Saturday, May 16, 2015

SHORT STORY READALONG: British Gunners as Cave Dwellers

                Our latest selection is a primary source about the Royal Artillery on the Western Front in WWI.  It is a story by Corporal E.H. Bean.  He served in combat until he was wounded and invalided back to blighty.  The story takes him from England through his return.  It is basically a collection of vignettes that give a taste of life in the artillery.  One day he is England, the next day he is at the front.  It happened that quick for many British soldiers.  Now that I think about it, that was not that different than what American soldiers sent to Vietnam went through. 

                Two things stand out in his tale.  One is that it sucked to be an artillery horse.  Bean makes it clear that horses were very vulnerable to artillery barrages.  Another memorable passage was the genesis of the title of the story.  His unit spends five days billeted in some caves near Soissons.  It was an eerie alternative to the trenches.  The overall vibe of the story is typically British.  Bean and his comrades have stiff upper lips throughout.  He even says “the British soldier has the happy knack of making himself at home in all kinds of odd places…”  When he is wounded he remains cheery.

                If the story was fiction, you would be groaning at times.  It is not very exciting, but it is educational.  You learn about the Royal Artillery and what it was like to be a horse pulling the artillery pieces.


Next selection:  The Canoe Fight

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