Brigade Exchange: A Telephone Story of the Great War


VOICES A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I.

The time is summer, 1918.
PLACE: A sector held by a German division on the Western front: the telephone 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that we present the famous 
German Radio Production "Brigade Exchange" by Ernst Johannsen. This 
dramatization—which has been done in four languages including the 
French—pictures a man's memory of hours spent in a telephone dugout behind the 
German lines. It is called the German "Journey's End." [Pause.] We now 
introduce the man who [fading] remembers.

NARRATOR. A strip of what was the Western front: waving cornfields, meadows, 
the twittering of birds, children playing at the brook and the sound of a 
steam whistle wafted lustily on the wind from the direction of the 
railroad;—time has erased the traces of the monstrous four-year drama. In the 
distance a cemetery, at the roadside the remains of a stone wall, a couple of 
bent rails, tree stumps—that is all. And still the whole countryside is one 
vast cemetery, one vast grave! Here too they fought and here they died, hour 
by hour, day by day, year by year—here too the ground was uprooted during the 
mad whirl of the shell fire.

Waving cornfields, meadows, the twittering of birds, children playing at the 
brook and the sound of a steam whistle wafted lustily on the wind from the 
direction of the railroad—time has erased the marks of the monstrous event.

A wanderer sits at the crossroads and meditates and reflects there, behind 
that ridge of hills lay the telephone post of the Brigade—and one day, during 
the summer of 1918—

[MUELLER plays a war-song such as sung by the soldiers at the front, on the 

SCHMIDT. How about it, Mueller, d'you want to play 66?

MUELLER. [Stopping short in his harmonica playing] No! I always lose. Well, 
all right. If you want to. Got any cards?

SCHMIDT. Yes, come on, my dear.

MUELLER. Diamonds are trump. Yuh know, I'm not so keen about this dugout, 
sitting here with these carbide lamps all day long. You can hardly tell one 
card from another.

SCHMIDT. But this shaft has thirty steps, my boy, and such shelter over your 
head is not to be sneezed at. Play.

MUELLER. I'll risk this King.

SCHMIDT. Not through the Iron Duke!

MUELLER. And now, of course, you plank down the Queen! Holy mackerel!

SCHNEIDER. [At the switchboard] Schmidt and Mueller, cut out the noise back 
there! I can't understand a thing at the switchboard. [Bzzzzzz.] Brigade 

VOICE A. Wiesengrund Regiment, please.

SCHNEIDER. Wiesengrund Regiment. I'll call.

VOICE B. Wiesengrund Regiment.

VOICE A. Lieutenant Jacobson, please.

VOICE B. Killed half an hour ago.

VOICE A. What?

VOICE B. He's been killed! Half an hour ago.

VOICE A. Killed?

VOICE B. Yes, shrapnel splinter in the abdomen!

VOICE A. Did he die immediately?

VOICE B. No, ten minutes after he was hit.

VOICE A. Ten minutes—thank you.

SCHNEIDER. Speaking?—Disconnecting.

SCHMIDT. How much have you?

MUELLER. _Over 66._

SCHMIDT. You're a lucky devil.

MUELLER. If the ration truck would get here,—I'm starved!

SCHMIDT. Go on, play. We can't complain, think of the infantry. They haven't 
tasted any warm food out there in the crater-holes for three days. Schneider 
says the flyers threw down canned meat.

MUELLER. Did they drop grub!

SCHNEIDER. Yep, they did,—it looks like—— [Bzzzzzzzz.] Brigade Exchange!

KRAMER. [Voice heard. Excitedly] Quick—Artillery Commander!

SCHNEIDER. Line is busy.

KRAMER. Give me another wire.

SCHNEIDER. Sorry. That's the only free line up to the front.

KRAMER. Then cut somebody off!

SCHNEIDER. I'm not allowed to.

KRAMER. Good God, man! Our own artillery is shooting short with gas shells!

SCHNEIDER. Just a minute, maybe I'll have a line now.

MUELLER. Looks as if there's something doing again, Schmidt. Forty!

SCHMIDT. I'll take that with the Ten.—Yep. Looks like it.

SCHNEIDER. Hello, are you still there? Here's the Artillery Commander.

KRAMER. Sergeant Major Kramer speaking. Our C. O. has been killed. In Sector 2 
you're firing short with gas, and cyanide.

VOICE B. The usual error, Sergeant-Major. Hardly a day passes without our 
having shelled our own lines.

KRAMER. [Furious] Hell. It's not a mistake. I'm sure of it. I can't hold my 
men, I've had to retire a bit. I've got a lot of casualties—some gassed and 
dead. There's no line. I am wounded myself. Met the telephone operators on the 
way back and called up immediately. It's a wonder that I got through at all.

VOICE B. Sector 2 you say? To the right of the railroad tracks?

KRAMER. Right.

VOICE B. I'll have the matter investigated at once. You know as well as I do 
that they're very particular about those things.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Try to get Sedan Exchange.

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. Call me when you're ready.

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir. Mueller, where is the Corporal?

MUELLER. There he is—just coming up.

CORPORAL. Here I am. What's up?

SCHNEIDER. Lieutenant von Zitsowitz wants Sedan.

CORPORAL. Let's see if we can get through. Plug that spare 'phone into the 

SCHNEIDER. Done. [Bzzzzzz.] Brigade Exchange.

BEHNKE. [Voice heard] Repair gang. This is Behnke. Is that you at the board, 

SCHNEIDER. Yes—what is it?

