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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

First we passed over the city of Compiegne


In

the first place, it takes quite a little time and trouble to discern the lines of opposing trenches even when you stand on a quiet observation post with a General painstakingly pointing and explaining, by the help of landmarks, just where they run. Here, though we were now only 1,000 metres (about 3,300 feet) up, we were racing along the front at 80 miles an hour, and all my friend the pilot could do was to point here and there frantically. So among the maze of white lines I saw running below me through the hazy atmosphere, some which I took for trenches were undoubtedly roads; some which I took for roads were equally undoubtedly trenches, while only a few, by their zigzagging, could I unhesitatingly have guaranteed to have been trenches.

In the next place the roar of the engines totally drowned out all the reports of the guns which were going off below us, and the explosions of the shells, which are such a striking feature of the front.

To make matters still more undramatic there was no battle going on at the precise moment when we shot downward out of the clouds, but only a rather languid artillery exchange. Even a regulating aeroplane which was sailing around directly below us and about half-way down between us and the earth, correcting the fire of some batteries, was having an exceptionally peaceful time of it. We could look down and see plainly the red, white and blue circles of France painted on the tops

of its planes, but there were none of the customary woolly little white clouds of German shrapnel bursting round it during the few seconds that it remained in sight.

Furthermore, the guns right below it and us were so cleverly concealed that they were quite invisible. The only signs of its being a front at all were the bursting shells from the French batteries. These little puffs of smoke in the hazy distance the pilot spotted unerringly, but he had a discouraging time pointing them out to my unaccustomed eyes as we raced along.

So this, I fear, is all that any one visiting the front by aeroplane would have seen this afternoon. Possibly had we hung around longer we might have seen more, but the pilot and I both had important dinner engagements in Paris, and the sun was getting very low. We therefore reluctantly swept around and, leaving the silver band of the Aisne behind us, started for home.

We kept low, not over 1,000 metres, so that the landscape was very clear and interesting. First we passed over the city of Compiegne, where I had lunched with Dr. Carrel only three days before to the accompaniment of an artillery obligato. Then right over the big, dark green Forest of Compiegne where I tried but failed to locate a chateau I had visited with Mme. Carrel. Then on and on over a further entrancing exhibit of parti-colored carpet fitting together at the edges as snugly as any completed picture-puzzle.


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