No glory in war, only memories of fear and death

By Hope Rae - Year 12, Gore High School

In the dictionary, the definition of fear is ''an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm''.

What the dictionary fails to tell you is that fear is more than an emotion.

It starts at your fingertips, tingling, slithering its way up your arms.

You begin to feel it in your knees as they quiver. It then creeps into your throat, making it impossible for you to swallow, and reminds you of the uncertainty of the events ahead.

Fear then casts a shadow over your heart and consumes your fast-paced breath until you no longer feel fear, but become it.

In 1914, life in New Zealand was uneasy. At the fresh age of 18, I had my crisp army uniform, scruffy black hair, and eyes that were brimming with excitement.

I was so eager and naive, that I too, forgot to remind myself about the trapdoors of fear.

The seeping wet dirt through my clothes was the feeling that I had become familiar with. The French soil underneath my fingernails too, and the tic-tac of the guns delivering death rattled on and on in my head.

I had never expected for Germany to be like that.

I had always wanted to travel, but not if it meant fighting to the death.

We had fought in two teams, when really we were all in the same position - brothers in misery and suffering.

We waited in the anticipating deep trenches, listening for the command.

I could hear the moaning sound of the planes overhead, badgering us in the sky.

''Prepare for the ambush of enemy line,'' Commander James said with a thick voice.

I attempted to take a few heavy breaths to calm my restless nerves and to unthread the multitude of knots within my abdomen.

The concoction of harsh smoke and never-ending scent of the demised, forbade me.

''Hurry along men. On my count: three, two, one . . .''

Fear. I had become fear.

Terror had wrapped its devouring arms around me, suffocating me, consuming me.

We climbed up and over from the trenches and began the ambush across the vast stretch of no-man's land.

The idea of death was the only thing forcing me to shoot those innocent men.

At that moment, I had never felt more selfish in my life.

The closer we got to the enemy lines, the heavier my feet and my heart became.

Just beside me, a fellow soldier was shot. I will never forget the sight of the gaping hole in his head, the somersault he performed because of the impact, and at last the stillness of death.

And in that moment, I looked up at the sky, clouds a puffy coverage stained the colour of the dead soldiers' bodies - red.

The cause of World War 1 began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Why has the retaliation of one death allowed for millions of more innocent killings?

Death was the creator of war, so how is it meant to be the solution?

I thought to myself these questions just as I was shot. Twice.

My groggy eyes presented me with a world that would not stop spinning.

I was dragged desperately into the trenches so I would be safe - as safe as one can be during a war, anyhow.

I was shot once in the lower leg and once in the back of my shoulder.

Dipping in and out of consciousness, all I remember is the intense burning, submerging the areas from where I had been shot.

Frozen with fear, I struggled to allow a scream erupt from me.

I was very strong on the idea that everything happens for a reason, and for a reason that I was unsure of, I believed God had decided it was my time to go.

I thought of my friends, my family, and about how selfish it was of me to let go.

Despite God's path for me, I didn't want to let go.

I had a younger sister whose eyes were filled with the same fascination and curiosity as the galaxy.

She was the ripe age of 2, and had yet to discover the beauties of the world.

To give up during a war would mean a girl so innocent and pure would be exposed to the bloodshed and cruelty within the present world.

The fist that usually empowered authority, Commander James was now delivering motions of force on my face as an act of keeping me conscious.

''Don't you dare do it, boy. Don't you dare let go!'' James shouted at me.

Those words swirled around my mind, bouncing off the walls.

It was not the pain of being shot that deemed me unconscious, but those words hammering in my head.

Seventy-five years later, I continue to have scruffy, yet thinner and grey hair, eyes that carry too many harsh memories to be excited, and that are no longer young and naive.

I now walk with a slight limp. Scars decorate my skin. The weight of trauma rests densely on my shoulders.

I have experienced enough during my time to be aware of the viciousness that life can throw at you.

In proof of that, a second world war occurred, one that I endured not only in fear, but in bitterness, ashamed of the world that has allowed the same torture to exist twice.

I have witnessed humans, but no humanity.

After all these years, fear has continued to haunt me.

I have been unable to pursue a future with anyone. In fear of them experiencing what I had to, I did not have any children.

I have listened to Commander James' words for too long. I cannot let go of war.

Today is Anzac Day.

Just like every year, I am paralysed by fear, unable to attend any ceremonies, for it reminds me too much of the very thing they all try so deeply to commemorate - war.


Add a Comment






Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter