Arriving At The Front

"Arriving at the Front"

Who: Craw & Perkins
When: August, 1918
Where: Grand Place, Arras

What: Craw's transport, on which Perkins has hitched a ride, arrives at the
front. The both present their papers and chat, and all seems to be in
order. Or is it?!?!

Grand Place
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION < < <

What remains of this once lively marketplace is a sight to see. Most of the
cobblestones from the street are torn up from artillery shells or soldiers
using them as patchwork for something else. Craters are some obvious dangers
as exploded shells have done their dirty work leaving yawning holes for the
unwary traveller. The beautiful Flemish architecture remains intact on some
buildings and mostly destroyed in others. Falling bricks and timber pose
another threat to the unwary. Sandbags are piled up eight feet high (2.4 m)
around the entrances of the buildings that remain mostly safe as added
protection against artillery fire.
The center of the Place is a busy hub. Soldiers move about freely when there
is no shelling. Trucks with construction supplies drive in and out,
sometimes laden with the wounded instead. Lumber cut from the nearby forests
and extra sandbags also lay about amidst the craters. One must be extremely
careful when walking about during the night.

It is currently daytime.

Sub-Rooms :
1. Communication Trench
2. Redoubt


Bapaume <B> West to Rue d'Amiens <W>
North to Training Ground <N> Church + Med Station <C>
East to Arras Outskirts <E> South to Train Station <S>

Craw has arrived.

Night has fallen and the constant roar of supply trucks breaks the silence
behind the front. A truck pulls up, filled with new conscripts. Manfred Craw
is one of them. He climbs out and heads toward the replacement depot to be
directed to his new unit. He looks at the papers that were given him in the
dim lights that illuminate the dark, mud-caked night.

Craw's Desc
A brawny man, Craw has the glow of youth and power about him. Obviously
young, the man is huge and lean physically. He wears a rather thin mustache
and the makings of a small, French-style beard. His black hair is cut short
as is custom in the British ranks.
He is outfitted in a uniform that looks fresh from the storehouse, with
only the slightest hint of dirt and mud.
He wears the standard British steel helmet, carries a gas-mask pouch on his
chest and wears the standard gear of most British troops.
Oddly, the man wears a pair of tall, custom-made riding boots instead of
the usual Infantry-man's footwear.

Perkins hitched a ride in the truck, though he wasn't among the original
shipment of conscripts. But his papers showed he was headed for Arras, and
there was room for one more body. His papers are out before he hops lightly
from the truck and heads for the replacement depot. He's not following Craw,
but he's headed for the same spot. Slowly. His eyes are wide, half-awed, as
they try to take in everything in the moonlit square. The young man nearly
trips into a shell hole, he's so busy gawking.

Perkins' Desc
A young Englishman, he looks to be at enlistment age at least, but there's
a fresh-faced, bright-eyed look about him that makes it clear he's no
veteran. He's of an average height, with a lithe build that's more notable
for deftness and agility than brute strength. His fine-boned features may be
considered good-looking, if a bit too 'pretty', but they're usually obscured
with too much muck and dirt for it to matter much. He has clear green eyes
and golden blonde hair that's been cut short, in a military style.
He's clad in standard-issue, workmanlike woolen khaki, like every other
bloke on the line. Its lowly, lonely bar of rank insignia mark him as a
Private, and other patches pinpoint him as a member of the British Corps of
Royal Engineers. His loose, baggy jacket is detailed with blackened metal
buttons, and the lower part of his body is covered by likewise baggy woolen
trousers. Sturdy lace-up boots give his feet some protection, ankle-high and
hobnailed for extra grip. Puttees are bound around his legs from ankle to
knee, useful in keeping his feet dry and clean, if constrictive at times. A
British steel helmet is usually worn on his head.

Craw hears the sound of someone sloshing over a shellhole and turns to see
Perkins, "Hey mate," he says recognizing the man from the truck. He walks
back to the fellow and pulls his papers up to look at them, squinting,
"Where they sending you?"

Perkins falls rather frantically back on his heels, to keep himself from
toppling in the hole. The wobbling looks decidedly silly, but at least he
doesn't go sprawling. The engineer's head lifts when he's called 'mate', and
her offers a nervy, over-eager smile to Craw. "Hullo." His accent is
middle-class Brit, though it has a muddled sound as to make what region he's
from difficult to detect. "Me? Oh, papers say their's work for a Royal
Engineer to be done near the Somme. Not sure what they'll put me to first.
I've heard stories enough to turn my head coming over. What about you,

"I'm no engineer if thats what you're askin," Craw says. "But yeah, I've
heard em too…I think its exaggerations, but it must be bad enough." He
folds his own papers and says, "Apparently I'm to report to the 23rd
replacement battalion…you?"

Perkins checks his papers, grinning that same eager grin. "Twenty-third.
Same, as it happens. What's your name, mate?" He extends a slim-fingered
hand for Craw to shake. "Robert Perkins, for my bit. Private Robert Perkins,
I should say." The full rank, lowly as it is, makes him stand taller and
practically brim with pride. *re*

Craw returns the man's grasp in a thick, meaty hand. He says, "Manfred
Craw, Private Soldier of course." He grins in the darkness and says, "Lets
head to the administrative offices…maybe they'll give us a place to fucken
sleep off the ground."

Perkins shakes Craw's hand firmly, though he pumps with that same excess of
enthusiasm. "Quite so," he says, falling into step with Craw as he heads to
the offices. "A…fucking bit of ground to rest on would be quite nice,
indeed. Manfred, eh? Where are you from, chap?"

"Manchester," Manfred says as he falls behind another group of recently
arrived replacements. They walk into a large wooden building that has been
recently erected of rough lumber. The smell of Cedar is
strong…overpowering everything. "I say fellow, where's the 23rd's office?"
he asks what appears to be a clerk. The man directs him that way.

Perkins strides briskly along and into the office, where he eagerly submits
his papers. "Private Robert Perkins, sir," the young man pipes to the
officer. "I was with the first Leicestshire regiment. Sapper, as you can
likely tell. But replacements were needed here, you see, and my sergeant had
men to spare so I was recommended…" The officer cares little for his
rambling and just reviews the papers. He does so with a quick eye. He's
likely done this a half-dozen times in the last hour. "All in order,
Private," he drawls, waiting for the next soldier to queue up.

Craw shows his papers as well. Fresh from the training grounds in England,
the private doesn't appear completely oblivious to life in the military, or
unprepared for it. He takes his gear and adjusts the bag on his shoulder.
"Where do I get my rifle and equipment sir?" he asks the officer.

The officer directs both Perkins and Craw, rather curtly, to the store of
supplies near the train station. He then returns to his papers. Perkins gets
going right away, the idea of getting his weapon in hand only increasing his
enthusiasm. He inhales the heavy smell of cedar, taking it all in. As if
he's savoring the crammed office and the shell-torn streets.

Craw follows Perkins after having been directed to the station to pick up
his own gear. The hour was late and the man was tierd, but his young body is
resillient. He yawns, "Officers, always the same with them," he says as they
walk out of earshot.

Perkins laughs, not showing any tiredness himself. "Indeed!" he agrees
spiritedly. "Men like us are only numbers to them, I suppose. Though I don't
think they're as bad as all that, deep down. My father was a captain, back
in his younger days. Took quite a licking from the Boers. Still has a limp
from it." His voice rings with pride, even if he is still pretty jovial
about ribbing the brass. He reaches the station quickly enough and, after a
wait in the queue, is issued his gear. Pride shines in his eyes as he holds
the rifle.

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