The stories that will be featured in this section are fictionalized accounts of battles that the 13th Battalion participates in on a regular basis.
Jack-Rabbit Trails, December 1996
The rumble of the earth was the first sign the artillery barrage had begun.
The walls of the trench shook. Dirt cascaded down onto my boots.
Suddenly, a mountain of dirt rose into the air. Gravel, dirt, and grass
rained down upon us in the fire bay. Dirt ran off my tin hat down the back
of my tunic. Only my hand over the muzzle kept my rifle barrel from being
plugged. As soon as the barrage stopped, I lifted my head to peer out over
the ground between our lines and the German trenches. The wire was still
intact. Craters smoldered from the recent explosions. No sign of life
could be seen. The entire front had gone quiet. Then, breaking the
silence, the lieutenants whistle pierced the air. A cry erupted from the
trench line as hundreds of men scrambled up the ladders and steps and onto
the crater filled landscaping of no-mans land. The sudden openness of the
terrain seemed almost foreign after having spent so many days below ground.
Many men stopped to look around as if they were only now seeing the sky for
the first time. I started forward through our own barbed wire towards the
German positions. The first rifle shots sounded as the Germans returned to
their forward lines. A Maxim spoke and men began to scream behind me. I
looked to my right and to my left for an officer to guide upon. It was
then that I realized I was in front of the entire sector. I was leading
this charge. A bullet struck my small pack on my left hip, spinning me
about. I fell into a shell hole as dirt kicked up around my head. I felt
that every German gun was upon me now. Suddenly, I felt my right side
moisten through my tunic and kilt. Had I been hit? Was I going to die? I
looked down and saw, to my chagrin, that my canteen had opened and had
spilt it's contents. I looked back and saw that the other men of my unit
and men of the British army had now caught up with me. I reached down into
my tunic, pulled forth my flask, and took a long pull. The schnapps warmed
my insides. I closed the flask, put it safely back into my tunic pocket,
and prepared to advance again. Checking to see if my canteen was securely
corked, I checked over my remaining equipment and stood up to move forward.
More men had reached my position and were moving on. Canadian bodies
littered the ground before me. Private Hunt lay dead near the German wire.
The others I could not identify. I knew that too many would be men I
considered friends. As the distance between myself and the German lines
shortened, I broke into a jog. My gear clattered and clanked as I ran.
The brim of my helmet slipped down over my eyes as I stumbled over the
shell torn ground. I could now clearly see helmeted German heads in the
trenches before me. Each rifle shot seemed directed straight at me. The
earth shook as grenades exploded nearby. Men screamed and fell as we
struggled onward. It was now obvious that the German wire had also
withstood the artillery barrage. There were no clear paths into their
lines. Men lay in piled heaps near the entrances to the German wire.
Machine guns chattered and groups of men fell lifeless to the ground.
Suddenly, my left knee buckled beneath me. I fell uncontrollably to my
right into a shell hole. My lungs exploded as the air was driven from them
by the force of my fall. Balancing my rifle with my right hand over the
edge of the shell crater, I strained to see the German trench line.
Without looking down, I reached down with my left hand to check my knee.
Bringing my hand back to my face, I saw my fingers and palm covered in
bright red blood. I rolled over onto my back, inched further down into the
crater, and lifted the edge of my kilt to see the wound. Both knees were
covered in dirt encrusted blood. My left knee had been shattered. My
right, shot through. I stared for a long while in disbelief as the blood
ran out over my fingers. The world around me faded and it was a while
before I noticed the silence that had fallen over the field. After what
seemed an eternity, a shadow loomed over me from above. I turned, looked
up, and squinted to see who had found me. The outline of a Stalhelm
silhouetted against the sun. A thickly accented German voice told me not
to move. He called for a medic as he and another soldier helped me to my
feet. The war, for me, was over.
by Jeff Bieler
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