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Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster...for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Long Range Shelling5655 Reads  Printer-friendly page

World War I July 18th 1918 Dear Mother, Well there has been great activity in the line of warfare since my last letter. I never realized before that destruction of material things as well as human life could possibly occur in a few hours. Just a few days ago we witnessed the greatest artillery fire, and also its effect, since the war began.

The work done in the section in which we were located in the winter and early spring was child's play compared to the works at present. But it is full of excitement and therefore we like it.

One afternoon on the first day of this offensive, I and twelve of fifteen of the men in our company, were left in camp while the rest of the company were out delivering ammunition. Long range guns were scoring a few direct hits on the hospital. Now it is very seldom you hear the guns that fire these long range shells but on this occasion we could hear the guns that were firing these shells. The report could be heard before the shell comes over. And the sound could be distinguished from the sound of the hundred other guns which were firing continually. About three seconds after the report the gun was heard then come the short shell whine or whistle of the shell going over then the explosion itself. These shells were falling only about three hundred yards over and beyond us and were going directly over us. We didn't feel much danger as its shells were going over and anyway there were few dugouts in this town so we came out lying on the grass. But later these gunners became careless with their range and shells started to drop first on one side and then another. We became interested immediately.

The French told us to lie in the ditch beside a small narrow gauge railway that ran nearby. About the time we got in there it seemed as if Fritz started to find this road with his shells. So we just kept moving from one spot to another until we decided that a nearby wheat field was the place to go. I never saw Fritz waste any shells on a wheat field. Here we felt pretty safe and we watched the shells as they dropped on as among the buildings.

Every time we heard the whistle of a coming shell we would duck just the same. This whine of the coming shell can be heard two or three seconds before it hits. This depends upon the direction of the wind and distance away from where the shell hits. If the shell goes over the sound is longer.

It is certainly a helpless feeling that comes upon one when the shells come near and you are out in the open, on an open road, or halted on a shell swept road that is filled with traffic.

I am not writing this to show you the danger because all this does not happen every day and we have not lost a man so far in this offensive. The area of ground is so large that thousands of shells do nothing but dig holes in the ground. It is a very small percent that actually does any damage.

Well I believe we are about due for some mail. It has been several weeks since I have received any. Write a little more often if possible.

Give my love to Bob and Bertha.

Your son

Corp. R. T Bainbridge
117 Am. Train Co C
American E.F.

Note: letter by Corp. Roy Bainbridge, 117 Am. Train Co C.


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