Page:The War and the Future (Masefield, 1918).djvu/38

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The War and the Future

shafts of stairs leading down 20 or 30 feet into the earth. At the bottom of the shafts were great underground living rooms, each big enough to hold 50 or 100 men. In some places shafts led down another 20 feet below these living rooms to a second level or storey of dugouts.

These places were fairly safe in normal times, though apt to be foul and ill smelling. In bombardments the men kept below in the dugouts, out of danger from the shells, till the instant of the attack, when they could race up the stairs in time to man the fire step, and to get their machine guns into action. During the intense bombardments, the shafts and stairs were blown in, and a good many of the enemy were buried alive in these dugouts. Our men, when they had captured these trenches, usually preferred to sleep in the trenches, not in the dugouts, as they said that they would rather be killed outright than buried alive.

In some parts of the battlefield of the Somme, the ground is channelled with deep, steep-sided, narrow gullies in the chalk, sometimes 40 feet deep and only 40 feet across, like great natural trenches. Three of these gullies were made into enemy arsenals and bar-