Covered With Mud and Glory: A Machine Gun Company in Action (Ma Mitrailleuse) Covered With Mud and Glory: A Machine Gun Company in Action (Ma Mitrailleuse)

Covered With Mud and Glory: A Machine Gun Company in Action (Ma Mitrailleuse‪)‬

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Publisher Description

I remember the exact date and I have reason to, for on that Monday, February fifteenth, I joined the second company of machine guns of the ... first Colonials at the front. It was snowing and the fields of Picardy were one vast white carpet on which the auto-trucks traced a multitude of black lines to the accompaniment of pyrotechnics of mud.

Two days before I had left my depot in a small garrison town in the center of Provence, which lay smiling in the sun and already bedecked with the first flowers of spring. At Lyons I found rain, at Saint-Just-en-Chaussee, snow, and I got off the train in a sea of mud.

In the dim light of a February dawn, the station at Villers appeared to be encumbered with the supplies of half-a-dozen regiments. My car was high on its wheels and at the end of the train farthest from the unloading platform. At the other end of the platform near the entrance to the station, I found a rolling bridge for unloading animals, but it was useless to ask those busy people to help me push this weighty contrivance to the car.

So I looked at Kiki—Kiki is my horse—who had but recently arrived from Canada and was scarcely broken after his two months’ training at the depot.

“Kiki, mon vieux,” I said, “you must make up your mind to do as I did and jump. Remember that you are a Canadian, and every self-respecting Canadian should know how to jump as soon as he is born.”

I delivered this kind invitation from the ground and I urged him on by pulling on the reins. Kiki was not at all frightened. He came to the edge of the car, snuffed the air, carefully calculated the distance, bent lightly on his hind legs, and jumped to the ground without a flutter.

“The ... first Colonials?” the military commissioner said to me. “I don’t know exactly, but you’ll find it somewhere along twenty or thirty miles to the east at Proyart or Harbonnières, or perhaps at Morcourt. There’s a little of it all about there.”

So Kiki and I, in the morning mist, went slowly along roads covered with snow and grease in search of the second company of machine guns.

Proyart is a small village hidden in a hollow of this plain of Picardy which from a distance resembled a well-stretched, vast white carpet. Here the villages are sheltered in depressions and one only sees them when he reaches the level of their steeples. It was at Proyart that altogether accidentally, thanks to a sign about as large as my hand and already partly rubbed out, I found the staff of the ... first Colonials.

An orderly condescended to move a few steps and point out to me at the end of the street to the right the billets of the quartermaster of the second company of machine guns.

There was a court—a sewer, as a matter of fact—which was completely filled by a pool of filth which left only a narrow passage of a foot or two by each wall. In a corner was a tangle of barrels, farm implements, and broken boxes, and on that a mass of wet straw, manure, snow, and mud.

At the farther end of the court was a small door with glass panels—with a glass panel—for only one remained. The spaces were conveniently filled by thick layers of the Petit Parisien, Matin, Le Journal,Echo de Paris, the great dailies which arrived intermittently at Proyart.

I went in. Kiki wanted to go in, too, but the door was low and he was carrying his complete pack. Inside was a ruined kitchen. The chimney still remained, and there was a large table made of a door stretched on two barrels, which took up the middle of the room. In each corner, against the walls, were improvised beds, straw mattresses, and heaps of clothes under which I surmised there were bodies.

14 September
Library of Alexandria

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