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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Like the German asphyxiating gases


In

the open recess in the trench stood the non-commissioned officer of engineers, facing backward toward us. He was the instructor. At the order of the Captain he placed an innocent-looking satchel on the trench edge at his right elbow, plunged a hand into it and briskly plucked out, one after the other, eight different varieties of bombs. Picking them up, one at a time, he gave a terse lecture on the construction and method of operation of each.

The bombs were all fully loaded, and the explosion of any one of them would have sent a great many of us well on the way to the cemetery. I noticed in some of the officers, and undoubtedly in myself, a certain tenseness as the engineer nonchalantly illustrated within an inch or two of actuality how a percussion bomb would explode if brought in contact with the ground.

In demonstrating the first grenade he adjusted around his wrist a loop with about eight inches of cord hanging from it. A heavy two-inch metal pin was attached to the end of the cord. Picking up a black spherical bomb slightly bigger than a baseball, he stuck the pin lightly into a hole in its side. The bomb was to be thrown with full force. In flying out of the hand it pulled itself free from the pin, causing a friction which ignited the five-second fuse. The pin of course remained behind, hanging to the cord, and was promptly stuck into another bomb. This bomb, being particularly heavy, could be thrown

only fifteen metres by an average thrower and twenty as a maximum.

The second bomb was black and pear-shaped. It had a spring which looked like a nickel shoe-horn folded back tight against it. The pressure of the palm against the shoe-horn in throwing it released the spring and started the fuse, which, like all the rest, was set at five seconds.

The third bomb was a can of white tin attached by two wires to a white deal handle. A nail was stuck into a hole in the can. The nail was hammered in by a sharp rap against the ground. ("If you try to knock it in against the palm of your hand it would hurt," explained our instructor.) The nail, driven in, started the fuse.

In the demonstration of this particular bomb our mentor was quite peculiarly realistic, bringing it violently down to within what seemed like the fraction of an inch of the ground.

The fourth bomb was black and round and was started by scratching the tip of a stiffly projecting bit of ignitible fuse against a black band of raspy material worn round the thumb of the left hand. The fifth bomb was lighted in a very similar manner against the side of an ordinary safety-match box. These five were regular grenades.

The sixth and seventh were incendiary grenades to set fire to wooden obstructions, etc. The one, in exploding, scattered the burning liquid to a distance of a few yards, the other set fire only to the spot where it burst. These were both large spherical bombs. Before being thrown kerosene was poured into them through a little bunghole, which was then stopped up.

The eighth was an asphyxiating bomb. I cannot, however, be too careful in emphasizing the fact that this so-called "asphyxiating" bomb was not poisonous, like the German asphyxiating gases, but merely irritated the eyes, nostrils and throat, so that when thrown into a German bomb-proof it would force out the occupants. It left no ill after-effects.


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