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Mud and Khaki

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Erik C.

Geregistreerd op: 7-8-2011
Berichten: 68

BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Aug 2011 20:42    Onderwerp: Mud and Khaki Reageer met quote

Een goed geschreven boek, een voorproefje.


"Pongo" Simpson was sitting before a brazier fire boiling some tea for his captain, when the warning click sounded from the German trenches. Instinctively he clapped the cover on the canteen and dived for shelter, while the great, black trench-mortar bomb came twisting and turning down through the air. It fell to ground with a dull thud, there was a second's silence, then an appalling explosion. The roof of the dug-out in which "Pongo" had found refuge sagged ominously, the supporting beam cracked, and the heavy layer of earth and bricks and branches subsided on the crouching man.

It took five minutes to dig him out, and he was near to suffocation when they dragged him into the trench. For a moment he looked wonderingly about him, and then a smile came to his face. "That's what I likes about this 'ere life, there ain't no need to get bored. No need for pictcher shows or pubs, there's amusements for you for nothing." And as he got to his feet, a scowl replaced the smile. "I bet I knows the blighter what sent that there bomb," he growled. "I guess it's old Fritz what used to 'ang out in that old shop in Walworth Roadó'im what I palmed off a bad 'arf-crown on. 'E always said as 'ow 'e'd get 'is own back."

Five minutes later he had exchanged the battered wreck of his canteen for a new one belonging to Private Adams, who was asleep farther down the trench, and had set to boiling a fresh lot of tea for his captain.

"Darned funny things, bombs and things like that," he began presently. "You can't trust them no'ow. Look at ole Sergeant Allen f'r example. 'E went 'ome on leave after a year out 'ere, and 'e took an ornary time fuse from a shell with 'im to put on 'is mantelpiece. And the very first night as 'e was 'ome, the blamed thing fell down when 'e wasn't lookin', and bit 'im in the leg, so that 'e 'ad to spend all 'is time in 'orspital. They're always explodin' when they didn't ought to. Did I ever tell you about me brother Bert?"

A chorus in the negative from the other men who stood round the brazier encouraged him to continue.

"Well, Bert was always a bit silly like, and I thought as 'ow 'e'd do somethin' foolish when 'e got to the front. Sure 'nough, the very first bloomin' night 'e went into a trench, 'e was filin' along it when 'e slipped and sat right on a box of bombs. It's gorspel what I'm tellin' youónine of the blighters went off, and 'e wasn't killed. 'E's 'ome in England now in some 'orspital, and 'e's as fit as a lord. The only thing wrong about 'im now is that 'e's always the first bloke what stands and gives 'is place to a lady when a tram's fullóstill a bit painful like."

Joe Bates expectorated with much precision and care over the parapet in the direction of the Germans. "It ain't bombs wot I mind," he said, "it's them there mines. When I first kime aht ter fight the 'Uns, I was up at St. Eloi, an' they blew the 'ole lot of us up one night. Gawd, it ain't like nothin' on earth, an' the worst of it was I'd jest 'ad a box of fags sent out by some ole gal in 'Blighty,' an' when I got back to earth agen there weren't a bloomin' fag to be found. If thet ain't enough to mike a bloke swear, I dunno wot is. 'As any sport 'ere got a fag to gi' me? I ain't 'ad a smoke fer two days," he finished, "cept a li'l bit of a fag as the Keptin threw away."

Private Parkes hesitated for a minute, and then, seeing Joe Bates's eyes fixed expectantly on him, he produced a broken "Woodbine" from somewhere inside his cap.

"Yes," resumed "Pongo," while Joe Bates was lighting his cigarette, "this ain't what you'd call war. I wouldn't mind goin' for ole Fritz with an 'ammer, but, what with 'owitzers and 'crumps,' and 'Black Marias,' and 'pip-squeaks' and 'whizz-bangs,' the infantry bloke ain't got a chanst. 'Ere 'ave I been in a bloomin' trench for six months, and what 'ave I used my bay'nit for? To chop wood, and to wake ole Sandy when 'e snores. Down the line our blokes run over and give it to the Alleymans like 'ell, and up 'ere we sits jest like a lot of dolls while they send over those darned bombs. I'll give 'em what for. I'll put it acrost 'em." And he disappeared round the traverse with the canteen of tea for his officer.

Ten minutes later he turned up again with a jam tin bomb in his hand. "I bet I can reach their bloomin' listening post with this," he said, and he deliberately lit a piece of paper at the brazier fire and put it to the odd inch of fuse that protruded from the bomb. The average jam tin bomb is fused to burn for three or four seconds before it explodes, so that, once the fuse is lit, you do not keep the bomb near you for long, but send it across with your best wishes to Fritz over the way. "Pongo" drew his arm back to throw his bomb, and had begun the forward swing, when his fingers seemed to slip, and the weapon dropped down into the trench.

There was a terrific rush, and everyone disappeared helter-skelter round the traverse.

Just as Corporal Bateman rounded the corner into safety he glanced back, to see "Pongo" sprawling on his bomb in the most approved style, to prevent the bits from spreading. There was a long pause, during which the men crouched close to the parapet waiting, waiting ... but nothing happened.

At length someone poked his head round the traverseóto discover "Pongo" sitting on the sandbag recently vacated by Corporal Bateman, trying to balance the bomb on the point of a bayonet.

"'Ullo!" said that individual. "I thought as 'ow you'd gone 'ome for the week-end. 'E wouldn't 'urt me, not this little bloke," and he fondled the jam tin.

"Well," said Joe Bates when, one by one, the men had crept back to the fire, "if that ain't a bloomin' miracle! I ain't never seen nuffin' like it. Ain't you 'arf 'ad an escape, Pongo?"

"Pongo" rose to his feet, and edged towards the traverse. "It ain't such an escape as what you blokes think, because, you see, the bomb ain't nothin' more nor an ornary jam tin with a bit of fuse what I stuck in it."

And he disappeared down the trench as rapidly as had his comrades a few minutes before.

De rest van het boek staat hier.
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