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

Fiction: Moving Out

By Roach

Gallegos quickly explained that we had moved as far forward as was needed and that we were to hold what we had. After some discussion with Grossklaggs, new individual positions along the entire length of the hedgerow were selected. It was an awfully long hedgerow and not many of us, and Gallegos muttered about it being a platoon frontage, not a squad – more confirmation of exactly how thin on the ground that we were being spread.

In the end, between the two of them, they decided to keep the majority of the squad on the right flank, nearest to the enemy held copse. He then despatched myself and Vest to the very end of the left flank “just to keep an eye on things…” At least he spared us the speech about needing a couple of good men he could trust; I always hated it when he did that. It invariably meant that someone had pulled the short straw – and we certainly felt as if we had pulled it a very long way away from the rest of the guys.

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Once again, things could have been a lot better.

It was probably somewhere between seven and eight o’clock in the morning as we surveyed our new position. At this end of the hedgerow, the earth bank that was typical of the bocage had lessened severely in height and was looking distinctly untypical; the concealment was still good but the cover had diminished along with the height of the earth bank.

The hedgerow ended in a gateway opening into the field in front of us that contained the copse where we knew the enemy to be located. On the other side of the gate another hedgerow joined ours at right angles, heading down towards enemy territory. On the other side of that hedgerow, was another gateway with a track paralleling the hedgerow, and then our own hedgerow resumed for another ten or twenty yards before merging with yet another hedgerow that ran at right angles to our rear.

Beyond our boundary were more hedgerows, and more fields. Frankly it was confusing. We couldn’t really see anything even as far as the next hedgerow in any direction. We knew that the rest of our platoon was supposed to be one fields’ length away on either side but we could see no sign of them. It was no wonder it was so easy to get lost in this terrain.

Of course, what was more worrying was the fact that, if the krauts had enough manpower to do so, they could walk through the gaps in our lines and we would probably never even know it.

But we tried not to think about that, and instead we took better stock of the position. From the first gateway in the hedgerow we could, if we felt brave enough to show our heads to any degree, put enfilading fire across the field into the copse – should the krauts be brave enough to show their heads for us to fire at they would make a prime target. Ergo, so would we. From the same spot we could also hopefully protect our own heavily exposed flank from infiltration along the track.

With this slightly more positive thought in our minds we got down to the business of digging in. Our normal practise was to dig in against the hedgerow bank but we decided it would give us more leeway for observation if we sited the foxhole a little way bank from the hedge line and a couple of feet to the right of the gateway. It wasn’t ideal but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it with several avenues of approach to cover, so we just broke out our E-tools and got on with it.

As we continued to dig the sun continued to rise, and as the sun rose so did the heat. As we dug, layers of equipment and even clothing were temporarily removed as the task of digging the foxhole became an increasingly hotter, sweatier and difficult, not to mention less appealing task for all of us. But then again, we weren’t doing it for enjoyment, we were doing it for our own protection just as we had done many times before and no doubt would do again. So, all along our hedgerow came the frantic, muffled thuds of E-tools biting into sod and earth as men sought to get themselves below ground level.

The morning wore on, with Vest and I alternating between digging the foxhole and burrowing into the side of the hedge by the gateway, keeping watch and looking for signs of enemy activity or, for that matter, any activity. All the while we worked in anticipation of a mortar strike that persisted in failing to materialise. In fact, the only sign that an enemy was actually out there was when one of our guys occasionally raised themselves a little too high in their efforts to dig a superior foxhole and attracted burp gun or rifle fire, thus confirming that an enthusiastic enemy was still out there.

And so the day wore on.

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Getting down to the business of digging… It’s a slow process…

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And a hot process too…

[continued on next page]

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