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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

On His Own

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Tommy admires Albert of Belgium because he is not a pusher of men, he Leads them. With him it's not a case of "take that trench"--it is "come on and we will take it."

It is amusing to notice the different characteristics of the Irish, Scotch, and English soldiers. The Irish and Scotch are very impetuous, especially when it comes to bayonet fighting, while the Englishman, though a trifle slower, thoroughly does his bit; he is more methodical and has the grip of a bulldog on a captured position. He is slower to think, that is the reason why he never knows when he is licked.

Twenty minutes before going over the top the English Tommy will sit on the fire step and thoroughly examine the mechanism of his rifle to see that it is in working order and will fire properly. After this examination he is satisfied and ready to meet the Boches.

But the Irishman or Scotchman sits on the fire step, his rifle with bayonet fixed between his knees, the butt of which perhaps is sinking into the mud,--the bolt couldn't be opened with a team of horses it is so rusty,--but he spits on his sleeve and slowly polishes his bayonet; when this is done he also is ready to argue with Fritz.

It is not necessary to mention the Colonials (the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders), the whole world knows what they have done for England.

The Australian and New Zealander is termed the "Anzac," taking the name from the first letters of their official designation, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Tommy divides the German army into three classes according to their fighting abilities. They rank as follows, Prussians, Bavarians, and Saxons.

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When up against a Prussian regiment it is a case of keep your napper below the parapet and duck. A bang-bang all the time and a war is on. The Bavarians are little better, but the Saxons are fairly good sports and are willing occasionally to behave as gentlemen and take it easy, but you cannot trust any of them overlong.

At one point of the line the trenches were about thirty-two yards apart. This sounds horrible, but in fact it was easy, because neither side could shell the enemy's front-line trench for fear shells would drop into their own. This eliminated artillery fire.

In these trenches when up against the Prussians and Bavarians, Tommy had a hot time of it, but when the Saxons "took over" it was a picnic, they would yell across that they were Saxons and would not fire. Both sides would sit on the parapet and carry on a conversation. This generally consisted of Tommy telling them how much he loved the Kaiser while the Saxons informed Tommy that King George was a particular friend of theirs and hoped that he was doing nicely.

When the Saxons were to be relieved by Prussians or Bavarians, they would yell this information across No Man's Land and Tommy would immediately tumble into his trench and keep his head down.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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