The air was thick, the most unbearable smell was carried by the wind. Corpses were strewn across the barren unearthy place. The blood soaked earth was crying out for the deceased unsettled souls. There was no time in this place, the fog shielded it from the outside world. Barbed wire penetrated through the flesh of those who were unlucky enough to get caught in it. My mind was lost in the chaos that surrounded me, I felt as if I had also died with those that accompanied me, I felt no remorse in this time of pain and suffering.
I felt as if had been sucked into a wormhole of eternal darkness where light did not exist. All my life experiences paled in comparison of this that I had felt. All my life I had lived a protected life, shielded from the cruel and unreal world that existed beyond mine I never would have believed this would have become of me. This how I earned this fate . . . . . January 15th 1940 I had been sent to the shores of France to fight for my country, I was very enthusiastic at the time. I had very little military experience.
I had made a few friends during training we were split up most of them were sent to Germany. Myself and three hundred other men had the awful job of clearing all the disembodied corpses off the beach this was an eye opener for me the realties of war began to haunt me in my subconscious mind only to surface months later. After five days of laborious work the beach was clear, my uniform was stained with blood that could not be removed. It was a reminder of all the repulsive things I saw on that beach. Luckily I got to sleep in the main building on a cliff overlooking the beach.
The view from up there stirred my soul, I felt proud just being there. We had turns to do night patrol I always enjoyed it. Having the pleasure of watching the sunrise on the horizon as the sea gently rolled back and forth it was almost mesmerizing, this what helped me get through the first days. Myself and two other men a grenadier and reconnaissance soldier were assigned to deliver an important letter to Major J Freeman who was trying to take control over a small town called Bourgoune further inland . The picturesque countryside we travelled through reminded me of home.
The fresh air, the green and lush rolling hills and the almost immortal clumps of majestic trees it was all to similar, then I began to think what was it that I was feeling? Was it that I was afraid? When I began to question myself after I had been so sure of something nothing would be right. After ten hours of walking we could see the town from the top of a hill. The once quaint French town lay in ruins the buildings had either collapsed or had been ripped apart. The Germans must have been hitting them hard.
Rubble and debris was scattered all over the place, shards of glass glistened in the sunlight. We slowly made our way into the derelict town, few buildings were intact I had feeling something wasn’t right it was all to quiet. All of a sudden a shot was fired It hit our grenadier in the leg. The medic and myself ran for cover. The shot was too accurate to have been fired from a standard weapon there was a sniper hiding in one the building’s we had to think fast the grenadier tried to crawl away but anther shot was fired and hit him in the arm.
I was watching where the bullet hit and worked out it must have come from the building at the end of the road. We had to distract the sniper somehow to get to get a grenade off the grenadier. What we would do was throw a stone on the opposite side of the road to distract the sniper and the grenadier would roll a grenade to me. It didn’t turn out that I threw the stone the grenadier rolled the grenade and before it was half way to me the sniper shot at it and then it exploded and killed the grenadier. I blamed my self on his death, I felt as if I had killed him.
Guilt did not help me get through the situation. Just before I thought my luck had run out two reinforcements arrived. I explained to them what had just happened two men just ran out and sprayed bullets out of their machine guns at the unsuspecting sniper he took ten bullets, I had never seen such an act of bravery. They did not even stop to think about it, I envied them. The men did not know exactly where Freeman was we decided we would be better off if we stuck together and watched each other’s backs. We carried on walking through the town.
We eventually ran into some soldiers hiding behind sand bags as soon as they saw us just walking towards them they started signalling us to get down I dropped down to the ground straight away and crawled towards the sand bags they told us they had been there in a stale mate for over four hours returning fire at the German’s. The reinforcements had three grenades they simultaneously threw over as far as they could , the explosions were deafening we could hear the Germans screaming. I had only noticed later that the one man was a high-ranking officer, I asked him who he was he told me what I wanted to hear.
I gave him the letter he browsed through it quickly, he told us we are retreating back to the coast because there is going to be an air strike. What we did was throw the two other grenades with their pins slightly in so when it landed it did not explode the Germans moved back and waited for the grenades to go off. By then we had already left the town. We were keen to get back to the I couldn’t stop thinking about the grenadier that died, the prospect of that could have been me did scare me.
When we least expected it four Germans jumped out of the bushes threatened us with guns I knew that the other men would rather die than be captured. The reconnaissance soldier signalled the other men and they attacked the Germans, I ran for cover shots were fired I hid behind a tree shaking I could not move I was almost paralysed I blanked out. When I regained conscienceless I saw only the reconnaissance soldier and a German soldier where alive they struggled with a gun three shots were fired in the air, I could not move I just watched as the German get the upper hand and then kill my soldier.
He could see me, he moved towards me and spat on me. And back towards the town. I ran as fast as my legs could take me back to the base when I got there the Germans were bombing almost everyone was dead. I ran out onto the beach to try help a bomb exploded near me everything was silent I could no longer hear. I fell to the ground to awaken in a hospital I could not move I could not talk my friends stood beside my bed I could not hear them then I realized I was truly paralysed.