed as his mind raced back to 1916.

‘The whistles blew, we charged the German lines. It was a futile attempt we all knew that. We made it half way across no-mans land. We could see the iron grey helmets of the Huns as they peered out from their trenches. Then the machine gunners and snipers opened fire. A tracer shot passed us to our left; Charlie saw it and pushed me out of the way just as the first volley of bullets rattled off. The pain was like hot pins lancing into my leg, I screamed and fell, Charlie grabbed me and dragged me toward a near-by shell hole for safety.’

Reg paused for a moment as his voice began to break up at the pain of the memory returning. Composing himself, he continued.

‘Charlie smiled at me, then fell forward- he had been hit in the back by several shots. He died instantly, Amy, he never suffered, or felt a thing.’

Turning back to the white headstone, Amy blew a kiss,

‘Until next time, my love, rest in peace.’

 

Dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, Amy nudged Reg,

’ come on reverend Colby, lets get back to the hotel before the rain starts.’

Offering Amy his arm, Reg led her from the gravesite.

As the two friends walked down the gravel path the first drops of rain began to fall. Amy didn’t feel a single drop, her mind was elsewhere, she was enjoying a peaceful stroll through the park with her Charlie, reliving the memory of her lost love and the memory of daffodils.


© Copyright 2017 Celtic-Scribe63. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More War and Military Short Stories