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A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

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There were few Y.M.C.A. huts so far behind the lines, and the short time up to nine was usually spent in the estaminets. The games of house were in full blast all the time.

On the hike we were paid weekly. Privates got five francs, corporals ten, and sergeants fifteen to twenty a week. That's a lot of money. Anything left over was held back to be paid when we got to Blighty. Parcels and mail came along with perfect regularity on that hike. It was and is a marvel to me how they do it. A battalion chasing around all over the place gets its stuff from Blighty day after day, right on the tick and without any question. I only hope that whatever the system is, our army will take advantage of it. A shortage of letters and luxury parcels is a real hardship.

We finally brought up at a place called Oneux (pronounced Oh, no) and were there five days. I fell into luck here. It was customary, when we were marching on some unsuspecting village, to send the quartermaster sergeants ahead on bicycles to locate billets. We had an old granny named Cypress, better known as Lizzie. The other sergeants were accustomed to flim-flam Lizzie to a finish on the selection of billets, with the result that C company usually slept in pigpens of stables.

The day we approached Oneux, Lizzie was sick, and I was delegated to his job. I went into the town with the three other quartermaster sergeants, got them into an estaminet, bought about a dollar's worth of drinks, sneaked out the back door, and preempted the schoolhouse for C company. I also took the house next door, which was big and clean, for the officers. We were royally comfortable there, and the other companies used the stables that usually fell to our lot.

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As a reward, I suspect, I was picked for Orderly Corporal, a cushy job. We all of us had it fairly easy at Oneux. It was hot weather, and nights we used to sit out in the schoolhouse yard and talk about the war.

Some of the opinions voiced out there with more frankness than any one would dare to use at home would, I am sure, shock some of the patriots. The fact is that any one who has fought in France wants peace, and the sooner the better.

We had one old-timer, out since Mons, who habitually, night after night, day after day, would pipe up with the same old plaint. Something like this:

"Hi arsks yer. Wot are we fightin' for? Wot'd th' Belgiums hever do fer us? Wot? Wot'd th' Rooshians hever do fer us? Wot's th' good of th' Frenchies? Wot's th' good of hanybody but th' Henglish? Gawd lumme! I'm fed up."

And yet this man had gone out at the beginning and would fight like the very devil, and I verily believe will be homesick for the trenches if he is alive when it is all over.

Bones, who was educated and a thoughtful reader, had it figured out that the war was all due to the tyranny of the ruling classes, with the Kaiser the chief offender.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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