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0100_005E Live Rounds Ian Hay

The Trivial Round

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But he is not discouraged. At present he is meditating a design for painting himself grass-green and climbing a tree--thence to take a comprehensive and unobserved survey of the enemy's dispositions. He will do it, too, if he gets a chance!

The machine-gunners, also, contrive to chase monotony by methods of their own. Listen to Ayling, concocting his diurnal scheme of frightfulness with a colleague. Unrolled upon his knee is a large-scale map.

"I think we might touch up those cross-roads to-night," he says, laying the point of his dividers upon a spot situated some hundreds of yards in rear of the German trenches.

"I expect they'll have lots of transport there about ration-time--eh?"

"Sound scheme," assents his coadjutor, a bloodthirsty stripling named Ainslie. "Got the bearings?"

"Hand me that protractor. Seventy-one, nineteen, true. That comes to"--Ayling performs a mental calculation--"almost exactly eighty-five, magnetic. We'll go out about nine, with two guns, to the corner of this dry ditch here--the range is two thousand five hundred, exactly"--

"Our lightning calculator!" murmurs his admiring colleague. "No elastic up the sleeve, or anything! All done by simple ledger-de-mang? Proceed!"

--"And loose off a belt or two. What say?"

"Application forwarded, and strongly recommended," announced Ainslie. He examined the map. "Cross-roads--eh? That means at least one estaminet. One estaminet, with Bosches inside, complete! Think of our little bullets all popping in through the open door, five hundred a minute! Think of the rush to crawl under the counter! It might be a Headquarters? We might get Von Kluck or Rupy of Bavaria, splitting a half litre together. We shall earn Military Crosses over this, my boy," concluded the imaginative youth. "Wow, wow!"

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"The worst of indirect fire," mused the less gifted Ayling, "is that you never can tell whether you have hit your target or not. In fact, you can't even tell whether there was a target there to hit."

"Never mind; we'll chance it," replied Ainslie. "And if the Bosche artillery suddenly wakes up and begins retaliating on the wrong spot with whizz-bangs--well, we shall know we've tickled up somebody, anyhow! Nine o'clock, you say?"

* * * * *

Here, again, is a bombing party, prepared to steal out under cover of night. They are in charge of one Simson, recently promoted to Captain, supported by that hoary fire-eater, Sergeant Carfrae. The party numbers seven all told, the only other member thereof with whom we are personally acquainted being Lance-Corporal M'Snape, the ex-Boy Scout. Every man wears a broad canvas belt full of pockets: each pocket contains a bomb.

Simson briefly outlines the situation. Our fire-trench here runs round the angle of an orchard, which brings it uncomfortably close to the Germans. The Germans are quite as uncomfortable about the fact as we are--some of us are rather inclined to overlook this important feature of the case--and they have run a sap out towards the nearest point of the Orchard Trench (so our aeroplane observers report), in order to supervise our movements more closely.

"It may only be a listening-post," explains Simson to his bombers, "with one or two men in it. On the other hand, they may be collecting a party to rush us. There are some big shell-craters there, and they may be using one of them as a saphead. Anyhow, our orders are to go out to-night and see. If we find the sap, with any Germans in it, we are to bomb them out of it, and break up the sap as far as possible. Advance, and follow me."

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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