Just trying again to figure out what killed me in 1915. I’ve never been able to figure it out.
I know that the bright lights in the sky were flares, and I’m pretty sure I was outside my trench at night when it happened. That much is easy.
But I remember being far from the German line, on an earth embankment (perhaps the parados of a sap point?). The lines at Houplines were at least 150 yards apart, which is a little on the wide side. Could someone have lobbed a grenade that far? And if it wasn’t a grenade, what was it?
No record of an artillery engagement that night in the regimental diaries and no record of what killed me; only listed as “killed in action.” The IWM archives don’t have any records after my first enlistment (1902-1914) since I was registered under a different serial when the war broke out; that file was more than likely destroyed in the Blitz, or perhaps misfiled since John Harris was an incredibly common name in 1914.
I have only the most skeletal understanding of my movements with the Shropshires at Ypres and beyond after almost five years of searching; all the rest is fragmentary memories.
There’s another prospect I’ve considered: that this wasn’t the incident that got me. It’s possible that I survived the explosion after I threw myself to the ground, and that it was something like sniper fire that got me some time later.
But my instinct says that I was indeed blown to kingdom come that night. A grisly prospect. I’d take a clean shot to the heart with a Mauser over that any day. If we look on our dead bodies as our souls depart, then I’d rather not see something that looks like bully beef. I don’t remember that, but perhaps only because it was too horrible to remember. I feel like I’m blocked from a lot of the worst memories and I probably always will be because they’re hidden behind two layers of amnesia now (amnesia from trauma and amnesia from multiple rebirths in the interim).
I just want to know what happened. Old Jack’s still there, in the corner of my memory waiting for an answer. I don’t need to be blocked any more. I can take the truth. I already know I didn’t survive.