Battle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
A sergeant during the first world war leads his men into battle in a last stand to defeat the enemy.

Submitted: November 09, 2018

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Submitted: November 08, 2018

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Mortar blasts and turret bullet fire pelted our vulnerable position in the trenches. With a small window of opportunity to vacate, I led my group of men out of the trenches and charged straight towards the enemy German forces. The move was a risk from the get-go. Running out in open fire like that was a death sentence; but we had no choice. No-man’s land was to become our homeland. It was either wait like a sitting duck or stand up to the hellish wrath of the enemy and try to overpower the odds. It was either them or us.

It was dark and dreary outside. Grey clouds covered the sky and rain poured down on us like a heavy waterfall seeping through the rocks of a steep cliff. Sounds of danger dead ahead vibrated through my men’s minds as they looked on with fear in their eyes. I rallied what men I had left and briefly went over what was about to happen. There was no sense staying here as we'd surely be overrun.

My task as a sergeant was to get these men home to their families at all costs. They were my responsibility, especially at that point in time, as all high ranking officers in the area that day were either re-assigned or killed. We were on our own.

As time progresses and the older you get as a soldier, the more composure you gain. It was a good way to keep the men at ease and focused. More importantly, it instilled confidence within them. It was hard to survive that wretched place; but if you have a capable leader to follow, maybe there's a chance to persevere. 

We loaded up on final rounds of ammunition. I reached into my bag and pulled out a bayonet and attached it to my rifle. As I screwed the deadly melee attachment on tight, I noticed my hands shaking profusely. Just because I always kept composed for my men's sake, it does not mean I was completely without fear.

The things I did in the Great War hardened me to the point of where I feel like a solid rock on the inside. The countless men I killed haunted my dreams for years and the screams of comrades being shot or blinded with mustard gas has left a permanent stain on my conscience. In spite of all the horror and mind boggling treachery, somehow someway you find a way to push on; but no matter what, it always stays with you. It follows you like a dog.

As my platoon loaded their rifles, I gave one final address to my brothers in arms. We were headed into the very heart of fury, where bullets were virtually unavoidable. I observed all of my men's faces. I knew it would be the last time I'd see some of them. I’m sure they thought it was the last time they'd see me. My orders came out of my mouth like a powerful horn on a battleship.

"Mount up!"

My platoon readied themselves for the greatest and most dangerous act of their lives. It was our last stand.

As I looked through the telescope, I saw that the Germans had let up their guard. Artillery fire seized. I knew then that the opportunity to charge had arrived. With one great gasp of power in my thundering voice, I ordered my men.

“Ready yourself, lads. To the gates of hell we go together. Stand your ground my noble men! Charge!”

The Germans could here us crying out all across the Western Front that day. They took their positions, ready to fire from all cylinders. With all of our might, we pressed on with mighty strength. My rifle felt as if it weighed lighter than a birds feather. Strength did not come from my body; but from my courage to fight and will to survive. I dashed as fast as a cheetah. Nobody was going to stop me. My loyal platoon ran in a synchronized fashion, by my side. I jumped over another trench. I ran through gapping puddles of mud. The Germans were only about a hundred metres away. I could hear their commander yelling his orders in the distance.

The first blast rang off loud and quick. A powerful force separated my men and our perfectly straight line.

The surviving fifty soldiers of our platoon was cut down to about twenty within a matter of seconds. The blast carried half of my men into the abyss. Torn off limbs and rose red blood sprayed the battlefield like the rainstorm that had been drenching us for days.

I steamrolled forward with all remaining men. The Germans fired their turrets, cutting through more living flesh at every ignition. Our charging force was thinned to only a few standing men.

We were still able to break through the German line despite our heavy losses running through the heart of the battlefield. We attacked the enemy with our bayonets. The trenches began to cave in from the rain water running down. Men were buried alive in mud. I fought for my life. Bullets rang past my ears from every angle. Blood splattered on the ground. Men screamed louder than an exploding grenade.

It was a bloodbath. Death was all around me. A clash of titans. I let out a loud cry of despair and adrenaline. A German soldier charged at me. Before he could induce a fatal shot from his rifle, I fired the first shot directly through his head. He dropped to the ground like leaves in autumn.

It was at that moment, the Germans had accidentally self-destruct their own artillery weapons. All of their ammunition ignited in flames. A massive explosion rang out. I was thrown straight up in the air and landed onto a run-down barb-wired fence. Barbs and sharp wood fragments stabbed through my skin. The excruciating pain caused me to blackout.

