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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

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    Marching, marching, marching,
    Always ruddy well marching.
    Marching all the morning,
    And marching all the night.
    Marching, marching, marching,
    Always ruddy well marching,
    Roll on till my time is up
    And I shall march no more.

We sung it to the tune of "Holy, Holy, Holy", the whole blooming battalion. As we swung down the Boulevard Alsace-Lorraine in Amiens and passed the great cathedral up there to the left, on its little rise of ground, the chant lifted and lilted and throbbed up from near a thousand throats, much as the unisoned devotions of the olden monks must have done in other days.

Ours was a holy cause, but despite the association of the tune the song was far from being a holy song. It was, rather, a chanted remonstrance against all hiking and against this one in particular.

After our service at Vimy Ridge some one in authority somewhere decided that the 22nd Battalion and two others were not quite good enough for really smart work. We were, indeed, hard. But not hard enough. So some superior intellect squatting somewhere in the safety of the rear, with a finger on the pulse of the army, decreed that we were to get not only hard but tough; and to that end we were to hike. Hike we did.

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For more than three weeks we went from place to place with no apparent destination, wandering aimlessly up and down the country-side of Northern France, imposing ourselves upon the people of little villages, shamming battle over their cultivated fields, and sleeping in their hen coops.

I kept a diary on that hike. It was a thing forbidden, but I managed it. One manages many things out there. I have just read over that diary. There isn't much to it but a succession of town names,--Villiers du Bois, Maisincourt, Barly, Oneaux, Canchy, Amiens, Bourdon, Villiers Bocage, Agenvilliers, Behencourt, and others that I failed to set down and have forgotten. We swept across that country, sweating under our packs, hardening our muscles, stopping here for a day, there for five days for extended-order drills and bayonet and musketry practice, and somewhere else for a sham battle. We were getting ready to go into the Somme.

The weather, by some perversity of fate, was fair during all of that hiking time. Whenever I was in the trenches it always rained, whether the season warranted it or not. Except on days when we were scheduled to go over the top. Then, probably because rain will sometimes hold up a planned-for attack, it was always fair.

On the hike, with good roads under foot, the soldier does not mind a little wet and welcomes a lot of clouds. No such luck for us. It was clear all the time. Not only clear but blazing hot August weather.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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