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|Over The Top||Arthur Guy Empey|
|Page 1 of 3||
Just before dozing off, Mr. Lance-Corporal butted in.
In Tommy's eyes, a Lance-Corporal is one degree below a Private. In the Corporal's eyes, he is one degree above a General.
He ordered me to go with him and help him draw the next day's rations, also told me to take my waterproof.
Every evening, from each platoon or machine-gun section, a Lance-Corporal and Private goes to the Quartermaster-Sergeant at the Company Stores and draws rations for the following day.
The "Quarter," as the Quartermaster-Sergeant is called, receives daily from the Orderly Room (Captain's Office) a slip showing the number of men entitled to rations, so there is no chance of putting anything over on him. Many arguments take place between the "Quarter" and the platoon Non-Com, but the former always wins out. Tommy says the "Quarter" got his job because he was a burglar in civil life.
Then I spread the waterproof sheet on the ground, while the Quartermaster's Batman dumped the rations on it. The Corporal was smoking a fag. I carried the rations back to the billet. The Corporal was still smoking a fag. How I envied him. But when the issue commenced my envy died, and I realized that the first requisite of a non-commissioned officer on active service is diplomacy. There were nineteen men in our section, and they soon formed a semi-circle around us after the Corporal had called out, "Rations up."
The Quartermaster-Sergeant had given a slip to the Corporal on which was written a list of the rations. Sitting on the floor, using a wooden box as a table, the issue commenced. On the left of the Corporal the rations were piled. They consisted of the following:
Six loaves of fresh bread, each loaf of a different size, perhaps one out of the six being as flat as a pancake, the result of an Army Service Corps man placing a box of bully beef on it during transportation.
Three tins of jam, one apple, and the other two plum.
Seventeen Bermuda onions, all different sizes.
A piece of cheese in the shape of a wedge.
Two one-pound tins of butter.
A handful of raisins.
A tin of biscuits, or as Tommy calls them "Jaw-breakers."
A bottle of mustard pickles.
The "bully beef," spuds, condensed milk, fresh meat, bacon, and "Maconochie Rations" (a can filled with meat, vegetables, and greasy water), had been turned over to the Company Cook to make stew for next day's dinner. He also received the tea, sugar, salt, pepper, and flour.
Scratching his head, the Corporal studied the slip issued to him by the Quarter. Then in a slow, mystified voice he read out, "No. I Section, 19 men. Bread, loaves, six." He looked puzzled and soliloquized in a musing voice:
"Six loaves, nineteen men. Let's see, that's three in a loaf for fifteen men,--well to make it even, four of you'll have to muck in on one loaf."
The four that got stuck made a howl, but to no avail. The bread was dished out. Pretty soon from a far corner of the billet, three indignant Tommies accosted the Corporal with,
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|Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey
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