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Action Front Boyd Cable


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"Yesterday one of the enemy's heavy guns was put out of action by our artillery."--EXTRACT FROM DESPATCH.

"Stand fast!" the instructor bellowed, and while the detachment stiffened to immobility he went on, without stopping to draw breath, bellowing other and less printable remarks. After he had finished these he ordered "Detachment rear!" and taking more time and adding even more point to his remarks, he repeated some of them and added others, addressing abruptly and virulently the "Number" whose bungling had aroused his wrath.

"You've learnt your gun drill," he said, "learned it like a sulphur-crested cockatoo learns to gabble 'Pretty Polly scratch a poll'; why in the name of Moses you can't make your hands do what your tongue says 'as me beat. You, Donovan, that's Number Three, let me hear you repeat the drill for Action Front."

Donovan, standing strictly to attention, and with his eyes fixed straight to his front, drew a deep breath and rattled off:

"At the order or signal from the battery leader or section commander, 'Halt action front!' One orders 'Halt action front!'--At the order from One, the detachment dismounts, Three unkeys, and with Two lifts the trail; when the trail is clear of the hook, Three orders 'Limber drive on.'"

The instructor interrupted explosively.

"You see," he growled, "you know it. Three orders 'Limber drive on.' You're Three! but did you order limber drive on, or limber drive off, or drive anywhere at all? Did you expect drivers that would be sitting up there on their horses, with their backs turned to you, to have eyes in the backs of their heads to see when you had the trail lifted, or did you be expectin' them to thought-read that you wanted them to drive on!"

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Three, goaded at last to a sufficiency of daring, ventured to mutter something about "was going to order it."

The instructor caught up the phrase and flayed him again with it. "'Was going to,'" he repeated, "'was going to order it.' Perhaps some day, when a bullet comes along and drills a hole in your thick head, you will want to tell it you 'was going to' get out of the way. You maybe expect the detachment to halt and stand easy, and light a cigarette, and have a chat while you wait to make up your mind what you're going to say, and when you're going to say it! And if ever you get past recruit drill in the barracks square, my lad, and smell powder burnt in action, you'll learn that there's no such thing as 'going to' in your gun drill. If you're slow at it, if you fumble your fingers, and tie knots in your tongue, and stop to think about your 'going to,' you'll find maybe that 'going to' has gone before you make up your mind, and the only thing 'going to' will be you and your detachment; and its Kingdom Come you'll be 'going to' at that. And now we'll try it again, and if I find any more 'going to' about it this time it's an hour's extra drill a day you'll be 'going to' for the next week."

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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