Chapter One – The Road to Hell
A story of a bygone age. It is not but a decade and four years into the beginning of the last century when many men had a very meagre existence and little quality life. Coupled to lack of employment in a job of work the grinding poverty from lack of wealth, inhibiting them to be free from worry sacrifice and constant struggle to make ends meet. Some of these men would have even less, by the end of the 1914- 1919 Great War. For the many it would be an early grave in a far off land. And before that grave – The agony and the pain of a bullet torn body. And also if the bullet did not strike into one’s body. The chance of being hit by shell burst shrapnel and pain of shrapnel tearing into ones limbs. Taking the karki cloth of the uniform into the wound. Making certain more positive of becoming septic puncture wound. The racking added pain of gangrene setting in attacking the poor body. With its slow known symptoms decomposition crucifying many once fit wounded once fit soldier. Delirious in mind from the no respite of excruciating pain, before in total relief their eyes closed on this life for the last time.
Chance of sudden death, being blown to bits being that lucky to gain horrible quick death out from this hopeless being here in slavery to someone in command to do or die is not to reason why Choice of Being left maimed the loss of arms or legs, when ripped off up by a near exploding shell. In the explosions, the limbs become weapons of destruction. In their propulsion ploughing through ones advancing comrades. The added perils of gas choking the lungs. Also reaching one’s eyes forever removing ones sight – This alone made certain that any future years would be guaranteed constant suffering.
If one did survive this slaughter these men for that first time in their life were fit and well from the army training and regular meals. Now to be the victims of armaments produced by workers in employment for the first time in their lives after many idle years. Making weapons to earn a wage to live. While some one must be a sacrifice. One mans loss is another man’s gain. It begins with the guns on the Somme spewing out a deadly cargo of life destroying steel projectiles. The both side in this triangle each behind its defensive lines of trenches and Barbed wire entanglements.
Machine guns. Rat… a…. Tat. Tatting some life to hell. Trenches filled with water constantly up to the ankles. Which made sure the added discomfort of the dreaded trench foot. The blood and guts, spread over no man’s land – And the pungent smell of this blood soaked soil. Mixing with the smell of some ones last half-digested meal Blown out of his guts and rotting in the once smooth, but now shell torn fields. Where once grass grew green the birds flew and sang in harmony. Where once Farmers toiled and tilled the land. And soon one day will till again this enriched soil of human sacrifice.
Forgotten will be the bones hidden for many decades as roads and factories may be built over the land. But no! Not now at this shell torn land of trenched lines and barbed wire. Men slaughter each other by bayonet or bullet or shellfire and savage becomes the man. This deserted peace that once was and that will in future years return. Leaving behind the empty air space of ghostly figures of past generations of the long gone dead. But Now! Only the constant burst of fire from the guns of both sides, locked in the senseless slaughter. Slaughter of some of the generations of that period, 1914-1919. Maiming and twisting the bodies, of the poor bastards. Unlucky to be in that God forsaken hole. The trenches, on the Somme or many of the lines of the many man-dug trenches anywhere along the front line in France.
Clad in grey or khaki each will get his fair share of cold steel. Whether it is shell bullet or bayonet. Each will shed their blood over the battlefields. This pocked land of shell holes, enriched with the blood of friend and foe Oh! To be at home and to sing the songs that made ones blood run cold.
Good bye dolly I must leave you—– (” but I don’t have much bloody choice”.) should have been the cry. Once you have signed on the dotted line. The magic of the nostalgia of the songs, soon faded, along with those singing them. They the songsters pissed in the pubs. Made sure they made it next day to the pub. Not to the boat to France, or the trenches. There is a long, — long, — trail a winding unto the land of my dreams, was bed for some. And dead for some of those in their fresh new khaki uniforms the smell of newness, about the cloth. Blending with the smell of freshly Blanco on webbing kit the smell of polish on metal buckle brass. Constantly floating in the air from the polishing of ones brasses on ones backpacks and belts. The boot polish adding to the rich aroma, which is the scent of the soldier. Fresh complexioned youngsters fit and well. And waved off by sweet smelling scented young fillies. All nicely dressed, prim and proper in their Sunday best. Could it be that there was an innocence of that age never to be captured again? Maybe they had no bloody choice. And they were expected to tip ones fetlock, grovel to ones betters. Go of to fight the foe for King and Country. Admiration and the attention of the screaming females men may receive from this euphoric nostalgic moment a lift or patriotic surge from this help to pack them off to be a sacrifice. Not much difference from an Indian squaw seeing off her a brave to fight the great General Custard and his army of cavalry.
Waving them off to this early road to hell. Very often many a tear is shed. No doubt from the young and innocent, who could not help the feeling that the boy friend was on the last night of his leave. Overcome with desire the weaknesses of frustration of being parted. Took a chance and let those natural strong feelings of the body take over excitement of first love, lust, or funny feeling in the lower portion of the body. Bit at the old forbidden fruit. Tears for souvenir are at the thought of being up the stick. And fear that she might never see her man again. It is easy to understand when one is on the departure to foreign Lands. The last goodbyes and finale moments and the tearing away from ones dear loved one. One do experience that sort of something, of a feeling that can only be described as butterfly in the stomach, or a flock of geese flying to parts that are normally covered by one’s underpants. Or the feeling one experiences, when first sitting down in a hot bath. The ecstasy diminishing has the water cools. One has only to have the experience of saying the last goodbye at a cold railway station.
When the finale time to depart comes. That finale break and the train pulls away. And amid the smoke and steam, and the fading of the train as it recedes into the distance. The shear helplessness of knowing one has little control over ones wish to stay. When one is so young and innocent. One does go through, Emotions of loving feelings and attractions to ones beloved girlfriend. When eighteen or nineteen you have only to see the tops of stockings and the old suspenders. Or catch the sweet smell of her lavender scent. To be turned on by the closeness of the touch of youthful body ones head in a spin on a journey into space, that space of first time youthful experience of like learning to walk talk or dance or first kiss. Sometimes it’s not such any of a journey. But a knee the knackers. When soldiers being marched off? A Company of men all dressed in some uniform.
Under discipline bands playing and crowds are cheering. One is unable kiss good bye to one’s girlfriend. Or any of the many females, waving you off, one must be eyes front and march to attention, If you’re still a virgin buck now, you might stay that way unless a French filly takes a fancy to unlucky poor unfortunate Tommy. Whose charm could not entice a girl of his dreams? Little time now before one reaches the front line trenches. The rosy cheeks lucky soldier who made it the night before with a camp follower. Will also have the memories of the last night of his leave, and the scent, cheap but potent, lingering on his uniform, and drifting to the noses of less luckily lads. When now it is the time to board the awaiting train. To transport the lads to the boat, and off to France. And the bellowing sergeant major, shouting. Like hell! Pick up your kits, and face the boat.
The bastards…far different now than coaxing voice, when he enticed one to sign on, For King and country. Why did I not listen to mum? And stay at home and chase the ladies. For sure such Thoughts would have passed through the minds of those young men bound for an early trip to hell. This was the lot of those born at the wrong time. In the wrong place and the wrong year of history. Born to be a sacrificed. As many men have been, throughout our past. And still the future awaits those not yet born. Just born to be a sacrifice Listen to your mum, don’t be a sacrifice.