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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

Bits Of Blighty

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When I was put at clerical duty, I immediately began to furnish trouble for the British army, not intentionally, of course, but quite effectively. The first thing I did was to drop a typewriter and smash it. My hands had spells when they absolutely refused to work. Usually it was when I had something breakable in them. After I had done about two hundred dollars' damage indoors they tried me out as bayonet instructor. I immediately dropped a rifle on a concrete walk and smashed it. They wanted me to pay for it, but the M.O. called attention to the fact that I shouldn't have been put at the work under my category.

They then put me back at bookkeeping at Command Headquarters, Salisbury, but I couldn't figure English money and had a bad habit of fainting and falling off the high stool. To cap the climax, I finally fell one day and knocked down the stovepipe, and nearly set the office afire. The M.O. then ordered me back to the depot at Winchester and recommended me for discharge. I guess he thought it would be the cheapest in the long run.

The adjutant at Winchester didn't seem any too pleased to see me. He said I looked as healthy as a wolf, which I did, and that they would never let me out of the army. He seemed to think that my quite normal appearance would be looked upon as a personal insult by the medical board. I said that I was sorry I didn't have a leg or two gone, but it couldn't be helped.

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While waiting for the Board, I was sent to the German Prison Camp at Winnal Downs as corporal of the permanent guard. I began to fear that at last they had found something that I could do without damaging anything, and my visions of the U.S.A. went a-glimmering. I was with the Fritzies for over a week, and they certainly have it soft and cushy.

They have as good food as the Tommies. They are paid ninepence a day, and the work they do is a joke. They are well housed and kept clean and have their own canteens, where they can buy almost anything in the way of delicacies. They are decently treated by the English soldiers, who even buy them fags out of their own money. The nearest thing I ever saw to humiliation of a German was a few good-natured jokes at their expense by some of the wits in the guard. The English know how to play fair with an enemy when they have him down.

I had about given up hope of ever getting out of the army when I was summoned to appear before the Travelling Medical Board. You can wager I lost no time in appearing.

The board looked me over with a discouraging and cynical suspicion. I certainly did look as rugged as a navvy. When they gave me a going over, they found that my heart was out of place and that my left hand might never limber up again. They voted for a discharge in jig time. I had all I could do to keep from howling with joy.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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