The Enemy Under the Earth
Lieut. C. W. Tilbrook
EDITOR’S Note.—That most mysterious and grewsome phase of modern warfare, tunnelling, is little understood except by the intrepid individuals who have engaged in it. In this article, the first of a series, Lieut. Tilbrook tells exactly what the tunneller does and how he does it. In succeeding articles, he will tell some of the most extraordinary of “sapping” experiences at the front. Next month will appear “Buried Alive!"
"Yes." "Just returned?
The above conversation took place some few months back in the night train from Montreal to Toronto between a gentleman about fifty and my humble self. I was a casualty from the front and had journeyed up from St. Johns the day previously, after having spent twenty-eight days at sea on board S.S.-.
“What the! No!”
“I see C. E. on your shoulders: I thought it was Church of England.”
I felt the pin feathers rising on my neck. That anybody could be so colossally ignorant of the Canadian Engineers! I enlightened him.
He was hopeless. I informed him that engineers were usually divided up into field companies. He knew nothing. I was afraid that I was casting pearls of wisdom so I turned in and left him.
Next morning, in the smoker, I m°t him again; he greeted me as an old friend: “Say, what field company were you with?”
Disappointment was written all over his face. “What were you doing over there then?”
“I was with No. 1—tunnelling company.”
“Oh! I see railway construction troops.”
I I,EFT him quite satisfied that he had 1 solved the mystery. I have found out since that 90 per cent, of the men on the street are practically at sea when tunnelling companies are mentioned, and it is for that reason I am making an effort to enlighten them. I was approached by
the Editor on this subject and at his suggestion I am writing this article.
The first question is: What are tunnellers and miners?
They are a special branch of the Engineers—the only offensive branch— known as the Suicide Club. Their duty is to get under the enemy by means of tunnels, place charges of some high explosives and, when the time is ripe, blow the enemy up and out.
The second question is why?
When the enemy gets into a position, which is practically impregnable, for instance a hill where they overlook your trenches and can enfilade you, such as in the case of the late Hill 60, then the tunnelling engineer comes into force.
VTERY little is heard of this body. In * fact, it is the most secretive branch of the service and yet the most dreaded. This was well expressed by Lieut. Col. E. D. Swinton, R. E., some time back, when he stated: “It is a truism that in
land warfare the value of mines and suchlike contrivances of the sapper is almost entirely psychological. For every man actually damaged by their action, hundreds suffer mentally, either from the knowledge, or the mere suspicion of their existence. Indeed, the very rumor of their presence is sufficient to induce an Agag-like method of progression.”
In other words, to use an army term, everybody gets their “wind up”—including thç tunneller—for high explosives have no discrimination and are not respecters of persons. For the tunneller there is always the haunting dread of being hoist by his own petard. He literally carries his life in his hands and feet—a touch too rough or a stumble, and another
name is marked off as absent at roll call.
One reads in the papers of our intrepid troops going over the top, fearless and dauntless. The term “fearless” is rather abused, for every man at the front knows what fear is and has experienced it. More so the tunnellers. Mining demands the very highest form of bravery, the unemotional courage inspired by self control, determination and a sense of duty. The miner is one of a very few and his -work is secretive and unknown. He is not like his brother in the infantry, inspired to gallantry by the presence of his comrades, the enthusiasm or passion of the moment. There is no struggle with a living, sentient enemy to make matters exciting. Excitement is to be had, and plenty of it, but of a onesided, cold-blooded kind. It is against a ghostly foe, who usually does not let you know of his presence till too late.
It is my contention that the miner, after having had a “scrap” underground with the enemy, has had a far greater strain on his nerves, and been through a far more severe trial than many a man who performs a gallant deed in the heat of action. He seldom comes before the public as a hero, for practically only the heads know what he has done. When he fails he is nearly always put on the list headed —“Missing, presumed to have been killed.”
THE question now arises in the lay mind: How do they mine? This is
rather a hard question to answer. But I think it was very fairly well accomplished by two Tommies in hospital—an infantryman and a tunneller.
The former shouted : “What did you do in the great war, daddy?”
And the tunneller answered: “Put all underground Belgium into sandbags and then emptied it out again.”
