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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

After attending an aeroplane duel


We

all stood perfectly powerless and watched the machine spiral down. As he made his glide, men stood in the field waving spare wheels at him to insure his understanding. But no. Instead of landing tilted to the left on his sound wheel and tail, he made his landing leaning over a little to the right where the wheel was missing. As it touched the earth the great machine buried its nose in the ground, its tail rose and rose till it stood perpendicular, and then fell forward in a somersault, so that the plane was lying on its back.

"He's finished. Get the ambulance," ordered the Captain.

We all started at a run across the field toward the motionless aeroplane, the motor-ambulance following close on our heels. As we got to the wreck a figure crawled out and began to swear fluently at not having been warned in a way that a sane man could understand. How the aviator escaped will always remain a complete mystery. But his escape made a happy climax to the thrilling ending of an unforgettable afternoon.

II

HOW THE FRONT IS VISITED

When the average newspaper-reader reads the average war correspondent's excellent stories from the firing-line, his ideas are probably vague indeed as to how the correspondent reached that very elastic zone known as "the front."

justify;">He probably pictures the military authorities extending to the writer a magnificently sweeping invitation to witness and immortalize their armies in battle. In his mind's eye he sees the journalist equipping himself with automobile, shelter-tent, sleeping-bag, canned food, medicine-chest and revolver--with everything, in fact, necessary for the hardships and emergencies of campaigning. This visionary correspondent then sallies forth from the luxury and security of Paris (let us say), sitting by his chauffeur, military map in hand, directing the course of his high-powered car to that section of the front where the General Staff has informed him that a critical battle is to take place. Arrived there, he watches an infantry charge capture the enemy's trenches; then, leaping into his waiting motor, speeds away to another portion of the line, which he reaches according to his schedule, just in time to observe a particularly interesting bombardment of the enemy's lines by a battery of heavy artillery. He is called away after a time by the necessity of covering several miles more in order to watch the defenders of a front trench repel an enemy attack. He may lunch with a General, if he happens to drop in at headquarters just as lunch is served, or he may have to share a soldier's frugal meal in the darkness of a bomb-proof. After attending an aeroplane duel, having a chat with the Generalissimo of the armies, inspecting the consolidation of a few hundred yards of trenches just taken from the enemy, watching the explosion of a mine, interviewing a fresh batch of German prisoners, with whom a punctured tire almost causes him to miss his appointment, and observing the methods employed by the Red Cross in collecting the wounded under fire, he is overtaken by night after a busy day, and sleeps in his shelter-tent before making up his mind which particular army he will visit the following day.

It is a thrilling and romantic picture. But how sadly distant from the truth.


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