1939, knee high in mud, the sergeant shouts orders, and we march through the night with our rifles, carrying ten kg on our backs. We fear him and shiver in his line of sight. I wish one of us would shoot him, whilst he sleeps.
I charge at the wall, vault it and head for the wooden frame, beckoning me. I jump up it and twist over it and land on my feet, I pick up my rifle, force the cartridge in and aim at the targets from around twenty-five feet, headshots every time.
Washing my clothes at night, I speak to Carrot; he was the only person with ginger hair in our squad, Squad V2.
'I hate this war; we sacrifice our lives for a war we shouldn't be in. Why doesn't Neville Chamberlain or King George do anything about this?'
'Dunno Carrot, we use rifles to kill and we get killed by rifles, if someone else is in a war, we join the war. That's how England is like.'
Every night I go to sleep covered in mud, sweating, and waiting to be called up to fight in France. My mind smashes against my skull as I think about the war, it is like it wants to escape and forget about the war. Sometimes you can hear the screams of the people in the trenches and the deterrent it sends to you.
The next morning we run up the road for ten miles and back down, carrying our rifles and our backpacks. Carrot and I ran together, we had gotten to know each other since the last couple of nights. It seems that everyone hated the sergeant but no one wanted to confront him and tell him how we felt, that was known as talking back and not following orders which resulted in field punishment number one. Everyone was trained to be a paratrooper in case of the helicopter being taken down.
It was a month before being called up to fight in the frontline, we had a training drill to jump out of the plane, land in the place set on the map walk to the nearest town but stay low so you don't get caught and shot in action.
I grabbed my parachute from the wall and my rifle and backpack and set off with Carrot, Sergeant, Jimmy, little Jack and the rest of Squad V2. We all dived out of the plane and at about three- hundred feet; we pulled our parachutes and floated to safety.
'Were all here sir!' we exclaimed
"What? Here's the landing site but we're a mile away, okay, let's see where we are."
He stood up as Squad V1 stood up pointing their rifles at Sergeant,
'You're dead old man, learn the basics' Sergeant Danny was loved by almost everyone in the army training, he was funny and although he was supposed to be tough on us, it seemed he didn't care. We were miles away from the town but we had to reach there to get a plane back to boot camp. Sergeant was shaking and the compass was darting in all directions. I kept my cool and set off by myself with the rest of the squadron but sergeant chased us down and pointed his gun at me.
'Don't disobey Sergeants orders Pvt. You know the consequences,' he spat in my face.
I stood underneath him, hatred burning up inside me; I stood up straight, and saluted; before my hand hit him in the face and blood poured out of his nose. He fell to the ground and picked up his Lee Enfield which he pointed at my head,
'I could blow your brains out right now!'
A cold chill shot down my spine, I scrambled backwards…
'That's not a good idea' Carrot said
Squad V2 was standing behind me with their guns pointed at him, all their guns were cocked and ready to fire,
'Attention! I don't know what I've been told…'
The gun cracked and a bullet whistled past me and burst through the skull and into the Sergeant's brain and was embedded in a tree, he fell forward and lay, face in the mud.
'Pvt. Brown, you're being promoted to Sergeant' Carrot said as a cheer came from my new squad, a small smirk appeared on my face, I held up my rifle and laughed, I marched my squad and headed to the nearest town. Confidence washed threw me after I punched the sergeant but it has been reborn and I am feeling greatly confident with Carrot as my right-hand man. We reached the town within five minutes, after we marched and cheered our way through the debris and what was left of a small village. We had met with Sgt. Danny at the town,
'Where's Sergeant?' he asked
'Rotting in the ground, a bomb was dropped and landed on him when he was collecting his bag,' I lied to cover up what Carrot had done.
'I heard a gunshot, private, what was that,'
'There was no gun shot,' I tried to pretend but I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my blushed cheeks, I felt my hands shaking,
'It was definitely from a Lee Enfield, don't lie to me boy,'
'I would never pretend, sir, that was me firing at a German He 111, sir'
'You better be telling the truth, private, I'll put a word forward for you to be promoted, and you've worked hard.'
