Target Practice 4

“A Thrilling Experience” was the heading of one of the sections of our reporter’s description. (1)

Rocking in a tiny boat on 100 feet of water, surrounded by absolute stillness, except for the swish of water, the experience of the observers was thrilling. Minutes passed with the silence unbroken; then the air was filled with the shriek of the shell, brief but intense, and a sharp bang, accompanied by a cloud of smoke, showed where the shower of bullets had dropped. The precarious position in the boat accentuated the feeling of dread which every man must feel when actually under shrapnel fire. The chief impressions gained were that men are strangely helpless in a trench against the terrible visitor, which, with uncanny accuracy deals death from the air above him,; and that no conception of the awful speed of the death messengers or their unbelievable precision in bursting, as if sentient, when they reach striking distance, can be gained except in a trench or by such an experiences as that of the observers.

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The gunners on shore, meanwhile, casually smoking at the limber filled with twelve-
pound shells, did not look as if they were having a particularly thrilling experience.

And when they were dragging their guns through the ice and slush, thrilling is probably not the word they would choose.

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Some of the excitement among the journalists and photographers arose from the fact that the occasion marked the first time since the War of 1812 that artillery had been fired from Lake Ontario’s shore.

By April 1916, when it was Percy’s turn, it had all become routine.

(1) The Globe (1844-1936). Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.February 22, 1915. 6

The images are from John Boyd’s First World War Photographs, City of Toronto Archives.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”

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