BEHNKE. [Excited] Quick, send a man to the crossroads. Strassman is badly 
wounded. I don't know what to do.

SCHNEIDER. Stay there—where you are—someone'll be there at once. See that he 
doesn't bleed to death.

BEHNKE. Yes, all right, hurry!

SCHNEIDER. Mueller and Schmidt, Strassman is lying at the crossroads badly 
wounded. Run like hell. Behnke'll surely let him croak—he can't stand the 
sight of blood.

SCHMIDT. Strassman get one? He was to go on leave, too.

MUELLER. Sister Behnke's certainly a fine one in such an emergency—that 
weakling! And it has to happen now, when I've got the first good hand I've 

SCHNEIDER. Come on, don't talk so much. Take along a stretcher and a pole or 

MUELLER. Hand me the dressings. Where's my knife gone again?

SCHMIDT. Here, better take your gas mask.

SCHNEIDER. Now beat it, and hurry, hurry.

SCHMIDT. Keep your shirts on—you're talking to an old trooper. Up-stairs, 

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

BEHNKE. [Voice heard] This is Behnke; is someone coming?

SCHNEIDER. Schmidt and Mueller are on the way. Where did it get him?

BEHNKE. Oh, God—everywhere. Splinters in the stomach, splinters in the face, 
and his lower jaw is smashed.

SCHNEIDER. Did you get hit too?

BEHNKE. No, no.

SCHNEIDER. So long—have to answer the board—busy.

CORPORAL. [In the distance] Schneider—listen, here's Sedan, connect them with 

SCHNEIDER. All right, Corporal.

FEMALE TELEPHONE OPERATOR. [Voice heard] This is the Sedan Exchange—Sedan 

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Lieutenant von Zitsowitz speaking—hospital number 1, 

FEMALE TELEPHONE OPERATOR. Hospital—I'll connect you.


ZITSOWITZ. Lieutenant von Zitsowitz talking—can you understand me?


ZITSOWITZ. May I speak to Dr. Muehlmann?

HOSPITAL TELEPHONE OPERATOR. He's operating right now, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. Then please call Sister Erna to the phone.

HOSPITAL TELEPHONE OPERATOR. [Calling] Sister Erna—Sister Erna—telephone.

SISTER ERNA. [Voice heard] This is Sister Erna.

ZITSOWITZ. Lieutenant Zitsowitz speaking. How is my brother? Will he recover?

SISTER ERNA. Lieutenant Zitsowitz, your—your—brother?—Last night—he——

ZITSOWITZ. Last night he—what,—died?

SISTER ERNA. Yes—he died—

ZITSOWITZ. What time?

SCHNEIDER. Are you finished?

ZITSOWITZ. No, get off the line.—When did he die?

SISTER ERNA. About two o'clock.

ZITSOWITZ. All right—Thank you. Please write me the details. 13th Brigade.

SISTER ERNA. Gladly, Lieutenant. 13th Brigade. Good-bye.

CORPORAL. That was luck with Sedan. Did you hear that skirt? [Imitates the 
female voice.] Sedan Exchange—hello, Sedan Exchange.

SCHNEIDER. Yes, I'd like to be back there now. [Bzzzzzz.] Brigade Exchange.

VOICE A. Wiesengrund Regiment.


VOICE A. Cut them off. This is urgent. Call from division H. Q.

SCHNEIDER. There they are, sir.

VOICE A. Take this down.

VOICE B. Yes, sir.

VOICE A. Trench—between railroad tracks and hill 80—is already under fire of 
enemy shells; report back to Division; urgent.

VOICE B. I'll repeat it. Trench—between railroad tracks and hill 80—is already 
under fire of enemy shell; report back. Urgent.

VOICE A. Right.

SCHNEIDER. Are you through talking? I'm disconnecting.

CORPORAL. What about Strassman, Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. I just rang them, Corporal, but Behnke doesn't answer. I guess he 
hasn't plugged in again. If they had any luck at the military train Strassman 
will be at the Division and the hospital in no time.

CORPORAL. He has four children. That's tough. I'd like to have seen that 
Behnke softie, I can just imagine how that rookie jumped about at the 
crossroads when things got started.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard] Lieutenant Zitsowitz.

SCHNEIDER. I'll connect you.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Lieutenant Zitsowitz speaking.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Divisional Commander speaking. The reserves should reach 
you in half an hour—see to their safe conduct.

ZITSOWITZ. Yes, your Excellency.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. How is your brother, the pilot?

ZITSOWITZ. He died last night at two o'clock, your Excellency.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Died.—He too.—My sympathy.—One by one they go. It all 
seems hopeless.

ZITSOWITZ. Yes, quite hopeless. We can never make it now.—Our faith in any 
possible chance vanished with the March offensive.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. No good thinking about it—anything else?

ZITSOWITZ. No, Excellency. Some prisoners are on their way up here.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Very well—good-bye.

ZITSOWITZ. Good-bye, Excellency.

SCHNEIDER. Are you through talking? I'm disconnecting.

CORPORAL. Oho. Here comes the cook. Well, Hinrichsen, did you get any drinking 

HINRICHSEN. Yes. You can call it drinking water. At any rate there are no fish 
in it.

CORPORAL. And what's that under your arm?

HINRICHSEN. Horse meat. Freshly killed by air-bombs. Those hornets are coming 
over by the flock again.

CORPORAL. What do you intend to do with the horse meat?


CORPORAL. Well, you'll have to let it simmer slowly or it will get tough.

HINRICHSEN. I'll fix that, all right. If I only had a few onions.

CORPORAL. Strassman has been badly wounded at the crossroad.

