The Long March
Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right. The ever sluggish march to war dragged on. My boots, dirty and covered with the blood of other men. My uniform, ripped, stained and burnt with the blasts of thousands of explosions. My helmet, scratched, dented and smashed with bits of shrapnel and bullets. The heavy wooden rifle, on its leather sling, digging into my left shoulder as I marched onwards. We were singing. I don’t know why, but we were. There was no real happiness to the song, but it was said that we had to sing it, to “keep up morale”. We were losing the war. No one could admit it, but we were. We had lost everything. All of Greater Germany invaded by the allies. Our fatherland, left buckled, cowering in the shadows of our once great country. And here we were, marching.
The wilderness trundled slowly by us as if it was moving. But it was us, we were the ones marching to war. We were in a long column, in file of three. There were other soldiers to my left and right, and in front of me. Their camouflaged uniforms, blackened in places. The man to my left was carrying a large automatic rifle, three magazine pouches on his Wehrmacht belt. His helmet was covered in foliage, held together by a net. His arm was tattooed, depicting the great German eagle. The man to my right was marching with a disposable anti-tank weapon, the Panzer Faust. He also had a foliage covered helmet, but the sleeves of his camouflaged smock were rolled up to his elbows, revealing a long, bloodied scar, stretching up his forearm.
The lush undergrowth of the beautiful German countryside whirled by as we sped on, towards the enemy. Our objective: the crossroads. We had to hold it until sufficient reinforcements arrived. We had light vehicles: halftracks, trucks and high velocity anti-tank guns. The quiet air was penetrated by the loud song of our fatherland. “SS marschiert in feindesland…”
Boom! Boom! Boom!
We stopped marching, our commanding officer looked toward the distance. The hills closest to us began to shake, the very ground beneath our feet rumbling, as the mystery sound came closer. A long pipe appeared slowly over the crest of the hill, attached to a steel turret. This all connected to a large geometric hull, trundling over the wet grass. It was a Churchill! The greatest tank that the British had! It had thick armour, good speed and a hull mounted flamethrower. Its high velocity gun traversed in its turret and fired in our direction. A large explosion destroyed the lead halftrack, sending flame into the sky like an erupting volcano. “Feuer der Panzerkanone!” our high velocity AT gun fired its 88mm shell into the turret of the Churchill, exploding its flamethrower and sending chunks of metal and men whirling into the sky.
And after that brief moment of excitement, we marched on, past the burning wreck of the halftrack, and onwards to the crossroads. In the distance, a whirling mass of smoke rose up into the clouds. The village ahead was burning. The road leading to it littered with charred and mutilated corpses and bits of cart. There were massive craters all along the road. Evidence of the American artillery destroying our towns. As we marched through the town, the mine detectors up ahead suddenly stopped. They had found something. We were instructed to march around the road, avoiding the centre of the track. As I passed by, I saw the clearance team pull a large hulk of metal, wired with explosives, from the ground.
And there it was, the crossroads. The last line of defence before the open route to Berlin. There were sandbags and tank traps everywhere. A long line of anti tank and personnel barriers, stretching from here to the nearest town. We spread out over the line, with ten heavy machine gun positions spread evenly throughout the masses of camouflaged bodies. I was placed next to the panzerfaust team, ready to take the place of any that were killed. I loaded my rifle. I took hold of three anti-tank grenades and tucked them into my belt. From here, I could see the AT gun, hidden inside a partially ruined shop window, and camouflaged with rubble and foliage. To my left, three halftracks, with mortars fitted to the front, were waiting for orders, hiding behind the large church.
We were ready for anything, two 3.7mm anti-aircraft guns were placed on the roof of a large barn. The sandbags in front of me were reinforced with dirt and grass. And the trench that I was in was lined with small logs and stones. My rifle fitted into a small gap in the sandbags, where I could get perfect aim and clear vision. My knees were resting on a pile of soft branches and leaves, and I could feel the footsteps of my comrades as they, too, took their place in the line. It was getting dark. I took off my camouflage smock and rolled it into a pillow. I then lay down and took off my helmet. The dark sky was alight with bright stars in vast constellations spread out over the horizon. And as I looked, a small firefly flew into my vision. The small creature was beautiful, the glowing body of the flying creature pulsed with green light. And as I looked at the sky, my mind drifted towards the ground and I fell, into a vast dreamless sleep.
What was that?
I opened my eyes to see my comrades loading their weapons, looks of despair on their faces. There was a long groaning sound. It was like a huge herd of elephants charging towards us. I placed my helmet on my head, sliding the leather chinstrap into place. I picked up my smock, and stuck it into my webbing. My rifle was loaded and it was heavy. A huge explosion shook the line. A high explosive shell crashed into our anti-tank gun, rendering it completely useless. It was the Americans. They had come. The rumbling sound was the sound of armour approaching us. The Panzerfaust team next to me picked up their weapons and aimed them into the distance. From my position I could see a Sherman tank, laden with bits of wood and belongings of the crew. The man nearest my leapt over the sandbags, heading straight for the Sherman. He hid himself in a small bush, as the Sherman approached.
As soon as it was next to him, he fired his weapon into the side of its armour. The entire tank caught flame as he ran back to us. He suddenly stopped and fell to the floor. There were bullet holes in his chest. The machine gun was still working. The next man in the line fired a captured American bazooka into the front of the tank, blowing off its turret. Another appeared next to us, more and more approaching. The one closest to us opened up with its flamethrower. Then it stopped and reversed. Why? I thought. Then something hit it. A huge hole in the front of its chassis glowed in the darkness. A loud engine sound grew nearer and nearer. From behind us came the menacing shape of a Tiger. It drove forward, firing another volley of shells into the nearest Sherman. Then, another appeared next to us. These were the reinforcements! We were saved. I leapt over the sandbags into the machinegun fire of a surviving Sherman. I fell to the ground, and as I looked at the sky, my mind drifted to the ground, and I fell into a vast dreamless sleep