The Great War was the most horrid and terrible conflict I have ever witnessed. The grotesque warfare involving that of the trenches, the attacks from the airplanes above, the destruction of ships with torpedoes, even the science of chemistry had been abused during this time. To worsen the already demonic circumstances, I was an army doctor.
In the June of 1914, I was once again stationed in the land of South Africa. To be precise, a hundred kilometers from the golden city of Johannesburg. If you may recall, my prior stay in South Africa was during the Second Boer War. When I encountered the curious incident of the hounds of Johannesburg, which I have dubbed the Devil's Rage. I know once again take up my pen to write of a curious incident of mine in South Africa.
The malicious Germans had attacked British territory; in retaliation the Regina had sent in His Majesty's troops to defend our territory. Although in this familiar set of circumstances the French had accompanied us. I found it singular how the allies, and the adversaries would change sides from time to time. The French were our enemies prior to this event, the Germans were our allies. The Kaiser being the cousin of His Majesty King George V.
I being an army doctor did not engage within combat. But day to day I saw the horror and terrors of what occurred. I recall it all perfectly. Upon the six of May I encountered a monstrosity. The man had his body ripped nearly into two by the ammunition of this recent weapon that has been dubbed, a machine gun. I had no hope of helping this man, and he died upon the bed the next day. Upon the tenth of May I had seen a man who had his lungs scarred by noxious fumes. The chemical weapon the Germans was known as mustard gas. The soldier was unable to breath and passed away that night. The twenty- first of May, a young man with a bayonet through his occipital bone and out through his temporal bone. The first of June, a man who was heavily mutilated by machine gun fire. What remained of him were his cranium and a portion of his stomach.
This war had taken its toll, the fear I had felt when I discovered his royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and his Grace the Duke of York were within this dastardly conflict, I lost my head. I went into rage fearing for the future of the monarchy of our very nation. The King had to fight his own cousin; the two in looks and essence were nearly indistinguishable.
In addition to this catastrophic chaos Prime Minister Asquith was incompetent as a war time leader. Unable to know where to attack, and unable to trade and negotiate. The lack of ammunition was a dent within the plans of the Empire.
Upon the ninth of June a horrendous and sanguine battle was fought. The casualties well into the thousands. A thousand mothers had lost their sons, who knows the number of wives that have been widowed, and the children that have been orphaned?
Yet more complex and addling than the devoir of the soldiers, was the devoir of the doctors. How could I possibly assist these men who fought horrors beyond my expertise? They arrived mutilated and hardly recognizable. The fellows torn up by the machine gun, and did not even recognize as mortal. I saw them as something horrendous and terrifying, supernatural. As something from a Stoker tale.
Upon the tenth of the month, the corpses and living men arrived. In total there were twenty four. Of the twenty four, only one I had saved. The reaming twenty three died of complications. I have the list of the five I personally attended to.
Harold Welles succumbed to failure of the lungs; Sergeant John Masterson succumbed to failure of the heart. Lieutenant George Herberts succumbed to the six rifle wounds in his abdominal and cardiopulmonary area. Captain Stewart Thompson died from severe cardiopulmonary hemorrhage. Sergeant Patrick Fitzgerald succumbed to malnutrition and a rifle wound.
The case of the final man was a fellow by the name of Alexander Colt, a Lieutenant. Colt suffered from severe rifle wounds. I have included a piece of writing from my journal, when the details were fresh within my mind.
Colt was a short fellow, possibly four inches over five. His left leg was lame, but it was not a large hindrance to him. In terms of facial features, he was rather ordinary. A blunt nose, a fat face. Not much to remember. What I do remember of him, were his severe injuries. Never had I seen so many bullets in one man. Twenty three within his left arm, and two within his chest. To my luck, his fellow comrade had prevented his bleeding by tying a muffler around his left elbow. Yet it remained as enigmatic as ever.
I knew that I could not remove all of the bullets for they were much too deep within his flesh. I had to resort to a most drastic and unfortunate measure. With a thick dose of laudanum and a sniff of chloroform he would feel nothing. The large thick hatchet came down as it cut through the thick air of South Africa, and Colt's arm. I covered the area in iodoform with a sponge, and tied a thick piece of cloth around it to prevent bleeding. All that remained were the two wounds of the chest. One was upon the far left, only two inches within the flesh. The other so far within that I had no hope of extracting. I applied iodoform to that area as well, and with my scalpel cut the skin around it and extracted the revolver bullet. It was small and not lethal, yet the remaining bullet would cause the man to have a problematic form of respiration.
