When the cliffs of France hove in sight he got up and leant over the rail, eagerly
watching the advancing coastline. "That's France, is it?" he remarked. "I don't see
much difference. I can't understand why the folks over there don't speak English,
Author: Herbert Strang
Publisher: HODDER AND STOUGHTON
Fighting with French : A Tale of the New Army At six o'clock next morning sergeant-majors and corporals went round the hall stirring up the sleepers. There were groans and grumbles, but the men turned out, and there was a general dash for the washing basins--one among twenty men--and a free fight for the razors. Our two friends had brought their own safeties and pocket mirrors, and when they had finished operating upon their downy cheeks there was a competition among their new messmates for the loan of those indispensable articles. "Your bristles will ruin a blade in no time, Ginger," said Harry, as he handed over the razor, somewhat ruefully. "Perseverance, that's all you want," replied Ginger, through the lather. "Yours 'll be as hard as mine in time." At half-past six each man seized a mug and rushed off to the cook-house across the yard for cocoa. They sat about the hall, swilling the morning beverage, grumbling at the blankets, asking one another who'd be a soldier; then they rubbed up their boots and made their beds, and were ready for the seven o'clock parade. Dressed only in their shirts and slacks they formed up in the drill-hall. There was a good deal of disorder, and the N.C.O.'s, in early-morning temper, roared above the din. It happened that Dick Kennedy was orderly officer for the week. When the men were at last ranged in ranks, dressed, and numbered by the sergeants, he posted himself in front and, with a nervous twitching of the lips, said gently— "Battalion, 'shun!" "Louder, louder!" whispered a fellow-officer who had come up behind him. "This isn't a mothers' meeting." The second lieutenant tried again. "Battalion, 'shun! Advance in fours from the right. Form fours!" Some of the men knew what to do, but many of the new recruits looked about them blankly. "You don't know the movements?" said the lieutenant. "Well, when I say 'form fours,' even numbers take one pace to the left with the left foot and one pace to the right with the right. Now, form fours!" The result was disorder--jostling in the ranks, cries of "Who're you a-shoving of!" "Sorry! My mistake!" said Kennedy, with a smile. "We'll try again. I should have said, 'one pace to the rear with the left foot.' Now then, form fours!" His cheerfulness won the men's sympathy, and the order being now correctly carried out, one or two of them cheered. "Silence in the ranks!" roared Kennedy. "Right! Quick march!" and the battalion marched off. The day's work began with a run for three-quarters of an hour, to the bank of a river some two miles away. A "run" so called, for it consisted of slow and quick march and doubling in turn. At eight o'clock they were back in the hall for breakfast: tea, bread and bacon, sausage or cheese. The provisions were good, the men had healthy appetites, and at 9.15, when the battalion orders of the day were read, they were contented and cheerful.