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Title: Kitchener's Mob - Adventures of an American in the British Army
Author: Hall, James Norman, 1887-1951
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           Kitchener's Mob

           The Adventures of an American in the British Army


                          James Norman Hall

                         Boston and New York
                      Houghton Mifflin Company
                    The Riverside Press Cambridge

                 COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY JAMES NORMAN HALL
                         ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                        _Published May 1916_

                            OF THE GREAT WAR
                      WHO IS ADDING IMMORTAL LUSTER
                             TO THE NAME OF


This brief narrative is by no means a complete record of life in a
battalion of one of Lord Kitchener's first armies. It is, rather, a
story in outline, a mere suggestion of that life as it is lived in the
British lines along the western front. If those who read gain thereby
a more intimate view of trench warfare, and of the men who are so
gallantly and cheerfully laying down their lives for England, the
purpose of the writer will have been accomplished.

The diagram which appears on the front and rear covers of the book is a
partially conventionalized design illustrating some features of trench
construction mentioned in Chapter VI. For obvious reasons it is not
drawn to scale, and although it is a truthful representation of a
typical segment of the British line, it is not an exact sketch of any
existing sector.

_April_, 1916.


   I. Joining Up                                   1

  II. Rookies                                      9

 III. The Mob in Training                         17

  IV. Ordered Abroad                              39

  V. The Parapet-etic School                      55

  VI. Private Holloway, Professor of Hygiene      69

 VII. Midsummer Calm                              92

VIII. Under Cover                                108

  IX. Billets                                    129

   X. New Lodgings                               144

  XI. "Sitting Tight"                            177

                           Kitchener's Mob

                              CHAPTER I

                             JOINING UP

"Kitchener's Mob" they were called in the early days of August, 1914,
when London hoardings were clamorous with the first calls for volunteers.
The seasoned regulars of the first British expeditionary force said it
patronizingly, the great British public hopefully, the world at large
doubtfully. "Kitchener's Mob," when there was but a scant sixty thousand
under arms with millions yet to come. "Kitchener's Mob" it remains
to-day, fighting in hundreds of thousands in France, Belgium, Africa,
the Balkans. And to-morrow, when the war is ended, who will come
marching home again, old campaigners, war-worn remnants of once mighty
armies? "Kitchener's Mob."

It is not a pleasing name for the greatest volunteer army in the history
of the world; for more than three millions of toughened, disciplined
fighting men, united under one flag, all parts of one magnificent
military organization. And yet Kitchener's own Tommies are responsible
for it, the rank and file, with their inherent love of ridicule even at
their own expense, and their intense dislike of "swank." They fastened
the name upon themselves, lest the world at large should think they
regarded themselves too highly. There it hangs. There it will hang for
all time.

It was on the 18th of August, 1914, that the mob spirit gained its
mastery over me. After three weeks of solitary tramping in the mountains
of North Wales, I walked suddenly into news of the great war, and went
at once to London, with a longing for home which seemed strong enough to
carry me through the week of idleness until my boat should sail. But, in
a spirit of adventure, I suppose, I tempted myself with the possibility
of assuming the increasingly popular _alias_, Atkins. On two successive
mornings I joined the long line of prospective recruits before the
offices at Great Scotland Yard, withdrawing each time, after moving
a convenient distance toward the desk of the recruiting sergeant.
Disregarding the proven fatality of third times, I joined it on another
morning, dangerously near to the head of the procession.

"Now, then, you! Step along!"

There is something compelling about a military command, given by a
military officer accustomed to being obeyed. While the doctors were
thumping me, measuring me, and making an inventory of "physical
peculiarities, if any," I tried to analyze my unhesitating, almost
instinctive reaction to that stern, confident "Step along!" Was it an
act of weakness, a want of character, evidenced by my inability to say
no? Or was it the blood of military forebears asserting itself after
many years of inanition? The latter conclusion being the more pleasing,
I decided that I was the grandson of my Civil War grandfather, and the
worthy descendant of stalwart warriors of a yet earlier period.

I was frank with the recruiting officers. I admitted, rather boasted, of
my American citizenship, but expressed my entire willingness to serve in
the British army in case this should not expatriate me. I had, in fact,
delayed, hoping that an American legion would be formed in London as had
been done in Paris. The announcement was received with some surprise. A
brief conference was held, during which there was much vigorous shaking
of heads. While I awaited the decision I thought of the steamship ticket
in my pocket. I remembered that my boat was to sail on Friday. I thought
of my plans for the future and anticipated the joy of an early
home-coming. Set against this was the prospect of an indefinite period
of soldiering among strangers. "Three years or the duration of the war"
were the terms of the enlistment contract. I had visions of bloody
engagements, of feverish nights in hospital, of endless years in a home
for disabled soldiers. The conference was over, and the recruiting
officer returned to his desk, smiling broadly.

"We'll take you, my lad, if you want to join. You'll just say you are an
Englishman, won't you, as a matter of formality?" Here was an avenue of
escape, beckoning me like an alluring country road winding over the
hills of home. I refused it with the same instinctive swiftness of
decision that had brought me to the medical inspection room. And a few
moments later, I took "the King's shilling," and promised, upon my oath
as a loyal British subject, to bear true allegiance to the Union Jack.

During the completion of other, less important formalities, I was taken
in charge by a sergeant who might have stepped out of any of the
"Barrack-Room Ballads." He was true to type to the last twist in
the _s_ of Atkins. He told me of service in India, Egypt, South
Africa. He showed me both scars and medals with that air of
"Now-I-would-n't-do-this-for-any-one-but-you" which is so flattering to
the novice. He gave me advice as to my best method of procedure when I
should go to Hounslow Barracks to join my unit.

"'An 'ere! Wotever you do an' wotever you s'y, don't forget to myke the
lads think you're an out-an'-outer, if you understand my meaning,--a
Britisher, you know. They'll tyke to you. Strike me blind! Be free an'
easy with 'em,--no swank, mind you!--an' they'll be downright pals with
you. You're different, you know. But don't put on no airs. Wot I mean
is, don't let 'em think that you think you're different. See wot I

I said that I did.

"An' another thing; talk like 'em."

I confessed that this might prove to be rather a large contract.

"'Ard? S'y! 'Ere! If I 'ad you fer a d'y, I'd 'ave you talkin' like a
born Lunnoner! All you got to do is forget all them aitches. An' you
don't want to s'y 'can't,' like that. S'y 'cawrn't.'"

I said it.

"Now s'y, 'Gor blimy, 'Arry, 'ow's the missus?'"

I did.

"That's right! Oh, you'll soon get the swing of it."

There was much more instruction of the same nature. By the time I was
ready to leave the recruiting offices I felt that I had made great
progress in the vernacular. I said good-bye to the sergeant warmly. As I
was about to leave he made the most peculiar and amusing gesture of a
man drinking.

"A pint o' mild an' bitter," he said confidentially. "The boys always
gives me the price of a pint."

"Right you are, sergeant!" I used the expression like a born Englishman.
And with the liberality of a true soldier, I gave him my shilling, my
first day's wage as a British fighting man.

The remainder of the week I spent mingling with the crowds of enlisted
men at the Horse Guards Parade, watching the bulletin boards for the
appearance of my name which would mean that I was to report at the
regimental depot at Hounslow. My first impression of the men with whom I
was to live for three years, or the duration of the war, was anything
but favorable. The newspapers had been asserting that the new army was
being recruited from the flower of England's young manhood. The throng
at the Horse Guards Parade resembled an army of the unemployed, and I
thought it likely that most of them were misfits, out-of-works, the kind
of men who join the army because they can do nothing else. There were,
in fact, a good many of these. I soon learned, however, that the general
out-at-elbows appearance was due to another cause. A genial Cockney gave
me the hint.

"'Ave you joined up, matey?" he asked.

I told him that I had.

"Well, 'ere's a friendly tip for you. Don't wear them good clo'es w'en
you goes to the depot. You won't see 'em again likely, an' if you gets
through the war you might be a-wantin' of 'em. Wear the worst rags you

I profited by the advice, and when I fell in, with the other recruits
for the Royal Fusiliers, I felt much more at my ease.

                              CHAPTER II


"A mob" is genuinely descriptive of the array of would-be soldiers which
crowded the long parade-ground at Hounslow Barracks during that memorable
last week in August. We herded together like so many sheep. We had lost
our individuality, and it was to be months before we regained it in a new
aspect, a collective individuality of which we became increasingly proud.
We squeak-squawked across the barrack square in boots which felt large
enough for an entire family of feet. Our khaki service dress uniforms
were strange and uncomfortable. Our hands hung limply along the seams of
our pocketless trousers. Having no place in which to conceal them, and
nothing for them to do, we tried to ignore them. Many a Tommy, in a
moment of forgetfulness, would make a dive for the friendly pockets which
were no longer there. The look of sheepish disappointment, as his hands
slid limply down his trouser-legs, was most comical to see. Before many
days we learned the uses to which soldiers' hands are put. But for the
moment they seemed absurdly unnecessary.

We must have been unpromising material from the military point of view.
That was evidently the opinion of my own platoon sergeant. I remember,
word for word, his address of welcome, one of soldier-like brevity and
pointedness, delivered while we stood awkwardly at attention on the
barrack square.

"Lissen 'ere, you men! I've never saw such a raw, roun'-shouldered
batch o' rookies in fifteen years' service. Yer pasty-faced an' yer
thin-chested. Gawd 'elp 'Is Majesty if it ever lays with you to save
'im! 'Owever, we're 'ere to do wot we can with wot we got. Now, then,
upon the command, 'Form Fours,' I wanna see the even numbers tyke a pace
to the rear with the left foot, an' one to the right with the right
foot. Like so: 'One-one-two!' Platoon! Form Fours! Oh! Orful! Orful! As
y' were! As y' were!"

If there was doubt in the minds of any of us as to our rawness, it was
quickly dispelled by our platoon sergeants, regulars of long standing,
who had been left in England to assist in whipping the new armies into
shape. Naturally, they were disgruntled at this, and we offered them
such splendid opportunities for working off overcharges of spleen. We
had come to Hounslow, believing that, within a few weeks' time, we
should be fighting in France, side by side with the men of the first
British expeditionary force. Lord Kitchener had said that six months of
training, at the least, was essential. This statement we regarded as
intentionally misleading. Lord Kitchener was too shrewd a soldier to
announce his plans; but England needed men badly, immediately. After a
week of training, we should be proficient in the use of our rifles. In
addition to this, all that was needed was the ability to form fours and
march, in column of route, to the station where we should entrain for
Folkestone or Southampton, and France.

As soon as the battalion was up to strength, we were given a day of
preliminary drill before proceeding to our future training area in
Essex. It was a disillusioning experience. Equally disappointing was the
undignified display of our little skill, at Charing Cross Station, where
we performed before a large and amused London audience. For my own part,
I could scarcely wait until we were safely hidden within the train.
During the journey to Colchester, a re-enlisted Boer War veteran, from
the inaccessible heights of South African experience, enfiladed us with
a fire of sarcastic comment.

"I'm a-go'n' to transfer out o' this 'ere mob, that's wot I'm a go'n' to
do! Soldiers! S'y! I'll bet a quid they ain't a one of you ever saw a
rifle before! Soldiers? Strike me pink! Wot's Lord Kitchener a-doin' of,
that's wot I want to know!"

The rest of us smoked in wrathful silence, until one of the boys
demonstrated to the Boer War veteran that he knew, at least, how to use
his fists. There was some bloodshed, followed by reluctant apologies on
the part of the Boer warrior. It was one of innumerable differences of
opinion which I witnessed during the months that followed. And most of
them were settled in the same decisive way.

Although mine was a London regiment, we had men in the ranks from all
parts of the United Kingdom. There were North-Countrymen, a few Welsh,
Scotch, and Irish, men from the Midlands and from the south of England.
But for the most part we were Cockneys, born within the sound of Bow
Bells. I had planned to follow the friendly advice of the recruiting
sergeant. "Talk like 'em," he had said. Therefore, I struggled bravely
with the peculiarities of the Cockney twang, recklessly dropped aitches
when I should have kept them, and prefixed them indiscriminately before
every convenient aspirate. But all my efforts were useless. The
imposition was apparent to my fellow Tommies immediately. I had only to
begin speaking, within the hearing of a genuine Cockney, when he would
say, "'Ello! w'ere do you come from? The Stites?" or, "I'll bet a tanner
you're a Yank!" I decided to make a confession, and I have been glad,
ever since, that I did. The boys gave me a warm and hearty welcome when
they learned that I was a sure-enough American. They called me "Jamie
the Yank." I was a piece of tangible evidence of the bond of sympathy
existing between the two great English-speaking nations. I told them of
the many Americans of German extraction, whose sympathies were honestly
and sincerely on the other side. But they would not have it so. I was
the personal representative of the American people. My presence in the
British army was proof positive of this.

Being an American, it was very hard, at first, to understand the class
distinctions of British army life. And having understood them, it was
more difficult yet to endure them. I learned that a ranker, or private
soldier, is a socially inferior being from the officer's point of view.
The officer class and the ranker class are east and west, and never
the twain shall meet, except in their respective places upon the
parade-ground. This does not hold good, to the same extent, upon active
service. Hardships and dangers, shared in common, tend to break down
artificial barriers. But even then, although there was good-will and
friendliness between officers and men, I saw nothing of genuine
comradeship. This seemed to me a great pity. It was a loss for the
officers fully as much as it was for the men.

I had to accept, for convenience sake, the fact of my social inferiority.
Centuries of army tradition demanded it; and I discovered that it is
absolutely futile for one inconsequential American to rebel against the
unshakable fortress of English tradition. Nearly all of my comrades were
used to clear-cut class distinctions in civilian life. It made little
difference to them that some of our officers were recruits as raw as were
we ourselves. They had money enough and education enough and influence
enough to secure the king's commission; and that fact was proof enough
for Tommy that they were gentlemen, and, therefore, too good for the
likes of him to be associating with.

"Look 'ere! Ain't a gentleman a gentleman? I'm arskin' you, ain't 'e?"

I saw the futility of discussing this question with Tommy. And later, I
realized how important for British army discipline such distinctions

So great is the force of prevailing opinion that I sometimes found
myself accepting Tommy's point of view. I wondered if I was, for some
eugenic reason, the inferior of these men whom I had to "Sir" and salute
whenever I dared speak. Such lapses were only occasional. But I
understood, for the first time, how important a part circumstance and
environment play in shaping one's mental attitude. How I longed, at
times, to chat with colonels and to joke with captains on terms of
equality! Whenever I confided these aspirations to Tommy he gazed at me
in awe.

"Don't be a bloomin' ijut! They could jolly well 'ang you fer that!"

                             CHAPTER III

                         THE MOB IN TRAINING

The Nth Service Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, on the march was a sight not
easily to be forgotten. To the inhabitants of Colchester, Folkestone,
Shorncliffe, Aldershot, and other towns and villages throughout the
south of England, we were well known. We displayed ourselves with what
must have seemed to them a shameless disregard for appearances. Our
approach was announced by a discordant tumult of fifes and drums, for
our band, of which later, we became justly proud, was a newly fledged
and still imperfect organization. Windows were flung up and doors thrown
open along our line of march; but alas, we were greeted with no welcome
glances of kindly approval, no waving of handkerchiefs, no clapping of
hands. Nursemaids, who are said to have a nice and discriminating eye
for soldiery, gazed in amused and contemptuous silence as we passed.
Children looked at us in wide-eyed wonder. Only the dumb beasts were
demonstrative, and they in a manner which was not at all to our liking.
Dogs barked, and sedate old family horses, which would stand placidly at
the curbing while fire engines thundered past with bells clanging and
sirens shrieking, pricked up their ears at our approach, and, after one
startled glance, galloped madly away and disappeared in clouds of dust
far in the distance.

We knew why the nursemaids were cool, and why family horses developed
hysteria with such startling suddenness. But in our pride we did not see
that which we did not wish to see. Therefore we marched, or, to be more
truthful, shambled on, shouting lusty choruses with an air of boisterous
gayety which was anything but genuine.

    "You do as I do and you'll do right,
    Fall in and follow me!"

was a favorite with number 12 platoon. Their enthusiasm might have carried
conviction had it not been for their personal appearance, which certainly
did not. Number 15 platoon would strive manfully for a hearing with

    "Steadily, shoulder to shoulder,
    Steadily, blade by blade;
    Marching along,
    Sturdy and strong,
    Like the boys of the old brigade."

As a strictly accurate historian I must confess that none of these
assertions were quite true. We marched neither steadily, nor shoulder to
shoulder, nor blade by blade. We straggled all over the road, and kept
step only when the sergeant major doubled forward, warning us, with
threats of extra drills, to keep in our fours or to "pick it up!" In
fact, "the boys of the old brigade," whoever they may have been, would
have scornfully repudiated the suggestion that we resembled them in any

They would have been justified in doing so had any of them seen us at the
end of six weeks of training. For, however reluctantly, we were forced to
admit that Sergeant Harris was right when he called us "a raw batch o'
rookies." Unpromising we were not. There was good stuff in the ranks, the
material from which real soldiers are made, and were made; but it had not
yet been rounded into shape. We were still nothing more than a
homogeneous assembly of individuals.

We declined to accept the responsibility for the seeming slowness of our
progress. We threw it unhesitatingly upon the War Office, which had not
equipped us in a manner befitting our new station in life. Although we
were recruited immediately after the outbreak of war, less than half of
our number had been provided with uniforms. Many still wore their old
civilian clothing. Others were dressed in canvas fatigue suits, or the
worn-out uniforms of policemen and tramcar conductors. Every old-clothes
shop on Petticoat Lane must have contributed its allotment of cast-off

Our arms and equipment were of an equally nondescript character. We might
easily have been mistaken for a mob of vagrants which had pillaged a
seventeenth-century arsenal. With a few slight changes in costuming for
the sake of historical fidelity, we would have served as a citizen army
for a realistic motion-picture drama depicting an episode in the French

We derived what comfort we could from the knowledge that we were but one
of many battalions of Kitchener's first hundred thousand equipped in this
same makeshift fashion. We did not need the repeated assurances of cabinet
ministers that England was not prepared for war. We were in a position to
know that she was not. Otherwise, there had been an unpardonable lack of
foresight in high places. Supplies came in driblets. Each night, when
parades for the day were over, there was a rush for the orderly room
bulletin board, which was scanned eagerly for news of an early issue of
clothing. As likely as not we were disappointed, but occasionally jaded
hopes revived.

"Number 15 platoon will parade at 4 P.M. on Thursday, the 24th,
for boots, puttees, braces, and service dress caps."

Number 15 is our platoon. Promptly at the hour set we halt and right-turn
in front of the Quartermaster Stores marquee. The quartermaster is there
with pencil and notebook, and immediately takes charge of the

"All men needing boots, one pace step forward, March!"

The platoon, sixty-five strong, steps forward as one man.

"All men needing braces, one pace step back, March!"

Again we move as a unit. The quartermaster hesitates for a moment; but he
is a resourceful man and has been through this many times before. We all
need boots, quite right! But the question is, Who need them most?
Undoubtedly those whose feet are most in evidence through worn soles and
tattered uppers. Adopting this sight test, he eliminates more than half
the platoon, whereupon, by a further process of elimination, due to the
fact that he has only sizes 7 and 8, he selects the fortunate twelve who
are to walk dry shod.

The same method of procedure is carried out in selecting the braces.
Private Reynolds, whose trousers are held in place by a wonderful
mechanism composed of shoe-laces and bits of string, receives a pair;
likewise, Private Stenebras, who, with the aid of safety pins, has
fashioned coat and trousers into an ingenious one-piece garment. Caps and
puttees are distributed with like impartiality, and we dismiss, the
unfortunate ones growling and grumbling in discreet undertones until the
platoon commander is out of hearing, whereupon the murmurs of discontent
become loudly articulate.

"Kitchener's Rag-Time Army I calls it!" growls the veteran of South
African fame. "Ain't we a 'andsome lot o' pozzie wallopers? Service? We
ain't never a-go'n' to see service! You blokes won't, but watch me! I'm
a-go'n' to grease off out o' this mob!"

No one remonstrated with this deservedly unpopular reservist when he
grumbled about the shortage of supplies. He voiced the general sentiment.
We all felt that we would like to "grease off" out of it. Our deficiencies
in clothing and equipment were met by the Government with what seemed to
us amazing slowness. However, Tommy is a sensible man. He realized that
England had a big contract to fulfill, and that the first duty was to
provide for the armies in the field. France, Russia, Belgium, all were
looking to England for supplies. Kitchener's Mob must wait, trusting to
the genius for organization, the faculty for getting things done, of its
great and worthy chief, K. of K.

          *          *          *          *          *          *

Our housing accommodations, throughout the autumn and winter of 1914-15,
when England was in such urgent need of shelter for her rapidly
increasing armies, were also of the makeshift order. We slept in leaky
tents or in hastily constructed wooden shelters, many of which were
afterward condemned by the medical inspectors. St. Martin's Plain,
Shorncliffe, was an ideal camping-site for pleasant summer weather. But
when the autumnal rains set in, the green pasture land became a quagmire.
Mud was the great reality of our lives, the malignant deity which we fell
down (in) and propitiated with profane rites. It was a thin, watery mud
or a thick, viscous mud, as the steady downpour increased or diminished.
Late in November we were moved to a city of wooden huts at Sandling
Junction, to make room for newly recruited units. The dwellings were but
half-finished, the drains were open ditches, and the rains descended and
the floods came as usual. We lived an amphibious and wretched existence
until January, when, to our great joy, we were transferred to billets in
the Metropole, one of Folkestone's most fashionable hotels. To be sure,
we slept on bare floors, but the roof was rainproof, which was the
essential thing. The æsthetically inclined could lie in their blankets at
night, gazing at richly gilded mirrors over the mantelpieces and
beautifully frescoed ceilings refurnishing our apartments in all their
former splendor. Private Henry Morgan was not of this type. Henry came in
one evening rather the worse for liquor and with clubbed musket assaulted
his unlovely reflection in an expensive mirror. I believe he is still
paying for his lack of restraint at the rate of a sixpence per day, and
will have canceled his obligation by January, 1921, if the war continues
until that time.

