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smackenzie: (bradford)
Corporal Simonson's Christmas wish for a quick peace turns out to be no kind of prophecy. The war is still raging a year later, and the battalion is still in France. They have fought at Arras and Ypres and Passchendaele, been shot and shelled and gassed. Lt Fiske is invalided out of the army and Corporal Simonson is promoted to lieutenant, only to be killed during an attempt to break through the Hindenburg Line, the stronger, shorter line to which the Germans retreated in early 1917.

Davies is shot in the arm and catches shrapnel in both legs again. Powell is shot twice in the shoulder. Naylor acquires a pair of rubber boots to deal with the flooding in the trenches but steps on a piece of barbed wire and punctures not only the bottom of the boot but also the bottom of his foot. Captain Harris is shelled, loses his arm at the elbow, and is sent home. Captain Bradford is hit by shrapnel as a shell explodes behind him, catching him in the back and shoulders and nearly taking off his head.

What's left of the battalion celebrates Christmas 1917 in a reserve trench )

words: 1384
total words: 51,186
note: if anyone knows how to pronounce "passchendaele" or "thiepval", please let me know.
smackenzie: (davies)
For once, Davies is glad that the captain isn't even in France. He's not sure if he could face the man's discipline, or his care, and even if he did want to explain, which he doesn't, he doesn't think the good captain's personal experiences contain anything that would make him likely to understand.

"They did what?" Powell cackles on the way back to the battalion. Because as sick as he feels, Davies can't lie when Powell asks him about the girl at the brothel. The part about the madam and the next soldier bursting into the room and interrupting him makes a good story, anyway.

"I was almost finished," Davies continues. "If they'd just waited a minute...."

Powell cackles again. "Did they let you?"

They didn't really have a choice. )

words: 2254
total words: 49,802
note: a dixie is basically a metal pot that soldiers and cooking staff and would use to carry food back and forth between the trenches and the mobile kitchen. it would have have straw in it to theoretically keep food hot, and yet stuff would still manage to be cold by the time it got to the men.
smackenzie: (davies)
Davies has never been as miserable in his life as he is in the trenches in December. He is cold and wet and muddy and sleep-deprived and occasionally sick. At least he's not alone, as everyone else in his platoon – indeed, in the entire battalion, it seems like – is in the same straits. His one consolation is that he hasn't been buried by a trench wall again, and he doesn't have trench foot.

But he is still at risk of being shelled, or shot, or infected with trench fever. The men have taken to attempting to get their water from shell craters, and every so often they'll find a dead body in the crater, bloated and contaminated, which sends them off to find a new water source. Davies does not bother to detail all these things in his letters, telling his parents and half-sisters only that he is still alive, Powell is still alive, he is cold and wet, the shelling is incessant, and could they send him another muffler.

Both Captain Bradford and his second in command, Captain Harris, are temporarily out of commission )

words: 2284
total words: 47,548
note: the idea of common soldiers only getting two minutes in a brothel i stole from regeneration. i admit this without shame. :D but the thing about drinking water from shell craters, and finding a dead body in your water source, and then having to find a new crater - that did happen. at this point in the war, a front-line trench was probably one of the least hygienic places on the planet.
smackenzie: (bradford)
"Do you live here alone?" Bradford asks. The house is dark and silent, and half the furniture is covered with dust sheets.

"Myself and a housekeeper. She comes in every day to sweep and press my shirts and keep an eye on me, really. I think she reports back to Tavia. She makes me breakfast every morning because no one thinks I can take care of myself." He rolls his eyes, amused at his family. Bradford grins at him. Pryce is many things, but as the youngest and most coddled of the Pryce children - by his sisters as well as his parents – self-sufficient he is not, and Bradford is surprised he only has a staff of one.

"Come into the study," Pryce says, heading towards the back of the house. Bradford follows.

The study is small and cozy and lined with books, except for a large desk against the wall that is covered with what looks like blueprints and small model planes.

"Top secret," Pryce says, winking.

The fire is dying in the fireplace and Pryce demonstrates exactly how self-sufficient he isn't by being unable to coax it into anything approaching warmth. Bradford is considering offering his services – he can't quite build a fire from scratch but he does know how to keep one going – when Pryce offers him the poker and asks him to deal with it.

While Bradford is encouraging the fire, Pryce pours them both a glass of brandy, and they sit in the two armchairs in front of the fireplace once there's actually a fire to enjoy.

