THINGS SEEM FUTILE is based on a story written by Christine Dodd from the Deniliquin Creative Writers Group. It was narrated by Chris Bodey and produced by The Shack Studios, Deniliquin.
The story was inspired by the experiences of John Adam Christie, from Finley, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal during World War One, “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.”
The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.
By Christine Dodd
Breathing deeply of the cold air as another earth shuddering bombardment from the Germans causes several casualties. One of my comrades running beside me, his eyes wide open with fear, generating absolute terror, is blown apart. We were being heavily shelled. I can feel the earth moving as I run.
I turn to another comrade running beside me; his eyes wide, arms and legs pumping, face filthy with blood and mud. He too is then blown apart.
Ignoring the horror, heart hammering, I keep running. Rivulets of blood saturate the ground and gunfire and screams of dying soldiers are the only sounds I hear. Still, I push on. I dare not stop to wipe at the snot and tears that run down the dirt encrusted creases of my face.
I make it back, breathless……..the fighting continues.
Who am I? What am I doing here? I remind myself that I am John Adam Christie and I am twenty-five and part of the 56th Battalion, 2nd reinforcement in World War One.
Things seem futile. I take up the task of temporary stretcher bearer. I try swallowing the fear that is constricting my throat, as the Germans make use of their mightiest artillery.
How anyone can stomach being a stretcher bearer having to watch these men thrashing about, their limbs blown apart, or having to hold padding to stop their entrails falling out. Gripping the blood-spattered handles, I try keeping in step with the other soldier as I recoil in the midst of the continual whistling of shells.
It is physically demanding carrying the stretcher, dragging our feet, trying not to rock the stretcher and increase the pain of the wounded man. The rawness of shattered bones grating together is so intense that the soldier is likely to die of shock.
God help me; I don’t want to be the cause of his death.
For day’s, seen only by the flicker of guns, columns of silent men tramp the long roads by night, wending their way over the crater fields by day. In his hand, or back pack, every man carries some pet bomb or bayonet he hopes to use against the Germans. I try to rein in the nausea as the lingering frontline smell, of my own body odour, of unwashed men and decomposing human and animal smells. This mash of smells overwhelms my senses as I wait to go forward with my cannon near Polygon woods.
It takes courage and purpose as my men rush the gun into No Man’s Land, accompanied by rifle bullets and heavy artillery fire. Fighting the potential battle raging inside my gut I manage to fire ten rounds into the advancing German army. Many victims fall to lie amongst enormous holes left from the resulting cannon fire.
I find it was only after being wounded and having withdrawn the gun that I thought to myself, that I am going to survive this war after all.