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Title: "Crumps", The Plain Story of a Canadian Who Went
Author: Keene, Louis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                 “Crumps”

                      The Plain Story of a Canadian

                                 Who Went

                              By Louis Keene

                       Canadian Expeditionary Force

                         With a Prefatory Note By

                           General Leonard Wood

                        Illustrated by the Author

                           Boston and New York

                         Houghton Mifflin Company

                                   1917



                              [Illustration]


                              [Illustration]

                                The “Sub”.



PREFATORY NOTE


HEADQUARTERS SOUTHEASTERN DEPARTMENT
CHARLESTON, S.C.

11th August, 1917

Captain Keene has made an interesting contribution to the literature of
the present war in his account of service, which covers the experience of
a young officer in the making and on the battle front,—the transformation
of an artist into a first-class machine-gun officer. He covers the
training period at home and abroad and the work at the front. This direct
and interesting account should serve to bring home to all of us an
appreciation of how much has to be done before troops can be made
effective for modern war, the cost of unpreparedness, and the disadvantage
under which troops, partially equipped, labor when they meet highly
organized ones, prepared, even to the last detail, for all the exigencies
of modern war. It also brings out the splendid spirit of Canada, the
Mother Country, and the distant Colonies,—the spirit of the Empire, united
and determined in a just cause.

This and similar accounts should serve to make clear to us the wisdom of
the admonition of Washington and many others: “In time of peace prepare
for war.”

Many young Americans are about to undergo experiences similar to those of
Captain Keene, and a perusal of this modest and straight-forward narrative
will help in the great work of getting ready.

LEONARD WOOD,
_Maj.-Gen. U.S.A._



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Frontispiece.

The “Sub.”

“Beat It!”

The Canadian, Johnnie Canuck, The American, And The ANZAC.

Bringing Up A Motor Machine Gun.

“Wipers.”

What’s The Use?

A French Soldier.

“Whiz-Bangs.”

The “Crump.”

Mr. Tommy Atkins.



                [Illustration: “Don’t Linger Around Here”
                        “The Enemy Can See You.”
                       “Who Me? Yes You. Beat It!”]



“CRUMPS”


_The Plain Story of a Canadian who went_

The Laurentian Mountains in the Province of Quebec are noted for their
beauty, fine hunting and fishing, and are the stamping-grounds for many
artists from the States and Eastern Canada. It was in this capacity that I
was working during the hot summer of 1914. All through June and July I
sketched with my father. Other than black flies my only worry was the
price of my tubes of color.

We usually received our newspapers two or three days after publication;
consequently we were poorly posted on worldly happenings. Suddenly the war
clouds gathered and almost before we knew it they became so threatening
that we grew restless, and even went in to the depot to get our papers so
that we could have the news sooner.

The assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince and the subsequent events
were exciting, but it was only when Russia sent that one word “Mobilize”
to Serbia that we suspected serious results. Even the summer visitors from
the States exhibited signs of excitement, yet they were skeptical of the
chances of war; that is, war that would really affect us! My newspaper in
Montreal wired for me to come down to do war cartoons and I left my father
and hiked to the depot.

The Montreal train was crowded and conversation centered on the one topic,
War; the English Navy’s ability to maintain her rule of the seas, and what
would Canada do. A young Austrian reservist two seats away was telling
some people in a loud voice how much he wanted to get into it. He was
going back to answer the call. And I had already begun to hear my
country’s call.

A newsboy boarding the train at a junction was overwhelmed and succeeded
in getting twenty-five cents a copy for his papers.

Montreal teemed with suppressed anxiety and every hour fresh news was
posted. Special bulletin boards were put up on store fronts. Already men
in uniform were seen in the street. And men were trying to enlist.

The war fever was rising steadily; the chief occupation of Canadians in
those days was watching the bulletin boards. Rumors of sea fights,
ultimatums, disasters, and victories were common. The Kaiser seemed to
declare war on the world at the rate of three countries a day.

On the night of August 4th, as I was putting the finishing touches on a
cartoon, a friend burst into the room:—“Come out of here! Something must
happen any minute now.” We marched downtown,—everybody marched in those
days; walking was abolished in its favor. One met demonstrations
everywhere, large crowds of cheering men with flags, victrolas at shop
windows played patriotic airs, and soldiers with civilians crowded before
the bulletin boards singing the national anthems with great enthusiasm.
The King had declared war and his message to the fleet had just been put
up! Newspaper extras were given away by thousands and movies of the
British Navy were shown on the street. Any one who thought the British
could not enthuse, changed his mind then.

The audiences at the theatres and moving picture houses on receipt of the
news rose simultaneously and sang the national anthems, then cheered
themselves hoarse. These were the first days of the war. Several
battalions of militia were called out and posted to protect the bridges
and grain elevators. Battalions were raised overnight, and so many
recruits came forward that men were refused by the score. England was
immediately offered ten battalions. Then an army division was possible.
The Militia Department suddenly became a hive of industry. Men with all
kinds of business capacity tendered their services gratis, and the
Canadian war machine, without the experience of previous campaigns, took
shape. They worked night and day bringing everlasting credit on
themselves. Banks offered full pay to their employees in uniform, and this
example was widely followed. The principle prompting this action being,
“It’s our country; if we can’t fight ourselves, we will help others to
fight for her.”

