The Brave

 

 

I shall be wearing a poppy with pride today, and observing the two minute silence on the stroke of eleven, for it is Remembrance Day in the UK, when those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for us in the First and Second World Wars, and later conflicts, are remembered.

 

THE BRAVE

 

Paul Beech

 

Extracts from the diary of an Old Soldier, long since deceased:

 

Tuesday 16.vii.18, Netley Hospital

 

So many times have I followed the bayonet, Gerry bullets singing in my ears, the thunder-rush of shells bursting orange in mud & guts, yet nary a scratch sustained. Oh, the irony of it, that a micro-organism should have caused my languishing here, in the company of one whose injury – as confided to me, & contrary to the official findings – was not so much accidental as self-inflicted, a contemptible “Blighty Wound.”

Aye, but I am guilty too, despite my citation and Military Medal: guilty of surviving good pals on the line. So when, this morning, with a broken piece of cup, the wretch did hack at his wrists, it was with some rage I stopped him.

“Nay, laddie, that is not the way,” I bellowed. “Give o’ ye best & be a man, damn you!”

The nurse came bustling at my summons, so pure of countenance and gentle her brogue that I thrilled as my pals in Picardy will no more. Her name is Bridget & between us, surely, we have an understanding of sorts…

Tuesday 30.v.44, Larkin Lodge

 

So long has it been, I am almost beyond hope. Oh Rosslyn, dearest daughter, with your lovely face pure as your late Irish mother’s, your gentle voice musical too.  Seven weeks – aye: seven weeks, three days, six hours, thirty-two minutes.  The rain came pelting earlier; now each passing second is marked by the slow drip of the gutter.

I press your knitting to my face, your every loving stitch a wonder. They wanted you away, didn’t they?  France again, of course, to work with the Marquis by moonlight, with stealth & purpose, a fortune in francs on your head no doubt, that volume of poetry your constant companion & talisman.

It is time – time to summon my courage & open the package that arrived this morning by some mysterious means. I fumble, the brown paper rips…& nay, I am not mistaken: it’s the Rimbaud.

“Elle a été trahie en Picardie,” runs the anonymous note enclosed. She was betrayed in Picardy.

Mrs B brings watercress sandwiches on a tray & tucks a napkin under my chin.

Oh Rosslyn…

 

***

 

The Old Soldier received official word exactly one week later, on Tuesday 6th June 1944 – D-Day.

 

-oOo-

© Copyright Paul Beech 2012

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maureen Weldon
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 02:23:58

    This special flash fiction by Paul Beech does indeed go right to the heart of Remembrance Day 2014. The bringing together of the horror of WW1 & WW2. The tenderness of love and the deep sadness of loss, bravery and sacrifice. Though these two world wars should have ended all wars, or so it was thought they would, no they did not. Yet if it were not for the love, loss, bravery and sacrifice, we in the British Isles would not know what it was to live in freedom.

    Maureen

    Reply

  2. Paul Beech
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 08:45:06

    Maureen,

    I’m so pleased you like my flash fiction story and feel it conveys something of the spirit of Remembrance Day.

    Yes, we truly owe so much to the fallen of both world wars, and this must never be forgotten.

    Your poem ‘Thomas Kettle, 1880 – 1916’, about that true son of Ireland who died on the Somme, touched me deeply when you recited it at the Chester Poets’ celebration of First World War poets on Remembrance Sunday. It was a wonderful evening of poetry and music, and many of the other poems by your poet friends touched me too, as I know they did you.

    A few words now from two of the WWI poets celebrated…

    From John McCrae:

    “In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row…”

    From Laurence Binyon:

    “At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them…”

    Thank you for your beautiful comment and for taking me to that wonderful event on Sunday.

    Paul

    Reply

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