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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

But a bullet hitting thus would be fatal anyway


To-day

I learned from the Captain of the 75's that his first few volleys had set the farm-house on fire. A lot of soldiers had come running to put the fire out. His guns kept on dropping and scattering these until, with a series of loud explosions, the whole farm-house had blown up. It turned out that it was not an officers' headquarters, but an ammunition store-house.

As to our blockhouse, I understand that it was completely demolished, though whether or not it took the whole of Julia's twenty shells to complete the work I was unable to learn.

VII

IN THE FLEMISH TRENCHES

HEADQUARTERS OF THE BELGIAN ARMY, LA PANNE, _Aug. 30_.

To-day I was given the opportunity of comparing the trenches of Belgium with those I had visited in France. It was a very interesting contrast.

Commandant L----, who still had me in charge, picked me up at my hotel at 10 o'clock in the morning. Proceedings were delayed while I insisted on taking a snap-shot of him in the nickel-steel skull-cap which he wore inside his khaki cap.

More and more of the French officers are wearing these helmets, and he had just ordered his from Paris. It is an admirable protection, very tough, not at all heavy, tucked inside the sweatband of the cap

and entirely invisible. If a bullet hits it straight point-blank it will, of course, penetrate and carry a piece of the steel helmet into the wearer's head with it. But a bullet hitting thus would be fatal anyway. While if the bullet is spent, or if it hits at an angle, the helmet will deflect it.

[Illustration: Page 120

COMMANDANT L---- IN THE NICKEL-STEEL SKULL-CAP WHICH HE WORE INSIDE HIS KHAKI CAP]

On the way to the trenches we stopped off at the Belgian aerodrome, where an Aviation Captain showed and explained to me the details of the Voisin and Nieuport machines, which were chiefly used, including the ingenious bomb-dropping mechanism and the wireless apparatus.

The Belgians certainly deserve the utmost credit for the way in which they have developed their air service from nothing at the beginning of the war to a highly efficient aviation corps. But for that matter their whole army has been reorganized on an admirable basis.

One must realize the shattered condition in which they were swept from Antwerp back to the very fringe of their country behind the Yser. One must realize that they are practically an army without a country. One must understand that when they get furloughs they cannot spend them with their families in their homes, getting comfort and encouragement. They either stay within sound of the firing or spend a bleak six days among the strangers of England or of Northern France. When all this is considered their material reorganization and the preservation of their _morale_ in its present splendid shape is a remarkable achievement.


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