A lucky Man

by | Apr 6, 2010 | Stories | 0 comments

I walked. No! I swayed across the living room remembering where the furniture was, where my wife Eve had arranged it. Lovingly arranged in the early years of our marriage.

A time so long ago before that eventful day of that terrorist bomb in Malaya when a piece of shrapnel had become lodged against a nerve in my head and therefore

rendering me to irreparable blindness.

I felt for the door catch and the door moved toward me on its well-oiled hinges, I heard only the slightest squeak of metal against metal as the door swung open to reveal a hot summer day.

The gentlest of breezes slightly moved the strands of hair that had fallen down

across my forehead and cooled the sweat on my brow. Jasper the dog brushed against

my right leg and barked as if to say “I’m here boss” and we trundled down the

well-trodden lane toward the woodlands on farmer Bile’s carefully maintained land.

Billy the farm lad was on the tractor with its trailer filled with manure.

The smell was quite strong and yet not so strong as to be sickening, in fact it reminded me of the familiar smell and things that I had always taken for granted and yet missed whilst away on service to King and country.

“Hello there” shouted Billy above the roar of the tractor’s engine “lovely day ain’t it”.

I could picture him with his red bandana around his neck and a piece of straw in his mouth. Billy always chewed on a piece of straw.” Hello Billy” I shouted waving in the direction of the engine noise, “I hope you and the family are well.” I really don’t know if he heard me or not as the machine noise receded away and was now just a splutter in the far distance.

Some way down the footpath I froze into stillness as likewise did Jasper. We both had heard and sensed the loud rustle in the hedgerow of a young red deer separated from its mother and where its inquisitive nature had led it into the brambles. Possibly attracted there by the rich ripe raspberries growing in the hedge, but which had in fact led to it being trapped.

I realised when I attempted to free it that it was caught up in some discarded barbed wire.

Wire probably thrown there by some irresponsible lout. A blot on this well maintained countryside that had so far gone un-noticed by farmer Biles and his staff.

I quietly approached on my hand and knees towards the noise of the ever-frantic struggle. Feeling cautiously around to locate the little deer and after a few difficulties were able to release it whilst sustaining only minor scratches to my hands and knees.

I had a good idea from the lack of wet sticky blood on my hands that the deer was more frightened than harmed.

It certainly sounded healthy enough as it scampered away to find its mother.

Jasper and I continued with our daily constitutional around the lake, hearing the quacking ducks on the water and being amused at their un-necessary alarm when I threw a stick into the water so that Jasper could retrieve it.

I sat for three hours listening to the cacophony of gentle sounds of the fish in the river and the movements of the countryside that was interspersed with Jaspers excited barking until he to became tired and lay down beside me on the riverbank.

My wife was home from her work when we returned and with a big hug and kiss she expressed her love and how pleased she was to see me. She asked if I’d had a good day to which I replied, “yes thank you, you know just the normal day, but at the same time realizing how lucky I was.

So many of my comrades and friends would never return from active duties.

Yes! I was a very lucky man indeed.

The soft buzzing noise of quiet voices brought me to my senses. But where was I and why was it so dark? Why was my head causing me so much pain? In the darkness I lifted my hands to my eyes only to find that the top part of my head was swathed in some sort of cloth that felt like bandages.

Suddenly I sensed some movement near to me, and the soft scent of perfume permeated the wrapping around my head, eyes and nose.

“Who’s there”? I exclaimed, “What has happened”?

“It’s ok” a gentle voice answered, “you are going to be alright”.

“Who is that”? I inquired “and where am I”? “What has happened”?

The sweet, soft voice answered again and I felt a cool gentle hand

take hold of my wrist “My name is Nurse Bannerhan and you are in the

Kinrara Military Hospital in Singapore and all is well.” The voice

Continued. “Now! can you please tell me if you know your full name and service number”?

“Yes of course I do” I responded, and the gentle voice replied, “Would you please tell me what they are”?

“Ok” I said, “My name is Sergeant Thorne Rush, my Army Number is 22838306”.

“Now nurse! Will you please tell me what has happened “?

“Be patient for a while Sergeant Rush. The doctor is on his way to

examine you and will explain everything”.

“In the meantime I am just going to give you a small injection, it will help you to relax”.

I felt the sharp sting of the needle and immediately a feeling of weariness and the desire to sleep overtook me.

I think that I slept for some hours and when I next awoke I sensed that there was a group of people around my bed. As I moved a male voice spoke, and at the same time a hand was placed upon my shoulder as if in a gesture of comfort and reassurance.

“Hello Sergeant Rush my name is Doctor Ishmael, how are you feeling at the moment”?

“Not too bad Doctor, but would you please tell me what’s been happening to me.”

“Well Sergeant, I’m afraid that you needed an operation to your head. You see it was necessary to remove a piece of grenade shrapnel from the back of the cranium,” the doctor’s voice continued, “The operation went very well and all I want you to do now is rest and get better. The nurse will give you another injection to help you relax and for you to get some more sleep to help you to recover your health. After that I will come to see you again, we shall then discuss your injuries to a greater degree. Is that OK”?

I had no alternative than to agree. As soon as the Doctor departed, Miss cool hands Nurse Bannerman subjected me to another needle and I once more drifted into the Land of Nod.

As I drifted gently on the verge of sleep, my mind went over the small amount of information that the Doctor had imparted.

