1916

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: 1916

Post by Braxton » Sun May 08, 2011 9:02 pm

Moar?
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Jeriah wrote: you are NEVER completely certain of any other human being: not your parents, not your brother, not your wife, nobody.
Actually I think under some circumstances people sometimes don't even know themselves, but that's a bit existential for this thread. :lol:

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Mon May 09, 2011 5:00 am

“Mourn for me rather as living than dead.”
-Aeschylus





The nightmarish siege of the church in De la Croix, where B Company fought what could only be termed as a last stand, was over, or so the men were all silently hoping. They all knew that if the dead came back in any real numbers, the remaining defenders would most likely not be able to stop them. Too many of their friends were dead, the ammunition was gone, and the men were exhausted. They had little left to offer, but they still stood, waiting for the next wave of creatures to appear from the darkness.

And for hours, the men could do nothing but wait. Few spoke, and those that did only did so in low voices to the men next to them, or muttered prayers under their breaths. Some wished only to lie down and sleep, while others wondered at their chances of stealing off into the night and taking to the road. Of course, no one slept, and no one tried to get away. They all stood fast, not willing to be the first to let their officer commanding down. No one wanted to be the first to leave his friends. And for that willingness to hold their ground against whatever else came that night, the remaining defenders subjected themselves to hours and hours of standing on cramped legs, waiting for dawn that seemed to get no closer. With nothing to fill the time, the hours dragged on and on. There were no songs to sing or stories to tell, and no one even considered talking about what they would do if they ever saw Canada again. With the terrible losses taken by B Company in the last couple of days, inflicted by the living and the dead, it seemed to every man in the church that the chances of ever seeing home were so remote that considering a future after this war seemed like childish folly.

And those dark thoughts just made waiting for the dawn that much more agonizing. Here they were, lost in another country, fighting against an enemy that seemed no closer to breaking than they had when the Patricias first arrived in the trenches, fighting under the command of generals who seemed to have spent decades in uniform without learning the first thing about war, and for a cause that had become lost in the carnage long ago.

What were they doing here? That was the question they had all asked themselves at one time or another, as the artillery rained on them or the Maxims ripped their friends to pieces. How many lives was France worth? How many Canadians needed to die to stop an enemy who was no threat to Canada itself? How many would die before the Boche broke? Would they ever break? What if their own side broke first? What would happen if the French finally laid down their arms, after the ghastly losses at Verdun that did not move the battle lines one bit, and after seeing the futility of this offensive along the Somme? What then? If the French decided that they could not suffer the loss of any more poor souls, would the Limeys just pack it in and go home? Would the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, and negroes of Africa just take the next ship back to their own countries, leaving behind too many friends and countrymen whose deaths meant nothing?

And how would they ever accept what had come for them in the night in the town of De la Croix?

These thoughts preyed on at least some of the exhausted minds of the defenders of the church. It made the night itself and the aftermath of the attack of the dead that much harder to bear. It was easy to wonder, and some did, that with virtually no chance of seeing home again, fighting a war that had resulted from the whole world going mad, who was really the walking dead. Was it the corpses that had come seeking their flesh, or was it those who still stood with empty rifles and gore-coated bayonets? They had come through a terrible fight against an enemy that could not exist, yet did, but what was it all for? They had saved their own lives, but what did it gain them if tomorrow, they found themselves against the Maxims and Mausers again?

Perhaps during the night, as B Company stood fast at the windows, firing and bayoneting, the fight had really been the dead against the dead.

Perhaps when the enemy had been the Boche and not walking corpses, it had already been the dead against the dead.

Whether they saw another day or not, one thing was becoming clear: they had all already given their lives to this war. It was just a matter of when it was time to pay in full.

But it was, as always, Private Horace Keane who first took notice and for him at least, the dark thoughts that had haunted him during the endless hours of waiting vanished instantly. He saw that the pitch black outside had begun to recede, and a dim light began to show itself in this dead place. Some of the men, though not Keane himself, felt the wetness of tears on their cheeks as they began to realize that they had, as Lieutenant Crawford had asked of them but not ordered, made it through the night.

Dawn had come.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Wrecking Ball » Mon May 09, 2011 6:22 pm

hooray for dawn :)
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Re: 1916

Post by kcor_77 » Mon May 09, 2011 7:00 pm

Keep up the geat work.
Tomorrow's an illusion
Yesterday's a dream
Today is a solution

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Mon May 09, 2011 8:57 pm

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”
-George Eliot





The morning light showed the scene for the ghastly nightmare that it was, in ways that could not be conveyed by dim candlelight. Now, the remaining men of B Company saw the reality of the terrible carnage that lay about them. They saw the torn bodies of women, children, old men, and German soldiers, and of their own friends who had died terribly at their hands. The poets had always been fond of saying that the light of a new day brings hope, but those poets had never stood in a place such as this when terrible things were illuminated by that light. Instead of hope, what dawn brought to the men of B Company was a desire to bend down and throw up at the sight of so many deaths that had happened outside of their war. They had seemingly passed from a terrible war without sense to some kind of other realm, one that also had no sense to it. This was a hellish interlude in a ghastly play that already had shown hell to three dozen light infantrymen. Now that this hell was over, it was time to get back to the hell that they had been experiencing for eighteen maddening months.

Color Sergeant Benning, as horrified by the scene as anyone else, still kept his wits about him and turned the company to the job.

“All right, B Company. This isn’t the first time you’ve seen the dead. Whatever they were, they’re now just dead bodies. Now then, Sergeant Bower, get a detail together. Start moving the dead Boche out into the road. Just take them outside and drop them. It’s going to take a while, so get to it. Corporal Hook, send two men outside and find an oxcart, then gather our own dead. We’re taking them with us, just like the Lieutenant said. Be careful out there, and if you see any more of those things walking around, put them down if you can and fall back to the church if there are too many. And Hook, when you’ve collected our people, help Sergeant Bower’s detail move the dead Boche outside. Private Keane, get to the top of the bell tower. Call out anything moving. Now move, everyone. Once we’re finished, we can get out of this place, and I think we’ve been here long enough.”

