The men had a couple of days in which to rest up, but also get up to speed on the latest events occurring in the war in the region they were in. It appeared that good progress was being made, although they couldn’t see it for themselves and only had radio communication to go by and reports from other areas.
Kevin attended many meetings with other senior officers regarding which direction they were to take. There were many villages and towns under German occupancy which needed to be liberated, and that’s exactly what they were there to do; rid France of the enemy which had taken hold and crippled them. Once the Germans had been pushed out of France, they could take them on their own turf and hopefully put an end to the war. Well, that was what they hoped would happen.
Of course there were many other units throughout Europe tackling the enemy in order to bring this war to an end, but the men of the 1st were assigned to northern France. Many men had already been sent on their way to complete their various missions, but there was always someone at the camp, which had been set up in Ramelle. They needed a reasonably safe place to recuperate after days, sometimes weeks of gruelling conditions.
“Are we ready?” Kevin asked his men.
Alex was tempted to say that he was ready to go home (with a detour to England to collect Juliet along the way), but realised that was being cowardly. After seeing some of the lesser injured men at the base they’d established in Ramelle who were waiting to be flown back to England, and hearing their stories, he knew he’d had an easy time of it. The only action they’d seen had been that very first day on Omaha Beach, and the barn incident a few days after. Although horrendous, he hadn’t had to endure the atrocities that others had. “Ready as I’m gonna be!” he replied instead.
After a couple of days of rest, the men were going on their first mission, a mission they all hoped they’d get through unscathed.
Undercover intelligence had discovered that more Germans were headed to the coast to try and fend off English and American soldiers, and their job was to put a stop to that by any means necessary.
Some men were already in place; disguised as French locals to fool any German lookouts who were travelling ahead to make sure their path was clear. The Germans wouldn’t bother themselves with one or two stray Frenchmen; they were only concerned with taking over their towns and cities.
“Good luck men, and may god be with all of us!” Brian said shakily. He’d been praying everyday since leaving his home in Kentucky, but now he feared his faith was slipping away. What kind of god sat back and let men destroy each other like this? Certainly not the god he’d believed in all of his life.
“So you’re really going to do it?” Juliet asked her sister excitedly.
“Yes. Do you think I’m doing the right thing though? What if I get there and hate it? What if you can‘t cope in the shop?”
“Of course you‘re doing the right thing! You won’t hate it, you love volunteering at the base, and this will be even more rewarding. Don’t worry about the shop or mother, she’ll be fine with it when she realises how much good you’re going to be doing. I can’t believe my sister is moving away to work at a military hospital!” she said proudly, finally coming up for air.
“It’s not that far away” Elena laughed, “and I’ll just be a driver, hardly anything to be proud of”
“But you’ll be driving an ambulance, helping transport the wounded, of course it’s something to be proud of” Juliet disagreed with her sister.
“I’m going to miss you” Elena admitted. They’d shared a bedroom their whole lives, and would’ve continued to do so until Alex came home and whisked Juliet away to America. But now it was Elena who was going. It was going to be a huge adjustment.
“As you said, you won’t be far away, and you’ll be home at weekends”
“Yes, I will” Elena agreed.
It had been a huge decision, but the more she volunteered, the more Elena realised that she could be doing more. With so many men overseas, jobs which were usually done by men were now having to be filled by women. Those heroic men needed people who could help get them to hospital safely, just as they needed doctors and nurses to treat them for their varying injuries. So when she was asked how she felt about taking up a position at a large hospital in Leeds, transporting patients from airfield to hospital, Elena decided to go for it. It carried risk, as any job connected to the military did, but Elena didn’t concern herself with those risks. She knew that it was the right thing to do.
“And it’s only for six months?” Juliet queried.
“Yes, or sooner if the war ends”
“Let’s hope it’s sooner” Juliet exclaimed.
“Agreed!” Elena nodded her head.
“At least we know we’re not all alone out here, and we‘re not gonna have to walk for days again” Nick said as they climbed into one of the many vehicles the base housed.
Now that they were reunited with the rest of their group, they felt a newfound confidence. In amongst the awfulness, there were moments of joy and happiness. They had to have those moments to enable them to keep their sanity.
“Unless the truck breaks down!” Howie laughed.
“That’s where I come in handy” Brian grinned. He was a farmer, but also a pretty good mechanic when he needed to be. Farm equipment needed regular maintenance and so he’d learned his way around an engine from a young age.
“How would milking cows help with a broken down engine?” Nick asked, slightly confused.
“You city boys have had it too easy!” Brian found himself laughing at Nick’s naivety as he shook his head.
City boy or country boy, there was nothing easy about the mission they were about to go on.