Existent camp sites were inadequate, hence new ones were necessary. We had
a few, but none were big enough. We bought Valcartier, one of the best
sites in the world, which was equipped almost over-night with water
service, electric light and drainage. The longest rifle range in the world
with three and one-half miles of butts was constructed. Railroad sidings
were put in and 35,000 troops from all over the Dominion poured into it.
Think of it,—Canada with her population of seven and one-half millions
offering 35,000 volunteers the first few weeks, without calling out her
militia. And even to-day the militia are yet to be called. Thus every
Canadian who has served at the front has been a volunteer. England
accepted an army division. Fifteen hundred qualified officers were told
that they would have to stay and train men for the next contingent. But
this was not fighting. They were dissatisfied. They resigned their
commissions and went as privates. Uniforms, boots, rifles and equipment
were found for everybody. Every man was trained as much as possible in the
time allowed, and within six weeks of the declaration of war, guns, horses
and 35,000 men were going forward to avenge Belgium.

With me the question of signing up was a big one. In the first place, I
wanted to go; I wanted to go quickly. Several other fellows and myself had
decided upon a certain battalion. But much to our disgust and regret we
were informed that enlistments had stopped only a short time before.

                              [Illustration]

                               The Canadian


                              [Illustration]

                              Johnnie Canuck


                              [Illustration]

                               The American


                              [Illustration]

                                The ANZAC


Then came the announcement of the organization of the First Auto Machine
Gun Brigade, the generous gift of several of Canada’s most prominent
citizens, and it was in this unit that I enlisted with my friend Pat, a
six-foot, husky Scotchman, with the fighting blood of the kilties very
near the surface. We were immediately transported to Ottawa in company
with fifty other picked men from Montreal. At Ottawa the complement of our
battery was completed upon the arrival of one hundred more men from Ottawa
and Toronto. Here we trained until it came time for us to move to
Montreal, and there the battery was embarked on board the Corinthian with
a unit of heavy artillery. We sailed down to Quebec where we joined the
other ships assembled to take over the First Canadian Contingent.


    _Corinthian, Wednesday, Sept. 30th, 1914._

    MY DEAR MOTHER AND FATHER:—

    We are now steaming down the St. Lawrence. No one knows where we
    are going.

    Our fleet is a wonderful sight. All the ships are painted war
    gray—sides, boats and funnels. We are expecting to pick up the
    warships which are to convoy us across at Father Point, somewhere
    near where the Empress of Ireland was sunk.

    Quebec looked very fine. The big guns were being hoisted into
    boats, horses embarking, and battalion after battalion arriving
    and going aboard. Those who came from Valcartier have had a rough
    time. They actually look as if they had come through a campaign.
    It gave me thrills all day to see these fine men come through the
    dock-gates with a steady swing. It is a magnificent contribution
    to any army. It’s good to think of all these men coming at their
    country’s call.

    Some day, if I get back, I want to paint a picture of the fleet
    assembled at Quebec. The grays and greens looked really beautiful.
    Quebec, the city of history and the scene of many big battles,
    views with disdain the Canadian patriotism in the present crisis,
    and we had no send-off, no flags and no bands.

    This letter will not be mailed for ten days, until we are well on
    the way over. We are crowded, and if we are going through the
    tropics we shall have a bad time; it is cold now, so we don’t
    notice the congestion.

    We had one hundred and forty horses aboard and two batteries of
    heavy artillery, besides our own armored cars. All the transports
    are crowded. We were passed by about ten of the other boats, and
    as they did so we cheered each other. The thin lines of khaki on
    all the ships will make a name for themselves. I’m proud I am one
    of them.

    We’ve had a big dose of vaccine pumped into our arms to-day. This
    will be the last letter I send before I arrive, wherever we are
    going.


The Corinthian sailed from Quebec to Father Point, where a patrol boat
arrived with orders. We then sailed into the Gulf, but toward evening we
turned into the coast. When we passed Fame Point Light a small boat, which
afterwards turned out to be another patrol boat, sailing without lights,
flashed further orders to us. The Corinthian immediately turned round and
headed back. The minute the patrol boat’s signal light went out we were
unable to distinguish it from the sea. The coloring is a good protection;
even a boat, close to, sailing without lights, it is impossible to pick
out. Apparently our orders were to cruise around until daylight and then
sail for the Bay of Gaspé, and this morning at daybreak we sailed into
that beautiful, natural harbor, which is big enough to accommodate the
entire British fleet.

I expect that to the villagers living around this harbor all events will
date from to-day—to-day, when the wonderful sight of twenty-five ocean
liners drawn up in battleship formation in this quiet place, deserted
except for an occasional visit from a river steamer or fishing craft,
greeted their gaze.

Five gray fighting ships are mounting guard, and by their signals and
pinnaces chasing backward and forward between the troopers are bossing the
show. A corporal, a South African War veteran, as we looked at them,
quoted Kipling’s


    “The liner she’s a lady
    With the paint upon ’er face,
    The man o’ war’s ’er ’usband
    And keeps ’er in ’er place.”


Towards noon a smart launch came alongside. Even at a distance the boys
were quick to recognize our popular minister of militia, Sam Hughes, and a
thundering cheer rang out. With him were several soldiers who threw
bundles of papers aboard. These were printed copies of his farewell to the
troops. His launch sailed by the ship, and then on to the next and so on,
through the fleet.

Our orders forbade the display of lights or even striking of matches after
6 P.M.; consequently all lights were masked to-night on the vessels,
except those on the Royal Edward. The minute her lights were put out the
Bay resumed its normal condition, not even the outlines of the vessels
being visible.

