Read Life Behind The Lines of The White Road to Verdun, free online book, by Kathleen Burke, on ReadCentral.com.

Soon after leaving Mailly we had the privilege of beholding some of the four hundred centimetre guns of France, all prepared and ready to travel at a minute’s notice along the railway lines to the section where they might be needed. Some idea of their size may be obtained from the fact that there were ten axles to the base on which they travel. They were all disguised by the system of camouflage employed by the French Army, and at a very short distance they blend with the landscape and become almost invisible. Each gun bears a different name, “Alsace,” “Lorraine,” etc., and with that strange irony and cynical wit of the French trooper, at the request of the men of one battery, one huge gun has been christened “Mosquito,” “Because it stings.”

The French often use a bitter and biting humour in speaking of the enemy. For instance, amongst the many pets of the men, the strangest I saw was a small hawk sitting on the wrist of a soldier who had trained him. The bird was the personification of evil. If any one approached he snapped at them and endeavoured to bite them. I asked the man why he kept him, and he replied that they had quite good sport in the trenches when they allowed the hawk to hunt small birds and field mice. Then his expression changing from jovial good humour to grimness, he added, “You know, I call him ‘Zepp,’ because he kills the little ones,” (parcequ’il tue les tous petits.)