“This bloody coat isn’t any use, mind how could a coat be any use, poor coat, dripping, muddy and mouldy. I’ve put a coupla extra layers on but still I’m shivering. I tried to put some more socks on earlier but my boots are too small, one sock boots these.
I think we’re okay in here mate, we’re okay, safe now for a bit anyway. God I’m cold, are you cold, well of course you are. I wish I had a blanket for you Jack, I wish I had a blanket and a dose of morphine I’m sorry mate.
I don’t think I have ever been so cold.
Sometimes in the trench when I doze for a bit I think I’m warm, I can feel the fire, hear it crackling and popping, I can smell the smoke, isn’t that funny, I can smell the smoke. Then I wake up shivering, nose running, feet sore, stinking and lousy.
D’ya know what I think then? huh, I look down at meself and I think, so, this is what a hero looks like. Huh a right pair of heroes aren’t we Jack, hiding in a mud hole in the middle of a field.
I never thought I was a hero but I was taken in, the band the cheering and the flags, they fooled me.
I suppose I woulda come anyway, per’aps, but sometimes I think – would I? If it hadn’t been for the thrill of it all, marching boots, thumping drums and Sally. Sally with her eyes shining and her hands wrapped around my arm. I can’t say I did it for her, not really but that look in her eyes, the way that she leaned against me and beamed at the world as we walked down to the station, yes it made me feel like a man. Not a soldier, not then, well not ever really to be honest. It was all too quick. There was no time to make the swap over, man to soldier. So here I am, a soldier but really just a man, still a man. Small and weak and shivering and bloody scared…
This isn’t my first time in France you know Jack. No, I came once with my mum and dad for a week. I think I was twelve. We stayed in a little boarding house, can’t remember what the French word is – p’raps it’s pension – hmm that sounds right. Anyway it was small and fussy, I can’t even remember where it was really. I wasn’t that impressed, a bit bored to be honest but mum and dad were pleased as Punch. Abroad, eating foreign food and drinking wine.
I wonder how they’d like it now, mud, flies, fleas and stink.
They let me have some wine, I remember that, poured from a dark green bottle, red stuff that stained the cork. I didn’t like that either, dad proposed a toast – To our first foreign holiday or something and I had to drink it but God it was awful. Huh, if we’d known then, if we’d had any idea. It would have been like a haunting but in reverse, I wonder if there’s a word for that pre-sommat I suppose.
France. Poor France, ruined and torn apart and soaked in blood.
I wonder how the other lads have done? I didn’t see many of them once we went over the top. The Captain got it I know that, saw him with his face blown off poor bleeder he were nobbat a lad really but I don’t know about any of the others. Did you see any of ‘em, Bill, Dickie, Did you see any of em?
Are you still awake Jack, hey, hey, don’t go to sleep. Come on, stay awake. I know it hurts, but you have to stay awake. The Medics’ll be here in a while. The guns have stopped, they’ll be here soon. Here let me have a look, sorry, sorry mate, sorry. It’s stopped bleeding Jack, Jack can you hear me. Aw shit Jack, aw hell. “