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0100_005E A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes


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I had already seen the effect of the tanks on the Germans. The batch of prisoners who had been turned over to me seemed dazed. One who spoke English said in a quavering voice:

"Gott in Himmel, Kamarad, how could one endure? These things are not human. They are not fair."

That "fair" thing made a hit with me after going against tear gas and hearing about liquid fire and such things.

The great number of the prisoners we took at High Wood were very scared looking at first and very surly. They apparently expected to be badly treated and perhaps tortured. They were tractable enough for the most part. But they needed watching, and they got it from me, as I had heard much of the treachery of the Boche prisoners.

On the way to the rear with my bunch, I ran into a little episode which showed the foolishness of trusting a German,--particularly an officer.

I was herding my lot along when we came up with about twelve in charge of a young fellow from a Leicester regiment. He was a private, and as most of his non-commissioned officers had been put out of action, he was acting corporal. We were walking together behind the prisoners, swapping notes on the fight, when one of his stopped, and no amount of coaxing would induce him to go any farther. He was an officer, of what rank I don't know, but judging from his age probably a lieutenant.

Finally Crane--that was the Leicester chap--went up to the officer, threatened him with his bayonet, and let him know that he was due for the cold steel if he didn't get up and hike.

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Whereupon Mr. Fritz pulled an automatic from under his coat--he evidently had not been carefully searched--and aimed it at Crane. Crane dove at him and grabbed his wrist, but was too late. The gun went off and tore away Crane's right cheek. He didn't go down, however, and before I could get in without danger to Crane, he polished off the officer on the spot.

The prisoners looked almost pleased. I suppose they knew the officer too well. I bandaged Crane and offered to take his prisoners in, but he insisted upon carrying on. He got very weak from loss of blood after a bit, and I had two of the Boches carry him to the nearest dressing station, where they took care of him. I have often wondered whether the poor chap "clicked" it.

Eventually I got my batch of prisoners back to headquarters and turned them over. I want to say a word right here as to the treatment of the German prisoners by the British. In spite of the verified stories of the brutality shown to the Allied prisoners by the Hun, the English and French have too much humanity to retaliate. Time and again I have seen British soldiers who were bringing in Germans stop and spend their own scanty pocket money for their captives' comfort. I have done it myself.

Almost inevitably the Boche prisoners were expecting harsh treatment. I found several who said that they had been told by their officers that they would be skinned alive if they surrendered to the English. They believed it, and you could hardly blame the poor devils for being scared.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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