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Posted on May 27, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Fiction: Moving Out

By Roach

When everybody had their stuff squared away, we filed down the hedgerow until we came to the little wooden bridge. We crossed it one at a time into the next field and fanned out into a skirmish line; we crossed this field without any pretence at scouting the next hedgerow. It turned out to be unoccupied which was just as well. I guess that Gallegos had decided that the safe way was taking too much time; well, he knew what he was doing. In spite of the chewing out he gave me, I trusted him. Besides, I still owed him money – it would be poor politics to stay angry at him. And of course he had three stripes and was a lot bigger than me.

This next hedgerow was particularly dense and it took a while to find the way through – there was no way we wanted to try and go over it due to, once again, the noise factor. It was a strangely quiet night and any noise would stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. I believe it was Axum who finally found a fairly easy way through and we all passed through and into another field. Another field and another skirmish line and another hedgerow. And then another. I’m pretty certain that we got turned around in the dark real good, but if we were lost Gallegos made a good point of hiding it.

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Like I said, his sense of direction was… infallible.

Eventually, he called us to a halt and told us that the next hedgerow we were heading towards was ours for the night. So we crossed the field in another skirmish line formation and looked for our new place of residence. From the line of empty holes we found in front of the hedgerow, it seemed likely that we’d found it.

We had all been briefed earlier about our task. We were very thin on the ground manpower wise and were plugging a gap that was way too big for us to plug. Nevertheless, we were plugging it anyway. Our platoon was going to be very spread out according to the plan but having already become separated from the rest of the platoon, we felt more spread out than was healthy for us.

We were taking over positions from units that had already vacated them in order to plug an equally seemingly untenable gap elsewhere so at least we were going to be occupying a position that already had foxholes dug which made our lives that little bit easier. Anything that makes a dogface’s life even a little bit easier is a very good thing.

I buddied up with Axum and we took to scraping some more earth out of the bottom of the hole – in my opinion a foxhole can never be too deep!

It was noticeable, even in the darkness that the left hand end of our hedgerow ended abruptly in an open field. This, Gallegos informed us, was like a finger pointing towards the enemy and that our new home was only an overnight stop; we would be moving out at first light to straighten the defensive line more in our favour. In the meantime, Gallegos sent Wiesel and myself to set up a listening post right at the extreme edge of the hedgerow. I heard him mumble something about finding the rest of the platoon and that was the last I saw of him for a while.

Wiesel and I kept watch, talking about nothing in particular and staring out across that open field. Everything seemed relatively quiet and it remained that way until about three or four o’clock in the morning. At that point the unmistakeable sounds of distant digging penetrated from the darkness and Wiesel and I exchanged knowing glances.

Now, those sounds of nocturnal industry may well have been the A&P platoon digging Major John’s a new six-hole but we sorely doubted it – as did Gallegos once we’d let him know and he kept the listening post on its toes all night. We alternated people on the L.P. and the sounds of digging continued until dawn at which point, back in the hole that I had exchanged with Axum for L.P. duties, I grabbed maybe as much as 30 minutes sleep. As I dozed off I could still hear the sounds of tools digging into the earth; when I awoke they’d ceased.

The sun continued to rise and Gallegos and Wiesel disappeared to track down the Platoon HQ, possibly even Company; I didn’t really care. I just sat in my hole ignoring the world. A little while later Wiesel returned alone with instructions for Grosklaggs, our assistant squad leader.

After a short conversation, Grossklaggs came around to all of us, told us to police our gear and then gave us the straight dope. We were basically going to switch direction towards the left flank, the same direction from where we had heard the ominous sounds of digging during the night, and then advance until we made contact with the bastards and until the bastards wouldn’t let us advance any more. It seemed so simple the way he said it.

Somebody asked about the rest of the platoon to which the answer was just as simple and just as unpleasant on the ear – they were already where they were supposed to be having already moved into their holding positions under cover of darkness. We now had to play catch up and do it in daylight. Sweet.

Looking at the bigger picture, as far as we were concerned, didn’t actually make things seem much rosier. The platoon (including us when we got there) had a frontage to cover that spanned what amounted to five fields – several hundred yards. We were so thin on the ground that all three rifle squads were going to be ‘up’ as opposed to the normal ‘2 up, 1 back’ formation; the other two squads were already covering the ends of our frontage and we were going to slot into the middle. With three squads covering five fields, it meant there were going to be empty fields on either side of us leaving us as the definitive piggy in the middle. For all intents and purposes we were all on our own.

Sure, theoretically, a couple of hedgerows back was the weapons platoon, but with the entire platoon so over extended and the fact that it was also having to double as the reserve, it was going to have problems supporting everyone, and specifically, us. Or to be more specific, me! On the whole, things could have been better.

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Preparing to move out from the overnight position… Moving out cautiously…

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Through the scrub wood… You have to look resolute at all times…

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Reaching the jump off point… Looking for signs of activity…

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Getting ready to go…

[continued on next page]

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