THE YPRES TIMES 21 were moaning and crying like children in despair, whilst voices stern and angry raised themselves above the din. Some were in overcoats and some were in shirt-sleeves, some in breeches and others in war-stained and tattered trousers. Saddles were absent, chiefly because it is not easy to saddle-up when the horse next on the line is in his death-struggles, and shells are bursting haphazard around. Mount!" somebody shouted. Somebody else cursed loudly and bitterly to a horse that wouldn't stand still. Get mounted, damn you!" There were Lancers, Hussars, Dragoons and Yeomany. R.E. Sappers armed with spades and infantrymen armed with pick-axes, helves or entrenching tools; anything and everything with which to strike a blow. The Major was speaking. The bridge is four miles up the road, boys. Use your horses sparingly and follow me when the Very lights go up. This will be shock action, remember." With an increase in range, the shell-fire about them had mercifully ceased. The little band advanced at a canter across the shell-riven fields over which no battle had yet been fought. Along the road, the straggling lines of transport told of the magnitude of the retreat, while ahead the sounds of battle grew as they approached. Beyond the distorted river, some twenty-five thousands of men with their artillery belching and machine guns spitting we're awaiting to cross the sole remaining bridge, which the fortunes of the great adventure had placed in the hands of the enemy. A watery moon rose above a yellow mist and gave low visibility, as they reached the top of the ridge above the river. The road here was deserted. On either flank of the bridge stood a rank of belching cannon, whose missiles were hurling their comrades, kitli and kin, prematurely to eternity, and astride the bridge a pair of machine guns clattered and coughed destruction. Somewhere beyond the river were straggling columns awaiting to cross to where the line was being re-formed, and fighting enemies on either hand meanwhile. The scratch squadron of nondescript cavalry formed line silently on the ridge, their presence so far undiscovered. Lieutenant, with twenty men, you will tackle the machine guns. Sergeant- Major, with thirty men you will tackle the guns on the left. Sergeant, with thirty men you will tackle the guns on the right. Corporal, with twenty men you will follow fifty yards in rear and reinforce the party who are most successful. The most important thing is to stop thosemachine guns." Calmly and quietly the Major instructed his commanders, whilst men moved uneasily, bits champed and hands grasped revolvers, swords and pick-axe helves more strongly. They awaited the reappearance of the moon from behind a cloud. Remember wot you promised. Bill!" Yes, I'll remember. You'll send my wallet home won't yer?" Silence!" came the harsh whisper. There were no trumpets to thrill and no spectators to take back the story, no eye-witnesses to write to the press and no remedy for failure. The leader rode to the fore and the commanders to their commands. An arm raised, his mount gathered beneath him on his haunches, head reined back and neck arched. The artillery below roared and smoked whilst the machine-guns crackled. Two shots from a service revolver, the leader's horse bounded forward. A hundred and forty voices uttered blasphemy loud and long; three Véry lights soared above them, lighting the scene; the irregular line swept over the ridge with swords and lances gleaming. The enemy, awe-inspired and surprised, hesitated.


The Ypres Times (1921-1936) | 1930 | | pagina 23