Everyone turned to their jobs, though every man felt a growing knot in his stomach, an after effect of the events of that night. It was a terrible thing, carrying the bodies of men they had known, to be thrown unceremoniously onto an oxcart, even though most of them had already carried the bodies of their friends at one time or another. But this was different, and they all knew it. They had come all the way across the Atlantic to fight the “dastardly Hun,” only to see seven more friends die at the hands of monsters, the very existence of which defied all that they had ever known or thought about life and death or heaven and hell. The artillery, rifles, and machine guns of the enemy had killed so many in brutal fashion, but now, they saw that there was a far worse way to die than anything the Boche could deliver. Every mother and father, daughter and son, wife, sister or brother who lost someone in the trenches had been told that their lost loved one had died a hero, giving everything in a worthy and even godly cause. That was not always how the men in the trenches saw it. They knew that men died simply because they happened to be standing where a German artillery shell landed, or that they died because some general threw living bodies at the enemy for the simple fact that they had no idea how to use their men in a way that wouldn’t get them slaughtered.

But now, the mothers of the dead men of B Company would hear the worst of all lies, however necessary those lies might have been. Once again, their sons had died as heroes to save the world against the ravages of the evil Boche, the Boche that ate children or whatever the propagandists thought up this week. But their sons had died terribly against an enemy that their mothers would never know existed, one that came from the mouth of hell, one that, so far as anyone in the church knew, had inflicted a greater carnage on the enemy than it had on the Canadians.

Small wonder than they cried openly as their shredded comrades were dumped on a cart, not caring who saw their tears. This war, whether it was against the living or the dead, seemed to have no room for heroes.

And it was perhaps the wonder to them all that those who carried the dead Germans into the road and dumped them like so much garbage cried for their dead enemies as well. They, after all, had mothers who would never know the truth of how their sons died, in a country that they themselves had no interest in seeing fall.

Just as in most wars, friends and enemies were united in death.

But what haunted them all most as their own dead were collected in the oxcart was that not everyone could be taken back. The place was found where Lance Corporal Dunbar had been mercilessly eaten alive by a horde of the dead, and the dead had finished the job. All that was found was a scattering of blood-soaked bones, a shredded uniform, and a Mauser pistol.

Dunbar would not be able to make the trip out of De la Croix with his comrades.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Wrecking Ball » Mon May 09, 2011 9:56 pm

That last entry was deep. :cry:
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Tue May 10, 2011 4:42 am

“After that I could never pass a dead man without stopping to gaze on his face, stripped by death of that earthly patina which masks the living soul. And I would ask, who were you? Where was your home? Who is mourning for you now?”
-Ernst Toller





The removal of the dead took longer than Lieutenant Crawford would have liked, but he made no attempt to instill a greater sense of urgency in his men. They were all virtually dead on their feet, and the task to which they had been set was a grim one. The fact that they could do much of anything but pass out was astonishing. But at least an hour and a half of the early morning was taken up by moving the dead Germans into the street, as so few Canadians were left to move them, and many dead French had to be pulled from their equally dead occupiers. It had been the worst detail any of them could remember, and those who performed it knew well that unless the dead rose again and came back for them, it would be the worst task they would ever perform.

But the dead French remained where they were. For them, there would be no eulogy, no wooden crosses, and no one left to mourn, as their own loved ones were dead in and around the church along with them. This town had been wiped off the map it seemed, and all that remained was the buildings and a name on a sign outside of town. De la Croix was gone, gone along with seven men from B Company, and countless others who died on the way here.

Colour Sergeant Benning found himself speaking with Lieutenant Crawford near the front doors of the church as they both watched their men complete their details. This part was soon to end. The next part was soon to begin, that being their departure from this hole in the earth that had once been a populated farming town occupied by a depleted German regiment that had taken terrible losses at Verdun only to meet a far worse fate here.

“Sir, I just heard from Sergeant Bower and Corporal Hook. They’ve about finished with the dead Huns, Sir. How soon do you want to be on the move?”

“As soon as we can, Colour Sergeant. I just hope that what we say is taken as truth. Can you even imagine what would happen if we got back to Regiment with wild tales about demons, ghosts, and ghoulies? I hate covering this with stories of the Boche slaughtering a town full of defenseless civilians…I hate fueling this machine that incited us against them. But then, what else is there to do? What else can we say? Should we say that we killed them all ourselves? Telling them about another damned German war crime should get us clear of this place and give the generals and politicians another story for the newspapers and recruitment posters. It’s a damned shame, but we’ve given enough, you understand?”

“Perfectly, Sir. I sure don’t want to get out of here only to have someone behind the line say that we made up a children’s tale to get out of this mess and have us all branded as cowards. But, a whole town’s worth of occupying Huns? I mean, I can’t believe that no one came here looking for them. Who knows? I can’t believe that no one’s tried to use that road during this whole thing. Isn’t that why we were sent here? To keep the Boche from using the road?”

“Indeed it was, Colour Sergeant. But the fate of these dead Boche is for the Germans to worry about. I just want to get out of here.”

After a few more minutes, dead German soldiers were strewn about the town, and the dead French remained piled inside and outside the windows of the church, while the dead men of B Company had already been laid in the oxcart. The men could not have been more exhausted, but they remained on their feet. They all just wanted to get away from this place.

“B Company,” Lieutenant Crawford began. “This has been a terrible night. I can only say that I’m proud of all of you. You all did your best against something that we should have never had to fight. None of us could have known that this was waiting for us, but you all stood fast and looked after each other. That’s what’s gotten us through terrible things before, and that’s what got us through this. As I said during the night, no one can ask any more of us in this place. The rest of the Patricias still haven’t come, and so we have no reason to stay. Corporal Hook, select four men to push that cart. We’re leaving now and they’re coming with us. That’s the least we can do for them.”

With that, the company, what remained of it, assembled along the road and began to head west, back to what they hoped would be their own regiment. The men hardly marched like model soldiers, so exhausted and demoralized as they were. Of the four men who pushed the cart containing those that had died defending their friends, one was Private Leech, who freely let his tears show on his face, and whose exhausted body could barely contend with the cart as it moved. He looked ready to collapse, though whether it was from exhaustion, his own terrors from the night before, or grief for the men he now pushed out of town, or perhaps all three, Crawford couldn’t say.

Lieutenant Crawford began walking alongside Leech.

“Private Leech?”

Leech did not answer, or even acknowledge in any way that he knew he had been addressed.

“Thomas?”

That got Private Thomas Leech’s attention. “Yes…Sir?”

“You look pretty damned tired, Private.”

“A little, Sir. Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go march with your friends, Leech. You’ve done enough. I’ll take over here.”

“Sir?”

“Go ahead, Private.”

