Memoirs of a Lost Memory

Memoirs of a Lost Memory

A Story by Barycentric_Bash

See WWI through the eyes of a soldier thrown from a stable life into the chaotic insensibilities of war, where there is no "hero" and survival is the only thing that matters.


“I don’t see the Fritz anywhere,” remarked Dick as he got shot through the head. Next to him, Harry Foley invented a few swear words and sprawled behind the grass as a barrage of machine gun fire followed from the German trench. He Lee-Enfielded two shots in their general direction and ducked back down, dashing back towards the golf-ball hole of a trench he and his flank had hastily dug before dawn. He dove in and was relieved to make out the figures of Allied tanks coming into view, trundling along like a herd of migrating elephants.

Laying there, Foley wondered for the trillionth time if he would have gotten a better deal if he kept his job as a farm-boy schoolteacher back in his quiet little town in Three Hills, Alberta. Sure it wasn’t as glorifying, and he had to unbearably bear the whining of little children day in and day out, but he did have good pay, a real bed, and was under no obligation, whatsoever, to fend off any man armed the teeth with sharp-teethed barbed wire and machine guns. It was the twentieth of June when he walked into that Calgary recruitment office. He recalled the sunny morning, the morning on which he bade farewell to Canada and waved goodbye to his mother, the morning on which he left on a troop ship bound for England. He had long fantasized how grand it would be to fight alongside his British brothers against a common enemy, and the adventure and camaraderie he would experience with the Calgary Rifles - but here he was now: two years later, lying in a hole of grass and mud and praying to Jesus Christ (now as a routine), to survive yet another day on the front line. Two of his friends had already been killed; another got Trench Foot. On top of that, two days ago, his officer had specifically told every man to abstain from having sex due to high losses of men dying from STD’s. All in all, Foley was a miserable wreck.

However, he had no time to worry about being a miserable wreck, because at that moment, he heard that which he had come to know way too well back in Somme: the familiar thundering sound that was trademark to artillery fire. He could not tell which side was firing the shells, but they exploded dangerously close, throwing up dirt and grass over his body, sending mini-earthquakes through the ground, and whose destruction was sure to make any gardener lose their lunch. Beside him, an officer shrieked orders to fall back. Foley scrambled up, but quickly fell back down after a bullet grazed past his shoulder. He bent and charged after the officer, grass kicking and punching at his knees, and he hoped to God he was not the last man behind. To his disappointment, he saw that their tanks had stopped advancing some long ways off and were now squalling machinegun fire into the German trench. 

He felt like a shooting range target in the broad daylight and the toothpicks that were actually trees did not help his predicament. At a little over five and a half feet tall, he would have made for a considerably tall averagely tall man. Just then, amid the ear-splitting din, the shot of a Gewehr 98 rifle clapped, Foley’s backpack ripped open, and he was instantly hurled face-first into the grass. He played dead for a while, spit out mud, and hugged the grass until he got to dusty road where the officer and the rest of his flank was positioned. One of their men had apparently gotten shot in the arm, Foley guessed from the mangled mess of bandages. He wondered if a blighty of such a degree was enough to get the fellow sent back home, but was promptly interrupted by more rifle fire and ducked around to discover the source of the gunfire, which turned out to be an organized horde of yelling Germans, bayonets raised, stampeding their way across the field at an alarming speed. Making sure to stay low, Foley unloaded all the bullets in his rifle on the advancing German soldiers, unsure he hit anyone, and then rolled over and reloaded his magazine as bullets hucked up dust and soil inches from his body. By now, the Germans had stopped running and were now firing viciously at his flank. Continuing to hug the ground, Foley raised his rifle above his head and blasted a few shots towards the undignified applause of gunfire in the distance that could send gods and demons screaming in fright. The trees around him were being shredded into bits by bullets and he was not at all keen on joining them.

Yes, he, 26 year old Private Harry Bell Foley was determined to survive the battle and get back to Canada in one piece. Maybe there, he’d settle down with a wife and then later, perhaps, even raise kids of his own. But then of course, fate, being a b***h as always, sent a stray MG 08 bullet to smash straight through his shoulder, tear open his lungs, and slam into his heart, and not one tear, nor syllable, escaped.

The date was August 11, 1918: the Battle of Amiens. The body of Private Harry Foley Bell was never found. His name is inscribed amongst 11 000 others in Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. 

© 2016 Barycentric_Bash

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It has nice imagery and very descriptive. I enjoyed it, found it interesting

Posted 1 Year Ago

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Added on October 22, 2016
Last Updated on October 22, 2016
Tags: War, History, WWI, Canada, Survival, Short Story