Letter To An Unknown Soldier

You may have heard about the online  WW1 memorial made up of publicly-submitted Letters To The Unknown Soldier. Here’s my contribution, written for English class.

-An Overthinking Teenager

To the German soldier that killed my best friend,


I barely caught a glimpse of you,

Before old Robert was shot down

At point blank range.

But I saw enough of your expression

To know you didn’t mean it;

I saw enough of your grey, gaunt face and your grief-stricken features

To know you didn’t mean it.


I barely caught a glimpse of you

Before you pulled that trigger,

But I saw enough

To wonder:

About you, and your life

Did you have a best friend?

And did they go to war?

Perhaps it would be better to ask,

Did you still have a best friend?

When the guns stopped firing?

When you limped

Bloody, bruised, your comrades blown to bits and your patriotism in tatters

Off the battle field

Carrying a coffin, on a stretcher, or staggering on your own two feet


I barely caught a glimpse of you,

But I saw enough to wonder:

Did you have a family?

And do you still have one now?

A new wife, a giggling child, a competitive brother, a moody sister, a loving mother and a proud father?

Maybe just an obscure cousin

Or an estranged great-aunt

Supporting you as you carry the weight of your family’s expectations

Did you have a job?

Work on the family farm, perhaps,

Or in your neighbour’s fields?

Did you have great plans?

Of grand careers

Unthinkable luxury

Or just happy families?


Were you excited for war, eager and ready to serve your country?

Did you believe in the cause?

Did you hate the Allies?

Were you a willing accomplice in this bloodthirsty game

Until you stepped onto the corpse-strewn playing field

And realised

You were just a pawn in this complicated contest

Of knights, bishops and kings?

Until you saw the death, the destruction

Surrounding you?

And did you regret

The futile deaths of enemies and comrades

From the start?

Or was it only when you looked into my best friend’s eyes?

When you saw the hope, the fear and the resignation,

And the desperate terror

That lay in the stagnant pools of his pupils?

Was it only then that you regretted pulling that trigger?

For your country, for your leader, and for a cause you no longer believed in.


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