I turned my back on Sgt. Danny, and chased after Carrot, I grabbed him by the head,
'You've put me in trouble if they find the body with holes through his head,'
'Don't worry; I moved the body to a safe place'
'Where did you put the body Carrot' I shouted at him, anger filled me up and I exploded at Carrot's stupid actions.
'I dumped it in the river' he remarked
'You better have and if it washes up and is found, you're taking the blame for it' I told him
Some people in this boot camp were not the cleverest people I've met but they still want to go to France to fight the Nazis and end the reign of Hitler. I have two days till I'm sent off to France, I want to kill the Germans and stamp on their country.
Squad V2 stood outside the General's office, we stood still, saluting and holding our rifles upright. We were ready to fight and we had to be allocated our positions,
'Good morning privates' he bellowed
'Good morning, sir!' we replied confidently
'Carrot, come here private, you're going to take this Springfield sniper rifle and blow the head's off those Nazis if they come within half a mile of your Squad,' he went down the line, Little jack was the machine gunner, Jimmy was our medic and the list went on, I was the last to be called out,
'Pvt. Brown, you've been promoted to Sergeant, well done'
Another cheer grew from Squad V2, it reminded me of the time with the sergeant, his brains on my legs and Carrot handing me the role as Sergeant. I felt excited about journeying to France tomorrow and finishing this war by myself, that's all you dream about, going to war, killing the Nazis and coming back to your family, with a row of medals laden across your chest. The night before being shipped off is always the worst, during the night, the screams that come from the other rooms. I get to sleep in the Sergeant's quarter by myself but the screams burst through my door. The paraphernalia of different screams melts my mind. I guess this is it, war is coming to my door, I have to pull the trigger and kill it...
I time I stepped on the boat I knew that this was it, the smoke fumes choked your lungs, but you got used to it as it calmed you down. Everyone smoked on the boat, I wasn't fond of it myself but I did enjoy playing cards on the boat to pass the time. I played blackjack with Carrot, Jimmy and Little Jack. Since we had a joint effort on killing the Sergeant we stayed together and if one of us was in a fight, we would protect each other we were brothers to each other.
We knew we were near to France, we could hear the bombs and gunfire, the planes were flying low ahead, I saw Carrot smoking in the corner, shaking, he said he was nervous of dying, he had a wife and a kid who was only two years old. The boat was bumping along the shore as we came to a halt; I put on my helmet, picked up my rifle and waited for my squad,
'Squad V2, round up boys, Carrot, stay with Jimmy and Little Jack, stand at the front with me, everyone else follow behind.' I explained, I doors opened slowly and creaked before a wave of bullets penetrated the boat, I saw a Pvt. from Alpha fall down with blood pouring from his chest, lying in a pool of blood, his crucifix drowning in his dirty blood.
'Stay low and run for cover!' I shouted to the top of my voice, I felt like I was leading a force to victory before we stepped out to really live the pain of war...
My heart was thumping,
'Get down!' I screamed to Squad V1, 'Stay low and don't get shot,' my shouts were in a sword fight with the bullets and the cries of the wounded. My grip on my rifle was loosening with sweat pouring down me and the blood of my dead allies. I had dived into cover, behind a brick wall; I looked away from the people brave enough to run towards the MGs. I could see Jimmy holding a soldier from Sgt. Miller's squad (Squad X), he had been shot in the stomach, intestines flooded the floor and his cries drained out the machine gun fire.
'Throw a grenade in that building!' as soon as I said that, Carrot dived behind my cover and cocked his sniper, he signalled to Little Jack and he launched a frag grenade towards the MG, Carrot swung his sniper round and fired at the window, the bullet seemed to move in slow motion but there was a short silence... the next noise was the spit of blood that shot out the window.
