SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST.
Dick pulled the blanket more tightly around him. He shivered and swore under his breath. His nose was frozen and hurt.
God. This weather is terrible. I’ve never seen snow or cold like this. Stuck in the Sussex countryside under canvas doesn’t help. Being close to the searchlight has made coping with the weather a grueling challenge. Tents are not warm enough in this lot.
Hell. The war has been on for four months and this is the biggest challenge we have had to face.
“Corporal. Come quickly please.”
Dick struggled into his wool tunic and greatcoat. His clothes were freezing. It will take a long time for them to warm up.
He stumbled out of the tent into eighteen inches of snow. They had carved channels through the snow between the tents. Sandy stood waiting for him to appear.
“What’s the problem, Sandy?”
“Jonesy went to relieve the guard and couldn’t find Stinky. He’s gone, Corp.”
“You think he deserted?”
“Don”t know, Corp. He just isn’t on guard.”
Dick and Sandy followed a crude path through the snow to where Jonesy was stomping his feet to keep them warm. Dick smiled to himself. Jonesy looked almost comic, stomping away with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
“Corp. I searched for him but he”s gone.” Jonesy reported.
“OK. Jonesy, you do guard duty and we’ll look for him.”
Dick surveyed the ground around the tents. The snow had been churned up by the sentries walking around, trying to keep warm.
“Right. Sandy. You look over there and I’ll go towards the gate. Let’s see what we can find.”
“What are we looking for, Corp?”
“If he went somewhere he should have left foot prints in this bloody snow.”
They parted and walked slowly looking for a trail of footprints. After five minutes Sandy called out.
“Over here, Corp.”
Dick reversed his trek and walked through deep snow to where Sandy waited.
A row of footprints extended across the snow for another fifteen yards and then stopped. Sandy shrugged his shoulders and gave Dick a puzzled look.
Dick stared at the disappearing tracks.
“He couldn’t have flown away.”
After a few seconds he shouted.
They heard a strangely muffled noise.
“I think that’s him, Corp.”
They both looked at each other and slowly walked forward. After ten yards they could hear Stinky yelling more clearly.
“Gawd. He”s down in the Lane under the snow.” Dick was worried.
“What, Corp?” Sandy asked.
“The Lane at this end of the field is about eight feet lower than the field itself. The snow has drifted into the depression. He walked over the hedge and onto the Lane without realizing he was on deep snow. Then the snow gave way and down he went.”
“Gawd blimey. You mean he’s buried under the snow. How long do you think he’s been there?
“Yes and probably a long time. Go. Raise the lads, bring shovels and rope. We’ll dig him out and hope none of us join him down there.”
Two hours later Stinky was examined by a medic in the nearest house.
“He has hyperthermia. A day or so of a warm bed and he’ll be back, Corp.”
“Thanks. We’ll leave him under your care until then.” Dick said.
“Stinky, behave yourself,” he added.
On the way back to the tent Sandy said, “He was lucky, Corp.”
“Lucky! No one but Stinky would ever have managed to do that in the first place.”
Corporal Dick West served in the British Army, Royal Artillery during the Second World War, while his wife Winnifred (Winn) struggled with the war in London, England. They were my parents. These short stories are derived from them telling me what it was like in those times. All the characters except for Corporal West and his wife Winn, are fictitious.
Dick was first called up in 1938 during the Munich crisis. He returned to civilian life in 1939 only to be called up again in late summer as the Second World War broke out. He was finally demobbed early in 1946. These stories are in chronological order.
About Richard West:
Richard grew up in London, England. He trained as an engineer then emigrated to Canada. His career involved travel to many parts of our wonderful planet. Richard is blessed with two wonderful children, and four super grandchildren.
West has lived in NOTL since 1979. He has always loved to read. Exposed to Welsh poetry and verse by his wife, he has a soft spot for Dylan Thomas.
He started writing stories in the early 1990s, to see how it was done. Over the intervening years, he has written about family memories and science fiction stories. His journey of learning about this craft has been rewarding.
Richard has written a number of short stories and newspaper articles, as well as two novels.