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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

I Become A Bomber

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    When you come to slaughter
    You'll do your work on water,
    An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.

Then Bones cursed the rum and took another nip. So did the rest of us.

There was a considerable bombardment going on all the forenoon, but few shells came anywhere near us. Some shrapnel burst over us a little way off to the right, and some of the fragments fell in the trench, but on the whole the morning was uncomfortable but not dangerous.

Around half-past ten we saw an airplane fight that was almost worth the forenoon's discomfort. A lot of them had been circling around ever since daybreak. When the fight started, two of our planes were nearly over us. Suddenly we saw three Boche planes volplaning down from away up above. They grew bigger and bigger and opened with their guns when they were nearly on top of our fellows. No hits. Then all five started circling for top position. One of the Boches started to fall and came down spinning, but righted himself not more than a thousand feet up. Our anti air-craft guns opened on him, and we could see the shells bursting with little cottony puffs all around. Some of the shrapnel struck near us. They missed him, and up he went again. Presently all five came circling lower and lower, jockeying for position and spitting away with their guns. As they all got to the lower levels, the anti air-craft guns stopped firing, fearing to get our men.

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Suddenly one of the Huns burst into flames and came toppling down behind his lines, his gas tank ablaze. Almost immediately one of ours dropped, also burning and behind the Boche lines.

After that it was two to one, and the fight lasted more than ten minutes. Then down went a Hun, not afire but tumbling end over end behind our lines. I learned afterwards that this fellow was unhurt and was taken prisoner. That left it an even thing. We could see half a dozen planes rushing to attack the lone Boche. He saw them too. For he turned tail and skedaddled for home.

Bonesie began to philosophize on the cold-bloodedness of air fighting and really worked himself up into an almost optimistic frame of mind. He was right in the midst of a flowery oration on our comparative safety, "nestling on the bosom of Mother Earth", when, without any warning whatever, there came a perfect avalanche of shell all around us.

I knew perfectly well that we were caught. The shells, as near as we could see, were coming from our side. Doubtless our people thought that the trench was still manned by Germans, and they were shelling for the big noon attack. Such an attack was made, as I learned afterwards, but I never saw it.

At eleven o'clock I looked at my watch. Somehow I didn't fear death, although I felt it was near. Maybe the rum was working. I turned to Bonesie and said, "What about that safety stuff, old top?"

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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