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To shoot his own conscience

Historical story

By TamHanh ThuyLinhPublished about a month ago 6 min read

Early in World War II, the Allies landed in Normandy and rapidly advanced deep into the second front. In the fierce battle for the French mainland, two things caught the attention of General Slim, commander of a British division leading the attack on the left wing. The first had happened a week earlier, when the division and Slim's headquarters had been bombed by the Luftwaffe, and as Slim was being pulled out of the headquarters by the staff, a bomb roared down and landed within five meters of Slim. Slim's eyes closed -- that was it, he was going to meet God directly. But a miracle happened, ten seconds later, the bomb did not explode! Slim was moved to safety by his men, where the bomb lay still.

The sappers carefully disassembled the bomb and unexpectedly found that the shell was filled not with explosives but with sand. Buried in the sand was a small note: "This is all we can do, long live the anti-fascist hero, long live justice and freedom!" A surprised General Slim calls in his old partner, Colonel Burton, the chief of staff, to determine the bomb. Analysis by Colonel Burton, who was an ordnance expert before the war, confirmed that the bomb was produced at the Sinor Arsenal in the French town of Foss. The factory had been occupied by the Germans since 1941, and its skilled workers had been forced by the Germans to produce ammunition for the Nazis.

General Slim and his men continued to advance, and three days earlier had destroyed a resistant German force and captured the small town of Le Manc, less than fifty miles from the Foss. However, three days ago in the evening, the town suddenly found between the German sniper, two German snipers with two sniper guns, hiding in the dark to Slim and other junior generals shot, but the same dumb fire. British sentries spotted them in time, and a alarmed Slim sent military police to hunt down the two snipers. As he fled, the sniper took off his spare gun, squeezed a bullet into it and turned to fire at the British. The German dumb muskets have been made some relaxed careful British troops did not expect, accompanied by a crisp gunshot, chasing in front of the military police captain fell to the ground, was shot in the head, killed on the spot. The angry British immediately fought back, one sniper was beaten into a hornet's nest, and another was wounded and captured alive.

Two cartridges containing sniper rifle cartridges were recovered from the two snipers. Colonel Burton discovered that the bullet was again a product of the Hinor Arsenal. The two cartridges identify nine and ten cartridges, ten cartridges each. Colonel Burton discovered that 15 of the 17 cartridges were pure "stink bombs", but unlike the bomb, the shells of these "stink bombs" were filled with real ammunition, but the makers had tampered with the primer of the bullets: The trigger point of the primer is all off, off the left and right, the bullet primer even if there is a slight deviation, the firing pin can not hit the correct position, the bullet will be dumb. And the two snipers have one in each cartridge, and the primers are 100 percent accurate. Colonel Burton can confirm that the two sets of bullets came from the same hand.

Colonel Burton challenged General Slim to launch an immediate attack, racing against time to bind Foss. Because the Germans will soon find out that there is something wrong with the Hinor Arsenal, and they will destroy the factory and slaughter all the workers.

As expected, by the time General Slim's troops had bound Foss overnight and taken over the Sinor Arsenal, the explosives for the German preparatory bomb plant had been planted and the machine guns for the massacre of workers had been set up, and fortunately they were rescued by the British army.

As the factory's French compatriots wept and celebrated their rebirth, General Slim and Colonel Burton led the gendarmes to the ammunition filling workshop. General Slim declared on the spot that the twelve workers of the workshop were complicit, and ordered all of them to be arrested and executed immediately. The workmen were astonished, and then excitedly gathered round to say something to the English, but Colonel Burton would not allow them to say anything more, and with a wave of his hand ordered the gendarmes to bind them all, and quickly tape their mouths shut.

At dawn, a dozen men were led out of an indoor shooting gallery near the Arsenal, and they saw twelve chairs at the end of the range, and twelve rifles arranged in neat rows on the gun racks at this end of the range. The British military police were armed, and Colonel Burton stood at the front with a box of bullets in his hand and said coldly: "In order to make your death more fair, we will adopt a more novel way to complete the judgment of your life and soul." See, these are your own bullets, and in a moment it will be up to each of you to put them into your guns, and then you will sit down in your chairs and we will shoot the righteous bullet into your conscience."

When the workers heard Colonel Burton's words, the ground almost lit up with relief. Burton ordered the gendarmes to unfasten their ropes in turn, and, forced by the gendarmes at gunpoint with their mouths still sealed, one by one came forward and removed a pellet from Colonel Burton's cartridge box. As if they had forgotten how numb their arms were, the workers briskly loaded bullets one by one.

The others are finished, quietly across the target to sit on the chair, waiting for the final moment. At this moment the twelfth man came forward, and Colonel Burton noticed that his legs were shaking, that his hand was shaking violently as he took the bullet from the cartridge box, and that as he pressed it down, his hand was shaking so much that it dropped it with a clank to the floor. The gendarmes picked up the bullet and handed it to him without expression, and he had great difficulty in taking it. The cold sweat on his forehead was in a string, and he pressed it three or four times before he was able to force it out. Then he walked toward the end of the target track with his legs filled with lead and slumped in his chair.

Colonel Burton raised the red flag, twelve gendarmes raised their rifles and aimed them at the hearts of the twelve. Colonel Burton's red flag fell: "Ready -- let go!" There was only an empty sound of the clicking of firing pins, but no shot was fired, and the twelfth chair fell to the ground with a thud, and the man on the chair rolled his eyes over in the empty gunfire.

General Slim strode out, looked dismissively at the man, and uttered two words: "Judas!" Turning to the gendarmes, he said, "Drag him down!"

When Colonel Burton asked the gendarmeries to lift the other eleven men out of their chairs and remove the tape from their mouths, General Slim shouted to them, "Gentlemen, the bullets in the guns were indeed made by your own hands. You have stood the test of your conscience. You are true heroes!" General Slim suddenly raised his arms and shouted, "Long live the anti-fascist hero!" Before the cry fell, eleven people responded with tears in their eyes: "Long live justice and freedom!"

The Allied military tribunal later learned that the twelfth man, named Berdon, had been arrested by the Nazis for joining the French underground resistance in Marseille, then defected and betrayed his comrades, in order to avoid being hunted by the French underground, he begged the Nazis to protect him. The Nazis transferred him to the Sinor Arsenal in Foss. Beldon was once an ordnance skilled personnel, in order to please the Nazis, he made every effort to work hard for the Nazis to produce high-quality weapons and ammunition. He did not think that the Nazis did not count, defeat before he and other workers all the way to the organization before the gun to kill everything, fortunately, the British rescued them in time. He was just glad to have escaped and was going to cheat through when General Slim wanted to destroy the law, and the thought of being shot through the heart by his own hands, his fragile nerves could no longer support...

Shortly after the war, Berdon was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.


About the Creator

TamHanh ThuyLinh

My name is Tam Han Chui Ling and I have a passion for words. I like to swim in the sea of books to gain knowledge and inspiration.

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    TamHanh ThuyLinhWritten by TamHanh ThuyLinh

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