Anyway, there they were, massed on the hillsides above us. Every warrior of the Accordiani tribe, each with their fearsome weapons strapped to their chests.
Already in the early dawn light, we could hear the sounds of the warriors readying their battle accordions as they prepared to charge our positions.
‘Don’t worry, private,’ I said to Jenkins, seeing him sweating as he aimed down his sights at the approaching hordes. ‘Don’t forget we have bagpipes. ‘
He tried to smile, but it wouldn’t come.
Yes, we had bagpipes, but far too few. Our only hope was that the range of the bagpipes was greater than that of the accordions. We had to hope that our bagpipes would cause enough casualties at a distance to even up the odds before the enemy drew closer.
Back in those days, we just had simple weapon, banjos, violins, a few guitars, and drums, of course. In those far off days, we had none of the long-range electric weapons that can prove so devastating these days.
Each man had a tin whistle for hand-to-hand fighting. As I marched down the ranks, I checked that each soldier had his whistle in easy reach. They all knew that, if the worst came to the worst, it was better to use that tin whistle on themselves than to risk capture. They all knew the stories of what the Accordiani did to captured enemies with their castanets. Even thinking about it bought me out in a cold sweat. ‘We’ll beat ‘em, Sarge, won’t we?’
‘Of course, Williams,’ I said. ‘We are British. The finest soldiers in the world.’
I clasped his shoulder as he tuned his banjo in readiness.
The unearthly wailing began as the Accordiani charged, their accordions strapped tight against their chest as they raced across the open ground towards out positions.
‘There’s hundreds of them, thousands!’ Williams broke a string in his panic to tune his banjo.
‘Calm down, lad. Listen, the bagpipes are starting up.’ I helped him get another string from his ammunition pouch and stood watching him restring his banjo like the professional solder he was.
The bagpipes started and the Accordiani fell in great heaps onto the battlefield, hands clasped over their ears as they tried to drown out the sound of the bagpipes. Hundreds of them fell, but still the rest came on. You had to admire their bravery, coming up against a battery of bagpipes armed only with accordions.
Brave or foolish – sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
Then they were at our improvised barricades and the hand to hand fighting began. Accordions battled against our instruments, and the Accordiani dead mounted up. We held our lines against the first wave as the bagpipes continued their slaughter.
We had to retreat to our second defensive line, but still we held our ground. Our banjos and violins proving more than a match for the accordions, even against those wielded by the experienced warriors of the Accordiani.
Their first wave broke and ran, with the bagpipes picking off more and more of the fleeing stragglers.
Then it was calm.
We had lost only a handful of men.
We redistributed the instruments, retuned and settled down again, ready for the second wave.
All of us wondering if we would ever see another dawn.