Events of the recent past started to float back to my muddled brain. I started to remember what happened…

Eight of us from Brooke Company SAS and one Sarawak tracker were on a twelve-week patrol in the Malayan jungle on a Hearts and Minds exercise. We were there to persuade the indigenous Malaya Aborigines that it was better to deny the CT’s {Communist Troops} food and refuse, and therefore, end the long Communist struggle that had engulfed Malaya since the end of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

We were bedded down in a small clearing with our heads pointing inward toward the centre of the circle. Most of the lads were awake and stirring awakened by the morning noise of the jungle. Geordie our signalman was already up and on his squawk box and soon handed the boss a message.

The message was, it transpired, from Squadron HQ.

After we’d eaten our grub, we cleared up the site to its original state until it showed no sign of our ever having been there.

We grouped together for our officer to give us the day’s plans and details.

We’d been given the job of locating a crashed Valetta aircraft near our location. The aircraft contained two RAF men, the Pilot and Co Pilot, and four army Air-Despatchers, from the Royal Army Service Corp.

These were the guys that kept us alive with supplies by drops from an aircraft. Their job was a very hazardous job indeed, that had in the past, and would in the future cost many of them their lives.

Two days of searching by our Sarawak tracker eventually led us to the crash site. Unfortunately all lives were lost and we were unable to do anything more than to clear a LZ {Landing Zone} so that a helicopter could land and collect the bodies of our comrades in arms. We were in the process of moving out after the departures of the choppers when suddenly the tracker signalled with his hands for all to quickly and quietly take cover.

The jungle foliage opened to reveal a group of CT’s armed to the teeth; they were obviously unaware of our presence in the vicinity.

Our young Officer was the first to open fire and the whole scene turned into a full time firefight. We had the advantage of ambush and immediately claimed the maximum of hits. After about fifteen minutes of fierce battle everything went deadly quiet. We stayed in our positions until our tracker ensured us that the surviving CTs were gone from the area.

After checking that we’d suffered no causalities, we took obligatory photographs of the enemy dead for identification records.

We then proceeded to make our way back to the squadron’s base.

We had hardly gone a quarter of a mile when someone yelled “grenade”. I didn’t hear any explosion but felt a violent blow to the head followed by darkness. I could remember nothing more.

I now realized why I was in Hospital, but it still left me wondering how on earth I’d got here?

How I wondered did my comrades manage to get me out? It also left me wondering whether they all were all right?

At the same time, I realized what a lucky man I was to be alive.

The pain in my head was causing me some problems with sleeping. I kept drifting in and out of different dreams, seeing odd images and hearing voices. I could hear in the distance the softly spoken voices of Dr Ishmael and Nurse Bannerhan speaking to someone else and being answered by what sounded oddly like my father’s voice.

The voices drifted away into the distance and I was once more out in the countryside with Jasper my dog. We’d ventured a little further afield this time, and I could hear Jasper getting into his usual excited state. Chasing some poor frightened rabbits no doubt.

The day was wonderfully warm and I could smell the perfume of the flowers and the apple blossom, and with the soft chirruping of the birds and the buzzing of the busy bees I was in complete contentment. I realized that with my mind so occupied by the countryside’s smells and sounds, I’d walked further than usual and was now unsure of my whereabouts. I became aware that I could no longer hear Jasper barking and I became for the first time in my life a little frightened. I called and called to Jasper but there was no response. Turning quickly I began a fast jog down what I now realized was a quite steep hill calling to Jasper as I ran. Suddenly, what I perceived to be the low bough of a tree caught me across my forehead and smashed me to the ground. I felt myself falling down what seemed to be a bottomless dark hole with the most vicious of pains screeching through my head, and then quite abruptly it all ended in black unconsciousness.

I regained consciousness seeing what appeared to be a bright star in the distance. In the blackness the star was growing larger and ever brighter. My face felt wet and I then realized that Jasper was licking my face. I sat up and pushed the dog away from me and I noticed that he was covered in mud…. only then to my amazement did realization come home to me. I could see that he was covered in mud. YES! I could see.

On reaching Farmer bile’s land I was now running up the lane that led to our cottage and there standing outside was Eve my young and lovely wife waving to me as if she knew that I’d regained my sight. We fell into each other’s arms kissing and crying at the same time and then we entered our cottage with our arms around each other…. I was home at last!

Doctor Ishmael looked at nurse Bannerman as she wiped tears away from her eyes. “Well his Father has cleared up lot questions” he said to her “the story of Sgt Rush goes something like this”.

As a young paratrooper Thorne Rush met a young lady at a dance in Aldershot where he was stationed, and a year later the young and very much in love couple were married. They moved into army married quarters. Eve by all accounts hated married quarters from the word go. Their dream was to have a place of their own; a small cottage in the countryside, and this was all they seemed to talk about. Eve would talk as if they already owned it. She would constantly go on about how the cottage would be decorated and where the furniture was to be placed. They were extremely happy and looked forward to the reality of their dream.

The reality of that dream would unfortunately never come true. Just one year after they were married, his wife Eve and their dog Jasper were killed in a motorcar accident. Thorne was distraught and tried to wipe the horror from his mind.

The young soldier threw himself into all dangerous theatres of war and was accepted into the prestigious ranks of the S.A.S. A decision, that was to lead to his ultimate death.

Doctor Ishmael lifted the top sheet and pulled it gently up to cover the smiling face of the young deceased soldier…”Such a shame” Dr Ishmael retorted “just when he was doing so well, I really thought that he would pull through. Why do you think he died smiling?”

“Well!” replied the tearful Nurse Bannerhan “I guess that is something we will never know, and I am sure that it will always remain a mystery.”

But it was no mystery to Thorne Rush, who was now reunited with his loving wife Eve and their dog Jasper.

He now also proudly marched once more, in the company of the swollen ranks of so many of his fallen comrades.

Many would class him as a very lucky man.


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