Reflecting upon their traumatic experiences in filthy trenches and on blood-soaked plains, soldiers confirmed that the harmonica playing of Corporal Nicholas Brand was the worst part of the entire war.
“You can’t capture it in words,” explained a member of Brand’s platoon, P.F.C. Darius Gunn. “The firefights, the pointless mass death—you could talk about those. But unless you were there, you can’t understand what it was like to hear ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ played with seventeen flat notes."
“People on both sides put themselves in the line of fire rather than listen any longer, including me,” Gunn said, staring off into the middle distance. “It sounds like a choice between life and death, but life after ten hours of ‘Hot Cross Buns’ is no life at all.”
Even now, Gunn suffers from fighting alongside Brand.
“That war ended seventy years ago. I’ve forgotten the faces of friends, the places I traveled, what we fought for. But some nights, as I lie in bed, the first string of toots of ‘Drunken Sailor’ will materialize in the darkness."
“I know I’ll never truly be free of that time.”