Phil was crammed into the sidewall of the trench trying to get some sleep when the letter fluttered across the lip. A light blue airmail tissue paper butterfly striking terror deep into his very core.
In an old fashioned serif, looking for all the world like it had actually been typed by hand, the letter was as follows :
We very much hope that this letter finds you well and that your officers have kept supply lines open in these difficult circumstances.
We are settling down well in the trenches we recently captured from you. Your engineers did a magnificent job building them, they really are first class. The same however cannot be said for your cooks – one of our chaps tasted some food that had been hurriedly left behind as you retreated and the poor fellow hasn’t been quite right since !
We just wanted to drop you a quick line to let you know that our next attack is scheduled for four thirty tomorrow morning. Hope this reaches you in time for you to take appropriate evasive action.
We thought we would preface the main thrust with an artillery barrage for half an hour or so with fairly regular flares so we can all see what’s going on.
Our supply master Wilf is particularly proud of his new delayed action ground clearance wotsit – you shoot it up above the area you want to clear and it howls loudly as it falls from altitude. Not really sure why it has to do that frankly – it’s a little overly dramatic don’t you think ? When it falls into the trench it goes completely silent for a while before exploding into lots of what he calls ‘bomblets’. Little packages the size of a golf ball apparently that bounce around the place making a bit of a mess of things before coming to rest and then exploding too ! No wonder Wilf loves it – howls and hundreds of explosions – he’s just a little boy in a uniform to be honest. The louder it all is, the more he likes it. I don’t deny the little thrill you get when you set one of those things off, but it does make an unholy mess of anyone underneath it when it comes down, so without teaching Grandma how to suck eggs and so on, I would strongly recommend you’re not there when it does.
There are a number of excellent options open for you at the moment, but once we get to four thirty I’m afraid choices will become severely limited. My personal suggestion would be a nice orderly surrender at the dip in the land about five hundred yards south of your current position – or you could of course flee to the rear and fight again another day – it’s really up to you.
Looking forward to meeting you at the dip or in battle someday,
The Gentlemen of the First Brigade, Roxton Harcourt.
Phil shuddered, shook his head slowly and looked to the south where he saw a thin stream of his fellow rebels heading for the dip. He stood to join them.
He was strangely relieved it was over. He looked at his watch to check the date.
September 12th. The end of the civil war.