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Action Front Boyd Cable

The Signalers

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First one orderly and then another brought in messages to be sent to the other trenches, and the signaler held them a minute and gathered some more particulars as to how the fight was progressing up there. The particulars were not encouraging. We must have lost a lot of men, since the whole place was clotted up with casualties that kept coming in quicker than the stretcher-bearers could move them. The rifle-fire was hot, the bombing was still hotter, and the shelling was perhaps the hottest and most horrible of all. Of the last the signaler hardly required an account; the growling thumps of heavy shells exploding, kept sending little shivers down the cellar walls, the shiver being, oddly enough, more emphatic when the wail of the falling shell ended in a muffled thump that proclaimed the missile "blind" or "a dud." Another hurried messenger plunged down the steps with a note written by the adjutant to say the colonel was severely wounded and had sent for the second in command to take over. Ten more dragging minutes passed, and now the separate little shivers and thrills that shook the cellar walls had merged and run together. The rolling crash of the falling shells and the bursting of bombs came close and fast one upon another, and at intervals the terrific detonation of an aerial torpedo dwarfed for the moment all the other sounds.

By now the noise was so great that even the sleepers began to stir, and one or two of them to wake. One sat up and asked the telephonist, sitting idle over his instrument, what was happening. He was told briefly, and told also that the line was "disc." He expressed considerable annoyance at this, grumbling that he knew what it meant--more trips in the mud and under fire to take the messages the wire should have carried.

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"Do you think there's any chance of them pushing in the line and rushing this house?" he asked. The telephonist didn't know. "Well," said the man and lay down again. "It's none o' my dashed business if they do anyway. I only hope we're tipped the wink in time to shunt out o' here; I've no particular fancy for sitting in a cellar with the Boche cock-shying their bombs down the steps at me." Then he shut his eyes and went to sleep again.

The morsed key signal for his own company buzzed rapidly on the signaler's telephone and he caught the voice of the corporal who had taken out the repair party. They had found the break, the corporal said, and were mending it. He should be through--he was through--could he hear the other end? The signaler could hear the other end calling him and he promptly tapped off the answering signal and spoke into his instrument. He could hear the morse signals on the buzzer plain enough, but the voice was faint and indistinct. The signaler caught the corporal before he withdrew his tap-in and implored him to search along and find the leakage.

"It's bad enough," he said, "to get all these messages through by voice. I haven't a dog's chance of doing it if I have to buzz each one."

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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