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Battery D 238

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The day after this I received the glad tidings that I would occupy the machine-gunners' dugout right near the advanced artillery observation post. This dugout was a roomy affair, dry as tinder, and real cots in it. These cots had been made by the R.E.'s who had previously occupied the dugout. I was the first to enter and promptly made a sign board with my name and number on it and suspended it from the foot of the most comfortable cot therein.

In the trenches, it is always "first come, first served," and this is lived up to by all.

Two R.F.A. men (Royal Field Artillery) from the nearby observation post were allowed the privilege of stopping in this dugout while off duty.

One of these men, Bombardier Wilson by name, who belonged to Battery D 238, seemed to take a liking to me, and I returned this feeling.

In two days' time we were pretty chummy, and he told me how his battery in the early days of the war had put over a stunt on Old Pepper, and had gotten away with it.

I will endeavor to give the story as far as memory will permit in his own words:

"I came out with the First Expeditionary Force, and like all the rest, thought we would have the enemy licked in jig time, and be able to eat Christmas dinner at home. Well, so far, I have eaten two Christmas dinners in the trenches, and am liable to eat two more, the way things are pointing. That is, if Fritz don't drop a 'whizz-bang' on me, and send me to Blighty. Sometimes I wish I would get hit, because it's no great picnic out here, and twenty-two months of it makes you fed up.

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"It's fairly cushy now compared to what it used to be, although I admit this trench is a trifle rough. Now, we send over five shells to their one. We are getting our own back, but in the early days it was different. Then you had to take everything without a reply. In fact, we would get twenty shells in return for every one we sent over. Fritz seemed to enjoy it, but we British didn't, we were the sufferers. Just one casualty after another. Sometimes whole platoons would disappear, especially when a 'Jack Johnson' plunked into their middle. It got so bad, that a fellow, when writing home, wouldn't ask for any cigarettes to be sent out, because he was afraid he wouldn't be there to receive them.

"After the drive to Paris was turned back, trench warfare started. Our General grabbed a map, drew a pencil line across it, and said, 'Dig here,' then he went back to his tea, and Tommy armed himself with a pick and shovel, and started digging. He's been digging ever since.

"Of course, we dug those trenches at night, but it was hot work what with the rifle and machinegun fire. The stretcher-bearers worked harder than the diggers.

"Those trenches, bloomin' ditches, I call them, were a nightmare. They were only about five feet deep, and you used to get the backache from bending down. It wasn't exactly safe to stand upright either, because as soon as your napper showed over the top, a bullet would bounce off it, or else come so close it would make your hair stand.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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