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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

Fascination Of Patrol Work

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Right here I began to have luck. Just see how this worked out. First a rushing party was organized whose duty it was to rush the crater made by the mine explosion and occupy it before the Germans got there. Sixty men were selected, a few from each company, and placed where they were supposedly safe, but where they could get up fast. This is the most dangerous duty an infantryman has to do, because both sides after a mine explosion shower in fifty-seven varieties of sudden death, including a perfect rain of machine-gun bullets. The chances of coming out of a rushing party with a whole hide are about one in five.

Well, for a wonder, I didn't get drawn for this one, and I breathed one long, deep sigh of relief, put my hand inside my tunic and patted Dinky on the back. Dinky is my mascot. I'll tell you about him later.

On top of that another bit of luck came along, though it didn't seem like it at the moment. It was the custom for a ration party to go out each night and get up the grub. This party had to go over the duck walk and was under fire both going and coming. One of the corporals who had been out on rations two nights in succession began to "grouse."

Of course Sergeant Page spotted me and detailed me to the "wangler's" duty. I "groused" too, like a good fellow, but had to go.

"Garn," says Wellsie. "Wot's the diff if yer gets it 'ere or there. If ye clicks, I'll draw yer fags from Blighty and say a prayer for yer soul. On yer way."

Cheerful beggar, Wellsie. He was doing me a favor and didn't know it.

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I did the three miles along the duck walk with the ration party, and there wasn't a shell came our way. Queer! Nor on the way back. Queerer! When we were nearly back and were about five hundred yards from the base of the Pimple, a dead silence fell on the German side of the line. There wasn't a gun nor a mortar nor even a rifle in action for a mile in either direction. There was, too, a kind of sympathetic let-up on our side. There weren't any lights going up. There was an electric tension in the very air. You could tell by the feel that something big was going to happen.

I halted the ration party at the end of the duck walk and waited. But not for long. Suddenly the "Very" lights went up from the German side, literally in hundreds, illuminating the top of the ridge and the sky behind with a thin greenish white flare. Then came a deep rumble that shook the ground, and a dull boom. A spurt of blood-red flame squirted up from the near side of the hill, and a rolling column of gray smoke.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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