THE BRAVE • by Oonah V Joslin

The bombardments had been relentless. Night after bloody night stuck down a hole in the ground, pissing into the rancid mud. It was a world filled with excrement, guts and putrefaction. Convulsive blasts on gun positions shattered valour. Private Martin couldn’t raise his head or open his eyes. Sobs choked from his throat along with vomit and shame. No man’s land it was. The enemy was in the same ungodly place, dehumanized, dispirited, un-manned. He wished he could remember his mother’s face. Martin heard the order but did not respond. He felt the shit run down his legs as they tied him to the last post in no man’s land. Standing to attention; eyes open, he saw only his mother’s face. The actual shot was muffled by the explosion of a mine that ripped out the soul of a poet.

It was a decisive battle against the bacillus. In 1944 streptomycin was injected into a patient and the disease immediately retreated. Within days the sputum was clear. The doctors had won, leaving only scarring of the tissue. Martin fought on the border between Germany and Poland. He fought his way up through France, sleeping in barns, in outhouses, in ditches or not at all. He sponged up the damp and bacteria into his emaciated skeleton, white as the chalk cliffs towards which he would sail. His uniform was the heap of rags on the street where he’d collapsed. The military intervened to transport him four hundred miles further north to the sanatorium. His hope in becoming a doctor died first and he followed in 1946. The curtain had fallen.

Martin stood on the platform. The last thing he wanted was to go to war but he went. It sickened him to his stomach to see naked children running in flames from a village. War was ugly when it involved killing mothers and children. As he ran forward to help, the road was strafed with bullets from above. The report said, ‘Killed by friendly fire’.

There was a telegram of course but Mrs. Martin was nonetheless grateful to the CO for coming himself. She offered him a cup of tea and one of the home-baked scones that had been her son’s favourite. “He was a fine young soldier, Mrs. Martin. I cannot speak highly enough of him — one of our best. A great loss to the regiment.” Her daughter-in-law wept a bit during the visit; she held her child close — all she had left now. Perhaps it would have been easier to bear, had it not been a road traffic accident. All that time in active service to get knocked down by a drunk driver on a tour in Ireland… not that she had to tell people any of that.

Martin had no uniform, wanted no uniform, would salute none but when he saw the young woman abandon her bag, he screamed to everyone to get down. He knew as he flung his body on top of the bag, that bravery is not something that can be put on or rehearsed.


Oonah V Joslin was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in the North East of England. This is for A. Jedlina Jacobson and so very many others, who never made it home.


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Every Day Fiction

  • John Ritchie

    Deeply moving Oona and very appropriate for this day of Remebrance.

    Best

    John

  • A fine reminder to all of what our Vets have given–good story, Oona.

  • Mark Dalligan

    Thank you for a sensitive but shocking look at war and service.

    Cheers

    Mark

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Deeply sad – a family saga – covering several generations. This one deserves a wide audience.

    Avis

  • An epic story, sadness after sadness. All too real. Great story, Oonah.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you. My greatest privilege is to visit Andrew’s grave on behalf of the Jacobson family whom he never saw again and who still love him deeply.

    Wojteck, glad you enjoyed it too.

  • Lest We Forget . . .

  • Beautifully captures the depth of bravery and the sadness of every kind of war.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Thank you Camille and Jordan. I will share with you what my friend in Poland had to say.

    Dear Oonah,
    Thank you !! I am very touched…

    I am sending now your message to the whole family and relatives in Poland and abroad. All, or most of them, know English so they can find the website and read by themselves.

    Today is the National Day in Poland. Not only the Remembrance Day but also the Independance Day. On November 11th 1918 the state of Poland was restored after 100 years of division between Russia, Prussia and Austria. Now we are free, even from the communist opression… Andrew didn’t live to see the freedom…

    That is what that flash meant to one family and to me.

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  • OOnah,

    Once again you give us all “cause for pause” (THINK) because of your excellent crafting of story.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    “excellent crafting”…Thank you Pamela – that is most generous.

  • Jen

    That was incerdible and sad and a wonderful reminder to never forget.

  • Thank you Jen, for reading this one.

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