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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

John and Marie

Michael Johnson

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Well, John made it clear that there was entirely too much romance in what I was writing, so here's some more reality.

The Captain called me over.

"John, you said you wanted to lead. Well, you're going to get your chance. We've lost touch with the enemy. Take a platoon-sized patrol. The Bois d'Étang is about a mile ahead of our position. We need to find out whether it's being held or not. Good luck."

"Right, Sir."

"And John, take care out there."

I called 1 platoon together. It wasn't promising. Most of the men were M.S.A. conscripts who had recently been posted to the battalion. They would have been trained for the trench warfare that was rapidly becoming a thing of the past. My eye caught a Scout badge on one sleeve. Its owner was dark-haired and darker skinned. A Canadian Indian. That was a bit more hopeful.

"Alright, men, we're going to reconnoiter the woods up ahead. Take open order until we clear the open fields."

I found it hard to walk across open country, even now, but there was no sniping and no shellfire. We went about fifty yards in and halted. The ground was soft. Then I remembered that an étang was marshy ground. My heart sank.

"You men stay here. I'll go ahead with the Scout, and see what conditions are like ahead."

When we were clear of the platoon I turned to the Scout.

"What's your name, Private?"

"Charlie Lickers, Sergeant"

"You've had some experience as a Scout?"

"No, sergeant."

"But you're an Indian; this is all second nature to you! All that time hunting and trapping in the woods…"

"Sergeant, I'm a Mohawk from Brantford. I've never trapped in my life, and I've only been in a couple of woods. My great-grandfather fought in the War of 1812, but that's it for that kind of experience."

"So how did you qualify as a Scout?"

"When I reached France some officer said "You're an Indian, so you'll be a Scout.""

Ahead I could see open ground. "Okay, Lickers, cut back and bring up the rest of the platoon."

As he turned, several rifles cracked up ahead, and bullets chipped bark off the trees. I hurriedly sought cover. "Hurry back, but tell the men not to expose themselves!"

I snapped off a few shots at where I thought I saw muzzle flashes.

Then suddenly there was the tearing sound of a shell, and a blast ten yards away. It seemed to be lighter stuff, a 77 mm perhaps. The artillery battery started working over the edge of the woods. I was starting to move back, when I felt a sharp pain in my leg, and I went sprawling, and then everything went dark.

I came to, but not completely, Marie was with me, and I could feel her lips on mine. Her scent wasn't what I remembered, though. And the ground had been firm when she kissed me, not like the soft bed I was on. I wished someone had put some more blankets on the bed, as I was feeling cold. I shivered.

"Sarge!" A rough hand shook me. "Wake up! Are you able to move?"

I forced my eyes open. It wasn't Marie: it was Charlie Lickers, looking very concerned. And I wasn't on a bed, I was sprawled in the water of the marsh, my body under water and my head resting on a tree root. My helmet was no longer on my head, which throbbed, as did my right leg.

Charlie gently pulled me onto firmer ground. He cut open my trouser leg, rinsed the slime off the wound and tied on a dressing.

"The leg doesn't look too bad. Probably not a Blighty. You're lucky, though. If not for that tree root you'd have drowned when you knocked yourself out."

"Where's the platoon?"

"Back under cover. I'll send a runner back for the stretcher-bearers."

They reached me an hour later, and after a short spell at the Field Dressing Station I was back to the battalion.

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thanks for this latest episode, a real insight!

Regards and best wishes,


(P.s, my family emigrated to Brantford!)

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Always nice seeing ones hometown mentioned.



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