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The Sentry

The wind is crisp, it blows from the West and the moon slips behind a cloud.

It is 4.45 as I rise half alive, feet numb, fingers numb, and the barrel of my rifle a dark silhouette against the grey dawn sky...Duty.

Tussock cold and wet about my legs, webbing tight about my waist, boots stumbling blindly towards the machine gun post.

Test the phone, check the gun, turn up the collar on my combat jacket, back resting against the wet clay walls of the pit...One hour till dawn.

Eyes blur, mind wanders, thoughts of home, wife and kids; water bottle presses against my back, knees drawn up, helmet and head resting between them for warmth.

Time drags, mind plays tricks on my vision, heaven would be a warm bed or a hot cup of coffee...Half hour till dawn, test the phone.

Dawn nears, hills take shape, trees take shape, to my front is the black menacing shadow of a field gun; lethal against the sky line.

The tannoy clicks, the phone rings, "Stand To!" is quietly passed by word of mouth, human shapes move quietly, each in the direction of its own slit trench...silence.

Experience shows this to be the most likely time for an attack. Time lapses, nothing moves, save only the chill wind blowing gently through the tussock...silence.

Birds break into song, the first rays of the new dawn sun burst forth spreading warmth and life into everything it reaches out and touches; and for the Gunners another day begins..."Stand Down!"

Mike Subritzky
161 Battery

161 Bty