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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

I Become A Bomber

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And then, having gotten filled up with the long-denied oxygen, I asked, "Where's the others?"

"Ayen't no hothers," was the brief reply.

And there weren't. Later I reconstructed the occurrences of the night from what I was told by the rescuing party.

A big shell had slammed down on us, drilling Bonesie, the man in the middle, from end to end. He was demolished. The shell was a "dud", that is, it didn't explode. If it had, there wouldn't have been anything whatever left of any of us. As it was our overhang caved in, letting sandbags and earth down on the remaining man and myself. The other man was buried clean under. He had life in him still when he was dug out but "went west" in about ten minutes.

The fourth man was found dead from shrapnel. I found, too, that the two unwounded men who had gone back with Lieutenant May had both been killed on the way in. So out of the twelve men who started on the "suicide club" stunt I was the only one left. Dinky was still inside my tunic, and I laid the luck all to him.

Back in hospital I was found to be suffering from shell shock. Also my heart was pushed out of place. There were no bones broken, though I was sore all over, and several ribs were pulled around so that it was like a knife thrust at every breath. Besides that, my nerves were shattered. I jumped a foot at the slightest noise and twitched a good deal.

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At the end of a week I asked the M.O. if I would get Blighty and he said he didn't think so, not directly. He rather thought that they would keep me in hospital for a month or two and see how I came out. The officer was a Canadian and had a sense of humor and was most affable. I told him if this jamming wasn't going to get me Blighty, I wanted to go back to duty and get a real one. He laughed and tagged me for a beach resort at Ault-Onival on the northern coast of France.

I was there a week and had a bully time. The place had been a fashionable watering place before the war, and when I was there the transient population was largely wealthy Belgians. They entertained a good deal and did all they could for the pleasure of the four thousand boys who were at the camp. The Y.M.C.A. had a huge tent and spread themselves in taking care of the soldiers. There were entertainments almost every night, moving pictures, and music. The food was awfully good and the beds comfortable, and that pretty nearly spells heaven to a man down from the front.

Best of all, the bathing was fine, and it was possible to keep the cooties under control,--more or less. I went in bathing two and three times daily as the sloping shore made it just as good at low tide as at high.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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