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The Brittle Land Extract #7
Sentries were posted as the evening turned to night and a light drivel fell. It was going to be a long and miserable night. Unfortunately for Peter, it was a long and miserable six weeks before he would leave the comfort of his trench.
The following day brought much the same weather. Men tried to keep sheltered by using their waterproof capes draped across the gap and held in place by rocks, but the drizzle soon changed to rain, and it got heavier and heavier. Water being what it is will always find the easiest route to drain from and many an unsuspecting soldier would find himself suddenly drenched as his cape collapsed under that weight of water. Peter was more adroit at water management and constantly drained the water away. Only in the few brief hours where he could snatch some sleep, did he trust to luck and so far, so good.
The days turned to weeks with nothing happening. The enemy forces had been gathering, they could see so much in the distance with many horses going to and fro between the lines. Peter assumed they were bringing up field guns. He was correct insofar the horses were hauling guns, but these guns were heavy artillery.
It was two days later that the truth dawned on Peter and his comrades. It was not just the truth that dawned, it was the literal dawn that heralded a barrage of such proportions that Peter thought the world was ending. French and British batteries opened up in a pre-dawn barrage the idea being to soften up the German troops prior to a full-frontal assault. The battlefield prior to the barrage was green pasture farmland which soon turned into a quagmire. Mud mixed with shattered trees, stones from destroyed walls and the carcasses of hapless cows and sheep that moments before were waking up ready for another day of grazing. Some farm animals were lucky and managed to run away in time, startled by the sudden loud barrage. Abandoned farms, even some where the occupants had been summarily executed by German troops who suspected them of taking pot-shots at them, had provided the army with horses. Horses that would surely die over the next few months due to maltreatment and in some cases starvation.
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