Oppy Wood

This is a revamped submission prompted by the photo below, kindly provided by Sandra Crook, for this week’s Friday Fictioneers,  https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/05/03/5-may-2017/ . Many thanks to Rochelle for facilitating the site.

I apologise, especially to Rochelle, if I’ve broken a Flash Fiction rule by obliterating my initial effort and substituting a new one.  My excuse is that I felt unhappy with the fact that the first story contained absolutely no fiction.  I’m a little happier with this version.

To view other people’s stories and add your own, click this link: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=708964


Oppy Wood

British trenches, Oppy Wood, 3 May 1917

3.30 am

Jack: “Chin up, Corporal.  This’ll soon be over.”

Walter:  “What’ll you do when the whole lot’s over, sir?”

“Back to Hull FC, probably.  You?”

“Lookin’ for work, sir.  With another bairn on the way, like.  Not watching FC, mind.”

“East Hull boy?  Both on the same side today though.”


3.45 am

British troops advanced.  Illuminated by a setting moon they were sitting ducks.  Walter fell quickly.  With most of his men dead, Jack single-handedly attacked a German machine gun position.  He was cut down.

Neither of their bodies was found.

100 words


Before he volunteered for military service, 2nd Lt John “Jack” Harrison was a professional rugby league player with Hull FC, with an enviable record and a promising future.  He left behind a widow and an infant son.  He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Oppy Wood.

Sadly there’s less background information about Lance-Corporal Walter Busby.  However, he was survived by his wife (who was pregnant with their fourth child) and three young children.

Walter’s brother John was also involved in the assault at Oppy Wood on 3 May.  He survived that day, but died in the same location a few weeks later.  John left a widow and three children.

If you’re interested in learning more about this event, please see this link: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/our-yorkshire/heritage/world-war-one/homefront/hull-pals-who-fought-side-by-side-1-6611780

As a side issue, if anyone is wondering why the East Hull reference is mentioned, Hull has two excellent rugby league clubs, Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers.   They are based on opposite sides of the River Hull, which cuts through the city from north to south, and tend to attract their support from the relevant side.  For more than a century there has been strong rivalry between the two clubs (mostly friendly).  I have no idea whether Walter was a fan of FC or KR and I’m sorry if I’ve guessed wrongly.


This entry was posted in Flash Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Oppy Wood

  1. Sandra says:

    There are so many untold stories. Each one must be aired. Thank you.


    • JS Brand says:

      Yes,too many. Lots of older people from Hull will know about Oppy Wood because so many of their own died there, but there’ll be plenty of other towns and cities in Britain who sent away hundreds of smiling young men to join a regiment of pals and saw very few of them come back. The same phenomenon obviously affected millions on both sides of the conflict. Thank heavens for being born too late to have been part of this.
      Thank you for reading.


  2. michael1148humphris says:

    Great that you wrote about these two men. If only we could honour in this way, all who fell in war. Perhaps people would begin to see how futile war is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      That’s so true. The anniversary of Oppy Wood set me off looking at stats just in relation to Hull. I was shocked at the numbers of families who’d lost 2, 3 or even 4 sons, and to find that boys as young as 14 had lied about their age to go off and be slaughtered. If only this had been the war to end all wars.
      Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Singledust says:

    we had memorial day recently too and I remember my first Anzac memorial day working in Auckland. it moved me to feel the spirit of those called to serve and fight for shifting ideologies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover says:

    Great dialogue that made the two brave soldiers alive. Enjoyed your glimpse of history. If you get a chance check out my story which is a Canadian perspective of war in 1917.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JS Brand says:

      Thank you. I didn’t want the dialogue to seem like a
      stereotypical exchange between an officer and a junior NCO, with an assumed difference in class and accent. That would have seemed wrong in any circumstances (both of them being someone’s son/husband/father), but in this case Jack Harrison was a young man from a working class family, who was picked out for a (temporary) commission after he’d trained as a private. I hope I reflected the way Jack and Walter would actually have spoken to each other in the situation they were in.
      I read and enjoyed your story – thank you for pointing me to it. There are lots of submissions this week, so I might have missed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. And soon it’s all forgotten and we are ready to fight another war.


  6. Liz Young says:

    A sad story lived – and died – through a thousand times over.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JS Brand says:

    Thank you for reading it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s