But I am getting ahead too far. I should first state that tunnelling companies are army troops, that is, they are stationary and do not change about like corps, divisions and brigades—armies never move. The tunnelling company is given its field of action, and it depends greatly on the nature of the contours and the soil as to their method of procedure. First, a shaft is sunk, sometimes only a shallow one of six feet, and sometimes a deep one of one hundred feet. Then it is usually lined with timber—the standard
size internally is three feet by two. This lining is sent to the front line already made up in pieces one foot in denth, which are known as setts.
After the shaft has been sunk to the depth decided by the officer in charge, a gallery is started off at right angles to this shaft. This is usually of a standard size, two feet three inches by four feet.
After this has been driven about thirty feet, work is started putting in dugouts and living quarters for the officers and men (men first) ; then the main work is proceeded with, namely, the continuation of the main gallery. When this is driven in far enough it is again turned at right angles, right and left. And on the same level, the work is continued in these two new galleries, and is called the main front gallery. All work on this level is of the same procedure except for the fact that there are no more dugouts put in. At intervals, varying in distance, galleries are driven back at right angles to the main gallery until they reach the ground level outside; if the drive is too long, stairs are built up. These are used for ventilation and also as exits. This first system is called the first defence for it is a safeguard against the enemy driving a similar gallery, getting under our front line, loading a chamber and blowing it up. Now the question arises, suppose the enemy is there first, which he sometimes is, what happens? The only thing to do is to find his gallery and dest-' "*■ There are two ways of accomplishing this; but of these later.
With regard to the workers and methods of working, all material is removed by hand, namely, pick and shovel. The men who do the excavating are called face men and are always picked on account of their good physique; next are the baggers, or men who fill the sand bags; then the trammers, men who carry away the full sand bags ; finally, the pumpmen who look after the drainage of the works. Very often if the haul of the material is too long, a wooden track is laid on the floor of the gallery and small trolleys running on ballbearings with rubber-tired wheels, to eliminate as much noise as possible, are used to wheel away the spoil; the capacity of these trolleys is about ten bags, or roughly one thousand pounds.
'T'O get back to the destruction of an -*■ enemy gallery: When it is located,
work is carried on with great caution to get to him. This is called, “teasing out a rabbit hole,” and is done with a bayonet. That is, the soil is cut out and caught on a sand bag to prevent the enemy from hearing the dirt falling. On getting to his timbers it is up to the officer to decide what to do. He has two ways open, either to camouflet, or raid the gallery. To camouflet, is to put in a small charge of high explosives, usually ammonal, and then explode it with a time fuse. By doing this you “crump” or cause his gallery to be slightly destroyed, about twenty feet or more according to the size of the
charge. The second way is preferable; that is, to raid him underground, enter his gallery and explore it, then destroy it at some vital spot, namely, a main junction in his system. It is destroyed by a mobile charge, which the officer carries with him. Having done this you connect up his gallery with yours, and use it against him.
The Hun objects to our raids and will very seldom face them, for the fighting which occurs in the gallery is of quite a primitive kind. Figure it for yourself. Men meeting in the dark of underground and fighting viciously and blindly, stabbing and gouging in a mad effort to annihilate the unseen foe whose blows come out of the blackness! All arguments are settled with a special knife. These knives have for a handle a knuckle duster with four spiked teeth on it and are very effective. They inflict terrible wounds. Faces are carved and bodies cut to ribbons. And all is done in deadly, grim silence; a man is afraid to speak, as the sound would advertise his whereabouts and guide the slashing knives of the foe. In “scraps” of this nature no Hun gets away alive.
ILTOW do the tunnellers know when the enemy is around? By means of listening. Here we touch upon the most important branch of tunnelling. The listener has to be specially trained and every tunnelling section has thirty-six such men. The instruments used are various, electrical and otherwise. (I must not describe them for obvious reasons). Personally I preferred the otherwise, which is called a G phone and is similar to a medical stethoscope. With this to the ear sounds can be picked up and diagnosed up to a distance of thirtytwo feet in sand and sixty feet in blue clay; in chalk they are not used for it conducts its sounds to the naked ear a
distance of one hundred feet. The listener is a specialist, or should be, for he is the only one who can locate the enemy and he must be looked after and watched like a very delicate instrument; for such he is, and, at the first indication of him getting “jumpy,” he must be removed—-for lives of everybody are at stake. Listening is the most nerve-racking job in mining. What sounds do we hear? A flock of them. On sounds I could write a book. The listener will pick up trench sounds, gun and rifle fire, soil disintegration, sap sounds. All of these are inconsequential and have to be eliminated in his brain so that mining sounds may be detected—that is, working on the face, filling sand bags, tramming, timbering, walking, talking, boring, loading and tamping. The two latter are the most difficult to detect, the most important and the most dreaded. When the listener hears them he knows that the.enemy is getting ready to “blow.” Tampipg consists of blocking up the loaded Chamber and part of the gallery with fillèd sand bags, in order to prevent the explosion “blowing back” and destroying one’s own gallery; for the explosion always travels along the line of least resistance. Tamping acts as the breech of a gun.