And so Lieutenant Crawford took over from Private Leech at the cart, and the officer commanding of B Company, First Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, saw his own lost men out of De la Croix.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Tue May 10, 2011 5:16 am

“Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”
-Marcus Aurelius





The remains of B Company trudged along the western road, hoping to reach the rest of their regiment before something else found them, whether it be a large force of the German army looking for their lost regiment, or something far darker and more terrible. But nothing hindered them as they moved. Some looked nervously from left to right as they marched, scanning the trees past the fields on both sides of the road, looking for shambling, moaning apparitions hunting them, while others just hung their heads, not caring if something found them, as long as they were outside of that dead town when the end came.

Their death march, for that is what some were silently regarding it, continued for about a mile, halfway to where Crawford had left the rest of B Company and the shattered remnant of A Company, when Private Keane noticed something in the distance before anyone else did.

“Sir, someone’s coming. Up ahead.”

“Can you see who?”

“I think it’s our own, Sir.”

“Well, they wouldn’t mind being late so much if they knew what they’d missed. Keep going, men. Let’s just put some distance between us and the town.” They kept going for another couple of minutes when a small body of men, perhaps eight, came into plain view. They were certainly friendly. These men were Canadian. The one in charge came closer and stopped right in front of the company.

“My God, are you men B Company?”

“That’s us. Who are you?”

“Corporal Yates from D Company. We were sent up here ahead of the main body to see if we could find you. Are you the officer commanding?”

“Yes. Lieutenant John Crawford. Is that the rest of D Company behind you?”

“Yes Sir. C Company is behind them. We ran into the rest of your boys, and a few from A Company. Looks like you all had a hell of a party up here.”

“You could say that Corporal,” Crawford replied. “Is Major Boone back there, do you know?”

“Yes Sir. He’s with C Company. I think he’d like a word with you, Sir.”

“Very well, Corporal Yates. Go ahead and accompany us back. Don’t take another step east.”

“Sir, we have orders to…”

“You have new orders, Yates. Come back with us.”

“Yes Sir.”

Led by a section of D Company, Crawford and his men continued west until they ran into the rest of D Company, all of whom regarded this shattered company with wide-eyed wonder. Some asked what had happened to them, but the only responses they received were the gazes of tired and terrified men. D Company passed them and then came C Company, and it was easy to tell that the offensive along the Somme had not been so kind to the rest of First Battalion. There were far fewer men in C and D Companies than there had been only two days earlier.

But Crawford finally had his men halt where they were. Another figure came towards them in a rush to stand before Lieutenant Crawford. It was a shocked and relieved Major Liam Boone.

Crawford stood upright and simply said, “First Lieutenant John Crawford, B Company, Sir.”
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 3:18 am

“A zeal for the defense of their country led these heroes to the scene of action, though with a few men to attack a powerful army of experienced warriors.”
-Daniel Boone





Major Boone stepped forward and shook Lieutenant Crawford’s hand, utterly surprised to see him alive and apparently unharmed, though it was plain to Boone that Crawford had come through a tough and terrible fight. Boone’s eyes moved from Crawford to the cart of his dead.

“My God, John, What the hell happened to you up there?”

“We engaged the enemy in De la Croix, Sir. We didn’t have enough men to hold it, so I ordered my company to fall back, in light of the rest of the regiment not showing up on our flanks. We were alone and out of ammunition, so I gave the order to retreat in good order.”

“Why did you split your company? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go in with everything you had, especially with the remnants of A Company?”

“Sir, a couple of nights ago I sent out patrols to see where the rest of the regiment was, and all they saw were the Boche. I didn’t want to run the risk of losing everyone. I needed someone behind us to keep our line of retreat open. Besides, if I couldn’t hold the place with thirty-six men, I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to do much with twice that number. That being said, I still wanted to at least have a look at the place and see what we could do.”

“And what exactly happened? Are the Huns still up there?” Major Boone studied Lieutenant Crawford intently, not knowing where his story was going.

Sticking to his story and improvising it as best he could, Crawford continued. “No Sir, at least they weren’t when we left. We made it into the town around midnight. I wasn’t willing to risk an advance over open ground during the day when every window in that town could have had a pair of eyes watching our every move. But we wound up in a fight, Sir. The Germans were taken by surprise. We inflicted heavy casualties and held the town for a few hours, but we had run out of ammunition and I knew that we couldn’t hold on if the Huns came back, even if I had taken the whole company. It was a hell of a night, Sir. We held on for as long as I thought practical, but I didn’t think we could wait for reinforcements any longer. I collected our dead and fell back.”

“Rather unorthodox Lieutenant, but it looks like you made the right decisions. I can’t blame you for dividing your company or pulling out. But First Battalion is here now, and we’re going back up there. Second and Third Battalions have finally managed to break through and are moving up on our flanks, and we still need to hold De la Croix to keep Hun reinforcements off that road. We’ve taken a real beating, but this offensive isn’t quite done yet.”

"Sir, what have you heard? How it the whole show progressing?”

“Well John, it turns out that your company moved further forward than just about any other in the whole division. You were the only ones to reach your objective on time. Everyone else ran into much tougher defenses than we expected. I’ve heard from some of the men you left behind that you didn’t have it any easier. Must have been a hell of a piece of soldiering if you still managed to break through and get to your objective.”

“What are we going to do now, Sir?”

“Lieutenant, I need you and all your boys. We don’t know if the Huns are going to counterattack and try to take De la Croix back, so we need to get up there as quick as we can. I’ll have a detail see to your dead. But we all need to head up there and set up in that town before the Boche do. I’m sorry John, but that includes you.”

“Sir, if I may, I wonder if my men who already saw action in De la Croix can be held outside of town to the west in reserve? They’re all exhausted and we don’t have a single round of ammunition. The men don’t have much to offer without a rest, Sir. They really had a hell of a fight.”

Major Boone considered Crawford’s request for a second and quickly saw the sense in it. “Very well. Keep your boys outside of town in reserve. I’ll combine A Company and anyone else from B Company you left behind and place them under the temporary command of the Battalion Sergeant Major. I’ll leave Ambrose as the company colour sergeant. I know how tired you must be, but we need you up there, John. Let’s get going.”

“Yes Sir, but before we go, there is something you really need to know about what we found."
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Wed May 11, 2011 5:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 3:50 am

“I’m convinced that the infantry is the group in the army which gives more and gets less than anybody else.”
-Bill Mauldin





After a couple of minutes, during which time Major Boone heard the rehearsed story of the battle for De la Croix, he stood with wide eyes and a quivering lower lip, unable to comprehend the terrible tale told to him by Lieutenant Crawford. After Crawford stopped speaking, it was another minute before Boone could even speak.

