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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

"Chats With Fritz"

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The Captain's face had been almost completely torn away by the bomb's explosion. The Unteroffizier was alive, breathing with difficulty. In a few minutes he opened his eyes and blinked in the glare of the candles.

The pair had evidently been drinking heavily, for the alcohol fumes were sickening and completely pervaded the dugout. I turned away in disgust, hating to see a man cross the Great Divide full of booze.

One of our officers could speak German and he questioned the dying man.

In a faint voice, interrupted by frequent hiccoughs, the Unteroffizier told his story.

There had been a drinking bout among the officers in one of the German dugouts, the main beverage being champagne. With a drunken leer he informed us that champagne was plentiful on their side and that it did not cost them anything either. About seven that night the conversation had turned to the "contemptible" English, and the Captain had made a wager that he would hang his cap on the English barbed wire to show his contempt for the English sentries. The wager was accepted. At eight o' clock the Captain and he had crept out into No Man's Land to carry out this wager.

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They had gotten about half way across when the drink took effect and the Captain fell asleep. After about two hours of vain attempts the Unteroffizier had at last succeeded in waking the Captain, reminded him of his bet, and warned him that he would be the laughingstock of the officers' mess if he did not accomplish his object, but the Captain was trembling all over and insisted on returning to the German lines. In the darkness they lost their bearings and crawled toward the English trenches. They reached the barbed wire and were suddenly challenged by our sentry. Being too drunk to realize that the challenge was in English, the Captain refused to crawl back. Finally the Unteroffizier convinced his superior that they were in front of the English wire. Realizing this too late, the Captain drew his revolver and with a muttered curse crept blindly toward our trench. His bullet no doubt killed our Captain.

Then the bomb came over and there he was, dying,--and a good job too, we thought. The Captain dead? Well, his men wouldn't weep at the news.

Without giving us any further information the Unteroffizier died.

We searched the bodies for identification disks but they had left everything behind before starting on their foolhardy errand.

Next afternoon we buried them in our little cemetery apart from the graves of the Tommies. If you ever go into that cemetery you will see two little wooden crosses in the corner of the cemetery set away from the rest.

They read:

Captain German Army Died--1916 Unknown R. I. P.

Unteroffizier German Army Died--1916 Unknown R.I.P.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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