world-war-i-battlefield-600x600[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t 0600 hours Colonel James Harris awoke to the thunder of artillery, which continued a full ninety minutes until daybreak. The day had started normally, if normal was a word that could be meaningfully applied to such times. It was the third year of a war, which back in 1914 everyone had expected would be all over by Christmas.
The Colonel was in charge of the field dressing station, positioned according to his superiors a ‘safe distance’ behind the front lines. He mentally pictured the setting three miles to the northeast. All along his sector, whistles blew. Men were hauling themselves off the firing step, out of the relative security of the trench, to start moving at a steady, slow walk across no man’s land, through the screen of smoke that the generals mistakenly believed provided cover.

Harris permitted himself a short snort of a laugh. The whole scenario was pathetic. So often had the tactic been used, that to the enemy it came as no surprise. He imagined, the staccato of machine-gun fire; bullets slicing through the advancing ranks, tearing frail flesh, undiscriminating, giving no favor to rank nor station. Young men, boys really, were being mowed down like corn to the reaper’s scythe.

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