Roberta Writes – Remembrance Day and an extract from The Soldier and the Radium Girl

This morning I read a post by Sally Cronin from Smorgasbord Blog Magazine about the War Poets. Sally shared this lovely post in anticipation of Remembrance Day which is on Thursday, 11 November. You can read it here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2021/11/08/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-podcast-in-remembrance-the-war-poets-in-sawnlees-once-and-can-you-remember-edmund-blunden/

Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth. It was originally called “Armistice Day” to commemorate armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.—on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

I am currently writing about the entrance of the USA into WW1 in April 1917. I thought today would be a good day to share a small extract of what I’ve been working on.

Enlisting in haste, repenting at leisure

The diary of Jake Tanner

16 October 1917

It’s raining. It’s always raining in this godforsaken place miles away from home.

I’m sitting propped up against my bulging backpack with my inadequate covering tucked around my shoulders. The rough grey wool of the army-issue blanket reeks of mold and feels clammy to the touch, but these small discomforts ceased to bother me days ago.  

The light of my small piece of candle flickers and dances in tribute to the icy wind sidling through the gaps caused by the ill-fitting tent flap. Fat droplets drum steadily on the waterlogged canvas exterior of the tent, and I shudder at the thought of the icy rivulets I know are streaming down its sides. The trenches Mike and I dug to stop the water from flooding our sleeping quarters were already full to overflowing last night.

The five other inhabitants of the tent are still asleep. Their noses, closed eyes, and greasy hair are poking out of the tops of their rolled-up blankets. Heavy breathing, punctuated by occasional snorts, blends with the rain into a dull and monotonous duet.

Pigs in blankets. That’s what they are.

Hands clenched so tightly my ragged nails dig into the soft flesh of my palm, I choke back the laughter.

They’ll be really pissed if I laugh and wake them.

I would prefer to be asleep. When I’m asleep I don’t feel cold or hungry, but this morning the rumbling of my empty belly dragged me reluctantly from its comforting embrace.

We have been here for six days already and most of the fellows are anxiously waiting for the order to entrain for Southhampton Docks.

“We want to get to France. We’re missing all the action sitting around here waiting for transport,” they cried.

I don’t mind being here.  There are a lot of British ‘Tommies’, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand troops convalescing at the base hospital. They are happy to share about their experiences at the front and how they were wounded.

There was also a young man from South Africa. He was in the Somme offensive last year.

“I was part of the infantry brigade which captured Delville Wood on the 15th of July. I lost some good friends in that battle.” His dark eyes stared unseeing into the distance as if he were watching out for the return of his fellow combatants.

“I survived unscathed but took a bullet in the leg in West Flanders. My leg is healing well, and I’ll be going back when my convalescent leave ends in three weeks.”

“Where will you be going?”

The disconnected look returned, and his strangely dead eyes sent shivers down my spine. “Back to the Western Front I expect.”

The South African would say no more about his experiences in either Delville Wood or West Flanders, but he did confirm that France is also muddy and cold.

“Very different from South Africa. The sun shines most days in my home city of Pretoria, even during the winter.”

The Australians are friendly, but they do exaggerate. Their stories about life in the trenches are dramatic and we don’t believe it can be that bad.

The downside is that we are billeted in tents and this place is a sea of mud.

“This is typical English October weather,” one of the Tommies said. “It’ll be the same in France so prepare yourselves.”

We are wet and dirty all the time and I’ve become used to going to bed in my wet, muddy clothes and sleeping between damp blankets.

There is also a shortage of rations. We’ve explored several of the nearby towns looking for more food. We don’t have a lot of money, but the people are willing to trade our small trinkets for food, so it all works out well. 

Yesterday, I gave my food away to a kid on the side of the road. His tired, hungry looking face tugged at my heart and I gave him what I’d managed to barter.

My buddies laughed: “You’ll be sorry”.

I’m hungry this morning, but I’m not sorry.

This beautiful cover reveal picture was created for me by Teagan Riordain Geneviene who designed the cover.

79 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Remembrance Day and an extract from The Soldier and the Radium Girl

  1. Oh, what a compelling excerpt, Robbie. You captured the emotions beautifully, and I can no longer read any of your work without hearing your lovely voice in my head. Gorgeous cover, too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI Jan, you are very kind about my voice. I’ve always been rather embarrassed by it because I sound so squeaky to myself. I am delighted you enjoyed this piece. Teagan’s creates magnificent covers and I was just over at Sally’s admiring your new cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent extract with some fabulous description, Robbie. “The rough grey wool of the army issue blanket reeks of mold and feels clammy to the touch.” Those words play to the senses and put a reader right there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Kerfe, I was reading a non-fiction book the other day about WW1 and most of the men, who became so close while fighting, never saw each other again post the end of the war. I think the mental trauma was so great, they didn’t want reminders.

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  3. I’m glad we have such a day to honor veterans…

    and thanks for sharing that excerpt; I can’t imagine what it must be like to be engages, and be right near the action…while I don’t believe in war, you have to admire the people brave enough to go fight in one…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jim, although in my story, Jake got carried away with his friends and volunteered, most of the American’s who fought in WW1 were conscripted. Sometimes war is necessary to defend the beliefs of a nation. I would fight against an authoritarian fascist regime that threatened my core beliefs.

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      1. I am sorry to say that I definitely could. I would definitely kill to defend my family. I have suffered a home invasion, being tied up and having a cocked gun at my head. I would have no compunction defending myself and my three men against such people.

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      1. Hungry children make me sad, Robbie. We have several states that are embarrassing school children who get subsidized lunches. We have other states that make it easy to get these lunches without the stigma attached. I don’t understand why any state would choose to deny a child a decent lunch, or call them out for needing one.

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  4. Teagans cover doesn’t disappoint she is so good …I love it!… In your excerpt Robbie you have captured “war”…my uncle Hen would never talk about the war but you could see in his eyes when we asked questions that he didn’t want us to see those horrors…and it still goes on…Men never learn that fighting isn’t the only way…

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  5. What a powerful excerpt, Robbie. I look forward to reading your book but with a box of tissue nearby. Your excellent descriptions pull the reader right into the scene. And the cover is perfect, but Teagan’s covers are all gorgeous. Good luck with your writing!

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  6. We will be all waiting for it to come out, Robbie. Great excerpt, and very descriptive, especially moving because of the use of the first person as well. A very articulate young soldier, and one that will have to live through some horrible experiences, one guesses. Teagan’s cover is perfect as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robbie, all these wonderful comments must surely motivate you. I’m glad you did this to encourage yourself, because I’ve been excited about this story since you first mentioned it. Yes, it’s the perfect time to share the excerpt too. Thank you kindly for the shout out about the cover. Hugs on the wing.

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