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|Over The Top||Arthur Guy Empey|
Gas Attacks And Spies
|Page 2 of 7||
It's the animals that suffer the most, the horses, mules, cattle, dogs, cats, and rats, they having no helmets to save them. Tommy does not sympathize with rats in a gas attack.
At times, gas has been known to travel, with dire results, fifteen miles behind the lines.
A gas, or smoke helmet, as it is called, at the best is a vile-smelling thing, and it is not long before one gets a violent headache from wearing it.
Our eighteen-pounders were bursting in No Man's Land, in an effort, by the artillery, to disperse the gas clouds.
The fire step was lined with crouching men, bayonets fixed, and bombs near at hand to repel the expected attack.
Our artillery had put a barrage of curtain fire on the German lines, to try and break up their attack and keep back reinforcements.
I trained my machine gun on their trench and its bullets were raking the parapet.
Then over they came, bayonets glistening. In their respirators, which have a large snout in front, they looked like some horrible nightmare.
All along our trench, rifles and machine guns spoke, our shrapnel was bursting over their heads. They went down in heaps, but new ones took the place of the fallen. Nothing could stop that mad rush. The Germans reached our barbed wire, which had previously been demolished by their shells, then it was bomb against bomb, and the devil for all.
Suddenly, my head seemed to burst from a loud "crack" in my ear. Then my head began to swim, throat got dry, and a heavy pressure on the lungs warned me that my helmet was leaking. Turning my gun over to No. 2, I changed helmets.
The trench started to wind like a snake, and sandbags appeared to be floating in the air. The noise was horrible; I sank onto the fire step, needles seemed to be pricking my flesh, then blackness.
I was awakened by one of my mates removing my smoke helmet. How delicious that cool, fresh air felt in my lungs.
A strong wind had arisen and dispersed the gas.
They told me that I had been "out" for three hours; they thought I was dead.
The attack had been repulsed after a hard fight. Twice the Germans had gained a foothold in our trench, but had been driven out by counter-attacks. The trench was filled with their dead and ours. Through a periscope, I counted eighteen dead Germans in our wire; they were a ghastly sight in their horrible-looking respirators.
I examined my first smoke helmet, a bullet had gone through it on the left side, just grazing my ear, the gas had penetrated through the hole made in the cloth.
Out of our crew of six, we lost two killed and two wounded.
That night we buried all of the dead, excepting those in No Man's Land. In death there is not much distinction, friend and foe are treated alike.
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|Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey
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