          *          *          *          *          *          *

Although we were poorly equipped and sometimes wretchedly housed, the
commissariat was excellent and on the most generous scale from the very
beginning. Indeed, there was nearly as much food wasted as eaten.
Naturally, the men made no complaint, although they regretted seeing such
quantities of food thrown daily into the refuse barrels. I often felt
that something should be done about it. Many _exposés_ were, in fact,
written from all parts of England. It was irritating to read of German
efficiency in the presence of England's extravagant and unbusinesslike
methods. Tommy would say, "Lor, lummy! Ain't we got no pigs in England?
That there food won't be wasted. We'll be eatin' it in sausages w'en we
goes acrost the Channel"; whereupon he dismissed the whole question from
his mind. This seemed to me then the typical Anglo-Saxon attitude.
Everywhere there was waste, muddle-headedness, and apparently it was
nobody's business, nobody's concern. Camps were sited in the wrong places
and buildings erected only to be condemned. Tons of food were purchased
overseas, transported across thousands of miles of ocean, only to be
thrown into refuse barrels. The Government was robbed by avaricious
hotel-keepers who made and were granted absurd claims for damages done to
their property by billeted troops. But with vast new armies, recruited
overnight, it is not strange that there should be mismanagement and
friction at first. As the months passed, there was a marked change for
the better. British efficiency asserted itself. This was made evident to
us in scores of ways--the distribution of supplies, the housing and
equipping of troops, their movements from one training area to another.
At the last, we could only marvel that a great and complicated military
machine had been so admirably and quickly perfected.

          *          *          *          *          *          *

Meanwhile our rigorous training continued from week to week in all
weathers, even the most inclement. Reveille sounded at daybreak. For an
hour before breakfast we did Swedish drill, a system of gymnastics which
brought every lazy and disused muscle into play. Two hours daily were
given to musketry practice. We were instructed in the description and
recognition of targets, the use of cover, but chiefly in the use of our
rifles. Through constant handling they became a part of us, a third arm
which we grew to use quite instinctively. We fired the recruit's, and
later, the trained soldier's course in musketry on the rifle ranges at
Hythe and Aldershot, gradually improving our technique, until we were
able to fire with some accuracy, fifteen rounds per minute. When we had
achieved this difficult feat, we ceased to be recruits. We were skilled
soldiers of the proud and illustrious order known as "England's
Mad-Minute Men." After musketry practice, the remainder of the day was
given to extended order, company, and battalion drill. Twice weekly we
route-marched from ten to fifteen miles; and at night, after the parades
for the day were finished, boxing and wrestling contests, arranged and
encouraged by our officers, kept the red blood pounding through our
bodies until "lights out" sounded at nine o'clock.

The character of our training changed as we progressed. We were done with
squad, platoon, and company drill. Then came field maneuvers, attacks in
open formation upon intrenched positions, finishing always with terrific
bayonet charges. There were mimic battles, lasting all day, with from ten
to twenty thousand men on each side. Artillery, infantry, cavalry, air
craft--every branch of army service, in fact--had a share in these
exciting field days when we gained bloodless victories or died painless
and easy deaths at the command of red-capped field judges. We rushed
boldly to the charge, shouting lustily, each man striving to be first at
the enemy's position, only to be intercepted by a staff officer on
horseback, staying the tide of battle with uplifted hand.

"March your men back, officer! You're out of action! My word! You've made
a beastly mess of it! You're not on church parade, you know! You advanced
across the open for three quarters of a mile in close column of platoons!
Three batteries of field artillery and four machine guns have blown you
to blazes! You haven't a man left!"

Sometimes we reached our objective with less fearful slaughter, but at
the moment when there should have been the sharp clash and clang of steel
on steel, the cries and groans of men fighting for their lives, we heard
the bugles from far and near, sounding the "stand by," and friend and
enemy dropped wearily to the ground for a rest while our officers
assembled in conference around the motor of the divisional general.

All this was playing at war, and Tommy was "fed up" with play. As we
marched back to barracks after a long day of monotonous field maneuvers,
he eased his mind by making sarcastic comments upon this inconclusive
kind of warfare. He began to doubt the good faith of the War Office in
calling ours a "service" battalion. As likely as not we were for home
defense and would never be sent abroad.

    "Left! Right! Left! Right!
    Why did I join the army?
    Oh! Why did I ever join Kitchener's Mob?
    Lor lummy! I must 'ave been balmy!"--

became the favorite, homeward-bound marching song. And so he "groused"
and grumbled after the manner of Tommies the world over. And in the mean
time he was daily approaching more nearly the standard of efficiency set
by England's inexorable War Lord.

          *          *          *          *          *          *

It was interesting to note the physical improvement in the men wrought by
a life of healthy, well-ordered routine. My battalion was recruited
largely from what is known in England as "the lower middle classes."
There were shop assistants, clerks, railway and city employees, tradesmen,
and a generous sprinkling of common laborers. Many of them had been used
to indoor life, practically all of them to city life, and needed months
of the hardest kind of training before they could be made physically fit,
before they could be seasoned and toughened to withstand the hardships of
active service.

Plenty of hard work in the open air brought great and welcome changes.
The men talked of their food, anticipated it with a zest which came from
realizing, for the first time, the joy of being genuinely hungry. They
watched their muscles harden with the satisfaction known to every normal
man when he is becoming physically efficient. Food, exercise, and rest,
taken in wholesome quantities and at regular intervals, were having the
usual excellent results. For my own part, I had never before been in such
splendid health. I wished that it might at all times be possible for
democracies to exercise a beneficent paternalism over the lives of their
citizenry, at least in matters of health. It seems a great pity that the
principle of personal freedom should be responsible for so many
ill-shaped and ill-sorted physical incompetents. My fellow Tommies were
living, really living, for the first time. They had never before known
what it means to be radiantly, buoyantly healthy.

There were, as well, more profound and subtle changes in thoughts and
habits. The restraints of discipline and the very exacting character of
military life and training gave them self-control, mental alertness. At
the beginning, they were individuals, no more cohesive than so many
grains of wet sand. After nine months of training they acted as a unit,
obeying orders with that instinctive promptness of action which is so
essential on the field of battle when men think scarcely at all. But it
is true that what was their gain as soldiers was, to a certain extent,
their loss as individuals. When we went on active service I noted that
men who were excellent followers were not infrequently lost when called
upon for independent action. They had not been trained to take the
initiative, and had become so accustomed to having their thinking done
for them that they often became confused and excited when they had to do
it for themselves.

Discipline was an all-important factor in the daily grind. At the
beginning of their training, the men of the new armies were gently dealt
with. Allowances were made for civilian frailties and shortcomings. But
as they adapted themselves to changed conditions, restrictions became
increasingly severe. Old privileges disappeared one by one. Individual
liberty became a thing of the past. The men resented this bitterly for a
time. Fierce hatreds of officers and N.C.O.s were engendered and there
was much talk of revenge when we should get to the front. I used to look
forward with misgiving to that day. It seemed probable that one night in
the trenches would suffice for a wholesale slaughtering of officers. Old
scores were to be paid off, old grudges wiped out with our first issue of
ball ammunition. Many a fist-banged board at the wet canteen gave proof
of Tommy's earnestness.

"Shoot 'im?" he would say, rattling the beer glasses the whole length of
the table with a mighty blow of his fist. "Blimy! Wite! That's all you
got to do! Just wite till we get on the other side!"

But all these threats were forgotten months before the time came for
carrying them out. Once Tommy understood the reasonableness of severe
discipline, he took his punishment for his offenses without complaint. He
realized, too, the futility of kicking against the pricks. In the army he
belonged to the Government body and soul. He might resent its treatment
of him. He might behave like a sulky school-boy, disobey order after
order, and break rule after rule. In that case he found himself
check-mated at every turn. Punishment became more and more severe. No one
was at all concerned about his grievances. He might become an habitual
offender from sheer stupidity, but in doing so, he injured no one but

A few of these incorrigibles were discharged in disgrace. A few followed
the lead of the Boer warrior. After many threats which we despaired of
his ever carrying out, he finally "greased off." He was immediately
posted as a deserter, but to our great joy was never captured. With the
disappearance of the malcontents and incorrigibles the battalion soon
reached a high grade of efficiency. The physical incompetents were
likewise ruthlessly weeded out. All of us had passed a fairly thorough
examination at the recruiting offices; but many had physical defects
which were discovered only by the test of actual training. In the early
days of the war, requirements were much more severe than later, when
England learned how great would be the need for men. Many, who later
reënlisted in other regiments, were discharged as "physically unfit for
further military service."

If the standard of conduct in my battalion is any criterion, then I can
say truthfully that there is very little crime in Lord Kitchener's armies
either in England or abroad. The "jankers" or defaulters' squad was
always rather large; but the "jankers men" were offenders against minor
points in discipline. Their crimes were untidy appearance on parade,
inattention in the ranks, tardiness at roll-call, and others of the
sort, all within the jurisdiction of a company officer. The punishment
meted out varied according to the seriousness of the offense, and the
past-conduct record of the offender. It usually consisted of from one to
ten days, "C.B."--confined to barracks. During the period of his sentence
the offender was forbidden to leave camp after the parades for the day
were ended. And in order that he might have no opportunity to do so, he
was compelled to answer his name at the guard-room whenever it should be

Only twice in England did we have a general court-martial, the offense in
each case being assault by a private upon an N.C.O., and the penalty
awarded, three months in the military prison at Aldershot. Tommy was
quiet and law-abiding in England, his chief lapses being due to an
exaggerated estimate of his capacity for beer. In France, his conduct, in
so far as my observation goes, has been splendid throughout. During six
months in the trenches I saw but two instances of drunkenness. Although I
witnessed nearly everything which took place in my own battalion, and
heard the general gossip of many others, never did I see or hear of a
woman treated otherwise than courteously. Neither did I see or hear of
any instances of looting or petty pilfering from the civilian
inhabitants. It is true that the men had fewer opportunities for
misconduct, and they were fighting in a friendly country. Even so, active
service as we found it was by no means free from temptations. The
admirable restraint of most of the men in the face of them was a fine
thing to see.

Frequent changes were made in methods of training in England, to
correspond with changing conditions of modern warfare as exemplified in
the trenches. Textbooks on military tactics and strategy, which were the
inspired gospel of the last generation of soldiers, became obsolete
overnight. Experience gained in Indian Mutiny wars or on the veldt in
South Africa was of little value in the trenches in Flanders. The
emphasis shifted from open fighting to trench warfare, and the textbook
which our officers studied was a typewritten serial issued semiweekly by
the War Office, and which was based on the dearly bought experience of
officers at the front.

We spent many a starry night on the hills above Folkestone digging
trenches and building dug-outs according to General Staff instructions,
and many a rainy one we came home, covered with mud, but happy in the
thought that we were approximating, as nearly as could be, the experience
of the boys at the front. Bomb-throwing squads were formed, and the best
shots in the battalion, the men who had made marksmen's scores on the
rifle ranges, were given daily instruction in the important business of
sniping. More generous provision for the training of machine-gun teams
was made, but so great was the lack in England of these important
weapons, that for many weeks we drilled with wooden substitutes, gaining
such knowledge of machine gunnery as we could from the study of our M.G.

These new duties, coming as an addition to our other work, meant an
increased period of training. We were impatient to be at the front, but
we realized by this time that Lord Kitchener was serious in his demand
that the men of the new armies be efficiently trained. Therefore we
worked with a will, and at last, after nine months of monotonous toil,
the order came. We were to proceed on active service.

                             CHAPTER IV

                           ORDERED ABROAD

One Sunday morning in May we assembled on the barrack square at Aldershot
for the last time. Every man was in full marching order. His rifle was
the "Short Lee Enfield, Mark IV," his bayonet, the long single-edged
blade in general use throughout the British Army. In addition to his arms
he carried 120 rounds of ".303" caliber ammunition, an intrenching-tool,
water-bottle, haversack, containing both emergency and the day's rations,
and his pack, strapped to shoulders and waist in such a way that the
weight of it was equally distributed. His pack contained the following
articles: A greatcoat, a woolen shirt, two or three pairs of socks, a
change of underclothing, a "housewife,"--the soldiers' sewing-kit,--a
towel, a cake of soap, and a "hold-all," in which were a knife, fork,
spoon, razor, shaving-brush, toothbrush, and comb. All of these were
useful and sometimes essential articles, particularly the toothbrush,
which Tommy regarded as the best little instrument for cleaning the
mechanism of a rifle ever invented. Strapped on top of the pack was the
blanket roll wrapped in a waterproof ground sheet; and hanging beneath
it, the canteen in its khaki-cloth cover. Each man wore an identification
disk on a cord about his neck. It was stamped with his name, regimental
number, regiment, and religion. A first-aid field dressing, consisting of
an antiseptic gauze pad and bandage and a small vial of iodine, sewn in
the lining of his tunic, completed the equipment.

Physically, the men were "in the pink," as Tommy says. They were
clear-eyed, vigorous, alert, and as hard as nails. With their caps on,
they looked the well-trained soldiers which they were; but with caps
removed, they resembled so many uniformed convicts less the prison
pallor. "Oversea haircuts" were the last tonsorial cry, and for several
days previous to our departure, the army hairdressers had been busily
wielding the close-cutting clippers.

Each of us had received a copy of Lord Kitchener's letter to the troops
ordered abroad, a brief, soldierlike statement of the standard of conduct
which England expected of her fighting men:--

    You are ordered abroad as a soldier of the King to help our
    French comrades against the invasion of a common enemy. You have
    to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your
    patience. Remember that the honor of the British Army depends
    upon your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to
    set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness under fire,
    but also to maintain the most friendly relations with those whom
    you are helping in this struggle. The operations in which you are
    engaged will, for the most part, take place in a friendly country,
    and you can do your own country no better service than in showing
    yourself, in France and Belgium, in the true character of a British

    Be invariably courteous, considerate, and kind. Never do anything
    likely to injure or destroy property, and always look upon
    looting as a disgraceful act. You are sure to meet with a welcome
    and to be trusted; and your conduct must justify that welcome and
    that trust. Your duty cannot be done unless your health is sound.
    So keep constantly on your guard against any excesses. In this
    new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women.
    You must entirely resist both temptations, and while treating all
    women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy.

        Do your duty bravely.
        Fear God.
        Honor the King.


It was an effective appeal and a constant reminder to the men of the
glorious traditions of the British Army. In the months that followed, I
had opportunity to learn how deep and lasting was the impression made
upon them by Lord Kitchener's first, and I believe his only, letter to
his soldiers.

The machinery for moving troops in England works without the slightest
friction. The men, transport, horses, commissariat, medical stores, and
supplies of a battalion are entrained in less than half an hour.
Everything is timed to the minute. Battalion after battalion and train
after train, we moved out of Aldershot at half-hour intervals. Each train
arrived at the port of embarkation on schedule time and pulled up on the
docks by the side of a troop transport, great slate-colored liners taken
out of the merchant service. Not a moment was lost. The last man was
aboard and the last wagon on the crane swinging up over the ship's side
as the next train came in.

Ship by ship we moved down the harbor in the twilight, the boys crowding
the rail on both sides, taking their farewell look at England--home. It
was the last farewell for many of them, but there was no martial music,
no waving of flags, no tearful good-byes. Our farewell was as prosaic as
our long period of training had been. We were each one a very small part
of a tremendous business organization which works without any of the
display considered so essential in the old days.

We left England without a cheer. There was not so much as a wave of the
hand from the wharf; for there was no one on the wharf to wave, with the
exception of a few dock laborers, and they had seen too many soldiers off
to the front to be sentimental about it. It was a tense moment for the
men, but trust Tommy to relieve a tense situation. As we steamed away
from the landing slip, we passed a barge, loaded to the water's edge with
coal. Tommy has a song pat to every occasion. He enjoys, above all
things, giving a ludicrous twist to a "weepy" ballad. When we were within
hailing distance of the coal barge, he began singing one of this variety,
"Keep the Home Fires Burning," to those smutty-faced barge hands. Every
one joined in heartily, forgetting all about the solemnity of the

Tommy is a prosaic chap. This was never more apparent to me than upon
that pleasant evening in May when we said good-bye to England. The lights
of home were twinkling their farewells far in the distance. Every moment
brought us nearer to the great adventure. We were "off to the wars," to
take our places in the far-flung battle line. Here was Romance lavishly
offering gifts dearest to the hearts of Youth, offering them to clerks,
barbers, tradesmen, drapers' assistants, men who had never known an
adventure more thrilling than a holiday excursion to the Isle of Man or a
week of cycling in Kent. And they accepted them with all the stolidity
native to Englishmen. The eyes of the world were upon them. They had
become the knights-errant of every schoolgirl. They were figures of
heroic proportions to every one but themselves.

French soldiers are conscious of the romantic possibilities offered them
by the so-called "divine accident of war." They go forth to fight for
Glorious France, France the Unconquerable! Tommy shoulders his rifle and
departs for the four corners of the world on a "bloomin' fine little
'oliday!" A railway journey and a sea voyage in one! "Blimy! Not 'arf
bad, wot?" Perhaps he is stirred at the thought of fighting for "England,
Home, and Beauty." Perhaps he does thrill inwardly, remembering a
sweetheart left behind. But he keeps it jolly well to himself. He has
read me many of his letters home, some of them written during an
engagement which will figure prominently in the history of the great
World War. "Well, I can't think of anything more now," threads its way
through a meager page of commonplaces about the weather, his food, and
his personal health. A frugal line of cross-marks for kisses, at the
bottom of the page, is his only concession to sentiment.

There was, however, one burst of enthusiasm, as we started on our
journey, which struck me as being spontaneous, and splendid, and
thoroughly English. Outside the harbor we were met by our guardians, a
fleet of destroyers which was to give us safe convoy across the Channel.
The moment they saw them the men broke forth into prolonged cheering, and
there were glad shouts of--

"There they are, me lads! There's some o' the little old watch dogs wot's
keepin' 'em bottled up!"

"Good old navy! That's w'ere we got 'em by the throat!"

"Let's give 'em 'Sons of the Sea!'"

And they did. They sang with a spirit of exaltation which Englishmen
rarely betray, and which convinced me how nearly the sea and England's
position as Mistress of the Seas touch the Englishman's heart of hearts.

    "Sons of the sea,
    All British born,
    Sailing the ocean,
    Laughing foes to scorn.
    They may build their ships, my lads,
    And think they know the game;
    But they can't beat the boys of the bulldog breed
    Who made old England's name!"

It was a confession of faith. On the sea England can't be beaten. Tommy
believes that with his whole soul, and on this occasion he sang with all
the warmth of religious conviction.

Our Channel voyage was uneventful. Each transport was guarded by two
destroyers, one on either side, the three vessels keeping abreast and
about fifty yards apart during the entire journey. The submarine menace
was then at its height, and we were prepared for an emergency. The boats
were swung ready for immediate launching, and all of the men were
provided with life-preservers. But England had been transporting troops
and supplies to the firing-line for so many months without accident that
none of us were at all concerned about the possibility of danger.
Furthermore, the men were too busy studying "Tommy Atkins's French
Manual" to think about submarines. They were putting the final polish on
their accent in preparation for to-morrow's landing.

"Alf, 'ow's this: 'Madamaselly, avay vu dee pang?'"

"Wot do you s'y for 'Gimme a tuppenny packet o' Nosegay'?"

"'Bonjoor, Monseer!' That ain't so dusty, Freddie, wot?"

"Let's try that Marcelase again. You start it, 'Arry."

"Let Nobby. 'E knows the sounds better'n wot I do."

"'It 'er up, Nobby! We gotta learn that so we can sing it on the march."

"Wite till I find it in me book. All right now--

    Allons infants dee la Pat-ree,
    La joor de glory is arrivay."

Such bits of conversation may be of little interest, but they have the
merit of being genuine. All of them were jotted down in my notebook at
the times when I heard them.

The following day we crowded into the typical French army troop train,
eight _chevaux_ or forty _hommes_ to a car, and started on a leisurely
journey to the firing-line. We traveled all day, at eight or ten miles an
hour, through Normandy. We passed through pleasant towns and villages
lying silent in the afternoon sunshine, and seemingly almost deserted,
and through the open country fragrant with the scent of apple blossoms.
Now and then children waved to us from a cottage window, and in the
fields old men and women and girls leaned silently on their hoes or their
rakes and watched us pass. Occasionally an old reservist, guarding the
railway line, would lift his cap and shout, "Vive l'Angleterre!" But more
often he would lean on his rifle and smile, nodding his head courteously
but silently to our salutations. Tommy, for all his stolid, dogged
cheeriness, sensed the tragedy of France. It was a land swept bare of all
its fine young manhood. There was no pleasant stir and bustle of civilian
life. Those who were left went about their work silently and joylessly.
When we asked of the men, we received, always, the same quiet, courteous
reply: "À la guerre, monsieur."

The boys soon learned the meaning of the phrase, "à la guerre." It became
a war-cry, a slogan. It was shouted back and forth from car to car and
from train to train. You can imagine how eager we all were; how we
strained our ears, whenever the train stopped, for the sound of the guns.
But not until the following morning, when we reached the little village
at the end of our railway journey, did we hear them, a low muttering like
the sound of thunder beyond the horizon. How we cheered at the first
faint sound which was to become so deafening, so terrible to us later! It
was music to us then; for we were like the others who had gone that way.
We knew nothing of war. We thought it must be something adventurous and
fine. Something to make the blood leap and the heart sing. We marched
through the village and down the poplar-lined road, surprised, almost
disappointed, to see the neat, well-kept houses, and the pleasant, level
fields, green with spring crops. We had expected that everything would be
in ruins. At this stage of the journey, however, we were still some
twenty-five miles from the firing-line.

