Oflag IV-4

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is a fictional retelling of some of the war stories my grandfather told me as a kid. It is about Scott Bernard, a Canadian who survives the battle of Diep and spends most of the war in an
Oflag, a Nazi prison camp for Allied officers. It is a work in progress and feedback would be welcome.

Submitted: April 12, 2018

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Submitted: April 12, 2018

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Oflag IV-D

 

by Matthew Bissonnette

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinarily, I guess you would expect that when a girl you where secretly fond of finally agrees to go on a date that you would be elated. That when you win the affection of that girl whose strength and beauty you admired from afar that it would leave you happy. But that night in that elegant restaurant I brought Jean to, looking at her beautiful smile as we ate; all I felt was a profound feeling of fear and dread. Because my mind was not on Jean or winning the honor to be that special guy who she may give her love to, my mind was that in a week I would be in basic training and in a few months I would be shipped of the Europe and that I may be dead within a year. Europe, which now had become a battlefield between those that believed in democracy and those that fanatically served fascism, was where I might meet my end. But as I and Jean ate, the only thing that made me less afraid was that I could write to her while away from Canada.

I guess at this part I should talk a little bit about the guy writing this story. My name was Scott Bernard, a guy who up to that point was kind of the guy who some might see as bottom of the barrel since he was unemployed between what jobs I was luckily hold down here and there. It was someway into the nineteen thirties and the great depression. Before I came to Montreal and met that special girl who had stolen my heart, I had spent many years riding the country by rail and sometimes would share a boxcar with another of my fellow bottom of the barrel guys. Many guys of my generation who travel back and forth across the nation looking for work, but during the great depression employment was never easy to find and difficult to keep. I must have spent countless hours sitting in the door of the boxcar watching the scenic landscape of Canada roll past, also I watched the years drift by. Of course had I not met Jean, I would have been still riding the country by rail.

I assume most reading this only know about the great depression and how it effected my generation in a history textbook in school or the occasional documentary. But for me and a lot of guys I had known before that night and would come to know soon in that Oflag I would spend some of the most boring yet also tragic years of my life, the great depression was something I guess had hardened us to some degree. Most of the men I am speaking about where just kids during the booming twenties, that decade where wealth seemed to be attainable to everyone and whose aftermath was where my generation spent their first years as adults.

Before I try to recollect that date with Jean which in retrospect was the most important night of my life for I did not know at the time she would my wife eventually and be the mother of my two sons, I will tell you some more about myself. I was the youngest of three brothers, and accept for my oldest brother Ralph I and my other brother Calvin had been put up for adoption. My parents I guess where financially unable to care for more then one child, that is why I spent much of my youth in an orphanage out West. I recall how every now and then as a child the mistress who ran the orphanage would have I and the other parent-less kids line up in the courtyard of that bleak, dreary building knew in youth. Potential parents seeking to adopt would look I and the other kids over, occasionally prospective parents would have a demeanor that suggested they would be good parents; other times the parents would inspect I and my fellow orphans with about as much warmth one shows when inspecting produce at a market. That was the life I knew for most of the booming twenties, strangely enough I left that orphanage the same month as Black Tuesday, that Tuesday one October where an era of abundant wealth and gratuitous excess came to and end and ushered in a decade of poverty and uncertainty.

Guess I will stop telling you about myself and try to remember that night.

Jean sat across the table from me, she looked at me with her entrancing blue eyes and smiled as she ate. She was always beautiful to me and could do no wrong in my eyes, with her lovely brunette curls down to her shoulder and her hourglass figure which was always accentuated by a fashionable dress like the blue getup she had on that night. Perhaps when you love a woman you get overly sentimental, but I thought a painting of her belonged in a art museum in Paris. She was perfect to me in every way.

As I chewed on a piece of stake, she asked abruptly, “are you scared at all Scott?”

I looked down to my plate and the meal on it as I chewed. Then I said, “terrified actually.”

“It is not being a coward to be afraid. I felt that maybe I should reward your gentleman who has been courting me ever since we met by agreeing to a date before you leave for basic training in a week.”

“Jean, I know I have had a pretty tough life. But just getting to spend one night with you is worth some of the hardships of my life. I will be thinking of you while I am in Europe.”

Jean coyly looked at me. “If you make it home, I'll be waiting for you.”

I was taken aback by what she just said. “I was just going to ask if I could write to you while away.”

Jean reached across the table and placed her delicate hand atop mine. “I know you have been in love with me ever since we met.”

“Was it that obvious?”

She nodded. “What I'm trying to say when you got drafted and told me, well Scott; I am sort of in love with you to. I figured that out when I began to get afraid that I would never see you again.”

I guess my expression as I looked at her gave what I was feeling away cause she said, “you do seem really scared Scott.”

I moved my food about my plate with my fork, I was unable to looked into those deep blue eyes. “I scared of not coming home, of being killed over there. But now that I know you kinda feel about me the way I do you; there is something that now I feel a lot more afraid of.”

“What is it?”

I finally looked up and into her eyes which now betrayed some concern she felt. I said, “I'm scared that tonight is the last time I will ever have the honor of being in your company, you know; that one guy in your life you are in love with.”

Jean was frowning now. We went about eating or meal in silence for awhile before we spoke again. But this silence ended when she suddenly said, “I have always had bad feelings about that Hitler.”

During the thirties, that decade of poverty and shattered dreams; I as well many of the guys I knew paid close attention to the situation unfolding in Europe and the world. It seemed that the economic turbulence which had shaped my first years as a man was just as inescapable in Europe and in some ways most of the planet. I would occasionally hear things like Japan invading China and fascism growing in popularity in first Italy then Germany. My time traveling across an impoverished country in a boxcar I would occasionally meet men who had fought in the first great war. It was not just those stories I heard from such men that helped the fear I felt that night; one guy whose face was a patchwork of healed scars from battle was more of testament to the reality of war then simple words could ever say. The thirties was not just a time of financial ruin but was a decade where I and a lot of people heard stories of the growth of things like fascism, militarism; things that seemed alien and shocking to I and most of the guys I knew those years. But when war was declared between Germany and England; that news came with the grim knowledge for I and other Canadian men of my generation that as members of the British commonwealth we would be drafted. Ever since I received the draft notice a few days before that night; I was thinking of that guy I met in a boxcar whose face would always be scared by war a lot.

I said as Jean looked at me, “if I was not drafted, I would have enlisted. I have heard what it is like for people in a fascist country, how scary it can be. Sure being shipped of to Europe is a little disconcerting, but if fascism where to take hold everywhere we would live in a country where you would have to be afraid all the time."


© Copyright 2019 Matthew Bissonnette. All rights reserved.

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