HINRICHSEN. At the crossroad! Holy smoke! With little Behnke?

CORPORAL. Yes. Mueller and Schmidt have gone up.

HINRICHSEN. Strassman always said: "I've been in since the beginning, but my 
time has come, you watch, I'll be killed this year."

CORPORAL. Nonsense—such rot. Nothing but superstition.

HINRICHSEN. I wouldn't say that, Corporal. While I was with the infantry I met 
with that sort of thing often.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Hello. Our line to the signal station is working 
again.—Brigade Exchange.

VOICE A. Division H. Q.


VOICE A. Take a message.

SCHNEIDER. Hinrichsen, take down this call, will you?

CORPORAL. Don't bother. I'll do that.—You go ahead and cook the goulash.

VOICE A. Message for Division H. Q. "Trench between railroad tracks and hill 
80—under heaviest possible shell fire—evidently also gas. Message transmitted 
from signal post by heliograph."

CORPORAL. I'll repeat:—"Trench between railroad tracks and hill 80 under 
heaviest possible shell fire evidently also gas. Message transmitted from 
signal post by heliograph"

SCHNEIDER. [To BEHNKE who enters] Hello, Behnke! Where are Mueller and 

BEHNKE. Coming. Strassman's probably done for. We dragged him to the military 

CORPORAL. Was he conscious?

BEHNKE. Yes. It was so difficult to carry him. He screamed every time he was 
moved. Give me a cigarette, will you, Schneider, I'm sick.

SCHNEIDER. You haven't learned how to look at these things yet. There, behind 
the switchboard you'll find a pipe full of tobacco. [Bzzzz.] Brigade 
Exchange.—Signal post?—I'll call them.

CORPORAL. How did it happen, Behnke?

BEHNKE. We were sitting in a trench at the crossroads, mending a line. I had 
just insulated the joint, when the shells started to land. Strassman said they 
were 15's. After one or two hits, we ran on a bit, and found the line torn to 
bits at a big shell-hole. We were just going to get down to look at it when I 
was suddenly thrown in. Strassman was flung quite a distance away. I never 
heard the shell. Then he screamed, and I ran to him. At first he moaned 
constantly: "My children, my babies." Then we looked at each other. Then he 
just groaned. I plugged in the test box and called up—got any tea, Hinrichsen?

HINRICHSEN. Yes, come on up. I have some tea left in the pot. I'm cooking 
horse-goulash—grub, little Behnke.

BEHNKE. I can't eat horse meat. The poor animals, Hinrichsen.

HINRICHSEN. Then leave it, that's all. Come on upstairs.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

SANDERS. [Voice heard] Let me talk to the hospital by the factory, quick. How 
do I get it?

SCHNEIDER. I'll connect you with Waldlager Exchange.

VOICE B. Waldlager.

SANDERS. Quick. The hospital.

VOICE B. I'll call them.


SANDERS. This is transport driver Sanders. My companion is dead. The ambulance 
is at the far end of the village in the valley. There's heavy fire there.

VOICE B. And what about your truck?

SANDERS. Front wheels stuck in a shell hole. Radiator and engine are wrecked. 
You must send the two reserve cars here immediately. Be careful in the ravine. 
There the firing is heavy and regular.

VOICE B. Right. Are you wounded?

SANDERS. Not badly, my upper arm is torn open—only a flesh wound. Good-bye.

CORPORAL. Hello. Here come Mueller and Schmidt back again. Did you get 
Strassman somewhere safely?

SCHMIDT. Yes, the train took him right along. But he won't last, I don't 
believe. We bandaged him as well as we could.

MUELLER. I am to keep his big boots he said. Schneider is to send his watch 
home. Behnke is to take his overcoat. He was a good fellow.

SCHMIDT. Yes, he was that.

CORPORAL. Schneider, tell them at the post that Strassman will not be going on 
leave, and ask them where the dickens the rations truck is.

SCHNEIDER. Hell! The line to the Regiment is down again.—Yes, I'll call them.

CORPORAL. The devil with those damned lines. And why haven't they sent those 
two substitute men? Mueller and Schmidt, it's too bad, but you'll have to go 
out again.

MUELLER. Why don't you raise a little hell so we'll get those two men?

SCHMIDT. And where is the food?

CORPORAL. Delayed, I suppose. Schneider's finding out. Put the line down as 
deep as you can in the mud by the side of the road.

MUELLER. Let's beat it, Schmidt. The sooner we go the quicker we get back.

SCHNEIDER. Brigade Exchange—is that the orderly room?

VOICE C. Yes, what is it?

SCHNEIDER. Strassman is badly wounded. He's gone up on the military train. We 
must have two more men.

VOICE C. I've asked for them. We're not magicians.

SCHNEIDER. Will the rations truck be here today?

VOICE C. No, not till tomorrow. And besides, it will only run as far as 
Feldweg from now on. You'll have to bring the stuff yourselves from there. We 
don't want to lose horses again like we did last time. Anything else?

SCHNEIDER. No. Good-bye. [HINRICHSEN enters with PRISONER.] Hullo, who've you 
got there, Hinrichsen?

HINRICHSEN. Here's a prisoner for you. He was anxious to see how the telephone 
works on our side.

CORPORAL. Where did you get him, Hinrichsen?

HINRICHSEN. The whole trench above is full of them. They are being questioned 
one at a time.

PRISONER. A bas la guerre! Corporal telephone.

CORPORAL. Hinrichsen, you'd better take him upstairs again. If anyone sees him 
here we'll get it.

