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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

My First Official Bath

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My pair of drawers came up to my chin and the shirt barely reached my diaphragm, but they were clean,--no strangers on them, and so I was satisfied.

At the expiration of the time allotted we were turned out and finished our dressing on the grass.

When all of the company had bathed it was a case of march back to billets. That march was the most uncongenial one imagined, just cussing and blinding all the way. We were covered with white dust and felt greasy from sweat. The woolen underwear issued was itching like the mischief.

After eating our dinner of stew, which had been kept for us,--it was now four o'clock,--we went into the creek and had another bath.

If "Holy Joe" could have heard our remarks about the Divisional Baths and army red tape, he would have fainted at our wickedness. But Tommy is only human after all.

I just mentioned "Holy Joe" or the Chaplain in an irreverent sort of way but no offense was meant, as there were some very brave men among them.

There are so many instances of heroic deeds performed under fire in rescuing the wounded that it would take several books to chronicle them, but I have to mention one instance performed by a Chaplain, Captain Hall by name, in the Brigade on our left, because it particularly appealed to me.

A chaplain is not a fighting man; he is recognized as a non-combatant and carries no arms. In a charge or trench raid the soldier gets a feeling of confidence from contact with his rifle, revolver, or bomb he is carrying. He has something to protect himself with, something with which he can inflict harm on the enemy,--in other words, he is able to get his own back.

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But the chaplain is empty handed, and is at the mercy of the enemy if he encounters them, so it is doubly brave for him to go over the top, under fire, and bring in wounded. Also a chaplain is not required by the King's Regulations to go over in a charge, but this one did, made three trips under the hottest kind of fire, each time returning with a wounded man on his back. On the third trip he received a bullet through his left arm, but never reported the matter to the doctor until late that night--just spent his time administering to the wants of the wounded lying on stretchers waiting to be carried to the rear by ambulances.

The chaplains in the British Army are a fine, manly set of men, and are greatly respected by Tommy.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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