That was how the matter rested, I felt like a monster for removing his arm and discharging him from His Majesty's Army. To my utmost shock he thanked me for what I had done and that he could see his wife. A most addling soldier he was, a cripple within the lungs and the arm yet grateful. An optimist sees the opportunity within every situation, maybe there is something I could have learned from that man.
When the work of the doctors had been completed, to our dismay failed, we arrived outside our quarters to meet with the soldiers. The entire camp was devastated, burnt to the ground in a fiery blaze of wrath, ashes surrounding our once blessed area. The stains of the blood were blotted upon the rugged terrain. I forgot that it was once an orange colour, now I was drenched in scarlet. A stain of scarlet from the pure rage of the Germans. We had no food, nor had we water. The battle for South Africa has become a failure; the Germans would seize our much glorious territory.
In my crestfallen state I would be most irritable, but there was one man who would be phlegmatic, Colonel Benjamin Webber. In the intervals of our South African service he had aged. His once dark hair was now of snow, his side whiskers haggard and of the same colour. The deep and striking gaze of his, now somber, mellow, elderly. The eagle I had known in Johannesburg four and ten years prior was now an old one, desperately clinging on to his life and essence. What did remain of him was his oaken pipe. He sat upon a bloodied rock, in complete and utter serenity. He did not move, only his lungs as he inhaled and exhaled the fumes of the tobacco.
"Doctor, you seem most crestfallen," the Colonel had always had a light tone as he spoke, never had he raised his voice. Even within combat.
"It is all of brigade. Look at us; we are without hope and without faith. What can we do?"
The Colonel oscillated before he spoke.
"Without hope. Your statement is most singular. Hope is what we live upon. But if hope is dead, than the box is empty. You have lost your faith in the Army, but have you lost faith within yourself? Have you lost faith within that of His Majesty and his dream? Within that of the Empire, within that of the Lord? You have lost quite a bit of faith," the Colonel was always a laconic man. But when he chose to speak, he was the voice of wisdom. Even the most obtuse would see the matters through Colonel Webber's acute and philosophical statements.
"This is terrifying Colonel. I have not seen such atrocities during a war; my devoir feels to be the erroneous course of action. How I long to be in London once again. With patients with elementary ailments, not wounds from the enemies bullets, or damaged lungs from the noxious gasses of these wretched malefactors."
"Doctor, never is ones devoir the erroneous action. It is always that of the nation. I am in opposition of this war; I dislike this murder for a pointless cause. The nationalism and enslavement through imperialism. This imbecilic militarism or the globalization. But I serve, remain your honour intact."
The Colonel continued to smoke his pipe. How can he in such a dire and grim circumstance have a serene disposition? His constitution can be not amended nor altered; Colonel Webber was truly a man of honour.
Before I was to speak to him once more, three men arrived upon large steeds. The first was the intrepid Colonel Percy James, the second the gallant Major Ronald Huggins, and the third the audacious Brigadier Edmund Harrison Campbell. They rode valiantly upon their steeds, and with them they dishonorably dragged three tatterdemalion officers. Their faces cut with blows from what appeared to be a whip. Which the Major was most accustomed to carrying.
When they arrived towards us they with Herculean prowess flung the three ruffian soldiers forward and the Brigadier spoke in his potent and leonine voice.
"Men! The battle that occurred yesternight was the most fearsome and gruesome of them all. Yet we fought with audacity and gallantry. We may have been forced to retreat but never have I seen such gallantry." The Brigadier paused to look at our expression, yet he was perplexed to see that none of us showcased this gallant feeling he exercised. We were grim faced, crestfallen, hopeless.
"I see this defeat has crushed us. But it shall not taint our honour. The three of us have pursued these three men. Underserving of their army rank, and we shall refer to shamefully by their forenames. Jack, Alexander, and George. This trio had done the cardinal crime. Desertion, they ran. And as it is custom, we shall shoot them."
The Brigadier stroked his mustache during his speech; the imperturbable Colonel Webber did not even look his direction. I was told the two men were approximately of the same age. The two men had shot tigers in India as young men. As time passed, it seemed the two friends had drifted apart until they had little relation to one another.
The soldiers were not roused by the Brigadier's grandiloquent soliloquy. But he removed his revolver along with the other two men. The two trios were quite the foil of one another. One a trio of pride and heroism, the other a trio of shame and weakness. The three men feared for their skins as the Army trio cocked their revolvers.
