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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

We returned to the Villa Beausejour and lunch


The

Colonel pointed out to me on this map the exact location of the Villa Beausejour, of the blockhouse which was to be destroyed, and of the gun which was to destroy it. He also showed me photographs of the German positions taken from Belgian aeroplanes. Taking one of these photographs and comparing it with a map, he explained to me how the map showed only one road leading to a certain spot, while the photograph showed a new second road leading to the same spot. This indicated the existence of a concealed battery at that place.

The telephone bell rang. "This is Number 12," answered the soldier-operator. He listened for a few moments and then told the Colonel that Headquarters wished him to send over an officer after lunch to cross-question the two German prisoners just captured for information which might be of use to his artillery.

"Tell them I shall do so," replied the Colonel.

As we had another half-hour before lunch, he deputed one of his officers to take me to a battery of 75's not far off and incidentally show me some of the shell-holes made in the neighborhood by the German "marmites," as the French and Belgians call the big high-explosive shells.

A brisk walk brought us to the 75's, cleverly concealed in an artificial wood which had been transplanted bodily. The Captain in Command showed me the guns, and also a fine bomb-proof shelter

which he had just completed. It was very much needed, as, in spite of the artificial woods, the Germans had roughly located his battery, and whenever any Belgian 75's in his neighborhood open up on the enemy they immediately cut loose on his battery. The whole surface of the fields for hundreds of yards around was pockmarked with shell-holes.

He showed me one of his guns where a curious thing had happened. A couple of days before a German shell had hit obliquely the steel shield of this gun and had glanced off through the left wheel, knocking the spokes out on its way. The shell had then entered the ammunition-caisson standing next to the gun, had there burst, hurling the heavy caisson bodily through the air to where its wreck landed upside down, and had not exploded its contents of shells.

[Illustration: Page 101

"COLONEL D----, COMMANDING THE ARTILLERY OF THE SECTOR"]

[Illustration: Page 105

THE AUTHOR IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST SHELL-PITS, WHICH WERE TEN FEET DEEP AND TWENTY FEET IN DIAMETER]

After taking photographs of some of the biggest shell-pits, which were some ten feet deep and twenty feet in diameter, we returned to the Villa Beausejour and lunch. We sat down fourteen to lunch--the Colonel, ten artillery officers, the Chaplain, my Commandant and I.

Lunch consisted of potato soup, pate de foie gras, vegetables, strawberry-jam pie, cheese and coffee. There was no wine to start with, but one of the officers soon came in with two bottles of white wine, which we all mixed with our mineral-water.

The talk ran mostly on the two German prisoners.

"I certainly hope we shall be able to find out from them just where that battery is that has been giving us all this trouble lately," exclaimed one officer.

"And those howitzers that I can't locate," from another.

"And where that body of troops to the right sleeps," from a third.

"Perhaps they'll know in which of those farms the German headquarters are," from a fourth.

It appeared that the prisoners were from German Poland. When the Belgian artillery had the day before driven the German troops into their bomb-proofs these two had seized the opportunity to crawl forward out of the trench, through the wire entanglements, across the open to a Belgian advanced listening-post, where they had surrendered. They were now at General Headquarters and had already given much valuable information, including the unusually large number of men who slept during the daytime in the blockhouse, and the presence in a certain farm of a number of German officers.


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