                  -------------------------------------

A press photographer on a launch has been taking pictures all the
afternoon. Sailed at five o’clock this afternoon just as the twilight
commenced. We sailed out in three lines. The convoy is now under way and
we extend as far as can be seen in both directions. We have two military
police patrols whose chief duty is to see that no matches are struck on
deck. Bill, who smokes more matches than tobacco, has had to go below so
often to light his pipe, that he has decided to do without smoking on
deck. It is surprising how far a match struck in the dark will show. We
noticed how matches struck on the other ships showed up last night. All
our portholes are screwed down with the heavy weather irons and those of
the second-class cabins are covered with blankets. The authorities are
taking no chances.

                  -------------------------------------

We are having physical drills and lectures all day, and we are working
just as hard on board as we would ashore. Our speed will not be more than
nine knots; the speed of the slowest vessel regulating the speed of the
whole fleet.

Matches are getting very scarce. We complained about the tea to the
orderly officer to-day; milk is running out, so the tea is made with milk
and sugar in. We asked to have the three separate, but we were told that
if we complained we would have all three taken away. As a floor stain it’s
great, but as tea it’s a failure.

We are quartered in the steerage part of the ship and our food is in
keeping. It is really remarkable how they can consistently get that same
coal-oil flavor in all the food.

                  -------------------------------------

War news is signaled from ship to ship by semaphore flags by day. It is
posted up in the guard room daily. The news that the Indian troops landed
in France on the 29th of September was the chief item on the bulletin
yesterday. We’re short on things to read. Scraps of newspapers are
devoured, even to the advertisements. In our cabin we have a “Saturday
Evening Post” of September 26th which is thumb-marked and torn, but it is
still treasured. We were not allowed to bring anything besides our kit on
board on account of the limited space.

Reveille blows at six o’clock and we have to answer the roll-call at 6.15.
The idea is, that if the men get up and walk about, they are not so likely
to get seasick, but in spite of that quite a number are sick. We have on
board one hundred of our brigade; two hundred and sixteen heavy artillery
and one hundred and forty horses, together with artillery officers and
equipment. The horses take up the same space which in ordinary times is
occupied by humans. Otherwise, we should have a great many more troops.
Our destination is still a mystery. We’re a fleet without a port.

Have just been ordered on fatigue to take a prisoner on deck for exercise.
He is to be tried by court-martial to-morrow for striking a sergeant. All
day he is kept locked up and only allowed out at night for exercise, under
escort. The escort consists of two men and a non-com. While on this job we
watched the signalers flashing the war news from the stern of our boat to
the bridge of the next astern, the Virginian. The news is flashed at night
by the lamps—short and long flashes. The news is picked up by wireless on
the flagship, the Charybdis, at the head of our line and signaled back
from ship to ship.

                  -------------------------------------

This is the list of the fleet. It is written here in the order in which
they are sailing. Three warships are heading the fleet; the flagship is
the H.M.S. Charybdis, commanded by Admiral Wemyss, who distinguished
himself a few weeks ago in the Battle of Heligoland.

H.M.S. Diana
H.M.S. Eclipse
H.M.S. Charybdis
Caribbean
Megantic
Scotian
Athenia
Ruthenia
Arcadian
Royal Edward
Bermudian
Zealand
Franconia
Alaunia
Corinthian (The transport on which I was shipped.)
H.M.S. Glory
Canada
Ivernia
Virginian
Monmouth
Scandinavian
Sasconia
Manitou
Sicilian
Grampian
Tyrolia
Montezuma
Andania
Tunisian
Lapland
Montreal
Laurentic
Cassandra
Laconia
Royal George
H.M.S. Talbot

The H.M.S. Glory, the vessel on our starboard beam, altered her course
to-day and held up a tramp steamer. We could just see the two vessels
through our glasses. Apparently everything was all right as the tramp was
allowed to go on her way afterwards.

We are all given our boat stations. This afternoon a submarine alarm was
sounded. Everybody on board, including the stewards, had to drop
everything and chase to the boats. In the excitement a cook shot a “billy”
of soup over an officer’s legs, much to our silent delight.

Thinking it over, it will be remarkable if the Germans allow us to cross
without making some attempt to sink a few transports. Besides the actual
loss of the men, the demoralizing effect it will have on the recruiting
would count a great deal. No man likes to be shot or drowned without a
show.

                  -------------------------------------

I am writing this in my cabin, which is only nine feet by six feet and in
which six of us sleep at night. Besides living in it we have to keep all
our equipment clean, which is some job!

About eleven this morning a commotion occurred in the middle line. The
cruiser heading it and the second ship, the Royal Edward, turned back.
Also several other boats turned in their course. As we have very little
excitement we hoped it might be a German attack, for we all want to see a
naval battle. I looked at the cruiser through powerful glasses and saw
sailors fixing up the starboard lifeboat, so we presumed that it was
simply a case of “man overboard.”

A big cruiser has joined our fleet and is acting as a flank guard about
three miles away from our starboard side.

We have a great deal of physical exercise in spite of the rolling of the
deck. This morning, while in the middle of it I was called away to dress
and form part of an escort to the prisoner who was to be tried by field
court-martial to-day. The court was very dignified, and it took a long
time owing to the inexperience of the officers in such matters. It was the
first court-martial I have seen,—the proceedings are strictly legal, being
conducted according to the book, and with the officers wearing their
swords. The poor devil expects two years.

We have been pitching and tossing a great deal to-day. Physical exercising
on the sloping decks is becoming a mighty risky thing.

