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Monday, 17 August 2015 09:14

The diary of Soldier Hannen - Part 3

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NZ History - Death & Squalor NZ History - Death & Squalor

French students have imagined the diary of Steve Hannen, a soldier from Nelson (NZ) buried in Rouen (France). They based their production on different archive documents. Over the next few weeks, Soldier Hannen's story, will unravel. This is Part Two, as he is fighting in the horrors of the Battle of Gallipoli. Read Part 1 / Part 2

Northern France / Europe


When I woke up, the trench was full of water. First I checked my body, so many of my friends were killed while they were sleeping. I was safe. The day looked quiet, the last offensive happened two weeks ago. A spectacular one, I saw atrocities. A friend managed to throw a bomb in the German trench. They lost about twenty men in an explosion of blood and fire. They ran away from this nightmare, and we shot down about thirty soldiers with a machine gun.

We were absolutely horrible, I dream about it each night.
Since this day, they hadn't move. A scary silence weighs on the no-mans-land. All is quiet. Too quiet.
A French soldier told me Germans have a new kind of weapon, a highly murderous one. Very difficult to handle but fast, effective and dirty: gas. Our last offensive was very good news for our chiefs, we took the lead on almost 500 yards of trenches. But we know this advantage and this safety are temporary. We are waiting and hoping that this gas will not be as terrible as it sounds.
Is it painful?
It is visible?
How can I protect myself against a gas?
Lots of questions without answers, we asked for masks but we were told a cloth should be enough to protect us. I saw a soldier with a sort of pad, to protect himself from gas. I hope I will find a pad like this. I’m not sure that my scarf will help me against a mortal acid gas.


Today is as calm as yesterday. The same scary silence!
It’s good news, we need food. We form a random small group to bring soup and bread. It’s a very dangerous mission.
We tossed and I lost. We decided to go during the day. Two soldiers were forward. A group of four held a big box. Me and another soldier were backward.
I was totally terrified, so many soldiers were killed during those missions. You have to go out of the trench!
We were extremely vulnerable, we walked to the truck without protection. If an enemy had opened fire, I probably would have been killed.
But we crossed 100 yards of battlefield without hearing or seeing one soldier. We took more food than usual and went back to our trench.
Tonight the atmosphere is joyful. For the first time, we don’t hear noises of bullets and bombs.
I talk with a friend about my ancient life, the quiet fields of New Zealand, so different from here.


I was woken by a huge explosion. Soldiers were running everywhere, bullets rained on us. It was dawn, everybody was sleeping and Germans were attacking us.
It was hell on earth, we received bombs in our trenches. We went out to run away or to fight. Because of the explosions and the lack of light, we saw nothing. Some soldiers were screaming or falling just next to me. We just saw the light of weapons which shot us down.
I ran to protect myself. I sometimes ran totally disorientated and without a weapon when an explosion stroke me.
The scene was absolutely horrible, pieces of body were on the floor with abandoned weapons. Our trench had collapsed and all our munitions and food were lost.
Germans were very organized. They threw bombs in our trench to make us go out. Then a rain of bullets scattered us and exterminated us.
Suddenly I smelt a horrible odor. I stopped and became absolutely terrified. I screamed to all my friend there was gas.
I tried to run but my eyes were on fire. I felt a kind of painful heat which entered my mouth.
I wanted to scream, to cry but each intake of breath was a supplice. Air was fire. I crawled and fell in a hole. Mud covered me. I wanted help but my voice disappeared.
I was not able to breathe, I fainted.

Read 3112 times Last modified on Monday, 17 August 2015 21:38


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