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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

Back On The Somme Again

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"Darby," he sighed hopelessly, "wot th' blinkin' 'ell do you think is up now?"

I hadn't the faintest idea and said so. I had, however, as the educated Bones used to say "a premonition of impending disaster." As a premonitor I was a success. Disaster was right.

Wellsie sighed again and spilled the news.

"We're goin' over th' bleedin' top at nine. We don't 'ave to carry no tools. We're in the first bloomin' wave."

Going without tools was supposed to be a sort of consolation for being in the first wave. The other three waves carry either picks or shovels. They consolidate the trenches after they have been taken by the first wave. That is, they turn the trench around, facing the other way, to be ready for a counter attack. It is a miserable job. The tools are heavy and awkward, and the last waves get the cream of the artillery fire, as the Boche naturally does not want to take the chance of shelling the first wave for fear of getting his own men. However, the first wave gets the machine-gun fire and gets it good. At that the first wave is the preference. I have heard hundreds of men say so. Probably the reason is that a bullet, unless it is explosive, makes a relatively clean wound, while a shell fragment may mangle fearfully.

Wells and I were talking over the infernal injustice of the situation when another runner arrived from the Sergeant Major's, ordering us up for the rum issue. I went up for the rum and left Wells to break the news about going over.

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I got an extra large supply, as the Sergeant Major was good humored. It was the last rum he ever served. I got enough for the full platoon and then some, which was a lot, as the platoon was well down in numbers owing to casualties. I went among the boys with a spoon and the rum in a mess tin and served out two tots instead of the customary one. After that all hands felt a little better, but not much. They were all fagged out after the week's hard work. I don't think I ever saw a more discouraged lot getting ready to go over. For myself I didn't seem to care much, I was in such rotten condition physically. I rather hoped it would be my last time.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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