THE LIGHT SIDE OF WAR
ONE of the characteristics of the British soldier is the cheerfulness he displays on all occasions. He has a
strong sense of humour, which never fails him; he can enjoy a joke even when the bullets are darting about him
like angry wasps searching for someone to sting. The big German shells, which were intended to rob away his
courage and cow him, have sometimes provided him with amusement.
 One day an English private, named Palmer, was suffering terribly in a trench from neuralgia. He endured the
pain for hours, hoping it would pass away, but was unable to get relief.
"Oh, this will drive me crazy!" he exclaimed at length, resting his head on his open hand on the side of the
"Poor chap!" murmured his companions.
Suddenly a huge shell from a German gun fell with a deafening thud in the ground in front of him. The trench
almost collapsed with the shock, and the sufferer was stunned. For a minute or two he lay unconscious, and a
comrade went over to lift him tenderly. Then he revived.
"Do you feel better?" he was asked.
Palmer smiled. He raised his right hand to his cheek and rubbed it gleefully. "The pain has gone!" he said.
"Oh, my! what a relief!"
A merry laugh arose from the trench as a wag referred to the next German shell that burst near them as
"Palmer's neuralgia cure".
An officer, who is a well-known cricketer, was lying cramped up for hours in a trench, longing for night to
come on so that he might get a little exercise. The German snipers were concealed not far off, and blazed away
 they got the least target to pop at. It was a hot corner. Sometimes a soldier raised his cap at the end of the
bayonet and got it riddled by bullets in a few minutes.
The officer suffered from sharp pains in his right leg, and at length turned round and stretched it above the
level of the trench mouth. In another second a bullet entered his thigh.
"I'm out, by Jove!" he exclaimed; "l.b.w. Better luck next time."
"War," remarked a private one day, as he sat down in a "funk hole" which had been dug out in a trench, "is a
really horrible affair."
"Don't get downhearted, old chap," a comrade said. "Here's a London paper to read."
The other seized it eagerly and scanned the pages with great interest. What a treasure the newspaper seemed,
although it was two weeks old.
At length he looked up and asked: "I say, where is the football page, old man? Have you torn it off for fun?
Let me have a look at it."
"Oh, I didn't tear it off!" answered the other. "When I was reading the paper this morning a bit of shell
carried off the football page."
 "What a shame!" the football enthusiast exclaimed. "I was so anxious to see how my favourite team, the
Woolwich Arsenal, got on. Ah, well! War is a really horrible affair indeed."
The fierce fighting which took place on the borders of France and Germany was one dark night relieved of its
terrible seriousness by an attack of quite a humorous character.
It chanced that the Germans had occupied a little town from which the British were particularly anxious to
drive them. In the midst of it is an old Norman church, with a high tower, which was being used as a signaling
station. It proved to be of great service to the enemy, because it commanded a wide prospect of country. When
the British attempted to advance, the signalers sent message's to two batteries of artillery concealed behind
a field of hops, with the result that their fire was directed with deadly accuracy. The British had no desire
to injure the church tower so as to render it useless for the purpose to which it was put by the Germans.
After a day of fighting, which was not decisive for either side, a night attack against the Germans was
planned. The British force which was selected to carry it through was
 not a strong one, but the men entered into the spirit of the adventure and resolved to bluff their opponents
into believing that their numbers were very great. A proportion of them carried tin basins and empty cans,
with which to rouse a mighty din when they got near to the Germans. They also asked for a piper. One of the
London Scottish Territorials, who had just arrived at the front, offered to serve in this capacity. He was
just an amateur at the pipes, but promised he would make them skirl to some purpose. On being asked to play,
he warbled a few bars of weird music, resembling the sounds heard in a farmyard, and was told he would do.
Carrying the set of bagpipes, he then marched off with the others towards the village.
The advance was conducted in silence. It was a dark, misty night, and not a star could be seen. The conditions
were admirably suited for the tactics of the attackers. They did not make straight for the little town, but
selected a winding route which led them round fields of beetroot, turnip, and potatoes. By doing so they
completely hoodwinked the drowsy German sentries.
The church tower proved to be a splendid landmark. It would not have aided them at all, however, on that murky
night, had not
 the German signalers occupied it. These men were busily engaged sending private messages with coloured lamps
to the batteries, so as to amuse themselves and while away the time, little dreaming that they were doing
splendid service to the British.
Stealthily and silently the attackers moved down into the little town. Rain had begun to fall heavily, hushing
the noise of their footsteps, and they approached quite close to the church before their presence was
suspected. The Germans had made themselves comfortable in a number of houses. Many were fast asleep in warm
beds; others were drinking heavily and singing songs.