HOW do we illuminate the works underground? By means of candles, if the air is good, but, if bad, by means of portable electric lamps. In the sector I was on our candle ration was twentyeight dozen per day; and this was hardly enough. Candles are used where there is good ventilation. Where the air is bad and will not support combustion the electric lamps are used. When there is no ventilation, if the air is too bad, bellows and pipes are installed and a continuous stream of fresh air is kept in the gallery; but this is only done as a last resource, or in the case of an emergency. The sound
of rushing air is one of the easiest to pick up with listening instruments.
Another very important man is the protoman; he is the life-saver. After a “blow” everybody is withdrawn from the saps, on account of the mine gas (carbon monoxide) which is given off from the high explosives and collects in the galleries. There is absolutely no chemical neutralizer for it. Therefore, to work in an atmosphere where this is present a special apparatus must be worn, which enables a man to breathe pure oxygen. It is called a protoset, consisting of two cylinders of oxygen, the outlet of which is controlled by a screw valve, the oxygen coming through a rubber pipe into the mouth, through a special double mouth piece, which is firmly strapped over the mouth to prevent the slightest amount of outside air getting in. The nose is clipped across the nostrils by means of a small screw clamp with rubber jaws; for the same reason in front is a bag made of rubber, which contains two compartments in one of which is placed caustic potash. The exhaled air passes into this compartment, where the caustic potash purifies it, and it then passes on into the other compartment as pure oxygen and is breathed over again mixed with a little more from the cylinders. The bag being made of rubber, it can be easily felt and the pressure noted with the hand, just by the sense of touch. The oxygen is breathed in and out by the mouth all the time. The proto apparatus is quite complicated and one of the most wonderful that we have, but for the purpose of this article I think the above description sufficient. This pair of artificial lungs is worn on the back and chest and kept in place by very strong straps.
The protoman wears this and thus equipped he does all the dangerous investigation. His is also a very hazardous job for the simple reason that the Hun believes in destroying all and sundry connected with mining jperations.
The Hun will very often camou f l e t, that is he will explode a small charge.
The protomen i m m e d i -ately go into the gallery, where the explosion has occurred. The enemy sometimes will have a bigger charge laid in another pocket close to the first and, as soon as he hears the protoman in the gallery, he blows his second charge and thereby destroys all who are in the path of this new explosion.
;rHAT was the most horrible sight I ever saw in mining at the front? Our Sergeant-Major the night that the enemy blew up our store house. After five hours’ hard work he discovered that all the jars of rum were broken. Poor Sergeant Major, I do not think he will ever get over the shock.
The mystery, the romance, the horror
of mining can best be told by narrating some of the events in which I figured during my term of service. First let me tell of the time we located an enemy gallery and the tragic events which followed :
“And then we struck somethin’, and sir, and when we drored back this ’ere is wot was stickin’ on the hend, sir,” was the information poured into my ear in a mournful tone by Sapper Wicks, late of Winnipeg, formerly of Soho, London
As this individual figures largely in the episode I may here describe him. In his youth Sapper Wicks had aspirations in the pugilistic line and bore traces of many a bout, the trophies of which were painfully apparent on his rueful visage and consisted of one eye a non starter, a nose that had been broken more than once and had a decided list to port, and ears of the approved pattern designated cauliflower. He was playfully known in No. — tunnelling company as S(cr)apper Wicks. He was 6 ft. 2 ins. in height and of Herculean build. At enlistment he had given his age as 35 (he was really 50). As for his trade he gave it as “Chief ’eadsman in a slaughter ’ouse.” His favorite literature was the Police Budget, each number of which he had off by heart
In spite of his age he was as hard as nails and as handy as a man before the mast and I had every reason to have confidence in him.
