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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

The danger of a premature explosion


was twilight when we took our leave and night had fallen long before we rolled into Chateau Thiery, whither Captain d'A----'s orderly had transported our bags, and where a very late dinner and comfortable beds were awaiting us.




I have just returned from attending a soldiers' school of bomb-throwing. The military authorities permitted my presence as an exceptional favor, informing me that this is the first time such a privilege has been accorded a foreign civilian.

This particular school holds its classes in a large green field in a peaceful little valley, within long artillery range of the firing lines. No German shells, however, have hitherto distracted the pupils from their rather gruesome lessons, and I will not endanger their continued studies by giving a more definite description of the locality.

This school is attended by privates from each regiment, who spend four days at their highly explosive studies. Toward the middle of the field, about two hundred yards from one end and about three hundred from the other, was a section of open trench about twenty yards long and some four feet deep. This trench was about the usual three feet in width except in its centre,

where for about five feet it was recessed back to a width of some six feet. This was where the French instructor stood and whirled his arms to throw the bombs. A couple of feet to the left of this recess was another recess, covered with a bomb-proof roof of logs and earth.

Into this the instructor and his pupil sought refuge from the effects of the bomb explosion. As the explosion really is surprisingly violent and takes place at the longest only five seconds from the time the mechanism of the bomb is started, and at a maximum distance of thirty yards, the instructor and any one in the trench with him have got to be exceedingly spry in running under the bomb-proof in order to beat the bomb. There is, too, the danger of a premature explosion.

To make me feel more entirely at my ease, they told me that only a few days ago an officer of explosives brought a Colonel to see one of these demonstrations in another school, behind a different part of the line. As they came to the entrance of the trench the officer politely made way for the Colonel to enter the trench first. As the Colonel did so, the bomb exploded prematurely and killed the Colonel outright.

About twenty yards in front of the trench was dug a shallow dummy trench to represent a German target. Some 150 yards further distant was set up a section of wire entanglements.

We found the 128 soldiers ranged in line a few yards behind the trench. At its edge I took my place with the Captain of explosives and three or four other officers. The infantrymen lined up two deep behind us.

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