PRISONER. Many, many—how you say—Tan—tan—

HINRICHSEN. Tanks, of course, sure. Say. He's wounded, there's blood running 
down his sleeve.

PRISONER. Oh, Non. Non!

HINRICHSEN. Go on. Alley! Come on, Messur, out you go.

SCHNEIDER. I'd like to have his boots, Corporal.

CORPORAL. Still at it, Schneider? You've still got your eyes on Hinrichsen's 
English boots, haven't you?

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Division, please.

SCHNEIDER. I'll ring them.


ZITSOWITZ. Lieutenant von Zitsowitz speaking. According to what the prisoners 
we have just examined say, an immediate attack with tanks is planned.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

HANSEN. [Voice heard] You are at the board, Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, what is it, Hansen? [Laughing.] Personal conversations are 
forbidden, man!

HANSEN. You're the only line we've got left. Our post is right next to the 
radio station. It's been pretty thick here for the past hour. It looks to me 
as if they wanted to finish the wireless post.

SCHNEIDER. Nonsense, they only have an outside antenna close to the ground, 
haven't they?

HANSEN. Right, but maybe they have located it with a direction finder. You've 
got it easy back there.

SCHNEIDER. For the present, yes.

HANSEN. We have only a few tree trunks over our heads—you in your deep Brigade 
tunnel, you're safely hidden. We have only——

SCHNEIDER. Hello, what have you?—Hansen!—whew! Damn it, that was their last 
line. Well, Behnke, how's the horse meat getting on?

BEHNKE. On the fire already. Lieutenant Zitsowitz gave Hinrichsen hell, 
because he was smoking the place up so upstairs. Here are some postcards for 
you taken from the prisoners. Swell pictures.

SCHNEIDER. Bad for _you_, my boy.

BEHNKE. Funny that the prisoners always carry them, isn't it?

SCHNEIDER. What do you expect? What's the Corporal doing?

BEHNKE. Repairing the lines outside—two poles had tumbled over.

SCHNEIDER. And you stand around here, Ninny?

BEHNKE. I'm to take up some cables.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange. I'll connect you.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] The firing from the enemy is growing. We can see 
tanks behind his lines. Why is our firing so weak, Excellency?

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard] We have to economize on munitions. We're 
short of everything,—every damned thing—particularly shells.

ZITSOWITZ. It's the limit.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Worse than that. You know yourself how short we are of 
guns. Anything else?

ZITSOWITZ. No, Excellency. Good-bye.

SCHNEIDER. What are you wandering about now for, Hinrichsen?

HINRICHSEN. Where can I get some onions—without onions it won't be worth a 

SCHNEIDER. Why don't you ask them next door?

HINRICHSEN. I have already. They have none. They just lost two of their 
balloons over there. Those bolognas hung there so smart—it was about time that 
they were cleaned up. [Heavy firing—strikes very close.] The firing is 
increasing at the front. I'll run over to the signal post; maybe I can dig up 
an onion there.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

MUELLER. Mueller and Schmidt here.

SCHNEIDER. Did you find the break?

MUELLER. No, but the line disappears into the mud here, so it'll probably be 
somewhere there. There's continual firing here with crumps and shrapnel. We're 
going on to the end of our sector. Then we'll turn back. So long.

CORPORAL. What do you think Sister Behnke just said to me,—"Corporal, I've got 
lice." What're they, I asked him. "Haven't you any yet, and you've been out 
here so long?" Nope, I said, I have no lice, but I've got bees,—that's what 
I've got, Red Cross brand at that. You'd laugh yourself sick over that 
youngster. [Laughter.]

SCHNEIDER. Where is he now?

CORPORAL. He's playing with a red snail and philosophizing on what a hero is.

SCHNEIDER. They drafted that kid from school. What I'd like to know is why he 
was sent to the Signal Corps.

CORPORAL. Oh, hell, Schneider, I'm sick of this filth now, myself.

SCHNEIDER. You bet, me too!

CORPORAL. I'd like to bathe, put on civies and stroll around Berlin a bit. And 
at that, we have soft jobs here in the Signal Corps. How do you suppose the 
poor infantry feel about the whole damned thing? If they'd even had grub like 
the fellows on the other side it'd be different. They say the English don't 
even know how much bully beef they've got.

SCHNEIDER. Well, we won't be finished off easily. We're dug in like a fort and 
we'll finish it here.

CORPORAL. Probably. [Distant heavy cracks.] Listen,—the firing's growing. The 
usual evening benediction.

SCHNEIDER. Those who weren't here will never be able to understand it—Verdun, 
Fort Douaumont, Somme, will be words to them, just meaningless words. [Distant 
crashes.] Were you at the Marne?


SCHNEIDER. And then Flanders?

CORPORAL. Yes. A human being can stand an awful lot.

SCHNEIDER. And then the Somme?

CORPORAL. That's where I was made Corporal—then came Verdun,—we had 304 dead 
there, Rabenwald, Montfaucon.

SCHNEIDER. Then the Chemin de Dames. Laon. What came after that anyway?

CORPORAL. Well, to the right of Laon, in the St. Gobin Wood. Then there was 
St. Nicholas. It was quiet there.

SCHNEIDER. We know them all better than our own country. [Heavy explosions.] 
God, if it were only all over—I hate to read my wife's letters—such misery in 
Germany. [Bzzzzz.] Brigade Exchange. Division—I'll call them. [Bzzzzzzz.] 
Brigade Exchange. Take a message.

CORPORAL. Let 'er go.