The British force took up a strong position. Then the signal was given to alarm the enemy. The amateur piper
blew the bagpipes and made them skirl indeed. The others shouted and yelled and clattered their tins on the
cobbled streets. At the same time a brisk fire was opened, and the signalers on the church tower soon found
their position rather uncomfortable. In a flurry a signal-lamp winked out a hurried message; then a bullet
struck it and it winked no more.
The little town was thrown into confusion. Germans leaped from beds and drinking-tables and scampered hither
and thither in a state of
 bewilderment and alarm. Showers of well-directed bullets hastened their pace or caused them to change their
minds as to the best way by which to escape. The town seemed to be full of British troops. Loudly skirled the
bag-pipes; the rattling of tins seemed to be the rattling of Maxim guns, and the yells of the humorous
attackers were believed to be rejoicings over their assured success. Hundreds of Germans fled towards the
hopfield. Apparently they were mistaken for the attackers, because their own batteries of artillery opened
fire on them with shrapnel; but more were scared than were killed.
The British soldiers had really very little to do. Indeed the amateur piper seemed to be the hardest-worked
man among them. He never ceased "tuning his pipes"; some of the squeals he got out of his chanter were quite
There never was a more successful attempt at creating a panic. The Germans evacuated the town in record time.
No attempt was made on their part to rally and hold back the little band of Britishers, who had not a single
man killed or wounded.
All the townsfolk were delighted when they discovered what had happened. They praised the British for their
cleverness, and laughed
 over the hurried flight of the Germans, many of whom did not wait to clothe themselves after leaping from
their beds. But the townsfolk were very polite regarding the bagpipes. They took it for granted that the
piper's performance was supposed to be of high class character in his native land. One old lady exclaimed to
this amateur, with flushed cheeks and gleaming eyes: "Oh, m'sieur, never will I forget your beautiful music! I
will carry it in my heart for the remainder of my life."
She wondered why the soldiers laughed merrily when her words were translated to them. Then she said: "Ah yes,
I understand! They can't forget that the beautiful music made the 'Boches' run away."
Occasionally soldiers who have found themselves cut off from their regiments have experienced adventures which
were sometimes as amusing as they were exciting. A Highlander and a Londoner once took refuge in a little
farm-house to escape the Germans. They were very anxious to return to their regiments, and saw that their only
chance of doing so was to change their clothing. After a good deal of trouble they made the kindly housewife
understand what they wanted. She smiled, and said something in French, and left
 the room. A few minutes afterwards she returned with a woman's dress and a man's suit of clothes.
The Londoner laughed merrily. "Well, I'm blessed," he exclaimed to his friend, "if she does not take you for
my wife. That's why she has brought the lady's costume."
"Not at all," retorted the Highlander, who was the taller of the two; "the costume is intended for yourself.
She thinks you are so pretty."
The housewife had only one suit of men's clothes to give, and the Highlander put it on. The Englishman got
into the costume and made a comical-looking woman; then, performing the most amusing antics, he took his
friend's arm and bade good-bye to the farmer's wife and daughter, whom he left laughing merrily until the
tears ran down their cheeks. The soldiers enjoyed their experience, and when they reached the British lines
were hailed with shouts of applause. "Strike up the band," exclaimed a wag; "here come the famous music-hall
stars, 'Jock and his wife'. After a little song the lady will give a performance of the skirt dance, French
A British officer and nine privates attempted, on another occasion, to steal through the
 German lines dressed as women. They had been taken prisoners by the enemy, but managed to escape. One night
they entered the town of Roye, feeling quite exhausted, and were greatly disappointed to find that the Germans
By good luck they were met by a French lad, a native of Paris, who chanced to be residing at Roye with his
aunt when the war broke out. As the officer could speak French, he was able to make the youngster understand
that he wanted to find a safe hiding-place for himself and his men.
"Come with me," the young Frenchman said, "and I will conceal you all right."
He led them down a lane to a stable behind the house in which he was residing.
"You will be quite safe in the loft," he told them, "because the entrance is a hidden one."
"Thank you very much!" exclaimed the officer.
"I will bring you food as soon as I can procure some," the boy assured them. "Keep very quiet and do not come
down on any account."
The British soldiers climbed the ladder, then pulled it up, and the concealed hatch was closed.
When this was done the boy hastened back
 to the house. Someone was knocking at the front door. He opened it and found himself confronted by a German
officer, who began to ask him many questions. The lad answered every one, but did not give any information of
"Can I help to look after your wounded?" he asked. The officer smiled and declined the offer. But it had its
desired effect. He never suspected that the simple-looking lad was concealing ten British soldiers in the back
yard, and went away.
