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0105_001E Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Battery D 238

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"We used to fill sandbags and stick them on top of the parapet to make it higher, but no use, they would be there about an hour, and then Fritz would turn loose and blow them to bits. My neck used to be sore from ducking shells and bullets.

"Where my battery was stationed, a hasty trench had been dug, which the boys nicknamed 'Suicide Ditch,' and believe me, Yank, this was the original 'Suicide Ditch'. All the others are imitations.

"When a fellow went into that trench, it was an even gamble that he would come out on a stretcher. At one time, a Scotch battalion held it, and when they heard the betting was even money that they'd come out on stretchers, they grabbed all the bets in sight. Like a lot of bally idiots several of the battery men fell for their game, and put up real money. The 'Jocks' suffered a lot of casualties, and the prospects looked bright for the battery men to collect some easy money. So when the battalion was relieved, the gamblers lined up. Several 'Jocks' got their money for emerging safely, but the ones who clicked it, weren't there to pay. The artillerymen had never thought it out that way. Those Scotties were bound to be sure winners, no matter how the wind blew. So take a tip from me, never bet with a Scottie, 'cause you'll lose money.

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"At one part of our trench where a communication trench joined the front line, a Tommy had stuck up a wooden sign-post with three hands or arms on it. One of the hands pointing to the German lines read, 'To Berlin,' the one pointing down the communication trench read, 'To Blighty,' while the other said, 'Suicide Ditch, Change Here for Stretchers.'

"Farther down from this guide post the trench ran through an old orchard. On the edge of this orchard our battery had constructed an advanced observation post. The trees screened it from the enemy airmen and the roof was turfed. It wasn't cushy like ours, no timber or concrete reinforcements, just walls and roof of sandbags. From it, a splendid view of the German lines could be obtained. This post wasn't exactly safe. It was a hot corner, shells plunking all around, and the bullets cutting leaves off the trees. Many a time when relieving the signaler at the phone, I had to crawl on my belly like a worm to keep from being hit.

"It was an observation post sure enough. That's all the use it was. Just observe all day, but never a message back for our battery to open up. You see, at this point of the line there were strict orders not to fire a shell, unless specially ordered to do so from Brigade Headquarters. Blime me, if anyone disobeyed that command, our General --yes, it was Old Pepper,--would have courtmartialed the whole Expeditionary Force. Nobody went out of their way to disobey Old Pepper in those days, because he couldn't be called a parson; he was more like a pirate. If at any time the devil should feel lonely, and sigh for a proper mate, Old Pepper would get the first call. Pacing the Germans wasn't half bad compared with an interview with that old firebrand.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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