When artillery hits your position, you have no control. You can only endure.
by Harry Ramsbottom
The first impact is stunning in the truest sense. You feel it more than you hear it. The shock of
the impact on the ground… the blast wave if you’re close enough… the vision of the blast if
you’re unlucky enough.
If you’re lucky, there’s an alarm.
READ MORE: by Harry Ramsbottom: We Don’t Have Funerals in Combat Zones
Usually there isn’t.
That shell is moving faster than sound. If it is not directed at your position, you might hear it zip
through the air, then the blast, then the sound of the gun that shot it in the distance.
If you’re the target, you won’t.
You run like hell for the nearest protection, if you can find it.
You drop and curl up like a fetus if you can’t.
And then it keeps on coming… again, and again, and again, and again until time has no
meaning except for that period between one explosion and the next. This can seem like hours,
or like nothing.
At some point you stop hearing explosions and screaming, and only hear a steady tone, with
everything else becoming background noise.
Meanwhile, as your senses are overwhelmingly assaulted, things are being obliterated all
around you. That includes buildings, vehicles, and people. Every blast makes your body feel like
it’s rapidly compressing and expanding. Shell fragments, rocks, debris, and even body parts are
flying around and landing all over – landing on you. The world around you is being destroyed,
and you could be next. You are powerless to do anything about that.
If there are other people around you, they are all having different reactions. Trained soldiers are
usually trying to desperately crawl into their helmets.
Untrained civilians are often literally losing their shit.
And you have no idea when it will end. You have no control. You can only endure.
If it goes on long enough, you lose track of time. It just goes on. Eventually it does end.
But does it?
Sometimes the gunners will fuck with you. They’ll pause for a few moments. Maybe long
enough to let you feel safe enough to pick your head up… maybe even get up and walk
around… and then they start again.
You never know.
Harry Ramsbottom has written previously for Soldier of Fortune about his wartime experiences.