This is quite nice, Bradford comments. )

words: 2507
total words: 45,264
note: look, smut! i don't know what exactly passed for lube in london in 1916. also i have no idea how long it would have taken to cab from knightsbridge (centralish london) to hampstead (suburb). bradford is happy to take the bus but the tube is a bit beyond him, on account of he doesn't want to risk an attack of claustrophobia.
smackenzie: (bradford)
Bradford returns several salutes once inside Pryce's building, from people in uniform as well as from the occasional civilian. He even passes a couple of women in military uniforms, although what their function is he can't tell. He's really only familiar with nurses.

Pryce is working in a large studio with tables covered in giant sheets of paper, scattered notes, and half-empty cups of tea. There are several other men in the studio, some of them bent over drawing tables and some leaning against the work tables and some just standing around talking. Bradford isn't quite sure how to proceed, if he should go into the room and find Pryce himself, or if he should call his name, or if he should just collar someone walking past and ask for assistance. This is what he gets for dropping in unannounced. Part of him is surprised that everyone else in this department just let him walk right in. He wouldn't have thought his uniform and his captain's stars would get him such open access in a place crawling with military men of higher rank.

Fortunately Pryce picks that time to look up. )

words: 1946
total words: 42,757
note: actual research for the irrelevant details - where exactly pryce lives, and whether or not he'd be wearing a uniform as an engineer working on fighter planes for the raf but not actually cleared to fight. the mental picture for his studio/working area comes from this photo of the drafting room at the ford motors bomber plant during ww2, showing men lying on top of an immense table drafting on huge sheets of paper.
smackenzie: (bradford)
It's still some time before they discharge him. But when he can finally leave, his father makes arrangements for follow-up appointments and any physical therapy Bradford might need, and then he is very carefully bundled into a taxi and driven home.

The house looks just as it did when he left for basic training so many months ago. The housekeeper is still there, although her daughter is making noises about going to work in one of the munitions factories, because the wages are better than what she gets in service. Bradford's mother goes not generally discuss the running of the household with him – or even with his father a lot of the time – but he can tell that she is not pleased by this turn of events.

His bedroom looks the same. His bed feels the same. But he has so gotten out of the habit of sleeping alone on a good mattress on a proper bed frame in a watertight, well-ventilated, properly-heated room that it takes much longer than he would have expected for him to fall asleep. He wants to blame the stiffness where his ribs are healing and his flesh is knitting together, but the fact is that he no longer knows what to do with feather pillows, clean sheets, and warm blankets.

Despite that, he sleeps well, once he finally reaches unconsciousness )

words: 1965
total words: 40,811
note: i'm guessing it's about the middle of december now. i gave bradford a couple weeks to be in the hospital, altho i don't really know how long they would've kept him. we seem to have passed the obsessive-about-accurate-details part of the nanonovel. :D
smackenzie: (bradford)
Bradford is never quite sure what is real and what is a dream out of his scattered memories of his very first serious war injury. He knows he was shot twice, although he would swear he only felt one bullet, and he knows Davies was right there and tried to dress the wound in his side, and he knows he was eventually picked up by stretcher bearers and carted back to the trenches, and he's pretty sure he had to share that stretcher with another man who was dead twenty minutes later. (As for how he's almost positive the man was alive when the stretcher bearers got him but dead not long after, he can't say. But he knows it happens.)

He knows he tried desperately to stay awake while he was lying in No Man's Land bleeding and in pain and unable to stand up – and being peppered with shrapnel after a shell exploded nearby – because he was afraid that if he was unconscious when the stretcher bearers came by, they would think he was dead and leave him there to be picked up later, if he was lucky and the Germans stopped shelling and shooting for long enough.

He knows he was taken to the first aid post and then to a dressing station )

words: 1943
total words: 38,846
note: i am seriously making up all the medical stuff as i go along, altho it's true that sometimes wounded men would be sent back to england, rather than a base hospital in france, to heal. and then as soon as they were able, a lot of them were sent right back to the front.
smackenzie: (davies)
Captain Bradford releases his wrist. "Get my first aid kit and then go."

Davies fumbles with the pocket of the captain's tunic that contains the packet of gauze dressings, gets one out, and presses it against the bleeding wound. Captain Bradford covers it with his hand.

"Hope no one saw you do that," he says, and winks. "Go on."

Davies finally shoves himself to his feet and follows his platoon.

This attack is not as successful as previous attacks, however, and the battalion has to retreat. Davies catches more shrapnel from a shell exploding nearby, this time badly enough to send him to the first aid post back at the trenches. Dr Craig takes one look at him, deems him not serious enough to merit immediate attention, and sends him even further back behind the line to a dressing station.

