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Ok, this is my Short story, it's split into three parts.
The fog was thick. The Marines couldn't see any other section from their skirmish line. The two of them stared around. Then one fired, the other reloaded as musket balls flew through the fog. They made pretty twirling patterns of death, and were the only signs of the skirmish around the marines. One of them suddenly jerked backwards; his white cross-belt splattered with blood. The surviving marine fired his musket and ran forward, hoping to find cover. He couldn't even see fifteen feet in front of him. A building appeared from the fog, it looked like a farm. The marine quickly drew his long seventeen-inch bayonet, and locked it on the end of his gun, then reloaded his musket. He went along the wall, looking for a door. Finding one, he slowly opened it and dashed inside, expecting a volley of musket fire.
He looked around the room. Nothing moved. He heard footsteps coming from the ceiling. He slowly moved towards the staircase. He tried to move silently, but his heavy boots thumbed on the stone flagged floor. The person upstairs stopped moving, and the marine heard a French voice. More than one, he thought. Reaching the top he spun round, again expecting to hear the crack of a musket instead there were three other rooms. The marine swallowed, and opened one of the doors. Nothing. He opened another. Nothing.
Shaking, the marine edged towards the last door. There was no lock or handle, and the marine pressed on it gently with his bayonet, summoning his courage. He suddenly threw the door open, trying to scare the Frenchmen into firing. Nothing. Still shaking, he ran into the room. A gun fired.
A Year Earlier…
John Reading was trained at Chatham, he was from Edrone, a small town near where he was trained. He and his friends, Martin Kavanagh, and William Dean had joined up when a recruiting party had passed through their town. It was lead by a fat Sergeant, in a smart Red Uniform. He promised the world to the three twenty year old boys. He promised brilliant pay, at least a half-pint of rum a day, and a uniform that would attract the girls like flies to a flame. In truth, the trio was in for weeks of hard training, strict discipline, and no female company what so ever. Their pay rarely reached them, and when it did a quarter of what was promised was deducted for luxuries, such as the necessary black ball of boot polish, and blanco to clean their Cross-Belts with; and the half-pint of rum was never once seen by the young men.
Things didn’t improve much when they were on-board ship either, though the rum did occasionally appear. They knew that they were at war, but it did not feel like it. Standing guard at the armoury and storehouse filled their days, along with cleaning their muskets, standing to attention at different parts of the ship, making sure the crew were kept in check, or, if they were unlucky, ringing the bell every half hour to signal the time. They didn’t do any sailing, their job was merely as guards. They occasionally accompanied the officers when they went on land to spy out bays, or to look for any sign of enemy activity. They never saw the French. The closest they came to a battle was when they sighted an enemy supply ship. They fired a single shot, and the ship surrendered. The three Marines spent months at sea without experiencing a battle, and arrived back at Portsmouth on their ship, HMS Splendour.
There were mixed feelings among the thirty or so Royal Marines aboard HMS Splendour. Some were glad, fearing the chaos of battle. Others were disappointed, and felt that their long hard training was all a waste of time. In battle they were trained to line the side of the ship with a wall of muskets, to spit hot lead death at the opposing ships, covering it’s deck with musket balls. A few would also be posted in the Crows nest, to try to shoot down enemy officers, and to toss hand grenades, black balls of metal filled with gunpowder and musket balls, down onto the enemy ship, to spread confusion and to main or kill the crew. Meanwhile, the ship’s gun crews would be loading and firing their guns as quickly as they can, tearing great holes into the side of the enemy ship’s hull, and showering the lower decks with massive splinters of wood. A naval battle was hell, and the three friends often wondered how anyone could survive it, but plenty did. More than a few did not however. The rest of the Detachment often wondered and talked about the same thing, only the five corporals and two sergeants having seen battle before, not even their commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Kelly had experienced the chaos, blood, and choking smoke of battle. The Lieutenant had bought his commission in the Marines, like every other officer, Army or Navy. He was from a Rich family that owned lots of land in the Shires, and had always had a love for boats, though was a dreadful sailor, and could barely tell the topsail from the main sail. So he had settled with joining the Marines, and enjoyed his time at sea with his small, clone-knit detachment. He was twenty-one, still young, and had great ambitions. He saw himself representing the Marines on the admiralty board, making decisions that would change the fate of his beloved England.
