Princess Maira

United States of America

Homeschooling junior
fan of Victor Hugo, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Orson Scott Card and others
fiddle player
eternal student
hija de Dios

Message from Writer

Ok, for the sake of interest I will be posting a new quote from the best authors ever every week or so.

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

"I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal."

"The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!"

“Angry people are not always wise.”

--Jane Austen

On Staying Clean in the Trenches #Samina50

March 25, 2020


    March 13, 1916

     Dear Journal,

    I dare not call you diary because that is a foolish name for a journal. Since you
are a journal, and not some silly girl's record of her sweethearts. Maybe I should write "war journal" or something of the sort.
    I had best begin by mentioning what my business is right now. My name is Edwin Coffey, and I am your usual British boy from Bedfordshire. I enlisted (or rather, was drafted), into this blasted army about six months ago, right after my seventeenth birthday. I think next time we get into a war I will hide my head in a hole and not come out until it is over. As you already know, I am seventeen, but short for my age and too skinny. My hair is best described as beige or very light blonde, and my eyes are hazel.

    Am arriving at the front now so I can't write more.

    March 14, 1916

    Dear War Journal,

    The trenches are disgusting. I've been here for only one day and I think I already have lice. For someone who has always prided himself on his cleanliness, I am horrified at how badly I smell after not bathing for two days.
    Because it is spring, it is raining all the time, and so the ground is muck always. I try to walk through anything and I am soaked up to my ankles. My feet are also perpetually wet, but I cannot take my boots off because they claim we could go over the top at any time or have to fight. I don't think that's a very valid reason but you must listen to rules here or else.
    The men here are rotten. I can't stand Leo McIntosh, one of the fellows here. He's always talking about disgusting things like women and the different ways he's seen men die.
March 16, 1916
    Dear War Journal,
    I write this in the midst of a shelling. I write because there is nothing else to do, and I try to keep my mind off the noise. It is horrid. There is nothing like being kept away all night and all day by explosions; it is enough to drive one mad. Some are already being driven mad.
    Still disgusting here. The men relieve themselves right outside the dugout, and then one steps in it when it's time for watch. I've tried to tell them about microbes and bacteria, but they don't listen. I must confess, I have started to do the same because it is too dangerous to venture out during shelling to find a place far from living space.
    The only thing to do here is keep watch, but even that is boring. And difficult. Yesterday night I had my first watch, and it was mostly just standing at a slightly elevated place looking over the top for an enemy attack. The other trouble was that I nearly fell asleep, dozing off sometime between midnight and 0100. Luckily, the fellow I was with, an older man by the name of Fred Gordon, woke me. I am glad he did so, for I could have been court-martialed and executed for falling asleep on watch.

    March 17, 1916

    Dear War Journal,

    On food here: mostly beans, some canned meat, bread is like a ball of wet flour. Not much to say.
    I do have lice. And fleas. I hate this place. I also found out why we shouldn't take our boots off when we sleep. The rats. One of the boys here, Roger Vinson, took off his shoes and woke up screaming when he found a rat gnawing on his toe. Wasn't a bad enough injury to send him home, but he's been walking with a limp for the last two days. I told him he'd best watch for infection, but he didn't listen to me. Nobody listens to me, simply because I am the youngest here, except for Eddie Blake, who is sixteen but lied about his age. He doesn't really listen to me either, because he is taller than me and stronger, too. Oh, well. If they all die of gangrene, it's not my fault. 

   March 19, 1916

    Dear War Journal,
    Finally, some action! We are going over the top at 0600, just around dusk. I don't know why I'm so excited, but it certainly beats sitting in the trenches and being wet and cold. It's always cold here, even when one wraps a blanket around one's shoulders.
    I am getting to know the men better. Gordon is a fine chap; he's taken me under his wing and is giving me some tips on staying alive (like having a gas mask with you everywhere in case the Krauts send chlorine gas our way). Vinson is nice, but not very bright. He's the sort of bloke who would step on a land mine without noticing it was there. There are a few others here: Robert Tucker (a sallow-faced fellow unofficially diagnosed with TB), Douglass Ray (used to own a bakery and usually forages for food), and Wilbert Walsh (smokes too much, but then everyone does that here so it's not too noticeable). I still dislike McIntosh; he's always teasing me and Eddie over the various romantic exploits we have not had. He's disgusting.
    Eddie and I have become good friends, though. He's a Yorkshire lad, so he speaks with a funny accent. I think I misjudged him; he was just too shy to go against the others when I was trying to give them advice. When I spoke to him directly, though, he listened and understood my worries about hygiene and illness. He's probably the only one here who hasn't had a girl yet and isn't smoking yet either. He also doesn't curse, a nice break from the others' poor language.

March 21, 1916

    Dear War Journal,

    Sorry I didn't write. I couldn't. I've been over the top. It's taken me some time to think about it, what I've seen, what I've done. I don't know if I want to think about it, or write about it either.
    We went over the top. It was loud. There were explosions everywhere. Worst was the machine gun, rattling on, mowing down one's companions. Dead men seemed to be everywhere, not just the fresh dead, but the ones who had sat for weeks and weeks because nobody could bury them. No-man's-land was full of craters from shells and mines.
    We didn't even get over half the field before we were called back to retreat. It was enough to see, though. So bloody. Blood pooling in the ground. Walsh is dead, now, shot in the head. I was next to him when he died, and his blood stains my uniform. I want to clean it.

    March 22, 1916

    Dear War Journal,
    Found out that Gordon was wounded in the last attack. Got to see him before they took him away. He got it quite bad in the intestine. I wanted to tell him to stay clean, to make sure the nurses wash their hands of others' blood before they touch him, but he was unconscious. After I saw him I ran back to the dugout and vomited in the waste pile. I still feel sick. I hate this place, I hate this place so much.
    Eddie won't talk to me anymore, which is why I'm writing. He wouldn't talk to me ever since we went over the top. It was his first battle too. Now he just sits in a corner and stares at the wall. I can't say I blame him; it is hard to want to do anything after what we have just seen, but then I look at the other men. They laugh, they talk. They don't seem to worry about Walsh being dead, or Gordon wounded. I don't know how they do it.

    March 24, 1916

    Dear War Journal,

    Back in the reserve trenches now. Got deloused and took a bath in a stream. I feel much better at that. I made Eddie come with me, but he's still not talking. So we just sat there on the grass by the stream, where it was warm from the sun. It felt good, to be in a clean uniform.
    McIntosh came by and asked us...well, I don't want to tell you what he asked us, but I'll just say it was about women and the French village nearby. I declined none-to-politely, and of course Eddie didn't say anything. I wonder if he's sick. He only stares at the ground, or the sky, or at anything for a long time. I even brought him back some fresh baguettes from Ray, who bargained for some with another soldier. He ate them, but it was like when you give a dog food. He didn't respond to anything. So I spoke to him about this war, and about his family at home that he'd told me about, the girl he liked, whatever. Nothing back. It's this war.

    March 28, 1916

    Dear War Journal,

    Back to the front. They hardly gave us any time away. Tucker's gone now, too; he had a horrible coughing fit right before we left for the trenches and died right there before they could get him to the medic. I can't say I'm not surprised. TB is not to be taken lightly.
    Loud as ever in the trenches, and my lice are back already. My feet smell horrid, too. This place is so filthy. I wish they had at least put wooden boards on the ground in out area, as they do in some others. Don't they understand how important it is to stay clean?
    Vinson got sent to the hospital to be treated for gangrene and trench foot. He expects to be back but hopes he'll be sent home. I hope he will too. He has a wife at home; they just got married when he was drafted. But now it's just me and Eddie and old McIntosh, who is trying to entertain Eddie right now with disgusting stories of war and women. If Eddie wasn't ignoring all of it, I would go over and tell McIntosh to knock it off.
    There are rumors we are going over the top tomorrow. I am afraid.

    April 7, 1916

    Dear War Journal

    Haven't written for a long time. You were lost for a little.
    We went over the top. It was as horrid as it was before. McIntosh is dead; hit in the lungs and died while they were trying to transport him to the medics. I was hit too, in the back right by my left arm. I might have died, though, if Eddie hadn't grabbed me and pulled me back to the trenches. He almost made it back unharmed, but then got it in the leg.
    I'm in the hospital now. Luckily one run by the Catholic nuns. I'm Anglican but it doesn't matter. They're lots nicer than what I would get in an Army hospital, and cleaner, too. The bedsheets here are white and beautiful, like Heaven almost. So clean. The nuns are kind, too. They treated me well, and my arm is set to recover fine, though it will never be as strong as it was.
    Eddie's leg is amputated. I pray it will not get infected. I feel horrible for him, but I don't think he knows yet. He's been mostly sleeping since the operation. Now he's moving around in the bed next to me, mumbling something about his parents. I'm only glad that he's talking again, and not lost in whatever world he was in. But it will be hard for him. Hard for both of us. We're going home, yes, because of our wounds, but I don't think we will be going home the same. We're not boys anymore. I feel dirty, like an old dishrag or my blood-stained uniform. I don't think that will change. So much is different.

    Yours, Edwin Coffey
1998 words. Completed March 25, 2020 (ha ha, I almost wrote 1916). 


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1 Comment
  • Samina

    Thank you for participating. I will update you regarding it.

    7 days ago