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GUNS Magazine February 2010 - Page 54
ThE FirST ThE LAST A ugust 1914. The gentle sloping ridgeline was bathed in the warmth of the sun; the westerly wind blew ripples through the tall summer wheat. It was hard to believe they were at war when surrounded by the beauty of the unspoiled French countryside. As they reached the crest of the ridge, “H-a-a-a-a-alt!” the order echoing down the line as each NCO picked up the call and carried it down the length of the Regiment, “Fall out! Dig in!” The welltrained troops milled about in orchestrated pandemonium as they quickly stacked rifles, dropped their packs, removed their Lenneman pattern entrenching tools and began to dig. “Mon Dieu, but this is hard ground!”… “We’ll have our share of blisters before this day is done!” John Sheehan B C RrrrrRRUUUMPH was heard in the distance. “What was that?” ZzzzzzzwwhooooouuuuBOOOOM! A fiery gray and white airburst erupted in a flowery blossom of death 50 meters beyond the crest of the hill. ZzzzzzzwwhooooouuuuBOOOOM! The second shell exploded directly above them, it’s momentum carrying the shower of shrapnel past their position. A scream pierced the air as one of the regimental staff’s runners was struck in the chest by several shrapnel balls. The pace of digging became frantic as they piled the growing mounds of dirt in front of the rifle pits, trampling down the wheat in the process as the artillery continued to fall among them. “Positions! Take cover! Load!” the sergeant shouted and Pvt. Gerreau jettisoned his spade, tossed his pack on top of the unfinished berm for additional cover and dropped down in the shallow pit alongside his good friend, Pvt. Lebeau. He opened the bolt of his Mle 1886/93 Lebel rifle, engaged the magazine cut-off and reached for a cartridge from the ammunition pouch on the right side of his belt. He set the 54 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • FEBRUARY 2010