When, during the Crimean war, an English cavalry unit frontally charged a Russian line of guns, and got massacred in the process, the French general Bosquet (witness to this debacle) remarked that ‘ it is magnificent, but it is not war.’.
This quote was on first Lieutenant John Maltowes mind when sixty two years later, during the ‘Big Push’ of 1916, he was the only one to survive the slaughter of his platoon on a death trap field swept by German machine guns and mortar fire. This, he wrote in his biography, is not magnificent: it is war.
More than eighty years later the United Nations Inspector Bernard Jansen remembered both lines when he concluded in his report about the Srebrenica Massacre of 1995, that this is neither magnificent nor is it war.
Two hundreds years later a statue of Earth was unveiled by a randomly selected child to celebrate a century of peace undisturbed by organized bloodshed. The quote from the French general was on the base of the statue, but slightly altered. It read: ‘it is magnificent: it knows not war.’
note: This story is dedicated to Sandor. He dedicated himself to bring peace and understanding in this world. I heard his health was failing and people were asked to help him with positive thoughts.. well I don’t know much about that, but I wrote this story.
Note: changed the last entry from 1000 years to 200 years because i felt this did not fit with Sandor.
Major Anders was writing a letter to his wife when his intimate thoughts were interrupted. Men barked agitated orders, vehicles backed up and fumes started to spoil the air.
The cobbled narrow street below the window was cluttering with vehicles and men..
Anders got his jeep and drove up to his most forward unit to find out what was the matter.
To the side of the road he spotted a group of men in the shade of a wall. They were grouped around former sergeant Jules who was now a first lieutenant, being field promoted two ranks for showing uncommon valor.
“It is a bridge.” Jules said when Anders approached, “It is undamaged.”
Anders looked around the corner of the wall to see a stone bridge over a stream that was too small to be important but wide enough to be an obstacle. A thin fog lingered at other side of the stream, were houses showed empty windows.
The men looked at each other.
“Perhaps the Germans forgot about it.” said one of the men,
“Maybe they blow it when we cross it.” said another.
“We could send someone over to tell them it is no use fighting for a lost cause.” said a third.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence.
“Oh well.. someone has to go.” Jules shrugged..
“Sergeant.” Anders said, not realizing his mistake, “I will go. This is an order.”
“No sir. This is my task.” Jules said and his grey eyes defied the brown one’s of Anders.
“Then we will go together.” Anders said.
The two men walked towards the bridge and then started to cross it.
From the other side two figures walked towards them. One was wearing a grey uniform and the other a green one.
When the four met halfway they all saluted in their way.
The man in the green uniform then said something Anders did not understand.
And then man in the grey uniform said.”I bin Kapitain Lobke, I will translate. Der Major Rustov want dich to know that he is happy to meet dich.”
They all laughed loudly and shook hands fervently.
“Shall I blow it now?” The gefreiter said.
The feldwebel lowered his binoculars and shook his head.
“Nein Son, go home. The war is over.“ And he had tears in his eyes but a smile on his lips.
I liked this flash fiction story, so I made a picture background for it to capture the mood. Enjoy!
The flag was raised on the highest point of the island.
It meant victory for them and defeat for the others.
It was for both the end to a trail of dead bodies.
The sergeant lit his second last cigar and looked around.
His remaining soldiers squatted around him.
There were not many left of his squad. Most had been left behind: dead, wounded or crazy.
Fallen by the wayside.
The horizon was filled with gray shapes bobbing on an azure sea.
Smaller shapes were moving between them and the island.
A rook landed on the flag and started a tentative song.
It seemed as if it feared it’s singing would provoke a new round of fighting.
“I could live here.” The sergeant remarked, blowing smoke and listening bird uttering strange clicks, wheezes and almost human-like notes.
He imagined how it would look like in a decade.
A tropical paradise. The most deadly creatures to fear would be mosquito’s and sharks.
“Yes.. I could live here for sure.” He said to himself.
The next day he returned home. A drizzle of early snow greeted him on the quay. Dark clouds promised more. His wife locked him in her arms. She would deliver their baby soon.
Five decades he worked until a former enemy invited him to go back to that island.
He was now the only surviving member of his squad.
Together with his host he ascended the hill where the flag had been.
There he lit his last cigar..
For a moment he was that sergeant again.
He saw the swaying trees, the sunny beaches, the azure of the sea.
A rook landed nearby.
“I could have lived here.” The sergeant said.
The rook started a jubilant song.