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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

After a comfortable two hour trip we got out at Epernay


On

the train was one of the regular personally conducted correspondents' caravans, consisting of about eight correspondents. There were three Americans, a couple of Frenchmen, a couple of Scandinavians, and, I think, a Russian. Their cicerone was a very tall staff-officer who looked slightly worried by his cosmopolitan responsibilities. Their party was going on to Verdun.

After a comfortable two-hour trip we got out at Epernay. There we were met by Captain F----, a staff-officer belonging to the General Staff of the 5th Army, which we were to visit. Thus Captain d'A----, from the Staff of the Paris War Office, had general responsibility for the trip, while Captain F----, who also was to accompany us, was responsible for the detailed military arrangements during our stay with the 5th Army.

Captain d'A----'s orderly (who before mobilization had been the wealthy young proprietor of a steamship line to South America) having taken our bags to the hotel, where we were to return to spend the night, we immediately started off on our schedule.

The ground plan of my three-day trip was planned to give me a condensed view of all the component parts of a French army of five army corps, or about 200,000 men, from the rear up to the front trench.

We accordingly began with the Motor Transport Repair Corps, situated in Epernay, consisting of 1,000 men and 14

officers, including 3 doctors. It kept in up-to-the-minute running order the 1,500 motor vehicles of the army corps which occupied the front 20 miles before us.

The Captain who showed us around had been technical supervisor of the Rochet-Schneider Auto Company and had, together with all the other mechanical experts, been mobilized directly into the present work. He answered my surprise at the number of soldiers employed in these peaceful labors by explaining that two soldiers at work in the rear for every three soldiers fighting was the regular formula.

Epernay, being the centre of the champagne industry, most of the military repair garages had been located in the great wine storehouses. It was odd to see soldiers repainting grim wire-cutting autos rubbing elbows with peasant women busily wrapping gold-foil round the heads of fat quarts of famous vintages.

"Yes, they work together," smiled the Captain; "and it is not so incongruous as it looks. For the champagne was a good ally of ours during the battle of the Marne. It made enough casualties among the Boches to have an appreciable effect on the course of the battle. When we chased them out of here the broken bottles looked as though there were no more champagne left in the world. But as a matter of fact, so enormous are the quantities stored hereabouts that the German inroads were relatively slight."


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