Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Short Story » Historical Fiction

The Last Day: Trench Warfare

by Elizabeth

This is a crumby history assignment (it wasn't, just what I did) about trench warfare back during WWI. I wrote it in first person, so I need help with it, I mean, I'm done with it, but I want a nice shiny copy for myself :). It was based upon a 24 hour day of a soldier and there had a to be an intro to the character and then the timeline thing....... and the teacher liked it so I got a good grade.... Historians and Sam, help me.

The Day in the Life of a Soldier

By Elizabeth Mathers

My name is Duncan Hunter. I turned eighteen in the town I was born in, Richmond, Virginia. I entered the University of Virginia when the war broke out. My parents both pushed me towards it, even my girlfriend, Susan, pushed me, so she’d have bragging rights. I dropped out of school two months later, planning to return after I came back, and signed up at the nearest recruiting center. After a couple months of training and marching I got shipped off to France. I couldn’t remember the locations; we always kept fighting and moving on. The only thing I was certain of was that it was 1917. Then one cold night, five days ago, I was in a trench with several other men who I knew, and we were trapped.

• 12:00 AM: I tried and want to sleep again, but it was no use, I’m too worried. You can hear the blasting of cannons behind us and of the men screaming as they got shattered with bullets or shrapnel. The men in the hold with me are growing uneasy; we are all new to this. I lay out my water-proof tarp on the ground next to a box with some food and attempt to go to sleep.

• 1:00 AM: Duncan is finally is asleep. Several other men in the room are sleeping as well as the others, who are awake and guarding them, which is one of their responsibilities, and, play poker.

• 2:00 AM: I am awoken by the sound of a grenade blast directly above the trench. The roof shakes, dirt falls down, and my emotions begin to cave-in on my heart. I wonder about my mother and father. To know that I died in war would make them proud, but to know I died, would that cancel out the pride? And I wonder about Susan. If only she could see me now, cold, wet, tired and hungry. Would she still love me if I came back with no foot? Charles, the latest soldier to get sent home, had trench foot that soon contracted into gangrene. He had to have it amputated; his foot was swollen and couldn’t be removed of the boot. He would have kept his foot if he hadn’t given away his socks in generosity.

• 3:00 AM: Duncan has returned to sleep, ignoring the sounds of blasting above.

• 4:00 AM: I reawake and open up my pack. There isn’t much food left now; it’s the fifth day today and the delivery boy hasn’t arrived with fresh supplies. I had only nibbled bit by bit on the my food, which was just some bread, pork, beans, and a thin spoonful of sugar, and drank almost all of my water. If I didn’t get out of there soon, if all of us didn’t, we would surely die. To get our minds off the explosions we play some poker.

• 5:00 AM: I wonder if my friends are sick with worry over me and my family. What could they do without me? Thomas, one of the older recruits, looks over and begins to bellow in rage. We all turn to see that there was a fat rat crawling blindly around the wall’s edge, sniffing for food. Thomas walks over to me and asks for me to hand him his hand gun. As I give it to him he checks to be sure it’s loaded, aims for the rat and shoots. The other men clap halfheartedly, amused but too tired to say anything.

• 6:00 AM: I couldn’t take it anymore, I walks to my pack and finished off my water and ate an entire slice of bread and the sugar. I was shocked at myself, wondering when the day would end. Or begin. I lost track of hourly time.

• 7:00 AM: I found a scrap of paper underneath one of the boxes. I feel obligated pull out a pencil I keep in my boot and being to write Susan and my parents, to tell them that I am alright and hopefully will be home soon. Should I spare the details of the war? The blood, the gore, things not mentioned in any of the ads or songs that also pushed me forward. I lie back onto my tarp and look up to the dirt ceiling.

• 8:00 AM: I read into my pack and pull out some of my own cards. I play solitaire. One of the men is crying that his foot aches and worries that he’s gotten trench foot. We try to talk sense into him, even offer him some of our socks, but all he does is moan, takes his boot off and rubs whale oil on it until his foot’s covered in it. I go back to playing solitaire.

• 9:00 AM: Duncan falls asleep on his tarp again. Cards are scattered everywhere.

• 10:00 AM: All the food is gone now. The man who was supposed to deliver a box of food hasn’t yet arrived yet, though he was supposed to an hour ago. We all wait in silence as the planes scream above.

• 11:00 AM: I take out that piece of paper I found earlier and begin to write to Susan. I make the letter short and simple, but explain no details. My comrades tease me and ask me questions about Susan, which I answer silently. They roar with laughter as I burn red but the laughter soon dies down as the screech of a plane soars above.

• 12:00 PM: Our hunger grows. I ask if anybody had any spare food for ten of my cartridges. Bartering was my last resort. I am at an inconvenience however, there is no food. I place the shells back into my sack and join the rest of the men in story telling. You learn a lot about war in these times, you forget that sane and decent life lives beyond the trench walls.

• 1:00 PM: The man from the delivery company arrives with a fresh crate of bread, beef stew, corned beef, biscuits, pork, beans, jam, butter, sugar, tea, and water. I smile as we split it amongst ourselves and eat, though don’t finish it off.

