Charles Yale Harrison: War’s snarling, savage beasts
Charles Yale Harrison
From Generals Die In Bed (1928)
There is a movement in one of the trees which has remained standing. Broadbent raises his rifle to his shoulder and shoots into the shattered branches.
A rifle drops – and then the man. He holds his shoulder from whence comes a trickle of blood. The rifle is fitted with telescopic sights.
Some of our boys rush to him and cover him with their rifles. The wounded sniper crawls on his knees towards us. He is middle-aged and has a gray walrus mustache – fatherly-looking. His hands are folded in the gesture which pleads for pity.
“Drei Kinder – three children,” he shrieks.
We are on top of him.
Broadbent runs his bayonet into the kneeling one’s throat. The body collapses.
Some of us kick at the prostrate body as we pass it. It quivers a little with each kick.
I see their ranks waver for a moment and then they start to run slowly towards us. Our line is a line of flame. Every gun is in action.
The singing is quite distinct now.
I can see faces clearly.
Each burst of Broadbent’s gun cuts a swath in the front ranks of the attacking troops.
They are close to our trenches. Their singing has become a shriek which we hear above the hammering of our rifles and guns.
I am filled with frenzied hatred for these men. They want to kill me but I will stay here and shoot at them until I am either shot or stabbed down. I grit my teeth. We are snarling, savage beasts.
Their dead and wound are piled about four deep.
They climb over them as they advance.
Suddently they break and retreat.
We have repulsed them again. Their wounded crawl toward our trenches. We shoot at them.
The shrieking and howling out in front of us sounds like a madhouse in turmoil.
We sink down to the bottom of our trenches exhausted.
It is quiet once more.
Out in front wounded men still howl. One of them crawls into our trench and falls near us. Half of his face is shot away.
His breath smells of ether! No wonder they attacked like madmen!
It is nearly dusk.
They begin to shell our trench. They have not got the correct range and the shells fall short in No Man’s Land. The shells leap among the bodies of the wounded and the dead. The lashing of the bombardment starts them shrieking again. It hurls torn limbs and entrails into our trench.