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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Picks And Shovels

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From an official statement published in one of the London papers, it is stated that it costs between six and seven thousand pounds ($30,000 to $35,000) to kill or wound a soldier. This result was attained by taking the cost of the war to date and dividing it by the killed and wounded.

It may sound heartless and inhuman, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that from a military stand-point it is better for a man to be killed than wounded.

If a man is killed he is buried, and the responsibility of the government ceases, excepting for the fact that his people receive a pension. But if a man is wounded it takes three men from the firing line, the wounded man and two men to carry him to the rear to the advanced first-aid post. Here he is attended by a doctor, perhaps assisted by two R.A.M.C. men. Then he is put into a motor ambulance, manned by a crew of two or three. At the field hospital, where he generally goes under an anaesthetic, either to have his wounds cleaned or to be operated on, he requires the services of about three to five persons. From this point another ambulance ride impresses more men in his service, and then at the ambulance train, another corps of doctors, R.A.M.C. men, Red Cross nurses, and the train's crew. From the train he enters the base hospital or Casualty Clearing Station, where a good-sized corps of doctors, nurses, etc., are kept busy. Another ambulance journey is next in order--this time to the hospital ship. He crosses the Channel, arrives in Blighty--more ambulances and perhaps a ride for five hours on an English Red Cross train with its crew of Red Cross workers, and at last he reaches the hospital. Generally he stays from two to six months, or longer, in this hospital. From here he is sent to a convalescent home for six weeks.

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If by wounds he is unfitted for further service, he is discharged, given a pension, or committed to a Soldiers' Home for the rest of his life,--and still the expense piles up. When you realize that all the ambulances, trains, and ships, not to mention the man-power, used in transporting a wounded man, could be used for supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements for the troops at the front, it will not appear strange that from a strictly military standpoint, a dead man is sometimes better than a live one (if wounded).

Not long after the first digging party, our General decided, after a careful tour of inspection of the communication trenches, upon "an ideal spot," as he termed it, for a machine-gun emplacement. Took his map, made a dot on it, and as he was wont, wrote "dig here," and the next night we dug.

There were twenty in the party, myself included. Armed with picks, shovels, and empty sandbags we arrived at the "ideal spot" and started digging. The moon was very bright, but we did not care as we were well out of sight of the German lines.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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