A single bullet.
Well, technically, it is a shell casing and not a bullet.
The bullet, the destructive projectile, is missing. Long since having left the protective embrace of its casing.
One hundred or so years ago, the bullet left this casing which was subsequently and unceremoniously ejected from a rifle to land at the feet of a German soldier in a field in France.
The markings, worn now with time, tell me that the bullet and casing were manufactured in a German munitions factory in 1915.
Some years ago, a friend had the opportunity to help on an archaeological battlefield dig in France. Using wit and resources, a site for the dig was chosen in what is now a farmer’s field. Eventually, the team unearthed a crude trench where they found the remains of several soldiers, covered literally by the sands of time.
Among the relics found was my ‘bullet,’ one of many rifle shell casings discharged by the German soldiers on the advancing allied forces. My friend was permitted to keep a few casings from the dig, one of which he gifted to me.
What haunts though is what I don’t know about the bullet that once resided in this casing.
It is clear the the bullet was fired at the advancing Canadian, British or American soldiers. But what I don’t know is whether or not that bullet hit it’s mark. I don’t know if a frightened, cold and wet young man lost his life as a result of having been struck the fatal blow of my bullet.
And I think of the German soldier who fired the rifle and ejected this shell casing to his feet. He too was young and cold and wet and scared. Most of all scared. He would not see his family again.
And I am haunted by knowing that I will never know.
This shell casing, filled by and buried deep in the dirt of that farmer’s field in France, now sits on my desk, a daily reminder that we can never forget the sacrifices made by those unknown to us so long ago.