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Action Front Boyd Cable

A General Action

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It was only possible to reach this listening-post by night, and the half-dozen men in it had to remain there throughout the day, since it was impossible to move across the open between the post and the trenches by daylight. The right-hand portion of the new trench running from the listening-post back to the forward trench had already been sketched out with entrenching tools, but it formed no cover because it was enfiladed by a portion of the German trench.

It was the day when the Tearaways moved into the new position, and the O.C. had been instructed that he was expected to commence digging operations as soon as it was dark that night, the method and manner of digging being left entirely in his own hand. The Major, the Adjutant, and a couple of Captains conferred gloomily over the prospective task. That reputation of a dislike for digging stood in the way of a quick job being made. The stoppage of the rum ration prevented even an inducement in the shape of an "extra tot" being promised for extra good work, and it was well known to all the officers that the stoppage of pay had put the men in a sulky humor, which made them a little hard to handle, and harder to drive than the proverbial pigs. It was decided that nothing should be said to the men of the task ahead of them until it was time to tell off the fatigue party and start them on the work.

"It's no good," said the Captain, "leaving them all the afternoon to chew it over. They'd only be talking themselves into a state that is first cousin to insubordination."

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"I wish," said the other Captain, "they had asked us to go across and take another slice of the German trench. The men would do it a lot quicker and surer, and a lot more willing, than they'd dig a new one."

"The men," said the Colonel tartly, "are not going to be asked what they'd like any more than I've been. I want you each to go down quietly and have a look over at the new ground, tell the company commanders what the job is, and have a talk with me after as to what you think is the best way of setting about it."

That afternoon Lieutenant Riley and Lieutenant Brock took turns in peering through a periscope at the line of the new trench, and discussed the problem presented.

"It's all very fine," grumbled Riley, "for the O.C. to say the men must dig because he says so. You can take a horse to the water where you can't make it drink, and by the same token you can put a spade in a man's hand where you can't make him dig, or if he does dig he'll only do it as slow and gingerly as if it were his own grave and he was to be buried in it as soon as it was ready."

"Don't talk about burying," retorted Brock. "It isn't a pleasant subject with so many candidates for a funeral scattered around the front door."

He sniffed the air, and made an exclamation of disgust:

"They haven't even been chloride-of-limed," he said. "A lot of lazy, untidy brutes that battalion must have been we have just relieved."

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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