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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

You could hear them rattling along these rails


Outside

the utterly ruined village we left our car behind a clump of trees and walked back to take some photographs of what had been the church. Then into the motor and on again till we stopped at the cross-road which led directly to the front.

Here we left our motor. The rain suddenly beginning to come down in sheets, we ducked into a ruined house whose roof some freak of the shells had allowed to remain quite intact. We were quickly joined by about fifty infantrymen who had been working at a reserve line of intrenchments in the fields outside. Here we all waited for ten minutes till the rain-squall stopped.

It may not be a particularly pretty subject, but I think it well worth stating that that mass of soldiers, packed into the small inclosed space, left the air as pure and untainted at the end of those ten minutes as it had been before they jammed their way in. I had noticed the same thing the day before during the two hours that I had spent by the howitzer with the nine men of the crew. There is no doubt about it that even the English--who of course originally invented and patented personal cleanliness in this world--will have to scrub exceedingly hard to keep up with the Belgians.

The rain having stopped, we slipped and slithered on foot along the byroad till we came to a prairie-dog village of bomb-proofs with soldiers' heads popping out of the little openings and then popping

in again. Here we met a young First Lieutenant, who very kindly offered to show us the quickest way to the communicating trench, and off we marched.

At this point we were just about half-way between the two opposing bodies of artillery. High in air, right above our heads, the shells of the two armies, hurtling along in opposite directions, met and passed each other on their way. These big projectiles in passing over us sounded exactly as if they were running along aerial rails. You could hear them rattling along these rails, bumping over the rail joints, banging over switches. It was a perfect illusion. By closing your eyes you could have sworn that you were standing under Brooklyn Bridge hearing the procession of street-cars, with silenced gongs, roll by at express speed overhead. First there would be a distant report, then silence as the shell rose, and then suddenly it would get on the rails, rattle up to the top of its grade, coast down the grade the other side and leave the tracks a second or two before the final explosion.

Some ten minutes later we were walking along a broad road, with the noise of exploding shells getting louder and louder ahead. Then suddenly a perfect swarm of bullets came chirping past us.

"Just this little bit of the road is visible from the German lines," remarked the Lieutenant. "They are about 500 metres away from us here."


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