The trek to the dressing station is mud and puddles from end to end – cold half-frozen mud and puddles, even. All along the route are men dragging themselves away from the front line and towards medical care, wounded soldiers interspersed with stretcher bearers. Davies sees Naylor and Powell leaning on each other, and comes up next to them to help. Naylor is bleeding from the shoulder and Powell is limping, but at least they're both still on their own feet.

Lt Fiske was hit in the head, Powell says. )

words: 1024
total words: 36,903
note: i have a vague idea how the chain of medical care worked at the front, but also i'm totally winging some of it.
smackenzie: (davies)
"Yelled at us to do something," the orderly continues. Davies can see his sleeve. He's a corporal. Must be with the Royal Army Medical Corps. "You were covered with mud. We couldn't even tell if you were hurt or not."

"Was I?"

"Not as bad as you'd think, for being dug out of a trench. A lot of bruising, no broken bones." He finishes his inspection and pulls the blanket back up. "Good thing you were wearing your helmet. You're a lucky man, Private Davies."

Davies guesses he is.

He's a bit scratched up and now he has an impressive dent in his helmet where the corporal tells him he was hit by a large and fairly solid clod of mud, but nothing's broken or barely even strained, although he's stiff and sore. And they need the bed, so they kick him out of the first aid station with the suggestion that if he feels genuinely injured, he can go on to the dressing station.

"They're likely full up with wounded, though," the corporal says, "so you're probably better off just staying here."

Captain Bradford comes by one more time before Davies is released, and stands next to the cot to ask how he is.

Doing ok, Captain, Davies says. )

words: 1830
total words: 35,879
note: i kind of conflated two attacks at the end here, but whatever, in real life they happened all of four days apart. there really was snow and sleet, tho. and men in the british army really were told not to stop for the wounded during an advance.
smackenzie: (davies)
Dear Mum and Dad,

I am still alive although very wet. If I knew France would be this miserable I would have brought a good waterproof coat and better boots. The mud gets into everything, even our rations, and you do not want to know what the tea tastes like.

We have seen action, a lot of it. I have been very lucky to not be hurt, except for some cuts on my legs where I was hit with shrapnel. I say this not so you worry but so you know that your boy is still in one piece. I healed well. I have lost some friends, though, other men in my platoon. It is very hard.

Lt Fiske (my platoon cmdr) was wounded in July but has come back to the battalion )

words: 2064
total words: 34,049
note: i couldn't talk to my medical consultant (aka dad) before i wrote this, so i have no idea if you can be mostly buried by wet sandbags and bits of wood lattice and oh yeah a lot of mud and dirt and not sustain any broken bones. for the sake of not sending davies home yet we are going to pretend that this is possible.
smackenzie: (bradford)
"Bertie," he hisses, waving at Cuthbertson, who is still standing in the trench, probably waiting for him to finish up so they can go play cards. "Come up here and tell me what you see."

Cuthbertson sighs, climbs up onto the step next to Bradford, and takes the periscope. A shell whistles overhead, dropping onto No Man's Land in a cloud of dirt and (Bradford fears) body parts.

"What do you see? Is anyone moving out there?"

"I can't tell," Cuthbertson says. He leans away from the periscope, rubs his eyes, and looks through it again. "No. Nothing's moving."

"Except for the shelling, it's been pretty quiet, sir," the sentry says. Bradford gets a better look at him, now that he can. Tisdale, that's his name. Private. "Haven't seen any Huns."

"I should get back to my company," Cuthbertson says. He pats Bradford on the shoulder and slides off the step. "Make sure everyone is ok. I don't think cards are in the offing. You can always leave notes for me at battalion HQ, though." He grins, tips his helmet at Bradford, and walks off.

Bradford gives the sentry back his periscope. )

words: 6635
total words: 31,985
note: thanks to the 24-hour nanowrimo write-in and written under the influence of milk tea, cheetos, blond oreos, chocolate chocolate chip cookies, goldfish crackers, and goetze's caramel creams. i made bradford a graduate of king's college, cambridge, mostly because that's where rivers (who treated sigfried sassoon for i guess mental instability) went. and also apparently rupert brooke, war poet. and look, icon! that's bradford. :D
smackenzie: (bradford)
The battalion moves back to the trenches after a week in billets, just as Bradford is getting used to sleeping aboveground again. The men have been drilling and training under the orders of the divisonal commander, getting ready for another offensive. Bradford has only received the vaguest of orders from Lt Colonel Berridge, but with the understanding that when the lt colonel knows more, his company commanders will know more too.

