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  Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

All Quiet (?) On The Western Front

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At Brigade Headquarters I happened to overhear a conversation between our G.O.C. (General Officer Commanding) and the Divisional Commander. From this conversation I learned that we were to bombard the German lines for eight days, and on the first of July the "Big Push" was to commence.

In a few days orders were issued to that effect, and it was common property all along the line.

On the afternoon of the eighth day of our strafeing, Atwell and I were sitting in the frontline trench smoking fags and making out our reports of the previous night's tour of the trenches, which we had to turn in to headquarters the following day, when an order was passed down the trench that Old Pepper requested twenty volunteers to go over on a trench raid that night to try and get a few German prisoners for information purposes. I immediately volunteered for this job, and shook hands with Atwell, and went to the rear to give my name to the officers in charge of the raiding party.

I was accepted, worse luck.

At 9:40 that night we reported to the Brigade Headquarters dugout to receive instructions from Old Pepper.

After reaching this dugout we lined up in a semicircle around him, and he addressed us as follows:

"All I want you boys to do is to go over to the German lines to-night, surprise them, secure a couple of prisoners, and return immediately. Our artillery has bombarded that section of the line for two days and personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied, so just get a couple of prisoners and return as quickly as possible."

The Sergeant on my right, in an undertone, whispered to me:

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"Say, Yank, how are we going to get a couple of prisoners if the old fool thinks 'personally that that part of the trench is unoccupied,' --sounds kind of fishy, doesn't it mate?"

I had a funny sinking sensation in my stomach, and my tin hat felt as if it weighed about a ton and my enthusiasm was melting away. Old Pepper must have heard the Sergeant speak because he turned in his direction and in a thundering voice asked:

"What did you say?"

The Sergeant with a scared look on his face and his knees trembling, smartly saluted and answered:

"Nothing, sir."

Old Pepper said:

"Well, don't say it so loudly the next time."

Then Old Pepper continued:

"In this section of the German trenches there are two or three machine guns which our artillery, in the last two or three days, has been unable to tape. These guns command the sector where two of our communication trenches join the front line, and as the brigade is to go over the top tomorrow morning I want to capture two or three men from these guns' crews, and from them I may be able to obtain valuable information as to the exact location of the guns, and our artillery will therefore be able to demolish them before the attack, and thus prevent our losing a lot of men while using these communication trenches to bring up reinforcements."

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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