The sergeant interrupted sharply.
“Here, you shut up, Bunthrop,” he shouted. “Keep down in the trench. You’re wounded, aren’t you? Well, you’ll get back presently.”
“That be damn,” said Bunthrop. “You don’t understand. They’re runnin’ away, but we can’t go out after ’em if these silly blighters here keep shootin’. Come on now, or they’ll all be gone.” And Private Bunthrop, the despised “conscript,” slung his bayoneted rifle over his wounded shoulder and commenced to scramble up out over the front of the broken parapet. And what is more he was really and genuinely annoyed when the sergeant catching him by the heel dragged him down again and ordered him to stay there.
“Don’t you understand?” he stuttered excitedly, and gesticulating fiercely towards the front. “They’re runnin’, I tell you; the blighters are runnin’ away. Why can’t we get out after ’em?”
SMASHING THE COUNTER-ATTACK
" ... a violent counter-attack was delivered but was successfully repulsed at every point with heavy losses to the enemy.”—EXTRACT FROM OFFICIAL DESPATCH.
There appears to be some doubt as to who rightly claims to have been the first to notice and report signs of the massing of heavy forces of Germans for the counter-attack on our positions. The infantry say that a scouting patrol fumbling about in the darkness in front of the forward fire trench heard suspicious sounds—little clickings of equipment and accouterments, stealthy rustlings, distant tramping—and reported on their return to the trench. An artillery observing officer is said to have seen flitting shadows of figures in the gray light of the dawn mists, and, later, an odd glimpse of cautious movement amongst the trees of a wood some little distance behind the German lines, and an unbroken passing of gray-covered heads behind a portion of a communication trench parapet. He also reported, and he may have been responsible for the dozen or so of shrapnel that were flung tentatively into and over the wood. An airman droning high over the lines, with fleecy white puffs of shrapnel smoke breaking about him, also saw and reported clearly “large force of Germans massing Map Square So-and-so.”
But whoever was responsible for the first report matters little. The great point is that the movement was detected in good time, apparently before the preparations for attack were complete, so that the final arraying and disposal of the force for the launching of the attack was hampered and checked, and made perforce under a demoralizing artillery fire.