1914 First Blood: A Tommy Gunn Adventure by John Hughes-Wilson
Meet T.O.M. Gunn, a young infantry lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters, just back on leave from India as Europe catches fire in the chaotic summer of 1914.
The British Expeditionary Force is off to France, and Gunn is determined to join the war before it's over. He joins a hastily-formed mixed battalion of reservists, regular and territorial soldiers to find himself pitchforked into the mayhem of the battles of the Marne, the Aisne and then the long-drawn-out agony of Ypres as the high hopes of summer sink into the frozen trenches of the winter of 1914. By the time of the Christmas Truce with the Germans, Thaddeus Gunn and his men begin to realise that this is going to be a long war - and they will be lucky to survive.
CHAPTER 1 - The North West Frontier, 1912
Young Thaddeus Gunn was lost.
Sent into the hills of the North West Frontier with a platoon of fifty men - well, forty-two, because of the sick, to be accurate - and no map, he had somehow taken a wrong turn climbing up the narrow pass deep in the mountains.
His orders that morning from the battalion commander of the Mohmand Field Force had been quite clear: To cover the flank of the punitive expedition by establishing a picquet on the top of Hill 724 and prevent any tribesmen from escaping to the east.' The colonel's moustache had positively bristled as he stared at Thaddeus. The Staffords were short of men and having an alien platoon of Sherwood Foresters wished upon them for the expedition rankled, obviously.
Think you can manage that, boy?'
This punitive expedition was certainly punishing someone, Gunn thought as he mopped the sweat off his face. Now, as he struggled to remember his orders, an echo of distant gunfire echoed off the rock walls on either side. Somewhere far off, the rest of the expedition was involved in a real fight. He stopped, and the column of khaki-uniformed sweating soldiers behind him cannoned into each other and then halted. A few muffled curses floated in the baking heat. Some of the men looked nervously up at the cliffs above; most looked at their officer.
Lieutenant T.O.M. Gunn was as pink and sweating as any of his men. Laden with a Sam Browne sword belt on his left, a matching brown leather pistol holster on his right hip, water bottle and binoculars, all covered in fine dust, Gunn looked a very hot and dusty warrior indeed. He pushed his solar topee back on his head and pushed his wet dark hair back. He checked his new wristwatch. They were behind time, that was for sure.
What now, sir?' Serjeant Dyer's pink and perspiring face was a picture of anxiety. I can't see no 'ill.'
Nor could Gunn. He needed time to think. Get the men spaced out, Sarn't Dyer,' he snapped. They're too bunched.'
He turned away to look at the landscape. Where the hell were they? The platoon was a ribbon of khaki at the bottom of what seemed a natural crack in the rocks. Behind them it wound down to the dusty plain where they had started from two hours before. Ahead it sloped upwards to disappear into what looked like an even narrower pass. The sound of another distant volley of shots rolled round the mountains. He couldn't see any green-topped hill. Everyone was looking at him. He came to a decision.
1914 First Blood by John Hughes-Wilson is published by Memoirs Publishing (paperback £12.99). It is available at all good booksellers and online at amazon.co.uk.
Latest Travel Articles
Berlin Backpacker Guide: Best Things to do in Berlin Mitte
Your go-to guide to Berlin’s most central district…
Best Restaurants for Affordable French Dishes in Paris
Eating out in Paris doesn’t have to blow the budget…