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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

From there he was going to correct the howitzer fire


A

Captain of a battery of 75's who sat near me at lunch, was going to tackle the farm-house that afternoon with his guns. The Captain in command of my howitzers was not at lunch, as he was already on his way to his observation-post, situated at the extreme front, within 270 yards of the blockhouse. From there he was going to correct the howitzer fire, over some four kilometres of telephone line connecting his observation-post with his guns.

A good deal of the talk at lunch was devoted to anathematizing a certain general-staff officer who had charge of the uniforming of the army and, apparently, was bent on changing the new khaki caps of the officers from the British shape, which they all liked, to the French shape.

A good story was told to illustrate the amazing efficiency of the German intelligence department. One day when the army was being reuniformed in khaki, a certain regiment of chasseurs was ordered to leave their trenches right after dark that night to march to the rear for the purpose of having their new uniforms issued to them. An hour or two after they had received this order the Germans right opposite them hoisted a great placard above their trenches. On it was sign-painted:

"Good-bye, brave chasseurs! Run along to get your new uniforms at seventeen francs fifty apiece!"

Lunch being finished, my Commandant and I said good-bye all

round and, with detailed directions, started on a half-hour's walk to find the howitzer battery. The Chaplain, in khaki, with an old black umbrella and a long fishing-pole, came along as far as the first canal. There, standing on a flat bit of embankment between two shell-holes, he placidly began to fish.

The artillery, which had been booming in a desultory way all morning, had of course stopped during the lunch-hour. For the artillerymen on both sides certainly keep union rules in laying off when the time for the dinner-pail comes round. If the noon whistle blew they could not be more punctual in dropping work.

Now, however, the noon-hour was over and the guns again began to take up their monotonous bass drumming. For a full half-hour we walked, first along a deserted wagon-road, then to the left, along a path by the bank of a canal, past an artificial hedge here and an artificial grove of trees there. Some of these had batteries ambushed in them, others were shams to divert the attention of the German aviators and the fire of the German artillery from the real emplacements.

Finally, we came to a tall false hedge made of withered saplings wired together. In the lee of this hedge was a low flat roof, perhaps three feet above the surface of the ground, covered with a sprinkling of earth and boughs. Under this we climbed down into a cellar-like excavation about three feet deep, giving six feet of head room.


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