SCHNEIDER. Brigade Exchange. Line is busy.—Still talking?

[Distant rumbling of shooting—more like the beating of drums.]

NARRATOR. And as twilight advanced the gun fire of the mighty enemy who 
suffered from neither lack of food, ammunition or men, grew to a very 
hurricane of scraps of iron, dust, smoke, fire and gas. Up and down hill the 
bursting shells danced and the air was filled with the shrieking of shell, the 
screeching and humming of iron splinters. Every square yard of the trenches 
was ploughed up, turned upside down, and the last dugouts sank, crushed to 
atoms in fire and mud. Hour after hour of the night, the mad lightning 
flashed, dying shrieks were strangled in smoke and gas, death laid his 
indifferent hand on man and beast. The hot barrels of the guns steamed in the 
continuous rain, the wounded stumbled toward help, while the living waited, 
dumb and despairing, for death. Drum fire! Drum fire! Untiringly the telephone 
operators from posts in the rear, followed up their broken cables, and as dawn 
finally appeared, swathed in mist———

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

VOICE D. Time, please.

SCHNEIDER. Exactly two minutes to six.

VOICE D. Two minutes to six. Thanks. How does it look over your way?

SCHNEIDER. Nothing but breaks all night long. During the past hour they've 
been shelling here too. But the firing at the front is dying down.

VOICE D. They'll attack I suppose. Well, so long.

SCHNEIDER. Hello, Lieutenant Zitsowitz. I was to call you.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Damn, are those two hours up? All right.

SCHNEIDER. Hinrichsen, Hinrichsen.

HINRICHSEN. [Sleepily] What do you want?

SCHNEIDER. Get up, it's six o'clock. Get coffee ready. Mueller and Schmidt 
ought to be here any minute. Behnke started your fire up above and put the 
water on for you.

HINRICHSEN. Oh, yes, yes, yes. [Burst of shells.] What, are they firing this 
way, too?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, for the past hour—oh, go on, get up. The water must be boiling 

HINRICHSEN. Yes, yes, I'm coming. I hope he leaves my cook house alone. What 
sort of weather is it?

SCHNEIDER. Rain and fog.

HINRICHSEN. Do you know that my English boots bring me luck? What sort of 
stuff is he throwing anyhow?

SCHNEIDER. Only now and then with seventy-fives.

HINRICHSEN. Where in hell is the Corporal?

SCHNEIDER. Fixing up a break.


SCHNEIDER. Carrying a message to the signal post. The brigade messengers are 
gassed, and the line is dead.

[A crash on the roof of the dugout.] 

HINRICHSEN. That one sat right in the middle of the roof.

SCHNEIDER. The damned carbide lamp. Every time a shell hits near here it goes 

HINRICHSEN. Well all right, I want to see whether my cook house is still 
there. Maybe it got a good wallop, in which case we'll have to cook coffee in 
a helmet.

SCHNEIDER. If you'd only get up there.

HINRICHSEN. I'm on my way—don't hurry an old soldier!

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

JENSEN. [Voice heard] Wiesengrund Regiment, please.

SCHNEIDER. Out of order since last evening.

JENSEN. Then give me another wire to the front.

SCHNEIDER. I haven't any.

JENSEN. Since when?

SCHNEIDER. About an hour.

JENSEN. That's a fine state of affairs.

SCHNEIDER. Everything is under fire.

JENSEN. Call a Brigade messenger to the phone.

SCHNEIDER. They're all gassed.

JENSEN. Ach! Give me the Brigade.

SCHNEIDER. Brigade—I'll connect you.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Lieutenant von Zitsowitz.

JENSEN. Captain Jensen speaking. Anything new?

ZITSOWITZ. Sorry to say—no. Lines to the front are down. Haven't been in 
communication with Wiesengrund since last evening. Messengers did not return. 
The signal post can't get through the fog any more. We have a slightly wounded 
man here. He says the reserves sent up did not even reach the railroad 
crossing—but were wiped out in the ravine. If the messengers we sent out 
should get through they are to try to get through to the little wood.

JENSEN. Good. If they——— [Crash.]

ZITSOWITZ. Hello, hello—Exchange, Exchange!


ZITSOWITZ. Did you cut us off, just now?

SCHNEIDER. That shell down here—seems to have broken down a line.

ZITSOWITZ. Have it repaired at once.

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir!

HINRICHSEN. The Frenchies just planted one in the trench next to my cook 
house. One line's gone. I thought it got me, but even the coffee pot is all 

SCHNEIDER. Fix it up, Hinrichsen, there's tape on the ledge.

HINRICHSEN. I play cook—haul water, gather wood and fix wires, too—say, 
someone else can play cook!

SCHNEIDER. You were out on repair only once last night. You certainly can't 
complain. Look how long I've been sitting at this board!

HINRICHSEN. Little Behnke can cook—he ought to have been a girl anyhow. Anyhow 
he'll get his soon—you mark my word. These Rookies have no instinct for 
trouble. They can only get killed and——

SCHNEIDER. Shut up. Put the coffee over here and beat it. It isn't worth 
talking about.

HINRICHSEN. Nope, nothing's worth talking about any more. Where are the 

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Division.

SCHNEIDER. I'll connect you with Feldweg, Lieutenant.

FELDWEG. This is Feldweg.

ZITSOWITZ. Division, please.


ZITSOWITZ. Cut them off for first class message Brigade Exchange.—Lieutenant 
Zitsowitz speaking. Message received from a wounded Battery Commander—railroad 
crossing already occupied by enemy—Vely lights requesting barrage—enemy fire 
directed at our artillery positions and back areas.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard] I see—an attack.

