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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

Are all inexorably fixed in the schedule of the trip


The

war correspondent does not buy himself a motor, because if he did he would not be allowed to use it. All he buys himself is a railway ticket. When it comes to motoring, he is packed with an assortment of fellow-correspondents into military autos specially assigned by the army authorities.

He does not buy a shelter-tent or a sleeping-bag, because at a certain scheduled hour every evening the staff-officer who has him and his colleagues in tow will lead him into an excellent hotel in some large town or other and assign him to a comfortable bedroom engaged ahead. He does not buy canned provisions, because before going to bed the officer buys him an appetizing dinner, follows it up with a good breakfast the next morning, and at lunch-time introduces him to a courteous General, or, at a pinch, to another hotel-keeper, by one or the other of whom he is supplied with a prearranged and excellent lunch.

He does not buy himself a medicine-chest, because he is always within shouting distance of enough medical talent to treat a whole city.

He does not buy a revolver, because it would be gently but firmly taken away from him if he did.

If he is sensible, he does not even buy himself binoculars, for the officers by whom he will find himself uninterruptedly accompanied will be glad to let him use theirs, and though he may not look so picturesque without

them, he will be much more comfortable if he has any hands-and-knees work to do.

Finally, he will not have a word to say as to where he wants to go or what he wants to see, for that has all been settled in advance.

It is true that different Generals vary greatly in the risks that they will allow correspondents to run with their respective armies. Some feel that if a correspondent wants to take chances that is his own affair so long as he does not unduly endanger the life of a valuable staff-officer along with his own. Others feel personally responsible for the safeguarding of visitors, whether the visitor is willing to take chances or not.

But these variations merely affect the more or less dangerous details of the trip, not the programme as a whole, which is quite rigid.

In the beginning of the war a few men, like Alexander Powell in Flanders, and Robert Dunn in the retreat from Mons, were actual knights-errant of the pen and wandered or whirled where they pleased, and saw what happened to come their way.

But on the western front, at least, that is all dead and gone.

The activities of war correspondents have been thoroughly regulated, systematized, standardized. Just what the correspondent is to be permitted to see at the front is deliberately considered and arranged in advance. The authorities decide what fights are fit for him to see just as painstakingly as chaperons used to decide what plays were fit for debutantes to see. He, together with the six or eight other journalists who are to make up the party, is placed in the hands of a military duenna who guards his every move from the time the admirably organized tour starts, until he is again safely delivered back in Paris. The precise duration of the trip, the precise route to be taken, the precise place at which each meal is to be eaten, the precise room in the precise hotel in which each night is to be spent, the precise General to be met and trench to be visited, are all inexorably fixed in the schedule of the trip.

The only phenomena which the general staffs cannot predetermine are the activities of the aviators and the course of the enemy's shells and bullets. Hence, the only spontaneous adventures in store for correspondents, which may come unexpectedly, at any moment, are the whirring of aeroplanes overhead, their shelling and their duels and the sudden passing or arrival of enemy projectiles, from tiny bullets up to enormous "Jack Johnsons."


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