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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Gas Attacks And Spies

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After showing the driver our passes we got in. The driver was going to the part of the line where we had to report.

The ambulance was a Ford and lived up to its reputation.

How the wounded ever survived a ride in it was inexplicable to me. It was worse than riding on a gun carriage over a rocky road.

The driver of the ambulance was a corporal of the R.A.M.C., and he had the "wind up," that is, he had an aversion to being under fire.

I was riding on the seat with him while Atwell was sitting in the ambulance, with his legs hanging out of the back.

As we passed through a shell-destroyed village a mounted military policeman stopped us and informed the driver to be very careful when we got out on the open road, as it was very dangerous, because the Germans lately had acquired the habit of shelling it. The Corporal asked the trooper if there was any other way around, and was informed that there was not. Upon this he got very nervous, and wanted to turn back, but we insisted that he proceed and explained to him that he would get into serious trouble with his commanding officer if he returned without orders; we wanted to ride, not walk.

From his conversation we learned that he had recently come from England with a draft and had never been under fire, hence, his nervousness.

We convinced him that there was not much danger, and he appeared greatly relieved.

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When we at last turned into the open road, we were not so confident. On each side there had been a line of trees, but now, all that was left of them were torn and battered stumps. The fields on each side of the road were dotted with recent shell holes, and we passed several in the road itself. We had gone about half a mile when a shell came whistling through the air, and burst in a field about three hundred yards to our right. Another soon followed this one, and burst on the edge of the road about four hundred yards in front of us.

I told the driver to throw in his speed clutch, as we must be in sight of the Germans. I knew the signs; that battery was ranging for us, and the quicker we got out of its zone of fire the better. The driver was trembling like a leaf, and every minute I expected him to pile us up in the ditch. I preferred the German fire.

In the back, Atwell was holding onto the straps for dear life and was singing at the top of his voice,

    We beat you at the Mame,
    We beat you at the Aisne,
    We gave you hell at Neuve Chapelle,
    And here we are again.

Just then we hit a small shell hole and nearly capsized. Upon a loud yell from the rear I looked behind, and there was Atwell sitting in the middle of the road, shaking his fist at us. His equipment, which he had taken off upon getting into the ambulance, was strung out on the ground, and his rifle was in the ditch.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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