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Live Rounds Ian Hay

"Dirty Work At The Cross-Roads To-Night"

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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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Last week we abandoned the rural billets in which we had been remodelling some of our methods (on the experiences gained by our first visit to the trenches), and paraded at full strength for a march which we knew would bring us right into the heart of things. No more trial trips; no more chaperoning! This time, we decided, we were "for it."

During our three weeks of active service we have learned two things--the art of shaking down quickly into our habitation of the moment, as already noted; and the art of reducing our personal effects to a portable minimum.

To the private soldier the latter problem presents no difficulties. Everything is arranged for him. His outfit is provided by the Government, and he carries it himself. It consists of a rifle, bayonet, and a hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition. On one side of him hangs his water-bottle, containing a quart of water, on the other, a haversack, occupied by his "iron ration"--an emergency meal of the tinned variety, which must never on any account be opened except by order of the C.O.--and such private effects as his smoking outfit and an entirely mythical item of refreshment officially known as "the unexpended portion of the day's ration." On his back he carries a "pack," containing his greatcoat, waterproof sheet, and such changes of raiment as a paternal Government allows him. He also has to find room therein for a towel, housewife, and a modest allowance of cutlery. (He frequently wears the spoon in his stocking, as a skean-dhu.) Round his neck he wears his identity disc. In his breast-pocket he carries a respirator, to be donned in the event of his encountering the twin misfortunes of an east wind and a gaseous Hun. He also carries a bottle of liquid for damping the respirator. In the flap of his jacket is sewn a field dressing.

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Slung behind him is an entrenching tool.

Any other space upon his person is at his own disposal, and he may carry what he likes, except "unsoldierly trinkets"--whatever these may be. However, if the passion for self-adornment proves too strong, he may wear "the French National Colours"--a compliment to our gallant ally which is slightly discounted by the fact that her national colours are the same as our own.

However, once he has attached this outfit to his suffering person, and has said what he thinks about its weight, the private has no more baggage worries. Except for his blanket, which is carried on a waggon, he is his own arsenal, wardrobe, and pantry.

Not so the officer. He suffers from embarras de choix. He is the victim of his female relatives, who are themselves the victims of those enterprising tradesmen who have adopted the most obvious method of getting rid of otherwise unsaleable goods by labelling everything For Active Service--a really happy thought when you are trying to sell a pipe of port or a manicure set. Have you seen Our Active Service Trouser-Press?

By the end of April Bobby Little had accumulated, with a view to facilitating the destruction of the foe--

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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