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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

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The next evening we were relieved by the -th Brigade, and once again returned to rest billets. Upon arriving at these billets we were given twenty-four hours in which to clean up. I had just finished getting the mud from my uniform when the Orderly Sergeant informed me that my name was in orders for leave, and that I was to report to the Orderly Room in the morning for orders, transportation, and rations.

I nearly had a fit, hustled about, packing up, filling my pack with souvenirs such as shell heads, dud bombs, nose caps, shrapnel balls, and a Prussian Guardsman's helmet. In fact, before I turned in that night, I had everything ready to report at the Orderly Room at nine the next morning.

I was the envy of the whole section, swanking around, telling of the good time I was going to have, the places I would visit, and the real, old English beer I intended to guzzle. Sort of rubbed it into them, because they all do it, and now that it was my turn, I took pains to get my own back.

At nine I reported to the Captain, receiving my travel order and pass. He asked me how much money I wanted to draw. I glibly answered, "Three hundred francs, sir", he just as glibly handed me one hundred.

Reporting at Brigade Headquarters, with my pack weighing a ton, I waited, with forty others for the Adjutant to inspect us. After an hour's wait, he came out; must have been sore because he wasn't going with us.

The Quartermaster-Sergeant issued us two days' rations, in a little white canvas ration bag, which we tied to our belts.

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Then two motor lorries came along and we piled in, laughing, joking, and in the best of spirits. We even loved the Germans, we were feeling so happy. Our journey to seven days' bliss in Blighty had commenced.

The ride in the lorry lasted about two hours; by this time we were covered with fine, white dust from the road, but didn't mind, even if we were nearly choking.

At the railroad station at P--we reported to an officer, who had a white band around his arm, which read "R.T.O." (Royal Transportation Officer). To us this officer was Santa Claus.

The Sergeant in charge showed him our orders; he glanced through them and said, "Make yourselves comfortable on the platform and don't leave, the train is liable to be along in five minutes--or five hours."

It came in five hours, a string of eleven match boxes on big, high wheels, drawn by a dinky little engine with the "con." These match boxes were cattle cars, on the sides of which was painted the old familiar sign, "Hommes 40, Chevaux 8."

The R.T.O. stuck us all into one car. We didn't care, it was as good as a Pullman to us.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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