ZITSOWITZ. Yes, your Excellency, with the great advantage of the fog. However, 
it is clearing up.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. The reserves have been instructed to await further 
orders at Brigade hill. All the artillery reserves at hand are on their way.

ZITSOWITZ. Yes, sir, your Excellency. [Crashes.]

SCHNEIDER. There goes the lamp again. [Bzzzzzzzz.] Brigade Exchange.

KIRCHMANN. [Voice heard] Call the Corporal.

SCHNEIDER. Not here.

KIRCHMANN. Give him the following—this is Lieutenant Kirchmann—"Brigade 
Exchange is not to desert post without orders. Communication to the rear is to 
be kept going at all costs." Got that?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir. I'll repeat it. "Brigade Exchange is not to give up its 
post without orders; and communication to the rear is to be maintained without 

KIRCHMANN. Right. How many yards of cable do you still have?

SCHNEIDER. Six thousand yards!

KIRCHMANN. All right. Good-bye.

CORPORAL. [Coming into dugout] Hello, boys—Schneider.—What a night!

SCHNEIDER. And it will be some day—Corporal.

CORPORAL. What are you scribbling?

SCHNEIDER. Orders for us.

CORPORAL. Let's see—Oho! That's going to be a nice show—almost looks like a 
break through.

HINRICHSEN. So, the line's repaired again. Now, first of all we'll drink 
coffee—gentlemen! Perhaps we'll be drinking it for the last time. And then 
we'd best pack up our junk.

CORPORAL. Nothing doing in the way of packing up. Here, Hinrichsen, read this!

HINRICHSEN. "Don't give up without orders"—well, all right. An order is an 
order—even if the devil—— [Crash.]

CORPORAL. Schneider, light a candle. That carbide lamp's no good.

HINRICHSEN. Of course.—Ughmmmmmm—the coffee's swell.—What? Oho—look—here comes 
Baby Behnke—well, sweetheart, how do you feel in the shell smoke?

BEHNKE. I'm about done up.

HINRICHSEN. Is that all?

BEHNKE. I'm soaked through and through—I fell in a shell hole.

CORPORAL. Did you deliver the message, Behnke?

BEHNKE. No, the signal station is gone, Corporal.

CORPORAL. What do you mean, shot to pieces?

BEHNKE. Yes—shot to bits—oh—oh!

CORPORAL. What, oh—oh!

BEHNKE. The corpses—the corpses!

HINRICHSEN. Are they sending over heavies, then?

BEHNKE. Yes—once I thought it was all over. I won't go out alone again.

CORPORAL. You won't have to.

BEHNKE. Will this dugout stand a heavy shell, Corporal?

CORPORAL. If it isn't a big coal box—yes. Now, swallow some hot coffee, so 
you'll get on your feet again. [Bzzzzz.] Schneider, there's a call.

SCHNEIDER. Brigade Exchange. Hello—anyone there?

BEHNKE. Is it an attack?

CORPORAL. Do you suppose he's been firing all night just for fun, Behnke? 

HINRICHSEN. How would you feel if you were up in front with the infantry 
now?—Can you fire your rifle at all?

BEHNKE. A little. [Laughter.]

CORPORAL. They send you youngsters to us—and we've got to put up with you. You 
look like a ghost again.

BEHNKE. How can I help it, Corporal? I was hungry before I was drafted—I 
trained my legs off for ten weeks. Because we were telephone operators they 
took us to the shooting range only once.

CORPORAL. Finished with your bread? Cut off a piece of mine. I know all about 
that training. But you smoke too many coffin nails. How old are you anyhow?

BEHNKE. I'll be nineteen tomorrow.

CORPORAL. A good age—I'd like to be nineteen again. You have to play at being 
men at nineteen—and so you lose your heads. But keep your spirits up, my boy. 
Sometimes dying is far better than you imagine. One scream—and you're 
finished. Not so bad.

BEHNKE. If one would only die at once—I heard screams last night, I'll never 
forget them—nor the smell of corpses.

CORPORAL. Nonsense. We forget everything when we're old enough—particularly 
the bad things.

SCHNEIDER. Unfortunately we don't always grow old enough.

HINRICHSEN. That time, at the Somme—arms, legs, and hands——

CORPORAL. Quiet, Hinrichsen! Do you want to scare him some more?

HINRICHSEN. Just wanted to tell how we——

CORPORAL. All right! I know your sweet stories—you love to dwell on the 

SCHNEIDER. Talking? I'm cutting you off.

CORPORAL. Where in the world are Schmidt and Mueller again? Give me a 
light—so—the pipe's lit. Are you cold, Behnke?

BEHNKE. A bit, because I'm wet.

CORPORAL. Off with your coat—put on your canvas jacket—cover up with your 
canvas sheet. You don't know how to help yourself at all. We'll have to start 
out again if Schmidt and Mueller don't get back soon. Get ready. Don't forget 
your gas mask. We'll lay a spare line. Anything new, Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. All quiet. [Three shells burst.]


HINRICHSEN. What's the matter—oh God?

BEHNKE. I only meant, if——

SCHNEIDER. He always means.

BEHNKE. I only meant—if I should die, send my mother my love, Hinrichsen.

HINRICHSEN. There's no dying here, boy. Those few shells upstairs? Think of 
the infantry in front last night—that _was_ something, my lad.

BEHNKE. Yes—but remember, if I die——

HINRICHSEN. Yes, yes, I will, sonny.

