The thin notes of the violin pierced the fog and the stupor of the men lying on the coarse grass.
“Bloody hell, that’s worse than Reveille” muttered one as they slowly pulled themselves to their feet, brushing off the damp sand. Corporal Lytewayte ran a practised eye over the group and noted all were present.
A shot rang out sharp and clear. The music stopped mid phrase.
The men began to look around them warily but suddenly hurled themselves to the ground again. Just in time. The shell screamed over their heads and landed heavily into the dunes, showering them with more wet sand.
All his men were here. Who, then, had been playing that infernal violin? Bach, he thought. Bad timing for these remnants of his platoon who hoped they had escaped detection so far. Now this bloody fiddler would bring the Jerries right down on top of them. Still, who the hell was he? And, more importantly, what the hell did he think he was doing – playing concert music in the middle of the mist, in the middle of a beach, in the middle of a war?
With instincts learned the hard way, the men slowly rose to their feet again. With a nod, the corporal indicated that they should move down the coast a bit to their rendezvous, keeping to the edge of the incoming tide which would erase the signs of their passing. They hoped. The corporal had a quiet with Private Smith.
“Keep an eye on them Tommy. I’ll catch up with you in a mo. Better check and see what happened to that silly bastard”.
Tommy nodded and loped off in the rear of the small group.
Lytewayte, who belied his name by standing over six feet in his regulation issue socks and carried shoulders so broad that the quartermaster had to have his uniforms specially made, was used to wisecracks about his name but none of his men ever made jokes about his instincts to keep them safe. Turning silently for such a big man, he edged into the mist, trying to work out where the music had come from. . Music, he thought grimly, on an out-of-tune violin in the wrong place and the wrong time.
Hearing a slight change in the hiss of the waves, he trod more slowly until he found what he was looking for although it wasn’t at all what he’d expected to find. A very young girl, sat on the sand, half in and half out of the surf, cradling the splintered remnants of a violin. Tears were flowing silently down her face mingling with the salt sea water.
“Now what?” he asked himself. He crouched down and saw that she wasn’t as young as he had first thought, about eighteen he thought. .
“Are you hurt?” he whispered; he knew how sound carried in the mist.
She shook her head and continued to rock in misery, hugging the broken instrument. .
“You can’t stay here. The Germans will be here any minute.”
She ignored him. Hell, she didn’t speak English.
He looked around. The mist was already lifting. The sub wouldn’t wait once visibility cleared. “Come on” he said. She didn’t hear him perhaps.
In exasperation he bent down and hoisted her effortlessly to her feet but as soon as he let go, she began to subside again. He risked a quick look around. Yes, the fog was definitely thinning. Without another word, he picked her up flung her over a shoulder and set off to catch up with his men.
When he found them, two boats were already on their way back to the sub. The third was loaded. Only Tommy Smith stood in the water anxiously looking for the corporal. As soon as he saw him he too climbed into the boat. Lytewayte waded out to them. Another shot rang out. The girl was bundled into the boat with the shattered remnants of her violin. The mist had lifted. The Jerries had clear sight of them.
“Get a move on” hissed the corporal as he pushed the boat away and began to swim.