We go up towards our 75's, which are in lines behind the ridge and still thundering. We climb at a venture, in the open, by vague paths and tracks of mud; there are no trenches. During the gray ascent it is a little clearer than a while ago: they do not fire on us. If they fired on us, we should be killed.
We hurried on to a bigger dug-out and helped the doctor with several blessés injured that afternoon, and later we helped to remove them back to the village and thence to a field hospital. Just then we began bombarding with the 75's. which we had seen earlier on.
Day and night the old howitzer, with airplane observation, roared defiance at Bolsheozerki and the Russian 75's barked viciously first at the village positions of the Reds and then at their wood's artillery and infantry positions which the Reds were pushing forward at this devoted Allied force that stood resolutely between them and Obozerskaya.
This gave time "to build manufacturing capacity on a grand scale without the necessity of immediate production, time to secure the best in design, time to attain quality in the enormous outputs to come later as opposed to early quantities of indifferent class." Of the 75's only 181 complete units were shipped abroad, the American Expeditionary Force securing 1828 from the French.
Had ten minutes' talk with the French Captain commanding the battery of 75's now dug in close to the old Fort, where General d'Amade sleeps, or rather, is supposed to sleep. Here is the noisiest spot on God's earth. He fought with the Boers against us and has taken his immense bulk into one campaign after another.
But our love for the shelter, to say nothing of our love for the fragrant blossoms, made this injunction needless. Over on the other side of the house, 40 feet to the right of it, was another hedge behind which was a French battery of .75's.
The plain before him was immense, and he was able to marshal all his forces. In the centre, and nearest to Sir John, as he sat in his usual chair, were exposed all the Mays '73. For it was thus that he denominated the envelopes with which he was so familiar. There were 71's, and 72's, and 74's, and 75's. But the 73's were all arranged in months, and then in days.
Then we understand that this host whose fountain-head is out of sight is being frightfully cannonaded by our 75's; the shells set off behind us and arrive in front of us. In the middle of the lilliputian ranks the giant smoke-clouds leap like hellish gods. We see the flashes of the shells which are entering that flesh scattered over the earth.
The hosts of German troops concentrated on the face of the salient approached at times three-quarters of a million, and needed constant replenishment; for French 75's, machine-gun and rifle-fire bit deep into the ranks, and soldiers hundreds of them, nay, thousands fell, till the slopes leading to Mort Homme and to the gentle wooded heights of the Meuse became a mere shambles.
But the chief trouble was that the French "75's" coming up to relieve us had had to turn and go back the same way as ourselves. For the best part of a mile both sides of the narrow roads were occupied, and only patience, forbearance, and steady command eased the block.