The soundtrack of battle we hear, the orchestra accompanying the fear and anguish, the cries and screams that we hear through our television sets. These sounds do not bother us though as we have the added soundtrack to battle that is played. The coffee pot boiling in our kitchens, the clink of the dinner wine glasses being washed and the chatter of a wife who hasn’t seen this battle.
The real soundtrack of battle is the vicious commotion of explosions close-by, near and right on top of you, the sound of men crying in the night, the sound of the badly wounded, the sound of the dying and the sound of the silent dead. It is the music of confusion, of desperation of survival.
The soundtrack of battle we hear has no accompanying smell. We only smell the cake we have with our coffee, the aroma of the recent dinner cooked, the smell of the freshly bathed baby on our knee.
The real aroma of battle is a potent, unfamiliar mix of rotting flesh, the smell of cordite, the body odour of unwashed men, the smell of burning buildings, the scent of wounds and stale blood. It is the smell of vomit in the trench line and the waft of dysentery worn men. It is the smell of over-hydrated earth and stagnant water, of foul food and cheap tobacco.
Outside the cars of neighbours arrive home from work. The children play on the stairs before bedtime and the husband taps on his note-book. The heater in the house rushes the warm air from room to room and the telephone rings and muffled conversation is heard.
The battle ends. We turn off the television and go to bed and wonder what it must have been like. It was not like this. It was not like this.