“Could you please repeat that, Lieutenant?”

“After driving the Huns out during the night, we took up positions along the western edge of town. We waited for either relief or the counterattack, but neither came, Sir. At dawn, I sent out patrols and they informed me that large numbers of French civilians were found dead in and around the church. I had a look for myself, Sir. There were…there were a lot of them. Women, children, old and young…the Boche just slaughtered everyone. But as I said, we ran out of ammunition as the fight ended. We’re damned lucky the Boche withdrew when they did. Not knowing if you or they would find us first, I gave the order to fall back. We were heading back to take up positions in the tree line where you found the rest of my boys when that element from D Company found us.”

“My God, John. This is insane. We’ve all heard of the Huns brutalizing civilians before, but this is beyond what we ever thought they would do. The entire town? They wiped out the entire town?”

“Yes Sir. At least, we never spotted any survivors.”

“Very well. Let’s get ourselves up there. I want to see this for myself.”

As Major Boone walked around the church, seeing the bodies of what could only have been tortured and mutilated French civilians, he looked as though he either wanted to cry or vomit, though he did neither. The men of B Company who had defended this place the previous night were along the western edge of town, held in reserve, and Crawford was glad that Major Boone heeded his request. He didn’t want them to see this a second time.

“John, I can’t believe this. This isn’t war, this is murder! Look at them! Women and children? They just massacred them all! Why would those animals do something like this? This isn’t the work of soldiers! This is the work of monsters, of butchers, of goddamned devils!”

Crawford tried to look innocent of the carnage around him as he followed Major Boone around the scene of ghastly terror. Boone called one of his staff officers, some lieutenant that had probably never fired a shot in anger.

“Lieutenant Winter, pick two men, good runners. Have them hurry back and find the Colonel. Tell him to get himself up here right away. Tell him that there’s something he has to see, and that it can’t wait. If he asks what it is, just have your runners say that it’s crucial. Get to it, Lieutenant.”

“Yes Sir.” Lieutenant Winter hurried off to find two runners.

Major Boone continued speaking to Lieutenant Crawford, but they had moved to the inside of a tailor’s shop for privacy.

“John, this is…this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. A whole town of unarmed civilians…this is the sort of thing that the Limeys told us the Germans did all the time…but did you ever really believe it? I’m not sure I did. Just fancy words to scare us into coming across the Atlantic so the British could send us to get slaughtered wherever they thought their own lives were too valuable…that’s what I’ve always thought. But…good lord…the stories might be true. They might really be the animals we heard they were. If they did this here, they’ve probably done it elsewhere. Someone has to know about this. Hell, the whole world needs to know this! Someone has to speak for these people. Someone has to tell the world what kind of butchers we’re fighting.”

Crawford only hoped that the Colonel and everyone else would be as easy to convince as Major Boone had been.

“So, what do you want me to do, Sir?”

“Stay close to me, John. I want you nearby when the Colonel gets here. I want you to tell him everything you’ve told me."

“Of course, Sir.”

As they walked outside, Major Boone averted his eyes from the dead. He was afraid to look, lest he cry where his men might see. Not a few of them were crying already. Although most were veteran troops and had seen more than their share of death, they could not gaze upon the dead women and children of the extinct town of De la Croix without their hearts being wrung out.

After another minute or so, he forced himself to speak.

“John, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t get to you sooner. I’m sorry you had to see this. I’m sorry that you and your men were up here all alone.”

Crawford, his voice betraying his exhaustion, simply replied, “We’re soldiers, Sir. These things happen in war.”
"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and there's a straw, there it is, that's a straw...and my straw reaches...acrosssssssss the room, and begins to drink your milkshake. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURRRP! I DRINK IT UP!

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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 4:34 am

“The army is the true nobility of our country.”
-Napoleon Bonaparte





It took nearly an hour and a half for the commander of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Colonel David Montrose, to arrive. He appeared on horseback with a collection of staff officers, also mounted, and the expression on his face was anything but amused. He was directed by sentries to Major Boone and Lieutenant Crawford, who had deliberately waited for him west of the church. Boone did not want him to see the nightmare of the church without him.

“Major, in case you haven’t heard, we have an offensive in full swing at the moment, and I have two battalions engaged on your flanks. It seems pretty damned quiet here, so I hope this is good.”

Major Boone replied, “I wish I could say it wasn’t, Sir. Please come with me. I knew you’d want to hear about this as soon as possible.”

Colonel Montrose looked Crawford up and down. “Lieutenant Crawford, I hear that you managed to drive the Huns out of this place and even managed to hold out to the last round of ammunition. Is it true what I’ve heard?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Well good job, Lieutenant. We need fighting men leading our companies. You’ll have your captaincy soon enough. Now then, why aren’t you with your company now?”

Major Boone answered for him. “Sir, it was Lieutenant Crawford who informed me of an incident that occurred in this town before his company arrived. I thought he should be present when we show you what happened in this place.”

“Very well, Major. But let’s get on with it. There’s still a war going on out there. Not every sector is as quiet as this place is.”

They led Colonel Montrose to the church, were he almost choked on his own breath as he saw the corpses of the dead French piled against the shattered windows of the church. For several minutes, he did not speak a single word. He walked silently around the churchyard and inside, where the desperate battle had been fought, a battle that neither Major Boone nor Colonel Montrose knew, or would ever know happened. As far as they knew, this was just murder, and the real battle had happened outside.

Colonel Montrose finally spoke, but his usually deep, commanding voice was reduced to that of a confused child.

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing. This is just plain butchery. We have no idea why the Boche would just murder an entire town? No idea at all?”

“None Sir,” Lieutenant Crawford replied. “None at all. By the time we arrived, this was already over. We drove the Huns out and so far, they haven’t tried to take back this town.”

“Damn, damn it all. These are some real animals, these Huns. I suppose why they did this doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they did this at all. I’m sending this up the chain of command. I promise, everyone will know what they did. I’ll see to it that this goes all the way up to Haig himself.”

Colonel Montrose, just as Major Boone had, sent runners to his own direct superior, but was gone shortly afterwards. He still had a regiment to command, and the offensive along the Somme was not going to halt itself because of the De la Croix incident. The sounds of artillery and gunfire could be heard in the distance to both the north and south of the town. Soon enough, Second and Third Battalions would push far enough that First Battalion would be back in the fight, and that would inevitably include the depleted A and B Companies.

Some of the men of B Company had literally stared death in the face and fought bravely and stubbornly against it. But this was still war, and death had other arms with which to reach for them.
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 5:20 am

“The first casualty when war comes is truth.”
-Hiram Johnson





A month had passed, and the offensive along the Somme had so far failed to achieve what Haig had hoped. Men were being slaughtered by the thousands on both sides, but the Germans did not show any signs of breaking that the British and Imperial forces were not showing themselves. B Company had left De la Croix behind and was returned to the fight, but their casualties had been so severe that they were largely being used to support the advances of other companies in First Battalion. A Company had essentially ceased to exist. They had been assigned to B Company under Crawford’s command, and any difficulties with having two colour sergeants, Benning and Ambrose, quickly ceased to be of significance. Colour Sergeant Ambrose was killed in action two weeks after B Company’s defense of the church in De la Croix.

First Battalion was removed from the front lines on July 30th, 1916. They had taken far worse losses than the other two battalions in the regiment, and had been ordered to fall back and refit. Major Boone had been told that his companies would be reinforced and sent back to the front. He hoped that it would take a while for reinforcements to be assigned to him. He had seen too many of his men die in the mud and blood already, but the war itself did not appear to be ending any time soon.

On August 11th, 1916, Captain John Crawford was ordered to report Brigade headquarters, as someone was waiting for him, though he was not told who. Leaving Colour Sergeant Benning in command, who himself had recently been informed that he would soon be promoted directly to second lieutenant, Crawford made the walk further behind the lines and found a touring car waiting for him, with a youthful driver wearing a sergeant’s badge of rank. He waved Crawford over upon seeing him.

“Excuse me, Sir,” the sergeant said, in a thick Cockney accent. “You Captain Crawford, the Canadian I was sent to pick up?”

“Yes I am, Sergeant. Where are you taking me?”

“Headquarters, Sir.”

“Whose headquarters?”

The driver did not answer and Crawford did not bother ordering him to do so. He got in the car and the driver took him a few miles west, further behind the lines before taking a road north. It took three hours and one petrol stop at a transportation battalion, and during the trip Crawford finally saw with his own eyes the scale of this war. For those three hours, not a single second passed without the British Expeditionary Force being in view all around him. Huge numbers of men, trucks, horses, and supply crates, as well as hospitals and even aerodromes (Crawford had never seen one before this day) came and went from his view. He could not believe that any force of gods or men could stand up to such a formidable and limitless force of manpower and materials, and found himself wondering how in the name of God that the war was still going on if this is what the British had sent to this shattered country. He didn’t bother considering that on the other side of the line, what the Germans had was probably just as impressive.

The touring car passed what was clearly the gate to some grand French estate, the kind that he had probably read about in The Count of Monte Cristo as a teenager. The estate was huge, so huge that it was impossible to see more than one edge of the property from any one place. All around he saw brilliantly uniformed officers on horseback, some playing polo, others riding for recreation, and still others practicing their swordsmanship (leaving Crawford to wonder who in their right mind would bring a sword to a machine gun war). White clad nurses went here and there, and the whole place had the look of some army gentleman’s club rather than a headquarters. Of course, it was easy to determine that whoever’s headquarters this was, he was a general of the highest echelon.

They stopped at the huge front doors, where Crawford got out (the driver tried to open his door for him, but Crawford waved him away), to be let into the chateau by a pair of sentries. The moment he walked in, he was greeted by some British major.

Crawford asked, “Excuse me, Major. I’m Captain Crawford from…”

“Princess Patricia’s Regiment? This way, Captain.” The major led a stunned Captain Crawford through the opulent halls, passing servants and staff officers (it was easy to tell staff officers. They smiled too much) and to a set of double doors towards the back of the chateau on the upper level. The major knocked and poked his head in. “He’s here, General.”

The major let Crawford in to what appeared to be some kind of study, easily larger than the house in which he grew up. He walked nervously up to the desk and saluted the stern-faced British general standing behind it, watching him with hands clasped behind his back.

“Captain John Crawford, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, reporting as ordered.”

The salute was returned, followed by the offering of the general’s hand, which caught Crawford off guard. He never thought that generals shook hands with captains.

The general spoke. “Captain Crawford, do you know who I am?”

“I’m afraid not, Sir.”

“General Sir Douglas Haig, and it’s a privilege to meet the Lion of De la Croix in person.”
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1916

Post by Frank » Wed May 11, 2011 5:22 am

moarrrrrrrrrrr
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Re: 1916

Post by Mr. E. Monkey » Wed May 11, 2011 2:26 pm

I must agree with my distinguished colleague, Frank. :mrgreen:
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 2:32 pm

“Propaganda does not deceive people. It merely helps them to deceive themselves.”
-Eric Hoffer





By the look of him, in both his posture and his facial expression, it seemed obvious that General Haig expected Captain Crawford to be in awe at standing in the presence of the commanding general of the entire British Expeditionary Force. Crawford, however, was not the type to be impressed by someone for the simple act of being a general. Crawford had had his doubts about Haig’s generalship after hearing from Major Boone that they would be going over the top along the Somme a month earlier. As the Somme offensive buried too many members of B Company and left his command a blooded shell of its former self, he had begun to resent Haig and others like him. Haig was not the man to be commanding troops in the field if he couldn’t think of anything more elaborate than catapulting young men at the enemy and hoping for the best.

That being said, Captain Crawford simply nodded.

“Captain, I should begin by congratulating you on your recent promotion, and your Military Cross. We need officers of your ability in this army. I only wish I had more like you, and perhaps this offensive would already have finished off the Boche and we could get out of this country and back where we both belong.”

Captain Crawford was instantly amazed that the ranking British officer in France had even heard of him at all, much less that he had been promoted and decorated recently. He knew all too well that a great deal of publicity had surrounded the so-called De la Croix incident, but he was unaware that his own name had been brought into it on any real scale. But he was also angered at Haig’s presumption that a few more officers like Crawford could mean the difference between success and disaster. Haig seemed to have no idea that his grand scheme for ending the war quickly had bogged down and failed to knock the Germans out of the war because of his own miscalculations.

Still, Captain Crawford simply nodded again and said, “Thank you, General.”

General Haig poured himself a glass of what appeared to be something expensive, perhaps bourbon, and offered some to Crawford, who was quick to accept it. He sipped and enjoyed the burning sensation as it flowed down his throat. He had not felt that sensation in too long a time.

