Excerpt from “Somme Mud” by E.P.F. Lynch ~~No Man’s Land~~

Slowly the day creeps up on us. We are still standing-to, but Fritz doesn’t have another go at us. As it gets bright, we can see across no-man’s-land and the dead bodies of the raiders who fell in the attack. Late in the morning comes a low moaning from no-man’s-land. No need to tell us a wounded man lies out there in the black freezing mud – a broken, tortured, dying body.

The moans shape into words of a foreign tongue, in themselves unintelligible, but piteously clear in their message; the sad, pleading call of a mangled man to his mates. All along the trench our men are asking why Fritz doesn’t take him in.

A clatter behind and I hear Darky’s anxious shout, ‘Hey, get some sense. Where’d you think you’re off?’ And there’s young Snow in broad daylight walking straight out into no-man’s-land.

‘Come back here, you bloomin’ madman!’ But Snow doesn’t appear to hear and goes on.

‘Return to the trench, that man!’  a voice of authority orders, but Snow merely looks toward the voice and goes on into seemingly certain death to rescue an enemy wounded.

Straight for the wounded man goes Snow, straight into the sights of dozens of enemy rifles hidden behind their mound of mud. Through the scanty wire he climbs and on again. The wounded man is nearer the enemy lines than we thought. We see Snow walk up to the enemy wire and pause. Then along it he goes and still there rifles are quiet. Surely they must see him, but evidently they know his mission and respect it, though he carries neither flag nor stretcher.

‘Give him the protection of a stretcher. Send the stretcher-bearers out to him,’ the C.O. calls to Mr Breen. But back comes the answer, ‘Not a bearer nor a stretcher in the trench.’ Now we know why our bearers haven’t gone out. They are all away carrying out wounded prisoners.

‘Hey Fritz!’ And Snow is standing at the Fritz wire actually shouting at the enemy trench! Surely rifles will crash any minute. No, but an enemy soldier is standing on the trench. We see Snow pointing across their great rows of black, rusty barbed wire. Fritz jumps down into his trench; presently a stretcher is held high up and waved several times, four Fritz climbing out, and head for Snow with it. Snow turns and walks back towards us whilst Fritz place the wounded man on their stretcher and carry him into their own trench.

We can’t understand why Fritz didn’t come out of their own accord. Surely they don’t think that we would fire on stretcher-bearers. Perhaps they have been out and left the man for dead. Hard to say, but their bearers aren’t up to much anyway from the way they acted.

Snow is back with us. He has nothing to say except ‘I wouldn’t hear a bloomin’ hurt dog cry if I could help him’. And we know he means it.

The O.C. sends for Snow. We watch him off along the trench. Queer customer. One of those quiet, deep blokes who are hard to fathom. Yesterday all upset and afraid to look at us because he shot an enemy. Today fearlessly walking in the muzzles of a score of enemy rifles to save an unknown foe. The front line lifts the cover off some queer traits of character. Its surprises are many and unexpected.

Snow is back. ‘Well, what’d the O.C. say? Promise you a medal?’

‘No, he promised me a flamin’ court-martial if I ever go out again. Wanted me to become a stretcher-bearer.’

‘Are you going to? What’d you tell him?’

‘No, told him I came over here to shoot Fritz, not to save ‘em.’ And he starts cleaning his rifle.

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2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

2 responses to “Excerpt from “Somme Mud” by E.P.F. Lynch ~~No Man’s Land~~

  1. Edward Lynch was born in Bourke, New South Wales on 7 August 1897, and died on 12 September 1980. He wrote about his war experiences in the 1920s, but the edited works were not published until 2006.

  2. Pingback: Excerpt from “Somme Mud” by E.P.F. Lynch ~~Tin Lid~~ | thingsthatmadeanimpression

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