Oh, where are you coming from, soldier, fine soldier,
In your dandy new uniform, all spick and span,
With your helmeted head and the gun on your shoulder,
Where are you coming from, gallant young man?
August 4th 1985, West Germany
The glance down at your watch reveals the time to be in the early hours… barely 3am in-fact, but in truth you’ve already been awake for countless hours. The men sitting opposite doze peacefully and for a second you wonder how they can with the constant hum of the rotor blades only a few foot above your helmeted and camouflaged head. You’ve been as awake as ever and the journey has dragged despite it only being an hour flight from Osnabruck to the EDP in Fulda. Looks like the Ruskies are really gonna do it this time. The loadmaster signals the approach, and the men opposite are roused by the sudden drop of altitude. Checking your pouches are all done up and you’ve not dropped any kit you brace yourself and take a few breaths, not entirely knowin what awaits when the Chinook drops you into what could possibly be the last place you’ll see in this life…
…A stomach churning landing and yomp up to the forward deployment area in full kit later and your on the crest on one side of a fine looking valley, the river Fulda below glinting in the sun like a million shards of shattered glass spread over tarmac. A beautiful place this would be if it wasn’t for the knot in your tummy reminding you that over that crest, on the other side of the Inner German Border, the 197th Soviet Motor rifle division is probably making its final checks before battle. “Stop fucking day dreaming Donelly, that trench wont dig itself!” Comes a violent shout from Sergeant Evans. Back to digging you go…
…The sunlight begins to shine through the tree’s on the other side of the valley. You’re a little more alert after an hours un comfortable sleep, and a meal of bread and cheese brought up by the platoon sergeant, apparently the battalion deployed that quick the QM didn’t have time to get the ration packs here first. Same old shit, different day. A Yawn spreads across your face and you begin to relax, maybe the politicians have done a good deed for once and averted the war. That thought vacates your mind in an instant when what sounds like a underground train starts rumbling towards you. A shout of ‘take cover!!’ from somewhere switches you back on and you realize quickly that this is the start. Dropping to the muddy trench floor along with O’neil your battle buddy you hear the thump on an explosion and the air is sucked from your lungs, you feel the fierce, hot wind carried by the shell and your neck starts to burn! That was fucking close, the next one was closer though, all of a sudden the valley erupts into clouds of dirt, wind and fire! For what seems like an eternity you claw at the bottom of the trench,
trying to get lower… to get safe. it’s a while before you comprehend there are no explosions anymore. You lift your head, you can hear crying… there is blood spattered on the tree’s behind you, and what looks like offal the thought that only last night you were drinking beer with that pile of flesh is shaken off as you hear a shout from your right “Gas, gas, gas, fucking gas!” And you fumble for your respirator, shove off your battle bowler and slide your head into the rubber straps, checking O’neil is doing the same, he is… a bit more shakily than you though. You blow out hard and repeat the ‘gas, gas gas’ call then look around for your helmet, but as you do something moving ahead catches your eye… its them… Old Ivan ahead! “Enemy, Front!!!” Comes the call as hundreds of BMP break the crest. Jesus fucking christ there’s too many of them. “Hold your fire!” Corporal Webb shouts. You aim but wait, observing them through your SUIT… god, this is going to be close… They start to cross the shallow river, and
you notice your hands are shaking heavily… you close your eyes and swallow hard. The BMP stop as they approach the near bank, and dismount, hundreds of troops now ahead of you, the BMP look to be waiting for the infantry to clear the woods behind you, they still don’t know exactly where you are. You hear the radio operator cursing, all arty is busy elsewhere… looks like your on your own. “Section, at two hundred yards, enemy in the open………….RAPID FIRE!!!!!!” Webb shouts, and you start to engage, your first shot missing, quickly followed by your second, you calm yourself and aim better, the enemy is hit hard… they are dropping like flies… The BMP spring to life and advance towards your trenches, then one explodes, followed by another, then a third, the AT sections day starts well for they are scoring copious hits, but now the infantry are nearing… “Fix swords!” Comes the order and you slide the blade onto the end of your red hot SLR. Company commander calls over to the radio operator. “Darren, call Zero, tell them the front is gonna fall!” He shouts through the noise of the battle and the operator relays the message. You continue firing, but the enemy keeps coming… your through two magazines already and only have another two…. Where the fuck is the colour boy with more? Suddenly you realize why the recent radio call was so urgent when Harriers from 4 squadron obliterates the bridge your guarding with a Lazer guided bombs. An amazing explosion and an equally amazing spectacle as it tumbles into the Fulda… Ivan wont get this one. But then they start falling back… an elation fills your body, you look around, there aren't many of you left… maybe half the company still fighting, and most of them are wounded in some way. Five minute has felt like an eternity, and you fight the urge to charge down the hill after them… you then realize why as the ground erupts a second time… this time its heavier… this time its precise. You black out…
…when you come to O’neil is dragging you by your webbing straps towards the rear. There is noise of gunfire behind you, and you look around, the rest of the platoon is covering as the rest of the wounded are dragged away in a similar fashion… maximum speed, minimum dignity! A landrover stops ahead, and Sergeant Evans appears from the back “Come on, into the Wagon lads, we’re not staying here to cop the next lot!” and your thrown into the back, slowly you pull of your respirator and taste clean air…. The guilt of survival grips you as you watch the Fulda gap… and many of your friends disappear into the distance…
I come from the war that was yesterday’s trouble,
I come with the bullet still blunt in my breast;
Though long was the battle and bitter the struggle,
Yet I fought with the bravest, I fought with the best.