An entry from a diary found on a soldier gassed on the Western Front, August 1917.
They're going to shoot Mick Browne in the morning.
Not the Mick Browne we remember 'cause there's not much of the old one left. Not after he crawled out of the machine gun hole where Jim and Bill caught it from that mortar round. They took the brunt of the explosion which is probably why Mick got away with only a shrapnel wound to his right shoulder.
But then he abandoned his position, climbed out of the trench - and ran.
The Redcaps found him a quarter of a mile behind the line. At first they thought he was drunk - bugger all chance of that around here - but now they're saying it's desertion.
I saw him just after the MPs brought him back to the Command Post. He was just staring straight ahead with blood and shit all over his tunic and webbing. And the poor sod was shaking so much that he could hardly stand. I called to him but he didn't hear - and then he started crying. Just sobbing and sobbing.
Anyway, they've Court Martialled him: after a ten-minute trial they found him guilty. And now they're going to shoot him.
Me and Johnny Willis and four of the others - we've been told we're on firing squad duty. Up an hour before dawn, they've told us, to be briefed by the Sergeant Major.
I could refuse, of course. But then it would be another dawn and another muddy field - and it would be my turn.
So God, if you're listening, forgive me for what I've been told I have to do.
I'm just not sure whose is the bigger crime - Mick's or mine.
JOHN ALLEN lives in Harlow in
He has written short stories and pieces of flash fiction, several of which have been published on different Internet sites. He is an active member of a local writing group and has had several short stories published in local community magazines.
John has been writing since his early teens and in that time has produced poetry and prose as well as a catalogue of songs. He has also written and staged a full musical.
John says that he has a reason to write: He's struggling to become more than a bit-part in his own life story.
"My motivation for this piece came from the reports of recent pardons granted to those who had been executed for cowardice during the Great War. It made me wonder about the other individuals caught up in the tragedy, and our current need to label people as either innocent or guilty."