So for now, it's another few days in the front-line trench, with the mud and the rats and the crowded conditions and the constant shelling, stand to and scouting parties and trench repair and trying to keep his men from going mad.

Perhaps he's been lucky – no one has cracked up completely yet )

words: 1089
total words: 25,350
note: it must have really sucked to have gotten buried by a falling trench wall. people did die that way, tho.
smackenzie: (davies)
Another benefit of being in billets – aside from the hot food, dry beds, and lack of rats – is that the men can clean themselves and their kit and coincidentally suffer more inspections to make sure they're doing so. Baths aren't unheard of in the trenches, but it's hard to clean yourself thoroughly with the constant threat of shelling or mortars overhead, and with the sure knowledge that whatever cleanliness you manage will last exactly as long as you're out of the mud. Which in the trenches isn't very long.

The men don't tend to take very long baths )

words: 625
total words: 24,261
smackenzie: (davies)
By nightfall they've succeeded in taking the woods and can conduct their prisoners back behind the line and collect their dead. Davies goes back to look for the NCO he fell on, but can't find him. Stretcher bearers must have picked him up, or he managed to make his way back to the casualty clearing station, or even just a dressing station, on his own feet. Either way, he's not dead. Davies takes this as a good sign.

The Germans continue to shell the battalion, although the heavy fighting seems to shift north and west. They stay in the front-line trench another couple of days, contending with the shelling and the mud and, after it rains, some flooding down the trenches. They deal with rats and occasional reminders to change their socks and let their feet and boots dry out whenever possible – "With all this rain, not bloody likely," Powell mutters – and of course, the constant threat of mortars and shells and the possibility that the Germans will gather themselves together and hit back.

Davies is surprised that by the time the battalion is relieved, he's almost gotten used to the never-ending noise of the shells. They don't keep him awake as much as they did in the beginning.

It's back to the support trench )

words: 1752
total words: 23,636
note: the women who worked in munitions factories in britain did turn yellow - they were called canaries - from the toxic chemicals they put in the explosives. apparently the money was good, tho, compared to whatever wages they could make doing non-war work.
smackenzie: (davies)
While the battalion is in the reserve trench, Davies and Powell and the rest of their platoon (or what's left of it) get word that Lt Fiske is alive but has been sent to a base hospital in Amiens to be treated for his wounds. The men are relieved. They know two other platoon commanders are dead – Patterson and Putnam – as well as Captain Bradford's second in command. Of the forty-one men in the platoon on July 1, twenty-three are now waiting in the reserves to be sent forward again. Several men have been sent to the casualty clearing station or a base hospital, so the platoon has not been quite as decimated as the numbers might suggest. But the fact is, only half of them survived their first major offensive intact.

But the ones who remain feel closer than ever. )

words: 1070
total words: 21,884
note: uh... i hate writing battle scenes. can you tell? :D
smackenzie: (bradford)
It takes a long time, what with the shelling and the exhausted men and the darkness and the confusion, but after a while he's pretty sure he has as accurate a count as he's going to get right now. He can only add one name, and that's Armstrong. He takes his notes back to battalion HQ to write them up more coherently and to take some comfort from the fact that Cuthbertson has stretched out on one of the beds, or at least as much as he can, and has gone to sleep.

Bradford started out with a hundred and seventy men, all in fighting condition. Tonight, in Montauban Alley, he has a hundred and six.

He needs to lie down. He needs a drink. He knows that in a few hours he'll have to order the men to stand to and wait for a German counterattack. He knows that he'll need someone to (hopefully temporarily) replace Armstrong. He knows he needs direction for the next attack, because he also knows there will be a next attack, because he realizes that even if the 18 Div has achieved its objective – and the 30 Div to the east – that doesn't mean the rest of the army has, and high command will no doubt order them to advance even farther.

The quartermaster appears in front of him and offers him a flask. )

words: 1360
total words: 20,814
note: major general ivor maxse was the actual commander of the 18th division during the battle of the somme. (and probably later, but i haven't read that much farther up the timeline.)
smackenzie: (bradford)
Someday Bradford will look back at today and realize it was the point at which he learned what he was made of. Someday he might even look back without guilt or embarrassment or disgust or sadness. Someday he might even want to.

He's not so sure about that last point.

He is in fact sure about exactly one thing – now that he's found his battalion, or at least as much of it as remains, he has to fetch the stray men waiting with the 8th Norfolk and bring them up here without anyone getting killed. Lt Colonel Berridge has sent him off with a battalion sergeant, because Bradford didn't want to take Davies back with him, because the man needs a rest. The battalion sergeant is muddy and bloody and looks exhausted, but so does everyone else, and he's uninjured, and the Lt Colonel can spare him for a bit.

