The bombardment stopped.
Yellow-grey smoke drifted across the fields and snagged on the wire, a sulphurous ghost cloaking the wreckage. As the guns stopped and as the silence hollowed out in front of him he could feel his own pulse, high and urgent, and with each beat there played another deeper tone, the visceral shock of explosives, pounding, one after another.
It was Christmas Eve and after a year of heavy shelling the enemy’s artillery had been called to a halt. As he looked out through his rifle site he saw casualties drifting back, many of them were young officers, just like himself.
He’d finished medical school the year before and was full of optimism but his soul had been punctured by the ferocity of the assault. He’d marched in to command troops, dress wounds and tend to the injured but he would be stretchered out, blind and helpless in the brume.
As he waited in the mud, under the dripping tin roof, only one thing was certain, next year, when the whistles blew and the politicians gave their orders, the guns would open fire and target him, all over again.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen