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Action Front Boyd Cable

The Fear Of Fear

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"Gostrewth! 'ark at our guns!" he said. "They ain't 'arf pitchin' it in. W'y, this ain't goin' to be no charge; it's going to be a sort of merry picnic, a game of ''Ere we go gatherin' nuts in May.' There won't be any Germans left in them trenches, and we'll 'ave nothin' to do but collect the 'elmets and sooveneers and make ourselves at 'ome."

"Did you hear that!" Everton asked Halliday. "Is it anyways true, do you think?"

"A good bit," said Halliday. "I've never seen a bit of German front smothered up by our guns the way this seems to be now, though I've often enough seen it the other way. The trench in front should be smashed past any shape for stopping our charge if the gunners are making any straight shooting at all."

It was evident that the whole trench shared his opinion, and expressions of amazed delight ran up and down the length of the Hotwaters. When the order came to leave the trench, the men were up and out of it with a bound.

Everton was too busy with his own scramble put to pay much heed to Halliday; but as they worked out through their own barbed wire, he was relieved to find him at his side. He caught Everton's look, and although his teeth were gripped tight, he nodded cheerfully. Presently, when they were forming into line again beyond the wire, Halliday spoke.

"Not too bad," he said. "The guns has done it for us this time. Come on, now, and keep your wits when you get across."

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In the ensuing rush across the open, Everton was conscious of no sensation of fear. The guns had lifted their fire farther back as the Hotwaters emerged from their trench, and the rush and rumble of their shells was still passing overhead as the line advanced. The German artillery hardly dared drop their range to sweep the advance, because of its proximity to their own trench. A fairly heavy rifle-fire was coming from the flanks, but to a certain extent that was kept down by some of our batteries spreading their fire over those portions of the German trench which were not being attacked, and by a heavy rifle- and machine-gun fire which was pelted across from the opposite parts of the British line.

From the immediate front, which was the Hotwaters' objective, there was practically no attempt at resistance until the advance was half-way across the short distance between the trenches, and even then it was no more than a spasmodic attempt and the feeble resistance of a few rifles and a machine-gun. The Hotwaters reached the trench with comparatively slight loss, pushed into it, and over it, and pressed on to the next line, the object being to threaten the continuance of the attack, to take the next trench if the resistance was not too severe, and so to give time for the reorganization of the first captured trench to resist the German counter-attack.

Everton was one of the first to reach the forward trench. It had been roughly handled by the artillery fire, and the men in it made little show of resistance. The Hotwaters swarmed into the broken ditch, shooting and stabbing the few who fought back, disarming the prisoners who had surrendered with hands over their heads and quavering cries of "Kamerad." Everton rushed one man who appeared to be in two minds whether to surrender or not, fingering and half lifting his rifle and lowering it again, looking round over his shoulder, once more raising his rifle muzzle. Everton killed him with the bayonet. Afterwards he climbed out and ran on, after the line had pushed forward to the next trench. There was an awe, and a thrill of satisfaction in his heart as he looked at his stained bayonet, but, as he suddenly recognized with a tremendous joy, not the faintest sensation of being afraid. He looked round grinning to the man next him, and was on the point of shouting some jest to him, when he saw the man stumble and pitch heavily on his face. It flashed into Everton's mind that he had tripped over a hidden wire, and he was about to shout some chaffing remark, when he saw the back of the man's head as he lay face down. But even that unpleasant sight brought no fear to him.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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