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Action Front Boyd Cable

The Fear Of Fear

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There was a stout barricade of wire in front of the next trench, and an order was shouted along to halt and lie down in front of it. The line dropped, and while some lay prone and fired as fast as they could at any loophole or bobbing head they could see, others lit bombs and tossed them into the trench. This trench also had been badly mauled by the shells, and the fire from it was feeble. Everton lay firing for a few minutes, casting side glances on an officer close in front of him, and on two or three men along the line who were coolly cutting through the barbed wire with heavy nippers. Everton saw the officer spin round and drop to his knees, his left hand nursing his hanging right arm. Everton jumped up and went over to him.

"Let me go on with it, sir," he said eagerly, and without waiting for any consent stooped and picked up the fallen wire-cutters and set to work. He and the others, standing erect and working on the wire, naturally drew a heavy proportion of the aimed fire; but Everton was only conscious of an uplifting exhilaration, a delight that he should have had the chance at such a prominent position. Many bullets came very close to him, but none touched him, and he went on cutting wire after wire, quickly and methodically, grasping the strand well in the jaws of the nippers, gripping till the wire parted and the severed ends sprang loose, calmly fitting the nippers to the next strand.

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Even when he had cut a clear path through, he went on working, widening the breach, cutting more wires, dragging the trailing ends clear. Then he ran back to the line and to the officer who had lain watching him.

"Your wire-nippers, sir," he said. "Shall I put them in your case for you?"

"Stick them in your pocket, Everton," said the youngster; "you've done good work with them. Now lie down here."

All this was a matter of no more than three or four minutes' work. When the other gaps were completed--the men in them being less fortunate than Everton and having several wounded during the task--the line rose, rushed streaming through the gaps and down into the trench. If anything, the damage done by the shells was greater there than in the first line, mainly perhaps because the heavier guns had not hesitated to fire on the second line where the closeness of the first line to the British would have made risky shooting. There were a good many dead and wounded Germans in this second trench, and of the remainder many were hidden away in their dug-outs, their nerves shaken beyond the sticking-point of courage by the artillery fire first, and later by the close-quarter bombing and the rush of the cold steel.

The Hotwaters held that trench for some fifteen minutes. Then a weak counter-attack attempted to emerge from another line of trenches a good two hundred yards back, but was instantly fallen upon by our artillery and scourged by the accurate fire of the Hotwaters. The attack broke before it was well under way, and scrambled back under cover.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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