The stultification of soldiery

Mouth dry. Heart pounding. Eyes streaming. Yep, bloody typical.

One of the things they never tell you about war, one aspect that is entirely ignored in Hollywood’s gung-ho depiction of its brutal reality, is how it doesn’t take a breather if you’re not in tip-top shape. Not the Mae West, as it were. Nobody in the movies ever seems to have a shitty cold, or a huge headache, or crippling stomach cramps, or even – oh Jesus – apocalyptic diarrhoea.

Well. That’s a silver lining, I guess. At least that’s one thing I don’t have to occupy my mind, or my bowel for that matter. All’s I got is a bunged up nose, throbbing sinuses, a head full of cotton wool and blurry eyes that can’t seem to focus on anything more than three feet in front of my face. Oh, and a spine that is threatening to turn me into a dead ringer for the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I tried to stretch, but in the unforgiving confines of my foxhole that was a staggeringly ambitious idea, and only served to result in my inadvertently poking my sleeping comrade in the ribs. The string of expletives which came forth from the huddled mass dissuaded me from attempting such a physical manoeuvre again.

It gets to the point where you genuinely want the enemy to attack, where you know that the only relief you’re likely to get from the agony will be from the jolt of adrenaline which immediately, inevitably, flows through your system. I suppose it must be difficult to understand that a person’s temporary discomfort can override any fear of bloodshed, of maiming, of death.

I struggled to keep my eyes open. Standard operating procedure dictated that both men in the forward observation post must stay awake until relieved – logic being that the two could keep eachother from nodding off – but to call that directive optimistic would be an understatement of truly epic proportions. I doubt we’d even been on-site an hour before my brother-in-arms conked out. As his response to my exercise indicated, he was a soldier you woke at your peril. I didn’t mind, I preferred to stand guard by myself anyway. It gave me time to think, free from the tedious bullshit he incessantly drawled on about. Honestly, his conversation could put me to sleep faster than a whole packet of Nytol.

I yawned and flicked a hopeful glance at my watch. I could barely make out the dial, my sight was so bad. 2.15? That couldn’t be right – we must’ve been here longer than that. If the time was right, we still had three hours before the next pair showed up. Christ.

War is dull.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☮

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About Seba Roux

Gooner, Socialist, Historian, Slacker. That's pretty much all you need to know.
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