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By Chris Ryan

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Sample text

Next to the wheat was a green meadow where a brown cow with gentle eyes rubbed its neck on a gate. And above it all, white clouds drifted peacefully across a pale blue sky. To the prisoner, the view outside the window was like medicine. For almost a year, he had been frightened of the sky because of all the awful things that fell out of it: shells, poison gas, or more of the dreadful, smothering rain. The only bright colours he had seen had been the acid white of flares, the dirty yellow of shell bursts, the crimson brightness of blood and the purple of spilled guts.

The first lesson Stubbs learned was that the army was as full of liars as Civvy Street – and the biggest liar of them all was the sergeant who had recruited him. Three months training in a hellhole in the Welsh countryside taught him the ropes. He learned how to drill on a parade ground, shoot a rifle, bayonet a scarecrow. But most of all, he learned that that whatever people said about teamwork, in the army it was every man for himself. He started a little boot- and buckle-shining business which went quite well until the military police found out about it and kicked the living daylights out of him.

This is a fine horse,' he said. ' 'He's lame in the back leg. He's got no wind and his mouth's cut to ribbons, which means someone's tried to control him but failed. That's the best one in the ring,' he said, pointing to a quiet chestnut horse. ' After that, he worked with horses and was happy. Three weeks later he was in France, with the Artillery Brigade of the 7th Division. The artillery couldn't work without horses. One of the horses' most important duties was to pull the field guns into position and keep them supplied with shells.

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