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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

I Become A Bomber

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We had only ourselves to blame. We had been told repeatedly never to go anywhere without "iron rations", but Tommy is a good deal of a child and unless you show him the immediate reason for a thing he is likely to disregard instructions. I rather blamed myself in this case for not seeing that the men had their emergency food. In fact, it was my duty to see that they had. But I had overlooked it. And I hadn't brought any myself.

The "iron ration" consists of a pound of "bully beef", a small tin containing tea and sugar enough for two doses, some Oxo cubes, and a few biscuits made of reinforced concrete. They are issued for just such an emergency as we were in as we lay in our isolated dug-out. The soldier is apt to get into that sort of situation almost any time, and it is folly ever to be without the ration.

Well, we didn't have ours, and we knew we wouldn't get any before night, if we did then. One thing we had too much of. That was rum. The night before a bunch of us had been out on a ration party, and we had come across a Brigade Dump. This is a station where rations are left for the various companies to come and draw their own, also ammo and other necessities. There was no one about, and we had gone through the outfit. We found two cases of rum, four gallons in a case, and we promptly filled our bottles, more than a pint each.

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Tommy is always very keen on his rum. The brand used in the army is high proof and burns like fire going down, but it is warming. The regular ration as served after a cold sentry go is called a "tot." It is enough to keep the cold out and make a man wish he had another. The average Tommy will steal rum whenever he can without the danger of getting caught.

It happened that all four of us were in the looting party and had our bottles full. Also it happened that we were all normally quite temperate and hadn't touched our supply.

So we all took a nip and tightened up our belts. Then we took another and another. We lay on our backs with our heads out of the burrow, packed in like sardines and looking up at the sky. Half a dozen airplanes came out and flew over. We had had a hard night and we all dozed off, at least I did, and I guess the others did also.

Around nine we all waked up, and Bones--he was the fellow in the middle--began to complain of thirst. Then we all took another nip and wished it was water. We discussed the matter of crawling down to a muddy pool at the end of the traverse and having some out of that, but passed it up as there was a dead man lying in it. Bones, who was pretty well educated--he once asked me if I had visited Emerson's home and was astounded that I hadn't--quoted from Kipling something to the effect that,

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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