It must have been two days after we went over the top with the tanks that Captain Green had me up and told me that I was promoted. At least that was what he called it. I differed with him, but didn’t say so.
The Captain said that as I had had a course in bombing, he thought he would put me in the Battalion Bombers.
I protested that the honor was too great and that I really didn’t think I was good enough.
After that the Captain said that he didn’t think I was going in the bombers. He knew it. I was elected!
I didn’t take any joy whatever in the appointment, but orders are orders and they have to be obeyed. The bombers are called the “Suicide Club” and are well named. The mortality in this branch of the service is as great if not greater than in any other.
In spite of my feelings in the matter, I accepted the decision cheerfully—like a man being sentenced to be electrocuted—and managed to convey the impression to Captain Green that I was greatly elated and that I looked forward to future performances with large relish. After that I went back to my shelter and made a new will.
That very night I was called upon to take charge of a bombing party of twelve men. A lieutenant, Mr. May, one of the bravest men I ever knew, was to be of the party and in direct command. I was to have the selection of the men.
Captain Green had me up along with Lieutenant May early in the evening, and as nearly as I can remember these were his instructions:
“Just beyond High Wood and to the left there is a sap or small trench leading to the sunken road that lies between the towns of Albert and Bapaume. That position commands a military point that we find necessary to hold before we can make another attack. The Germans are in the trench. They have two machine guns and will raise the devil with us unless we get them out. It will cost a good many lives if we attempt to take the position by attack, but we are under the impression that a bombing party in the night on a surprise attack will be able to take it with little loss of life. Take your twelve men out there at ten o’clock and take that trench! You will take only bombs with you. You and Mr. May will have revolvers. After taking the trench, consolidate it, and before morning there will be relief sent out to you. The best of luck!’”
The whole thing sounded as simple as ABC. All we had to do was go over there and take the place. The captain didn’t say how many Germans there would be nor what they would be doing while we were taking their comfortable little position. Indeed he seemed to quite carelessly leave the Boche out of the reckoning. I didn’t. I knew that some of us, and quite probably most of us, would never come back.
I selected my men carefully, taking only the coolest and steadiest and the best bombers. Most of them were men who had been at Dover with me. I felt like an executioner when I notified them of their selection.