Kevin Major reaches a new milestone in his career with this No Man's Land - A Novel. Set in France during World War I, it pulls us into the lives of the young men of the Newfoundland Regiment at rest in the village of Louvencourt, preparing to set out for the trenches and what will come to be known as the Battle of the Somme.
Second lieutenant Alan Hayward and his brash fellow officer, Clarke, together with young Martin and the other men heading into battle, wait out the hours to the final whistle. Longing for their homeland, frustrated by the lack of knowledge about what lies ahead, they stand resolutely on the firesteps as their pocket watches tick away to zero hour.
A classic war novel, the book is equally effective in its portrayal of the camaraderie and unnatural quiet before the storm, as in its graphic account of the fight to make it through the barbed wire and sweep of machine-gun bullets across no man's land.
Two hundred and seventy-two of the young men from the Newfoundland Regiment who went over the top on the morning of July 1, 1916 lost their lives. The regiment suffered more casualties than any other unit on the battlefield and the island from which it came lost many of the men who would have been its future leaders. No community in Newfoundland escaped the consequences of the regiment's attempt to drive the enemy from Beaumont Hamel. It was the single greatest disaster in the island's history.
Hayward found it impossible to clear his mind of it, but he was able for the moment to think of it still as part of some great adventure. The Blue Puttees they were called when they left Newfoundland two years before. Their puttees were a blue flannel because there was no khaki material to be had when their uniforms were made. Those puttees had long since been replaced, while the men trained in Scotland, and Hayward had sent his back home to have as a keepsake when he returned.
It was great fun, those early days. Some said the war would be over by Christmas and they would miss out. At the most it would last a year.
When the first man was killed, McWhirter it was, at Suvla Bay, they each knew it could have been any one of them, and from that day on it became less of an adventure.
Still, Hayward knew, he could never have held back when most all the boys in the Guards were joining up. He was no slacker. He had made his way to the Armoury on Harvey Road and volunteered the day after forty members of the Catholic Cadet Corps signed up in a single group. By the second week of September they were all under canvas and on October 4 they marched past cheering crowds through the streets of St. John's and boarded the Florizel.
Of the countries he had sailed to after his training, only now, for France, did he feel much attraction. The grain rippling with the wind made him think of the lakes where he went as a boy to fish. The colours were stronger, especially the red of the wild poppies along the roadside, but the solitude was the same. He had come to fields such as this when they first arrived, with thick flakes of snow flying in the air, and he was reminded of the times he had gone with his uncle across the Topsail barrens to hunt partridge.
Even now, with concentration, he could ignore the artillery, as the villagers did. From his tunic pocket he took a pen and the paper he had been saving explicitly for writing a letter home. He unfolded the paper and placed it against his field notebook. He rubbed out the creases as best he could, then in neat, handsome script, he began.
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