17 August 2015
The following is a short story entitled 'My Rose' that I recently entered into a writing competition. Even though I didn't win I am very proud of this effort. I hope you enjoy reading it.
It’s amazing how things can change so quickly. It was only a few months ago and I was home and enjoying life with my lovely Rose. She is my soul mate. I knew we were meant to be together from when I first set me eyes on her. I will never forget when the fair came to town. There I was with my mates having a great time. I was playing Shove Ha’penny when I saw the most gorgeous person I have ever set me eyes on! I will always remember that day until I meet me maker upstairs, which will be soon. She was with her sisters and had a flower printed umbrella to protect her from the sun. I caught her smiling at something her sister said. Her smile was to die for, I tells ya.
Anyways, somehow I had to pluck up the courage to talk to her. It ain’t easy when you are a country boy working on the farm. To be truthful I can go days without seeing any sort of female, apart from me mum and my little sis!
Thankfully the good Lord above must’ve been smiling on me.
A little later on as the fair was in full swing, Rose had her umbrella snatched by one of those pesky little urchins. Fortunately I knew it was Old Tom’s son Harold. Before he could get out of the fairground I had launched into a tackle. We both hit the ground with a thud. I remember telling him “Don’t you ever steal anything again, or I will beat you all the way to next week”. I felt a bit guilty at threatening this little tyke. So I whispered “thanks” in his ear as he had now given me a chance to talk to Rose. I gotta admit little Harold had the most puzzling look on his face after that! To this day I still chuckle as I recall the incident that led me to my Rose. Not your Rose but MY Rose!
After brushing myself off I wiped my face on me sleeve and made my way to my future love. Funny thing was I wasn’t nervous as I handed back the umbrella. Maybe I am a modern guy. After all it is now 1915! I remember Rose thanking me and gave me the best smile I had ever seen. Even better than the smile me Dad had when he won 2 pounds on the Melbourne Cup. Her smile melted me inside. My throat suddenly became dry. I somehow plucked up my country courage and asked if she would like to go on a bike ride. Amazingly she said yes. If I had died then I could have died a very happy bloke.
It seemed like ages before the day of the picnic. In truth it was just over a week. So after Church I borrowed two bikes from my uncle and met up with Rose in the town centre. I had packed some bread and meat for a snack for us. I remember she giggled when I told her that. I wasn’t sure if she was impressed or amused. It didn’t matter cos it was Rose time – my time.
We cycled out to the nearest lake. Rose struggled at first with her long dress but somehow managed to cycle pretty well. I sometimes deliberately cycled behind her, just so I could get a glimpse of her wonderful legs. Yes, my Rose is perfect in all respects. Don’t you worry about that!
We got to the lake at just after 2 O’clock. I forgot to bring a picnic rug so I laid down me best jacket that I had been wearing. I then helped Rose off her bike and we sat down. There was a deathly silence for a few minutes before Rose suggested we eat the food I had brought. This was the, what do you call it? Oh yeah the icebreaker. After that we talked as if we had known each other for all of our lives. My only regret was that I didn’t get to kiss her on her cheek on the first date. That would have been too forward of a modern guy even for myself.
It wasn’t too long before I did get my first kiss. I think it was at the harvest festival 6 weeks later if I remember correctly. Our time we spent together has been pure happiness.
I was about to pluck up the courage to ask her father if I could have Rose’s hand in marriage when war broke out. When Britain declared war on Germany I didn’t think too much about it. After all, I was besotted with my Rose. However, Britain is our Motherland even now, so I had to enrol and fight the enemy. You know the ‘King and Country’ thing.
I remember enlisting with Stan and Arthur. It was a hoot. We thought a few months away would be great. We could experience a new country, or two, and come back to our town knowing that we had done our part in a British Empire victory. How wrong could we have been?
Anyways, the training wasn’t as hard as I thought. Stan, Arthur and I had been firing rifles since we were youngsters. We were fit too. Playing rugby and working on the farm saw to that. The hardest part was saying goodbye to our families and my beloved Rose. I will never forget the tears that streamed down her beautiful cheeks. She shouted out “I love you!” I was too choked to reply but nodded and smiled. That image of her fading into the distance as me ship pulled out of the harbour will never leave me.
Time on the ship was tedious in the extreme but we did meet some great blokes and we formed our own group of friends called ‘The Family’. Days were taken up with drills, fitness and a smoke or two. Finally, we were told we were heading to Turkey. Stan quipped that the only Turkey he wanted to see was on a plate on Christmas Day. Even our Captain laughed at that!
Our laughter soon turned to fear and despair when we arrived at our landing spot. I had never heard of Gallipoli before. Now I know it well and hate it. As we were about to get off our boats we could see and hear gun and missile fire. It was scary and so loud! The bloke next to me in the landing boat vomited over the side of the boat. It was a nervy and scary time.
Somehow we made it to the beachfront and run through smoke and chaos and made it to the nearest hills. We caught up with other soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. The first thing I noticed was all these trenches. At times it was like looking at a long snake as it made its way across the hill. The first few days were the hardest as we had to push further up the hill despite the Turks shooting back at us. Some of us made it, thank God. Others didn’t. The members of The Family halved in a week. Twenty of them died. It was at this stage I cried. These blokes were like my true brothers. To be honest, I wanted to leave there and then. But I couldn’t I am Australian and I pledged to fight for the Empire.
Eight months on and I have become a real hardened and humourless soul. I received a couple of letters from Rose and they have helped me a lot. I wrote a few letters back but to be truthful I haven’t the spirit to write more. I have lost too many friends here. Stan got caught in barbed wire and was mowed down by the Turks. This happened within feet of me and I couldn’t get to him in time. Arthur followed a few days later. A sniper put a bullet into his forehead as he momentarily took his helmet off. At least neither he nor Stan felt any pain. God bless their souls.
So that leaves me as the sole survivor from my town. Aside from battling the enemy I have to ensure that when sleeping the rats do not bite me. Disease is rife in the trenches let me tells ya. Then there’s the lice in my hair, lack of food and water and artillery noise. It’s a Hell on this blessed Earth.
Well there ain’t much more to say really. We are awaiting orders for one last major push to take the hilltop. The thing we dread most is the Captain’s whistle. Once he blows that we go over the top of the trenches and advance towards the Turks. It’s suicide really but we all signed up, and we have our honour. I’ve been told within the next hour we will push forward.
Well I must stop now and get ready for the next phase of the war for myself. I honestly think this will be the last moment of my life. The Grim Reaper is sharpening his axe and my name is engraved on it.
I will miss my parents and sister. They are the world to me. One day upstairs I am sure we will all catch up and experience true paradise. There’s only one person I will miss more and that’s my lovely and beautiful Rose. She is my life, my soul and my destiny. Rose, I Iove you so much. I am sorry that I never got to take you as my wife and for us to raise my two sons on the farm. I hope that whoever you do marry treats you well. If they don’t I promise I will haunt your husband!
Whoever finds this final letter can you please deliver it to Rose first.
This is it. May God have mercy on my Soul.
Pte Nathaniel Harris,