So Bradford leads him back the thousand or so meters to where the 8th Norfolk is holding the trench )

words: 1836
total words: 19,454
note: the "useful except kind of not" award for both this installment and the previous one goes to googlemaps for showing me what the area around the actual town of montauban looks like now (lots of fields), but not what it looked like in 1916. a casualty list would include the wounded and missing as well as dead, and i honestly have no idea how many men that would've been for bradford's company after the battle of the somme day 1. "kitchener's army" was what they called the new divisions recruited specifically for the war to supplement the existing professional army.
smackenzie: (davies)
At the shriek of Lt Fiske's whistle sounding the charge, Davies clambers up and over the parapet with the rest of his platoon. He's next to Gorin and Powell and, inexplicably, right behind Captain Bradford.

They crawl through their own barbed wire, which has been cut in places to allow the attacking battalions through, and then head across No Man's Land, marching in fairly straight lines while the Germans fire back at them. No Man's Land is a mess of craters and shell holes and torn-up fields, uneven and muddy, and while the German counterattack feels heavy to Davies, he can't think about it. He's with his platoon, behind his company commander, and nothing will stop their advance.

There's strong machine gun fire off to the right )

words: 3475
total words: 17,618
note: icon! that's davies. (actually tom hardy in colditz, which i think is set during ww2 but whatever. my other option was a screencap from band of brothers.) also the thing i know i left out of this bit is that the fields, the trenches, and no man's land would've been if not covered at least scattered with dead and wounded men. the british army lost 20% of its entire fighting force the first day of the battle of the somme. that's a lot of bodies. also also, trying to plot this thing on a map is A PAIN IN THE ASS.
smackenzie: (bradford)
"It was pretty boring, in fact." Bradford picks at his bacon. It's nice and hot, not too fatty, but he really wants to go back to bed. Too much sudden excitement last night and too little sleep to follow it. "My war diary has a lot of entries reading 'Quiet day', 'Enemy quiet', 'One rocket flare tonight but otherwise quiet.' I made a lot of inspections and wrote some letters."

"Well, we should see some action soon. I hear we may be part of a major offensive in the next month or so. Push the German line back."

"Is that what you did while I was in the trenches? Discuss strategy?"

"Not so much, or at least not that I got to be part of. Ellis makes his plans and then lets us know."

Ellis is the division commander. Bradford has only met him once, but he has a reputation among the officers as a stickler for regulations, sometimes to the exclusion of common sense. The company commanders generally get their orders from the battalion commander, Lt Colonel Berridge, and not usually from the divisional CO.

"I did spend some time with the company COs from the 53rd," Cuthbertson goes on. "Good chaps. Don't know any more than I do." He drains his tea. "Come on, inspection awaits."

The men of C Company look reasonably well rested )

words: 2149
total words: 14,143
note: we have a combination of actual research and a certain amount of making shit up. as per usual. :D i'm pretty sure i have the 18th division in the right place, tho, because they really were involved the first day of the battle of the somme.
smackenzie: (bradford)
He can just imagine Cuthbertson's joking comments about his wanting to fraternize with the common man. He misses Cuthbertson, but his company stayed behind, in reserves, at division headquarters, and Bradford isn't sure when they'll see each other again. He knows that eventually his company will be relieved and sent back to HQ to rest, but whether or not Cuthberson's company moves up the line out here in exchange, he doesn't know.

Until then he fills in his war diary with a lot of "Enemy quiet" or "Quiet day" entries and makes more detailed entries in his personal diary. The war diary has no space – and is not intended – for personal remarks about the men or their work or how Armstrong feels about them, but that's why he has another outlet. It's just a small notebook that Amelia gave him before he left London, but especially now that he doesn't have Cuthbertson to talk to, it's very helpful as a place to put his thoughts. He likes Armstrong well enough, but the man is kind of his subordinate, and as grateful as Bradford is for his assistance the first couple of days they were in Amiens and especially their first day in the front-line trench, he doesn't want to let the guy in on the fact that he's still a little worried about commanding a hundred and seventy men. Every so often Bradford still looks at them and thinks They're just boys.

And if nothing else, writing in his diary helps pass the time. )

words: 2114
total words: 11,994
note: i apologize for the giant chunk of italicized text that is bradford's letter to his sister. and it's entirely possible that a regiment on its way anywhere in the middle of the night might have some lights with it. possibly.


smackenzie: (Default)

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