Philip evans November 27, 2014 at 2:20pm
“ What do you make of those candles on those German Trenches?” asked Private Robert Graves.
“ Flame-thrower attack?” he questioned.
“ Don’t know, give us a look?” replied his Brother-in- Arms Siegfried Sassoon.
The mirror, attached to a stick was raised up above the 10 foot muddy trench on the Ypres battlefield that formed part of the Western Front.
The two Allied soldiers, both of German descent looked at each other in bemusement.
“ I don’t know…never seen anything like ..but then again I am a poet not a fighter!” said Sassoon.
“ I must say though Sassoon …. your hair under that tin helmet is fabulous….how do you keep it so clean with all this bloody mud around?” asked Graves.
“ I can’t tell you…it’s a family secret ….well I never?” said Sassoon.
“ What?” asked Graves.
“ They are tying Christmas decorations to the front of them now….one….two… he continued counting……I reckon there are ’99 red balloons’ over there now!” said the exasperated Sassoon.
“ Are you winding me up?” asked Graves used to his comrade’s sense of humour.
He put his foot up on the wooden ladder and peeked over the top.
He was taking a big chance, as many of his Sussex Regiment had ‘bought it’ from sharpshooting snipers.
The boys at the Front, lived in constant fear of being shot, both by the Germans and their own Officers too- if they refused to ‘go over-the- top’.
Graves and Sassoon had seen many of their friends butchered in No-Man’s Land caught between a searchlight and barbed wire and for what ?
To die for King & Country, fighting over 50 yards of mud on the Franco-Belgium border.
“ Perhaps they have been infused with a little Christmas spirit rather than the usual mustard gas?” suggested Graves.
“ Well it is Christmas Day 1914 tomorrow….perhaps we should join them by singing some carols….it’s not like we are giving our position away…. we haven’t moved forward for a month…we have become ‘entrenched’…!” said Sassoon.
“ Listen…I can hear THEM singing now!” said Graves.
“ I wonder what Carol it is?” asked Sassoon.
“ Probably ‘God Rest you Jerry Mental-Men!” suggested Graves.
The pair collapsed in laughter.
“ Do you realise, this is the first time that I have laughed since we were back in Blighty!” said Sassoon…looking haggard , tired and much older than his tender 28 years.
“Come on….let’s raise our own spirits ..look what I pinched from the Officers Mess!” said Graves.
He reached into a mud-hole where he had stashed his stolen ‘booty’.
It was a leather football with laces… it had seen better days ….but was still a football.
“ Right… you be the Woolwich Goalkeeper…..….and I’ll be the Brighton forward…..said the Sussex man.
The game started in earnest, as the pair stopped watching the other trench and had a game of keepie-uppie.
Their record was 28 headers, knees and boots.
Just as they were on 27, Graves over-stretched and ‘Mullered’ the ball up high out of the trench ,over the top into No-Man’s Land.
The German sentries followed its flight with a torchlight fearing a gas or bomb attack.
Amazingly, it was not shot down by the German snipers.
The ball landed mid-way between the two trenches.
“ Now look what you’ve done….you could have started World War 2 with that mis-kick!” laughed Sassoon.
“ Go and get it then or face a firing squad?” ordered Graves sarcastically.
“ I’m NOT going out THERE…not with my shiny hair…I’ll be picked off quicker than you can say ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary!” said the Poet.
“ Besides.. it’s YOUR ball…I’m not getting Court-Martialled for that offence!” said Sassoon.
“ I am already in trouble for hanging out my washing on my Siegfried Line and causing that Red Baron Von Richthoffen to strafe us from his plane!” said Sassoon.
“ I reckon if you go and bring that ball back your act of bravery, will end up in a ‘War Graves Commission’!” he cajoled.
“ Nice one!” replied Robert.
“ Send those Huns to sleep first…read then some of your poems…!” suggested Sassoon.
Robert knew he would have to be brave, like a Roman General about to cross the Rubicon, he took a few deep breaths and told himself he was descended from good stock, ‘I Claudius’ he said- trying to instil courage, as he crawled up out his trench on all fours towards the silent ball.
