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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

I Become A Bomber

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The trench wasn't really a trench at all. It was the remains of a perfectly good one, but had been bashed all to pieces, and was now only five or six shell craters connected by the ruined traverses. At no point was it more than waist high and in some places only knee high. We swarmed into what was left of the trench and after the Heinies. There must have been forty of them, and it didn't take them long to find out that we were only a dozen. Then they came back at us. We got into a crooked bit of traverse that was in relatively good shape and threw up a barricade of sandbags. There was any amount of them lying about.

The Germans gave us a bomb or two and considerable rifle fire, and we beat it around the corner of the bay. Then we had it back and forth, a regular seesaw game. We would chase them back from the barricade, and then they would rush us and back we would go. After we had lost three men and Lieutenant May had got a slight wound, we got desperate and got out of the trench and rushed them for further orders. We fairly showered them as we followed them up, regardless of danger to ourselves. All this scrap through they hadn't done anything with the machine guns. One was in our end of the trench, and we found that the other was out of commission. They must have been short of small-arm ammunition and bombs, because on that last strafing they cleared out and stayed.

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After the row was over we counted noses and found four dead and three slightly wounded, including Lieutenant May. I detailed two men to take the wounded and the Lieutenant back. That left four of us to consolidate the position. The Lieutenant promised to return with relief, but as it turned out he was worse than he thought, and he didn't get back.

I turned to and inspected the position. It was pretty hopeless. There really wasn't much to consolidate. The whole works was knocked about and was only fit for a temporary defence. There were about a dozen German dead, and we searched them but found nothing of value. So we strengthened our cross-trench barricade and waited for the relief. It never came.

When it began to get light, the place looked even more discouraging. There was little or no cover. We knew that unless we got some sort of concealment, the airplanes would spot us, and that we would get a shell or two. So we got out the entrenching tools and dug into the side of the best part of the shallow traverse. We finally got a slight overhang scraped out. We didn't dare go very far under for fear that it would cave. We got some sandbags up on the sides and three of us crawled into the shelter. The other man made a similar place for himself a little distance off.

The day dawned clear and bright and gave promise of being hot. Along about seven we began to get hungry. A Tommy is always hungry, whether he is in danger or not. When we took account of stock and found that none of us had brought along "iron rations", we discovered that we were all nearly starved. Killing is hungry work.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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