Thursday, December 20, 2012
One Man's Western Front - Christmas 1916
Cold and wet, wet and cold....that is all one thinks about out here on the firing line. No real dug-outs, no real cover...a fire would bring instant death from the German front line, which sits a mere 60 yards away. We are on a 100% alert up here during the night and a 50% alert during the day. But no one can really sleep...between the cold, the snow, the shelling, constant Wiz-Bangs (Trench Mortars)...it is enough to wake the dead. On the other hand the trenches are so poor and un-improved that one cannot really move much during daylight...as snipers are very active on this sector of Front for each side.
Christmas at home is but a faint memory...more like a dream, really. Blighty itself seems to exist only in fairy tales. If it weren't for fresh replacements fresh from England we wouldn't believe it even existed anymore.
The only good thing about the cold and the snow is the smell of death seems less pervasive...corpses tend to not rot when they are frozen. But the other side of that story is that we cannot bury or remove the dead from this portion of trench. It is too exposed and the ground frozen to dig even shallow graves. So the dead become part of the trench. Over in 3rd Battalion's Sector at the Junction of Ale Alley and The Strand are a set of frozen arms and hands that stick out of the trench. It is the men's custom to give them a good shake as they pass with a greeting: "Cheers...wars over for you, matey!"
The men will find humor in just about everything. Everything that is...but the RATS. They seem to be even more aggressive now that their constant food supply of corpses are frozen and they become bolder. In the Reserve Line killing them is great sport....funny thing though, even rats are too smart to linger up here in the firing sap...life is short up here for friend or foe...animal or man.
Though it is cold and one never thaws or gets warm...there is something peaceful about a heavy fall of fresh snow...it is the only thing that can hide this obscenity, this inhumanity of men living like rats...surviving cold and wet, the rain of steel the hunger and madness just for the chance to kill one another. God seems so far away from us now. Even though tis Christmas Time...Insanity is King and it RULES with a ruthless, uncaring hand.
The Lads no longer waste time thinking of home. Because for them this is Frozen Madness, though it is Hell....is Home.