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When the World Stood Still.
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By Rebecca Goodman

When the World Stood Still

I stood there, waiting, my blood freezing in my veins. I was thinking, did I really want to do this? I knew if I did, it would be near certain death, but I knew if I chickened out, it would be near certain death as well. Beside me, my comrades looked as scared as I was and I swear I could hear their hearts beating. I thought of my wife and children back home. That was the thought that changed my life forever. I would do this for their freedom, even if it meant laying down my life.

Three, two, one. I could just hear the words pounding inside my head, but then I realised it wasn’t just me, it was the radio. Everything seemed to stand still, even the emergency vehicles over on the dirt road. ‘This is the moment’, my heart was telling me, ‘Pull out!’ “No, I won’t.” I answered back out loud, “I can do this, I must do this!” Slowly but surely, I put my finger on the trigger, and as I jumped forward with the others, my trigger finger went tight.

“Bang, bang, bang!” the bullets flew out of my automatic rifle like wild animals from a bushfire. Out of my periscope, I saw people fall down dead. I was filled with horror and dread, but still I kept on firing, because there was no other way out.

“Ahhhh!” a scream. I turned around just in time to see my best friend, Robert, fall down to the disgusting dirt floor of the trench, badly wounded. This newfound source of anger spurred me on, and firing with all my might, I saw more of the enemy fall down dead. “Aim, fire, clean, reload. Aim, fire, clean, reload!”

More and more bodies fell limp and lifeless as they were ripped to shreds by the barbed wire in no-man’s-land. ‘Come on, it must be our time for a break’ I thought, and ten minutes, it was. I ate my worm infested cookies with gratitude. All too soon, it was my squads turn on the front again. Just as I picked up my rifle, I heard all firing abruptly cease. “What's going on?” I asked myself out loud. The answer to my question came right away.

As I peered over the trench lip I could see that a German soldier had jumped up on the other side of the battlefield, out of the trench, and was singing. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears, but there he was, singing in German as though his life depended on it, (which it probably did). The song he was singing was one we had learnt back home in church. ‘Oh Holy Night’ I think it was called.

I could hardly move, I was so wrapped up in the beautiful song. His lovely solo tenor voice was like crystal white doves, singing sweetly in heaven. The song filled the smoggy air and the heart until it drowned every other feeling I had inside me.

Suddenly, I realised that I had picked up the tune and was singing along with him, and that everyone else, including Robert, who was now being treated by the nurse, had caught on and was singing as well. Soon, every single soldier in every single trench, on both sides of the war zone was belting out the song at the top of their lungs. It was a weird feeling, us singing in English and the Fritz in German when we were supposed to be firing at each other. Weird, but mind-blowing.

When the song finished, I waited for a gunshot to ring out and for the man to fall down dead. I waited and waited, and waited some more. Nothing. Slowly and carefully the man started moving back toward his trench, still singing softly, but so we could still hear him. It was magical.

That was back on the Christmas Eve of 1914, but I can still remember it now as clearly as if it was happening in this very room. It was definitely the most special moment of my life. I’ve told it to my children, my grandchildren, and even my great-grandchildren. I don’t think they’re really interested, but it makes me feel good all the same.

I think that everyone has forgotten about the Great War to a certain extent, but I definitely haven’t. Every deafening shell blast and every gunshot is still as clear as a crystal in my head, even though I try to forget about things like that. War is my most terrifying nightmare. When other wars come along, I cry my heart out for all of the young blokes who haven’t even lived the best parts of their lives yet, but have to go out and kill other souls that haven’t lived life yet either.

War damages people permanently. You get memories that you can never forget, even if you try to. Everyone changes when they go out war. Boys become old men, and men become old wrecks. I hate war more than I hate anything in the whole entire world, but I’ll on no account forget that day when the world stood still.

By Rebecca Goodman.



Brian Falkner Books