free ebooks

Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

The Germans had counter sapped


evening before, on our run back to Epernay, Eyre and I had noticed the exhilarating abandon with which our soldier chauffeur slung his car along. We supposed that was the traditional method in which military cars were run. We christened our driver "Barney Oldfield" and commented jocosely on his various close squeaks. We noticed that Captain d'A----, who in the front trenches had been absolutely imperturbable, did not seem wholly at ease, but kept on leaning forward and muttering, "Mais doucement! doucement!" through the front window. We thought, however, that this was mere consideration on his part for our inexperienced nervous systems.

On this following morning he declared to us that our chauffeur was evidently a veritable maniac besides being an execrable driver, and that nothing would induce him to ride behind "Barney Oldfield" again. Shells and bullets were all in the day's work, but he'd be switched if he would have his neck quite superfluously broken by an imbecile like that.

He therefore, with our cordial approval, had sent round to the auto-repair department for a sedater driver. But it was apparently against the regulations to keep the same car if we changed chauffeurs, and it was as hard to get another car in this headquarters of cars as it is to get fresh milk on a cattle-ranch.

So we fretted politely for the best part of an hour before the new chauffeur drove up.

This delay haunted us for the rest of the day.

We motored over the same road we had covered the day before till we got near Rheims again. There, at about ten o'clock, we met Captain F----, who had been cooling his heels for an hour. I transferred myself into his motor and we started off to inspect some batteries.

First, of course, we had to present ourselves to the General in Command of the next Army Corps which we were to visit. We reached his headquarters after half an hour's run and found him an interesting and agreeable man of the world. He was much upset by the death the day before of a Lieutenant of engineers. It appears that this Lieutenant had been in command of a sap that was being run under the German trenches in order to explode a mine. The Germans had counter-sapped, broken into his tunnel, and exploded a mine there. He had recklessly crawled down his sap and had not returned. Then his Colonel crawled down the little tunnel after him, first taking the precaution to have a rope tied on to himself. The soldiers at the French end of the tunnel paid out the rope till it suddenly stopped. Then, as there was no more movement, they became alarmed and, hauling in the rope, dragged the Colonel back in a senseless condition. The Lieutenant had reached the neighborhood of the exploded mine and had been overcome and killed by the unescaped gases of the explosion. The Colonel in his turn had been overcome, but had been hauled out in time to be revived.

It was strange to see how this loss was taken to heart by a General who must in the past months have had to receive reports of deaths by the thousand.

We motored on and about eleven o'clock were ushered into the headquarters of the General of Division whose batteries we wanted to see.

The other Generals had greeted us in the luxurious _salons_ of chateaus, sitting near writing-desks holding a few papers, but without any token of the military work on which they were engaged. This General was housed with his staff in an old shooting-box. The room in which he welcomed us had large-scale maps on its walls, and engineering plans on its tables. The General himself was a splendid type of French officer, remarkably young, wiry, snappy, keen as mustard. When the war began he had been a Lieutenant-Colonel and had gone up the ladder by leaps and bounds.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us