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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

I Become A Bomber

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I selected my men carefully, taking only the coolest and steadiest and the best bombers. Most of them were men who had been at Dover with me. I felt like an executioner when I notified them of their selection.

At nine-thirty we were ready, stripped to the lightest of necessary equipment. Each of the men was armed with a bucket of bombs. Some carried an extra supply in satchels, so we knew there would be no shortage of Millses.

Lieutenant May took us out over the top on schedule time, and we started for the position to be taken. We walked erect but in the strictest silence for about a thousand yards. At that time the distances were great on the Somme, as the Big Push was in full swing, and the advance had been fast. Trench systems had been demolished, and in many places there were only shell holes and isolated pieces of trench defended by machine guns. The whole movement had progressed so far that the lines were far apart and broken, so much so that in many cases the fighting had come back to the open work of early in the war.

Poking along out there, I had the feeling that we were an awfully long way from the comparative safety of our main body--too far away for comfort. We were. Any doubts on the matter disappeared before morning.

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At the end of the thousand yards Lieutenant May gave the signal to lie down. We lay still half an hour or so and then crawled forward. Fortunately there was no barbed wire, as all entanglements had been destroyed by the terrific bombardment that had been going on for weeks. The Germans made no attempt to repair it nor did we.

We crawled along for about ten minutes, and the Lieutenant passed the word in whispers to get ready, as we were nearly on them. Each of us got out a bomb, pulled the pin with our teeth, and waited for the signal. It was fairly still. Away off to the rear, guns were going, but they seemed a long way off. Forward, and away off to the right beyond the Wood, there was a lot of rifle and machine-gun fire, and we could see the sharp little lavender stabs of flame like electric flashes. It was light enough so that we could see dimly.

Just ahead we could hear the murmur of the Huns as they chatted in the trench. They hadn't seen us. Evidently they didn't suspect and were more or less careless.

The Lieutenant waited until the sound of voices was a little louder than before, the Boches evidently being engaged in a fireside argument of some kind, and then he jumped to his feet shouting, "Now then, my lads. All together!"

We came up all standing and let 'em go. It was about fifteen yards to Fritz, and that is easy to a good bomber, as my men all were. A yell of surprise and fright went up from the trench, and they started to run. We spread out so as to get room, gave them another round of Millses, and rushed.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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