The object that Wicks presented to my notice was a small piece of wood about 4 inches long and an inch broad, which had apparently been splintered off a board, for one side bore traces of fresh saw marks.
The party with which Wicks had been working was in our second system 80 ft. in depth and was known as our “First Offensive.” We had been át work there
for nearly a month pushing out our galleries under No Man’s Land. The work had progressed favorably. We had met no opposition. We had listened carefully, but had not been able to pick up any sounds at all, and we had hoped that this time we had got ahead of “Heinie.”
I examined the piece of timber carefully with my pocket magnifying glass. There was no moisture on it; therefore I concluded that it was not a piece of an old tree buried ages before, (we sometimes came across these). This fact, coupled with the fresh saw marks, settled any
doubts in my mind. We had struck a Hun. gallery! It might be an old working— for mining had been going on in this Ypres salient since early in 1915, and as far as I know it was around this sector that the Imperial Engineers first started mining. I would here like to explain that the first mining operations in the war were started in the Hohenzollern Redoubt by the French in the fall of 1914. The Germans started about the same time, and by the spring of 1916, the ground was so broken by “blows” and “counter blows,” that it was practically an impossibility to do any more work and eventually the work ceased on both sides, as if by mutual consent. But with regard to our sector, although there had been extensive mining both by ourselves and the enemy, only a very few blows had taken place. Anything that had been done was in the form of camouflets. Each side was waiting for the exact moment to blow the other up and out. This moment might be in an hour, and it might be in a year.
One does not blow as soon as a charge is laid. It is necessary to wait until the co-operation of the artillery and infantry has been secured and this is decided by army headquarters. When we have a chamber loaded we nurse it and continue to work at building others until we have a family of mines to look after. We get to love these “chambers of death,” and both officers and men would sooner give up anything—their lives included—rather than that the Hun should steal their work of months.
“Are we still working?” I asked.
“No sir. Least ways not when I come art.” Wicks sniffed and looked round the dugout. His eye rested on the picture by Kirchner which some previous worldly individual had nailed there. It was of the kind usually found in all junior officers’ dugouts at the front, reminders of the gentler sex and Mother Eve. Wicks apprised this particular reminder for a minute and muttered: “A little bit of orl right that, a i n t she, sir? She reminds me of Whirlwind Winnie, the Champion Lady Boxer, I seen ’er at the Royal Aquarium”— Here his voice trailed off, as fond memories of the past no doubt
rushed through his mind.
“Just so, Wicks. Go down to the shift and tell them not to do anything till I come, I’ll be along in a minute or so.”
I went over to the bunk and awakened “Rosie”—real name Rosenberg.
“Take charge here, will you? I am going down to the second flight, Welby Sap.”
“Don’t be long, you priceless old thing, as I want to go to the store room and liberate some spare hard tick. Last night the rations were short.”
Continued on page 100
Continued from page 100
I picked up a fresh candle and bit the top off, ready for lighting, “all right,” I said. I reached the shaft head, and got into the bucket, which had just been emptied of its spoil, and signalled to the man in charge of the windlass to let go. I went down into the darkness for fifty feet, stopped, got out and lit my candle. The air in the system was quite sweet owing to the fact that we had good ventilation. It was very damp, however, as a result of seepage and a continuous stream of water dripped off the roof. We had put our “soul” work into this gallery. It was our “Holy of Holies.” We had even whitewashed the timbers of the galleries, and it had been facetiously called once by an infantryman “The Whited Sepulchre.”
I made my way along underground for about 500 ft. and then turned sharply to the right, and came upon the working party. The men were squatting on sand bags, looking extremely bored. A sigh of relief went all round when I arrived. “How far is the bore hole in?”
“Twelve feet, sir.”
1PUT on my G-phone and listened for an hour. All I could hear was a slight crackling similar to when you take some of your hair between your finger and thumb, pinch it and at the same time roll it. This was soil disintegration. Several times I was startled by another noise, Doom-m! Doom-m-m-m! This was heavy gun fire somewhere around on the right. Occasionally I heard the dripping of water from the roof of our gallery. Gradually I got myself tuned, I eliminated all these sounds from my brain, and so adjusted myself until I heard no casual sounds at all.
