Prologue: Little Short of Hell
The sun shone brightly over the airfield. The vivid green shades of the trees and grass contrasted greatly with the broken tank and the burnt-out skeletons of hangars and the bloated bodies of soldiers that lay scattered about. It didn't matter where they were from, they all had been dead for so long that the grass was beginning to grow over them.
In a ditch facing the hangars sat a Canadian Bren gunner and his loader. Their uniforms were filthy and ragged after a month of continuous fighting, their faces covered in grime, and their backs bitten raw by fleas and ticks. A single bead of sweat rolled down the gunner's face but he dared not to swipe it away and kept his focus on the airfield before him.
Carpiquet had to be taken. It was in the way of the final objective; Caen. Here in Capriquet was the 12th SS Panzer Division. Raised in the Nazi ideals since they could walk, the 12th were bloodthirsty and ruthless fighters who took no prisoners. The gunner looked to his loader and the other soldier nodded. It was understood that the Canadians would take no prisoners and show no mercy to their enemy. Especially after the atrocities committed in Abbaye d'Ardenne.
The invasion of Normandy had stalled completely. No one could break out and when they did they met fierce resistance from Jerry wherever they went. Every inch of ground was won in blood. Every victory came at a heavy cost. The Canadians had made it to Carpiquet and have fought the Germans here for the past three days. With only a pile of bodies and no ground gained, the soldiers were getting exhausted.
The gunner focused intently on the airfield searching for the familiar grey camouflage of the SS. The loader placed a reassuring hand on the gunner's shoulder. The gunner knew that when the fighting started he could rely on his loader and the other Canadians around them which took away some of his anxiety.
The reports of numerous rifles and machine-guns sounded through the air. The gunner fired at the grey figures and the loader wordlessly passed the rounds over when needed. A grey soldier appeared within the gunner's view and he shot him down without a second thought.
A mortor slammed into the ground several feet away, causing the gunner and loader to start and falter temporarily. Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit! The gunner thought. His clothes felt wet and he looked down at himself only to find a dark stain on the crotch of his trousers. The gunner looked away in embarrassment, luckily the loader didn't notice.
The gunner's blood roared in his ears and his heart pounded against his ribcage. He took several deep breaths in an attempt to console himself. By the looks of it, his loader was having the same struggle. Keep calm and keep focused; that's what they have been told before stepping foot in France.
The gunner and loader quickly left their ditch in exchange for another position in order to get better aim at the enemy. A quick glance around revealed fresh corpses of German and Canadian soldiers. Both soldiers felt disheartened when they noticed that the Canadian dead outnumbered the Germans.
A mortor bomb went off to their left; showering them in a hailstorm of dirt. In an instant, the loader gave a shrill scream and fell backwards, holding his face in his hands. Thick, dark blood oozed out from between his fingers, staining his hands red.
The gunner froze yet again and went to the loader's side, forcing his hands away from his face in order to see the wound. The gunner gaped at the sight. The skin on the loader's face and neck was torn to shreds and his uniform was bloodied. The loader writhed and moaned while the gunner called for a medic, a stretcher-bearer, anyone.
In what felt like an eternity, two stretcher-bearers appeared by his side. "Get your ass back to that gun!" One of them shouted. "We got this." The gunner obeyed silently, feeling numb and quite hallow inside.
Within several minutes, the loader lay prostrate in the dirt. The stretcher-bearers had decided that nothing could be done for him and went to help soldiers that would survive.
By the time the loader breathed his last breath, gazing into the sky above, the gunner was dead, the fight ended with the Canadians in bitter defeat yet again. All of the dead were left where they had fallen as their living companions fled.
Silence soon reigned supreme over the airfield once more.