During all the journey from the coast, we had seen, on every side,
evidences of that wonderfully organized branch of the British military
system, the Army Service Corps. From the village at which we detrained,
everything was English. Long lines of motor transport lorries were parked
along the sides of the roads. There were great ammunition bases,
commissariat supply depots, motor repair shops, wheel-wright and
blacksmith shops, where one saw none but khaki-clad soldiers engaged in
all the noncombatant business essential to the maintenance of large
armies. There were long lines of transport wagons loaded with supplies,
traveling field-kitchens, with chimneys smoking and kettles steaming as
they bumped over the cobbled roads, water carts, Red Cross carts, motor
ambulances, batteries of artillery, London omnibuses, painted slate gray,
filled with troops, seemingly endless columns of infantry on foot, all
moving with us, along parallel roads, toward the firing-line. And most of
these troops and supply columns belonged to my own division, one small
cog in the British fighting machine.

We advanced toward the war zone in easy stages. It was intensely hot, and
the rough, cobbled roads greatly increased the difficulty of marching. In
England we had frequently tramped from fifteen to twenty-five miles in a
day without fatigue. But the roads there were excellent, and the climate
moist and cool. Upon our first day's march in France, a journey of only
nine miles, scores of men were overcome by the heat, and several died.
The suffering of the men was so great, in fact, that a halt was made
earlier than had been planned, and we bivouacked for the night in the

Life with a battalion on the march proceeds with the same orderly routine
as when in barracks. Every man has his own particular employment. Within
a few moments, the level pasture land was converted into a busy community
of a thousand inhabitants. We made serviceable little dwellings by lacing
together two or three waterproof ground-sheets and erecting them on
sticks or tying them to the wires of the fences. Latrines and refuse pits
were dug under the supervision of the battalion medical officer. The sick
were cared for and justice dispensed with the same thoroughness as in
England. The day's offenders against discipline were punished with what
seemed to us unusual severity. But we were now on active service, and
offenses which were trivial in England were looked upon, for this reason,
in the light of serious crimes.

Daily we approached a little nearer to our goal, sleeping, at night, in
the open fields or in the lofts of great rambling farm-buildings. Most of
these places had been used for soldiers' billets scores of times before.
The walls were covered with the names of men and regiments, and there
were many penciled suggestions as to the best place to go for a basin of
"coffay oh lay," as Tommy called it. Every roadside cottage was, in fact,
Tommy's tavern. The thrifty French peasant women kept open house for
soldiers. They served us with delicious coffee and thick slices of French
bread, for the very reasonable sum of twopence. They were always friendly
and hospitable, and the men, in turn, treated them with courteous and
kindly respect. Tommy was a great favorite with the French children. They
climbed on his lap and rifled his pockets; and they delighted him by
talking in his own vernacular, for they were quick to pick up English
words and phrases. They sang "Tipperary" and "Rule Britannia," and "God
Save the King," so quaintly and prettily that the men kept them at it for
hours at a time.

And so, during a week of stifling heat, we moved slowly forward. The
sound of the guns grew in intensity, from a faint rumbling to a subdued
roar, until one evening, sitting in the open windows of a stable loft, we
saw the far-off lightenings of bursting shells, and the trench rockets
soaring skyward; and we heard bursts of rifle and machine-gun fire, very
faintly, like the sound of chestnuts popping in an oven.

                              CHAPTER V

                       THE PARAPET-ETIC SCHOOL

"We're going in to-night."

The word was given out by the orderly sergeants at four in the afternoon.
At 4.03 every one in camp had heard the news. Scores of miniature hand
laundries, which were doing a thriving business down by the duck pond,
immediately shut up shop. Damp and doubtfully clean ration bags, towels,
and shirts which were draped along the fences, were hastily gathered
together and thrust into the capacious depths of pack-sacks. Members of
the battalion's sporting contingent broke up their games of tuppenny brag
without waiting for "just one more hand," an unprecedented thing. The
makers of war ballads, who were shouting choruses to the merry music of
the mouth-organ band, stopped in the midst of their latest composition,
and rushed off to get their marching order together. At 4.10 every one,
with the exception of the officers' servants, was ready to move off.
This, too, was unprecedented. Never before had we made haste more gladly
or less needfully, but never before had there been such an incentive to
haste. We were going into the trenches for the first time.

The officers' servants, commonly called "batmen," were unfortunate
rankers who, in moments of weakness, had sold themselves into slavery for
half a crown per week. The batman's duty is to make tea for his officer,
clean his boots, wash his clothes, tuck him into bed at night, and make
himself useful generally. The real test of a good batman, however, is his
carrying capacity. In addition to his own heavy burden he must carry
various articles belonging to his officer: enameled wash-basins, rubber
boots, bottles of Apollinaris water, service editions of the modern
English poets and novelists, spirit lamps, packages of food, boxes of
cigars and cigarettes,--in fact, all of his personal luggage which is in
excess of the allotted thirty-five pounds which is carried on the
battalion transport wagons.

On this epoch-marking day, even the officers' servants were punctual.
When the order, "Packs on! Fall in!" was given, not a man was missing.
Every one was in harness, standing silently, expectantly, in his place.

"Charge magazines!"

The bolts clicked open with the sound of one as we loaded our rifles with
ball ammunition. Five long shiny cartridges were slipped down the charger
guide into the magazine, and the cut-off closed.

"Move off in column of route, 'A' company leading!"

We swung into the country road in the gathering twilight, and turned
sharply to our left at the crossroad where the signboard read, "To the
Firing-Line. For the Use of the Military Only."

Coming into the trenches for the first time when the deadlock along the
western front had become seemingly unbreakable, we reaped the benefit of
the experience of the gallant little remnant of the first British
Expeditionary Force. After the retreat from Mons, they had dug themselves
in and were holding tenaciously on, awaiting the long-heralded arrival of
Kitchener's Mob. As the units of the new armies arrived in France, they
were sent into the trenches for twenty-four hours' instruction in trench
warfare, with a battalion of regulars. This one-day course in trench
fighting is preliminary to fitting new troops into their own particular
sectors along the front. The facetious subalterns called it "The
Parapet-etic School." Months later, we ourselves became members of the
faculty, but on this first occasion we were marching up as the meekest of

It was quite dark when we entered the desolate belt of country known as
the "fire zone." Pipes and cigarettes were put out and talking ceased. We
extended to groups of platoons in fours, at one hundred paces interval,
each platoon keeping in touch with the one in front by means of
connecting files. We passed rows of ruined cottages where only the scent
of the roses in neglected little front gardens reminded one of the
home-loving people who had lived there in happier days. Dim lights
streamed through chinks and crannies in the walls. Now and then blanket
coverings would be lifted from apertures that had been windows or doors,
and we would see bright fires blazing in the middle of brick kitchen
floors, and groups of men sitting about them luxuriously sipping tea from
steaming canteens. They were laughing and talking and singing songs in
loud, boisterous voices which contrasted strangely with our timid
noiselessness. I was marching with one of the trench guides who had been
sent back to pilot us to our position. I asked him if the Tommies in the
houses were not in danger of being heard by the enemy. He laughed
uproariously at this, whereupon one of our officers, a little second
lieutenant, turned and hissed in melodramatic undertones, "Silence in the
ranks there! Where do you think you are!" Officers and men, we were new
to the game then, and we held rather exaggerated notions as to the amount
of care to be observed in moving up to the trenches.

"Blimy, son!" whispered the trench guide, "you might think we was only a
couple o' 'unnerd yards away from Fritzie's trenches! We're a good two
an' a 'arf miles back 'ere. All right to be careful arter you gets closer
up; but they's no use w'isperin' w'en you ain't even in rifle range."

With lights, of course, it was a different matter altogether. Can't be
too careful about giving the enemy artillery an aiming mark. This was the
reason all the doors and windows of the ruined cottages were so carefully

"Let old Fritzie see a light,--''Ello!' 'e says, 'blokes in billets!' an'
over comes a 'arf-dozen shells knockin' you all to blazes."

As we came within the range of rifle fire, we again changed our
formation, and marched in single file along the edge of the road. The
sharp _crack! crack!= of small arms now sounded with vicious and ominous
distinctness. We heard the melancholy song of the ricochets and spent
bullets as they whirled in a wide arc, high over our heads, and
occasionally the less pleasing _phtt! phtt!_ of those speeding straight
from the muzzle of a German rifle. We breathed more freely when we
entered the communication trench in the center of a little thicket, a
mile or more back of the first-line trenches.

We wound in and out of what appeared in the darkness to be a hopeless
labyrinth of earthworks. Cross-streets and alleys led off in every
direction. All along the way we had glimpses of dugouts lighted by
candles, the doorways carefully concealed with blankets or pieces of old
sacking. Groups of Tommies, in comfortable nooks and corners, were
boiling tea or frying bacon over little stoves made of old iron buckets
or biscuit tins.

I marveled at the skill of our trench guide who went confidently on in
the darkness, with scarcely a pause. At length, after a winding, zigzag
journey, we arrived at our trench where we met the Gloucesters.

There isn't one of us who hasn't a warm spot in his heart for the
Gloucesters: they welcomed us so heartily and initiated us into all the
mysteries of trench etiquette and trench tradition. We were, at best, but
amateur Tommies. In them I recognized the lineal descendants of the line
Atkins; men whose grandfathers had fought in the Crimea, and whose
fathers in Indian mutinies. They were the fighting sons of fighting
sires, and they taught us more of life in the trenches, in twenty-four
hours, than we had learned during nine months of training in England. An
infantryman of my company has a very kindly feeling toward one of them
who probably saved his life before we had been in the trenches five
minutes. Our first question was, of course, "How far is it to the German
lines?" and in his eagerness to see, my fellow Tommy jumped up on the
firing-bench for a look, with a lighted cigarette in his mouth. He was
pulled down into the trench just as a rifle cracked and a bullet went
_zing-g-g_ from the parapet precisely where he had been standing. Then
the Gloucester gave him a friendly little lecture which none of us
afterward forgot.

"Now, look 'ere, son! Never get up for a squint at Fritz with a fag on!
'E's got every sandbag along this parapet numbered, same as we've got
'is. 'Is snipers is a-layin' fer us same as ours is a-layin' fer 'im."
Then, turning to the rest of us, "Now, we ain't arskin' to 'ave no burial
parties. But if any of you blokes wants to be the stiff, stand up w'ere
this guy lit the gas."

There weren't any takers, and a moment later another bullet struck a
sandbag in the same spot.

"See? 'E spotted you. 'E'll keep a-pottin' away at that place for an
hour, 'opin' to catch you lookin' over again. Less see if we can find
'im. Give us that biscuit tin, 'Enery."

Then we learned the biscuit-tin-finder trick for locating snipers. It's
only approximate, of course, but it gives a pretty good hint at the
direction from which the shots come. It doesn't work in the daytime, for
a sniper is too clever to fire at it. But a biscuit tin, set on the
parapet at night in a badly sniped position, is almost certain to be hit.
The angle from which the shots come is shown by the jagged edges of tin
around the bullet holes. Then, as the Gloucester said, "Give 'im a nice
little April shower out o' yer machine gun in that direction. You may
fetch 'im. But if you don't, 'e won't bother you no more fer an hour or

We learned how orders are passed down the line, from sentry to sentry,
quietly, and with the speed of a man running. We learned how the sentries
are posted and their duties. We saw the intricate mazes of telephone
wires, and the men of the signaling corps at their posts in the trenches,
in communication with brigade, divisional, and army corps headquarters.
We learned how to "sleep" five men in a four-by-six dugout; and, when
there are no dugouts, how to hunch up on the firing-benches with our
waterproof sheets over our heads, and doze, with our knees for a pillow.
We learned the order of precedence for troops in the communication

"Never forget that! Outgoin' troops 'as the right o' way. They ain't 'ad
no rest, an' they're all slathered in mud, likely, an' dead beat fer
sleep. Incomin' troops is fresh, an' they stands to one side to let the
others pass."

We saw the listening patrols go out at night, through the underground
passage which leads to the far side of the barbed-wire entanglements.
From there they creep far out between the opposing lines of trenches, to
keep watch upon the movements of the enemy, and to report the presence of
his working parties or patrols. This is dangerous, nerve-trying work, for
the men sent out upon it are exposed not only to the shots of the enemy,
but to the wild shots of their own comrades as well. I saw one patrol
come in just before dawn. One of the men brought with him a piece of
barbed wire, clipped from the German entanglements two hundred and fifty
yards away.

"Taffy, 'ave a look at this 'ere. Three-ply stuff wot you can 'ardly get
yer nippers through. 'Ad to saw an' saw, an' w'en I all but 'ad it,
lummy! if they didn't send up a rocket wot bleedin' near 'it me in the

"Tyke it to Captain Stevens. I 'eard 'im s'y 'e's wantin' a bit to show
to one of the artill'ry blokes. 'E's got a bet on with 'im that it's
three-ply wire. Now, don't forget, Bobby! Touch 'im fer a couple o'
packets o' fags!"

I was tremendously interested. At that time it seemed incredible to me
that men crawled over to the German lines in this manner and clipped
pieces of German wire for souvenirs.

"Did you hear anything?" I asked him.

"'Eard a flute some Fritzie was a-playin' of. An' you ought to 'ave 'eard
'em a-singin'! Doleful as 'ell!"

Several men were killed and wounded during the night. One of them was a
sentry with whom I had been talking only a few moments before. He was
standing on the firing-bench looking out into the darkness, when he fell
back into the trench without a cry. It was a terrible wound. I would not
have believed that a bullet could so horribly disfigure one. He was given
first aid by the light of a candle; but it was useless. Silently his
comrades removed his identification disk and wrapped him in a blanket.
"Poor old Walt!" they said. An hour later he was buried in a shell hole
at the back of the trench.

One thing we learned during our first night in the trenches was of the
very first importance. And that was, respect for our enemies. We came
from England full of absurd newspaper tales about the German soldier's
inferiority as a fighting man. We had read that he was a wretched
marksman: he would not stand up to the bayonet: whenever opportunity
offered he crept over and gave himself up: he was poorly fed and clothed
and was so weary of the war that his officers had to drive him to fight,
at the muzzles of their revolvers. We thought him almost beneath
contempt. We were convinced in a night that we had greatly underestimated
his abilities as a marksman. As for his all-round inferiority as a
fighting man, one of the Gloucesters put it rather well:--

"'Ere! If the Germans is so bloomin' rotten, 'ow is it we ain't
a-fightin' 'em sommers along the Rhine, or in Austry-Hungry? No, they
ain't a-firin' wild, I give you my word! Not around this part o' France
they ain't! Wot do you s'y, Jerry?"

Jerry made a most illuminating contribution to the discussion of Fritz as
a fighting man:--

"I'll tell you wot! If ever I gets through this 'ere war; if I 'as the
luck to go 'ome again, with me eyesight, I'll never feel syfe w'en I sees
a Fritzie, unless I'm a-lookin' at 'im through me periscope from be'ind a
bit o' cover."

          *          *          *          *          *          *

How am I to give a really vivid picture of trench life as I saw it for
the first time, how make it live for others, when I remember that the
many descriptive accounts I had read of it in England did not in the
least visualize it for me? I watched the rockets rising from the German
lines, watched them burst into points of light, over the devastated strip
of country called "No-Man's-Land" and drift slowly down. And I watched
the charitable shadows rush back like the very wind of darkness. The
desolate landscape emerged from the gloom and receded again, like a
series of pictures thrown upon a screen. All of this was so new, so
terrible, I doubted its reality. Indeed, I doubted my own identity, as
one does at times when brought face to face with some experiences which
cannot be compared with past experiences or even measured by them. I
groped darkly, for some new truth which was flickering just beyond the
border of consciousness. But I was so blinded by the glamour of the
adventure that it did not come to me then. Later I understood. It was my
first glimmering realization of the tremendous sadness, the awful
futility of war.

                             CHAPTER VI


The following morning we wandered through the trenches listening to the
learned discourse of the genial professors of the Parapet-etic School,
storing up much useful information for future reference. I made a serious
blunder when I asked one of them a question about Ypres, for I pronounced
the name French fashion, which put me under suspicion as a "swanker."

"Don't try to come it, son," he said. "S'y 'Wipers.' That's wot we calls

Henceforth it was "Wipers" for me, although I learned that "Eeps" and
"Yipps" are sanctioned by some trench authorities. I made no further
mistakes of this nature, and by keeping silent about the names of the
towns and villages along our front, I soon learned the accepted
pronunciation of all of them. Armentières is called "Armenteers";
Balleul, "Bally-all"; Hazebrouck, "Hazy-Brook"; and what more natural
than "Plug-Street," Atkinsese for Ploegsteert?

As was the case wherever I went, my accent betrayed my American birth;
and again, as an American Expeditionary Force of one, I was shown many
favors. Private Shorty Holloway, upon learning that I was a "Yank,"
offered to tell me "every bloomin' thing about the trenches that a bloke
needs to know." I was only too glad to place myself under his

"Right you are!" said Shorty; "now, sit down 'ere w'ile I'm goin' over me
shirt, an' arsk me anything yer a mind to." I began immediately by asking
him what he meant by "going over" his shirt.

"Blimy! You are new to this game, mate! You mean to s'y you ain't got any

I confessed shamefacedly that I had not. He stripped to the waist, turned
his shirt wrong side out, and laid it upon his knee.

"'Ave a look," he said proudly.

The less said about my discoveries the better for the fastidiously
minded. Suffice it to say that I made my first acquaintance with members
of a British Expeditionary Force which is not mentioned in official

"Trench pets," said Shorty. Then he told me that they were not all
graybacks. There is a great variety of species, but they all belong to
the same parasitical family, and wage a non-discriminating warfare upon
the soldiery on both sides of No-man's-Land. Germans, British, French,
Belgians alike were their victims.

"You'll soon 'ave plenty," he said reassuringly; "I give you about a week
to get covered with 'em. Now, wot you want to do is this: always 'ave an
extra shirt in yer pack. Don't be a bloomin' ass an' sell it fer a packet
o' fags like I did! An' the next time you writes to England, get some one
to send you out some Keatings"--he displayed a box of grayish-colored
powder. "It won't kill 'em, mind you! They ain't nothin' but fire that'll
kill 'em. But Keatings tykes all the ginger out o' 'em. They ain't near
so lively arter you strafe 'em with this 'ere powder."

I remembered Shorty's advice later when I became a reluctant host to a
prolific colony of graybacks. For nearly six months I was never without a
box of Keatings, and I was never without the need for it.

Barbed wire had a new and terrible significance for me from the first day
which we spent in the trenches. I could more readily understand why there
had been so long a deadlock on the western front. The entanglements in
front of the first line of trenches were from fifteen to twenty yards
wide, the wires being twisted from post to post in such a hopeless jumble
that no man could possibly get through them under fire. The posts were
set firmly in the ground, but there were movable segments, every fifty or
sixty yards, which could be put to one side in case an attack was to be
launched against the German lines.

At certain positions there were what appeared to be openings through the
wire, but these were nothing less than man-traps which have been found
serviceable in case of an enemy attack. In an assault men follow the line
of least resistance when they reach the barbed wire. These apparent
openings are V-shaped, with the open end toward the enemy. The attacking
troops think they see a clear passageway. They rush into the trap, and
when it is filled with struggling men, machine guns are turned upon them,
and, as Shorty said, "You got 'em cold."

That, at least, was the presumption. Practically, man-traps were not
always a success. The intensive bombardments which precede infantry
attacks play havoc with entanglements, but there is always a chance of
the destruction being incomplete, as upon one occasion farther north,
where, Shorty told me, a man-trap caught a whole platoon of Germans "dead
to rights."

"But this is wot gives you the pip," he said. "'Ere we got three lines of
trenches, all of 'em wired up so that a rat couldn't get through without
scratchin' hisself to death. Fritzie's got better wire than wot we 'ave,
an' more of it. An' 'e's got more machine guns, more artill'ry, more
shells. They ain't any little old man-killer ever invented wot they
'aven't got more of than we 'ave. An' at 'ome they're a-s'yin', 'W'y
don't they get on with it? W'y don't they smash through?' Let some of 'em
come out 'ere an' 'ave a try! That's all I got to s'y."

I didn't tell Shorty that I had been, not exactly an armchair critic, but
at least a barrack-room critic in England. I had wondered why British and
French troops had failed to smash through. A few weeks in the trenches
gave me a new viewpoint. I could only wonder at the magnificent fighting
qualities of soldiers who had held their own so effectively against
armies equipped and armed and munitioned as the Germans were.

After he had finished drugging his trench pets, Shorty and I made a tour
of the trenches. I was much surprised at seeing how clean and comfortable
they can be kept in pleasant summer weather. Men were busily at work
sweeping up the walks, collecting the rubbish, which was put into
sandbags hung on pegs at intervals along the fire trench. At night the
refuse was taken back of the trenches and buried. Most of this work
devolved upon the pioneers whose business it was to keep the trenches

The fire trench was built in much the same way as those which we had made
during our training in England. In pattern it was something like a
tesselated border. For the space of five yards it ran straight, then it
turned at right angles around a traverse of solid earth six feet square,
then straight again for another five yards, then around another traverse,
and so throughout the length of the line. Each five-yard segment, which
is called a "bay," offered firing room for five men. The traverses, of
course, were for the purpose of preventing enfilade fire. They also
limited the execution which might be done by one shell. Even so they were
not an unmixed blessing, for they were always in the way when you wanted
to get anywhere in a hurry.

"An' you _are_ in a 'urry w'en you sees a Minnie [_Minnenwerfer_] comin'
your w'y. But you gets trench legs arter a w'ile. It'll be a funny sight
to see blokes walkin' along the street in Lunnon w'en the war's over.
They'll be so used to dodgin' in an' out o' traverses they won't be able
to go in a straight line."

