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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

On His Own

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If an English regiment was to be relieved by the wild Irish, Tommy would tell the Saxons, and immediately a volley of "Dormer und Blitzen's" could be heard, and it was Fritz's turn to get a crick in his back from stooping, and the people in Berlin would close their windows.

Usually when an Irishman takes over a trench, just before "stand down" in the morning, he sticks his rifle over the top aimed in the direction of Berlin and engages in what is known as the "mad minute." This consists of firing fifteen shots in a minute. He is not aiming at anything in particular,--just sends over each shot with a prayer, hoping that one of his strays will get some poor unsuspecting Fritz in the napper hundreds of yards behind the lines. It generally does; that's the reason the Boches hate the man from Erin's Isle.

The Saxons, though better than the Prussians and Bavarians, have a nasty trait of treachery in their make-up.

At one point of the line where the trenches were very close, a stake was driven into the ground midway between the hostile lines. At night when it was his turn, Tommy would crawl to this stake and attach some London papers to it, while at the foot he would place tins of bully beef, fags, sweets, and other delicacies that he had received from Blighty in the ever looked-for parcel. Later on Fritz would come out and get these luxuries.

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The next night Tommy would go out to see what Fritz had put into his stocking. The donation generally consisted of a paper from Berlin, telling who was winning the war, some tinned sausages, cigars, and occasionally a little beer, but a funny thing, Tommy never returned with the beer unless it was inside of him. His platoon got a whiff of his breath one night and the offending Tommy lost his job.

One night a young English Sergeant crawled to the stake and as he tried to detach the German paper a bomb exploded and mangled him horribly. Fritz had set his trap and gained another victim which was only one more black mark against him in the book of this war. From that time on diplomatic relations were severed.

Returning to Tommy, I think his spirit is best shown in the questions he asks. It is never "who is going to win" but always "how long will it take?"

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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