I woke up with an intense feeling of agony. The abnormal energy I had minutes ago was completely evaporated from my body. I turned my head to the left and saw one of my own men. He was moving and still alive. Tears rolled down my face. He was young. Old enough to just barely start shaving; but not old enough to die. He was more of a boy than a man. As his eyes slowly began to close, so did mine.

*

Lights illuminated around me. They were brighter than a star. My body felt painless.  It was as if time itself had stopped. I was running towards a light at the end of the tunnel. My beautiful wife was there waving happily and encouraging me to join her. I could not believe what I was seeing. There was joy. Everything felt so happy and peaceful. I wanted to make it to the end of that tunnel so badly. Leave the world behind.

Suddenly I felt something grab my ankle. Some kind of force was pulling me back to earth. My wife was slowly floating away from me. It then donned on me that one of my brothers lay within an inch from death, suffering in the wet, cold rain of the western front. As the young man clinged to life, I faced a difficult choice. To live or die.

My life had been riddled with tragedy and sorrow for many years. The passing of my wife just before I was shipped off to Europe had destroyed the human in me. The war was not kind. I felt as if I took more lives than I actually saved. It was always a burden to live with. Guilt. Sadness. Doubt; but watching a mere child no more than seventeen years old bleed out in the mud was something I could not let happen. I had to turn everything back into order if it was the last thing I could do while I still breathed.

My comrade had to be saved. He was too young to die. I needed to keep the promise. I knew I could not save everyone; but now I owed my own life to the last living soldier in my platoon, who's life was slowly slipping away on the battlefield of Vimy Ridge.

I didn’t know if I was in heaven or not. Especially since I was able to shed a single tear.  After all, I thought there was no sadness in heaven. Then I realized it wasn’t sadness. It was something I hadn't felt in a long time. Happiness. I could see my wife was smiling. Her head nodded up and down as if she knew I was making the right choice. She looked proud. She continued to float away until completely vanishing for good. 

*

The place I left was paradise and it was tempting to stay there. Seeing my wife again was overwhelmingly special; but I know she was trying to tell me something. The promise.

With all of the might left in my weakened body, I pulled myself up to my feet and stumbled towards the young soldier. He was a mess. Both of his legs were broken with a bone sticking out of his skin. He had been shot in the stomach and shrapnel from the explosion had torn his face apart. I heard him sobbing and calling out to his mother. There was enough blood in the area to fill an entire lake. I knew time was of the essence, so I had to act quickly.

The young fighter was heavily buried in the mud. I had to grip him firmly, so I planted my feet to the ground, and with one great heave, I pulled him up by the shoulders. I stumbled with dizziness and collapsed beside him after the fruitless attempt. It knocked me back on to my heels with a crippling daze.

I shook it off and grabbed him with both hands a second time. With all of my strength, I yanked him out of the mud and pulled him up and over my back. He was released from the crippling grasp of the thick ocean of mud. The body weight of the young soldier rattled my unstable legs to the point where they nearly buckled from underneath me. Shaking as a result of the vibration of the forceful heave, I slowly regained balance. There was a long, gruelling road ahead.

The open battlefield was as quiet as the peaceful countryside back home in Alberta. There was not a sound to be made as I walked on through the destructive remnants of the battle. The bodies of my comrades lied motionless on the cold, wet ground. Tears poured down my bloody face as a result of the carnage before my very eyes. The sacrifices were not in vain. Even looking at all of the dead German soldiers was quite emotional.

There was massive amounts of life taken in this war and the reality is we're all still the same. Human. I truly hoped that one day a time would come where there was no longer a need for us. I craved for the day the world achieved peace of some kind. Unfortunately such a thing is still a fantasy in the fabric of human history. For the fewest of seconds, I felt peace when my wife reached out to me. Now, back in the real world, that fantasy gives me hope in the life I was given back. 

I thought for sure I would die with my men; but the man upstairs and my wife had different plans for me. The promise I made had to be fulfilled, even if I died trying. The young lad on my back was crying and praising my actions. I passed over my platoon's trench on the other side of the battlefield, where we first started. Once more, I looked back at the havoc and destruction and gave one final salute to the men. Never again will I be here.

I continued with my walk. We walked nearly five miles before I spotted a Canadian soldiers marching northbound from a nearby camp. I laid the young wounded soldier down on the ground and fell to my knees in joyous praise. Our salvation had come. We survived.


© Copyright 2019 Zane Tomich. All rights reserved.

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