Whereupon Mr. Fritz pulled an automatic from under his coat—he evidently had not been carefully searched—and aimed it at Crane. Crane dove at him and grabbed his wrist, but was too late. The gun went off and tore away Crane’s right cheek. He didn’t go down, however, and before I could get in without danger to Crane, he polished off the officer on the spot.
The prisoners looked almost pleased. I suppose they knew the officer too well. I bandaged Crane and offered to take his prisoners in, but he insisted upon carrying on. He got very weak from loss of blood after a bit, and I had two of the Boches carry him to the nearest dressing station, where they took care of him. I have often wondered whether the poor chap “clicked” it.
Eventually I got my batch of prisoners back to headquarters and turned them over. I want to say a word right here as to the treatment of the German prisoners by the British. In spite of the verified stories of the brutality shown to the Allied prisoners by the Hun, the English and French have too much humanity to retaliate. Time and again I have seen British soldiers who were bringing in Germans stop and spend their own scanty pocket money for their captives’ comfort. I have done it myself.
Almost inevitably the Boche prisoners were expecting harsh treatment. I found several who said that they had been told by their officers that they would be skinned alive if they surrendered to the English. They believed it, and you could hardly blame the poor devils for being scared.
Whenever we were taking prisoners back, we always, unless we were in too much of a hurry, took them to the nearest canteen run by the Y.M.C.A. or by one of the artillery companies, and here we would buy English or American fags. And believe me, they liked them. Any one who has smoked the tobacco issued to the German army could almost understand a soldier surrendering just to get away from it.
Usually, too, we bought bread and sweets, if we could stand the price. The Heinies would bolt the food down as though they were half starved. And it was perfectly clear from the way they went after the luxuries that they got little more than the hard necessities of army fare.
At the battle of High Wood the prisoners we took ran largely to very young fellows and to men of fifty or over. Some of the youngsters said they were only seventeen and they looked not over fifteen. Many of them had never shaved.
I think the sight of those war-worn boys, haggard and hard, already touched with cruelty and blood lust, brought home to me closer than ever before what a hellish thing war is, and how keenly Germany must be suffering, along with the rest of us.
I BECOME A BOMBER
When I found my battalion, the battle of High Wood had pretty well quieted down. We had taken the position we went after, and the fighting was going on to the north and beyond the Wood. The Big Push progressed very rapidly as the summer drew to a close. Our men were holding one of the captured positions in the neighborhood of the Wood.