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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

That trench is about 100 metres from our front trench


A

hundred yards or so further on we came to a halt at an angle in the communication trench from which could be had a good view of the front.

Lifting my head cautiously till my eyes were just above the edge of the rampart, I could see some 250 yards ahead the chocolate-colored back of the Belgian front trench. For where the chalky soil of Champagne makes the trenches there very white in color, the boggy soil of Belgium is a rich brown.

Beyond the Belgian front trench ran a line of tall trees; beyond the line of trees again ran another brown line.

"That's the German front line, I suppose?" I said to the Lieutenant.

"No, that's their second line you're looking at. Raise your head a little more, and right over the top of our front-line trenches you'll see their front line."

I craned my neck, and, sure enough, another brown line hove into view apparently only a few yards ahead of the Belgian front line, with the usual barbed-wire tangle in front of it.

"That trench is about 100 metres from our front trench," said the Lieutenant. "The Germans have got all that barbed wire before their front trench, but we don't need wire because we have the Y---- Canal right before our front trench. Only it flows so close under the breastworks that you can't see it from here."

justify;">A great cloud of jet-black smoke suddenly welled up from the Belgian front trench.

"Ah, that's a six-inch bomb they've thrown into our trench with one of their 'minenwerfer,'" exclaimed the Lieutenant.

The report of the explosion from where we stood, not more than 250 metres away, was not loud.

The artillery was hard at it. Big clouds of black smoke rose sluggishly by the German trench where the Belgian high-explosive shells were bursting. Livelier clouds of white indicated the shrapnel explosions.

I was craning my neck to see what damage was being done the German trench when a whole swarm of bullets struck very close indeed to my head. The Lieutenant pulled me down into the trench.

"They shot at you that time, all right!" he laughed.

"Impossible!" I answered. "I can only barely see their trench over the top of your first-line trench, so how could they possibly see me from there?"

"Ah, but they were not shooting at you from there. They are up in the tops of some of those trees," he explained, pointing to the row of tall, innocent-looking trees. "Their sharpshooters climb up at night and snipe from there all day, and those of them whom we do not locate and kill climb down again the next night. They have telescopic sights on their rifles, and these rifles are mounted on little tripods so that they can fix their aim immovably on some spot where they think they have seen a movement; and the next time the movement comes, ping! Only I don't think they can use the tripods up in the trees."

At the Lieutenant's suggestion we scattered down along the trench in case our little crowd might have been observed from a tree and an artilleryman might try his luck on us.

Further down the trench where I took my new stand I went on watching the shells burst, and listening to the projectiles from the opposing sides go rattling along their invisible rails high overhead.


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