An observation balloon being prepared by the Royal Engineers at the Battle of Magersfontein, with the hills occupied by the Boers in the background. Source: Battle of Magersfontein, at Wikipedia.
Like many Sappers I have met, this man was quite mad.
From: Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, The Last of the Gentlemen"s Wars; A Subaltern"s Journal of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Mcmxxxvii
A Sapper one day appeared and asked for a fatigue party to dig up a mine he had laid in a neighbouring drift.
"Did you say a mine?" I exclaimed incredulously.
"Yes," he answered, "three or four on each side of the drift."
"Good heavens!" I cried, "when did you lay them? for I and my scouts have used this drift a dozen times!"
"Oh! months ago," he replied, rather annoyed that we had not all been blown up, which seemed to him a reflection on his technical skill.
So off he went with a fatigue party and dug up the mines—several cases of dynamite.
"As I have got to destroy this stuff," he said, "I am going to make another mine and just touch it off"—this apparently was to vindicate his honour.
"Well", I answered, "in that case I will take a snapshot of it," and when the time came I asked where I should stand.
"Oh, just here," he replied.
"But surely that is very close," said I.
"Not a bit," he answered, "from here you will get a splendid view of it"—and I did. He pressed the button of his battery and the whole world rose at my feet. I dropped my Kodak and raced back for dear life, great clods of earth and clouds of dust descending from the skies about me.
"What a fool you are!" I exclaimed when I had regained breath.
"Not at all," he answered, "you do not seem to understand that the closer you are to a mine, the safer you are. If you had only stood still all this dirt would have flown over your head."
According to this theory, I suppose, the safest place is to stand on the mine itself, in the closest possible contact with it, and this apparently is what we unknowingly had done with his mines in the drift. Like many Sappers I have met, this man was quite mad.