Page:The War and the Future (Masefield, 1918).djvu/44

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The War and the Future

shells. There were 20,000 casualties on that ghastly table, and the shell-shock cases leaped and shook and twittered in every clearing station.

Twenty-thousand men were killed and wounded in the taking of the nest of machine guns in the subterranean fort of Mouquet Farm. Our men went down into the shafts of that fort and fought in the darkness under ground there, till the passages were all seamed with bullets.

We lost half a million men in that great battle, and we had our reward. For in the winter of 1917, in the winter night a great and shattering barrage raged up along the front. It was the barrage which covered the attack on Miraumont and drove the enemy from the Ancre Valley. The next day came the news that Serre had fallen, and we went up and stood in Serre. And Gommecourt fell, and the rain of shells ceased upon Loupart and La Barque, and the news ran along like wildfire, that the enemy was going back.

It was a soaking thaw after frost, and the roads, such roads as remained, were over ankle deep in mud, and our muddy army got up from the mud and went forward through it.