I am a soldier who has just returned from Crimea; from blood soaked valleys and smoking canons; from the gruesome sights of mass devastation and the sickening stench of decay.
I am constantly tormented by the horrors I witnessed and the heart-wrenching screams of my comrades still reverberate in my mind. I feel like my soul was sucked out in the mouth of Hell, a Hell called Crimea.
I believe that the hills of Balaclava have a story to tell. A story unbeknownst to most of the public following the glorious happenings of a seemingly glorious war.
It all began because of a careless miscommunication. A miscommunication that cost hundreds of young, faithful men to lose their lives – something that could have and should have been avoided.
We were sitting on itchy wooden chairs in the trenches, my friends and I, sharing a rare moment of peace after a long, strenuous battle, when we received the orders to descend to the valley. It didn’t occur to us to ask questions; we were totally submitted and dedicated to the army, our country, and our goals. We mounted our horses in good faith, with simple trust in our superiors; we galloped bravely forward, backs erect and heads held up high.
I remember surveying the valley as it came in to view. Rows of armoured men were lined up on all sides, looking fierce as lions and just as ready to pounce. I knew I was riding into the jaws of death, into sealed walls of fire. The hills almost screamed defeat. But I resolved to fight for my country to the best of all my ability, be it at the expense of my life.
As we closed the gaps between us, the Russian army jolted forward like mindless zombies; fire erupted from the huge black cannons and deadly balls hissed past me, killing many of close friends with one swift blow. Our ranks had dramatically depleted.
But through a haze of death, we forged on. One line of soldiers flew into the smoke of the batteries but streams of fire brought them down on all sides. All we could see were dead bodies and horse carcasses enveloped in clouds of smoke. I ceased looking back.
We rode up to the guns, weaving between them as we cut down the gunners; I dodged a bullet and threw myself forward as cries of death mingled with the triumphant roars of the Russians, creating a clamorous din that just spurred me on.
After breaking through a row of Russian infantry, we galloped back triumphantly, newfound confidence in our stride. Not for long; fire swamped our ranks; horses were scattered by a blistering volley of deadly shells sending our cavalry to their eternal rest. My heart lurched, as I looked death in the face.
“Retreat!” the commander barked and we began heading back. Suddenly, a regiment of lancers hurled themselves upon us; we were enveloped by a horde of merciless Russian soldiers. So began a desperate fight for survival. Knife to knife. My horses emitted a spine-chilling yelp as I brandished my sabre tightly, my palms damp with perspiration. We fought with superhuman strength. We fought for Britain
Then something unimaginable happened! The remaining Russian gunners took up their posts once more, standing ominously at their guns as their friends intertwined with foe in a mass of struggling men. Much to my astonishment, they then callously ‘poured a murderous volley of grapes and canister’ on the knot of mutual combatants as hundreds of horses and men slumped down like slain trees. My horse was shot in the legs and fell abruptly. I dismounted hurriedly and ducked through horses’ legs, glistening knives and fallen soldiers. The swirls of smoke, the drum of the bullets and the piercing screams receded into the distance as I raced and raced, feeling the sensation of someone on my heels. With my last ounces of strength I dashed forward, and then turned abruptly into a mound of overgrown grass, lying silently. Nothing moved. I lay there for a while until I was positive he had either lost me or realized I was not worth it.
And as I lay there in the clutches of death, I decided resolutely, “War is futile.” The coming days only proved it.