Thursday, 28 November 2013

Carry on the Potters (Part Two)

Never let it be said I don't respond to criticism! I am well rebuked, and here's part two...

Well, the balloon had to go up, and it did. First of July we went over and I never saw the like. Explosions going off everywhere, so you were ducking rocks and stones as much as bullets and bombs. I heard as how one of our mines went off with such a bang that the rocks landed in our lines and one poor lad lost a leg. Three days of that and we were mixed up so much we didn’t know which way we were facing.

I got a piece of shrapnel or rock or something – don’t know what – just under the rim of my tin hat. Everything went black and white and I wandered around a bit, bumping into people. Then I opened my eyes and it was dark. First off I thought I was blind, but then a flare went up and I knew I could see. My head was banging like the Shelton Bar, but I raised it and looked around. I was on my own, and I could see I was a good hundred yards from the nearest trenches. Trouble is, I didn’t know if they were ours or theirs. So I tossed a coin in my head and made for the one that was the shortest walk.

I say walk, but I went most of the way on hands and knees. Both sides kept sending up flares, and you showed up like a shilling on a sweep’s bum every time. 

Well, I’d gone a little way when I heard a voice say, “That you, Bob?”

I looked round and there was George, lying in a shell hole. “Hello mate,” says I, “What you doing here?”

“Oh, just taking the air, watching the moon, nothing much.” says George, which was swank because now I could see he was hurt bad.

“Let’s have a look at you,” says I.

Well, I could see straight away he’d copped more than just a Blighty one. The front of his battle dress was all bloody, but when I opened it he just sort of came to bits. He was looking at me the whole time and said, sort of hopeful, “Is it bad?”

“Not too bad,” I said and buttoned him up again. “Wait here and I’ll get a stretcher.”

I started for the trenches again, still not knowing if I was heading for home or Hell. That was when I saw something white waving about fifty yards ahead. Some silly beggar of a stretcher bearer was standing up, in full view, waving a piece of cloth on a stick. Well of course, I should have known it would be Jimmy. When I got there he was standing on the edge of a crater you could lose a bus in. All round the rim there were men lying, fanned out like the petals of a daisy.

“Glad to see you, Bob,” says Jimmy, pointing around, “There’s work for us here.”

I pointed back at No Man’s Land, “George is out there. Help me get him.”

Jimmy shook his head, “Jerry’s letting us off while we’re close to our own side. He won’t be so kind if he thinks we’re advancing.”

“But he’s hurt bad!” I said.

“So are these, and there’s a lot more of them.” He pulled my arm. “Come on, pal, these lads are potters too.”

He told me after that he’d been called to the crater by Major Wedgwood, who’d been cut to pieces by shrapnel. The last words he’d said to Jimmy were “Carry on, the Potters.” Well, we carried a few that night, back and forth from the crater to the trenches, and Jerry never fired a shot.

We never did find George. I saw his name in, let’s see, 1984 I think, when I visited the military cemetery at Bapaume. I’d found the Major’s grave soon enough, then saw a name as I turned away. There was George, further from Shelton than it’s possible for us to be.

And now we’ve got a new millennium coming and Jimmy’s gone the same way as George and the Major. It’s nearly time for me to go too, where my friends went, where Wedgwood went, where our pride went, and where I hope it can still be found.

Carry on the Potters.

1 comment:

Le Panayi said...

wow! I found this accidentally and got totally sucked in there.... excellent, harrowing stuff...*scurries off to read more...* Thanks for sharing!! Le