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Action Front Boyd Cable


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A message back to the captain who was at the rear of the battery brought him up at a canter. The subaltern explained briefly what he had heard, and the captain, after interrupting him to shout an order to "Prepare for action," heard the finish of the story, pulled out his map, and pointing out on it a road shown as running through the trees, sent the subaltern off to reconnoiter it.

The men were stripping off their coats, rolling them and strapping them to the saddles and the wagon seats; the Numbers One, the sergeants in charge of each gun, bustling their gunners, and seeing everything about the guns made ready: the gunners examining the mechanism and gears of the gun, opening and closing the hinged flaps of the wagons, and tearing the thin metal cover off the fuses.

It was all done smartly and handily, and one after another the sergeants reported their subsections as ready. Immediately the captain gave the order to mount, drivers swung themselves to their saddles, and the gunners to their seats on the wagons, and all sat quietly waiting for whatever order might come next.

The lifting of the mist had shown a target to the gunners on both sides apparently, and the roar and boom of near and distant guns beat and throbbed quicker and at closer intervals.

In three minutes the Major came running back through the wood, and the captain moved to meet him.

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"We've got a fair chance!" said the Major exultingly. "One of their big guns clear in the open, and moving at a crawl. I want you to take the battery along the road here, sharp to the right at the cross-road, and through the wood. The Inf. tell me there is just a passable road through. Take guns and firing battery wagons only; leave the others here. When you get through the wood, turn to the right again, and along its edge until you come to where I'll be waiting for you. I'll take the range-taker with me. The order will be 'open sights'; it's the only way--not time to hunt a covered position! Now, is all that clear?"

"Quite clear," said the captain tersely.

"Off you go, then," said the Major; "remember, it's quick work. Trumpeter, come with me, and the range-taker. Sergeant-major, leave the battery staff under cover with the first line."

He swung into the saddle, set his horse at the ditch, and with a leap and scramble was over and up the bank and crashing into the undergrowth, followed by his trumpeter and a man with the six-foot tube of a range-finder strapped to the saddle.

Before he was well off the road the captain shouted the order to walk march, and as the battery did so the subaltern who had been sent out to reconnoiter the road came back at a canter.

"We can just do it," he reported; "it's greasy going, and the road is narrow and rather twisty, but we can do it all right."

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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