“Now then Captain, on to the reason that I’ve asked you here. As I’m certain you’ve heard, a lot is being made of this De la Croix Incident, as the newspapers have taken to calling it. Once again the Boche have egg on their faces, and an incident of this magnitude is as valuable to our efforts here in France as five whole divisions. The whole world knows about what those bastards did to those poor Frenchies, and several world leaders are condemning the action. The Boche are finding themselves with fewer and fewer friends as time goes by. Even those blasted Irish rebels De Valera and Collins have come out and condemned the Huns’ actions in De la Croix, which is really saying something, considering that they could have never risen against us without secret support from the Huns themselves, and the Irish have certainly shown themselves to be no angels in any event.”

Crawford held his tongue on this a well. His company had once contained more than a few former Irishmen who had been horrified at how the British had brutally put down the rebellion in Ireland that very year.

“And, the American President Wilson even sent Prime Minister Asquith a letter condemning the action, as well as a letter of condolence to French Prime Minister Viviani. Asquith and Churchill are hoping that this incident might finally be what we need to convince the Americans to come in on our side. Lord knows they’ve been sitting on their hands long enough as the world falls apart around them.”

Once again, Crawford nodded but kept his opinions to himself. He was certain that General Haig only would have wanted Crawford’s opinions if they had been the same as Haig’s. He believed that if the Americans had any sense, they would stay the hell out of this war at all costs, an option the Canadians did not have.

“So Captain, as you can see, as terrible as the De la Croix Incident was, things for us could not be working out better, and the fact that the Boche themselves have yet to even respond to this worldwide condemnation only enhances our position. The world now sees them for the bastards they are, and we have finally convinced the world who is on the side of right in this war and who is not. I ordered your brigade commander to send me a copy of your report from the battle in that town, and I must admit, you were delightfully vague, which can only help us, since the Boche cannot defend themselves against details that they themselves do not know. But as I understand it, you advanced into that town in the middle of the night and inflicted heavy losses on the Boche, and still held your ground after driving them out, even when your company ran out of ammunition. The fact that you remained in that town until morning is the only reason that we know what the Huns did. That is quite an example of tenacity, Captain. The world would never have known about this butchery if you hadn’t decided to stay in that town against potentially terrible odds to deny it to the Germans. Your raw courage and that of your men have done more for us than you might realize. The French General Staff is particularly appreciative for your efforts, and on that note, there is someone I would like you to meet.”
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Wed May 11, 2011 6:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 3:35 pm

“All warfare is based on deception.”
-Sun Tzu





Captain Crawford had had no idea that another man had been in the room. A French officer had apparently been standing unseen in the corner, only approaching after Haig waved him over.

“Captain, this is Colonel Armand de Vivonne, adjutant to General Joseph Joffre. Colonel, this is Captain John Crawford of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and a recent recipient of the Military Cross for his actions in De la Croix.” The Frenchman who now came into view was immaculately dressed in a striking black uniform, bedecked with more medals than Crawford could ever hope to receive in a lifetime. He immediately wanted to grimace, having no regard for staff officers whose war consisted of following generals around and never feeling their teeth rattle as artillery landed around them, but he ceased that thinking right away. Colonel de Vivonne was clearly a man who had seen more of war than the inside of a general’s headquarters. His face showed an ugly scar that ran from his forehead to his lower jaw, from a wound that had also taken his right eye, the empty socket of which was now hidden under a black eye patch. When he shook Crawford’s hand, he could also tell that two of Colonel de Vivonne’s fingers were missing on his right hand. Clearly, this man had seen his share of action, and was most likely the type who led from the front, and had paid dearly for it.

“Monsieur Colonel,” Captain Crawford said. Though any expectation that he would be conversing with this Colonel in French vanished quickly. Colonel de Vivonne spoke in grammatically precise English with a neutral accent, so much so that his voice could have passed for Canadian, or perhaps American.

“Captain Crawford. I am honored to meet the officer who exposed the butchery of the Boche in person. General Joffre has personally ordered me to meet with you face-to-face. After hearing from General Haig about your stubbornness and brilliant command in your action in our lost town, he personally dubbed you the ‘Lion of De la Croix.’”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Colonel. The reputation of General Joffre has preceded you, and I’m honored to meet a member of his staff.” For the first time since arriving here, Crawford spoke his mind’s truth.

“As you are no doubt aware Captain, the world’s newspapers have been running stories about the De la Croix Incident regularly since we found out what happened there, and I already know that General Haig here has told you much about how valuable this has been for us. Recruitment is up for both your army and ours, which reverses a steady decline which had been going on for months. We might not have to rely on poor conscripts any longer, and while I can’t be sure that this is solely the result of outrage over what happened to my countrymen in De la Croix, I can’t imagine that it is a simple coincidence. Men are joining our army in larger numbers, even though they do so with the full knowledge that we are still taking terrible losses at Verdun and along the Somme. You and your men have done France a great service Captain, and we are grateful. Our newspapers want to remain on top of this story to keep it in the public consciousness, and General Joffre himself would like to place a name and face in the minds of the French people, as well as those of the British, and your countrymen as well. 'The Lion of De la Croix' has not yet made it into the papers, but with a stellar officer such as yourself to keep the news articles coming, we can ensure that our people do not forget what the Boche have done any time soon.”

“I understand, Colonel. I’m sorry, I was unaware that I was being called a name such as this.” Captain Crawford felt a knot forming in his stomach, though he was not yet aware of its cause. “What do you need from my men and me?”

“Well Captain, General Joffre himself hoped to be able to meet with you, but with our defenses barely holding in Verdun and our losses in the Somme Offensive, he is rather occupied.”

“I understand that, Colonel. I understand that all too well.”

“But General Joffre has ordered me to present you with this.” Colonel de Vivonne picked up a small box from General Haig’s desk and showed Crawford the contents. He instantly recognized what was inside. “Captain, we are awarding you our Croix de Guerre in recognition for what you have done for France, in showing great courage in holding De la Croix, and it is only by your actions that the crimes of the Boche have become known to the world. General Joffre had a grand-nephew in De la Croix, so his interest in the incident there is quite personal, as is his gratitude for your efforts. Tomorrow morning, you will be officially presented this medal in front of the press. You might expect some questions from them, as everyone will want to know what the Lion of De la Croix has to say about what those Boche bastards did to my countrymen.”