A listener has to have absolute control of his listening faculties and must not be imaginative—a man who can throw himself into a trance as it were but at the same time be awake to the slightest strange sound intrusion. He must be able to pick out anything that denotes the enemy from the multitude of sound waves which continue to surge up against his ear.
I listened for another half hour, but I could detect nothing. All the time my partly had remained so still that one would have imagined them to be dead.
I took the clips off and pushed the Gphone on one side, thankful for the relief I got.
TX/1CKS looked at me questioningly with ' ' his doleful eye, and I shook my head in the negative.
“No, no sounds! Think we’ll investigate. Start teasing out a rabbit hole about two by two six.”
The men proceeded to get ready for this work. The “faceman” discarded his shovel and commenced to cut out the soil with a bayonet. He had also donned his “neck apron,” which was made out of a sand bag With two strings at the top which he tied round his neck. At the bottom corners were attached two loops, which he slipped his left arm through. This was to catch the soil as he cut it away so that no sound of falling dirt could be heard by enemy listeners—if there were any about.
I left Wicks in charge of the party, and returned to “Rosie.”
“I hope you didn t hurry on my account?” was his greeting.
‘No, I forgot that such an infant existed. We are going to have some developments. Something real—we’re going to pay Fritz a visit at his invitation for we’ve located his gallery.”
Then a thought flashed through my mind. Perhaps it was one of the old imperial galleries ! And I confess that at this thought my heart sank.
“You must excuse me, Rosie, but I must leave you, dear child. I’m going to Lille gate,” I said.
“What! In day time?”
“You’re the doctor, but couldn’t you wait till night?”
I explained to him that I had to find the O.C. and go over the old maps with him. I might possibly have to go to second army H.Gs. also to discuss the plan of attack—if there was to be any, I could not trust it to a wire, for there was such a thing as a message not getting through.
AFTER many adventures, which must not be related here, I arrived at headquarters and was ushered into the O.C.’s dugout. The O.C. was a wonderfully efficient officer and had won the profoundest respect of all of us. As a name must be provided for purposes of narrative, let us call him Henry. He was sitting at a table reading reports. He looked up and snapped out in reply to my salute. “What have you left the front line for?” As briefly as possible I told him of our discovery and handed him my report to be put on file.
The O.C. unrolled two plans on the table and we studied them closely—red lines, blue lines, red circles, green circles, dotted green lines—to the ordinary eye, just a jumble. No, there was no record of anything in the nature of old works at the spot under consideration.
We had struck the Hun’s workings!
THE O.C. laid out our plan of campaign as we walked hurriedly along. We reached the works without anything exciting happening. Rosie met us.
“How are things?”
“Fine! We have bared a gallery—it’s about eighteen inches above our level.” “Excellent,” said the O. C. “Go and get the party up, and leave two listeners
The men came in, Wicks leading. The O. C. congratulated them on their good work, and then told them to go and have a sleep.
Ail we had to do now was to wait for the listeners’ report. In three hours we
“Somebody, sir, walks through that gallery ten minutes before every hour and goes back in 6 minutes.”
“All right, go back and keep on listening.”
Henry and I took off our tunics and boots and made our way into the bared enemy gallery. The listeners were still there. We whispered to them to come out, which they did. The O. C. crawled up and remained for about 10 minutes then I took his place. The men had cleaned out a nice pocket underneath the gallery so that it could be examined fairly well. There was no doubt about it—it was a “Fritzie!”
“How long since anybody walked there?” asked the O. C. in a whisper. “Forty-five minutes, sir.”
“Come on, Tilly.”
He led the way, and we cautiously wriggled up the “rabbit hole.” There we waited. The minutes seemed to drag by, but presently we heard footsteps. They passed right over our head, and were lost in the distance, we waited for about 5 minutes. Then the O.C. whispered: “I think we’ll try to get in.”
In a very short space of time we had two of the sills removed. Without any hesitation Henry drew himself up into the dark cavity above, and I followed him. We were in the enemy’s gallery.
“Take the bearing of this gallery.”