'Move, move, move!' I shouted at my squad, we charged to the building and ram against it, our shoulder's impacted with the wall but we didn't feel it because of our adrenaline. My heart thumped as I laughed,
'Round up riflemen, Little Jack, advance with Pvt. Jackson, Sgt. Miller, Join our squad with yours, Ypres is only a couple of miles away and we need support.' I wondered if my reason was enough to tempt after what just happened, the Nazis had set up an mg where we were supposed to land and killed many men but our journey through the towns were going to be dangerous. My squad were just a bunch of kids who had experience in killing one German and a Sergeant from the same squad. It took him 5 minutes before a grin stretched across his face and he said,
'Let's do this...'
2130, my pocket watch stared me in the face. I had set off at 2045 with Squad V2 and Squad X but we seemed to walk through the towns without struggle or danger. It is almost pitch black and we have no shelter, the town of Amiens was quiet and all that was still standing was a church with a spire; it seemed to reach the clouds. Pvt. Jackson loved to explore and ran in front of the group but I was never happy about that because of German snipers but so far it wasn't a problem...
'Jackson, Jackson, he's hit by a sniper, Carrot, look around for any flash or sense of movement, Jimmy, keep calm, there is enough time to heal him.' My squad turned hectic as they saw Jackson on the floor screaming, his wound was huge and the rain was washing out his blood,
'Has the sniper been spotted?'
'No, sir!' Carrot replied, there was not enough time to wait for the sniper while Pvt. Jackson was dying, I took of my helmet and waved it above the cover, a bullet screeched and penetrated my helmet,
'I see him!' Carrot said seriously, all his jokes seemed to wash away, like the blood in Jackson's body,
'Burn in hell, Nazi pig!' Carrot pulled the trigger and the bullet dashed out and was headed straight for the church roof, I took a look through the binoculars and spotted the Nazi, his grey helmet was brand new before Carrot's bullet had burst through and made a hole in his head,
'Jimmy! Go now, Carrot, great shot,' he smiled back before we realised that Jackson was still screaming. Everyone ran towards him and covered him so the rain didn't get in his wound,
'Keep him as warm as possible, Jackson, your going to make it, don't worry' I tired to calm him down but he snapped,
'This is all your *cough* your fault' he choked on his words,' you sent us through towns at night and you've lost a soldier, tell everyone that you killed me...' he died after that, he left me with one message, that I killed him, his last words weren't that he loved his family but that it was my fault...
We arrived in Ypres by 2220 and we found Sgt. Danny, his squad was weakened and only four people remained since this afternoon, they were the brave soldiers who ran in front of the MGs,
'You should join up with our squad; Squad X lost men as well, we lost Pvt. Jackson an hour ago...
'We need to find Pvt. Nicholas first, otherwise we can't join you' he exclaimed, he had good reason to look for him, he was known by everyone as the nicest and shyest person in boot camp,
'We'll help, what men do you have?' I asked
'A sniper, an MG and a rifleman' he replied
'Good, okay, riflemen round up, Sgt. Danny, join me and Carrot up front and Mg's and Jimmy, stay at the back,' I ordered
'Why,' Little Jack asked
'He was important to us,'
'So were going to travel across France for someone who we don't know is alive and risk our lives?' Little Jack was making sense but I had agreed with Sgt. Danny and they needed the support to travel through the French towns.
1543, we followed Sgt. Danny's orders and move through fields to reach Pvt. Nicholas. The field was green and the grass was high, it seemed so quiet that I was sure something was bound to happen, I was worried which made people in my squadron worried.
'Patrol'Sgt. Danny's voice was small but I could hear it,
'Get down' I whispered, everyone slowly we to the floor and stayed quiet, apart from Little Jack, he stood defiantly, holding his gun at the truck,
'Get down Jack' I told him as loud as I could without alerting anybody,
'Come get me Nazis!' he beckoned the truck,
'Get the fuck down or you're going to get killed, disobeying Sgt's orders can get you killed by the firing squa...' my voice was drained out by the sound of his Thompson firing hopelessly at the truck.
'Get up, fire at will boys' I ordered my squad, Little Jack had caused this, we could have stayed down and let him die but were brothers and we stick together. We call him little because he was still a kid of only 16 years. He was courageous but not clever, he obviously doesn't realise what he's doing, and maybe he wants to prove a point that it was dangerous and stupid to do what we did