As we walked through the firing-line trenches, I could quite understand
the possibility of one's acquiring trench legs. Five paces forward, two
to the right, two to the left, two to the left again, then five to the
right, and so on to Switzerland. Shorty was of the opinion that one could
enter the trenches on the Channel coast and walk through to the Alps
without once coming out on top of the ground. I am not in a position
either to affirm or to question this statement. My own experience was
confined to that part of the British front which lies between Messines in
Belgium and Loos in France. There, certainly, one could walk for miles,
through an intricate maze of continuous underground passages.

But the firing-line trench was neither a traffic route nor a promenade.
The great bulk of inter-trench business passed through the traveling
trench, about fifteen yards in rear of the fire trench and running
parallel to it. The two were connected by many passageways, the chief
difference between them being that the fire trench was the business
district, while the traveling trench was primarily residential. Along the
latter were built most of the dugouts, lavatories, and trench kitchens.
The sleeping quarters for the men were not very elaborate. Recesses were
made in the wall of the trench about two feet above the floor. They were
not more than three feet high, so that one had to crawl in head first
when going to bed. They were partitioned in the middle, and were supposed
to offer accommodation for four men, two on each side. But, as Shorty
said, everything depended on the ration allowance. Two men who had eaten
to repletion could not hope to occupy the same apartment. One had a
choice of going to bed hungry or of eating heartily and sleeping outside
on the firing-bench.

"'Ere's a funny thing," he said. "W'y do you suppose they makes the
dugouts open at one end?"

I had no explanation to offer.

"Crawl inside an' I'll show you."

I stood my rifle against the side of the trench and crept in.

"Now, yer supposed to be asleep," said Shorty, and with that he gave me a
whack on the soles of my boots with his entrenching tool handle. I can
still feel the pain of the blow.

"Stand to! Wyke up 'ere! Stand to!" he shouted, and gave me another
resounding wallop.

I backed out in all haste.

"Get the idea? That's 'ow they wykes you up at stand-to, or w'en your
turn comes fer sentry. Not bad, wot?"

I said that it all depended on whether one was doing the waking or the
sleeping, and that, for my part, when sleeping, I would lie with my head

"You wouldn't if you belonged to our lot. They'd give it to you on the
napper just as quick as 'it you on the feet. You ain't on to the game,
that's all. Let me show you suthin'."

He crept inside and drew his knees up to his chest so that his feet were
well out of reach. At his suggestion I tried to use the active service
alarm clock on him, but there was not room enough in which to wield it.
My feet were tingling from the effect of his blows, and I felt that the
reputation for resourcefulness of Kitchener's Mob was at stake. In a
moment of inspiration I seized my rifle, gave him a dig in the shins with
the butt, and shouted, "Stand to, Shorty!" He came out rubbing his leg

"You got the idea, mate," he said. "That's just wot they does w'en you
tries to double-cross 'em by pullin' yer feet in. I ain't sure w'ere I
likes it best, on the shins or on the feet."

This explanation of the reason for building three-sided dugouts, while
not, of course, the true one, was none the less interesting. And
certainly, the task of arousing sleeping men for sentry duty was greatly
facilitated with rows of protruding boot soles "simply arskin' to be
'it," as Shorty put it.

All of the dugouts for privates and N.C.O.s were of equal size and built
on the same model, the reason being that the walls and floors, which were
made of wood, and the roofs, which were of corrugated iron, were put
together in sections at the headquarters of the Royal Engineers, who
superintended all the work of trench construction. The material was
brought up at night ready to be fitted into excavations. Furthermore,
with thousands of men to house within a very limited area, space was a
most important consideration. There was no room for indulging individual
tastes in dugout architecture. The roofs were covered with from three to
four feet of earth, which made them proof against shrapnel or shell
splinters. In case of a heavy bombardment with high explosives, the men
took shelter in deep and narrow "slip trenches." These were blind
alleyways leading off from the traveling trench, with room for from ten
to fifteen men in each. At this part of the line there were none of the
very deep shell-proof shelters, from fifteen to twenty feet below the
surface of the ground, of which I had read. Most of the men seemed to be
glad of this. They preferred taking their chances in an open trench
during heavy shell fire.

Realists and Romanticists lived side by side in the traveling trench. "My
Little Gray Home in the West" was the modest legend over one apartment.
The "Ritz Carlton" was next door to "The Rats' Retreat," with "Vermin
Villa" next door but one. "The Suicide Club" was the suburban residence
of some members of the bombing squad. I remarked that the bombers seemed
to take rather a pessimistic view of their profession, whereupon Shorty
told me that if there were any men slated for the Order of the Wooden
Cross, the bombers were those unfortunate ones. In an assault they were
first at the enemy's position. They had dangerous work to do even on the
quietest of days. But theirs was a post of honor, and no one of them but
was proud of his membership in the Suicide Club.

The officers' quarters were on a much more generous and elaborate scale
than those of the men. This I gathered from Shorty's description of them,
for I saw only the exteriors as we passed along the trench. Those for
platoon and company commanders were built along the traveling trench. The
colonel, major, and adjutant lived in a luxurious palace, about fifty
yards down a communication trench. Near it was the officers' mess, a café
de luxe with glass panels in the door, a cooking stove, a long wooden
table, chairs,--everything, in fact, but hot and cold running water.

"You know," said Shorty, "the officers thinks they 'as to rough it, but
they got it soft, I'm tellin' you! Wooden bunks to sleep in, batmen to
bring 'em 'ot water fer shavin' in the mornin', all the fags they
wants,--Blimy, I wonder wot they calls livin' 'igh?"

I agreed that in so far as living quarters are concerned, they were
roughing it under very pleasant circumstances. However, they were not
always so fortunate, as later experience proved. Here there had been
little serious fighting for months and the trenches were at their best.
Elsewhere the officers' dugouts were often but little better than those
of the men.

The first-line trenches were connected with two lines of support or
reserve trenches built in precisely the same fashion, and each heavily
wired. The communication trenches which joined them were from seven to
eight feet deep and wide enough to permit the convenient passage of
incoming and outgoing troops, and the transport of the wounded back to
the field dressing stations. From the last reserve line they wound on
backward through the fields until troops might leave them well out of
range of rifle fire. Under Shorty's guidance I saw the field dressing
stations, the dugouts for the reserve ammunition supply and the stores of
bombs and hand grenades, battalion and brigade trench headquarters. We
wandered from one part of the line to another through trenches, all of
which were kept amazingly neat and clean. The walls were stayed with
fine-mesh wire to hold the earth in place. The floors were covered with
board walks carefully laid over the drains, which ran along the center of
the trench and emptied into deep wells, built in recesses in the walls. I
felt very much encouraged when I saw the careful provisions for
sanitation and drainage. On a fine June morning it seemed probable that
living in ditches was not to be so unpleasant as I had imagined it.
Shorty listened to my comments with a smile.

"Don't pat yerself on the back yet a w'ile, mate," he said. "They looks
right enough now, but wite till you've seen 'em arter a 'eavy rain."

I had this opportunity many times during the summer and autumn. A more
wretched existence than that of soldiering in wet weather could hardly be
imagined. The walls of the trenches caved in in great masses. The drains
filled to overflowing, and the trench walks were covered deep in mud.
After a few hours of rain, dry and comfortable trenches became a
quagmire, and we were kept busy for days afterward repairing the damage.

As a machine gunner I was particularly interested in the construction of
the machine-gun emplacements. The covered battle positions were very
solidly built. The roofs were supported with immense logs or steel
girders covered over with many layers of sandbags. There were two
carefully concealed loopholes looking out to a flank, but none for
frontal fire, as this dangerous little weapon best enjoys catching troops
in enfilade owing to the rapidity and the narrow cone of its fire. Its
own front is protected by the guns on its right and left. At each
emplacement there was a range chart giving the ranges to all parts of the
enemy's trenches, and to every prominent object both in front of and
behind them, within its field of fire. When not in use the gun was kept
mounted and ready for action in the battle position.

"But remember this," said Shorty, "you never fires from your battle
position except in case of attack. W'en you goes out at night to 'ave a
little go at Fritzie, you always tykes yer gun sommers else. If you
don't, you'll 'ave Minnie an' Busy Bertha an' all the rest o' the Krupp
childern comin' over to see w'ere you live."

This was a wise precaution, as we were soon to learn from experience.
Machine guns are objects of special interest to the artillery, and the
locality from which they are fired becomes very unhealthy for some little
time thereafter.

We stopped for a moment at "The Mud Larks' Hairdressing Parlor," a very
important institution if one might judge by its patronage. It was housed
in a recess in the wall of the traveling trench, and was open to the sky.
There I saw the latest fashion in "oversea" hair cuts. The victims sat on
a ration box while the barber mowed great swaths through tangled thatch
with a pair of close-cutting clippers. But instead of making a complete
job of it, a thick fringe of hair which resembled a misplaced scalping
tuft was left for decorative purposes, just above the forehead. The
effect was so grotesque that I had to invent an excuse for laughing. It
was a lame one, I fear, for Shorty looked at me warningly. When we had
gone on a little way he said:--

"Ain't it a proper beauty parlor? But you got to be careful about
larfin'. Some o' the blokes thinks that 'edge-row is a regular ornament."

I had supposed that a daily shave was out of the question on the
firing-line; but the British Tommy is nothing if not resourceful.
Although water is scarce and fuel even more so, the self-respecting
soldier easily surmounts difficulties, and the Gloucesters were all nice
in matters pertaining to the toilet. Instead of draining their canteens
of tea, they saved a few drops for shaving purposes.

"It's a bit sticky," said Shorty, "but it's 'ot, an' not 'arf bad w'en
you gets used to it. Now, another thing you don't want to ferget is this:
W'en yer movin' up fer yer week in the first line, always bring a bundle
o' firewood with you. They ain't so much as a match-stick left in the
trenches. Then you wants to be savin' of it. Don't go an' use it all the
first d'y or you'll 'ave to do without yer tea the rest o' the week."

I remembered his emphasis upon this point afterward when I saw men
risking their lives in order to procure firewood. Without his tea Tommy
was a wretched being. I do not remember a day, no matter how serious the
fighting, when he did not find both the time and the means for making it.

Shorty was a Ph.D. in every subject in the curriculum, including domestic
science. In preparing breakfast he gave me a practical demonstration of
the art of conserving a limited resource of fuel, bringing our two
canteens to a boil with a very meager handful of sticks; and while doing
so he delivered an oral thesis on the best methods of food preparation.
For example, there was the item of corned beef--familiarly called
"bully." It was the _pièce de résistance_ at every meal with the possible
exception of breakfast, when there was usually a strip of bacon. Now,
one's appetite for "bully" becomes jaded in the course of a few weeks or
months. To use the German expression one doesn't eat it _gern_. But it
is not a question of liking it. One must eat it or go hungry. Therefore,
said Shorty, save carefully all of your bacon grease, and instead of
eating your "bully" cold out of the tin, mix it with bread crumbs and
grated cheese and fry it in the grease. He prepared some in this way, and
I thought it a most delectable dish. Another way of stimulating the
palate was to boil the beef in a solution of bacon grease and water, and
then, while eating it, "kid yerself that it's Irish stew." This second
method of taking away the curse did not appeal to me very strongly, and
Shorty admitted that he practiced such self-deception with very
indifferent success; for after all "bully" was "bully" in whatever form
you ate it.

In addition to this staple, the daily rations consisted of bacon, bread,
cheese, jam, army biscuits, tea, and sugar. Sometimes they received a
tinned meat and vegetable ration, already cooked, and at welcome
intervals fresh meat and potatoes were substituted for corned beef. Each
man had a very generous allowance of food, a great deal more, I thought,
than he could possibly eat. Shorty explained this by saying that
allowance was made for the amount which would be consumed by the rats and
the blue-bottle flies.

There were, in fact, millions of flies. They settled in great swarms
along the walls of the trenches, which were filled to the brim with warm
light as soon as the sun had climbed a little way up the sky. Empty
tin-lined ammunition boxes were used as cupboards for food. But of what
avail were cupboards to a jam-loving and jam-fed British army living in
open ditches in the summer time? Flytraps made of empty jam tins were set
along the top of the parapet. As soon as one was filled, another was set
in its place. But it was an unequal war against an expeditionary force of
countless numbers.

"They ain't nothin' you can do," said Shorty. "They steal the jam right
off yer bread."

As for the rats, speaking in the light of later experience, I can say
that an army corps of pied pipers would not have sufficed to entice away
the hordes of them that infested the trenches, living like house pets on
our rations. They were great lazy animals, almost as large as cats, and
so gorged with food that they could hardly move. They ran over us in the
dugouts at night, and filched cheese and crackers right through the heavy
waterproofed covering of our haversacks. They squealed and fought among
themselves at all hours. I think it possible that they were carrion
eaters, but never, to my knowledge, did they attack living men. While
they were unpleasant bedfellows, we became so accustomed to them that we
were not greatly concerned about our very intimate associations.

Our course of instruction at the Parapet-etic School was brought to a
close late in the evening when we shouldered our packs, bade good-bye to
our friends the Gloucesters, and marched back in the moonlight to our
billets. I had gained an entirely new conception of trench life, of the
difficulties involved in trench building, and the immense amount of
material and labor needed for the work.

Americans who are interested in learning of these things at first hand
will do well to make the grand tour of the trenches when the war is
finished. Perhaps the thrifty continentals will seek to commercialize
such advantage as misfortune has brought them, in providing favorable
opportunities. Perhaps the Touring Club of France will lay out a new
route, following the windings of the firing line from the Channel coast
across the level fields of Flanders, over the Vosges Mountains to the
borders of Switzerland. Pedestrians may wish to make the journey on foot,
cooking their supper over Tommy's rusty biscuit-tin stoves, sleeping at
night in the dugouts where he lay shivering with cold during the winter
nights of 1914 and 1915. If there are enthusiasts who will be satisfied
with only the most intimate personal view of the trenches, if there are
those who would try to understand the hardships and discomforts of trench
life by living it during a summer vacation, I would suggest that they
remember Private Shorty Holloway's parting injunction to me:--

"Now, don't ferget, Jamie!" he said as we shook hands, "always 'ave a box
o' Keatings 'andy, an' 'ang on to yer extra shirt!"

                             CHAPTER VII

                           MIDSUMMER CALM

During our first summer in the trenches there were days, sometimes weeks
at a time, when, in the language of the official bulletins, there was
"nothing to report," or "calm" prevailed "along our entire front." From
the War Office point of view these statements were, doubtless, true
enough. But from Tommy Atkins's point of view, "calm" was putting it
somewhat mildly. Life in the trenches, even on the quietest of days, is
full of adventure highly spiced with danger. Snipers, machine gunners,
artillerymen, airmen, engineers of the opposing sides, vie with each
other in skill and daring, in order to secure that coveted advantage, the
morale. Tommy calls it the "more-ale," but he jolly well knows when he
has it and when he hasn't.

There were many nights of official calm when we machine gunners crept out
of the trenches with our guns to positions prepared beforehand, either in
front of the line or to the rear of it. There we waited for messages from
our listening patrols, who were lying in the tall grass of "the front
yard." They sent word to us immediately when they discovered enemy
working parties building up their parapets or mending their barbed-wire
entanglements. We would then lay our guns according to instructions
received and blaze away, each gun firing at the rate of from three
hundred to five hundred rounds per minute. After a heavy burst of fire,
we would change our positions at once. It was then that the most exciting
part of our work began. For as soon as we ceased firing, there were
answering fusillades from hundreds of German rifles. And within two or
three minutes, German field artillery began a search for us with
shrapnel. We crawled from one position to another over the open ground or
along shallow ditches, dug for the purpose. These offered protection from
rifle fire, but frequently the shell fire was so heavy and so well
directed that we were given some very unpleasant half-hours, lying flat
on our faces, listening to the deafening explosions and the vicious
whistling of flying shrapnel.

We fired from the trenches, as well as in front and to the rear of them.
We were, in fact, busy during most of the night, for it was our duty to
see to it that our guns lived up to their reputation as "weapons of
opportunity and surprise." With the aid of large-scale maps, we located
all of the roads, within range, back of the German lines; roads which we
knew were used by enemy troops moving in and out of the trenches. We
located all of their communication trenches leading back to the rear; and
at uncertain intervals we covered roads and trenches with bursts of
searching fire.

The German gunners were by no means inactive. They, too, profited by
their knowledge of night life in the firing-line, their knowledge of
soldier nature. They knew, as did we, that the roads in the rear of the
trenches are filled, at night, with troops, transport wagons, and fatigue
parties. They knew, as did we, that men become so utterly weary of living
in ditches--living in holes, like rats--that they are willing to take big
risks when moving in or out of the trenches, for the pure joy of getting
up on top of the ground. Many a night when we were moving up for our week
in the first line, or back for our week in reserve, we heard the far-off
rattle of German Maxims, and in an instant, the bullets would be
zip-zipping all around us. There was no need for the sharp word of
command. If there was a communication trench at hand, we all made a dive
for it at once. If there was not, we fell face down, in ditches, shell
holes, in any place which offered a little protection from that terrible
hail of lead. Many of our men were killed and wounded nightly by
machine-gun fire, usually because they were too tired to be cautious.
And, doubtless, we did as much damage with our own guns. It seemed to me
horrible, something in the nature of murder, that advantage must be taken
of these opportunities. But it was all a part of the game of war; and
fortunately, we rarely knew, nor did the Germans, what damage was done
during those summer nights of "calm along the entire front."

The artillerymen, both British and German, did much to relieve the
boredom of those "nothing to report" days. There were desultory
bombardments of the trenches at daybreak, and at dusk, when every
infantryman is at his post, rifle in hand, bayonet fixed, on the alert
for signs of a surprise attack. If it was a bombardment with shrapnel,
Tommy was not greatly concerned, for in trenches he is fairly safe from
shrapnel fire. But if the shells were large-caliber high explosives, he
crouched close to the front wall of the trench, lamenting the day he was
foolish enough to become an infantryman, "a bloomin' 'uman ninepin!"
Covered with dirt, sometimes half-buried in fallen trench, he wagered his
next week's tobacco rations that the London papers would print the same
old story: "Along the western front there is nothing to report." And
usually he won.

Trench mortaring was more to our liking. That is an infantryman's game,
and, while extremely hazardous, the men in the trenches have a sporting
chance. Every one forgot breakfast when word was passed down the line
that we were going to "mortarfy" Fritzie. The last-relief night sentries,
who had just tumbled sleepily into their dugouts, tumbled out of them
again to watch the fun. Fatigue parties, working in the communication
trenches, dropped their picks and shovels and came hurrying up to the
first line. Eagerly, expectantly, every one waited for the sport to
begin. Our projectiles were immense balls of hollow steel, filled with
high explosive of tremendous power. They were fired from a small gun,
placed, usually, in the first line of reserve trenches. A dull boom from
the rear warned us that the game had started.

"There she is!" "See 'er? Goin' true as a die!" "She's go'n' to 'it!
She's go'n' to 'it!" All of the boys would be shouting at once. Up it
goes, turning over and over, rising to a height of several hundred feet.
Then, if well aimed, it reaches the end of its upward journey directly
over the enemy's line, and falls straight into his trench. There is a
moment of silence, followed by a terrific explosion which throws dirt and
débris high in the air. By this time every Tommy along the line is
standing on the firing-bench, head and shoulders above the parapet, quite
forgetting his own danger in his excitement, and shouting at the top of
his voice.

"'Ow's that one, Fritzie boy?"

"Gooten morgen, you Proosian sausage-wallopers!"

"Tyke a bit o' that there 'ome to yer missus!"

But Fritzie could be depended upon to keep up his end of the game. He
gave us just as good as we sent, and often he added something for full
measure. His surprises were sausage-shaped missiles which came wobbling
toward us, slowly, almost awkwardly; but they dropped with lightning
speed, and alas, for any poor Tommy who misjudged the place of its fall!
However, every one had a chance. Trench-mortar projectiles are so large
that one can see them coming, and they describe so leisurely an arc
before they fall that men have time to run.

I have always admired Tommy Atkins for his sense of fair play. He enjoyed
giving Fritz "a little bit of all-right," but he never resented it when
Fritz had his own fun at our expense. In the far-off days of peace, I
used to lament the fact that we had fallen upon evil times. I read of old
wars with a feeling of regret that men had lost their old primal love for
dangerous sport, their naïve ignorance of fear. All the brave, heroic
things of life were said and done. But on those trench-mortaring days,
when I watched boys playing with death with right good zest, heard them
shouting and laughing as they tumbled over one another in their eagerness
to escape it, I was convinced of my error. Daily I saw men going through
the test of fire triumphantly, and, at the last, what a severe test it
was! And how splendidly they met it! During six months continuously in
the firing-line, I met less than a dozen natural-born cowards; and my
experience was largely with plumbers, drapers' assistants, clerks, men
who had no fighting traditions to back them up, make them heroic in spite
of themselves.

The better I knew Tommy, the better I liked him. He hasn't a shred of
sentimentality in his make-up. There is plenty of sentiment, sincere
feeling, but it is admirably concealed. I had been a soldier of the King
for many months before I realized that the men with whom I was living,
sharing rations and hardships, were anything other than the healthy
animals they looked. They relished their food and talked about it. They
grumbled at the restraints military discipline imposed upon them, and at
the paltry shilling a day which they received for the first really hard
work they had ever done. They appeared to regard England as a miserly
employer, exacting their last ounce of energy for a wretchedly inadequate
wage. To the casual observer, theirs was not the ardor of loyal sons,
fighting for a beloved motherland. Rather, it seemed that of
irresponsible schoolboys on a long holiday. They said nothing about
patriotism or the duty of Englishmen in war-time. And if I attempted to
start a conversation along that line, they walked right over me with
their boots on.

