The Captain spoke with his forefinger hovering over Hawthorn Ridge. “The mine goes tomorrow at 7:20.”
“With zero hour at 7:30?” one of the officers asked.
The Captain looked around the table and saw more questioning faces. Another spoke up. “Why the hell give them ten minutes to regroup, sir?”
“According to Headquarters there’s forty thousand pounds of ammonal under that redoubt! Think Fritz is going to recover from a jolt like that in ten minutes?”
The question remained unanswered, as did a number of others. Generally, though, they had confidence in what the generals were telling them. The enemy had to be suffering badly from the massive amounts of artillery that had been pounding their lines day and night for a full week. General Haig had amassed an army that some said stretched for sixty miles. The Great Push could hardly fail.
Pages 20-21 )
“Whelps,” Clarke said under his breath. “Someone should have told them they had to be weaned before they could join up.”
He led Hayward to a couple of the youngest looking ones. “What part of Newfoundland are you from, men?”
“Trinity Bay, sir.”
They looked at each other and laughed heartily.
Pages 80-81 )
The colonel stood before them, his gloved hands overlapped and resting against the silver knob of his ash-stick. He looked up and down the lines before he spoke. “Most of you, I know, have been anxiously awaiting this day. You could not have arrived at a better time. Before today is out you shall be part of the greatest show of the war and by this time tomorrow a part of our greatest victory. No soldier could ask for any more. I know I can count on you, just as I can count on every other man in our Newfoundland Regiment. When the going gets hard, think how proud of you should be of yourself, knowing what you’re doing for God and your country.”
“Orders, bud.” Smith wouldn’t tell him it was to make it easier for their aeroplanes to spot them if they got hit.”
For some who trudged along there was the knowledge of being on familiar ground, for it had been work parties from the regiment who’d dug a good bit of the trench they were in. It had been a mud hole a few days before. The duckboards kept them out of most of the muck that remained, yet there was no way to avoid it all.
( Page 168 )
To his surprise, the corporal showed no concern. He seemed to expect it. As far as Hayward could tell, he was far from the trenches for the moment. Out of his tunic pocket he took an envelope and placed it in Hayward’s hand.
“Will you take this, sir? I think it’ll be safer with you.”
Hayward said nothing, and did not move his hand.
“I have a feeling it will, sir. It’s for my aunt. She’ll need something.”
His aunt in St. George’s was the only relative he ever talked about. Hayward had wondered about his parents, but never asked.
“It’ll be no safer with
After a moment it was
returned to his tunic pocket. “You won’t forget it’s there?”
The spectacle he met there numbed him beyond any response to Hayward’s shouting. The narrow gap cut in the wire was blocked with bodies, and all around were the wounded in every state of hopelessness. Smith and some others were dragging the dead aside, trying to make room for the swarm of men desperate to get through. One of the dead Welshmen, his uniform caught on the wire, hung almost upright, his bare head thrown back, his jaw askew.
And still there was no let-up. The Hun were having their way, their guns fixed on the gaps in the wire. The men were felled like the caribou on the Island, channelled together by fences of toppled spruce.
For the first time their eyes fell on the Hun wire. It loomed in the distance, not the pulverized mass they were told it would be, but ominous, barely broken, a final heartless barrier. The ground that would get them to it sloped down, past a clump of trees, the lay of the land delivering the Hun their targets.
The trees were bereft of all but a few of their limbs. One tree stood out from the others, like a burial marker, around it the bodies of several of the regiment’s men. Martin could see that one was Mayo Lind, the letter writer.
( Page 240 )