I took out my prismatic compass and laid it on the floor and by the light of my flash light I noted N. 32° E. The O. C. handed me one end of his pocket steel tape, and then he crawled in the direction of our front line. When I felt him tug at the tape I moved up to where he was. We kept on doing this until we had traversed 580 ft. There we were stopped by a wall of sand bags, round the sides of which 20 insulated wires ran and then up to the roof of the gallery and back along the direction in which we had come —We had struck a loaded chamber under our front line !
MY sensations were not of the pleasantest and I admit that I felt nervous for I knew that the Hun had somewhere close around them a microphone torpedo, connected with two of those wires. Luckily his listeners did not keep their earpieces on all the time and it was due to this piece of good luck that we were not discovered and blown to pieces.
The O. C. looked at the wires and picked on two of them slightly thicker than the others. He whispered, “test these two.” I took out my tester, and found that it was as we had expected—there was a circuit! I nodded. Carefully we moved out two sand bags.
“Now short circuit those two wires.”
I did this at once, turning the ends of the wire, connecting with the microphone, away from the “short.” Then I put the sandbags back in place. We had put a stopper in the Hun’s electrical ears.
Well, it was finally decided that we were to carry out a daring manoeuvre; to wit, steal the mine. When the news got around there was the greatest enthusiasm imaginable—eyes that had grown sombre with the monotony lighted up with fire and fervor. We were going to show Fritz something.
THAT night we started in our new sap, pushing it towards this stranger in our midst. It was a large gallery 6 ft. by 3 ft. On the first shift we did 9 ft., the second 11 ft., on the third which was mine, we did 12 ft. 6 ins. and when I wrote out my report I made a note, army record. This made all the shifts jealous and they formed teams and at the end of each one’s work everybody crowded round to see the official result on the officers’ report. After the second day private bets were taken, prizes were offered, and the men worked with enthusiasm and pride. Each “team” was jealous of the other and little “Tong” wars soon had to be guarded against. However, on we pushed, and on the evening of the fifth day I heard a voice say: “Beaten you, Tilly, we’ve done 13 ft. 8 ins.”
The next shift carried us under the
German mine and we then proceeded to carry out orders and empty that chamber of death. Here was how we went about it.
I took one other officer, one sergeant and three men including Sapper Wicks. The only tools we carried were wire cutters and pliers and some short lengths of copper wire. The first step when we arrived at the end of our gallery was to pry off three posts or side timbers—and there, bared to our gaze, were the methodically laid Hun sand bags. The enemy had taken his time about it and had done a neat job. At any minute he could blow the “Engländer Schweinhunds” above to flinders. But if Fritz chuckled in anticipating this feat, he reckoned without his unbidden guests, No. — tunnelling company.
We carefully removed some of the sand bags and piled them on the waiting train. These were wheeled away. We continued on without rushing, but carefully and methodically. After about three hours Wicks reported that he had come across some different colored sand bags. I stopped the work and examined them, finding they were waterproof packets of Westphalite—the German high explosive. Now we were fairly in it I instructed the men to work very carefully and to look out for wires and after we had removed 32 of these packages of condensed destruction, Wicks again reported he had discovered two wires. I cut these, tested and shortcircuited them and removed the bag of Westphalite into which they ran. By the end of that shift we had cut nine pairs of wires and short circuited them all. We were perfectly safe now, and could take our time about moving the rest. As I had been on two shifts running, I decided to go out for a rest. First, however, I wired H.Q. to the effect that everything was successful. Next day the last bag of Westphalite was removed. In all we had taken out about three and a half tons. And all the time Fritz was keeping sentry go over his nest.
XTOW according to the rules of the game ^ N this episode should have ended there. But unfortunately I have just enough Scotch blood in me to make me aggressively curious. The Hun no doubt would have still been guarding this empty chamber till June, 1917, when we “blew” him all along the front, but for my weakness for investigating.
It was early in November and the rains had come and turned the salient into a hell hole that Dante would have found hard to describe. It was practically impossible to go outside the saps for a “breather”—our trenches were all down, and the only satisfaction we had was to know that the Hun was sharing our misery. Neither side strafed much except for occasional trench mortar bombardments. Mining was going on as usual, but there was no excitement, no encounters. It was getting monotonous. I had lots of time to think and I got an idea in my head that the Hun had another chamber or possibly chambers in connection with this system! I discussed this probability with the others and finally it got to the ears of the O. C. He said “No, I don’t think so.” But I had planted the seed of unrest. Finally one day I asked the O.C. if I could investigate. He said: “Very
well, go through the rabbit hole and investigate but only as far as the gallery running at right angles to the one we are under. Now don’t forget.”
