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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

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The British sniper, on the other hand--at least in my time--had a plain telescope rifle and had to hide himself behind old masonry, tree trunks, or anything convenient, and camouflaged himself in all sorts of ways. At that he was constantly in danger.

I was assigned to Platoon 10 and found they were a good live bunch. Corporal Wells was the best of the lot, and we became fast friends. He helped me learn a lot of my new duties and the trench "lingo", which is like a new language, especially to a Yank.

Wells started right in to make me feel at home and took me along with two others of the new men down to our "apartments", a dug-out built for about four, and housing ten.

My previous idea of a dug-out had been a fairly roomy sort of cave, somewhat damp, but comparatively comfortable. Well, this hole was about four and a half feet high--you had to get in doubled up on your hands and knees--about five by six feet on the sides, and there was no floor, just muck. There was some sodden, dirty straw and a lot of old moldy sandbags. Seven men and their equipment were packed in here, and we made ten.

There was a charcoal brazier going in the middle with two or three mess tins of char boiling away. Everybody was smoking, and the place stunk to high heaven, or it would have if there hadn't been a bit of burlap over the door.

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I crowded up into a corner with my back against the mud wall and my knees under my chin. The men didn't seem overglad to see us, and groused a good deal about the extra crowding. They regarded me with extra disfavor because I was a lance corporal, and they disapproved of any young whipper-snapper just out from Blighty with no trench experience pitchforked in with even a slight superior rank. I had thought up to then that a lance corporal was pretty near as important as a brigadier.

"We'll soon tyke that stripe off ye, me bold lad," said one big cockney.

They were a decent lot after all. Since we were just out from Blighty, they showered us with questions as to how things looked "t' 'ome." And then somebody asked what was the latest song. Right here was where I made my hit and got in right. I sing a bit, and I piped up with the newest thing from the music halls, "Tyke Me Back to Blighty." Here it is:

    Tyke me back to dear old Blighty,
    Put me on the tryne for London town,
    Just tyke me over there
    And drop me anywhere,
    Manchester, Leeds, or Birmingham,
    I don't care.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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