Eleven Eleven refers to the 11th hour of the 11th Day which brought to an end the carnage of the First World War. It tells the story of three young men who on that fateful morning carried on fighting not knowing that the Armistice had been agreed and was imminent. Will, a young soldier fighting under his sergeant brother’s command, is on an expedition to find a sniper; Axel is a young German soldier about to taste his first experience of battle; Eddie is a young American flyer anxious to increase his number of kills. The three end up in the same foxhole, two of them sinking slowly into the mud. Once they know that the Armistice is in place they should have been able to think they were safe, but unfortunately for one of them this is not to be.
This is a sombre and bleak story of war which will sit well alongside the poetry and factual accounts of life in the trenches and in the air. Will and Axel share the terrifying experience of a different sort of fighting to Eddie who discovers a certain chivalry amongst pilots. He has come from a comfortable, wealthy and German immigrant background in the US. Will’s brother protects him to the end and Will discovers that Axel and he are very similar and just young men together. It is Axel who does the decent thing to help Eddie, wounded in the foxhole, and Will follows suit to try to rescue both young men, now sinking in the mud. There is a good picture of the young Lieutenant Richardson, leading his men despite his lack of experience, and some graphic descriptions of the wounds and deaths of men, and their transient place in the fighting.
This story does not glorify war and recognizes the humanity to be found in most soldiers and airmen, and the random nature of their death. It is a deep and sad story and would be a good addition to background stories for students of the Great War, the one to end all wars. It is made so poignant because it all takes place on the last morning, leading up to eleven eleven.