James McE. Love

FIRST LIGHT

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry
Awarded: November 13, 2004
We’d been dropped by helicopter and had tabbed through the darkness. We were to lay-up during the day, keeping out of sight of any possible Argy OP’s that they might have on the high features that surrounded us. It was not however, all going as the generals had planned. Everybody was scattered all over the place constantly having to move due to artillery and mortar fire that the sound of the departing helicopters had attracted.

Sweating and out of breath, we lay with our backs propped against a small earthen bank furtively sharing a cigarette between the two of us. The 105 mm HE rounds and 81 mm mortar bombs were still falling around us. It didn’t matter; we had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, as they say.

Anyway, it was only harassing fire designed to provoke a reaction and flush out a better target more worthy of their attention. They were hitting all the likely FUP’s (Forming Up Points). Luckily for us, the fuse settings were still set wrongly so the shells were impacting and burying themselves three to four feet under the soft peat before they exploded. The 33lb shells had to literally land right on top of us, to do any damage.

The CSM and I sat contemplating the approaching dawn, and after nine years in the army: I was given my first proper definition of “First Light” by Colin Price.

“It’s not the actual ability to define and see shapes. First light is where you are able to define the actual colours, rather than just mentally perceive what you know to be green or blue or grey because your brain tells you that is what the object’s colour is supposed to be.”

We had both subconsciously been watching and listening to the incoming rounds. The last one had been particularly close. Close enough to lift us bodily off the ground with the shock wave. It had been the third round of a not so random pattern. They must have had an observation post overlooking us, possibly on Mount Kent. Without any further conversation, as if we had been doing it all of our lives, we raised our selves up, just far enough to scan the area, splitting it in half to check in a full circle. Then, with a brief nod to one another, we were both up and running like hell hoping that the fourth and final adjusting round wouldn’t arrive, till we’d both found another temporary hiding place.

First Light, was now well into the dawn, and it looked like today would be like yesterday – a day fraught with new dangers.

FIRST LIGHT

It’s dark, but not quite,
It’s almost day, but not quite.
Half haze, grey gloom, but not quite.
Not red, not green, not black, not white:
Almost day, almost, but not quite.
When you differentiate between colours
You’ve got first light:
Almost day, almost, but not quite.

Author’s Comments: Company Sarn’t Major Colin Price and I shared a cigarette, on Goat Ridge. He explained first light to me.