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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

The Little Wooden Cross

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While the boys were making this wreath, I sat under a shot-scarred apple tree and carved out the following verses on a little wooden shield which we nailed on Pete's cross.

    True to Us God; true to Britain,
    Doing his duty to the last,
    Just one more name to be written
    On the Roll of Honor of heroes passed.

    Passed to their God, enshrined in glory,
    Entering life of eternal rest,
    One more chapter in England's story
    Of her sons doing their best.

    Rest, you soldier, mate so true,
    Never forgotten by us below;
    Know that we are thinking of you,
    Ere to our rest we are bidden to go.

Next morning the whole section went over to say good-bye to Pete, and laid him away to rest.

After each one had a look at the face of the dead, a Corporal of the R. A. M. C. sewed up the remains in a blanket. Then placing two heavy ropes across the stretcher (to be used in lowering the body into the grave), we lifted Pete onto the stretcher, and reverently covered him with a large Union Jack, the flag he had died for.

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The Chaplain led the way, then came the officers of the section, followed by two of the men carrying a wreath. Immediately after came poor Pete on the flag-draped stretcher, carried by four soldiers. I was one of the four. Behind the stretcher, in fours, came the remainder of the section.

To get to the cemetery, we had to pass through the little shell-destroyed village, where troops were hurrying to and fro.

As the funeral procession passed, these troops came to the "attention," and smartly saluted the dead.

Poor Pete was receiving the only salute a Private is entitled to "somewhere in France."

Now and again a shell from the German lines would go whistling over the village to burst in our artillery lines in the rear.

When we reached the cemetery, we halted in front of an open grave, and laid the stretcher beside it. Forming a hollow square around the opening of the grave, the Chaplain read the burial service.

German machine-gun bullets were "cracking" in the air above us, but Pete didn't mind, and neither did we.

When the body was lowered into the grave, the flag having been removed, we clicked our heels together, and came to the salute.

I left before the grave was filled in. I could not bear to see the dirt thrown on the blanket-covered face of my comrade. On the Western Front there are no coffins, and you are lucky to get a blanket to protect you from the wet and the worms. Several of the section stayed and decorated the grave with white stones.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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