So, for England’s sake, they sailed out of Portsmouth, with new orders, and a new area of sea to hunt for enemy ships in. The ships bow scythed through the waves, a glorious majestic symbol of Britain’s naval prowess. It had 74 guns, each manned by a crew of five. On board the HMS Splendour there was a daily routine. The day was split into twelve, two hour long, periods, called watches. Each watch was commanded by one of the Six navy lieutenants; and a handful of the crew and Marines were present at each one. The Marines settled into a regular routine, with rotas for each duty, strict timetables, and tedious free time, huddled in their uniforms, muskets next to them, ready to sprint to the deck when the drums beat to quarters.
For a month they continued in this routine. Nothing happening, no enemy ships sighted. Then suddenly, at noon, when John, Martin, and Will were relaxing on their hammocks below decks, the drum started it’s fast paced beat, and they leapt out of bed, snatched up their muskets, and followed the rest of the Marines who were off duty up the narrow stairs and onto the deck. They saw the enemy ship, it was barely fifty yards away now, and it’s first cannon blasted into the side of the HMS Splendour as the Marines lined up on the side of the ship, four of them climbing up the rigging to the crows nest. The British gunners returned fire, as the ships closed to just a few feet away from one another, the gap between completely covered in smoke. Lieutenant Kelly shouted an order “Present!” then a pause as the Marines quickly brought their guns to their shoulders, aiming through the smoke at the now invisible enemy ship, the sound of the cannons firing deafening them. “Fire!” The Lieutenant shouted, and as one, the Marines fired, adding more smoke, the guns being thrown back into their shoulders, and the sparks from the priming pans burning their cheeks. “Reload!” the order drifted out of the smoke, and the marines slammed the butts of their rifles onto the ground, and tore open new cartridges. A cannon ball slammed into the side of the ship, splinters flying. Two marines fell screaming, and were dragged below decks to the surgeon.
The Cannons continued to fire, and John peered through the smoke at the enemy ship, the noise was deafening, and the tangy taste of gunpowder made John incredibly thirsty. He was wondering why he wasn’t afraid. He could die at any moment, yet he was calmly bringing his gun up to his shoulder, as the order to present was given again. “Fire!” More bangs, more smoke, more butts thudding into shoulders, more burns. The sound of one of the Lieutenants singing drifted across the battle, “Come cheer up my Lads, ‘tis to glory we steer! To add something more to this wonderful year! To honour we call you as free men not slaves! For who are so free as the sons of the waves?” Kelly shouted again, “Present!” and hearts of oak drifted back “Hearts of Oak are our ships! Hearts of Oak are our men! We always are ready! Steady, boys, Steady! We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again”
“Fire!” Bangs, smoke, thuds, burns. “Reload!”.
The voice of the captain boomed out across the ship, “Larboard crews and marines prepare to board!” and the Lieutenant replied,
“Fix Bayonets!”. So the Marines each drew seventeen inches of steel from their sheathes, then pushed them onto the ends of their muskets, and twisted them into place as one. “Present!” guns were raised. “Fire!” Bangs, smoke, thuds, burns. “Reload!”. Once all the Marines had reloaded, the Lieutenant looked to the captain, received a nod, then yelled, “Charge!” drew his sword, and ran across a boarding plank that was lowered by one of the crew between the two ships. The Marines stormed onto the French ship, as Hearts of Oak boomed across both ships still, “Hearts of Oak are our Ships! Hearts of Oak are our men! We always are ready! Steady, boys, steady! We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again!”. They found only a handful of frogs on the top deck, and after a brief and bloody battle below decks, the French captain handed his sword to Lieutenant Kelly. “Captain Jenrou, and I surrender my ship.”
“Lieutenant Kelly, His Britannic Majesty’s navy. You may keep your sword sir.” A cheer went up from the marines and crewmen. John’s first battle was won.
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