His nerves were jangling , he expected at any moment to feel the impact of a Berlin bullet.
He had been warned by his fellow soldiers that you never HEAR the bullet that kills you.
Passing dead comrades and the decaying remains of horses used as cover, he inched his way on his empty dysentery-suffering belly towards the pig’s bladder.
His mind was telling him to return to the safety of his lines, but his body kept moving forward, on autopilot – a legacy from his Aldershot training camp- the voice of his Drill Sergeant driving him on towards the object of his desire.
As the beams of light fell on poor Graves , out in the open on a battlefield, he knew he was as good as dead.
He reached inside his coat for his pencil to write a last few lines of the poetry he loved so dearly.
He had told his comrades, he would write on the inside of his clothing a message for his loved ones back in England.
‘Three lines on a shirt, Sassoon’s hair still gleaming, thirteen weeks of hurt, has never stopped me dreaming…’ he read aloud until he hit writer’s block.
Graves always found it hard to finish off the last line of his poetry.
“ Pssst Englander…!” said a Teutonic voice.
“Vott about Fussball’s Coming Home?” suggested a German in a foxhole six feet away from him.
Graves jumped visibly.
He reached around for the gun he had left behind in the Allied Trench.
He was unarmed in No-Man’s Land, in a Foreign Country and at the mercy of the entire German Army.
Graves did the only thing he could do in the circumstances.
He wished the Axis Soldier ‘a Merry Christmas’-the only German word he knew.
‘WEIHNACHTSFRIEDE’ said the petrified private.
“ IT’s CHRISSSSSMAS!” slurred the drunken side-burn clad Prussian, Norbert Helder.
“ I’m going to make a Schapps decision here… do you fancy a game of fussball?” he asked.
“ Eleven of you Tommies against us…how you say … Boche?” suggested Norbert.
“ How do I know it’s not a trap and you gun us down as soon as we leave the trenches?” asked Graves.
“ Look if I wanted to have killed you.. I Vood have…I could have ‘SLADE’ you anytime,….but it is Christmas…even the Kaiser himself has Christmas off….so why not us ‘pawns’ in this game of European chess?” said Norbert.
Graves knew he was speaking the truth.
They had told HIM the war would be over by Christmas too.
He had absolutely nothing to lose and if truth be known, strangely this soldier seemed more trustworthy than his own Officers.
He remembered Lord Kitchener’s poster and slogan ‘Your Country Needs you!” that had induced him to enlist.
After witnessing four months of death and slaughter on a scale never before seen…he felt the words ‘To Die’ had been omitted and that the master-plan of the ruling European elite was in line with Dickens ’ to ‘decrease the surplus population’.
“Well do you want to play a World War Cup match or not?” enquired another German popping up from their maze of trenches – the Siegfried Line.
Robert Graves laughed out loud.
His guffaw could be heard on both sides of the killing fields.
“ Boys….they want to PLAY football!!!” chortled Graves partly through relief but mainly because the line of the Prussian 16th Bavarian Regiment looked like a set of park railings with their spiked pickelhaube helmets sticking out of their shelled hell-holes.
“ I’m fed up of all this killing…I’ll play!” shouted the Liverpudlian voice of Private McCartney.
“ Yes…let’s give peace a chance!” said Lance -Corporal Lennon.
Within seconds, where there once fear and mustard gas there was now hope and alcohol.
And more important than life or death itself – there was Football.
Corporal Shankly, a Canny Scot , climbed out and set up some jumpers for goalposts.
He was matched on the other side by a Private Schultz, who wanted to be a ‘boon’ to his Aryan Nation by playing goalkeeper.
A Corporal Schickelgruber tried to muscle in on the action but was sent packing by the rest of the soldiers.
The loner was told he could either be the referee or ‘clear off’ to find some ‘Lebensraum’ of his own.
“ Do you not like that guy then? “ asked Graves as the match kicked off.