This was a great disappointment at first. I should never have known, from
anything that was said, that a man of them was stirred at the thought of
fighting for old England. England was all right, but "I ain't goin' balmy
about the old flag and all that stuff." Many of them insisted that they
were in the army for personal and selfish reasons alone. They went out of
their way to ridicule any and every indication of sentiment.

There was the matter of talk about mothers, for example. I can't imagine
this being the case in a volunteer army of American boys, but not once,
during fifteen months of British army life, did I hear a discussion of
mothers. When the weekly parcels from England arrived and the boys were
sharing their cake and chocolate and tobacco, one of them would say,
"Good old mum. She ain't a bad sort"; to be answered with reluctant,
mouth-filled grunts, or grudging nods of approval. As for fathers, I
often thought to myself, "What a tremendous army of posthumous sons!"
Months before I would have been astonished at this reticence. But I had
learned to understand Tommy. His silences were as eloquent as any
splendid outbursts or glowing tributes could have been. Indeed, they were
far more eloquent! Englishmen seem to have an instinctive understanding
of the futility, the emptiness, of words in the face of unspeakable
experiences. It was a matter of constant wonder to me that men, living in
the daily and hourly presence of death, could so surely control and
conceal their feelings. Their talk was of anything but home; and yet, I
knew they thought of but little else.

One of our boys was killed, and there was the letter to be written to his
parents. Three Tommies who knew him best were to attempt this. They made
innumerable beginnings. Each of them was afraid of blundering, of causing
unnecessary pain by an indelicate revelation of the facts. There was a
feminine fineness about their concern which was beautiful to see. The
final draft of the letter was a little masterpiece, not of English, but
of insight; such a letter as any one of us would have wished his own
parents to receive under like circumstances. Nothing was forgotten which
could have made the news in the slightest degree more endurable. Every
trifling personal belonging was carefully saved and packed in a little
box to follow the letter. All of this was done amid much boisterous
jesting. And there was the usual hilarious singing to the wheezing
accompaniment of an old mouth-organ. But of reference to home, or
mothers, or comradeship,--nothing.

Rarely a night passed without its burial parties. "Digging in the garden"
Tommy calls the grave-making. The bodies, wrapped in blankets or
waterproof ground-sheets, are lifted over the parados, and carried back a
convenient twenty yards or more. The desolation of that garden, choked
with weeds and a wild growth of self-sown crops, is indescribable. It was
wreckage-strewn, gaping with shell holes, billowing with innumerable
graves, a waste land speechlessly pathetic. The poplar trees and willow
hedges have been blasted and splintered by shell fire. Tommy calls these
"Kaiser Bill's flowers." Coming from England, he feels more deeply than
he would care to admit the crimes done to trees in the name of war.

Our chaplain was a devout man, but prudent to a fault. Never, to my
knowledge, did he visit us in the trenches. Therefore our burial parties
proceeded without the rites of the Church. This arrangement was highly
satisfactory to Tommy. He liked to "get the planting done" with the least
possible delay or fuss. His whispered conversations while the graves were
being scooped were, to say the least, quite out of the spirit of the
occasion. Once we were burying two boys with whom we had been having
supper a few hours before. There was an artillery duel in progress, the
shells whistling high over our heads, and bursting in great splotches of
white fire, far in rear of the opposing lines of trenches. The
grave-making went speedily on, while the burial party argued in whispers
as to the caliber of the guns. Some said they were six-inch, while others
thought nine-inch. Discussion was momentarily suspended when a trench
rocket shot in an arc from the enemy's line. We crouched, motionless,
until the welcome darkness spread again.

And then, in loud whispers:--

"'Ere! If they was nine-inch, they would 'ave more screech."

And one from the other school of opinion would reply:--

"Don't talk so bloomin' silly! Ain't I a-tellin' you that you can't
always size 'em by the screech?"

Not a prayer; not a word, either of censure or of praise, for the boys
who had gone; not an expression of opinion as to the meaning of the great
change which had come to them and which might come, as suddenly, to any
or all of us. And yet I knew that they were each thinking of these

There were days when the front was really quiet. The thin trickle of
rifle fire only accentuated the stillness of an early summer morning. Far
down the line Tommy could be heard, singing to himself as he sat in the
door of his dugout, cleaning his rifle, or making a careful scrutiny of
his shirt for those unwelcome little parasites which made life so
miserable for him at all times. There were pleasant cracklings of burning
pine sticks and the sizzle of frying bacon. Great swarms of bluebottle
flies buzzed lazily in the warm sunshine. Sometimes, across a pool of
noonday silence, we heard birds singing; for the birds didn't desert us.
When we gave them a hearing, they did their cheery little best to assure
us that everything would come right in the end. Once we heard a skylark,
an English skylark, singing over No-Man's-Land! I scarcely know which
gave me more pleasure, the song, or the sight of the faces of those
English lads as they listened. I was deeply touched when one of them

"Ain't 'e a plucky little chap, singin' right in front of Fritzie's
trenches fer us English blokes?"

It was a sincere and fitting tribute, as perfect for a soldier as
Shelley's "Ode" for a poet.

Along the part of the British front which we held during the summer, the
opposing lines of trenches were from less than a hundred to four hundred
and fifty or five hundred yards apart. When we were neighborly as regards
distance, we were also neighborly as regards social intercourse. In the
early mornings when the heavy night mists still concealed the lines, the
boys stood head and shoulders above the parapet and shouted:--

"Hi, Fritzie!"

And the greeting was returned:--

"Hi, Tommy!"

Then we conversed. Very few of us knew German, but it is surprising how
many Germans could speak English. Frequently they shouted, "Got any
'woodbines,' Tommy?"--his favorite brand of cigarettes; and Tommy would
reply, "Sure! Shall I bring 'em over or will you come an' fetch 'em?"
This was often the ice-breaker, the beginning of a conversation which
varied considerably in other details.

"Who are you?" Fritzie would shout.

And Tommy, "We're the King's Own 'Ymn of 'Aters"; some such subtle
repartee as that. "Wot's your mob?"

"We're a battalion of Irish rifles." The Germans liked to provoke us by
pretending that the Irish were disloyal to England.

Sometimes they shouted:--

"Any of you from London?"

"Not arf! Wot was you a-doin' of in London? Witin' tible at Sam Isaac's

The rising of the mists put an end to these conversations. Sometimes they
were concluded earlier with bursts of rifle and machine-gun fire. "All
right to be friendly," Tommy would say, "but we got to let 'em know this
ain't no love-feast."

                            CHAPTER VIII

                            UNDER COVER


    "We come acrost the Channel
    For to wallop Germany;
    But they 'aven't got no soldiers--
    Not that any one can see.
    They plug us with their rifles
    An' they let their shrapnel fly,
    But they never takes a pot at us
    Exceptin' on the sly.

    "Fritzie w'en you comin' out?
    This wot you calls a fight?
    You won't never get to Calais
    Always keepin' out o' sight.

    "We're a goin' back to Blightey--
    Wot's the use a-witin' 'ere
    Like a lot o' bloomin' mud-larks
    Fer old Fritzie to appear?
    'E never puts 'is napper up
    Above the parapet.
    We been in France fer seven months
    An' 'aven't seen 'im yet!"

So sang Tommy, the incorrigible parodist, during the long summer days and
nights of 1915, when he was impatiently waiting for something to turn up.
For three months and more we were face to face with an enemy whom we
rarely saw. It was a weird experience. Rifles cracked, bullets zip-zipped
along the top of the parapet, great shells whistled over our heads or
tore immense holes in the trenches, trench-mortar projectiles and
hand-grenades were hurled at us, and yet there was not a living soul to
be seen across the narrow strip of No-Man's-Land, whence all this
murderous rain of steel and lead was coming. Daily we kept careful and
continuous watch, searching the long, curving line of German trenches and
the ground behind them with our periscopes and field-glasses, and nearly
always with the same barren result. We saw only the thin wreaths of smoke
rising, morning and evening, from trench fires; the shattered trees, the
forlorn and silent ruins, the long grass waving in the wind.

Although we were often within two hundred yards of thousands of German
soldiers, rarely farther than four hundred yards away, I did not see one
of them until we had been in the trenches for more than six weeks, and
then only for the interval of a second or two. My German was building up
a piece of damaged parapet. I watched the earth being thrown over the top
of the trench, when suddenly a head appeared, only to be immediately
withdrawn. One of our snipers had evidently been watching, too. A rifle
cracked and I saw a cloud of dust arise where the bullet clipped the top
of the parapet. The German waved his spade defiantly in the air and
continued digging; but he remained discreetly under cover thereafter.

This marked an epoch in my experience in a war of unseen forces. I had
actually beheld a German, although Tommy insisted that it was only the
old caretaker, "the bloke wot keeps the trenches tidy." This mythical
personage, a creature of Tommy's own fancy, assumed a very real
importance during the summer when the attractions at the Western Theater
of War were only mildly interesting. "Carl the caretaker" was supposed to
be a methodical old man whom the Emperor had left in charge of his
trenches on the western front during the absence of the German armies in
Russia. Many were the stories told about him at different parts of the
line. Sometimes he was endowed with a family. His "missus" and his "three
little nippers" were with him, and together they were blocking the way to
Berlin of the entire British Army. Sometimes he was "Hans the Grenadier,"
owing to his fondness for nightly bombing parties. Sometimes he was
"Minnie's husband," Minnie being that redoubtable lady known in polite
military circles as a "Minnenwerfer." As already explained, she was
sausage-like in shape, and frightfully demonstrative. When she went
visiting at the behest of her husband, Tommy usually contrived to be "not
at home," whereupon Minnie wrecked the house and disappeared in a cloud
of dense black smoke.

One imagines all sorts of monstrous things about an unseen enemy. The
strain of constantly watching and seeing nothing became almost unbearable
at times. We were often too far apart to have our early morning
interchange of courtesies, and then the constant _phtt-phtt_ of bullets
annoyed and exasperated us. I for one welcomed any evidence that our
opponents were fathers and husbands and brothers just as we were. I
remember my delight, one fine summer morning, at seeing three great kites
soaring above the German line. There is much to be said for men who enjoy
flying kites. Once they mounted a dummy figure of a man on their parapet.
Tommy had great sport shooting at it, the Germans jiggling its arms and
legs in a most laughable manner whenever a hit was registered. In their
eagerness to "get a good bead" on the figure, the men threw caution to
the winds, and stood on the firing-benches, shooting over the top of the
parapet. Fritz and Hans were true sportsmen while the fun was on, and did
not once fire at us. Then the dummy was taken down, and we returned to
the more serious game of war with the old deadly earnestness. I recall
such incidents with joy as I remember certain happy events in childhood.
We needed these trivial occurrences to keep us sane and human. There were
not many of them, but such as there were, we talked of for days and weeks

As for the matter of keeping out of sight, there was a good deal to be
said on both sides. Although Tommy was impatient with his prudent enemy
and sang songs, twitting him about always keeping under cover, he did not
usually forget, in the daytime at least, to make his own observations of
the German line with caution. Telescopic sights have made the business of
sniping an exact science. They magnify the object aimed at many
diameters, and if it remains in view long enough to permit the pulling of
a trigger, the chances of a hit are almost one hundred per cent.


Snipers have a roving commission. They move from one part of the line to
another, sometimes firing from carefully concealed loopholes in the
parapet, sometimes from snipers' nests in trees or hedges. Often they
creep out into the tall grass of No-Man's-Land. There, with a plentiful
supply of food and ammunition, they remain for a day or two at a time,
lying in wait for victims. It was a cold-blooded business, and hateful to
some of the men. With others, the passion for it grew. They kept tally of
their victims by cutting notches on the butts of their rifles.

I well remember the pleasant June day when I first met a "butt-notcher."
I was going for water, to an old farmhouse about half a mile from our
sector of trench. It was a day of bright sunshine. Poppies and buttercups
had taken root in the banks of earth heaped up on either side of the
communication trench. They were nodding their heads as gayly in the
breeze as of old did Wordsworth's daffodils in the quiet countryside at
Rydal Mount. It was a joy to see them there, reminding one that God was
still in his heaven, whatever might be wrong with the world. It was a joy
to be alive, a joy which one could share unselfishly with friend and
enemy alike. The colossal stupidity of war was never more apparent to me
than upon that day. I hated my job, and if I hated any man, it was the
one who had invented the murderous little weapon known as a machine gun.

I longed to get out on top of the ground. I wanted to lie at full length
in the grass; for it was June, and Nature has a way of making one feel
the call of June, even from the bottom of a communication trench seven
feet deep. Flowers and grass peep down at one, and white clouds sail
placidly across

    "The strip of blue we prisoners call the sky."

I felt that I must see all of the sky and see it at once. Therefore I set
down my water-cans, one on top of the other, stepped up on them, and was
soon over the top of the trench, crawling through the tall grass toward a
clump of willows about fifty yards away. I passed two lonely graves with
their wooden crosses hidden in depths of shimmering, waving green, and
found an old rifle, its stock weather-warped and the barrel eaten away
with rust. The ground was covered with tin cans, fragments of shell-casing,
and rubbish of all sorts; but it was hidden from view. Men had been
laying waste the earth during the long winter, and now June was healing
the wounds with flowers and cool green grasses.

I was sorry that I went to the willows, for it was there that I found the
sniper. He had a wonderfully concealed position, which was made
bullet-proof with steel plates and sandbags, all covered so naturally
with growing grass and willow bushes that it would have been impossible
to detect it at a distance of ten yards. In fact, I would not have
discovered it had it not been for the loud crack of a rifle sounding so
close at hand. I crept on to investigate and found the sniper looking
quite disappointed.

"Missed the blighter!" he said. Then he told me that it wasn't a good
place for a sniper's nest at all. For one thing, it was too far back,
nearly a half-mile from the German trenches. Furthermore, it was a
mistake to plant a nest in a solitary clump of willows such as this: a
clump of trees offers too good an aiming mark for artillery: much better
to make a position right out in the open. However, so far he had not been
annoyed by shell fire. A machine gun had searched for him, but he had
adequate cover from machine-gun fire.

"But, blimy! You ought to 'a' 'eard the row w'en the bullets was
a-smackin' against the sandbags! Somebody was a-knockin' at the door, I
give you _my_ word!"

However, it wasn't such a "dusty little coop," and he had a good field of
fire. He had registered four hits during the day, and he proudly
displayed four new notches on a badly notched butt in proof of the fact.

"There's a big 'ole w'ere the artill'ry pushed in their parapet larst
night. That's w'ere I caught me larst one, 'bout a 'arf-hour ago. A bloke
goes by every little w'ile an' fergets to duck 'is napper. Tyke yer
field-glasses an' watch me clip the next one. Quarter left it is, this
side the old 'ouse with the 'ole in the wall."

I focused my glasses and waited. Presently he said, in a very cool,
matter-of-fact voice:--

"There's one comin'. See 'im? 'E's carryin' a plank. You can see it
stickin' up above the parapet. 'E's a-go'n' to get a nasty one if 'e
don't duck w'en he comes to that 'ole."

I found the moving plank and followed it along the trench as it
approached nearer and nearer to the opening; and I was guilty of the most
unprofessional conduct, for I kept thinking, as hard as I could, "Duck,
Fritzie! Whatever you do, duck when you come to that hole!" And surely
enough, he did. The plank was lowered into the trench just before the
opening was reached, and the top of it reappeared again, a moment later,
on the other side of the opening. The sniper was greatly disappointed.

"Now, wouldn't that give you the camel's 'ump?" he said. "I believe
you're a Joner to me, matey."

Presently another man carrying a plank went along the trench and he
ducked, too.

"Grease off, Jerry!" said the butt-notcher. "Yer bringin' me bad luck.
'Owever, they prob'ly got that place taped. They lost one man there an'
they won't lose another, not if they knows it."

I talked with many snipers at different parts of the line. It was
interesting to get their points of view, to learn what their reaction was
to their work. The butt-notchers were very few. Although snipers
invariably took pride in their work, it was the sportsman's pride in good
marksmanship rather than the love of killing for its own sake. The
general attitude was that of a corporal whom I knew. He never fired
hastily, but when he did pull the trigger, his bullet went true to the

"You can't 'elp feelin' sorry for the poor blighters," he would say, "but
it's us or them, an' every one you knocks over means one of our blokes

I have no doubt that the Germans felt the same way about us. At any rate,
they thoroughly believed in the policy of attrition, and in carrying it
out they often wasted thousands of rounds in sniping every yard of our
parapet. The sound was deafening at times, particularly when there were
ruined walls of houses or a row of trees just back of our trenches. The
ear-splitting reports were hurled against them and seemed to be shattered
into thousands of fragments, the sound rattling and tumbling on until it
died away far in the distance.


Meanwhile, like furtive inhabitants of an infamous underworld, we
remained hidden in our lairs in the daytime, waiting for night when we
could creep out of our holes and go about our business under cover of
darkness. Sleep is a luxury indulged in but rarely in the first-line
trenches. When not on sentry duty at night, the men were organized into
working parties, and sent out in front of the trenches to mend the
barbed-wire entanglements which are being constantly destroyed by
artillery fire; or, in summer, to cut the tall grass and the weeds which
would otherwise offer concealment to enemy listening patrols or bombing
parties. Ration fatigues of twenty or thirty men per company went back to
meet the battalion transport wagons at some point several miles in rear
of the firing-line. There were trench supplies and stores to be brought
up as well, and the never-finished business of mending and improving the
trenches kept many off-duty men employed during the hours of darkness.

The men on duty in front of the trenches were always in very great
danger. They worked swiftly and silently, but they were often discovered,
in which case the only warning they received was a sudden burst of
machine-gun fire. Then would come urgent calls for "Stretcher bearers!"
and soon the wreckage was brought in over the parapet. The stretchers
were set down in the bottom of the trench and hasty examinations made by
the light of a flash lamp.

"W'ere's 'e caught it?"

"'Ere it is, through the leg. Tyke 'is puttee off, one of you!"

"Easy, now! It's smashed the bone! Stick it, matey! We'll soon 'ave you
as right as rain!"

"Fer Gawd's sake, boys, go easy! It's givin' me 'ell! Let up! Let up just
a minute!"

Many a conversation of this sort did we hear at night when the
field-dressings were being put on. But even in his suffering Tommy never
forgot to be unrighteously indignant if he had been wounded when on a
working party. What could he say to the women of England who would bring
him fruit and flowers in hospital, call him a "poor brave fellow," and
ask how he was wounded? He had enlisted as a soldier, and as a reward for
his patriotism the Government had given him a shovel, "an' 'ere I am,
workin' like a bloomin' navvy, fillin' sandbags full o' France, w'en I up
an' gets plugged!" The men who most bitterly resented the pick-and-shovel
phase of army life were given a great deal of it to do for that very
reason. One of my comrades was shot in the leg while digging a refuse
pit. The wound was a bad one and he suffered much pain, but the
humiliation was even harder to bear. What could he tell them at home?

"Do you think I'm a go'n' to s'y I was a-carryin' a sandbag full of old
jam tins back to the refuse pit w'en Fritzie gave me this 'ere one in the
leg? Not so bloomin' likely! I was afraid I'd get one like this! Ain't it
a rotten bit o' luck!"

If he had to be a casualty Tommy wanted to be an interesting one. He
wanted to fall in the heat of battle, not in the heat of inglorious
fatigue duty.

But there was more heroic work to be done: going out on listening patrol,
for example. One patrol, consisting of a sergeant or a corporal and four
or five privates, was sent out from each company. It was the duty of
these men to cover the area immediately in front of the company line of
trench, to see and hear without being discovered, and to report
immediately any activity of the enemy, above or below ground, of which
they might learn. They were on duty for from three to five hours, and
might use a wide discretion in their prowlings, provided they kept within
the limits of frontage allotted to their own company, and returned to the
meeting-place where the change of reliefs was made. These requirements
were not easily complied with, unless there were trees or other prominent
landmarks standing out against the sky by means of which a patrol could
keep its direction.

The work required, above everything else, cool heads and stout hearts.
There was the ever-present danger of meeting an enemy patrol or bombing
party, in which case, if they could not be avoided, there would be a
hand-to-hand encounter with bayonets, or a noisy exchange of
hand-grenades. There was danger, too, of a false alarm started by a
nervous sentry. It needs but a moment for such an alarm to become
general, so great is the nervous tension at which men live on the
firing-line. Terrific fusillades from both sides followed while the
listening patrols flattened themselves out on the ground, and listened,
in no pleasant frame of mind, to the bullets whistling over their heads.
But at night, and under the stress of great excitement, men fire high.
Strange as it may seem, one is comparatively safe even in the open, when
lying flat on the ground.

Bombing affairs were of almost nightly occurrence. Tommy enjoyed these
extremely hazardous adventures which he called "Carryin' a 'app'orth o'
'ate to Fritzie," a halfpenny worth of hate, consisting of six or a dozen
hand-grenades which he hurled into the German trenches from the far side
of their entanglements. The more hardy spirits often worked their way
through the barbed wire and, from a position close under the parapet,
they waited for the sound of voices. When they had located the position
of the sentries, they tossed their bombs over with deadly effect. The
sound of the explosions called forth an immediate and heavy fire from
sentries near and far; but lying close under the very muzzles of the
German rifles, the bombers were in no danger unless a party were sent out
in search of them. This, of course, constituted the chief element of
risk. The strain of waiting for developments was a severe one. I have
seen men come in from a "bombing stunt" worn out and trembling from
nervous fatigue. And yet many of them enjoyed it, and were sent out night
after night. The excitement of the thing worked into their blood.

