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Action Front by Boyd Cable

Produced by Edward Johnson and PG Distributed Proofreaders

ACTION FRONT

BY

BOYD CABLE

1916

TO

MR. J. A. SPENDER

_to whose recognition and appreciation of my work, and to whose instant and eager hospitality in the "Westminster Gazette" so much of these war writings is due, this book is very gratefully dedicated by_

THE AUTHOR

FOREWORD

I make no apology for having followed in this book the same plan as in my other one, "Between the Lines," of taking extracts from the official despatches as "texts" and endeavoring to show something of what these brief messages cover, because so many of my own friends, and so many more unknown friends amongst the reviewers, expressed themselves so pleased with the plan that I feel its repetition is justified.

There were some who complained that my last book was in parts too grim and too terrible, and no doubt the same complaint may lie against this one. To that I can only reply that I have found it impossible to write with any truth of the Front without the writing being grim, and in writing my other book I felt it would be no bad thing if Home realized the grimness a little better.

But now there are so many at Home whose nearest and dearest are in the trenches, and who require no telling of the horrors of the war, that I have tried here to show there is a lighter side to war, to let them know that we have our relaxations, and even find occasion for jests, in the course of our business.

I believe, or at least hope, that in showing both sides of the picture I am doing what the Front would wish me to do. And I don't ask for any greater satisfaction than that.

BOYD CABLE.

_May_, 1916.

CONTENTS

IN ENEMY HANDS A BENEVOLENT NEUTRAL DRILL A NIGHT PATROL AS OTHERS SEE THE FEAR OF FEAR ANTI-AIRCRAFT A FRAGMENT AN OPEN TOWN THE SIGNALERS CONSCRIPT COURAGE SMASHING THE COUNTER-ATTACK A GENERAL ACTION AT LAST

IN ENEMY HANDS

The last conscious thought in the mind of Private Jock Macalister as he reached the German trench was to get down into it; his next conscious thought to get out of it. Up there on the level there were uncomfortably many bullets, and even as he leaped on the low parapet one of these struck the top of his forehead, ran deflecting over the crown of his head, and away. He dropped limp as a pole-axed bullock, slid and rolled helplessly down into the trench.

When he came to his senses he found himself huddled in a corner against the traverse, his head smarting and a bruised elbow aching abominably. He lifted his head and groaned, and as the mists cleared from his dazed eyes he found himself looking into a fat and very dirty face and the ring of a rifle muzzle about a foot from his head. The German said something which Macalister could not understand, but which he rightly interpreted as a command not to move. But he could hear no sound of Scottish voices or of the uproar of hand-to-hand fighting in the trench. When he saw the Germans duck down hastily and squeeze close up against the wall of the trench, while overhead a string of shells crashed angrily and the shrapnel beat down in gusts across the trench, he diagnosed correctly that the assault had failed, and that the British gunners were again searching the German trench with shrapnel. His German guard said something to the other men, and while one of them remained at the loophole and fired an occasional shot, the others drew close to their prisoner. The first thing they did was to search him, to turn each pocket outside-in, and when they had emptied these, carefully feel all over his body for any concealed article. Macalister bore it all with great philosophy, mildly satisfied that he had no money to lose and no personal property of any value.


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