Soldier Boy

Gallipoli, 25th of April 1915

To my dearest love Sophie, 

I’m writing these diary entries so if I return home and the tragedies of war are too troublesome to speak of, I can show these to you and our future kids. This is the first day of battle and the last day I’m truly myself, however my love for you will always remain. 

“We’re almost there,” they said. “Today you will be heroes to your people back home.” 

“You can’t be a hero if you’re dead,” I thought.

Those bastards lied to us all, they said that war is going to be an adventure and, “you’ll come back victorious and a better man.” LIARS!

I remember the first recruitment poster I saw. It had a smiling soldier pictured on it and read in big writing, “HE’S HAPPY AND SATISFIED ARE YOU?” My mate and I were instantly brainwashed into thinking war was going to be the best experience of our lives.  We signed ourselves up immediately. We were going to be real men. 

The boat was so crowded that I could barely move. The boy next to me was shaking so viciously that I began to shake too. Many men were scared, a few were trying to put on brave faces but you could tell that beneath the brave faces there were men crying out for their mothers. Others were repenting their sins and begging for God to give them strength and guidance. I began to pray too. “Almighty God forgive my sins and my ungrateful ways, I am weak and need your strength to carry me through the battlefield, I am lost and need your guidance oh heavenly father hear my prayers, Amen.”

“WE’RE HERE,” yelled the lieutenant. 

My heart sank, I was unable to comprehend what was about to happen. BOOM, the boy next to me got shot in the head. Blood was pouring out like a running tap, soldiers covered themselves fearing that they would be next. ”He’s in a better place now,” I thought. Deep down I wished that it was me, anywhere was better than here. BOOM more gunfire, more dead bodies.

“OFF THE BOATS MEN, CHARGE!” ordered the lieutenant.

“OFF THE BOATS!” echoed the soldiers. My battalion was the first to land on the shores of Gallipoli, my comrades were the first to die. I remember constantly asking myself, ”Why?” Why did I give up my life for this, who am I doing this for, and what for?”

We had only just arrived and already hundreds of men were dead or dying. I was so terrified that I would be next but, somewhere deep down, I wished I was.

 We were trying to climb a steep hill, while hundreds of men were shooting down on us. It was a suicide mission but they dared to call it paradise. Only a suicidal man can call this evil place paradise because he gets to die and be called a hero for it. It was chaos all over the place, guns were being fired left right and centre. Blood filled the cream coloured sand and it seemed to appear in random places all over my body. Soldiers were dying before my very eyes. Their brains exploding into a million pieces, their guts escaping from their bodies in the most gruesome way possible. I stepped on something but didn’t think much of it until I realised that it was a leg attached to nothing. I felt sick at that moment.

 The sounds of war are deafening. Bombs constantly explode leaving my ears ringing. The sound of bullets passing by seems to pierce through my skull, leaving my brain shaking. The sound of footsteps always seems to make me flinch.

I’m terrified and sad every second I’m here. It was my first day and already I am physically and mentally scarred. I will never forget the sounds of a soldier whimpering as he was dying. I will forever be haunted by the first time I killed someone, the way my hands were quivering after I pulled the trigger, the way the Turkish boy looked at me, a look that expressed sadness, anger, fear… and relief.  He was just like me, a victim of war. 

Today I survived but what will happen tomorrow is unknown, so today I write about what I have encountered in the hope that one day I will return home and instead… tell you about it.

 

These stories were written in our Factory Feedback program, which was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.