          *          *          *          *          *          *

Throughout the summer there was a great deal more digging to do than
fighting, for it was not until the arrival on active service of
Kitchener's armies that the construction of the double line of reserve or
support trenches was undertaken. From June until September this work was
pushed rapidly forward. There were also trenches to be made in advance of
the original firing-line, for the purpose of connecting up advanced
points and removing dangerous salients. At such times there was no
loafing until we had reached a depth sufficient to protect us both from
view and from fire. We picked and shoveled with might and main, working
in absolute silence, throwing ourselves flat on the ground whenever a
trench rocket was sent up from the German lines. Casualties were
frequent, but this was inevitable, working, as we did, in the open,
exposed to every chance shot of an enemy sentry. The stretcher-bearers
lay in the tall grass close at hand awaiting the whispered word,
"Stretcher-bearers this way!" and they were kept busy during much of the
time we were at work, carrying the wounded to the rear.

It was surprising how quickly the men became accustomed to the
nerve-trying duties in the firing-line. Fortunately for Tommy, the longer
he is in the army, the greater becomes his indifference to danger. His
philosophy is fatalistic. "What is to be will be" is his only comment
when one of his comrades is killed. A bullet or a shell works with such
lightning speed that danger is passed before one realizes that it is at
hand. Therefore, men work doggedly, carelessly, and in the background of
consciousness there is always that comforting belief, common to all
soldiers, that "others may be killed, but somehow, I shall escape."

The most important in-trench duty, as well as the most wearisome one for
the men, is their period on "sentry-go." Eight hours in twenty-four--four
two-hour shifts--each man stands at his post on the firing-bench, rifle
in hand, keeping a sharp lookout over the "front yard." At night he
observes as well as he can over the top of the parapet; in the daytime by
means of his periscope. Most of our large periscopes were shattered by
keen-sighted German snipers. We used a very good substitute, one of the
simplest kind, a piece of broken pocket mirror placed on the end of a
split stick, and set at an angle on top of the parados. During the two
hours of sentry duty we had nothing to do other than to keep watch and
keep awake. The latter was by far the more difficult business at night.

"'Ere, sergeant!" Tommy would say, as the platoon sergeant felt his way
along the trench in the darkness, "w'en is the next relief comin' on? Yer
watch needs a good blacksmith. I been on sentry three hours if I been a

"Never you mind about my watch, son! You got another forty-five minutes
to do."

"Will you listen to that, you blokes! S'y! I could myke a better
timepiece out of an old bully tin! I'm tellin' you straight, I'll be
asleep w'en you come 'round again!"

But he isn't. Although the temptation may be great, Tommy isn't longing
for a court-martial. When the platoon officer or the company commander
makes his hourly rounds, flashing his electric pocket lamp before him, he
is ready with a cheery "Post all correct, sir!" He whistles or sings to
himself until, at last, he hears the platoon sergeant waking the next
relief by whacking the soles of their boots with his rifle butt.

"Wake up 'ere! Come along, my lads! Your sentry-go!"

                             CHAPTER IX


Cave life had its alleviations, and chief among these was the pleasure of
anticipating our week in reserve. We could look forward to this with
certainty. During the long stalemate on the western front, British
military organization has been perfected until, in times of quiet, it
works with the monotonous smoothness of a machine. (Even during periods
of prolonged and heavy fighting there is but little confusion. Only
twice, during six months of campaigning, did we fail to receive our daily
post of letters and parcels from England, and then, we were told, the
delay was due to mine-sweeping in the Channel.) With every detail of
military routine carefully thought out and every possible emergency
provided for in advance, we lived as methodically in the firing-line as
we had during our months of training in England.

The movements of troops in and out of the trenches were excellently
arranged and timed. The outgoing battalion was prepared to move back as
soon as the "relief" had taken place. The trench water-cans had been
filled,--an act of courtesy between battalions,--the dugouts thoroughly
cleaned, and the refuse buried. The process of "taking over" was a very
brief one. The sentries of the incoming battalion were posted, and
listening patrols sent out to relieve those of the outgoing battalion,
which then moved down the communication trenches, the men happy in the
prospect of a night of undisturbed sleep.

Second only to sleep in importance was the fortnightly bath. Sometimes we
cleansed ourselves, as best we could, in muddy little duck ponds,
populous with frogs and green with scum; but oh, the joy when our march
ended at a military bathhouse! The Government had provided these whenever
possible, and for several weeks we were within marching distance of one.
There we received a fresh change of underclothing, and our uniforms were
fumigated while we splashed and scrubbed in great vats of clean warm
water. The order, "Everybody out!" was obeyed with great reluctance, and
usually not until the bath attendants of the Army Service Corps enforced
it with the cold-water hose. Tommy, who has a song for every important
ceremonial, never sang, "Rule Britannia" with the enthusiasm which marked
his rendition of the following chorus:--

    "Whi--ter than the whitewash on the wall!
    Whi--ter than the whitewash on the wall!
    If yer leadin' us to slaughter
    Let us 'ave our soap an' water--FIRST!
    Then we'll be whiter than the whitewash on the wall!"

When out of the firing-line we washed and mended our clothing and scraped
a week's accumulation of mud from our uniforms. Before breakfast we were
inflicted with the old punishment, Swedish drill. "Gott strafe Sweden!"
Tommy would say as he puffed and perspired under a hot August sun, but he
was really glad that he had no choice but to submit. In the trenches
there was little opportunity for vigorous exercise, and our arms and legs
became stiff with the long inactivity. Throughout the mornings we were
busy with a multitude of duties. Arms and equipment were cleaned and
inspected, machine guns thoroughly overhauled, gas helmets sprayed; and
there was frequent instruction in bomb-throwing and bayonet-fighting in
preparation for the day to which every soldier looks forward with some
misgiving, but with increasing confidence--the day when the enemy shall
be driven out of France.

Classes in grenade-fighting were under the supervision of officers of the
Royal Engineers. In the early days of the war there was but one grenade
in use, and that a crude affair made by the soldiers themselves. An empty
jam tin was filled with explosive and scrap iron, and tightly bound with
wire. A fuse was attached and the bomb was ready for use. But England
early anticipated the importance which grenade-fighting was to play in
trench warfare. Her experts in explosives were set to work, and by the
time we were ready for active service, ten or a dozen varieties of bombs
were in use, all of them made in the munition factories in England. The
"hairbrush," the "lemon bomb," the "cricket ball," and the "policeman's
truncheon" were the most important of these, all of them so-called
because of their resemblance to the articles for which they were named.
The first three were exploded by a time-fuse set for from three to five
seconds. The fourth was a percussion bomb, which had long cloth streamers
fastened to the handle to insure greater accuracy in throwing. The men
became remarkably accurate at a distance of thirty to forty yards. Old
cricketers were especially good, for the bomb must be thrown overhand,
with a full-arm movement.

Instruction in bayonet-fighting was made as realistic as possible. Upon a
given signal, we rushed forward, jumping in and out of successive lines
of trenches, where dummy figures--clad in the uniforms of German foot
soldiers, to give zest to the game--took our blades both front and rear
with conciliatory indifference.

In the afternoon Tommy's time was his own. He could sleep, or wander
along the country roads,--within a prescribed area,--or, which was more
often the case, indulge in those games of chance which were as the breath
of life to him. Pay-day was the event of the week in billets because it
gave him the wherewithal to satisfy the promptings of his sporting blood.
Our fortnightly allowance of from five to ten francs was not a princely
sum; but in pennies and halfpennies, it was quite enough to provide many
hours of absorbing amusement. Tommy gambled because he could not help it.
When he had no money he wagered his allowance of cigarettes or his share
of the daily jam ration. I believe that the appeal which war made to him
was largely one to his sporting instincts. Life and Death were playing
stakes for his soul with the betting odds about even.

The most interesting feature of our life in billets was the contact which
it gave us with the civilian population who remained in the war zone,
either because they had no place else to go, or because of that
indomitable, unconquerable spirit which is characteristic of the French.
There are few British soldiers along the western front who do not have
memories of the heroic mothers who clung to their ruined homes as long as
there was a wall standing. It was one of these who summed up for me, in
five words, all the heart-breaking tragedy of war.

She kept a little shop, in Armentières, on one of the streets leading to
the firing-line. We often stopped there, when going up to the trenches,
to buy loaves of delicious French bread. She had candles for sale as
well, and chocolate, and packets of stationery. Her stock was exhausted
daily, and in some way replenished daily. I think she made long journeys
to the other side of the town, bringing back fresh supplies in a pushcart
which stood outside her door. Her cottage, which was less than a mile
from our first-line trenches, was partly in ruins. I couldn't understand
her being there in such danger. Evidently it was with the consent of the
military authorities. There were other women living on the same street;
but somehow, she was different from the others. There was a spiritual
fineness about her which impressed one at once. Her eyes were dry as
though the tears had been drained from them, to the last drop, long ago.

One day, calling for a packet of candles, I found her standing at the
barricaded window which looks toward the trenches, and the desolate towns
and villages back of the German lines. My curiosity got the better of my
courtesy, and I asked her, in my poor French, why she was living there.
She was silent for a moment, and then she pointed toward that part of
France which was on the other side of the world to us.

"Monsieur! Mes enfants! Là-bas!"

Her children were over there, or had been at the outbreak of the war.
That is all that she told me of her story, and I would have been a beast
to have asked more. In some way she had become separated from them, and
for nearly a year she had been watching there, not knowing whether her
little family was living or dead.

To many of the soldiers she was just a plain, thrifty little Frenchwoman
who knew not the meaning of fear, willing to risk her life daily, that
she might put by something for the long hard years which would follow the
war. To me she is the Spirit of France, splendid, superb France. But more
than this she is the Spirit of Mother-love which wars can never alter.

Strangely enough, I had not thought of the firing-line as a boundary, a
limit, during all those weeks of trench warfare. Henceforth it had a new
meaning for me. I realized how completely it cut Europe in half,
separating friends and relatives as thousands of miles of ocean could not
have done. Roads crossed from one side to the other, but they were
barricaded with sandbags and barbed-wire entanglements. At night they
were deluged with shrapnel and the cobblestones were chipped and scarred
with machine-gun bullets.

Tommy had a ready sympathy for the women and children who lived near the
trenches. I remember many incidents which illustrate abundantly his quick
understanding of the hardship and danger of their lives. Once, at
Armentières, we were marching to the baths, when the German artillery
were shelling the town in the usual hit-or-miss fashion. The enemy knew,
of course, that many of our troops in reserve were billeted there, and
they searched for them daily. Doubtless they would have destroyed the
town long ago had it not been for the fact that Lille, one of their own
most important bases, is within such easy range of our batteries. As it
was, they bombarded it as heavily as they dared, and on this particular
morning, they were sending them over too frequently for comfort.

Some of the shells were exploding close to our line of march, but the
boys tramped along with that nonchalant air which they assume in times of
danger. One immense shell struck an empty house less than a block away
and sent the masonry flying in every direction. The cloud of brick dust
shone like gold in the sun. A moment later, a fleshy peasant woman,
wearing wooden shoes, turned out of an adjoining street and ran awkwardly
toward the scene of the explosion. Her movements were so clumsy and slow,
in proportion to the great exertion she was making, that at any other
time the sight would have been ludicrous. Now it was inevitable that such
a sight should first appeal to Tommy's sense of humor, and thoughtlessly
the boys started laughing and shouting at her.

"Go it, old dear! Yer makin' a grand race!"

"Two to one on Liza!"

"The other w'y, ma! That's the wrong direction! Yer runnin' right into

She gave no heed, and a moment later we saw her gather up a little girl
from a doorstep, hugging and comforting her, and shielding her with her
body, instinctively, at the sound of another exploding shell. The
laughter in the ranks stopped as though every man had been suddenly
struck dumb.

They were courageous, those women in the firing-line. Their thoughts were
always for their husbands and sons and brothers who were fighting side by
side with us. Meanwhile, they kept their little shops and _estaminets_
open for the soldiers' trade and made a brave show of living in the old
way. In Armentières a few old men lent their aid in keeping up the
pretense, but the feeble little trickle of civilian life made scarcely an
impression in the broad current of military activity. A solitary postman,
with a mere handful of letters, made his morning rounds of echoing
streets, and a bent old man with newspapers hobbled slowly along the Rue
Sadi-Carnot shouting, "Le Matin! Le Journal!" to boarded windows and
bolted doors. Meanwhile, we marched back and forth between billets in the
town and trenches just outside. And the last thing which we saw upon
leaving the town, and the first upon returning, was the lengthening row
of new-made graves close to a sunny wall in the garden of the ruined
convent. It was a pathetic little burial plot, filled with the bodies of
women and children who had been killed in German bombardments of the

And thus for more than three months, while we were waiting for Fritzie to
"come out," we adapted ourselves to the changing conditions of trench
life and trench warfare, with a readiness which surprised and gratified
us. Our very practical training in England had prepared us, in a measure,
for simple and primitive living. But even with such preparation we had
constantly to revise downward our standards. We lived without comforts
which formerly we had regarded as absolutely essential. We lived a life
so crude and rough that our army experiences in England seemed Utopian by
comparison. But we throve splendidly. A government, paternalistic in its
solicitude for our welfare, had schooled our bodies to withstand
hardships and to endure privations. In England we had been inoculated and
vaccinated whether we would or no, and the result was that fevers were
practically non-existent in the trenches. What little sickness there was
was due to inclement weather rather than to unsanitary conditions.

Although there were sad gaps in our ranks, the trench and camp fevers
prevalent in other wars were not responsible for them. Bullets, shells,
and bombs took their toll day by day, but so gradually that we had been
given time to forget that we had ever known the security of civilian
life. We were soon to experience the indescribable horrors of modern
warfare at its worst; to be living from morning until evening and from
dusk to dawn, looking upon a new day with a feeling of wonder that we had
survived so long.

About the middle of September it became clear to us that the big drive
was at hand. There was increased artillery activity along the entire
front. The men noted with great satisfaction that the shells from our own
batteries were of larger calibre. This was a welcome indication that
England was at last meeting the longfelt need for high explosives.

"Lloyd George ain't been asleep," some unshaven seer would say, nodding
his head wisely. "'E's a long w'ile gettin' ready, but w'en 'e _is_
ready, there's suthin' a-go'n' to drop!"

There was a feeling of excitement everywhere. The men looked to their
rifles with greater interest. They examined more carefully their
bandoliers of ammunition and their gas helmets; and they were thoughtful
about keeping their metal pocket mirrors and their cigarette cases in
their left-hand breast pockets, for any Tommy can tell you of miraculous
escapes from death due to such a protective armoring over the heart.

The thunder of guns increased with every passing day. The fire appeared
to be evenly distributed over many miles of frontage. In moments of
comparative quiet along our sector, we could hear them muttering and
rumbling miles away to our right and left. We awaited developments with
the greatest impatience, for we knew that this general bombardment was
but a preliminary one for the purpose of concealing, until the last
moment, the plan of attack, the portion of the front where the great
artillery concentration would be made and the infantry assault pushed
home. Then came sudden orders to move. Within twenty-four hours the roads
were filled with the incoming troops of a new division. We made a rapid
march to a rail-head, entrained, and were soon moving southward by an
indirect route; southward, toward the sound of the guns, to take an
inconspicuous part in the battle at Loos.

                              CHAPTER X

                            NEW LODGINGS


We were wet and tired and cold and hungry, for we had left the train
miles back of the firing-line and had been marching through the rain
since early morning; but, as the sergeant said, "A bloke standin' by the
side o' the road, watchin' this 'ere column pass, would think we was
a-go'n' to a Sunday-school picnic." The roads were filled with endless
processions of singing, shouting soldiers. Seen from a distance the long
columns gave the appearance of imposing strength. One thought of them as
battalions, brigades, divisions, cohesive parts of a great fighting
machine. But when our lines of march crossed, when we halted to make way
for each other, what an absorbing pageant of personality! Each rank was a
series of intimate pictures. Everywhere there was laughing, singing, a
merry minstrelsy of mouth-organs.

The jollity in my own part of the line was doubtless a picture in little
of what was happening elsewhere. We were anticipating the exciting times
just at hand. Mac, who was blown to pieces by a shell a few hours later,
was dancing in and out of the ranks singing,--

    "Oh! Won't it be joyful!
    Oh! Won't it be joyful!"

Preston, who was killed at the same time, threw his rifle in the air and
caught it again in sheer excess of animal spirits. Three rollicking lads,
all of whom we buried during the week in the same shell hole under the
same wooden cross, stumbled with an exaggerated show of utter weariness

    "We never knew till now how muddy mud is,
    We never knew how muddy mud could be."

And little Charley Harrison, who had fibbed bravely about his age to the
recruiting officers, trudged contentedly along, his rifle slung jauntily
over his shoulder, and munched army biscuit with all the relish of an old
campaigner. Several days later he said good-bye to us, and made the
journey back the same road, this time in a motor ambulance; and as I
write, he is hobbling about a London hospital ward, one trouser leg
pathetically empty.

I remember that march in the light of our later experiences, in the light
of the official report of the total British casualties at Loos: sixty
thousand British lads killed, wounded, and missing. Marching four
abreast, a column of casualties miles in length. I see them plodding
light-heartedly through the mud as they did on that gray September day,
their faces wet with the rain, "an' a bloke standin' by the side of the
road would think they was a-go'n' to a Sunday-school picnic."

The sergeant was in a talkative mood.

"Lissen to them guns barkin'! We're in for it this time, straight!"

Then, turning to the men behind,--

"'Ave you got yer wills made out, you lads? You're a-go'n' to see a scrap
presently, an' it ain't a-go'n' to be no flea-bite, I give you _my_

"Right you are, sergeant! I'm leavin' me razor to 'is Majesty. 'Ope 'e'll
tyke the 'int."

"Strike me pink, sergeant! You gettin' cold feet?"

"Less sing 'im, 'I want to go 'ome.' Get 'im to cryin' like a baby."

"W'ere's yer mouth-organ, Ginger?"

"Right-O! Myke it weepy now! Slow march!"

    "I--want to go 'ome!
    I--want to go 'ome!
    Jack-Johnsons, coal-boxes, and shrapnel, oh, Lor'!
    I don't want to go in the trenches no more.
    Send me across the sea
    W'ere the Allemand can't shoot me.
    Oh, my! I don't want to die!
    I--want to go 'ome!"

It is one of the most plaintive and yearning of soldiers' songs.
Jack-Johnsons and coal-boxes are two greatly dreaded types of high
explosive shells which Tommy would much rather sing about than meet.

"Wite," the sergeant said, smiling grimly; "just wite till we reach the
end o' this 'ere march! You'll be a-singin' that song out o' the other
side o' yer faces."

We halted in the evening at a little mining village, and were billeted
for the night in houses, stables, and even in the water-soaked fields,
for there was not sufficient accommodation for all of us. With a dozen of
my comrades I slept on the floor in the kitchen of a miner's cottage, and
listened, far into the night, to the constant procession of motor
ambulances, the tramp of marching feet, the thunder of guns, the rattle
of windows, and the sound of breaking glass.

The following day we spent in cleaning our rifles, which were caked with
rust, and in washing our clothes. We had to put these, still wet, into
our packs, for at dusk we fell in, in column of route, along the village
street, when our officers told us what was before us. I remember how
vividly and honestly one of them described the situation.

"Listen carefully, men. We are moving off in a few moments, to take over
captured German trenches on the left of Loos. No one knows yet just how
the land lies there. The reports we have had are confused and rather
conflicting. The boys you are going to relieve have been having a hard
time. The trenches are full of dead. Those who are left are worn out with
the strain, and they need sleep. They won't care to stop long after you
come in, so you must not expect much information from them. You will have
to find out things for yourselves. But I know you well enough to feel
certain that you will. From now on you'll not have it easy. You will have
to sit tight under a heavy fire from the German batteries. You will have
to repulse counter-attacks, for they will make every effort to retake
those trenches. But remember! You're British soldiers! Whatever happens
you've got to hang on!"

We marched down a road nearly a foot deep in mud. It had been churned to
a thick paste by thousands of feet and all the heavy wheel traffic
incident to the business of war. The rain was still coming down steadily,
and it was pitch dark, except for the reflected light, on the low-hanging
clouds, of the flashes from the guns of our batteries and those of the
bursting shells of the enemy. We halted frequently, to make way for long
files of ambulances which moved as rapidly as the darkness and the awful
condition of the roads would permit. I counted twenty of them during one
halt, and then stopped, thinking of the pain of the poor fellows inside,
their wounds wrenched and torn by the constant pitching and jolting. We
had vivid glimpses of them by the light from flashing guns, and of the
Red Cross attendants at the rear of the cars, steadying the upper tiers
of stretchers on either side. The heavy Garrison artillery was by this
time far behind us. The big shells went over with a hollow roar like the
sound of an express train heard at a distance. Field artillery was
concealed in the ruins of houses on every side. The guns were firing at a
tremendous rate, the shells exploding several miles away with a sound of
jarring thunder claps.

In addition to the ambulances there was a constant stream of outgoing
traffic of other kinds: dispatch riders on motor cycles, feeling their
way cautiously along the side of the road; ammunition supply and
battalion transport wagons, the horses rearing and plunging in the
darkness. We approached a crossroad and halted to make way for some
batteries of field pieces moving to new positions. They went by on a
slippery cobbled road, the horses at a dead gallop. In the red
lightenings of heavy-gun fire they looked like a series of splendid
sculptured groups.