Quite a number of the transports have guns mounted on board so they are
not entirely dependent on the cruisers. It looks as if we are sailing
north of the usual trade routes. I have just heard that five more
battleships are on the starboard beam. They came into sight early this
morning, but have since been out of sight. We are sailing north of the
trade routes.

                  -------------------------------------

The fleet is being increased. All ships are stopped. Those sailing west
are allowed to go after being boarded; those going in the same direction
as ourselves are made to fall into line, so there will be no danger of the
news of our sailing reaching Europe ahead of us. If we continue to pick up
ships sailing in our direction, the fleet will be enormous by the time we
arrive at our unknown destination. We sailed two hundred and twelve miles
the last twenty-four hours.

Two more transports have joined us. They came from Newfoundland. I hear
that we now have forty-three ships in the fleet. We sail at ten cables’
length apart, about one thousand yards.

We are getting into more dangerous water evidently. Early this morning the
Royal George steamed up from the end of the line and took up a position at
the head of the fleet, but in line with the battleship Glory about three
miles away on the port. The Laurentic took up a similar position on the
starboard. Both these ships are armored and have guns mounted on them.
They are being used as scouts.

We all rushed up on deck to see a cruiser pass close to us this midday. It
was a magnificent sight. She was either the H.M.S. Bristol or the H.M.S.
Essex; her name was painted The bluejackets were massed on the decks
forward and as she went by the marines’ band played “The Maple Leaf
Forever.” We returned cheers with the sailors. It gives you a great thrill
to see a British ship and to have the knowledge of what it represents. To
be British is a great thing, and I’m proud to think that I’m going to
fight for my country. When this war is over and men are talking round a
table, it will be, “Where were you fighting during the war?” not “Did you
fight during the war?”

                  -------------------------------------

I’m in a gun-cleaning squad every afternoon. To-day I cleaned the machine
gun on which I’m second gunner. We treat our machine guns as if they were
pets. No one will ever be able to say that my gun is dirty. It will
probably be my best friend some day.

The finding of the court-martial was read out to us on full parade this
afternoon. First the “Heavies” were lined up on all sides of the deck,
then the “Mosquitos,” as the Machine Gunners are called, lined up inside;
the prisoner between an escort was led up in the center. It was
wonderfully impressive. I felt that I was to witness the condemning of a
fellow soldier to a number of years of hard labor. Over the whole assembly
there came a deathlike silence and the finding of the court was read to us
by an officer, the sentence being thirty-six days!

The second steward told me that it took two hundred carpenters twelve
hours to tear down the cabins and fix up horse fittings. First the
authorities made arrangements to ship a thousand troops on this ship.
We’re crowded as we are now with only three hundred odd. I hate to think
what it would have been like with a thousand.

                  -------------------------------------

Early this morning a large man-o’-war came up on the port at a speed that
made everything else seem to stop. We have now battleships on all sides.
This ship, although a long way off, looks tremendous. She is one of the
latest super-dreadnaughts.

I was on guard last night when one of the cruisers came alongside to TALK
to the captain about having lights showing in some of the ports. I enjoyed
it immensely, for I discovered that the British Navy, true to tradition,
was still able to maintain its high level of profanity. The ship is in
pitch darkness and there is no moon. On deck it’s almost impossible to
walk it’s so dark. Tonight is supposed to be the night on which the
Germans are going to make a raid. I am going to sleep on deck so that I
shall not miss anything. I’d hate to miss the chance of seeing a naval
engagement. I can’t see how the Germans can possibly let a chance go by. A
nervy cruiser could sink any amount of ships. If the British Navy were up
against us they would have had a cut in before now.

Slept on deck last night. Nothing happened except that early this morning
a French cruiser joined us, and I got covered with smuts from the
smokestack.

The Admiral has received one hundred and twenty-six words of war news, but
will not let us have them. Probably they’re disastrous. We break up
to-night or to-morrow. It’s scarcely likely that the whole fleet will be
taken to one port at the same time.

That super-dreadnaught passed down the columns to-day. She is of
tremendous size and travels at high speed. She is probably the Queen Mary.

Expect to see land Wednesday.

                  -------------------------------------

Blowing a gale. All day the spendrift has been blowing over. The decks
have been too wet for parades, thank God! All the way over we have had
physical exercise, sometimes as much as four hours a day. We’re all in
fine physical condition.

To-day we were allowed to wash our clothes. I can see the advantage of
khaki now. Even after working hard on my clothes, my underwear is still
dark white. The rails were covered with underwear and socks when the storm
started. Now every square inch below is used for drying clothes. Even the
electric lights are festooned. We have a final kit inspection to-morrow
and then we pack for disembarkation. We are only about one hundred miles
from the “Bishop’s Light.”

It has been a very long voyage and we have been very cramped. All our
equipment has to be carried in our cabins. Try sleeping six men with all
their outfit in a cabin nine feet by six feet. The ship carpenter has a
standing job to repair our cabin. We have rough-housed so much that his
attention was continually necessary. The trip has been so long that we are
now beginning to hate each other. I went down in the stoke-hole and the
engine-room. Even amongst the whirling machines it was more peaceful than
in our quarters. It seems months since I was in Montreal last.

                  -------------------------------------

Dear Old England in sight!

We’re passing the Lizard now.

The kit has all been inspected and we hope to land to-morrow some time.

We’re lying in the historic harbor of Plymouth; arrived here about two
hours ago. We’re surrounded by fast little torpedo-boat destroyers, which
are chasing round us all the time like dogs loosened from a chain. The
breakwater has searchlights mounted on each end and fixed lights are
playing from the shore. As the lights occasionally flash up the ships in
the bay, it is as bright as day. Nobody is allowed ashore, not even the
officers. We may go on to Southampton, only we must get there before five
at night. After that time nothing is allowed in.