CORPORAL. Hinrichsen, if anything goes wrong near this post, you'll have to 
repair it—there won't be any cooking today anyhow. The grub won't be here 
before tomorrow. Behnke, take a full drum of cable with you. We need at least 
three thousand yards.

VOICE F. [Above in the distance] Is this the Brigade dugout?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir—Brigade.

VOICE F. [Nearer now] I've just brought up my battery. Have a line laid up to 
it for me, Corporal.

CORPORAL. Yes, sir.

VOICE F. [Near] Where is Brigade H. Q.?

CORPORAL. Straight ahead, and then turn left. The dugout has two entrances. 
Hinrichsen, lay a line to the battery.

HINRICHSEN. Right away.

CORPORAL. Come on, Behnke.

BEHNKE. All right—and Hinrichsen—don't forget—my mother.

HINRICHSEN. Hell—no. Schneider, it's going to be a first class performance 
today—I tell you. When the mist rises, things'll hum! Well, I'm off.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

SCHMIDT. [Voice heard] Breakdown gang Mueller and Schmidt talking. We'll have 
to turn back. The mist is rising and we can see tanks ahead. A few wounded are 
limping back. They say everything in front is blown to bits—good-bye.

SCHNEIDER. Hello—wait a minute—tell me where you can see the tanks—I'll 
connect you with the Brigade. That you, Brigade?

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Hello!

SCHNEIDER. Here's a message about tanks.

SCHMIDT. We can see two heavy tanks to the right of the road. A small one is 
moving up the road.

ZITSOWITZ. On the hill of the old barricade?

SCHMIDT. I can't see that from here, sir. The land is under heavy fire.

ZITSOWITZ. Very well—turn back.

HINRICHSEN. Damn it all, Schneider—they brought a battery right up on top of 
us and the ammunition wagon's alongside. Why, that's just begging for the 
aeroplanes—plug in—see if he has his phone attached already. [Bzzzzz.]

VOICE G. Battery.

SCHNEIDER. Exchange—the line is in order.

VOICE G. Then give me the Artillery Commander.

SCHNEIDER. I'll call them. [Distant shells.]

HINRICHSEN. They'll probably start to smoke things up at once—I'll just take a 
look and see how they're coming along.

SCHNEIDER. Go ahead. Look it over. [Distant shells.]

HINRICHSEN. That was the first shot, Schneider. When will the last one come?

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard] Give me Lieutenant von Zitsowitz.

SCHNEIDER. I'll call him.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Lieutenant von Zitsowitz?

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Yes, sir.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Have the support troops made liaison with their right 
and left?

ZITSOWITZ. Yes, your Excellency. I hope we can stop this thing in front of 
Brigade hill. But we can only do it if the machine gun reinforcements come up 
in time. Right now we have only one battery and one long Howitzer in action on 
our whole Division front. It's a frightful situation.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. We're doing all we can. A Division is coming up. 
Everything else is in God's hands. They're too strong for us. [Three distant 

SCHMIDT. [Coming near] Here we are again, Schneider, but don't ask me how we 
got here. We're in a hell of a mess again.

MUELLER. We ran like rabbits. We look like pigs. Take a look at my tin hat. A 
fine dent, what? The splinters were rattling against it so that I couldn't see 
or hear.

SCHMIDT. Where's the Corporal? We've got to move back. What are we staying 
here for?

SCHNEIDER. Move back, nothing. We stay here till we have orders.

SCHMIDT. That's just great.

MUELLER. And what's that battery up there going to do?

SCHNEIDER. Fire—what d'yuh think?

MUELLER. Fire—is that so? I tell you it won't be firing long—standing up there 
like a present on a silver platter! The planes'll blow it to pieces. [Distant 

SCHNEIDER. Here's Hinrichsen again. How's it going?

HINRICHSEN. Boys—get ready to be prisoners. Listen to an old soldier. Two 
flyers have already discovered the battery and they're circling above us. 
[Heavy shells hit. Near.] There you are. Those were bombs on the battery. He 
won't fire any more. The attack is in full swing.

BEHNKE. [Upstairs and at a distance] Stretcher-bearer, stretcher-bearer.

SCHNEIDER. That's Behnke's voice.

HINRICHSEN. Come on up, quick. What did I tell you? Behnke would be the first!

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange—Go ahead!

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard] How does it look over there, Lieutenant 
von Zitsowitz?

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] The enemy tanks are rolling up, with the infantry 
advancing behind them. Two tanks are out of action. If we don't get 
reinforcements our situation is hopeless. The mist is lifting and the planes 
are bombing us.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. A squadron of fighting planes is on its way. All 
available reserves will be sent up. The battery must retire.

ZITSOWITZ. At once, your Excellency.

MUELLER. [Distant] Not so fast, Schmidt. [Coming near.] Look out for his head.

SCHMIDT. Here's Behnke, Schneider.

SCHNEIDER. Lay him down here.

BEHNKE. My legs—my legs! Take me away. They're coming. They're coming! 

MUELLER. Keep quiet, Behnke—that yelling doesn't help you.

SCHMIDT. Strap it, strap it—hold him tight——

SCHNEIDER. If he only wouldn't carry on so.

[BEHNKE'S moans die away. A shell bursts.]

HINRICHSEN. Thank God, he's unconscious! Cut that stuff away!

MUELLER. Where's the Corporal? Run up, Schmidt! Maybe he's lying in the 

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange. Lines broken, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Have you still got a line to the division at the 


ZITSOWITZ. To the left?

SCHNEIDER. I'll call. Hello! No answer, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. Broken, too?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. All right.