"For King and country!" Screamed the Brigadier to the firmaments.
Colonel Webber seemed to have enough with the situation; his tranquil disposition was meddled with. He slowly sprang up to his feet and called out. Never have I seen him speak in such a high volume.
"Eh, Colonel Webber? Would you like to take my place? It will be like Bombay again."
"Brigadier enough blood has been spilled yesternight. I say you put down the revolver and we shamefully discharge these three men."
"Colonel why must you be in opposition to this? It is within the code of the Army. Desertion results within death. An elementary equation. Little predicament within it, but you must make it a complex plight."
"The code of this atrocious hierarchy is morally erroneous. I dearly wish to amend it. Brigadier for the sake of these men, the terrain is stained in the blood. Let these men free. It is not the crime of treason."
The Brigadier stood his ground with utmost adamancy; he stroked his mustache whilst listening to the Colonel's pleas of contrition.
"This retribution is without no point," remarked Colonel Webber. His tone became more solemn before, yet I felt a hint of a crestfallen constitution. A retrogression is what I would have called, I was told he was to be an emotional one earlier in his service.
"It is the enforcement of discipline. How shall the others know if there is not example?" Responded the Brigadier, I was surprised to see how far the two had drifted. They spoke as if they were not companions but as if they had no relation.
Before the Colonel could retaliate with an agreement, the first of the tatterdemalion men came forth and he spoke in his highly pitched tone. He sounded as if he was a child undergoing a change in his voice.
"Sir, I see the wrong in my actions. I and my companions have committed treason. We revealed the location and that is how the Germans know."
The Colonel looked towards them and a streak of shock came across his face. He dropped his pipe to the ground, and in rage extracted his revolver before he fired he put it back within his belt.
"Nay, I shall not kill. You can execute them, I shall leave this does not involve me," the Colonel with his head low and his lifeless eyes treaded across the scarlet drenched ground. Not looking back or to take his pipe of serenity.
The Brigadier gave a look of triumph as he prepared to execute the treasonous trio. I stood in anticipation for the flamboyant and ringing shot of the pistol. But Major Huggins gave an interjection.
"Colonel, do not turn your back upon the Brigadier! Colonel!" Major Huggins was known to be a rash and abrasive fellow. Within combat he lunged forth upon his stead to take on a regiment by himself. To his luck, Colonel James saved him from the onslaught.
Colonel Webber did not adhere to the warnings, treading as if he no man was in front or behind. The Major agitated with the Colonel's actions swiftly ran forth with his revolver in front.
The Brigadier knowing of his comrade's abrasive and violent constitution yelled to him to halt and desist in his attempt. The Major kept on running forth.
"Major, do not attempt to go after the Colonel. Return to your position."
The Brigadier enraged at his comrades actions, emptied a chamber of the revolver into the left leg of the Major. The rest of the men stood helpless as the Major fell to the ground in agony and shock that the Brigadier would attack him. In this act of mutiny and uprising, the obedient Colonel James joined as well. He with a powerful kick into the old Brigadier's thigh flung him to the ground as he held the revolver towards his portly head.
"Unhand me Colonel!"
"Nay, sir. I shall blow your bloody brains out."
Colonel Webber turned to see the horrific set of circumstances he was the epicenter of. Unsure of how to act in this bamboozling matter he removed his revolver as well and emptied two chambers into the shoulder of Colonel James. The potency of the gun threw him backwards, but the intrepid fellow would not end him mutiny until death. The men though stood unsure of what to do. So we watched, what else could we have possibly done?
Colonel James and Colonel Webber stood with their revolvers pointed at one another, the Brigadier too stood with his revolver at the head of Colonel James. The situation was dire now; the Lord had struck to slaughter the most glorious men that I had the pleasure to acquaint. Yet now I see that all army men were killers, had they violated the paths of righteousness?
The trio of traitors seeing the marvelous opportunity lunged forward at the Brigadier and Colonel James. The sudden attack had caused both revolvers to misfire. A rather large flaw in the weapons. Colonel James missed Colonel Webber by quite a bit, but the Brigadier proved to not have as much luck. The bullet went straight through the side of Colonel James' cranium. With an elegant thug, the obedient and intrepid man was deceased. This situation may not have been as brutal as the hounds of Johannesburg, but the mutiny had struck much further within my heart.
