They who should not grow old
‘THEY WHO SHALL NOT GROW OLD.
The War to end all wars and Passchendaele are synonymous with the massacre of countless lives and bungled strategies.
The British fifth army under General Hubert Gough held the Belgian town of Ypres in West Flanders whilst the German fourth army corps had control of the ridges surrounding the town. Their artillery covering any advance that might be made..
The allied objective was to capture the ridges enabling them to knock out the German held supply route at the railway junction at Routiers five miles away. There was one last ridge to capture to achieve their objective.
This was the battle of Passchendaele
The campaign had started in June 1917 and the battle took place in November.
Private Jimmy Short of the Infantry had been there since the beginning and having survived bombs and bullets, Scurvy, Dysentery mud, rain and snow and all the other hazards was now a fully-fledged campaigner or old sweat.
General Gough had not discussed his strategy with Private Short so Jimmy hadn’t the foggiest idea what was going on. All he knew was that when his Sergeant told him to do something he had to do it no matter how stupid it was. If he didn’t he would be shot by his own countrymen.
His Sergeant had never given the order, ‘Go out and get yourself killed’ but it amounted to the same thing.
Clamouring through the mud and over the top of the trench in pouring rain, negotiating the razor wire and running like mad for non-existent cover the inevitable finally happened. He was shot by a German sniper and died instantly. His body toppled into a shell hole and lay there.
Eventually the noise of battle passed and it was peaceful.
‘What happens next?’ thought Jimmy. It was very odd. He was looking down at his body in its uniform a massive hole in its head but little blood. He realised he had never seen the mud spattered face before because although in life he had looked at it many times in a mirror it had always been back to front. This for some reason amused him He was better looking than he thought.
He heard the sound of approaching voices and shortly afterwards two stretcher bearers climbed down into the shell hole.
One looked at Jimmy’s corpse. ‘This one’s had it’ he said.
‘Just get his dog tags mate’ replied the other.
They removed the tags and left.
Jimmy’s spirit became aware of other spirits in the ether. ‘Hello mate’ with a Canadian accent. ‘So you’ve bought it too then.’
‘Yes I suppose it was only a matter of time’ replied Jimmy
‘I’m Dwain. I was with the Canada Corps. I think we won.’
‘That’s nice. I’m Jimmy Short P.B.I for my sins. This is going to upset Mum and Dad. I was the only one they had. That is, of course not counting Henry who is non-compos mentis and is in an asylum.
‘’Are you married?’
‘Nah! My wife disappeared with a Yank soon after I joined up. We were never legally spliced. Good riddance.’
‘ Just as well. I’ve got a wife and three kids. I don’t think she’ll shed a lot of tears but the kids will be devastated. They idolised their dad and I thought the world of them. I wonder if I will be able to like, watch over them.’
‘Gott in Himmel’: Another voice
‘Christ it’s a Jerry’ simultaneously
‘You’ve got a nerve mate. Think yourself lucky. If I had my rifle you’d be de….’
‘I am. Be fair my friend. It was kill or be killed out there. I, for one, am glad I don’t have to do it anymore. I’m just an ordinary farmer. I have a loving wife and two children in Bavaria. All I wanted was to get back to them in one piece. I don’t know what will happen to them now.’
‘You’re darn right Fritz:’ from Dwain. This war ain’t anything to do with us. We’re just cannon fodder.
You won’t find many of the top brass on either side listed among the killed.’
‘But I wouldn’t want my country overrun by the Germans or anyone else.’
‘But I don’t want to overrun any country. That was Bismarck. I am quite happy living and letting live. I’m not Fritz but Kurt by the way.’
‘Oh well; were shut of all of them now. Let them squabble amongst themselves. I just feel sorry for the ordinary people still alive that have to put up with it.
Let's hope that some day they will all see sense
and live in harmony and peace together'
'Amen to that.'simultaniously'
‘I wonder what is going to happen to us now.’
‘I wonder Jimmy’
'Ja. I wonder’