07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Call it blatant self promotion if you will, but I thought as it is only a few days to Memorial Day in the US, I would post a battlefield excerpt from my latest historical romance, Daring Masquerade, which is set during the 1st World War.
In Australia we remember our war dead, on ANZAC Day, 25th April and also Remembrance Day/Armistice Day on 11th November.
ANZAC Day commemorates the landing at Gallipoli in Turkey by The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS) on the 25TH April, 1915. And the 25th April is now sacred. It is when we remember the brave men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice in the 1st World War and in subsequent wars, 2nd World War, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. These battlefields are also stained with American blood, as you would be well aware.

War is a terrible thing, it not only affects the soldier on the battlefield, but also those who are left at home. How many lives have been blighted by war? How many families torn apart? Even after a war ends the consequences are still dire. Young men and women return home, broken in body and mind. Some never recover and carry the scars of their war service for the rest of their lives. This in turn affects their families. I can remember as a child, my father (who saw active service in World War 2) having these terrible nightmares. He would scream out so loudly that he woke up the whole household.My mother who had been engaged to him before he went to war, said that when he returned home, he was not the same man that he was before. Consequently, because of Dad's nightmares, we could never have friends stay overnight, in case Dad had one of his "turns."

DARING MASQUERADE – Out on Kindle from Books We Love Publishing
The third battle for Ypres had begun. The first and second Australian Divisions marched through the ruins of Ypres in Flanders, and fought their way along the Menin Road ridge. Their ultimate destination was Passchendale.

It had been raining steadily, the front had turned into a sea of mud, criss-crossed with miles of concrete German blockhouses. A German arc of machine gun fire dominated the landscape and the casualties were terrible.

Ross despaired of the carnage ever ending. After one battle another always followed. Men died or were wounded; many simply disappeared into the mud.

Reinforcements came and went, followed by more reinforcements. Few old faces were left now.
Increasingly, he feared he might never leave this chamber of horrors and return to Harry at Devil’s Ridge. Never get the chance to utter the words, ‘I love you,’ to his wife.

How much longer could his luck hold out? He had suffered several minor shrapnel wounds that only required a dressing.

On the morning of the fourth of October, 1917, Ross’ unit was sent to Broodseinde Ridge. Forty minutes before the attack, soldiers waiting in the rear a mile behind the line saw white and yellow German flares through the hazy drizzle.

0530 hours.  Heavy trench mortars fell on Ross’s men as they sheltered in shell holes. At 0600 hours, the British artillery barrage opened up and he waited. Another attack—more casualties in this endless saga of death and suffering.

White tapes marked the jump off area. When the signal for attack came, he urged his men on.
“Come on, come on.”

He stood up and started running. Officers led by example, he remembered from training. The men charged forward now, yelling and screaming.

A line of troops rose from some shell holes a little in front of them, and Ross suddenly realized they were Germans mounting a counter attack. Too late to do anything but keep on going.

He did not see where the firing came from, but felt a thud, first in one leg then the other. As he sank to his knees, he felt a bullet slamming into his chest. He toppled forward.  Soldiers ran over him. Boots pressing into his back forced him deeper into the mud.

This is the end. I’ll never see Harry again.

He regained consciousness. It was daylight. How long had he been lying out in no-man’s land? Groggily, he got to his hands and knees. Pain and exhaustion racked his body. Breathing was agony. The landscape see-sawed. Shell fire echoed in his ears.

What’s the use? All I have to do is close my eyes and sink back into the mud and oblivion.

Too tired to fight any more, he started slipping away. His body floated upwards and the pain disappeared.

“Ross, don’t leave me. Fight Ross, fight for me.”

“Harry?” He opened his eyes but he was alone.  Only dead men, twisted and grotesque lay out here in no-man’s land with him.

Did he want to leave Harry a widow at twenty? Never hold his son? Oh, God, he couldn’t die like a dog out here. His body might never be recovered. Harry would wait and mourn, but keep on hoping for years. She would never hear the words ‘I love you,’ fall from his lips. What a bloody fool he had been obsessing over Virginia, instead of letting himself fall in love with Harry. Now it was too late.  She would never know the true depth of his feelings for her. He couldn’t do it to her. He must survive.


Judith Ashley said...

Hi Margaret,

It is so true that some people never truly recover from their war service and some appear to be unaffected until decades later.

In the US, in the 1990's there was a surge of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome cases when a celebration of the end of the Vietnam War held much media attention.

Your post is a good reminder of the long term effects of war on both the men and women who serve and their families and friends.


Sarah Raplee said...

Great post and a moving excerpt, Margaret! Your hero's battlefield epiphany truly illustrates the power of love.

Paty Jager said...

Moving excerpt. War is a tough topic to capture. Everyone experiences the horror whether they are fighting in it or on the sidelines in a different way.