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Rudolph Hucker

All Quiet on the Western Front

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Captain Lambert squinted in the rapidly diminishing twilight and for the umpteenth time raised the battered binoculars through which he studied the horizon across the wastes of ‘no man’s land.’

‘Looks like they’re not coming today, Sergeant’ he growled ‘they should’ve surely been here last weekend?’

Sergeant Holt was grim faced. ‘I can’t help but wonder if all this is somehow linked to Private Crofts, Private Morison and that seconded Canadian all going AWOL last week, boss. Nothing seems to make sense these days.’

It was true, things had changed. The enemy was appearing less often and at irregular times, but so far Lambert’s troop had survived with few casualties. But this waiting and waiting was worse than any engagement; not helped by this desolate place where the wind whistled through twisted and tortured coils of wire and where a series of massive craters had caused the restless unit to name their entrenched position ‘Three Holes.’

The two men smelled the steaming mugs of tea before Lambert’s batman silently crept up clutching them. ‘Ah! Hoolahan! You’ve made a brew’ said Lambert as he and his Sergeant gratefully clasped the proffered cups.

‘And how was your supper, Sir?’ Hoolahan enquired of the fare he had recently served up.

‘Listen!’ Said Lambert ‘I thought it was excellent, I really did. You gave me everything. I can’t fault the effort.’ Hoolahan looked pleased and Holt nodded his approval as, clutching the back of his leg, Private Hoolahan took himself off back to the kitchens.

The darkness crept over them. Suddenly, a soft scraping sound came to their ears. Wide awake and alert the two men were relieved to see Officer Cadet Culverhouse slide softly over the lip of the trench. ‘Anything to report, Culverhouse?’

Culverhouse gave a cursory salute. ‘The bastards are on their way, sir. Can’t be sure of the numbers but we can expect them by Sunday.’

Lambert took a swig of his water bottle and ruefully rubbed his chin. ‘We’ll be ready,’ he said ‘although we’re ruddy short of men, we’ll take the fight to them.’

And through that late summer night they plotted and planned, for battle was soon to be joined, and the stakes were high for they faced a desperate enemy; themselves on a pointless campaign, whom they knew they had to beat by any means in their armoury. An armoury that demanded to include the blades that rasped against steel as their batman sharpened the tools of his trade in the field kitchen.

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[quote user="RUDOLPH HUCKER"]Captain Lambert squinted in the rapidly diminishing twilight and for the umpteenth time raised the battered binoculars through which he studied the horizon across the wastes of ‘no man’s land.’

‘Looks like they’re not coming today, Sergeant’ he growled ‘they should’ve surely been here last weekend?’

Sergeant Holt was grim faced. ‘I can’t help but wonder if all this is somehow linked to Private Crofts, Private Morison and that seconded Canadian all going AWOL last week, boss. Nothing seems to make sense these days.’

It was true, things had changed. The enemy was appearing less often and at irregular times, but so far Lambert’s troop had survived with few casualties. But this waiting and waiting was worse than any engagement; not helped by this desolate place where the wind whistled through twisted and tortured coils of wire and where a series of massive craters had caused the restless unit to name their entrenched position ‘Three Holes.’

The two men smelled the steaming mugs of tea before Lambert’s batman silently crept up clutching them. ‘Ah! Hoolahan! You’ve made a brew’ said Lambert as he and his Sergeant gratefully clasped the proffered cups.

‘And how was your supper, Sir?’ Hoolahan enquired of the fare he had recently served up.

‘Listen!’ Said Lambert ‘I thought it was excellent, I really did. You gave me everything. I can’t fault the effort.’ Hoolahan looked pleased and Holt nodded his approval as, clutching the back of his leg, Private Hoolahan took himself off back to the kitchens.

The darkness crept over them. Suddenly, a soft scraping sound came to their ears. Wide awake and alert the two men were relieved to see Officer Cadet Culverhouse slide softly over the lip of the trench. ‘Anything to report, Culverhouse?’

Culverhouse gave a cursory salute. ‘The bastards are on their way, sir. Can’t be sure of the numbers but we can expect them by Sunday.’

Lambert took a swig of his water bottle and ruefully rubbed his chin. ‘We’ll be ready,’ he said ‘although we’re ruddy short of men, we’ll take the fight to them.’

And through that late summer night they plotted and planned, for battle was soon to be joined, and the stakes were high for they faced a desperate enemy; themselves on a pointless campaign, whom they knew they had to beat by any means in their armoury. An armoury that demanded to include the blades that rasped against steel as their batman sharpened the tools of his trade in the field kitchen.[/quote]Genius, I like it.This year is going to seem like a military campaign & as we saw at Chelsea   "They don''t like it up ''em!" ... 

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Lambert and Holt shifted uncomfortably in the newly dug-out trench. It was difficult to stay awake but the consequences of switching off for a moment bore heavily on the minds of both men as they recalled the fate of Sapper Barnett not three weeks past. They had to set an example to their men so reached deep and happily found themselves alert at the unexpected visit of Brigadier Wynn-Jones who, by reputation, liked to be up at the crack of dawn.

‘Morning chaps!’ Barked Wynn-Jones; who couldn’t fail to notice Sgt Holt had his lips pressed to the inside of his forearm and reflected that he had never seen a man with family names tattooed in such a location. ‘Your wrist is truly a one-off Sergeant!’ Said Wynn-Jones at the same moment a cockerel cried out from a nearby homestead.

‘Pardon me, Sir.’ Holt exclaimed.

‘The wrist man; one off, what!’ repeated the Brigadier with a nod.