                  -------------------------------------

Sailed at daybreak on to Devonport. Most of the transports are now lying
in pairs at anchor in the harbor. We’re close to the shore. We can see
naval “jolly boats” and pinnaces sailing back and forth. On one side are
lying the H.M.S Powerful and another boat, both of which in their day were
the pride of the Navy. The Powerful was the boat which made such a name
for herself in the Boer War. Now both of these vessels are training ships
and obsolete so far as this war goes.

All our haversacks have been boiled in coffee to stain them khaki.

One of the Navy steam launches came by and we asked them to get us
newspapers. They came back with a bundle and we nearly had a riot trying
to get at them.

It was only to-day that we heard of the fall of Antwerp, the atrocities of
Belgium, and the treachery of Maritz in Cape Colony.

We shall be getting off in a few hours and this may be the last I shall
write for some time. I have put in a great deal of time during the voyage
writing and have done so under difficulties. Sometimes the cabin has been
torn in pieces, and often arguments, carried on by leather-lunged
opponents of “Kultur,” have made this work hard.

We hear that some paper published an account of the sinking of twenty of
the ships. This rumor is false, and it’s a beastly thing for the newspaper
to do, but you must remember to discount all news a great deal.

Still on board and we shall probably be here for a few days more. My, it’s
galling to be so near to the land and yet to be cooped up in our crowded
quarters. Crowded launches and steamers are sailing round the liners. All
day long cheering crowds come out to see us. Last night another liner
called Florizel, with the First Regiment Newfoundland troops, tied up to
us. They were a fine-looking lot of men. We told them we had no tobacco;
they threw dozens of tins of their tobacco and cigarettes over to us. We
fought for them. I got the remains of one tin with most of the contents
spilt. Still, as many of us haven’t had a smoke for three days, we
appreciated it. Several cruisers have come in to-day, and there seem to be
dozens of submarines and torpedo boats cruising around all day. The reason
we did not go to Southampton is that five German submarines were waiting
for us.

The transports are unloading at the rate of five or six ships a day. It
will probably be our turn on Sunday. The fleet looks splendid at night now
that we have most of the lights on. All night the steel riveters are at
work on three battleships that are being built close by. Near us are
several “wooden walls.” One is a ship of Nelson’s, the Queen Adelaide.
Every boat, tug, lighter and motor boat here is the property of the
Admiralty.

                  -------------------------------------

We are probably going to Salisbury Plain for two months. We are the first
Expeditionary Force to land in England from the dominions or colonies, but
others are on their way. The sailors from the training ships serenade us
in boats with bands and play “O Canada,” “The Maple Leaf Forever,” and all
day long on one ship or the other we hear “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”
Every one is singing it; without doubt it is _the_ song of the war. To-day
we got a bundle of papers. We read them right through to the
advertisements. Cigarettes and matches are at a premium and food is
running out on board. The strain of staying here is becoming too great.
We’re all disagreeable and insubordinate. The guard room is already full
and will soon need enlarging.

On guard to prevent the men of the two ships (our own and the Florizel
with the Newfoundlanders) coming over to visit each other. At ten o’clock
at night I got the tip that a bunch of men were going to make a break for
shore and I was asked to go. I had just come off sentry and was dressed
for shore. We all met up forward, hailed a police boat, climbed down a
rope ladder across two barges unloading shells and into the police launch.
When I got in I found that I and one other fellow were the only privates;
all the rest were sergeants and corporals, thirteen altogether, unlucky
number. The police sergeants asked me if we had passes. I said, “You bet,”
and we sailed away from the ship right under everybody’s nose. We landed
and then took a car to Plymouth and went on the Hoe, which has been in
absolute darkness since the beginning of the war. Girls were very
interested in us and took most of our collar badges and buttons as
souvenirs. One man asked me to give him a cigarette as a souvenir.

We met an English captain in a tobacconist’s and he invited us up to the
barracks. Two of us went. I was one. To get there we had to go on a street
car. We had just sat down when up the stairs came my Lieutenant McCarthy.
When he saw me he said, “How the hell did you get here?” “Oh, just swam
across.” “Well, if you get caught it’ll be the guard room for you.” I
said, “Never mind, we’ll have company.” He is a pretty good sport. We went
to the barracks, had a session with the captain, then went to the quay,
picked up the rest of the men, and sneaked on board. I got to bed at three
and had to get up this morning at six o’clock to go on guard.

                  -------------------------------------

Sunday, very tired. On guard all day, two hours on, four off. It’s very
unfortunate having a Sunday guard, because in the ordinary way we have to
attend church parade in the morning and after having listened to a sermon
and sung “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” or, “Fight the good fight,” we are
free for the day, whereas guards stay on twenty-four hours.

The major noticed one of the sergeants coming on board this morning at six
o’clock. The idiot missed us this morning and of course that dished us.
The sergeants got in wrong. As I am only a private, and therefore ignorant
and simple according to the military code, and, being with
non-commissioned officers who are supposed to possess superior
intelligence, I got away with it. The sergeants have had to do sentry on
the same ladder we went down.

Everybody is as disagreeable as possible. We are lying in midstream and
can see the town. Can you imagine anything more galling than that?

While I was on guard the Vicar of Plymouth came aboard and held service.
He said that the last time a Vicar of Plymouth preached to warriors was
just before Drake sailed to meet the Armada.

