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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Just beyond the Belgian front trench


A

little off to our right the French 75's were firing so quickly that I hoped it would develop into the famous "trommelfeuer" ("drum-roll fire," as the Germans call it), but it did not. We had received word that they were going to fire 400 rounds at some objective whose nature I did not learn. They certainly were firing them, and losing no time about it, either.

I could not see their shells burst, as the lines took a turn just to our right and disappeared behind some trees.

At the points where the armies of different nationalities connect they are always scrupulously careful to inform each other what artillery work they have in preparation, so that a sudden violent cannonade on the part of one army will not alarm the next with the idea that a German assault is being resisted.

It was particularly interesting to watch the Belgian soldiers, who every few yards squatted placidly in the trench, short spades and trowels in hand, busily engaged in digging little pits about two feet deep in the bottom of the trench, and then scooping out little channels running to these pits. These channels would drain the surrounding yard or two of trench bottom into the pits, leaving muddy patches where a moment before three or four inches of water had stood. There the Belgian soldiers squatted like children making mud pies at the seashore, and chatted complacently in Flemish while they fought the

enemy, who was only less hateful to them than the Germans. A splendid, cool, nerveless lot of men, doing their work unostentatiously but efficiently, neither dashing on the one hand nor dogged on the other, but gifted with the admirable _morale_ of the imperturbably matter-of-fact.

[Illustration: Page 135

UNDER HEAVY FIRE IN A BELGIAN COMMUNICATING-TRENCH. (THE FIGURE STANDING UPRIGHT JUST BEHIND THE AUTHOR IS THE LIEUTENANT, WHO STRAIGHTENED UP DURING THE MOMENT THE SNAPSHOT WAS BEING TAKEN BUT WAS NOT HIT)]

Suddenly I heard an exclamation from one of the soldiers. Looking where he pointed, I saw, just beyond the Belgian front trench, a huge column of muddy water standing bolt upright against the horizon. It stood there motionless until I began to think it would remain a permanent fixture in the landscape. Then it suddenly collapsed. A Belgian shell falling short had soused down into the Y---- Canal and exploded, sending up this five-story waterspout.

It seemed a shame not to go forward into the front trench, but with the Germans lobbing six-inch bombs in there with their "mine throwers" and the artillery getting busier all the time, the Commandant thought it would be taking too great risks. So we turned and crouched along back. As we did so, it is worthy of comment, three German shells struck not far to our left at not more than half-a-minute intervals and not one of the three exploded. It was a striking example of faulty explosives.


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