We moved on and halted, moved on again, stumbled into ditches to get out
of the way of headquarters cars and motor lorries, jumped up and pushed
on. Every step through the thick mud was taken with an effort. We
frequently lost touch with the troops ahead of us and would have to march
at the double in order to catch up. I was fast getting into that
despondent, despairing frame of mind which often follows great physical
weariness, when I remembered a bit of wisdom out of a book by William
James which I had read several years before. He had said, in effect, that
men have layers of energy, reserves of nervous force, which they are
rarely called upon to use, but which are, nevertheless, assets of great
value in times of strain. I had occasion to test the truth of this
statement during that night march, and at intervals later, when I felt
that I had reached the end of my resources of strength. And I found it to
be practical wisdom which stood me in good stead on more than one

We halted to wait for our trench guides at the village of Vermelles,
about three miles back of our lines. The men lay down thankfully in the
mud and many were soon asleep despite the terrific noise. Our batteries,
concealed in the ruins of houses, were keeping up a steady fire and the
German guns were replying almost as hotly. The weird flashes lit up the
shattered walls with a fascinating, bizarre effect. By their light, I saw
men lying with their heads thrown back over their pack-sacks, their
rifles leaning across their bodies; others standing in attitudes of
suspended animation. The noise was deafening. One was thrown entirely
upon his own resources for comfort and companionship, for it was
impossible to converse. While we were waiting for the order to move, a
homeless dog put his cold nose into my hand. I patted him and he crept up
close beside me. Every muscle in his body was quivering. I wanted to
console him in his own language. But I knew very little French, and I
should have had to shout into his ear at the top of my voice to have made
myself heard. When we marched on I lost him. And I never saw him again.

There was a further march of two and a half miles over open country, the
scene of the great battle. The ground was a maze of abandoned trenches
and was pitted with shell holes. The clay was so slippery and we were so
heavily loaded that we fell down at every step. Some of the boys told me
afterward that I cursed like blue blazes all the way up. I was not
conscious of this, but I can readily understand that it may have been
true. At any rate, as a result of that march, I lost what reputation I
had for being temperate in the use of profanity.

We crossed what had been the first line of British trenches, which marked
the starting-point of the advance, and from there the ground was covered
with the bodies of our comrades, men who had "done their bit," as Tommy
says, and would never go home again. Some were huddled in pathetic little
groups of two or three as they might have crept together for
companionship before they died. Some were lying face downward just as
they had fallen. Others in attitudes revealing dreadful suffering. Many
were hanging upon the tangles of German barbed wire which the heaviest of
bombardments never completely destroys. We saw them only by the light of
distant trench rockets and stumbled on them and over them when the
darkness returned.

It is an unpleasant experience, marching under fire, on top of the
ground, even though it is dark and the enemy is shelling haphazardly. We
machine gunners were always heavily loaded. In addition to the usual
infantryman's burden, we had our machine guns to carry, and our
ammunition, water supply, tools and instruments. We were very eager to
get under cover, but we had to go slowly. By the time we reached our
trench we were nearly exhausted.

The men whom we were to relieve were packed up, ready to move out, when
we arrived. We threw our rifles and equipment on the parapet and stood
close to the side of the trench to allow them to pass. They were cased in
mud. Their faces, which I saw by the glow of matches or lighted
cigarettes, were haggard and worn. A week's growth of beard gave them a
wild and barbaric appearance. They talked eagerly. They were hysterically
cheerful; voluble from sheer nervous reaction. They had the prospect of
getting away for a little while from the sickening horrors: the sight of
maimed and shattered bodies, the deafening noise, the nauseating odor of
decaying flesh. As they moved out there were the usual conversations
which take place between incoming and outgoing troops.

"Wot sort of a week you 'ad, mate?"

"It ain't been a week, son; it's been a lifetime!"

"Lucky fer us you blokes come in just w'en you did. We've about reached
the limit."

"'Ow far we got to go fer water?"

"'Bout two miles. Awful journey! Tyke you all night to do it. You got to
stop every minute, they's so much traffic along that trench. Go down
Stanley Road about five 'unnerd yards, turn off to yer left on Essex
Alley, then yer first right. Brings you right out by the 'ouse w'ere the
pump is."

"'Ere's a straight tip! Send yer water fatigue down early in the mornin':
three o'clock at the latest. They's thousands usin' that well an' she
goes dry arter a little w'ile."

"You blokes want any souvenirs, all you got to do is pick 'em up:
'elmets, revolvers, rifles, German di'ries. You wite till mornin'. You'll
see plenty."

"Is this the last line o' Fritzie's trenches?"

"Can't tell you, mate. All we know is, we got 'ere some'ow an' we been
a-'oldin' on. My Gawd! It's been awful! They calmed down a bit to-night.
You blokes is lucky comin' in just w'en you did."

"I ain't got a pal left out o' my section. You'll see some of 'em. We
ain't 'ad time to bury 'em."

They were soon gone and we were left in ignorance of the situation. We
knew only approximately the direction of the living enemy and the dead
spoke to us only in dumb show, telling us unspeakable things about the
horrors of modern warfare.

Fortunately for us, the fire of the German batteries, during our first
night in captured trenches, was directed chiefly upon positions to our
right and left. The shells from our own batteries were exploding far in
advance of our sector of trench, and we judged from this that we were
holding what had been the enemy's last line, and that the British
artillery were shelling the line along which they would dig themselves in
anew. We felt more certain of this later in the night when working
parties were sent from the battalion to a point twelve hundred yards in
front of the trenches we were then holding. They were to dig a new line
there, to connect with intrenchments which had been pushed forward on
either side of us.

At daybreak we learned that we were slightly to the left of Hill 70.
Hulluch, a small village still in possession of the Germans, was to our
left front. Midway between Hill 70 and Hulluch and immediately to the
front of our position, there was a long stretch of open country which
sloped gently forward for six or eight hundred yards, and then rose
gradually toward the sky-line. In the first assault the British troops
had pushed on past the trenches we were holding and had advanced up the
opposite slope, nearly a mile farther on. There they started to dig
themselves in, but an unfortunate delay in getting forward had given the
enemy time to collect a strong force of local reserves behind his second
line, which was several hundred yards beyond. So heavy a fire had been
concentrated upon them that the British troops had been forced to retire
to the line we were then occupying. They had met with heavy losses both
in advancing and retiring, and the ground in front of us for nearly a
mile was strewn with bodies. We did not learn all of this at once. We
knew nothing of our exact position during the first night, but as there
appeared to be no enemy within striking distance of our immediate front,
we stood on the firing-benches vainly trying to get our bearings. About
one o'clock, we witnessed the fascinating spectacle of a counter-attack
at night.

It came with the dramatic suddenness, the striking spectacular display,
of a motion-picture battle. The pictorial effect seemed extravagantly

There was a sudden hurricane of rifle and machine-gun fire, and in an
instant all the desolate landscape was revealed under the light of
innumerable trench rockets. We saw the enemy advancing in irregular lines
to the attack. They were exposed to a pitiless infantry fire. I could
follow the curve of our trenches on the left by the almost solid sheet of
flame issuing from the rifles of our comrades against whom the assault
was launched. The artillery ranged upon the advancing lines at once, and
the air was filled with the roar of bursting shells and the melancholy
_whing-g-g-g_ of flying shrapnel.

I did not believe that any one could cross that fire-swept area alive,
but before many moments we heard the staccato of bursting bombs and hand
grenades which meant that some of the enemy, at least, were within
striking distance. There was a sharp crescendo of deafening sound, then,
gradually, the firing ceased, and word came down the line,
"Counter-attack against the ---- Guards; and jolly well beaten off too."
Another was attempted before daybreak, and again the same torrent of
lead, the same hideous uproar, the same sickening smell of lyddite, the
same ghastly noon-day effect, the same gradual silence, and the same


The brief respite which we enjoyed during our first night soon came to an
end. We were given time, however, to make our trenches tenable. Early the
following morning we set to work removing the wreckage of human bodies.
Never before had death revealed itself so terribly to us. Many of the men
had been literally blown to pieces, and it was necessary to gather the
fragments in blankets. For weeks afterward we had to eat and sleep and
work and think among such awful sights. We became hardened to them
finally. It was absolutely essential that we should.

The trenches and dugouts had been battered to pieces by the British
artillery fire before the infantry assault, and since their capture the
work of destruction had been carried on by the German gunners. Even in
their wrecked condition we could see how skillfully they had been
constructed. No labor had been spared in making them as nearly
shell-proof and as comfortable for living quarters as it is possible for
such earthworks to be. The ground here was unusually favorable. Under a
clayish surface soil, there was a stratum of solid chalk. Advantage of
this had been taken by the German engineers who must have planned and
supervised the work. Many of the shell-proof dugouts were fifteen and
even twenty feet below the surface of the ground. Entrance to these was
made in the front wall of the trench on a level with the floor. Stairways
just large enough to permit the passage of a man's body led down to them.
The roofs were reinforced with heavy timbers. They were so strongly built
throughout that most of them were intact, although the passageways
leading up to the trench were choked with loose earth.

There were larger surface dugouts with floors but slightly lower than
that of the trench. These were evidently built for living quarters in
times of comparative quiet. Many of them were six feet wide and from
twenty to thirty feet long, and quite palaces compared to the wretched
little "funk-holes" to which we had been accustomed. They were roofed
with logs a foot or more in diameter placed close together and one on top
of the other in tiers of three, with a covering of earth three or four
feet thick. But although they were solidly built they had not been proof
against the rain of high explosives. Many of them were in ruins, the logs
splintered like kindling wood and strewn far and wide over the ground.

We found several dugouts, evidently officers' quarters, which were almost
luxuriously furnished. There were rugs for the wooden floors and pictures
and mirrors for the walls; and in each of them there was the jolliest
little stove with a removable lid. We discovered one of these underground
palaces at the end of a blind alley leading off from the main trench. It
was at least fifteen feet underground, with two stairways leading down to
it, so that if escape was cut off in one direction, it was still possible
to get out on the other side. We immediately took possession, built a
roaring fire, and were soon passing canteens of hot tea around the
circle. Life was worth while again. We all agreed that there were less
comfortable places in which to have breakfast on rainy autumn mornings
than German officers' dug-outs.

The haste with which the Germans abandoned their trenches was evidenced
by the amount of war material which they left behind. We found two
machine guns and a great deal of small-arms ammunition in our own limited
sector of frontage. Rifles, intrenching tools, haversacks, canteens,
greatcoats, bayonets were scattered everywhere. All of this material was
of the very best. Canteens, water-bottles, and small frying-pans were
made of aluminum and most ingeniously fashioned to make them less bulky
for carrying. Some of the bayonets were saw-edged. We found three of
these needlessly cruel weapons in a dugout which bore the following
inscription over the door:--

    "_Gott tret' herein. Bring' glück herein._"

It was an interesting commentary on German character. Tommy Atkins never
writes inscriptions of a religious nature over the doorway of his
splinter-roof shelter. Neither does he file a saw edge on his bayonet.

We found many letters, picture post-cards, and newspapers; among the
latter, one called the "Krieg-Zeitung," published at Lille for the
soldiers in the field, and filled with glowing accounts of battles fought
by the ever victorious German armies.

Death comes swiftly in war. One's life hangs by a thread. The most
trivial circumstance saves or destroys. Mac came into the half-ruined
dugout where the off-duty machine gunners were making tea over a fire of
splintered logs.

"Jamie," he said, "take my place at sentry for a few minutes, will you?
I've lost my water-bottle. It's 'ere in the dugout somew'ere. I'll be
only a minute."

I went out to the gun position a few yards away, and immediately
afterward the Germans began a bombardment of our line. One's ear becomes
exact in distinguishing the size of shells by the sound which they make
in traveling through the air; and it is possible to judge the direction
and the probable place of their fall. Two of us stood by the machine gun.
We heard at the same time the sound which we knew meant danger, possibly
death. It was the awful whistling roar of a high explosive. We dropped to
the floor of the trench at once. The explosion blackened our faces with
lyddite and half-blinded us. The dugout which I had left less than a
moment ago was a mass of wreckage. Seven of our comrades were inside.

One of them crawled out, pulling himself along with one arm. The other
arm was terribly crushed and one leg was hanging by a tendon and a few
shreds of flesh.

"My God, boys! Look wot they did to me!"

He kept saying it over and over while we cut the cords from our
bandoliers, tied them about his leg and arm and twisted them up to stop
the flow of blood. He was a fine, healthy lad. A moment before he had
been telling us what he was going to do when we went home on furlough.
Now his face was the color of ashes, his voice grew weaker and weaker,
and he died while we were working over him.

High explosive shells were bursting all along the line. Great masses of
earth and chalk were blown in on top of men seeking protection where
there was none. The ground rocked like so much pasteboard. I heard
frantic cries for "Picks and shovels!" "Stretcher-bearers!
Stretcher-bearers this way, for God's sake!" The voices sounded as weak
and futile as the squeaking of rats in a thunderstorm.

When the bombardment began, all off-duty men were ordered into the
deepest of the shell-proof dugouts, where they were really quite safe.
But those English lads were not cowards. Orders or no orders, they came
out to the rescue of their comrades. They worked without a thought of
their own danger. I felt actually happy, for I was witnessing splendid
heroic things. It was an experience which gave one a new and unshakable
faith in his fellows.

The sergeant and I rushed into the ruins of our machine-gun dugout. The
roof still held in one place. There we found Mac, his head split in two
as though it had been done with an axe. Gardner's head was blown
completely off, and his body was so terribly mangled that we did not know
until later who he was. Preston was lying on his back with a great
jagged, blood-stained hole through his tunic. Bert Powel was so badly
hurt that we exhausted our supply of field dressings in bandaging him. We
found little Charlie Harrison lying close to the side of the wall, gazing
at his crushed foot with a look of incredulity and horror pitiful to see.
One of the men gave him first aid with all the deftness and tenderness of
a woman.

The rest of us dug hurriedly into a great heap of earth at the other end
of the shelter. We quickly uncovered Walter, a lad who had kept us
laughing at his drollery on many a rainy night. The earth had been heaped
loosely on him and he was still conscious.

"Good old boys," he said weakly; "I was about done for."

In our haste we dislodged another heap of earth which completely buried
him again, and it seemed a lifetime before we were able to remove it. I
have never seen a finer display of pure grit than Walter's.

"Easy now!" he said. "Can't feel anything below me waist. I think I'm
'urt down there."

We worked as swiftly and as carefully as we could. We knew that he was
badly wounded, for the earth was soaked with blood; but when we saw, we
turned away sick with horror. Fortunately, he lost consciousness while we
were trying to disentangle him from the fallen timbers, and he died on
the way to the field dressing-station. Of the seven lads in the dugout,
three were killed outright, three died within half an hour, and one
escaped with a crushed foot which had to be amputated at the field

What had happened to our little group was happening to others along the
entire line. Americans may have read of the bombardment which took place
that autumn morning. The dispatches, I believe, described it with the
usual official brevity, giving all the information really necessary from
the point of view of the general public.

"Along the Loos-La Bassée sector there was a lively artillery action. We
demolished some earthworks in the vicinity of Hulluch. Some of our
trenches near Hill 70 were damaged."

"Damaged!" It was a guarded admission. Our line was a shambles of loose
earth and splintered logs. At some places it was difficult to see just
where the trench had been. Had the Germans launched a counter-attack
immediately after the bombardment, we should have had difficulty in
holding the position. But it was only what Tommy called "a big 'ap'orth
o' 'ate." No attempt was made to follow up the advantage, and we at once
set to work rebuilding. The loose earth had to be put into sandbags, the
parapets mended, the holes, blasted out by shells, filled in.

The worst of it was that we could not get away from the sight of the
mangled bodies of our comrades. Arms and legs stuck out of the wreckage,
and on every side we saw distorted human faces, the faces of men we had
known, with whom we had lived and shared hardships and dangers for months
past. Those who have never lived through experiences of this sort cannot
possibly know the horror of them. It is not in the heat of battle that
men lose their reason. Battle frenzy is, perhaps, a temporary madness.
The real danger comes when the strain is relaxed. Men look about them and
see the bodies of their comrades torn to pieces as though they had been
hacked and butchered by fiends. One thinks of the human body as
inviolate, a beautiful and sacred thing. The sight of it dismembered or
disemboweled, trampled in the bottom of a trench, smeared with blood and
filth, is so revolting as to be hardly endurable.

And yet, we had to endure it. We could not escape it. Whichever way we
looked, there were the dead. Worse even than the sight of dead men were
the groans and entreaties of those lying wounded in the trenches waiting
to be taken back to the dressing-stations.

"I'm shot through the stomach, matey! Can't you get me back to the
ambulance? Ain't they _some_ way you can get me back out o' this?"

"Stick it, old lad! You won't 'ave long to wite. They'll be some of the
Red Cross along 'ere in a jiffy now."

"Give me a lift, boys, can't you? Look at my leg! Do you think it'll 'ave
to come off? Maybe they could save it if I could get to 'ospital in time!
Won't some of you give me a lift? I can 'obble along with a little 'elp."

"Don't you fret, sonny! You're a-go'n' to ride back in a stretcher
presently. Keep yer courage up a little w'ile longer."

Some of the men, in their suffering, forgot every one but themselves, and
it was not strange that they should. Others, with more iron in their
natures, endured fearful agony in silence. During memorable half-hours,
filled with danger and death, many of my gross misjudgments of character
were made clear to me. Men whom no one had credited with heroic qualities
revealed them. Others failed rather pitiably to live up to one's
expectations. It seemed to me that there was strength or weakness in men,
quite apart from their real selves, for which they were in no way
responsible; but doubtless it had always been there, waiting to be called
forth at just such crucial times.

During the afternoon I heard for the first time the hysterical cry of a
man whose nerve had given way. He picked up an arm and threw it far out
in front of the trenches, shouting as he did so in a way that made one's
blood run cold. Then he sat down and started crying and moaning. He was
taken back to the rear, one of the saddest of casualties in a war of
inconceivable horrors. I heard of many instances of nervous breakdown,
but I witnessed surprisingly few of them. Men were often badly shaken and
trembled from head to foot. Usually they pulled themselves together under
the taunts of their less susceptible comrades.


At the close of a gloomy October day, six unshaven, mud-encrusted machine
gunners, the surviving members of two teams, were gathered at the C
Company gun emplacement. D Company's gun had been destroyed by a shell,
and so we had joined forces here in front of the wrecked dugout, and were
waiting for night when we could bury our dead comrades. A fine drenching
rain was falling. We sat with our waterproof sheets thrown over our
shoulders and our knees drawn up to our chins, that we might conserve the
damp warmth of our bodies. No one spoke. No reference was made to our
dead comrades who were lying there so close that we could almost touch
them from where we sat. Nevertheless, I believe that we were all thinking
of them, however unwillingly. I tried to see them as they were only a few
hours before. I tried to remember the sound of their voices, how they had
laughed; but I could think only of the appearance of their mutilated

On a dreary autumn evening one's thoughts often take a melancholy turn,
even though one is indoors, sitting before a pleasant fire, and hearing
but faintly the sighing of the wind and the sound of the rain beating
against the window. It is hardly to be wondered at that soldiers in
trenches become discouraged at times, and on this occasion, when an
unquenchably cheerful voice shouted over an adjoining traverse,--

"Wot che'r, lads! Are we downhearted?"--a growling chorus answered with
an unmistakable,--


We were in an open ditch. The rain was beating down on our faces. We were
waiting for darkness when we could go to our unpleasant work of
grave-digging. To-morrow there would be more dead bodies and more graves
to dig, and the day after, the same duty, and the day after that, the
same. Week after week we should be living like this, killing and being
killed, binding up terrible wounds, digging graves, always doing the same
work with not one bright or pleasant thing to look forward to.

These were my thoughts as I sat on the firing-bench with my head drawn
down between my knees watching the water dripping from the edges of my
puttees. But I had forgotten one important item in the daily routine:
supper. And I had forgotten Private Lemley, our cook, or, to give him his
due, our _chef_. He was not the man to waste his time in gloomy
reflection. With a dozen mouldy potatoes which he had procured Heaven
knows where, four tins of corned beef, and a canteen lid filled with
bacon grease for raw materials, he had set to work with the enthusiasm of
the born artist, the result being rissoles, brown, crisp, and piping hot.
It is a pleasure to think of that meal. Private Lemley was one of the
rare souls of earth, one of the Mark Tapleys who never lost his courage
or his good spirits. I remember how our spirits rose at the sound of his
voice, and how gladly and quickly we responded to his summons.

"'Ere you are, me lads! Bully beef rissoles an' 'ot tea, an' it ain't
'arf bad fer the trenches if I do s'y it."

I can only wonder now at the keenness of our appetites in the midst of
the most gruesome surroundings. Dead men were lying about us, both in the
trenches and outside of them. And yet our rissoles were not a whit the
less enjoyable on that account.

It was quite dark when we had finished. The sergeant jumped to his feet.

"Let's get at it, boys," he said.

Half an hour later we erected a wooden cross in Tommy's grave-strewn
garden. It bore the following inscription written in pencil:

                        Pte. # 4326 MacDonald.
                        Pte. # 7864 Gardner.
                        Pte. # 9851 Preston.
                        Pte. # 6940 Allen.
                          Royal Fusiliers.
                          "They did their bit."

Quietly we slipped back into the trench and piled our picks and shovels
on the parados.

"Got yer mouth-organ 'andy, Nobby?" some one asked.

"She's always 'andy. Wot'll you 'ave, lads?"

"Give us 'Silk 'At Nat Tony.' That's a proper funeral 'ymn."

"Right you are! Sing up, now!"

And then we sang Tommy's favorite kind of requiem:--

    "I'm Silk Hat Nat Tony,
    I'm down and I'm stony:
    I'm not only broke, but I'm bent.
    The fringe of my trousers
    Keeps lashing the houses,
    But still I am gay and content.

    I stroll the West gayly,
    You'll see me there daily,
    From Burlington Arcade
    Up to the Old Bailey.
    I'm stony! I'm Tony!
    But that makes no diff'rence, you see.
    Though I haven't a fraction,
    I've this satisfaction,
    They built Piccadilly for me."

                             CHAPTER XI

                           "SITTING TIGHT"


Throughout October we fulfilled the prophecy of the officer who told us
that "sitting tight" in the German trenches was to be our function. There
were nightly counter-attacks preceded by heavy artillery fire, when the
enemy made determined efforts to retake the lost territory. There were
needless alarms when nervous sentries "got the wind up," to use the
authentic trench expression, and contagious excitement set men to firing
like mad into blank darkness. In the daytime there were moments of calm
which we could not savor owing to that other warfare waged upon us by
increasing hordes of parasitic enemies. We moved from one position to
another through trenches where the tangled mass of telephone wires,
seemingly gifted with a kind of malignant humor, coiled themselves about
our feet or caught in the piling swivels of our rifles. There were orders
and counter-orders, alarums and excursions. Through them all Tommy kept
his balance and his air of cheery unconcern, but he wished that he might
be "struck pink" if he knew "wot we was a-doin' of anyw'y."