• 2:00 PM: We hear word of a sentry who had his arm blown off from a grenade. As soon as his body hit the ground rats were already busy gnawing at him. The men in my trench were disgusted and didn’t believe it, most of it anyway. The rats, however, seemed to be the only truth in the matter. We were positive a sentry would have fought back instead of being overridden so fast, but then again, they were large rats.

• 3:00 PM: A new man arrives to our trench. He said that he went to go find the delivery boy and when he returned half the men were outside the trench, scattering to other trenches. It had caved in and mud had filled it. All their equipment had been buried and, although now we had to ration him out a loaf of bread, they were lucky to be alive.

• 4:00 PM: We grow restless and decide to have a miniature contest. Whoever did the most jumping jacks without stopping would win. Thomas was the first out and he jeered us, the new man was next to go; only me and two other men remained. I stopped, deciding to tire myself for a biscuit and half a tin of jam wasn’t worth it anyway.

• 5:00 PM: The rattling begins and it shakes us all up. We were playing poker when we heard the soaring of airplanes from above. An attack had begun on the other end of the trench, a few miles down. Machine guns rang out and the screams and hollering of corporals and recruits alike could be heard from that distance. Cannons were being shot from all directions. Several times you could feel the ground shake. It was insane, but we stayed in the hole and didn’t come out.

• 6:00 PM: The battle continued on. Nobody thought of anything to do, we just sat around for a while, wondering if the shells would stop. I hoped that another delivery boy would arrive so I could give him the letter that I had written to Susan, to be delivered. But since the last man who was supposed to come on time came late, perhaps the rest would be. I reread the letter over and over again to myself.

• 7:00 PM: The fighting draws nearer to our trench hold. I grab my gun and huddle with everybody else around the walls. We sit there for who knows how long? Nobody was crazy enough to travel outside to check what was happening. I leaned against the wall, wishing to fall asleep, wake up and be home, but I knew that was only my dream. But as quickly as it began it ended, which surprised all of us. We went back to our seats and chatted.

• 8:00 PM: An officer who was in a nearby trench entered our hold, ordering me to get up and go on sentry duty. I was caught off guard by this order; surely the rotations hadn’t gotten all the way through the previous trenches. I couldn’t have argued, he was higher ranked than me, and there were more men higher ranked than me.

• 9:00 PM: I am led outside and ordered to stay put until he returns. The officer marches back into the darkness and I am left alone, with a half bottle of my water and a loaf of bread, for who knows how long? I pace back and forth slowly, wondering how long I could be out here. What if the officer forgets me? Maybe it’s not the fear of being left alone in war that bothers me, just being alone in the dark.

• 10:00 PM: The officer hasn’t returned, the skies are cloudy but you can see the moon. The light that is cast down lights up the battlefield as an eerie graveyard effect which chills me. I wonder how many other men are out on guard tonight. I take a bite out of my loaf of bread and drink some water. I pace back and forth some more ready, at any minute, to become a killer.

• 11: 00 PM: Still the guard hasn’t arrived, I feel lonely. I have a feeling that my men could have sneaked away, leaving me here all alone. I worry about the sudden ring of guns and the sound of screaming men a loud. What happened in the past still haunts me, but what would happen now would surely be the end of me. I missed my family and Susan more than ever. I wondered if they would see the same dark moon as me, yet not know my tragedy. I eat the rest of my bread and wait in the silence, hoping that the officer would return and I could go back.

Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.

Is this a review?



Random avatar

Points: 690
Reviews: 1

Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:02 pm
valrossie wrote a review...

Historical fiction is a sub-genre of fiction that often portrays alternate accounts or dramatization of historical figures or events. Stories in this genre, while fictional, make an honest attempt at capturing the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the person or time they represent with attention paid to detail and fidelity.
Lifetime Ads

Random avatar

Points: 890
Reviews: 99

Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:16 pm
Niamh wrote a review...

It's a very good start, trench warfare is always an interesting subject. But the thing about trench warfare is the emotions those involved felt. Therefore I think it is critical in a story about trench warfare to pinpoint exactly what is going on inside this man's head. He sees death all around him, and it scares him--but what is he thinking to himself? Does it make him miss home more? Or does it make him rethink previous beliefs? I think if you go more in depth with his inner thoughts, and the desperation that those involved in trench warfare felt, the sickness and hunger, it will improve the story. I'm sorry if this sounds rude--really, I don't mean it to, because I love the concept of your story, and it is well written, I just think it could improve. This is only my opinion though. I hope it helped, and I can't wait to read more! Cheers!

User avatar
531 Reviews

Points: 8846
Reviews: 531

Mon Mar 27, 2006 6:27 pm
Caligula's Launderette wrote a review...

I'll do a more indepth critique when I have some more time. There were only a few things that caught me off guard.

1. You never mention his rank.
2. Where and how did they get sugar?
3. In his introduction, the part about being pushed into it, and the training and marching part made me feel that you were just too lazy.

That's really all that glared at me. I give you something more substantial after dinner. :D


Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.
— Sir James Dewar, Scientist