When The Soldier Came Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
War is hell, being forgotten is worse

Submitted: May 14, 2017

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Submitted: May 14, 2017



When The Soldier Came Home

A Shorty Micro Novel


 Donald Roberts


Yes. The story of the battle for Passchendaele has been told and retold many times since the Canadians took part in that bloody conflict...So it is not here that I will tell it all again. I shall say only that this tremendously heart rendering story began its sojourn in that part of the world and at that time in history.

I cannot tell you what battle or on what day it began because the one that told me about it could not remember and I only had a very short time to call him friend.

His Name was Allister Albert Galway, a private in the Canadian Expeditionary force of world war one.


He was not a big man. In fact had he been an inch or two shorter he would not have been accepted into the service of his country. Nor was he educated, overly courageous, though I dare simply by volunteering he denoted himself as a man of courage. And on the battlefield he showed no enemy his back, only the fierceness of his determination to be among the victors of that horrendous conflict.

Allister Albert Galway was eighteen years seven months and fourteen days of age when the battle was begun. He had fired his rifle many times but had never known whether he killed anyone or not.


The sound of war is deafening and the sights one sees is beyond anything any man should witness. For death by means of the violence of gun and blade can only be defined as demonically horrifying. Two watch a man torn to pieces by lead and or steel can never be forgotten...never be unseen. It stays in a soldier's memory forever. And feel ones mind being stretched to the limits of sanity one day after another all but intolerable...And then the ultimate comes. The bullets are spent. The distance is spent and he stood there mere feet from his enemy. In that moment it was kill....or die.


And Allister Albert Galway learned in that moment that his sense of survival was stronger than any other he possessed. And in that moment he knew for the first time how it felt to kill, viciously when he drove his bayonet into the breast of his enemy and twisted the blade as he had been drill to do...time and time again. Then he killed again and again until all around him laid his enemy and he without a mark. And it disturbed him that he had slain so many...so easily...so without thought of who or what they were except soldiers of the enemy.


And all around him his eyes fell upon dead comrades in arms who he knew by name and much of their family's names. He seen pictures of them and read their letters, letters he never received for he had no family save. It was because he had no one that he volunteered for Canada's great army to fight for king and country.

Allister heard the sound...that was no sound...silence. He dropped to his knees and fell forward into the mud his head turned barely enough to keep from smothering. But there he laid for hours...or days....And when he woke there was him and score upon score of fallen...mangled corpses. He alone moved among the dead and if the moment came that his mind shattered it was then....then...when he had been left for dead among the dead.


"And my Lad," Said Allister to me, "I walked away...not to run....or hide...but because I did not know what else to do....I had lost everything...including my mind...a loss that took with it the memory of war, of battle and even my own name.....It even took my voice and I was left to wander a mute, destitute, vagrant...little more than an animal grubbing for food and water...a beggar on the streets of  villages, towns and cities to which I had no name for. Such a lost soul was I and no one seemed to care. My clothes but rages....unrecognizable after that battle. And so I lived the life of a derelict for ten and forty years...shunned....pitied at best and brutally discarded at worst. I think often I wished for death. But it never came.


Then one day on a street in Paris, though it was only later I knew it was Paris...I found a bottle of wine and in my thirst drank it in short order. It made me drunk and I stumbled and fell into a clot of mud. When I woke I remembered it all, the war, and the battles and all the years that had passed since. And my boy....I wept." Allister admitted to me, "I wept profoundly and only when I could weep no more did I get to my feet and walk and talk and was able to tell people I was a Canadian Soldier on the field of Passchendaele. And only after I told hundreds of people did any one of them listen."


Allister Albert Galway had told his tale to a stranger....a special kind of stranger who had the where-with all to contact the necessary authorities who would be able to find that works to understand what became of Allister Albert Galway and what did not become of him.. He was listed as a casualty of war....which he was after a fashion but not a fallen soldier.

To me it should have been that Allister be sent home a returning hero of the Great War. Instead he was merely given some money and a ticket on a ship back to Canada, to the port of Halifax.

From there he was once again on his own, an old man, a broken soldier, a derelict. He was still a teenager when he went to war. Now he was sixty and eight and one half years of age.


He came home to a town of the right name but of which he had little memory. So much had changed since he left to fight in the Great War....that war to end all wars that was followed up by a second world war in which he had no part except as a derelict sobbing for handouts.

He was arrested for vagrancy then cast out again into the streets, once ...twice and three times before he learned to keep out of harm's way. I found him by the river, fishing for his dinner with a makeshift pole and line and hook. He coughed nearly with each breath as he told me his story....the one I have just told you. He knew....and I knew that he would not be on that river bank for many more days.


Seventeen to be exact. I went to see him each afternoon after school. I took him food and smokes...he had discovered tobacco and loved its element. I guess by day he wondered here and there for he told me he went to visit the place he once lived back in 1914, but it was gone....there was not of trace....nor had he found a single person he knew....and the day before he died he found the cenotaph. "But when I looked for my name carved into the stone eternal memory it was not there. It seems I am a truly forgotten soul from that war."

I found him dead the next day and called the police. He has a pauper's grave with no head stone to mark his place.




© Copyright 2020 Donald Harry Roberts. All rights reserved.

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