With the attack of the three men they had begun to repeatedly thrash the Brigadier. Never have I seen such rage. They beaten him into the ground with their bare fists, from head to toe as they smashed his snout. The Brigadier was covered in wounds, and bruises. A bright red scarlet pigment, cuts across all corners of his portly and proud head.
Colonel Webber in the madness of the matter had lost his head along with the men around him. He arched his arm forward and with a fluid and swift movement emptied two chambers of the revolver, killing two the men in the process. The third was brought down by the Major who lay recumbent upon the ground.
The Colonel seeing the situation as complete and handled, resumed to treaded back to his quarters. The Major slowly limped towards the prostrate Brigadier, but instead of assisting him to his feet. He put a revolver to his occipital bone.
"Brigadier, if I kill you. I can bring Webber here," his voice was in a hushed and raspy tone. Driven to madness by the past two or some minutes he was on the edge of desperation.
Colonel Webber clenched the revolver in his fist until his scarred knuckles were blanched with rage.
Suddenly an aristocratic, high pitched nasally voice erupted.
"And who in the name of the King is going to stop me!" The Major indignantly remarked, he did not turn to see the illustrious figure behind him.
"By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, His Majesty, King George V."
The blessed King had a rather clipped manner of syntax, his speaking was quick. Contrary to popular belief the King was not a lanky or an intimidating man. He was short, just six inches over five. He was as slim as a lath, but the feeling of royalty and honour was embedded within his corporal essence. His beard well-trimmed and groomed, he having an angular and rectangular head.
At the sight of the beloved King, the men all bowed embracing His Majesty. All with the exception of the Brigadier who in much agony to move.
"I was in South Africa to visit another one of my Generals. But with the notification of your defeat, I decided to advent here. I see the grimness of the case. I saw the end of this horrid munity, and I believe I know of its inception. I feel contrition towards what has occurred, but not the remorse of this stained blood upon this rugged and blessed terrain. The pity I feel is stainless. The stainless pity of disgrace and dishonour, not fitting for that of the Empire. We are the British Empire. An Empire that has conquered Africa, The New World, Asia, and Australia. We are Kings of the world. No one can hinder our path. But here I see that any one of those Germans can defeat us. Shakespeare said a rose by another name is sweet. Therefore the Royal Army is valiant, audacious, gallant, intrepid, honourable, and sagacious, we are omnipotent. This war maybe horrid, it may be horrendously terrifying. But I see men blinding by their devoir towards self-slaughter. If we bleed a pint, we shall save a gallon."
The King with a turn of his majestic head treaded towards his steed that no man here had noticed and galloped off, with his words of sagacity.
I felt ashamed; the King himself had to lecture us upon our imbecility and the horror of what we had done. The corpses of the treasonous trio had been left where they were shot, whilst Colonel James was buried with a soldier's burial.
That night I lay upon my mattress in vehement thought. The actions of those three men had driven a series of actions. Man was a singular and grotesque specimen; we resort to murder within our hierarchical system to solve all problems. In my early days of service I saw that it was horrendous through the medical portions. But know I see how it clouds judgment I see the true terror. It puts men against one another, yet for my devoir I remain.
My deep and reflective line of though was interrupted by an air shattering blast of a pistol. The men within the camp rushed towards what we believed to be the inception of the shot. The quarters of Brigadier Campbell. It was the not the audacious Brigadier that was deceased but the vindictive Major Huggins. A bullet straight through his frontal bone. A red dot, the brand of Cain. Standing in front of the corpse of the Major was grandiose Colonel Webber. His constitution was supremely enigmatic as he always was. The revolver lay beside the Major, as Colonel Webber stood adamantly smoking his oaken pipe.
"Witness what has been done when men turn to murder. This atrocious action that has been done. In these matters I contemplate what the meaning of this all is. We suffer from sorrows. Nothing is able to cleanse our pains, what we must do is move forth and overcome it. The predicament of man is that we are unable to. We fall back and bicker amongst ourselves. The day my realization of peace comes together is the day I humbly rest. Wonderful enigma, blessed South Africa," Colonel Webber left the room with his final and addling words.
After the Great War came to a close I never encountered Colonel Webber again. I shall not prolong my reminiscence of the controversy he caused or how his name was cleared, and Frost's was tarnished. Now in my final years I think of the sagacious man's words and his ideals. Man maybe flawed and horrendous. But for our vices we have virtues of creation, the darkness can be repealed. As we work towards it Colonel Webber's spectre becomes at ease. So the stainless pity His Majesty spoke of is pitiful. The stained pity of man overshadows his sorrows.