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"It may now be divulged that, some time ago, the British lines were extended for a considerable distance to the South."--EXTRACT FROM OFFICIAL DISPATCH.
The first notice that the men of the Tower Bridge Foot had that they were to move outside the territory they had learned so well in many weary marches and wanderings in networks and mazes of trenches, was when they crossed a road which had for long marked the boundary line between the grounds occupied by the British and French forces.
"Do you suppose the O.C. is drunk, or that the guide has lost his way?" said Private Robinson. "Somebody ought to tell him we're off our beat and that trespassers will be prosecuted. Not but what he don't know that, seeing he prosecuted me cruel six months ago for roving off into the French lines--said if I did it again I might be took for a spy and shot. Anyhow, I'd be took for being where I was out o' bounds and get a dose of Field Punishment. Wonder where we're bound for?"
"Don't see as it matters much," said his next file. "I suppose one wet field's as good as another to sleep in, so why worry?"
A little farther on, the battalion met a French Infantry Regiment on the march. The French regiment's road discipline was rather more lax than the British, and many tolerantly amused criticisms were passed on the loose formation, the lack of keeping step, and the straggling lines of the French. The criticisms, curiously enough, came in a great many cases from the very men in the Towers' ranks who had often "groused" most at the silliness of themselves being kept up to the mark in these matters. The marching Frenchmen were singing--but singing in a fashion quite novel to the British. Throughout their column there were anything up to a dozen songs in progress, some as choruses and some as solos, and the effect was certainly rather weird. The Tower Bridge officers, knowing their own men's fondness for swinging march songs, expected, and, to tell truth, half hoped that they would give a display of their harmonious powers. They did, but hardly in the expected fashion. One man demanded in a growling bass that the "Home Fires be kept Burning," while another bade farewell to Leicester Square in a high falsetto. The giggling Towers caught the idea instantly, and a confused medley of hymns, music-hall ditties, and patriotic songs in every key, from the deepest bellowing bass to the shrillest wailing treble, arose from the Towers' ranks, mixed with whistles and cat-calls and Corporal Flannigan's famous imitation of "Life on a Farm." The joke lasted the Towers for the rest of that march, and as sure as any Frenchman met or overtook them on the road he was treated to a vocal entertainment that must have left him forever convinced of the rumored potency of British rum.
By now word had passed round the Towers that they were to take over a portion of the trenches hitherto occupied by the French. Many were the doubts, and many were the arguments, as to whether this would or would not be to the personal advantage and comfort of themselves; but at least it made a change of scene and surroundings from those they had learned for months past, and since such a change is as the breath of life to the British soldier, they were on the whole highly pleased with it.
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