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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

Preparing For The Big Push

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Dejoining Atwell after the execution I had a hard time trying to keep my secret from him. I think I must have lost at least ten pounds worrying over the affair.

Beginning at seven in the evening it was our duty to patrol all communication and front-line trenches, making note of unusual occurrences, and arresting anyone who should, to us, appear to be acting in a suspicious manner. We slept during the day.

Behind the lines there was great activity, supplies and ammunition pouring in, and long columns of troops constantly passing. We were preparing for the big offensive, the forerunner of the Battle of the Somme or "Big Push."

The never-ending stream of men, supplies, ammunition, and guns pouring into the British lines made a mighty spectacle, one that cannot be described. It has to be witnessed with your own eyes to appreciate its vastness.

At our part of the line the influx of supplies never ended. It looked like a huge snake slowly crawling forward, never a hitch or break, a wonderful tribute to the system and efficiency of Great Britain's "contemptible little army" of five millions of men.

Huge fifteen-inch guns snaked along, foot by foot, by powerful steam tractors. Then a long line of "four point five" batteries, each gun drawn by six horses, then a couple of "nine point two" howitzers pulled by immense caterpillar engines.

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When one of these caterpillars would pass me with its mighty monster in tow, a flush of pride would mount to my face, because I could plainly read on the name plate, "Made in U.S.A.," and I would remember that if I wore a name plate it would also read, "Made in U.S.A." Then I would stop to think how thin and straggly that mighty stream would be if all the "Made in U. S. A." parts of it were withdrawn.

Then would come hundreds of limbers and "G. S." wagons drawn by sleek, well-fed mules, ridden by sleek, well-fed men, ever smiling. Although grimy with sweat and covered with the fine, white dust of the marvellously well-made French roads.

What a discouraging report the German air men must have taken back to their Division Commanders, and this stream is slowly but surely getting bigger and bigger every day, and the pace is always the same. No slower, no faster, but ever onward, ever forward.

Three weeks before the Big Push of July 1st--as the Battle of the Somme has been called--started, exact duplicates of the German trenches were dug about thirty kilos behind our lines. The layout of the trenches were taken from aeroplane photographs submitted by the Royal Flying Corps. The trenches were correct to the foot; they showed dugouts, saps, barbed wire defences, and danger spots.

Battalions that were to go over in the first waves were sent back for three days to study these trenches, engage in practice attacks, and have night maneuvers. Each man was required to make a map of the trenches and familiarize himself with the names and location of the parts his battalion was to attack.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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