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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

The Firing Squad

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Like a flash it came to Lloyd that he was free. Free to go "over the top" with his Company. Free to die like a true Briton fighting for his King and Country. A great gladness and warmth came over him. Carefully stepping over the body of the sentry, he started on a mad race down the ruined street of the village, amid the bursting shells, minding them not, dodging through or around hurrying platoons on their way to also go "over the top." Coming to a communication trench he could not get through. It was blocked with laughing, cheering, and cursing soldiers. Climbing out of the trench, he ran wildly along the top, never heeding the rain of machine-gun bullets and shells, not even hearing the shouts of the officers, telling him to get back into the trench. He was going to join his Company who were in the front line. He was going to fight with them. He, the despised coward, had come into his own.

While he was racing along, jumping over trenches crowded with soldiers, a ringing cheer broke out all along the front line, and his heart sank. He knew he was too late. His Company had gone over. But still he ran madly. He would catch them. He would die with them.

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Meanwhile his Company had gone "over." They, with the other companies had taken the first and second German trenches, and had pushed steadily on to the third line. "D" Company, led by their Captain, the one who had sent Lloyd to Division Headquarters for trial, charged with desertion, had pushed steadily forward until they found themselves far in advance of the rest of the attacking force. "Bombing out" trench after trench, and using their bayonets, they came to a German communication trench, which ended in a blindsap, and then the Captain, and what was left of his men, knew they were in a trap. They would not retire. "D" Company never retired, and they were "D" Company. Right in front of them they could see hundreds of Germans preparing to rush them with bomb and bayonet. They would have some chance if ammunition and bombs could reach them from the rear. Their supply was exhausted, and the men realized it would be a case of dying as bravely as possible, or making a run for it. But "D" Company would not run. It was against their traditions and principles.

The Germans would have to advance across an open space of three to four hundred yards before they could get within bombing distance of the trench, and then it would be all their own way. Turning to his Company, the Captain said:

"Men, it's a case of going West for us. We are out of ammunition and bombs, and the 'Boches' have us in a trap. They will bomb us out. Our bayonets are useless here. We will have to go over and meet them, and it's a case of thirty to one, so send every thrust home, and die like the men of 'D' Company should. When I give the word, follow me, and up and at them. Give them hell! God, if we only had a machine gun, we could wipe them out! Here they come, get ready, men."

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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