I chose “Scrapper” Wicks as a soul mate, at which the joy of battle glistened in his eye. It was a job after his liking.
We stripped off and covered our bodies with whale oil, in case we came to hand grips with the enemy, we should be real slippery customers and I impressed upon my companion the grave necessity of caution and silence and handed him out two sap knives (knuckle dusters with Swedish blades attached). Then I strapped a 25-lb. can of ammonal over my shoulder, and we were ready for any emergency.
We ran into a German sentry right at the start. I had barely shoved my head up into his gallery when I saw a light coming toward me. It was too late to jack up the opening again so we thrust the boards hurriedly into position and waited. In a few seconds the German’s foot struck the boards and through he came. His head struck the edge of the sill but before he could let a sound out of him, Wicks’ gorilla-like paw had closed on his throat. He was a burly fellow, that Prussian, but Wicks dragged him down the gallery to our waiting party who took him in charge. The Canadian ferrets had bagged their first Boche rabbit.
That the man would be missed was apparent and this made it necessary for us to hurry our reconnoitre. This time we met with no interruption and I paced the distance to the cross junction of his galleries, fifty feet roughly and knew that we were under his second line. Just then Wicks, who was possessed with a passion for souvenirs, spotted some German mining shovels inthe left gallery and, needless to state, he went after them. The light from his torch illuminated the gallerv and exposed the recumbent figure of a Westphalian Pioneer, stretched out at full length on the ground. The man sat partly upright and blinked at Wicks while his mouth opened to emit a frightened shout. Wicks sprang at him, dropping his torch. I heard a gurgling sound, a splutter, then a series of fainter gasps. As I flashed on my torch, Wicks gathered himself up again.
“Died quite peaceful,” he whispered. “ ’Ardly a struggle, sir.” Then he wiped his forehead with his gory hand, transforming himself in that flickering half light into a very ghastly figure indeed.
I l/E were in for it now. The shout of the ' ' Pioneer had echoed down the gallery and had reached other ears. They were coming on. We could hear them, the rush of many feet and we realized that it was too late to beat a retreat. “Here’s where we go West with our boots on,” I muttered to Wicks. We ran, crouching, down the gallery toward the oncoming party, extinguishing our torches and throwing them away. Our only hope lay in darkness. We had the advantage of a noiseless approach and were on them before they were aware of our presence.
I ran head on into the Hun leader who was carrying a torch and fortunately nothing else. Out went my right “duster,” catching him between the eyes and he went over backward, bringing down the man behind him who carried a Luger pistol. It went off as he fell and the sound broke on our ears with deafening force; but no harm was done.
I surged over the man I had felled and grappled with the owner of the pistol; simultaneously I was seized by the throat from behind. It was Wicks who had piled on the top of me.
“Get off, you fool, it’s me!” I cried.
Immediately his grasp relaxed. He floundered over, tackling the next man. Here I lost all interest in Wicks. I had troubles of my own.
My antagonist and I were trying to dis-
entangle ourselves from the inanimate form of the lamp carrier. The owner of the pistol grasped at my right hand and the knife blade cut his fingers to the bone. He released his grasp with a gulp of pain. I stabbed down into the darkness and felt my knife go into something soft. Then it grated and broke off. I had got him in the shoulder. We wriggled free of our encumbrance. I sensed that he was bringing up his right hand, and struck out with my left. It was not one instant too soon. Two shots rang out and I felt the sear of a bullet on my left shin. The flash gave me his position which I at once took advantage of, driving my left duster into his face. The next instant I drove the point of my knife forward and felt him collapse.