The next difficulty was to procure food for the hungry men lying in the loft. None could be purchased openly,
for all the shops had been seized by the Germans, who fixed the quantity which each householder should receive
daily. However, the lad arranged with, friends to contribute food for the hidden strangers, and both he and
his aunt ate as little as possible.
He was thus able to carry supplies every night to the stable.
For nearly a week the soldiers kept in hiding; then they began to weary.
"This is worse than prison," they said.
"One settles down in prison, but here, knowing that we have a chance of escape, we cannot endure to remain
long without doing something."
 Said the lad: "If the Germans see you they will take you prisoners at once."
"Bring us workmen's clothes, so that we may disguise ourselves," they pleaded.
Said the lad: "You would be seized all the same. The 'Boches' are arresting all the able-bodied men in the
town, and sending them out to dig trenches."
"Well, then," the officer said, with a smile, "bring us women's clothes, and we shall march off and not
trouble you any more." The men laughed heartily at the idea of dressing up as French women.
Said the lad: "Do not say that you trouble me. It is a great honour to be of service to the brave Englishmen."
He went away, and after some hours elapsed returned with female attire for the hidden soldiers.
"When you have all dressed up," said the lad, "I will act as your guide."
"That is very good of you," answered the officer, "but remember that if you accompany us you will be running a
very great risk."
Said the courageous lad: "The risk would be greater if I stayed. What if the 'Boches' were to find your
uniforms here? Do you think they would trouble to take me a prisoner? No; they would just shoot me as if I
were a little black crow."
 On the next night the disguised soldiers stole out from their hiding-place. They all looked very tall and
powerful women, and chaffed one another in whispers. They slipped round by back streets, some walking alone
and others in couples. The French lad accompanied the officer, who acted his part very well. It seemed for a
time as if they would all be able to get away, but on the outskirts of the town the officer and his young
friend were stopped by a German sentry, who refused to let them pass. "You must remain in Roye," he said. "It
is very suspicious that you should want to leave it during the night. I shall report the matter at once, so
that it may be investigated."
Alarmed at his attitude, the French lad and the officer turned back and warned the others. They lost no time
in returning to their hiding-place in the stable loft.
A few days afterwards, however, they were able to regain their freedom. Allied troops were closing round the
town, and the Germans found it necessary to retire from it, and this they did very smartly.
The French lad at once ran to inform the officers and men of what had happened. "We had better clear out at
once," they said, "in case the Germans should come back."
"I will act as your guide," said their young
 friend. "I know all the roads in this district."
They were only too pleased to accept this offer. The lad took them by short cuts and unfrequented paths to
Amiens, where they were able to rejoin their regiment. He thought it best not to return to Roye again. For all
he knew his movements might have been watched by German spies. So he traveled by train to Paris, and was
exceedingly glad to reach home safe and well.
Stragglers who have found themselves cut off from their regiments and surrounded by enemies on every side have
had many exciting adventures. A young British artilleryman and a sapper of the Royal Engineers were isolated
one day in a field near Soissons. Neither carried rifles. Together they crept towards the area where a force
of British troops were posted, taking cover as well as possible, so as to escape observation.
Suddenly they saw six Uhlans riding out of a wood about 200 yards distant. These German cavalrymen were
scouring the district for stragglers, and, believing they would kill rather than take prisoners, the two
British soldiers determined to show fight.
Said the sapper: "Run to yon boulder. I
 observed as I came along that there are dead men lying behind it."
The young artilleryman set off at a scamper, followed by his companion. They promptly took cover behind the
boulder, where they seized the rifles of a couple of fallen soldiers. The Uhlans observed them and rode
forward at a quick canter.
The young artilleryman had been a Territorial before he joined the army, and used to be known as a rather good
shot. His friend was also a creditable marksman. They lay, cool and collected, and took deliberate aim at the
German cavalrymen. In a few minutes they had picked off an officer and three privates, who tumbled off their
horses. The remaining two halted, wheeled about, and raced towards the wood, and one of them received a wound
before he reached it.
Meanwhile four horses with empty saddles came racing forward. Up leaped the sapper and artilleryman, and after
a brisk effort caught three of them. Then they mounted and rode towards the wood, the sapper leading the spare
horse. "Who knows," he said, "but we may meet a wandering friend."
Before riding away they went over to the men they had shot down, in case any of them might be wounded and
requiring a temporary
dress-  ing. But they were all dead. Taking possession of the helmets and the officer's sword, they then rode off
towards the British lines, and had a great reception from their companions, who called them "The jolly