The winner was a slightly racy story written from the viewpoint of a woman. It was a big surprise therefore when the big bearded chap sitting next to me revealed himself as the author.
Out of nineteen entries I didn't even make the top three but I know I didn't come last because one piece was disqualified for being a poem. That shows I can at least read the entry rules!
Anyway, as my effort will probably never see the light of day again, I thought I'd show it here:
They say that if they told you what it would be like you would never go. But no-one could describe this. Not in words nor pictures. This hell-on-earth would stretch the combined imaginations of Brooke, Owen and Sassoon at their most eloquent. Where would they start? The noise? The mud? The threatening sky illuminated by exploding shells? You cannot describe terror. Only experience it.
A lone young soldier, disoriented by the smoke and commotion, is separated from his battalion. Stumbling into a bomb crater he confronts an enemy infantryman in an equally confused state. They both point their rifles but pause with fingers on triggers. He looks into the lad's face. Even younger than himself. Reminds him of his cousin, killed at Passchendaele. He tilts his Lee-Enfield down and fires. A splintering crack, a cry of pain and blood mixes with clay as the lad's knee shatters. The German goes down, dropping his own rifle.
He steps forward and leans over the figure. Not knowing whether the youth can understand he says. “You'll be o.k. Soon be home.”
And then he feels the hot, searing pain. Whoever coined the phrase 'cold steel' has never had a blade pierce his stomach. The last thought he has before sweet oblivion overwhelms him is his sergeant's voice.
“Look out for the bayonet, boys. If it isn't fixed to his rifle it's still on his belt.”
He never made a sound but his eyes cried for his mother. Then the darkness came.