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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Gas Attacks And Spies

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After the wind had dispersed the gas, the R.A.M.C. got busy with their chemical sprayers, spraying out the dugouts and low parts of the trenches to dissipate any fumes of the German gas which may have been lurking in same.

Two days after the gas attack, I was sent to Division Headquarters, in answer to an order requesting that captains of units should detail a man whom they thought capable of passing an examination for the Divisional Intelligence Department.

Before leaving for this assignment I went along the front-line trench saying good-bye to my mates and lording it over them, telling them that I had clicked a cushy job behind the lines, and how sorry I felt that they had to stay in the front line and argue out the war with Fritz. They were envious but still good natured, and as I left the trench to go to the rear they shouted after me:

"Good. luck, Yank, old boy, don't forget to send tip a few fags to your old mates."

I promised to do this and left.

I reported at Headquarters with sixteen others and passed the required examination. Out of the sixteen applicants four were selected.

I was highly elated because I was, as I thought, in for a cushy job back at the base.

The next morning the four reported to Division Headquarters for instructions. Two of the men were sent to large towns in the rear of the lines with an easy job. When it came our turn, the officer told us we were good men and had passed a very creditable examination.

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My tin hat began to get too small for me, and I noted that the other man, Atwell, by name, was sticking his chest out more than usual.

The officer continued: "I think I can use you two men to great advantage in the front line. Here are your orders and instructions, also the pass which gives you full authority as special M. P. detailed on intelligence work. Report at the front line according to your instructions. It is risky work and I wish you both the best of luck."

My heart dropped to zero and Atwell's face was a study. We saluted and left.

That wishing us the "best of luck" sounded very ominous in our ears; if he had said "I wish you both a swift and painless death" it would have been more to the point.

When we had read our instructions we knew we were in for it good and plenty. What Atwell said is not fit for publication, but I strongly seconded his opinion of the War, Army, and Divisional Headquarters in general.

After a bit our spirits rose. We were full-fledged spy-catchers, because our instructions and orders said so.

We immediately reported to the nearest French estaminet and had several glasses of muddy water, which they called beer. After drinking our beer we left the estaminet and hailed an empty ambulance.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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