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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Battery D 238

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"'Wilson, what do you think of it? Did you ever see the like of it in your life? Damn fine work, I call it.'

"Pretty soon a look of wonder stole over his face, and he exclaimed:

"'But who in hell gave them the order to fire. Range and everything correct, too. I know I didn't. Wilson, did I give you any order for the Battery to open up? Of course, I didn't, did I?'

"I answered very emphatically, 'No, sir, you gave no command. Nothing went through this post. I am absolutely certain on that point, sir.'

"'Of course nothing went through!' he replied. Then his face fell, and he muttered out loud:

"'But, by Jove. wait till Old Pepper gets wind of this. There'll be fur flying.'

"Just then Bombardier Cassell cut in on the wire:

"'General's compliments to Captain A--. He directs that officer and signaler report at the double to Brigade Headquarters as soon as relieved. Relief is now on the way.'

"In an undertone to me, 'Keep a brass front, Wilson, and for God's sake, stick.' I answered with, 'Rely on me, mate,' but I was trembling all over.

"I gave the General's message to the Captain, and started packing up.

"The relief arrived, and as we left the post the Captain said:

"'Now for the fireworks, and I know they'll be good and plenty.' They were.

"When we arrived at the gun pits, the Battery Commander, the Sergeant-Major, and Cassell were waiting for us. We fell in line and the funeral march to Brigade Headquarters started.

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"Arriving at Headquarters the Battery Commander was the first to be interviewed. This was behind closed doors. From the roaring and explosions of Old Pepper it sounded as if raw meat was being thrown to the lions. Cassell, later, described it as sounding like a bombing raid. In about two minutes the officer reappeared. The sweat was pouring from his forehead, and his face was the color of a beet. He was speechless. As he passed the Captain he jerked his thumb in the direction of the lion's den and went out. Then the Captain went in, and the lions were once again fed. The Captain stayed about twenty minutes and came out. I couldn't see his face, but the droop in his shoulders was enough. He looked like a wet hen.

"The door of the General's room opened, and Old Pepper stood in the doorway. With a roar he shouted:

"'Which one of you is Cassell? Damn me, get your heels together when I speak! Come in here!'

"Cassell started to say, 'Yes, sir.'

"But Old Pepper roared, 'Shut up!'

"Cassell came out in five minutes. He said nothing, but as he passed me, he put his tongue into his cheek and winked, then turning to the closed door, he stuck his thumb to his nose and left.

"Then the Sergeant-Major's turn came. He didn't come out our way. Judging by the roaring, Old Pepper must have eaten him.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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