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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

The Firing Squad

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Everytime there was a knock at the door, he trembled all over, imagining it was a policeman who had come to take him away to the army.

One morning his fears were realized. Sure enough there stood a policeman with the fatal paper. Taking it in his trembling hand, he read that he, Albert Lloyd, was ordered to report himself to the nearest recruiting station for physical examination. He reported immediately, because he was afraid to disobey.

The doctor looked with approval upon Lloyd's six feet of physical perfection, and thought what a fine guardsman he would make, but examined his heart twice before he passed him as "physically fit"; it was beating so fast.

From the recruiting depot Lloyd was taken, with many others, in charge of a sergeant, to the training depot at Aldershot, where he was given an outfit of khaki, and drew his other equipment. He made a fine-looking soldier, except for the slight shrinking in his shoulders, and the hunted look in his eyes.

At the training depot it does not take long to find out a man's character, and Lloyd was promptly dubbed "Windy." In the English Army, "windy" means cowardly.

The smallest recruit in the barracks looked on him with contempt, and was not slow to show it in many ways.

Lloyd was a good soldier, learned quickly, obeyed every order promptly, never groused at the hardest fatigues. He was afraid to. He lived in deadly fear of the officers and "Non-Coms" over him. They also despised him.

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One morning about three months after his enlistment, Lloyd's company was paraded, and the names picked for the next draft to France were read. When his name was called, he did not step out smartly, two paces to the front, and answer cheerfully, "Here, sir," as the others did. He just fainted in ranks, and was carried to barracks amid the sneers of the rest.

That night was an agony of misery to him. He could not sleep. Just cried and whimpered in his bunk, because on the morrow the draft was to sail for France, where he would see death on all sides, and perhaps be killed himself. On the steamer, crossing the Channel, he would have jumped overboard to escape, but was afraid of drowning.

Arriving in France, he and the rest were huddled into cattle cars. On the side of each appeared in white letters, "Chevaux 8, Hommes 40." After hours of bumping over the uneven French road beds they arrived at the training base of Rouen.

At this place they were put through a week's rigid training in trench warfare. On the morning of the eighth day, they paraded at ten o'clock, and were inspected and passed by General H--, then were marched to the Quartermaster's, to draw their gas helmets and trench equipment.

At four in the afternoon, they were again hustled into cattle cars. This time, the Journey lasted two days. They disembarked at the town of Prevent, and could hear a distant dull booming. With knees shaking, Lloyd asked the Sergeant what the noise was, and nearly dropped when the Sergeant replied in a somewhat bored tone:

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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