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Action Front Boyd Cable


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"If the Huns' minds work on the fixed and appointed path, one would expect the same old field will get a strafing this afternoon," said the captain afterwards. "The airman will have seen the village knocked about, and if he knew that those last shells came from here he'll just conclude that yesterday's shooting missed us, and the gunners will have another whale at us this afternoon."

He was right; the gun had "another whale" at them, and again dug many holes in the old field.

But next morning the Germans played a new and disconcerting game. The aeroplane hovered high above and dropped a light, and a minute later the Blue Marines heard a shrill whistle, that grew and changed to a whoop, and ended with the same old crash in the same old field.

"Now," said the captain. "Stand by for trouble. That brute is spotting for his gun."

The aeroplane dropped a light, turned, and circled round to the left. Five minutes later another shell screamed over, and this time fell crashing into the hamlet. The hit was palpable and unmistakable; a huge dense cloud of smoke and mortar-, lime-, and red brick-dust leapt and billowed and hung heavily over the village.

"This," said the captain rapidly, "is where we do the rabbit act. Get to cover, all of you, and lie low."

They did the rabbit act, scuttling amongst the broken houses to the shelter of their cellar and diving hastily into it. Another shell arrived, shrieking wrathfully, smashed into another broken house, and scattered its ruins in a whirlwind of flying fragments.

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Now Mary, of course, was in the cellar with the rest, and Mary's garden was in full view from the cellar entrance, and twenty or twenty-five yards from it. The rest of the party were surprised to see Mary, as the loud clatter of falling stones subsided, leap for the cellar steps, run up them, and disappear out into the open. He was back in a couple of minutes. "I just wondered," he said breathlessly, "if those blighters had done any damage to my vegetables." When another shell came he popped up again for another look, and this time he dodged back and said many unprintable things until the next shell landed. He looked a little relieved when he came back this time. "This one was farther away," he said, "but that one afore dropped somebody's hearth-stone inside a dozen paces from my onion bed." For the next half-hour the big shells pounded the village, tearing the ruins apart, battering down the walls, blasting huge holes in the road and between the houses, re-destroying all that had already been destroyed, and completing the destruction of some of the few parts that had hitherto escaped.

Between rounds Mary ran up and looked out. Once he rushed across to his garden and came back cursing impotently, to report a shell fallen close to the garden, his carefully erected forcing frames shattered to splinters by the shock, and a hail of small stones and the ruins of an iron stove dropped obliteratingly across his carrots.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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