Raven's Nest. Chapter snippet

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A passage from the first chapter of my novel

June 6th 1944

 

Looking over the top of the landing craft, I could see our rendezvous point, the war ravaged beach stretched as far as the eye could see. The horrified voices of the wounded and dying soldiers, screaming for help over the volume of explosions and gunfire. I suddenly realised I was gripping my rifle so hard that my knuckles had started to go white, the loud commanding voice of my platoon leader carried over the din coming from the beach

“all right ladies, this is what we've been waiting for” he barked, “ when we get to the beach, keep your head low and find some cover, keep those sights clear!” I stared up at Sgt. Ruvik, how could this man be so calm and ready for what seemed a certain death? Was he crazy? Were we? I had never imagined, when I signed up that I would meet my end on some godforsaken beach in France.

“No” I muttered under my breath, “I'm not gonna die here, I'm gonna live to see tomorrow damn it!” I looked over my shoulder at Rex and gave him a thumbs up, he nodded grimly. As I readied myself for the approaching hell that I was about to be thrust in to, my thoughts turned to home, to my wife, Kate, would I ever see her again? When I thought of her, weeping over my coffin as she was handed a folded American flag, I gripped my rifle harder, determined that I wasn't going to die here or anywhere in this hellish war zone.

 

 I was snapped out of my day-dream by Sgt. Ruvik's voice booming over the crashing of the waves and the sound of vomit hitting the floor of the craft “30 seconds boys! May God be with you and I’ll see you at the objective” I gave my rifle one last check and braced myself “GO, GO, GO!”.

 

As soon as the heavy cast iron ramp crashed in to the blood soaked sands, the zipping of bullets started flying around my head, several of the men in front of me crumpled to the floor, their lifeless bodies riddled with bullets, The shock that had taken hold of me when the bodies started dropping, quickly vanished as a spattering of blood hit me in the face. My instincts took over as I grabbed Rex by the collar and yelled

“Over the side! We're sitting ducks like this!”

 He nodded, his helmet bouncing with the movement, and told the same to the man behind him. With a heave I hoisted my torso over the wall of the landing craft and did what I could to brace myself.

 

I gasped as my body hit the freezing water, the bullets streaking   around me, I quickly wish I hadn't, as my mouth was instantly filled with the acrid taste of sea water. I desperately kicked out, determined to reach the surface, I chanced  a look around and nearly took another mouthful of salt water as I witnessed the men that I had spent the last six months with, being torn to shreds by a steady stream of hot lead, unabated by the blanket of  water that now covered us, I kicked again and took well deserved gasp of breath as my face broke through the surface, my aching lungs thankful for the rush of salty air, I quickly surveyed the scene that met my eyes.

The looming cliffs, like an impenetrable fortress, dotted at intervals by the enemy bunkers. I was sure if I strained my eyes I could see the grimacing faces of the enemy as they pulled the triggers on their instruments of death. The sounds of gun fire and explosions battered my ear drums as mortar shells detonated all around me, throwing sand and shells in to my eyes, and through the grit I could see Sgt. Ruvik, motioning me to come and join him at the edge of a crater, roughly covered by the twisted remains of an enemy beach defence.

“That guy is a gorram machine!” I yelled to Rex who had just surfaced, his face was pouring with blood from a nasty gash on his forehead

“Let’s get going” he replied his face twisted in pain. We waded out of the shallows and began to move, ducking in between tank defences as the bullets streaked past us, each one causing a new voice to screaming in pain as they were caught by the flying lead.

 

After what seemed an age, we finally reached the Sargent's position

“Nice of you to join us” he joked “you got a weapon?” Rex held up the Browning assault rifle that he had snatched from the hands of a dead soldier, I shook my head

“It’s at the bottom of the channel Sarge” he gave me an understanding look and thrust an M1 Garand in to my hands. “Stay on me” he commanded “we've gotta get out of here or we're all dead men” he picked up his own rifle that had been resting on his knee “c'mon, move up to the base of the cliff and try not to die!”

 

We kept our heads down and moved slowly and deliberately from cover to cover, every step we took brought us closer to the looming cliffs and the enemy that they concealed. We finally came to a halt at a sand dune, providing us with the cover that we so desperately needed. It had felt like I had escaped death at least a hundred times that day, there must be a German who's very disappointed with himself up there. I grinned to myself taking comfort in the fact that I’ve probably pissed someone off.

“Good job boys, you survived” Sgt. Ruvik said, wiping the mixture of sand, sweat and blood off his face. “now let’s take this back to those kraut bastards!” he pulled a set of wire cutters from his leg sack and started working away at the barbed wire that blocked our progress, after many attempts and even more curses, he managed to forge a path that we could get through safely without our ankles being torn to shreds.

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