SCHMIDT. The Corporal is lying in the trench, dead. Only one gun is firing 

SCHNEIDER. Aeroplane bombs?

SCHMIDT. Yes. There are tanks in the valley—one is burning.

HINRICHSEN. We can't get Behnke away.

[Shell bursts. Distant shouts: "Stretcher-bearer!" Distant machine gun 

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

VOICE H. [Hurried] We're breaking down our switchboard—the tanks are on us. 
You've just got time to get out if you don't want to be taken prisoners. Good-
bye! [Machine gun fire.]

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

ZITSOWITZ. [Voice heard] Have you any men left?

SCHNEIDER. Three men, sir.

ZITSOWITZ. Send one over to bandage me!—two up above to bring the wounded in!

SCHNEIDER. Yes, sir. One man to Zitsowitz, two up above—quick.

HINRICHSEN. It's all up. Is he over there alone?

SCHNEIDER. Looks like it.

BEHNKE. Are you—there—Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. Yes, Behnke.

BEHNKE. I'm dying——

SCHNEIDER. You only imagine that. Are you in pain?

BEHNKE. No—almost none.

SCHNEIDER. Just lie very still, then.

BEHNKE. Yes—Schneider?


BEHNKE. Give me—another cigarette.

SCHNEIDER. I only have a half a one.

BEHNKE. Make me a present of it—perhaps it'll be the last——

SCHNEIDER. You can have it. Keep lying quiet—and don't move your hands either. 
I'll light it and put it in your mouth.

[Distant exploding hand grenades.]

BEHNKE. What—was—that—Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. Hand grenades—but far away.

BEHNKE. Save yourself, Schneider—oh no, stay with me a little bit—just until 
I'm dead.

SCHNEIDER. I'll stay with you. You won't die.

BEHNKE. But so much—blood, Schneider;—I am dying, I know. Why—is it—suddenly 
so quiet up above, Schneider?

SCHNEIDER. I don't know, Behnke.

BEHNKE. Tomorrow—is my—birthday—I'll be nineteen—give me something to drink.

SCHNEIDER. [Bzzzzzz] Brigade Exchange.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. [Voice heard—excited] Give me the battery.

SCHNEIDER. Battery—go ahead.

VOICE I. Battery.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Damn you. Why haven't you changed position? Have you 
gone crazy?

VOICE I. We have no more horses, Excellency. We can only fire one gun. We're 
surrounded. It's all up. All but two of my men are gone.

DIVISIONAL COMMANDER. Hello! Battery! Battery! Damn this line. It's gone 

BEHNKE. Put my legs the other way, Schneider. Is the Corporal killed? I—I—it's 
hurting me, [screams] Schneider.

SCHNEIDER. Quiet, quiet! It's all right.

BEHNKE. Mother. [Crying.] Mother.

[Exploding hand grenades.]

HINRICHSEN. [Excited] Schneider, they're coming, they're coming.

SCHNEIDER. Ask Zitsowitz what we're to do, Hinrichsen.

HINRICHSEN. No use—we'll stay here quietly. Perhaps there'll be a counter 
attack, and we can get out.

SCHNEIDER. All right—we'll wait. Is it the Frenchies?

HINRICHSEN. Tommies and Frenchies. Zitsowitz is out there. His army's smashed. 
Everyone else is killed. Where are Mueller and Schmidt?

SCHNEIDER. I don't know.

BEHNKE. Hinrichsen, tell my mother—— [Groans.]

HINRICHSEN. [Whispered] Yes. Yes, Behnke. I won't forget. Hush. They're up 
above. Quiet, otherwise they'll throw hand grenades in.

SCHNEIDER. [Whispered] Quick into the gallery at the back. We'll be killed 

BEHNKE. [Screams] Stay with me! Stay with me! Schneider.

HINRICHSEN. It's all over now—they heard that!

[The bursting of hand grenades thrown down. Crash. Cries. Silence. Then a 
hissing sound.]

SCHNEIDER. It's all—over—Behnke—I—flame throwers—they——

BEHNKE. [Whispered] Tell—my—mother—she—should——

[Distant detonations.]

FRENCH VOICES IN THE DUGOUT. Sont-ils deja morts, hola, sargent? Mais oui, mon 
petit. Attention! Et maintenant vingt metres tout droit en avant et ensuite un 
pen a droite le long de la tranchee.

[Voices and sounds fade until the NARRATOR speaks.]

NARRATOR. In a division sector of the German front, one solitary gun fired on 
alone, till infantry, rushed up in lorries, swarmed out and stormed the 
enemy's advancing waves. By noon the battery's position was won again in a 
counter-attack. In a corner of a dugout was found lying between his dead 
comrades, a badly wounded telephone operator of a Brigade Exchange. Time has 
erased the marks of the monstrous struggle. In the distance a cemetery, at the 
roadside a few bent rails, tree stumps, a broken wall—that's all. Reflecting, 
the wanderer rises, and gazes toward the distant hills. As a pair of brightly 
colored butterflies flutter by he goes slowly, down toward the cemetery to the 
ten thousand dead comrades.

During the past forty-five minutes you have heard the famous German Radio 
Production, "Brigade Exchange,"—a telephone story of the World War. The radio 
dramatization has been presented in four languages including the French and is 
called the German "Journey's End." It is a presentation of the National 
Broadcasting Company and has come to you from the NBC Studios in New York. 

First German broadcast: 17 October 1929
Scheduled NBC broadcasts: 27 June 1931; 9 August 1932; 6 April 1940