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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Others three coils superimposed


I first made the acquaintance of Julia. I found her standing with her back to me under the plank shelter, with only her exceedingly short and retrousse nose sniffling up at the leaden patch of threatening sky which showed between the forward edge of the roof and the top of the high false hedge in front. No one could well call Julia beautiful, but there was power in every line and curve of her. She was a particularly short-muzzled 150-millimetre heavy field-howitzer, and she had been christened Julia in chalk letters across the back of her thick steel shield by the members of her devoted crew.

On her breech were engraved a crown and a big "C. I.," for she and her three sisters had been intended for Carol I., King of Roumania, before they were bought up by the Belgian Government. One of the four had exploded through trying to fire a 155-millimetre shell through her 150-millimetre bore, but the other three were doing fine work for their adopted country. On my way to my appointment with Julia, we had passed one of her sisters, called "Zoe," cowering up against the wall of a very disreputable old farm-house, hiding her humiliation in a hole in the ground under a plank roofing and a false hedge much like Julia's.

Any one who thinks that nowadays he will see artillery ranged in imposing array, is doomed to disappointment. The artillery commander (especially of the heavier guns) goes around the countryside stealthily

hiding one piece here, surreptitiously slipping another in there, always selecting the most separate and inconspicuous locations, much as a woman will wander around a hotel room stowing her pieces of jewelry here and there where the burglars will never think of looking for them. Only the burglars in the present case are hostile shells that make holes ten feet deep and twenty feet across.

Julia's crew consisted of a Lieutenant and eight men. The Lieutenant and seven of the men were grouped around the breech of the gun when I arrived. The eighth man squatted to the left by a field-telephone with the receiver held to his ear. Commandant L---- introduced me to the Lieutenant, and then asked whether his Captain had reached the observation-post. The Lieutenant had not heard from him yet, but imagined he must get there any moment.

It began to rain hard, much to the vexation of the Commandant, who feared it would hide the blockhouse from the observer and put an end to the bombardment.

"Oh! no," said the Lieutenant; "he's only 270 yards distant from it. He'll be able to see it all right."

On the board floor to the left, between the telephone and the front wall of the excavation, were piled twenty-five or thirty wicked-looking 150-millimetre high-explosive shells. They were conical in shape, about 2-1/2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter, made of steel, with a copper band around them near the base, and a copper nose.

I started to lift one of them, and only succeeded at the second attempt. They weighed about 110 pounds apiece.

Stacked next to them were a corresponding number of hollow copper cylinders containing stiff little cream-colored children's belts, with eyelet-holes down the middle, coiled neatly inside them. Some of them had one coil; others two coils, one on top of the other; others three coils superimposed. These were the propelling charges for the shells, and were of three strengths according as one, two or three of the coils of cream-colored explosive were put in the copper shells. They were topped off with a heavy felt pad which fitted neatly into the cylinder.

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