After a long silence, General Haig spoke once again. “Captain, tonight you’ll stay here as my guest, and I would like you to attend a dinner I’m throwing for Colonel de Vivonne and a few other visitors from the French General Staff. You’ll return to your company in a few days. Major Ellis is waiting outside. He’ll show you to your room, and we have a dress uniform waiting for you to wear at dinner tonight and for your decoration ceremony tomorrow.” Once again, General Haig offered his hand, which a disbelieving Captain Crawford shook. “Again, it was a pleasure to meet you, Captain.”

“And an honor to meet you, General.” Captain Crawford felt almost sick as he left the room. Rather than feeling honored to meet General Haig face-to-face, he felt like a clown dancing for coins in the street. He did not know who was being used more shamelessly: himself, his dead soldiers, or the poor residents of De la Croix, who had fallen to something far more terrible than German bullets, and had fallen again, this time to the rifles and raw courage of his own B Company.

As Captain Crawford tried to sleep that night, he finally understood why his stomach had knotted up. He had spun his tale about De la Croix and the fate of the locals to hide from the world the terrible truth that no one would believe, but now he was on the verge of becoming the most famous Canadian officer in France, having already received one medal and was now about to receive another.

His falsities about the fate of De la Croix had, quite by accident, made him a hero in the minds of others, while his men who died brutally at the hands of the dead got nothing but a ride back to friendly lines in an oxcart.
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Wed May 11, 2011 6:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1916

Post by Horatio_Tyllis » Wed May 11, 2011 5:07 pm

This is an excellent and engaging piece of fiction with an interesting story and characters we can care about. I'd like to see some more of Benning as well. Please keep up the good work, i'm telling everyone who will listen about this story.
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 5:42 pm

“The number of medals on an officer’s breast varies in inverse proportion to the square of the distance of his duties from the front line.”
-Charles Edward Montague





The following day, Captain John Crawford, the Lion of De la Croix, forced himself into a state of stoicism as Colonel de Vivonne pinned the Croix de Guerre on his chest, right next to his Military Cross. He had received it in “gratitude of Canada’s stalwart ally, the nation of France, who acknowledge that without the tenacity and courage of Captain Crawford, the crimes of the Germans in our lost town of De la Croix would never be known.”

Of course, photographers recorded his image and the one thing he could bring himself to say when the numerous reporters from the British, French, Canadian, Australian, and even American press asked him for his thoughts on the terrible scene that awaited him that morning in De la Croix, was something straight from the hip, as he had prepared nothing. Along with his image, his words appeared in newspapers and magazines across the world, but certainly not in the countries that contested the Allies in the trenches.

Crawford could only say, “I don’t think I will ever sleep again without being haunted by the image of those who lost their lives in De la Croix.” That was at least true, so Crawford could speak his feelings to the press without having to manufacture his statement as he had when his superiors saw the carnage of the church for themselves. After the ceremony, he found himself shaking hands with several more French officers as well as various members of Haig’s staff, though he tired very quickly of the show business of Haig’s little play for the press and propagandists. He hated the front and the death and pain that he had seen there, but somehow, despite the safety, fine bourbon, and clean sheets his new fame afforded him, he just wanted to put the town of De la Croix behind him and get back to his men. Soon, reinforcements would arrive, and perhaps B Company could finally march back to the trenches at full strength, which they had not been since the first months of 1915.

Within two more weeks, B Company returned to the front and was sent right into combat to do their part in Haig’s offensive along the Somme, an offensive that, just like this war, seemed to be going nowhere.

But as promised, Captain Crawford was reassigned to Battalion Headquarters Staff in November of that year. By then Colour Sergeant Benning had become Lieutenant Benning, and Sergeant Bower had been made the new Colour Sergeant, though he did not long enjoy his promotion. He was soon returned to Canada after losing the sight in his left eye from shrapnel. Corporal Hook, who had been made sergeant after the company was reformed, was promoted to colour sergeant. Command of B Company was handed over to a staff lieutenant from Regiment, who had never seen combat and had far less aptitude for leading others than Crawford had shown, and only managed to gain the respect of his men after much counsel from Lieutenant Benning and Colour Sergeant Hook.

By the end of the year, some of those who had defended their lives and the lives of their friends in the town of De la Croix, which was barely a speck on even the most detailed maps of that sector, had been lost. Some died in action, and others, like Colour Sergeant Bower, returned home with wounds that rendered them unable to serve in combat, and they, regardless of the severity of their wounds, became the most envied men in the company.

By then, the De la Croix Incident, which had, in a sad way, made John Crawford, faded from the public mind, as other battles and dealings in the war took center stage. In December of that year, the biggest news was that General Joffre was relieved of command for the losses his men suffered at both Verdun and the Somme, while Joffre himself had only recently sacked General Ferdinand Foch, who many agreed was his most able general. John Crawford was yesterday’s hero, and he was all too happy to become just another officer.

But as time went on, even the terrible siege he experienced in De la Croix was pushed to the back of his mind, certainly to return later, as the war took dark and terrible turns. He could not have imagined, as 1916 became 1917, that he would ever experience a more climactic year in his whole life, and he was quickly proven wrong. In 1917, events shook the Triple Entente to its core. The Russians, whose own offensives of 1916 accomplished nothing more than burying huge numbers of young men, made their own peace with Germany, and then saw their own country plunged into a bloody and merciless revolution, which toppled the Czar from power and caused even more pain and death. One million Germans, battle hardened and flush with victory, were now free to join the bloodbath in the west.

Nearly half the active divisions in the French Army, unable to continue the war as it was after the carnage of Verdun and the Somme, mutinied, receiving from General Pétain an assurance that there would be no more offensives for them.

But there had been good news as well. The United States, who had not allowed itself to be lured into the war by the masterful propaganda campaign resulting from the De la Croix Incident (and Captain Crawford could not imagine the guilt he would have felt if the Yanks had entered the war because of his story), declared war on Germany in the spring of 1917, after suffering too many lost ships from the German U-Boats, and especially after learning that the Germans were secretly attempting to incite Mexico to attack the United States and keep them from entering the war (the infamous Zimmerman Telegram), which could have cost the Americans the entire southwestern part of their country. A year would pass before the Americans could commit themselves fully, but when they did, it became a whole new war, a war that could finally be won.

