Company is a strong word. When someone says company, you think of at least a hundred people. This was more like a platoon. Surprisingly though, F Company still had three officers. Second Battalions three remaining company level officers. D and E had been hit even worse. Not as bad as B Company from First. They had just disappeared into the fog. Major Simmons had been temporarily put in charge of D. For E, Captain Kestel had recommended Lieutenant Gates be given charge. After all, they were pretty much three platoons now. No change for him. In theory, this should have been an easy day. After the assault had finished, the 202nd had pulled back, allowing fresh troops to take up the line of defense. Before being pulled off completely, the attacking troops were to hold what formerly was the first Vledscan line. In theory, this was to give them a rest, before being marched home as heroes. The 202nd had been assigned to hold the crater.
With troops stretched thin, the surrounding trenches were unmanned. Colonel Darling had argued with the General Staff. If an attack came, it would be better to be anywhere else.
It was a photo op. At noon, the press corps was coming by to take pictures. The Regiment holding a crater would be much more impressive. Oh, and by the way, we aren’t going to supply you with more ammunition.
Make sure Captain Kestel is cleaned up they had told him. Give her some make up.
Colonel Darling had laughed. When he was forced to give the order, Captain Kestel laughed. She was coated in mud and blood. She had killed men in bloody close quarters fighting. She had seen men and women torn apart. She hadn’t slept in at least a day. Her best friend had been reported dead. And she was still expected to act like a Lady. Colonel Darling had apparently argued for an hour to at least let her not have to change into an officers skirt.
At nine, the Vledscan counterattack began. Presumably. The fog was still too thick to see anything.
At nine thirty three the guns on the front line fell silent. No runners had come past their position to give the regiment news.
At nine fifty seven, an E Company rifleman spotted an airship, appearing out of the fog almost on top of the crater. Before anyone had a chance to respond, the airship opened fire with it’s three main guns. The Regiment scattered into the dugouts they had scraped together.
At ten thirteen, the airship stopped firing and pulled back. The Regiment reorganized itself. Loud Vledscan voices were heard closing in on the crater. Colonel Darling lined up the regiment on the edge of the crater.
“Hold your fire. Hold your fire until my command,” Colonel Darling whisperd to each company. He stopped by Captain Kestel and whispred, “Captain, I need to borrow your sword for a moment.”
“Right sir,” Captain Kestel wiped the blade of her sword and handed it to the Colonel, “Just return it in time for the real fighting.”
“I just need it to make a show. Surely you understand,” Colonel Darling leapt up on the parapet and raised the sword high. He waited. Waited. The first line of Vledscan troops moved out of the fog. only 10 meters from the crater.Colonel Darling swung the sword down, “FIRE!”
The first row of Vledscan troops collapsed. A few isolated shots flew over over the parapet.Colonel Darling raised the sword again. He waited. Waited. A Fusillade of fire came past. One hit the Colonel in the shoulder. He swung the sword down, “FIRE!”
As the regiment fired, the Colonel jumped back down into the crater, “SCATTER!”
The Colonel tossed the sword to Captain Kestel, who caught it, “Thank you kindly Captain.”
“No Problem sir,” Captain Kestel caught the sword and ran towards the rear position. She hoped everyone else remembered the plan.
The night before, as soon as the Regiment had gotten off the line, Colonel Darling had held a general meeting. After expressing his disappointment at their orders to hold the crater, he set out the plan in case of attack. The first step had been completed. A fire line at the edge to take care of the first wave. The next part would be bloody.
As the largest company, F Company had been given twice the ammunition of the other companies. Two magazines for each soldier. The Company was ordered to form two ranks, fix bayonets, and aim towards the crater lip. Any movement on the lip would be assumed hostile. And any movement would be met with a shotgun like blast of thirty rifle bullets. The rest of the Regiment had taken up positions around the crater, bayonets and shovels ready for anyone who got past the fire.
Captain Kestel formed the Company on the marked position. She looked to Sergeant Chilcott, the only surviving Sergeant of F Company, “All ready Sergeant?”
“Company is ready Ma’am,” Chilly looked around him, “Today seems like a good enough day to die as any.” He then fell back into the formation.
Captain Kestel took up position, two paces to the right of the company and one pace forward. She rested her sword on her shoulder and laughed a bit. Who would have thought. Lady Demetria Kestel, probably going to die leading an old fashioned line formation. To the people who thought that nobility was a thing of the past, this would probably be a hilarious joke. Did you hear about Lady Demetria? Apparently she forgot that modern warfare existed.
Well fuck ‘em.
“FIRE!” She swung her sword down, emulating Colonel Darling. Thirty rounds flew into the fog. There were a few screams followed by an eery silence. More shadows. ”FIRE,”, the rifles fired. There was some shouting in Vledscan. Another pause. Rifles burst to the sides of the crater. Then the chaos began.
“COMPANY! OPEN ORDER!” Captain Kestel waved to the side. The company widened its formation. The Captain pulled a smoke grenade out of a pouch and threw it to the edge of the crater. Officers from other companies followed suit and smoke billowed around the crater, making visibility even worse. The Vledscans then moved in with bayonets to attack.
The ensuing hours of hand to hand fighting became known as the “Finest Hour of the Ethslin Army.” It was four hours before the 202nd retreated. They had come into the battle with 1300 officers and enlisted the night before. On the attack, 300 had been killed and another 700 wounded or missing. The Battle of the Crater ended with about 150 soldiers scrambling back to the Ethslin lines. Colonel Darling was given an honorary Viscountship and promoted to General. There were forty three Medals of Ethslin awarded in the battle, Eight of them being First Class.