Possessing myself of his pistol, I turned and crawled back. My hand touched a tunic. There was a movement. The next thing that I was aware of was a fist in my right eye. Our inanimate friend had come to life! Pushing forward the pistol I gave him a downward blow that settled
Up the gallery I heard the sounds of scuffling mingled with the disjointed blasphemy of Wicks. I stumbled up to lend a hand. It was black as doom and a sense of horror could not be thrown off, even in the heat and excitement of our death grapple. I would have given anything for a torch and even thought for a moment of going back for one of those we had dropped. But at that moment one of the enemy party in the rear flashed a light. It was a fatal moment for him for I issued another pill. He fell in a position that left the light dimly illuminating the gallery. The gods were with us. I saw Wicks, was barely holding his own in a grapple with two stalwart specimens, so I ran forward to his assistance. In doing so I slipped and fell, and my outstretched hands came in contact with something warm and wet and squelching. It felt elastic, similar to an inner tube of a rubber tire inflated. With a momentary sensation of nausea, I realized that Wicks in the course of the indiscriminate stabbing which features a fight below ground had disembowelled one of his late opponents.
I was on my feet in a flash and rushed forward to assist Wicks.
“Come on!” he yelled. “We’ll clean up the whole bl-German army!”
I swayed from side to side, watching for an opportunity to get a stroke home at one of his assailants. The chance came shortly and I drove my knife under the upraised arm of one of them who was about to give Wicks his quietus with a pick head. The Hun lurched forward toward me. I could not get out of the way, being in a crouching position and he landed on top of me. My head struck the floor with a bang. I saw irregular constellations and wondered what all the noise was about.
'T'HE next thing that I was aware of was Wicks tugging at the can of ammonal. He slipped the rope off my shoulders. Apparently he made his way with it up the gallery. A few minutes later he came back to me asking for a match. I murmured: “No smoking allowed in the galleries.”
With an exclamation of impatience he began searching through the pockets of our fallen foes. Apparently he got what he wanted, a box of matches. Soon he was back again.
“Git up, sir, and run for it. I’ve lit the fuse to that can of ammonal.”
My dazed brain cleared instantly and I scrambled to my feet. It was a minute fuse and part of that minute was gone.
i rushed pell mell down the gallery, followed by Wicks. We struck the right angle and just turned into the gallery we had entered by, when Boom! The ammonal had exploded and we threw ourselves on our faces. Owing to the fact that the charge had only been 25 lbs., and that Wicks had not properly placed it, we did not suffer from the explosion. Hastily we rose and made our way to the opening in the floor. I fell through and encountered the scared gaze of “Rosie.”
“Don’t shoot!” I cried, “we’re all right.” “What’s happened?” he quavered, “you’ve only been 10 minutes.”
They dragged us out, and I noticed that Wicks seemed pretty far gone. He was bleeding copiously. The party supported us tottering to the base of the shaft and put us in the hoist bucket. We gained the dugout
THE O. C. was there. I would sooner have faced the Kaiser himself at that moment. He noticed our condition, and immediately called for shell dressings and water. It turned out that Wicks had five nasty flesh wounds and my share consisted of a slight bullet wound on my left shin, a closed eye, and several contusions on my head.
The dressing being over, the O. C. asked for explanations. I gave him the history as far as I was able and Wicks filled in and explained that he ran forward and placed the ammonal up some stairs which were brilliantly lighted, probably the entrance to the Huns’ upper system.
The O. C. looked severely at me and said: “Well you’ve had a good time and got safely out of it, I hope you are satisfied. I’m not! You disobeyed your instructions in going past the T-. Ex-
cess of zeal no doubt, but I need hardly remind you that it amounts to insubordination, thereby laying yourself open to a possible court martial. Otherwise I’m afraid I should have had to recommend you. Suppose we regard the incident as closed.”
To Wicks he said: “For your share,
you should have been decorated. However, as your souvenir propensity brought this little matter about I don’t see my way clear to do so. In the way of promotion, however, I can do something for you on your return from Blighty, for with those wounds you will certainly get there.
“Ah don’t want no stripes, sir,” said Wicks.
“Is there anything you do want then?” Wicks turned his head towards the handiwork of Kirchner and said :
“Yes, please, sir, give me that picture of Winnie.”
He got it. And so the matter ended.
Demand for Clogs in England
When the Lancashire men took to munition making they went to all parts of the British Isles to take up work and what is more they took their clogs with them. As a result of this clogs are becoming increasingly popular in all English war mills.
In several places in London boot dealers have set apart special windows for the display of clogs, the prices of which are now fifty per cent, higher than they were before the war; and still the supply is unequal to the demand.
Alderwood, from which the sole of the clog is made, is becoming short, and it is estimated that it will be ten or twelve years after the war before it can be grown in sufficient quantity again.