By the time the Allies finally brought the Germans to their knees on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, Major John Crawford had become officer commanding of First Battalion, and he had added another Military Cross and a Distinguished Service Order to his honors. But by then, his beloved B Company, commanded by Captain George Benning, was virtually unrecognizable from the one that had left Canada almost four years earlier. Most of the veterans were dead or home with crippling wounds. Those that had stood by him against the ravages of the walking dead in De la Croix were almost gone, the living finally succeeding where the dead had failed.

Major Crawford mustered out of the Army on January 15th, 1919. Upon his return to Canada, despite the fact that his face, name, and words ran in newspapers the world over, no one recognized him as the Lion of De la Croix, which was exactly what he hoped for.
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:27 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: 1916

Post by Ponyboy314 » Wed May 11, 2011 6:26 pm

“Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.”
-Benjamin Franklin





As mentioned at the beginning, many of the characters were created by the author for the sake of fleshing out a story, and never existed in reality. However, if the events detailed in John Crawford’s journal and the account given to the author by Judson Hatterly are to be believed, this story may well serve as the most accurate account of the events that came to be called the De la Croix Incident. As the Great War passed into history, so did the De la Croix Incident, though it did not pass into legend, for the simple fact that little about the war did. The world, at least those who did not find themselves on the losing side of the war, was content to believe that the Great War was the “war to end all wars,” or at least the naïve ones thought so. The next world war, the one which would see Colonel, and later Brigadier General John Crawford returned to service, has taken a much higher place in the consciousness of the world. The terrible battles, the senseless deaths, the moral ambiguity, and the dubious peace purchased at Versailles are known in detail only to historians and military history enthusiasts, as few these days wish to trouble themselves with an old war in which right and wrong were not so crystal clear. At least the next war, my war and the second war of my father, allowed the world to see in terms of good and evil again, and the three decades since its conclusion have only solidified the righteousness of the Allied cause. And in any event, the De la Croix Incident, largely forgotten like so much else about the Great War, is barely considered significant compared to the unimaginable crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In that way, my generation was more fortunate than my father’s. His was the Lost Generation, and John Crawford was as lost as any other.

John Crawford (1893-1974) was not a man known for embellishment or dramatic gestures, so I must take the words of his journal as truth. There was much I did not know about his service in the Great War, though I often found myself wondering how he could have experienced something so climactic but not speak of it. I would later understand, as I have said little about my time with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to my own children, all of whom are now grown. Neither my father nor I wished to burden our children with our own haunted memories.

But now that I have learned the truth of the De la Croix Incident, much that confused me as a child is now made clear. One example of this was when I was either thirteen or fourteen years of age (this would have been in 1934 or 1935), and I awoke in the night to find that my father had fallen asleep in his study. When I went to rouse him, I heard him muttering a word in his sleep, which was clearly fraught with nightmares. I did not understand what he was muttering, and I did not ask him as I woke him up and helped him to his room. Only recently have I learned the meaning of the word he was muttering. The word, I now know, was untoten. This memory, once faded, has come back to me with great clarity.

Also, I now know why when anyone near him yawned or groaned or when he heard the sound of a growling dog, why my father’s face would suddenly freeze, with wide eyes bright with fear until the sound passed. When my mother once asked him if it had been a war flashback, he claimed that he had no idea that he had even frozen at all.

Indeed, John Crawford was a haunted man, as he could not have been anything else. There was, in my opinion, no way for anyone to see what he saw in De la Croix and not find himself haunted forever by it, and I saw in the face of Judson Hatterly the same terror as he recounted his own version of the De la Croix Incident. He had seen monsters and undoubtedly feared that they may one day come back for him. I also now know why he was not overly fond of forests or farming villages. He seemed to look around nervously whenever we had occasion to travel through them, but like so much else, he never spoke about it.

But I must now state that whether or not John Crawford, my late father, had even gone to the town of De la Croix or had ever seen the devils he wrote about, he almost certainly would have been a troubled and haunted man anyway. The war itself came back to him frequently, both in his sleep and in his waking mind. He could not always hear a locomotive go by without thinking of the sound that reminded him of the Maxim Guns he faced, nor could a door or window slam shut near him without an instant when he thought that he was in the crosshairs of a German sniper. The living have haunted him as much as the dead, that much is clear, and this I understand. My own war still finds me at times, and in this way, a son finally understands his father.

I know that the moment a young, eager, and patriotic John Crawford volunteered to fight the dastardly Hun, that he had doomed himself to a life of nightmares and flashbacks. Do not mistake this for a suggestion that he was not proud of his service. For whatever opinions he had about his first war, he was proud to know the men who fought and died beside him, whom he held in terrible times, and who would follow him to their deaths. He considered himself fortunate to know that such amazing men had ever lived at all, and it was forever his honor to know them and lead them. He himself was a strong and dynamic leader, for he must have been. If he had not been so, the story of John Crawford and B Company, First Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, would certainly have ended in De la Croix, a town that has not existed since his incredible last stand there.

It is the nature of sons and daughters to see their fathers as the strongest, bravest, and most intelligent men in the world, and even at my advanced age, a large part of me still does. Thus it is a sad day when we learn that our fathers are hurt and haunted by terrible things from their pasts. But because of his incredible service in the name of Canada, and the fact that he fought against an enemy that no one ever knew existed, I can only state that John Crawford was an incredible man, but even incredible men cannot always outlive the terrors with which this world burdens them.

After all, John Crawford was a soldier, and these things happen in war.


Michael Q. Crawford
May 15th, 1976
Last edited by Ponyboy314 on Wed May 11, 2011 7:05 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 1916

Post by FlashDaddy » Wed May 11, 2011 6:30 pm

Wonderous!

You are truly a master story teller.
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Re: 1916

Post by Wrecking Ball » Wed May 11, 2011 6:43 pm

AWESOME. ........ MOAR stories now?

Actually, it wasn't even just awesome, it was beautiful. :)
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Re: 1916

Post by nateted4 » Wed May 11, 2011 7:38 pm

Bravo!
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Re: 1916

Post by kcor_77 » Wed May 11, 2011 7:48 pm

ponyboy you are a very talented writer to say the very least. Wonderful story and I wanted to thank you for sharing it with us.
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Re: 1916

Post by Scott in AK » Wed May 11, 2011 7:54 pm

Ponyboy, Thank you.
It seems that every story you write get better.
This one drew me into the trenches with Crawford, and then with his men into a small church in France.

BRAVO!

Please don't make us wait 3 months for the next one.

Thans
Scott
He who tries to tread on me
will find himself in misery
and this I promise faithfully
upon my fathers name

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