Thank God! moving at last. We’ve moored up to the docks just opposite two
magnificent dreadnaughts. Naval men are handling our cargo, our kit bags
are packed and we are ready to disembark.

Near our ship’s stern is a barge full of ventilators and spare parts of
ships which are taken away when ships are cleared for action. Some of the
rifle racks were marked Cornwall and I noticed a davit post with the name
Highflyer, the boat that sank the Kaiser Wilhelm after she had been
preying on the shipping off South Africa. When a ship is cleared for
action, all inflammable fittings, such as wooden doors, ladders, racks,
extra boats, and davits, etc., are discarded. If the order to “clear the
decks for action” comes at sea, overboard go all these luxuries. It is
calculated that the cost of “clearing decks” on a cruiser is five thousand
dollars.

Some of our stuff was unloaded yesterday, and when the ship moved a guard
was placed over it. When the corporal went down the gangplank with the
relief, Pat and I walked down behind as if we were part of the same, right
by the officers. We had a devil of a job to get through the dock gates, a
suspicious policeman and sentry on guard. We told the sergeant of the
police a pitiful story, saying that we hadn’t had anything to eat for
three days, and finally he relented. “All right, my lads, only don’t
‘swing the lead’ in town.” We got into Devonport and went to the biggest
hotel. Before they had time to throw us out we ordered breakfast of real
food. It was fine after the ship’s grub. After sitting there ten minutes,
the general commanding the district came in and sat behind us. He stared.
Two privates in the same room as the general!! But all he said was, “If
you boys can fight as you eat, you’ll make an impression.” Then we visited
some other places!

We went back to the docks and went over the super-dreadnaughts, Tiger and
Benbow, the biggest war vessels in the world. The Tiger’s speed on her
trials was 37.5 knots an hour.

After we had seen enough, we went back to the ship and tried to look as if
we had been working with one of the fatigue parties on shore. It worked!

We marched off the ship midday and then I had to go on guard again all
night. That was the first time we were allowed ashore to see the town, and
I was on guard, so if I hadn’t slipped ashore on the two occasions
mentioned, I should not have seen it at all.

                  -------------------------------------

It rained all night, and when I was off guard I slept on the top of one of
our armored trucks, under a tarpaulin. It’s wonderful how we can sleep now
anywhere, and we often have our clothes on for three days at a time. Many
a time I sleep with all my equipment on. Get wet and dry it by keeping it
on. We all have to do it. The idea of pajamas or baths as necessities
seems funny. At one time I would sooner go without breakfast than miss a
bath. Now I make sure of the breakfast.

We are going to drive our cars through England to Salisbury Plain. We
started this morning and drove through Devonport. Cheering crowds
everywhere. All our cars wear the streaming pennants: “Canada With the
Empire,” which pleased the people a great deal.

As we rode through the streets people showered gifts upon us, such as
cakes, chocolates, newspapers and apples, and everywhere made lusty
demonstrations. The people of Taunton, as soon as they heard that the
Canadians were coming, turned out the barracks and we were met by all the
officers, who came in to talk to us. One second lieutenant, after studying
me for some time, said, “Isn’t your name Keene?” “Yes,” I replied, “but
how do you know?” “I went to school with you fifteen years ago.” His name
was Carter; he was in the Second Dorsets. That night he got me out of
barracks for a couple of hours, and we hashed over the schoolboy
reminiscences. The people of Taunton were arranging a dance for us, but
nobody was allowed to attend. The major believes in putting us to bed
early; his theory being that a man can’t drive cars well after a party,
and he couldn’t keep the drivers in alone.

Ladies from Taunton, of the pleasing English type with beautiful
complexions, handed round all sorts of rubbish, jam puffs, and other
things which belong to the time before we joined the army.

Traveled all the morning. Everybody turned out to see us. The
Brigadier-General wired ahead, and hastily prepared placards, still wet,
were hanging from the windows,—


    God Bless the Canadians
    Loyal Sons
    of
    The Empire

    The gathering of
    the Lions’ whelps


and in one case the haste was so great that “God Save the King” was hung
upside down.

Everybody wants my badges and buttons, and some men in the unit have not
one left. Hence I have requisitioned an order for a hundred to meet the
demand.

All over the country you see “Kitchener’s Army” drilling. In one case we
passed about a hundred of them. When they saw us they broke ranks and
shook us by the hands. The people of England are much impressed with our
speed in coming over. Old men and women shouted, “God bless you,
Canadians!” while tears trickled down their cheeks.

I read this notice in one little shop,—


    At noon every day the church bell will ring a few chimes and
    everybody is asked to stop whatever he is doing and offer this
    prayer, “Oh, Lord, help our soldiers and sailors to defeat our
    enemies, and let us have Peace.”

    (Signed) The Vicar.


Recruiting notices ten feet by six feet with the sentence “Your King and
Country Need You” are to be seen everywhere in shops, on barns, trees, and
even church doors.

Motorists and cyclists are warned to pull up whenever requested or the
results may be serious. Most of the motors have O.H.M.S. plates above the
number plate.

We billeted in a village school; all slept in our blankets on the floor.
Left the school and cleaned up before the kids came for their lessons next
day.

                  -------------------------------------

Salisbury Plain. Arrived to-day. This part is called Bustard and takes its
name from the small Bustard Inn, Headquarters of General Alderson, General
Officer Commanding. Troops are here in thousands and we are no novelty.
The roads are torn up. Mud is two feet deep in places. All through the day
and night motor lorries, artillery and cavalry are traveling over the
ground. Aeroplanes are circling overhead and heavy artillery are firing.
We see the shells bursting on the ranges every day.

