Odile’s War (The Mad Game Book Two) – The day the Germans arrived in northern France, September 1914

June 8, 2014

The Mad Game Newsreel

This is an exclusive extract from the much anticipated second book in The Mad Game series, Odile’s War.

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All proceeds from sales of The Mad Game series in all formats are donated to the Royal British Legion

Odile Lefebvre and Odile's War Cover

Odile’s War Published June 2014

 

Odile and her family are forced to leave their peaceful home and life in Bazentin-Le-Petit, in the Somme region of Picardie, when the Germans declare war on France. As they follow the army, they become caught up amongst the rapidly advancing and determined German Army, who have broken through the defence of Belgium by the French, British and Belgian forces. Afraid, unarmed and without help, hopes and dreams shattered, their battle to survive has begun…

 

The French soldiers were setting up temporary barricades at the gates of the camp. The hill was little more than a rise in the ground, but we could remain unseen until the enemy were upon us. The French army were quickly trying to set up a surprise attack, to halt the German advance. With no other option for us civilians, we started to walk the road towards Bapaume. There was nothing else to be done and to stay would mean death, we were now certain of that.

We set out on the road in the half-dark. Shells were falling regularly, but not quite reaching the road. The battle was close and we could hear individual rifles shooting. It would not be long before the enemy appeared in the distance. We hurried on, my father leading the way. Mother holding her arm close to her chest and limping just a little. She spoke to me to keep me calm, as panic took over my body.

Than father snapped at us. “Please be quiet my loves. I want to listen for the guns. I think I can hear if a bomb is coming”.

We moved on in silence. Our movements were slow and hampered by mother’s limp and father’s wish to stay out of sight. The sky in the distance grew paler and brighter as the day dawned. We had made some progress towards Bapaume, but were now being passed by line after line of horses, guns and men. Some threw us bread and some water, which was welcome. Most who passed gave us a cheery wave, to keep up our spirits. But none stopped, not even for a moment to talk to us, as they had been ordered. Army first, civilians last.

Germans Advance across a field 1914As the light came, so did the rising noise of guns and the new war. We stopped to eat the bread and to rest for a just a moment. We had not properly slept and mother was most tired and unable to walk normally. Father urged us to sit in a ditch at the side of the road. Damp, with long grass, it seemed the safest thing to do. I saw from the far horizon, black shapes coming over the hill, like ants coming from a nest. Father turned to see what I had seen. He dropped the bread and fell to his knees.

“Oh dear God. No! It is finished for us. Finished”.

“Father, it is the German enemy on horses isn’t it?”

“Yes Odile, and there are no French soldiers there to stop them”.

The columns of soldiers passing us saw the Germans as well. They quickly formed a line, sheltering in the same ditch at the side of the road. Father asked for a gun, but he was refused. He asked for a stone to throw at them. The soldier pushed him into the ditch.

Uhlan Charge

The cavalry moved quickly over the hill, behind them came horses carrying guns, like the ones we had been using. The French guns were landing shots among them, but they moved so quickly, they did not hit the cavalry. The men in our ditch now started firing. The noise was terrifying and deafening; we were all shaken and huddled down. Father was on top of mother and I. He kept telling us to lie still and do not move. Two of the French soldiers moved next to us to shield us as well, covering us with their large coats. Father took them off.

“The enemy might think you are a soldier and shoot at the uniform”. The rifle shots upset mother. She dug herself into the ditch with her fingers, sobbing to herself.

“God please take us or protect us. Do not leave us at their mercy, like this!”

“Marie-Louise, please. It does not help us. Stay calm and lie there, you are safe”.

“Safe? We are to be killed, I am sure”.

Infantry Advance 1914The enemy horses were coming closer. Over the hill came the walking soldiers. These men carried their rifles high and the ones at the front were firing towards us. They were too far from us to get close, but also too far away for our soldiers to get them. It was almost in slow motion that the French began to move forwards. Father wished them luck and they moved off.

As soon as they began to move, the explosions began amongst us. One after another, right near the ditch. The soldiers were forced back and they moved along the road. One was hit but he continued to run as blood began to stain his coat. He stumbled and fell. Father wanted to go to him, but he was still shielding mother and I, he decided to stay with his family. The soldiers in the camp moved away to our right, further away from us. The horses that the army were moving, broke free and were tumbling over us. We were frightened that one might be hit and fall on us. We knew that they would not trample us if they saw us in time. They were also frightened, running around leaderless and blinded. Anything could happen.

The figures over the hill grew larger and more numerous. The army were now behind us. Father did not know if he should move us or stay. In the ditch we might be safe, but the enemy would overcome us. He decided to move us back.

“My darlings, we cannot stay. The enemy will overrun us. We must go back. I cannot stop a horse, they are too frightened. Come, let us move. We have to take our chances”.

“Pierre, I cannot move. My legs are frozen. You go and take our daughter back”.

“I will not leave without you. We stay or we go, but we do it together”. Father stood up to take a look, ready for us to move away. His face went ashen and he raised his hands into the air and fell back into the ditch.

Over the edge came the barrel of a rifle. Too late. The Germans were already here.

Odile’s War – The Mad Game Book Two will be launched on 28 June 2014 during the Armed Forces Day events in Manchester, UK.

The novel will be available through Amazon sites, Waterstones, Nook eBook and via the Imperial War Museum from 1 July 2014

Odile Lefebvre and Odile's War Cover

Click the picture to buy an author signed exclusive copy

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