Imagine that in some unspecified future when the secret of time travel has been unlocked, the ancient practice of writing music down has been rediscovered and humanity has learned anew the language of the emotions, and of mathematics, embodied in making music. You have been picked as one of a small team of investigators whose task it will be to insinuate yourself into other times and other situations to retrieve forgotten songs and lost melodies. Your specialist task will be the rediscovery of the songs and tunes that lightened the load, and made shorter the marches of soldiers generations ago.
While the stories told are fictional, they are based on historical facts.
Excerpt from Over The Hill:
All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to ﬁnd out what you don’t know by what you do; that’s what I called ’guess what was at the other side of the hill’.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
The Iron Duke knew a thing or two about soldiering. I wouldn’t say his words were the ﬁrst thing that entered my mind when I rounded the corner of Rue de Moulinelle; the old boulangerie was obviously deserted and pretty beat-up, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of the bare muzzle of a Kraut panzer inches from my face. The steel monster had been squeezed back into the standing walls obviously with the intention of ambush. My reaction was simple and swift, duck back around the corner and listen intently, holding my breath.
At least the engine wasn’t running, and I hadn’t heard voices. Had I been seen? Were there troops coming after me? In my role as war correspondent I should really have stayed behind the skirmish line instead of skipping oﬀ by myself “to gather buttercups” as the lieutenant would no doubt belittle my adventure. I was trying to stay on the lieutenant’s good side since the last supply convoy had brought three crates of smoke grenades instead of the high explosive grenades that had been requisitioned.
Deciding that I had not been detected, I made my way as quietly as possible back along the rubble-strewn Tichemont road in search of Sergeant Kane with my news. A few minutes and a brief but richly worded admonition later, the patrol’s radio operator had contacted the platoon to request the support of a bazooka and we hunkered down to make the most of the remaining shelter inside a ruined barn.
Platoon’s response was reassuringly swift. The jeep with our bazooka team splashed to a halt as the rainclouds began to clear and Kane outlined his proposed plan; that he should run back to the store and toss a smoke grenade to get the attention of the tank crew, then the bazooka would wait for the tank to emerge from cover and knock the tracks oﬀ, leaving it more vulnerable.
In my opinion Kane deserves a medal for his actions. Sprinting back to the storefront, he smashed in one of the boarded windows before tossing in the grenade. As the panzer started its engine, smoke billowed out from the gaping window and drifted from the open wall around the corner. The metal monster twisted out of the building showering plaster and timbers as the turret swivelled looking for our patrol. The sergeant was darting back toward us, dangerously exposed and my stomach was churning with anxiety, dreading the belch of ﬂame when the muzzle would speak, but instead the heavy caliber machine gun opened up.
In the movies everyone but the hero is a lousy shot, combat isn’t like that at all! The tank crew didn’t waste ammo spitting up dust from the road with their bullets; I swear one round passed me close enough that I heard it whistle past, as if some world-series pitcher had hurled a pebble with all his might. The gun was raking the bushes at the roadside and what was left of the barn, scattering splinters and fragments of leaves and I heard the awful screams of one of the boys who had met one of the bullets, a sound I wish I could forget.
I was beginning to dread that the leviathan in front of us would claim the victory when the bazooka loosed its ﬁrst round. With ice-cool nerves the gunner had aimed straight for the left-hand track, splitting the rivets and bending the sprocket wheel out of true. Before the driver could stop, the tank had slewed to one side, shedding the damaged track as it went. But still, the machine gun on the turret continued to range, looking for signs of life.