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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Out In Front

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After tea, Lieutenant Stores of our section came into the dugout and informed me that I was "for" a reconnoitering patrol and would carry six Mills bombs.

At 11.30 that night twelve men, our Lieutenant, and myself went out in front on a patrol in No Man's Land.

We cruised around in the dark for about two hours, just knocking about looking for trouble, on the lookout for Boche working parties to see what they were doing.

Around two in the morning we were carefully picking our way, about thirty yards in front of the German barbed wire, when we walked into a Boche covering party nearly thirty strong. Then the music started, the fiddler rendered his bill, and we paid.

Fighting in the dark with a bayonet is act very pleasant. The Germans took it on the run, but our officer was no novice at the game and didn't follow them. He gave the order "down on the ground, hug it close."

Just in time, too, because a volley skimmed over our heads. Then in low tones we were told to separate and crawl back to our trenches, each man on his own.

We could see the flashes of their rifles in the darkness, but the bullets were going over our heads.

We lost three men killed and one wounded in the arm. If it hadn't been for our officers' quick thinking the whole patrol would have probably been wiped out.

After about twenty minutes' wait we went out again and discovered that the Germans had a wiring party working on their barbed wire. We returned to our trenches unobserved with the information and our machine guns immediately got busy.

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The next night four men were sent out to go over and examine the German barbed wire and see if they had cut lanes through it; if so, this presaged an early morning attack on our trenches.

Of course, I had to be one of the four selected for the job. It was just like sending a fellow to the undertakers to order his own coffin.

At ten o'clock we started out, armed with three bombs, a bayonet, and revolver. After getting into No Man's Land we separated. Crawling four or five feet at a time, ducking star shells, with strays cracking over head, I reached their wire. I scouted along this inch by inch, scarcely breathing. I could hear them talking in their trench, my heart was pounding against my ribs. One false move or the least noise from me meant discovery and almost certain death.

After covering my sector I quietly crawled back. I had gotten about half-way, when I noticed that my revolver was missing. It was pitch dark. I turned about to see if I could find it; it couldn't be far away, because about three or four minutes previously I had felt the butt in the holster. I crawled around in circles and at last found it, then started on my way back to our trenches, as I thought.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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