‘Oh, no sir, just scratching the lice’ said the Sergeant now wide awake and somewhat flushed.

‘Well, whatever Holt’ the Brigadier chimed; ‘your splendid lob in that last encounter certainly did for my good lady wife; she hasn’t stopped going on about how you got it over your left shoulder. Well done, I’ll have you mentioned in despatches.’

Sergeant Holt was becoming embarrassed at the attention, aware as he was that Captain Lambert was alongside him so felt relieved when Wynn-Jones turned his attention to his officer.

‘I hear we’ve got problems covering our rear, Captain. I understand we’re having to draft in a rookie and re-use that Belgian boy from the village who looks like bloody Tin-Tin.’

‘Aye, sir but I’ve got every confidence they can do a job and I’m hopeful Lance Corporal Vaughan will reinforce me. We’ve got to attack, otherwise there’s no point’ said Captain Lambert, his voice trailing off before he re-asserted himself saying ‘It’s all new to us Sir, remember where we were two years ago, we’ve come a long way in a short time.’

‘Good man, well carry on!’ chirped the Brigadier as he turned slowly and picked his way back down the trench. Lambert and Holt silently watched his back recede before Captain turned to Sergeant and said with fresh authority ‘Go and rouse the men, Sergeant. I’ll inspect them in fifteen minutes and decide who is going over the top when the time comes,’ said Lambert, ‘but honestly; I think I’m going to need everybody.’

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Classic! Please Mr Hucker, do you think that we can have an instalment every week?

Keep that going for a season and there will be a book deal in it by jove.

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Lambert tucked his parade stick under his arm, straightened his back and looked proudly along his line of men as they were fallen in by Sergeant Holt and Corporal ‘pants-man’ Martin. He’d seen a lot of action with most of these boys and had himself hand-picked the new recruits.

Keeping watch for any sight of the enemy he had posted the seconded scouse Marine from sick-bay with a name that reminded him of a burger restaurant: ‘Wimpy Whitbread’ and the much travelled veteran, Private Aaron ‘Wheelie’ Wilbraham who was always hard work to put out but so much easier to bring back in.

The men looked impressive in their outfits thought Lambert. It was surprising what three tenners could get you if you looked far south enough. Even McNally, the regimental mascot, had been turned out looking resplendent in his embroidered jacket as he strained his leash, shuffled his hooves and shook his sharp little horns.

But what was this? Tagged on the end of the line and shuffling nervously were the three AWOL privates: Crofts, Morison and Jackson.

‘Sergeant Holt!’

‘Sah!’

‘Explain these three men’ said Captain Lambert waving his stick at Crofts, Morison and Jackson.’

‘Found sneaking back in Sah!’ said Holt. ‘Crofts and Morison has been off chasing sheep and Jackson claims he has been to Puerto Rico and scored. Says they was frustrated, Sah!’

‘I thought the men were happy to use that Katerina in the village tavern’ cried Lambert.

‘Oh, they tried, Sah!’ screamed Sergeant Holt. ‘All of them together, Sah! Got the wrong idea they did about barmaids from Three Holes and got sent packing, Sah. But, they is back now Sah, and they say they is sorry; especially Private Crofts who says he was so frustrated Sah he covered Wayne Rooney last Tuesday.’ Sergeant Holt, shuddered as he spoke.

Lambert has a dilemma. He needed men but he knew he had to show discipline and the penalties were severe. What to do with these three, especially Crofts who he had always found so dependable. ‘Put these men on a charge, Sergeant Holt. I’ll decide what to do with them later. We need to talk tactics.’

Information about enemy morale had been leaked from the Balkans, in the form of the turncoat, Adrian Chiles who claimed the so called Skinnerett Insurgents were in a bad way after experiencing some tough early skirmishes. Lambert though was not prepared to take anything for granted. Yes, his rear guard was depleted but his strike force was looking good and he would attack, by Jove he would attack as there could be no better form of defence. He set out his plans to his men.

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It had been an early advance and the troops were clearly nervous after so much delay in the days and weeks leading up to the battle. After the booming ordinance has ceased there had been a long and eerie silence but, when the whistle went every man took to his ladder and went over the top.

Sergeant Holt and Private Christopher ‘Two-touch’ Martin were the vanguard but they ran as if through thick cloying mud and into water filled shell holes and struggled to make headway. Captain Lambert eventually called back his senior NCO and threw forwards fresh troops, but it made no difference.

Everyone made it up though progress was slow. But then the Belgian conscript ‘Tin-Tin De Laet’ failed to see one incoming and in a moment of indecision left Private Rudd floundering in No-Man’s Land and an enemy sniper took full advantage. It was a situation from which the Company couldn’t fully recover their ground.

Private Surman advanced on the left wing of the assault and managed to get behind enemy lines but, without support failed to gain an advantage and eventually fell back and the battle turned into an unedifying melee.

Despite his early set-back Private Rudd earned distinction in the field for his later action and Sapper Johnston served with distinction but overall any lions that showed their mettle were soon snuffed out by the donkeys in charge and in the confusion Lance Corporal Vaughan took a direct hit and was eventually stretchered off to sick bay.

Captain Lambert surveyed the wreckage of his plans and contemplated the battle he had narrowly lost to leave a bitter taste in his mouth. His boys had given their all, but the enemy were wily and seemed to be getting reinforced from other quarters. His men were bloodied and battered in an ultimately pointless effort.

Despite his disappointment Lambert knew he had to put on a brave face for the men because morale was everything and the next encounter only days away and for that, as per his orders, he knew his Company were moving out and heading north in search of an elusive victory.

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