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Briggs Of Base No. 8
by [?]

It may be that you know him. A slim and likely kid;
Red-headed, tall, and soft of speech and glance.
He never took a prize at school (his talents always hid),
And yet he’s got a medal from the Government of France!

He didn’t kill a lot of men;
He never injured one;
He didn’t hold a trench alone;
He never manned a gun;
He drove an ambulance–that’s all;
But those above him knew
He’d take it into hell and back
If he was ordered to!

That night (he’d been right on the job
For twenty hours or more)
They telephoned again for him–
And as he cranked–he swore.
Half dead for sleep, he drove too far,
Straight into No Man’s Land,
And there he gathered up four men
Who didn’t understand
Or care what happened…. Then a chap
Sagging with gobs of mud
He shoved into his throbbing car
That smelled of drugs and blood.

The other roared, but Briggs, sleep-deaf,
Stared at the moon on high–
‘Twas like some spent star-shell glued on
A blue-black, tired sky–
And didn’t try to hear or think;
He only tried to keep
His car from sliding off the road–
And not to fall asleep.
The ambulance went skidding back
(His chains had lost themselves),
While now and then a growl came from
Its stretcher-ladened shelves.
Briggs never stopped, but when the groans
Were punctured with a curse
He told the weary moon, “At least
This flivver is no hearse!”
And slowly yawned again…. At last
They rounded Trouble Bend,
Base Eight before them–and that ride
Was at a welcome end….
The blood-stained orderlies came out
To take the wounded in,
Opened the doors to lift the wrecks….
Before they could begin
There tumbled out the mud-caked man,
Whose mouth was shot away;
A man who stared like some wild beast
Finally brought to bay;
For Briggs, Base Eight, American,
Had brought (beside his four)
A German officer, half drunk
For need of rest! who swore
And cried, and then sank back again
And fell asleep…. That’s why
They’ve decorated little Briggs–
Red-headed, tall, and shy!

“I didn’t do a thing,” he growls;
“‘Twas just a fool mistake,
And he’d have captured me, of course,
If he had been awake.
He tried to talk (his battered mouth
Was just a shredded scar);
But we were wasting time, and so
I pushed him in the car
And came on back…. Now, what is there
About that sort of stuff
To make a fuss for? I am not
A hero…. I’m a bluff!”
The surgeon smiles…. “If he can make
A capture in the night
When doing Red Cross work, what would
He do if he should fight ?”
He asks, and looks a long way off
To where the pounding guns
Are making other harmless wrecks
Of one-time hellish Huns.

I wonder if you know him? A slim and quiet kid,
Red-headed, tall, and soft of speech and glance;
He doesn’t like to have you talk about the thing he did–
And yet he’s got a medal from the Government of France.