Instantly the “Very” lights began to go up in scores, and hell broke loose. They must have turned twenty machine guns on us, or at us, but their aim evidently was high, for they only “clicked” two out of our immediate party. We had started with ten men, the other fifty being divided into three more parties farther down the line.
When the machine guns started, we charged. Jerry and I were ahead as bayonet men, with the rest of the party following with buckets of “Mills” bombs and “Stokeses.”
It was pretty light, there were so many flares going up from both sides. When I jumped on the parapet, there was a whaling big Boche looking up at me with his rifle resting on the sandbags. I was almost on the point of his bayonet.
For an instant I stood with a kind of paralyzed sensation, and there flashed through my mind the instructions of the manual for such a situation, only I didn’t apply those instructions to this emergency.
Instead I thought—if such a flash could be called thinking—how I, as an instructor, would have told a rookie to act, working on a dummy. I had a sort of detached feeling as though this was a silly dream.
Probably this hesitation didn’t last more than a second.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry lunge, and I lunged too. Why that Boche did not fire I don’t know. Perhaps he did and missed. Anyhow I went down and in on him, and the bayonet went through his throat.
Jerry had done his man in and all hands piled into the trench.
Then we started to race along the traverses. We found a machine gun and put an eleven-pound high-explosive “Stokes” under it. Three or four Germans appeared, running down communication trenches, and the bombers sent a few Millses after them. Then we came to a dug-out door—in fact, several, as Fritz, like a woodchuck, always has more than one entrance to his burrow. We broke these in in jig time and looked down a thirty-foot hole on a dug-out full of graybacks. There must have been a lot of them. I could plainly see four or five faces looking up with surprised expressions.
Blofeld chucked in two or three Millses and away we went.
A little farther along we came to the entrance of a mine shaft, a kind of incline running toward our lines. Blofeld went in it a little way and flashed his light. He thought it was about forty yards long. We put several of our remaining Stokeses in that and wrecked it.
Turning the corner of the next traverse, I saw Jerry drop his rifle and unlimber his persuader on a huge German who had just rounded the corner of the “bay.” He made a good job of it, getting him in the face, and must have simply caved him in, but not before he had thrown a bomb. I had broken my bayonet prying the dug-out door off and had my gun up-ended—clubbed.
[Illustration: Over the top
on A raid. Photograph from Underwood