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Charles Yale Harrison: This is called an artillery duel


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Charles Yale Harrison: Selections on war


Charles Yale Harrison
From Generals Die In Bed (1928)

We do not know what day it is. We have lost count. It makes no difference whether it is Sunday or Monday. It is merely another day – a day on which one may die.


On the way to the latrine yesterday I noticed that a shell had torn a hole into one of the sides of the communication trench. Some wire stuck out from the hole, some old cans of unopened bully beef, and the toe of a boot.

It was an officer’s boot made of soft brown leather.

I tugged at it until it gave way a little and then it came easily.

It was filled with a decaying foot. The odor was sickening. I dropped it in disgust.


Then we have since learned that the word rest is another military term meaning something altogether different. Take artillery duel, for example. We are in the line – suddenly the enemy artillery begins to bombard us. We cower behind the sandbags, trembling, white-faced, tight-lipped. Our own guns reply. They begin to hammer the enemy’s front line. The infantrymen on both sides suffer, are killed, wounded. This is called an artillery duel.

We are taken from the trenches and march for endless hours to billets. The first day out we really rest. Then begins an interminable routine of fatigues. We march, drill, shine buttons, do guard duty, serve as batmen for the officers, practice grenade-throwing, machine gunnery, and at night we are taken by lorry behind lines to do wiring and trench-digging. This is called out of rest.

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