Our ideas of the tactical situation were decidedly vague. However, we did
know, in a general way, our position with reference to important military
landmarks, and the amateur strategists were busy at all times explaining
the situation to frankly ignorant comrades, and outlining plans for
definite action.

"Now, if I was General French, I'd make 'Ulluch me main objective. They
ain't no use tryin' to get by at this part o' the line till you got that

"Don't talk so bloomin' ignorant! Ain't that just wot they been a-tryin'?
Wot we got to do is go 'round 'Ulluch. Tyke 'em in the rear an' from both

"W'y don't they get on with it? Wot to blazes are we a-doin' of, givin'
'em a chanct to get dug in again? 'Ere we all but got 'em on the run an'
the 'ole show stops!"

The continuation of the offensive was the chief topic of conversation.
The men dreaded it, but they were anxious to get through with the
business. They believed that now if ever there was the chance to push the
Germans out of France.

In the mean time the day's work was still the day's work. There were
nightly bombing affairs, some of them most desperate hand-to-hand
contests for the possession of small sectors of trench. One of these I
witnessed from a trench sixty yards away. The advantage lay with us. The
enemy held only the center of the line and were forced to meet attacks
from either end. However, they had a communication trench connecting with
their second line, through which carrying parties brought them a
limitless supply of bombs.

The game of pitch and toss over the barricades had continued for several
days without a decision. Then came orders for more decisive action. The
barricades were to be destroyed and the enemy bombed out. In underground
fighting of this kind the element of surprise is possible. If one
opponent can be suddenly overwhelmed with a heavy rain of bombs, the
chances of success for the attacking party are quite favorable.

The action took place at dusk. Shortly before the hour set, the bombers,
all of them boys in their early twenties, filed slowly along the trench,
the pockets of their grenade waistcoats bulging with "lemons" and
"cricket balls," as the two most effective kinds of bombs are called.
They went to their places with that spirit of stolid cheeriness which is
the wonder and admiration of every one who knows Tommy Atkins intimately.
Formerly, when I saw him in this mood, I would think, "He doesn't
realize. Men don't go out to meet death like this." But long association
with him had convinced me of the error of this opinion. These men knew
that death or terrible injury was in store for many of them; yet they
were talking in excited and gleeful undertones, as they might have passed
through the gates at a football match.

"Are we downhearted? Not likely, old son!"

"Tyke a feel o' this little puffball! Smack on old Fritzie's napper she

"I'm a-go'n' to arsk fer a nice Blightey one! Four months in Brentford
'ospital an' me Christmas puddin' at 'ome!"

"Now, don't ferget, you blokes! County o' London War 'Ospital fer me if I
gets a knock! Write it on a piece o' pyper an' pin it to me tunic w'en
you sends me back to the ambulance."

The barricades were blown up and the fight was on. A two-hundred-piece
orchestra of blacksmiths, with sledgehammers, beating kettle-drums the
size of brewery vats, might have approximated, in quality and volume, the
sound of the battle. The spectacular effect was quite different from that
of a counter-attack across the open. Lurid flashes of light issued from
the ground as though a door to the infernal regions had been thrown
jarringly open. The cloud of thick smoke was shot through with red
gleams. Men ran along the parapet hurling bombs down into the trench. Now
they were hidden by the smoke, now silhouetted for an instant against a
glare of blinding light.

An hour passed and there was no change in the situation.

"Fritzie's a tough old bird," said Tommy. "'E's a-go'n' to die game, you
got to give it to 'im."

The excitement was intense. Urgent calls for "More lemons! More cricket
balls!" were sent back constantly. Box after box, each containing a dozen
grenades, was passed up the line from hand to hand, and still the call
for "More bombs!" We couldn't send them up fast enough.

The wounded were coming back in twos and threes. One lad, his eyes
covered with a bloody bandage, was led by another with a shattered hand.

"Poor old Tich! She went off right in 'is face! But you did yer bit,
Tich! You ought to 'a' seen 'im, you blokes! Wasn't 'e a-lettin' 'em 'ave

Another man hobbled past on one foot, supporting himself against the side
of the trench.

"Got a Blightey one," he said gleefully. "So long you lads! I'll be with
you again arter the 'olidays."

Those who do not know the horrors of modern warfare cannot readily
understand the joy of the soldier at receiving a wound which is not
likely to prove serious. A bullet in the arm or the shoulder, even though
it shatters the bone, or a piece of shrapnel or shell casing in the leg,
was always a matter for congratulation. These were "Blightey wounds."
When Tommy received one of this kind, he was a candidate for hospital in
"Blightey," as England is affectionately called. For several months he
would be far away from the awful turmoil. His body would be clean; he
would be rid of the vermin and sleep comfortably in a bed at night. The
strain would be relaxed, and, who knows, the war might be over before he
was again fit for active service. And so the less seriously wounded made
their way painfully but cheerfully along the trench, on their way to the
field dressing-station, the motor ambulance, the hospital ship,
and--home! while their unwounded comrades gave them words of
encouragement and good cheer.

"Good luck to you, Sammy boy! If you sees my missus, tell 'er I'm as
right as rain!"

"Sammy, you _lucky_ blighter! W'en yer convalescin', 'ave a pint of ale
at the W'ite Lion fer me."

"An' a good feed o' fish an' chips fer _me_, Sammy. Mind yer foot!
There's a 'ole just 'ere!"

"'Ere comes old Sid! W'ere you caught it, mate?"

"In me bloomin' shoulder. It ain't _'arf_ givin' it to me!"

"Never you mind, Sid! Blightey fer you, boy!"

"Hi, Sid! Tell me old lady I'm still up an' comin', will you? You know
w'ere she lives, forty-six Bromley Road."

One lad, his nerve gone, pushed his way frantically down the trench. He
had "funked it." He was hysterical with fright and crying in a dry,
shaking voice,--

"It's too 'orrible! I can't stand it! Blow you to 'ell they do! Look at
me! I'm slathered in blood! I can't stand it! They ain't no man can stand

He met with scant courtesy. A trench during an attack is no place for the
faint-hearted. An unsympathetic Tommy kicked him savagely.

"Go 'ide yerself, you bloody little coward!"

"More lemons! More cricket balls!" and at last, Victory! Fritzie had
"chucked it," and men of the Royal Engineers, that wonderfully efficient
corps, were on the spot with picks and shovels and sandbags, clearing out
the wreckage, and building a new barricade at the farther end of the
communication trench.

It was only a minor affair, one of many which take place nightly in the
firing-line. Twoscore yards of trench were captured. The cost was,
perhaps, one man per yard; but as Tommy said,--

"It ain't the trench wot counts. It's the more-ale. Bucks the blokes up
to win, an' that's worth a 'ole bloomin' army corps."


Rumors of all degrees of absurdity reached us. The enemy was massing on
our right, on our left, on our immediate front. The division was to
attack at dawn under cover of a hundred bomb-dropping battle-planes.
Units of the new armies to the number of five hundred thousand were
concentrating behind the line from La Bassée to Arras, and another
tremendous drive was to be made in conjunction with the French, (As a
matter of fact, we knew less of what was actually happening than did
people in England and America.) Most of these reports sprang, full grown,
from the fertile brains of officers' servants. Scraps of information
which they gathered while in attendance at the officers' mess dugout
were pieced together, and much new material of their own invention
added. The striving was for piquancy rather than plausibility. A wild
tale was always better than a dull one; furthermore the "batmen" were
our only sources of official information, and could always command a
hearing. When one of them came down the trench with that mysterious
"I-could-a-tale-unfold" air, he was certain to be halted by willingly
gullible comrades.

"Wot's up, Jerry? Anything new?"

"Nor 'arf! Now, keep this under yer 'ats, you blokes! My gov'nor was
a-talkin' to Major Bradley this mornin' w'ile I was a-mykin' 'is tea, an'
'_e_ says--"

Then followed the thrilling narrative, a disclosure of official secrets
while groups of war-worn Tommies listened with eager interest. "Spreading
the News" was a tragi-comedy enacted daily in the trenches.

But we were not entirely in the dark. The signs which preceded an
engagement were unmistakable, and toward the middle of October there was
general agreement that an important action was about to take place.
British aircraft had been patrolling our front ceaselessly for hours.
Several battalions (including our own which had just gone into reserve at
Vermelles) were placed on bomb-carrying fatigue. As we went up to the
firing-line with our first load, we found all of the support trenches
filled to overflowing with troops in fighting order.

We reached the first line as the preliminary bombardment started. Scores
of batteries were concentrating their fire on the enemy's trenches
directly opposite us. It is useless to attempt to depict what lay before
us as we looked over the parapet. The trenches were hidden from view in a
cloud of smoke and flame and dirt. The earth was like a muddy sea dashed
high in spray against hidden rocks.

The men who were to lead the attack were standing rifle in hand, waiting
for the sudden cessation of fire which would be the signal for them to
mount the parapet. Bombers and bayonet-men alternated in series of two.
The bombers wore their mediæval-looking shrapnel-proof helmets and heavy
canvas grenade coats with twelve pockets sagging with bombs. Their rifles
were slung on their backs to give them free use of their hands.

Every one was smoking--some calmly, some with short, nervous puffs. It
was interesting to watch the faces of the men. One could read, almost to
a certainty, what was going on in their minds. Some of them were thinking
of the terrible events so near at hand. They were imagining the horrors
of the attack in detail. Others were unconcernedly intent upon adjusting
straps of their equipment, or in rubbing their clips of ammunition with
an oily rag. Several men were singing to a mouth-organ accompaniment. I
saw their lips moving, but not a sound reached me above the din of the
guns, although I was standing only a few yards distant. It was like an
absurd pantomime.

As I watched them, the sense of the unreality of the whole thing swept
over me more strongly than ever before. "This can't be true," I thought;
"I have never been a soldier. There isn't any European war." I had the
curious feeling that my body and brain were functioning quite apart from
me. I was only a slow-witted, incredulous spectator looking on with a
stupid animal wonder. I have learned that this feeling is quite common
among men in the trenches. A part of the mind works normally, and another
part, which seems to be one's essential self, refuses to assimilate and
classify experiences so unusual, so different from anything in the
catalogue of memory.

For two hours and a half the roar of guns continued. Then it stopped as
suddenly as it had begun. An officer near me shouted, "Now, men! Follow
me!" and clambered over the parapet. There was no hesitation. In a moment
the trench was empty save for the bomb-carrying parties and an artillery
observation officer, who was jumping up and down on the firing-bench,

"Go it, the Norfolks! _Go it, the Norfolks!_ My God! Isn't it fine!
Isn't it splendid!"

There you have the British officer true to type. He is a sportsman: next
to taking part in a fight he loves to see one--and he says "isn't" not
"ain't," even under stress of the greatest excitement.

The German artillery, which had been reserving fire, now poured forth a
deluge of shrapnel. The sound of rifle fire was scattered and ragged at
first, but it increased steadily in volume. Then came the "boiler-factory
chorus," the sharp rattle of dozens of machine guns. The bullets were
flying over our heads like swarms of angry wasps. A ration-box board
which I held above the parapet was struck almost immediately. Fortunately
for the artillery officer, a disrespectful N.C.O. pulled him down into
the trench.

"It's no use throwin' yer life aw'y, sir. You won't 'elp 'em over by
barkin' at 'em."

He was up again almost at once, coolly watching the progress of the
troops from behind a small barricade of sandbags, and reporting upon it
to batteries several miles in rear. The temptation to look over the
parapet was not to be resisted. The artillery lengthened their ranges. I
saw the curtain of flame-shot smoke leap at a bound to the next line of
German trenches.

Within a few moments several lines of reserves filed into the front
trench and went over the parapet in support of the first line, advancing
with heads down like men bucking into the fury of a gale. We saw them
only for an instant as they jumped to their feet outside the trench and
rushed forward. Many were hit before they had passed through the gaps in
our barbed wire. Those who were able crept back and were helped into the
trench by comrades. One man was killed as he was about to reach a place
of safety. He lay on the parapet with his head and arms hanging down
inside the trench. His face was that of a boy of twenty-one or
twenty-two. I carry the memory of it with me to-day as vividly as when I
left the trenches in November.

Following the attacking infantry were those other soldiers whose work,
though less spectacular than that of the riflemen, was just as essential
and quite as dangerous. Royal Engineers, with picks and shovels and
sandbags, rushed forward to reverse the parapets of the captured
trenches, and to clear out the wreckage, while the riflemen waited for
the launching of the first counter-attack. They were preceded by men of
the Signaling Corps, who advanced swiftly and skillfully, unwinding
spools of insulated telephone wire as they went. Bomb-carriers,
stretcher-bearers, intent upon their widely divergent duties, followed.
The work of salvage and destruction went hand in hand.

The battle continued until evening, when we received orders to move up to
the firing-line. We started at five o'clock, and although we had less
than three miles to go, we did not reach the end of our journey until
four the next morning, owing to the fatigue parties and the long stream
of wounded which blocked the communication trenches. For more than an
hour we lay just outside of the trench looking down on a seemingly
endless procession of casualties. Some of the men were crying like
children, some groaning pitifully, some laughing despite their wounds. I
heard dialects peculiar to every part of England, and fragmentary
accounts of hairbreadth escapes and desperate fighting.

"They was a big Dutchman comin' at me from the other side. Lucky fer me
that I 'ad a round in me breach. He'd 'a' got me if it 'adn't 'a' been
fer that ca'tridge. I let 'im 'ave it an' 'e crumpled up like a wet

"Seeven of them, an' that dazed like, they wasna good for onything. Mon,
it would ha' been fair murder to kill 'em! They wasna wantin' to fight."

Boys scarcely out of their 'teens talked with the air of old veterans.
Many of them had been given their first taste of real fighting, and they
were experiencing a very common and natural reaction. Their courage had
been put to the most severe test and had not given way. It was not
difficult to understand their elation, and one could forgive their
boastful talk of bloody deeds. One highly strung lad was dangerously near
to nervous breakdown. He had bayoneted his first German and could not
forget the experience. He told of it over and over as the line moved
slowly along.

"I couldn't get me bayonet out," he said. "Wen 'e fell 'e pulled me over
on top of 'im. I 'ad to put me foot against 'im an' pull, an' then it
came out with a jerk."

We met small groups of prisoners under escort of proud and happy Tommies
who gave us conflicting reports of the success of the attack. Some of
them said that two more lines of German trenches had been taken; others
declared that we had broken completely through and that the enemy were in
full retreat. Upon arriving at our position, we were convinced that at
least one trench had been captured; but when we mounted our guns and
peered cautiously over the parapet, the lights which we saw in the
distance were the flashes of German rifles, not the street lamps of


Meanwhile, the inhumanity of a war without truces was being revealed to
us on every hand. Hundreds of bodies were lying between the opposing
lines of trenches and there was no chance to bury them. Fatigue parties
were sent out at night to dispose of those which were lying close to the
parapets, but the work was constantly delayed and interrupted by
persistent sniping and heavy shell fire. Others farther out lay where
they had fallen day after day and week after week. Many an anxious mother
in England was seeking news of a son whose body had become a part of that
Flemish landscape.

During the week following the commencement of the offensive, the wounded
were brought back in twos and threes from the contested area over which
attacks and counter-attacks were taking place. One plucky Englishman was
discovered about fifty yards in front of our trenches. He was waving a
handkerchief tied to the handle of his intrenching tool.
Stretcher-bearers ran out under fire and brought him in. He had been
wounded in the foot when his company were advancing up the slope fifteen
hundred yards away. When it was found necessary to retire, he had been
left with many dead and wounded comrades, far from the possibility of
help by friends. He had bandaged his wound with his first-aid field
dressing, and started crawling back, a few yards at a time. He secured
food from the haversacks of dead comrades, and at length, after a week of
painful creeping, reached our lines.

Another of our comrades was discovered by a listening patrol, six days
after he had been wounded. He, too, had been struck down close to the
enemy's second line. Two kind-hearted German sentries, to whom he had
signaled, crept out at night and gave him hot coffee to drink. He begged
them to carry him in, but they told him they were forbidden to take any
wounded prisoners. As he was unable to crawl, he must have died had it
not been for the keen ears of the men of the listening patrol. A third
victim whom I saw was brought in at daybreak by a working party. He had
been shot in the jaw and lay unattended through at least five wet October
days and nights. His eyes were swollen shut. Blood-poisoning had set in
from a wound which would certainly not have been fatal could it have
received early attention.

We knew that there must be many wounded still alive in the tall grass
between our lines. We knew that many were dying who might be saved. The
Red Cross Corps made nightly searches for them, but the difficulties to
be overcome were great. The volume of fire increased tremendously at
night. Furthermore, there was a wide area to be searched, and in the
darkness men lying unconscious, or too weak from the loss of blood to
groan or shout, were discovered only by accident.

Tommy Atkins isn't an advocate of "peace at any price," but the sight of
awful and needless suffering invariably moved him to declare himself
emphatically against the inhuman practices in war of so-called Christian

"Christian nations!" he would say scornfully. "If this 'ere is a sample
o' Christianity, I'll tyke me charnces down below w'en I gets knocked
out." His comrades greeted such outbursts with hearty approval.

"I'm with you there, mate! 'Ell won't be such a dusty old place if all
the Christians go upstairs."

"They ain't no God 'avin' anything to do with this war, I'm telling you!
All the religious blokes in England an' France an' Germany ain't a-go'n'
to pray 'Im into it!"

I am not in a position to speak for Hans and Fritz, who faced us from the
other side of No-Man's-Land; but as for Tommy, it seemed to me that he
had a higher opinion of the Deity than many of his better-educated
countrymen at home.


By the end of the month we had seen more of suffering and death than it
is good for men to see in a lifetime. There were attacks and
counter-attacks, hand-to-hand fights in communication trenches with bombs
and bayonets, heavy bombardments, nightly burial parties. Tommy Atkins
looked like a beast. His clothing was a hardened-mud casing; his body was
the color of the sticky Flanders clay in which he lived; but his soul was
clean and fine. I saw him rescuing wounded comrades, tending them in the
trenches, encouraging them and heartening them when he himself was
discouraged and sick at heart.

"You're a-go'n' 'ome, 'Arry! Blimy! think o' that! Back to old Blightey
w'ile the rest of us 'as got to stick it out 'ere! Don't I wish I was
you! Not 'arf!"

"You ain't bad 'urt! Strike me pink! You'll be as keen as a w'istle in a
couple o' months. An' 'ere! Christmas in Blightey, son! S'y! I'll tyke
yer busted shoulder if you'll give me the chanct!"

"They ain't nothin' they can't do fer you back at the base 'ospital.
'Member 'ow they fixed old Ginger up? You ain't caught it 'arf as bad!"

In England, before I knew him for the man he is, I said, "How am I to
endure living with him?" And now I am thinking, how am I to endure living
without him; without the inspiration of his splendid courage; without the
visible example of his unselfish devotion to his fellows? There were a
few cowards and shirkers who failed to live up to the standard set by
their comrades. I remember the man of thirty-five or forty who lay
whimpering in the trench when there was unpleasant work to be done, while
boys half his age kicked him in a vain attempt to waken him to a sense of
duty; but instances of this kind were rare. There were not enough of them
to serve as a foil to the shining deeds which were of daily and hourly

Tommy is sick of the war--dead sick of it. He is weary of the
interminable procession of comfortless nights and days. He is weary of
the sight of maimed and bleeding men--of the awful suspense of waiting
for death. In the words of his pathetic little song, he does "want to go
'ome." But there is that within him which says, "Hold on!" He is a
compound of cheery optimism and grim tenacity which makes him an
incomparable fighting man.

The intimate picture of him which lingers most willingly in my mind is
that which I carried with me from the trenches on the dreary November
evening shortly before I bade him good-bye. It had been raining and
sleeting for a week. The trenches were knee-deep in water, in some places
waist-deep, for the ground was as level as a floor and there was no
possibility of drainage. We were wet through and our legs were numb with
the cold. Near our gun position there was a hole in the floor of the
trench where the water had collected in a deep pool. A bridge of boards
had been built around one side of this, but in the darkness a passer-by
slipped and fell into the icy water nearly up to his arm-pits.

"Now, then, matey!" said an exasperating voice, "bathin' in our private
pool without a permit?"

And another, "'Ere, son! This ain't a swimmin' bawth! That's our tea
water yer a-standin' in!"

The Tommy in the pool must have been nearly frozen, but for a moment he
made no attempt to get out.

"One o' you fetch me a bit o' soap, will you?'" he said coaxingly. "You
ain't a-go'n' to talk about tea water to a bloke wot ain't 'ad a bawth in
seven weeks?"

It is men of this stamp who have the fortunes of England in their
keeping. And they are called, "The Boys of the Bulldog Breed."

                               THE END

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             THE FIELD OF HONOUR
             H. FIELDING-HALL
             Short stories dealing with the spirit of England at war.
             "Admirably written without one superfluous word to mar the
             directness of their appeal."--_New York Times._ $1.50 net.

             A SONG OF THE GUNS
             GILBERT FRANKAU
             Vivid, powerful verse written to the roar of guns on the
             western front, by a son of Frank Danby, the novelist.

             HAROLD BEGBIE
             The first full and satisfactory account of the life and
             deeds of England's great War Minister. _Suppressed in
             England for its frankness._ Illustrated. $1.25.

             IS WAR DIMINISHING?
             The first complete and authoritative study of the question
             of whether warfare has increased or diminished in the last
             five centuries. $1.00 net.

                        HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

                           BOSTON AND NEW YORK

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