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|Over The Top||Arthur Guy Empey|
|Page 2 of 3||
"What do you call this, a loaf of bread? Looks more like a sniping plate."
The Corporal answered:
"Well, don't blame me, I didn't bake it, somebody's got to get it, so shut up until I dish out these blinkin' rations."
Then the Corporal started on the jam.
"Jam, three tins-apple one, plum two. Nineteen men, three tins. Six in a tin, makes twelve men for two tins, seven in the remaining tin."
He passed around the jam, and there was another riot. Some didn't like apple, while others who received plum were partial to apple. After awhile differences were adjusted, and the issue went on.
"Bermuda onions, seventeen."
The Corporal avoided a row by saying that he did not want an onion, and I said they make your breath smell, so guessed I would do without one too. The Corporal looked his gratitude.
"Cheese, pounds two."
The Corporal borrowed a jackknife (corporals are always borrowing), and sliced the cheese,--each slicing bringing forth a pert remark from the on-lookers as to the Corporal's eyesight.
"Raisins, ounces, eight."
By this time the Corporal's nerves had gone West, and in despair, he said that the raisins were to be turned over to the cook for "duff" (plum pudding). This decision elicited a little "grousing," but quiet was finally restored.
"Biscuits, tins, one."
With his borrowed jackknife, the Corporal opened the tin of biscuits, and told everyone to help themselves,--nobody responded to this invitation. Tommy is "fed up" with biscuits.
"Butter, tins, two."
"Nine in one, ten in the other."
"Pickles, mustard, bottles, one."
Nineteen names were put in a steel helmet, the last one out winning the pickles. On the next issue there were only eighteen names, as the winner is eliminated until every man in the section has won a bottle.
The raffle is closely watched, because Tommy is suspicious when it comes to gambling with his rations.
When the issue is finished, the Corporal sits down and writes a letter home, asking them if they cannot get some M.P. (Member of Parliament) to have him transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he won't have to issue rations.
At the different French estaminets in the village, and at the canteens, Tommy buys fresh eggs, milk, bread, and pastry. Occasionally when he is flush, he invests in a tin of pears or apricots. His pay is only a shilling a day, twenty-four cents, or a cent an hour. Just imagine, a cent an hour for being under fire,--not much chance of getting rich out there.
When he goes into the fire trench (front line), Tommy's menu takes a tumble. He carries in his haversack what the government calls emergency or iron rations. They are not supposed to be opened until Tommy dies of starvation. They consist of one tin of bully beef, four biscuits, a little tin which contains tea, sugar, and Oxo cubes (concentrated beef tablets). These are only to be used when the enemy establishes a curtain of shell fire on the communication trenches, thus preventing the "carrying in" of rations, or when in an attack, a body of troops has been cut off from its base of supplies.
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|Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey
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