Always raining. Everything is wet, and I am sleeping in a rotten tent
which leaks. Still, we are all so fit that what would kill an ordinary man
doesn’t worry us much.

We all get three days’ leave and are trying by every means possible to
wangle another day or two. Many men have to see dentists, and lots of men
have grandparents in Scotland who display signs of dying suddenly. If the
excuse is good enough, we get four days and sometimes five. I have a
sweetheart in Scotland, but if that is played out I have to work something
else.

                  -------------------------------------

Wonderful sight from where I am now. Miles of tents, motors and horse
lines on this desolate moorland. No houses; only camps and a few trees
which have been planted as wind screens. The soil is very poor, too poor
for farming. It is government property and it is only used for troops. We
are ten miles from a railroad. We are so isolated that we might be in
Africa, except that it’s so cold.

The papers are starting an agitation to get the Canadians to march through
London, and are asking why they should be smuggled in and then shut up on
Salisbury Plain. They want to see us, AND WE WANT TO SEE LONDON!!

Our ambulance car has been used every day since we came here, taking
wounded from one hospital to another. The rest of our cars have been used
to carry German prisoners.

One of the spies caught on the ships is said to have been shot. Several
were arrested; two were caught in Devonport while we were there, one in a
Canadian officer’s uniform.

                  -------------------------------------

Am spending seventy-two hours’ leave in London. Got leave through this
telegram which is from “the girl I’m engaged to”:


    Disappointed. Met train. Please do come. Leaving for Belgium soon.
    Love.

    EDYTHE.


She is a Red Cross nurse. This is a new one and it worked. McCarthy sent
it to me.

London is very dismal. No electric signs, and the tops of all the street
lamps are painted black so that the lights don’t show from above. However,
we managed to have a good time, in spite of it all. The Germans say that
the Canadians are being held in England to repel the invasion.

                  -------------------------------------

The facilities for bathing are not very extensive. I rode into Salisbury,
a distance of seventeen miles, yesterday, on top of some packing-cases in
a covered transport wagon, for a bath, the first since I was last on
leave. We get a Turkish bath in town for thirty cents. After that we had a
large juicy steak and then started our seventeen-mile trip back through
the pouring rain. Every other mile we got down and helped the driver swear
and push the car out of the mud, vast quantities of which abound on the
Salisbury roads, believe me!!

                  -------------------------------------

It is Sunday afternoon. Most of the men in camp are asleep or reading.
Outside it is raining. It seems to be always raining, and occasionally we
have such a thick fog that even a trip to get water is exciting before you
can get back to your own lines.

Owing to our camp having become a swamp we have had to move our quarters
to drier ground. Moving the tents is not a big job, but rebuilding the
cook-house is! I figure that when I leave the army I shall have a few more
professions to choose from. For example, I’m a pretty hefty trench digger;
then as a scavenger I am pretty good at picking up tin cans and pieces of
paper; also I’m an expert in building things such as shelters from any old
pieces of timber that we can steal; then as a cook I can now make that
wonderful tea that I wrote you about, besides many other things which we
didn’t realize that we had to do when we enlisted.

To-day the paper says “Fair and Warmer.” We could do with some of that.
Years ago, before I joined the army and lost my identity, I rather liked
occasionally getting wet in the refreshing rain; but now the trouble is
that we are always wet and have nowhere to dry our things, except by
sleeping on them.

Our major has an original scheme of training men in the ranks to qualify
for commissions, sort of having half a dozen embryo officers ready. I have
been picked as one and have to study in all my spare time. It means a
great deal more work, but it’s very interesting and the sort of thing I
would like to do. We start to-day.

                  -------------------------------------

We began our instruction on the machine gun to the officers and the men
who are up here for a special course; I have a boozy lieutenant, who
doesn’t care a hang, and a bright non-com. Some of the officers we brought
over make good mascots.

                  -------------------------------------

It was fine to-day. We were even able to open up the tent flap to dry the
place a bit. To-day the major congratulated me on the Christmas card I
designed for the unit.

Our classes of instruction to the “alien” officers finish to-morrow. Both
the men I was instructing passed.

The adjutant is very anxious to put us through our officers’ training
course quickly.

We are now recognized as the specialist corps in the machine-gun work with
the Canadian Division, and he is anxious that we shall be ready to take
commissions when casualties occur. Every battalion of infantry has a
machine-gun section attached, and we have the job of training the officers
and sergeants of these sections.

Owing to the bombardment of the east coast, several of our battalions are
under orders to move at a moment’s notice. It is thought that the
bombardment was simply a ruse to draw the British fleet away from around
Heligoland.

                  -------------------------------------

The newspaper boys in Salisbury, when you refuse to buy an “Hextra,” shout
“Montreal Star” and “Calgary Eyeopener,” and all the shopgirls and
barmaids in Salisbury say, “Some kid,” “Believe muh,” “Oh, Boy!”

                  -------------------------------------

I had been granted Christmas leave at the last minute, and as it was
awkward to telegraph to Northwich, I arrived after a long journey, lasting
sixteen hours, ten minutes ahead of the letter I’d sent saying I was
coming. My arrival soon spread over the town. A Canadian—this was a rather
unique thing for Northwich, a little Cheshire town. Out of a population of
about eighteen thousand, two thousand men have joined the colors. The men
in uniform from the works are all receiving half pay. The other men who
are staying are working twelve hours a day and give up part of their pay
so that the jobs of the soldiers will be open when they come back.
Thirty-five Belgian refugees are being kept here. Money to keep them for
twelve months has been subscribed. One huge house has been taken over as a
hospital with twenty-three nurses, all volunteers from Northwich.
Everybody has done or is doing something in the great struggle. The young
ladies in this neighborhood have no use for a man who is not in khaki, and
with customary north of England frankness tell them so.

