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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

In case of a sustained bombardment


The

General then led the way some little distance to another underground observation-post to be used in case of a bombardment.

A flight of steps led down into it. It had a good many feet of solid earth above it, and consisted of two rooms with two bunks covered with pine boughs in one, and two camp cots in the other for the General himself and his artillery aide. It was well stored with water and provisions, and here the General, in case of a sustained bombardment, could remain in relative security for days on end, observing the effect of his own artillery fire or of any infantry attacks he might direct, and sending his orders out by telephone. It will probably be asked how he could do much observing from a cellar several metres under ground. The answer is that the second of the two rooms had a sort of window about a foot high and running the whole length of the wall, which opened out through the side of the hill. It was covered by a heavy steel shutter which could be partly or entirely swung up by a pulley arrangement, and through this crack in the hillside the whole sector lay in perfect view.

Climbing out again, we ventured a hint or two as to how interested we were in batteries. But the General himself was intensely interested in an intricate system of subterranean passages which his Chief of Engineers was building to connect up the observation-post with other points, and he took the very human view that the

technical explanations of the Engineer which were so absorbing to him must necessarily be equally enthralling to us.

Finally we started back across the hilltop toward where my imagination conjured up serried arrays of great guns frowning at the enemy.

On the way we stopped to inspect the telephone central which connected up the observation-posts with all the batteries behind and the trenches in front, and for that matter, with Paris or any other part of France.

In a low log hut, its roof and walls protected by several feet of sand-bags, a soldier sat at a large switchboard with a telephone receiver strapped to his head. As we stood for a moment watching him a bell tinkled. He stuck the small peg into one of the multitudinous little holes.

"Allo! This is Number 15," he said in a low voice, then listened intently to some message.

"All right," he said at its conclusion. Then turning half round on his stool he saluted and reported:

"Mon General, Number 19 reports that a Boche aeroplane has passed them and is coming over us."

"Telephone our guns to fire at him, and warn Numbers 11 and 12 to prepare for his coming," ordered the General, and as the soldier stuck his pegs in and gave his telephone messages we hustled out to see the excitement. Sure enough, we had hardly got out when we heard a distant whirring, and high up in the air saw an aeroplane floating our way.


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