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Action Front Boyd Cable


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Mary gloated over that garden; he went to a world of trouble with it, he bent over it and weeded it for hours on end; he watered it religiously every night, he even erected miniature forcing frames over some of the vegetable rows, ransacking the remains of the broken-down hamlet for squares of glass or for any pieces large enough for his purpose. He built these cunningly with frameworks of wood and untwisted strands of barbed wire, and there is no doubt they helped the growth of his garden immensely.

Although they have not been torched upon, it must not be supposed that Mary had no other duties. Despite our frequently announced "Supremacy of the Air," the anti-aircraft guns were in action rather frequently. The German aeroplanes in this part of the line appeared to ignore the repeated assurances in our Press that the German 'plane invariably makes off on the appearance of a British one; and although it is true that in almost every case the German was "turned back," he very frequently postponed the turning until he had sailed up and down the line a few times and seen, it may be supposed, all that there was to see.

At such times--and they happened as a rule at least once a day and occasionally two, three, or four times a day--Mary had to run from his gardening and help man the guns.

In the course of a month the section shot away many thousands of shells, and, it is to be hoped, severely frightened many German pilots, although at that time they could only claim to have brought down one 'plane, and that in a descent so far behind the German lines that its fate was uncertain.

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It must be admitted that the gunners on the whole made excellent shooting, and if they did not destroy their target, or even make him turn back, they fulfilled the almost equally useful object of making him keep so high that he could do little useful observing. But the short periods of time spent by the section in shooting were no more than enough to add a pleasant flavor of sport to life, and on the whole, since the weather was good and the German gunnery was not--or at least not good enough to be troublesome to the section--life during that month moved very pleasantly.

But at last there came a day when it looked as if some of the inconveniences of war were due to arrive. The German aeroplane appeared as usual one morning just after the section had completed breakfast. The methodical regularity of hours kept by the German pilots added considerably to the comfort and convenience of the section by allowing them to time their hours of sleep, their meals, or an afternoon run by the O.C. on the motor into the near-by town, so as to fit in nicely with the duty of anti-aircraft guns.

On this morning at the usual hour the aeroplane appeared, and the gunners, who were waiting in handy proximity to the cars, jumped to their stations. The muzzles of the two-pounder pom-poms moved slowly after their target, and when the range-indicator told that it was within reach of their shells the first gun opened with a trial beltful. "Bang--bang--bang--bang!" it shouted, a string of shells singing and sighing on their way into silence. In a few seconds, "Puff--puff--puff--puff!" four pretty little white balls broke out and floated solid against the sky. They appeared well below their target, and both the muzzles tilted a little and barked off another flight of shells. This time they appeared to burst in beautiful proximity to the racing aeroplane, and immediately the two-pounders opened a steady and accurate bombardment. The shells were evidently dangerously close to the 'plane, for it tilted sharply and commenced to climb steadily; but it still held on its way over the British lines, and the course it was taking it was evident would bring it almost directly over the Blue Marines and their guns. The pom-poms continued their steady yap-yap, jerking and springing between each, round, like eager terriers jumping the length of their chain, recoiling and jumping, and yelping at every jump. But although the shells were dead in line the range was too great, and the guns slowed down their rate of fire, merely rapping off an occasional few rounds to keep the observer at a respectful distance, without an unnecessary waste of ammunition.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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