“ Of course not !” said Helder….” I’m Jewish!”
“ We shaved both sides of his moustache off when he was sleeping to make him look ridiculous!” he continued.
The match descended into a mad kick- and- rush as the ball couldn’t go far, sticking in the cloying mud, until that is the referee awarded a dodgy penalty against the English for ‘Hans-ball’.
Klinsman took it and scored then dived into the mud sliding wildly into the deep trench towards his kinsmen.
Immediately, from kick- off when half the German team was still celebrating with their Bierkeller steins aloft, the Allies scored as Pele took a ball from Sly Stallone and lobbed the keeper.
Graves hugged Sassoon in a non-homosexual way to celebrate the goal.
The Germans, like Sassoon look ‘shell-shocked’ at the equaliser.
Private Edward Woodward however, was much more alert, as he took the ball off the sour Kraut defence and burst into the penalty box, denoted by a series of war-horse intestines, and struck a sweet shot which rebounded off the keeper to the Midfield-General suited to the conditions under foot- Rodney Marsh.
2-1 to Sussex & Lord Chelmsford’s Boys and it seemed for a time that ‘the only way was Essex’.
Until the machine that was the German High Command, started to use their height advantage by lofting the ball up towards their ‘Luftwafe’ and the In’fuhrer’ating little referee gave a second penalty this time for an innocuous looking foul by defenders Skinner & Baddiel.
Attila scored to make it 2-2.
And with seconds left before Christmas Day came , a Midnight Mass brawl erupted, as the ball was lobbed high into the air landing on the head of Sergeant Boris Becker who leapt into the impromptu net with the ball impaled on his spiked helmet to claim a 3-2 Victory for the Huns.
Adolf Schicklegruber allowed it to stand and the rest they say was history.
Captain Nobby Stiles was furious.
That Damned ‘buster’ raid had cost them the match.
Unable to take a referee being biased AGAINST him, the Manchester United stalwart threw his false- teeth down into a puddle of filthy water and then jumped up and down in protest on the Austrian referees’ notebook.
“ Nein…nein …Mein Kampf !” warned the little Dictator .
Too late, the warning was not heeded and Nobby’s swearing and angry dancing on the spot, was to prove fatal, as he was blown to Kingdom- come by a land- mine.
The explosion caused both sides to run for their respective trenches , with Nobby’s horn-rimmed glasses landing back over the British Lines.
“ They think it is all over!” said Fusilier Ken Walthamstowe.
“ Well Nobby is!” quipped Private Lineker.
With the first ever recorded football hooligan event over- the two sides recommenced their shooting at one another.
As Graves threw himself for cover behind Lieutenant Rowan Slackbladder, his Commanding Officer asked him what Nobby said to the Germans to make himself spontaneously combust.
“ I think he told them Peace Off!” shouted Graves at the enemy.
The Germans responded by singing ‘Vun Vorld War and Vun Vorld Cup’.
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Ceri Shaw November 28, 2014 at 7:43am
LOL...had to think for a minute about the Sassoon family secret Good to see you back on form Phil.
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Philip evans December 4, 2014 at 3:23pm
Thanks Ceri....as long as I can raise a smile ...I have done my job....Phil'Boz' Evans
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Ceri Shaw November 13, 2014 at 2:05pm
Great idea Gaab Cant imagine why we didn't start a writers group years ago. It should be a handy place to make announcements about eto, the WCE competitions, the Bookstore etc. And on that note:-
WCE Online Short Story & Poetry Comps
The deadline for submissions is November 30th. Here are the group urls if you are interested in submitting entries:
Short Story: http://americymru.net/group/west-coast-eisteddfod-online-short-stor...
We hope to have eto out on Kindle before Christmas and the hard copy out soon after. Meanwhile we are accepting submissions for eto 3 which will be available in late February next year. I will start announcing contributors on the eto blog and in this group shortly.
Welsh American Bookstore
New interviews with Sarah Stevenson and Norma Lloyd-Nesling
That's all for now...more news soon.