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court and the low ridge of Contalmaison. A young
yellow-hammer was fluttering about in the trench,
and I wondered how it had got there: it seemed out
of place, perching on a body which lay trussed in a
waterproof sheet. As for the gaps in the wire, they
looked too bad for words and only one night remained
for widening them.

When I was back in the dug-out I found myself
fingering with pardonable pride my two pairs of wire-
cutters from the Army and Navy Stores. It is possible
that I over-estimated their usefulness, but their pre-
sence did seem providential. Any fool could foresee
what happened when troops got bunched up as they
left their trench for a daylight attack; and I knew
that, in spite of obstinate indentations to the source
of supplies, we hadn't got a decent pair of wire-cutters
in the Battalion.

The big-bugs back at Brigade and Divisional H.Q.
were studying trench-maps with corrugated brows,
for the "greatest battle in history" was timed to ex-
plode on Saturday morning. They were too busy to
concern themselves with the ant-like activities of in-
dividual platoon commanders, and if they sent a
sympathetic Staff Captain up to have a look round
he couldn't produce wire-cutters like a conjurer. But
the fact remained that insistence on small (and often
irrelevant) details was a proverbial characteristic of
Staff organization, and on the eve of battle poor old
Barton would probably be filling in a "return3' stating
how many men in his company had got varicose veins
or married their deceased wife's sister. In the mean-
time my casual purchase at "the Stores" had, per-
haps, lessened the likelihood of the Manchesters getting
bunched up and mown down by machine-guns when
they went over the top to attack Sunken Road Trench.