I expect that you know that the Government has sent around forms to every
house asking the men who are going to volunteer to sign, and men long past
the military age have signed the papers, “too old for the war service, but
willing to serve either at home or abroad voluntary for the period of the
war.” Others have offered to do work to allow young men to go, to keep
their jobs for them. This shows the spirit that permeates England. There
is only one end and that MUST be the crushing of the Germans. I don’t
believe people have any idea of the number of men who are at present under
arms, and still the posters everywhere say that we must have more men.

I wonder if you know that the Germans are shooting British prisoners who
are found with what they consider insulting post-cards of the Kaiser, and
even references to His All Highest in letters are dangerous. As we are
nearing the time when we shall go across I thought I would mention it.

We expect to leave England somewhere around January 15th. We have been
living in the mud so long that we are getting quite web-footed.

This is a war Christmas. People are too excited and anxious to celebrate
it. I wonder what sort of a Christmas the next one will be! What a
terrible Christmas the Germans must have had in Germany. They admit over
one million casualties. Fancy a million in less than five months. During
the Napoleonic wars, which extended over twenty years, six million died,
and yet one side in this war already admits one million.

The Canadian ordnance stores have been given instructions that all
equipments down to the last button must be ready by the 15th of January.
That date seems to be the favorite one. I believe it is the commencement
of big things; a move will then be made to embark large numbers of troops
across to France.

All our telegraphic addresses were taken when we came away on leave in
case it were decided to send units over before our term of leave expired.

A German aviator flew over Dover yesterday and made a fierce and terrible
bomb attack on a cabbage patch. Terrible casualty in cabbages. Berlin must
have designs on a bumper crop of sauerkraut.

                  -------------------------------------

Back in camp. It was hard to come down to it. Our blankets and clothes
left in the tent were mildewed, clammy, and partly submerged. Our feet are
wet and we are again soldiers, dirty and cold.

Traveled down in the train with thirty-six men of the Canadian contingent
who had formed an escort for fifty-six undesirables who have been shipped
back to Canada. It seems strange when men are needed so badly to ship them
back because they are a bit unruly or get drunk too often. They will all
come back with future contingents. Six of them made a dash for it at
Liverpool. Three of them got away altogether.

It snowed yesterday. Last night the camp looked beautiful; the tents lit
up through the snow in the moonlight made a pretty picture, a suitable
subject for a magazine cover, but mighty uncomfortable to camp in.

                  -------------------------------------

In a gale last night many tents were blown down. We spent all day putting
them up again. The cook house, a substantial frame building, has also
blown down again.

When I got back I found a Christmas hamper, a bunch of holly and a small
box of maple sugar and packet of cigarettes from the Duchess of Connaught
with her Christmas card. All parcels for the troops came in duty free. Our
postal system is very efficient. We get our letters as regularly as we
would in a town.

People send us so many cigarettes that we sometimes have too many. I wish
we could get more tobacco and fewer cigarettes. If you remember during the
Boer War the authorities tried to break the “Tommy” of his “fags” by
giving him more tobacco. Now they really seem to encourage cigarette
smoking, although it really doesn’t matter; the same things which are
harmful in towns don’t have the same bad effects when we are living in the
open.

All leave is up by the 10th of January for everybody, officers and men.

The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry have gone to the front to
the envy of everybody. It is a splendid battalion with fine officers. They
have been lying next to our lines and we have made many friends with the
“Pats.”

Cerebro-spinal meningitis has broken out, and in spite of all efforts to
check it, seems to be gaining ground. Several officers have died with it,
and I believe that four battalions are quarantined. We have to use
chloride of lime on the tent floors and around the lines. My friend Pat
calls it “Spike McGuiness.” The worst of a disease like this is that a
patient never recovers. Even a cure means partial paralysis for life. I
believe that Salisbury Plain is known for it, and I hear that all the
ground that troops are now occupying is to be ploughed up when we leave.
As far as that goes we have ploughed it up a bit already, but a systematic
ploughing will make it more regular. The subsoil is only four inches, then
you come to chalky clay. The tent-pegs when they are taken from the ground
are covered with chalk.

I think that the Canadian Contingent has had a pretty raw deal. We’re not
even included in the six army divisions which are going to France by the
end of March. Wish I had joined the “Princess Pats,” who are already
there. We want to fight.

We’re having a beastly time as compared with the Belgian refugees and the
German prisoners in England. We’re beginning to wonder if we are ever
going to the front. There is now some talk of billeting us in Bristol.
We’ve been under arms nearly five months and should be good fighting
material by now. With a similar number of men the Germans would have done
something by this time.

                  -------------------------------------

All the last week the selected few of us have been working separately on a
course of work to qualify us for commissions. We have had to study hard
every spare minute when not drilling each other.

Several dogs have attached themselves to us; sometimes they find
themselves on a piece of string, the other end being in a man’s hand. One
of these, a big bull terrier, sleeps in the canteen. The beer is quite
safe with him there, but two nights ago the canteen tent, after a great
struggle, tore itself off the tent-poles and went fifteen feet up in the
air like a balloon, then collapsed. The dog, I regret to say, did not stay
at his post, so a quantity of beer will have to be marked down as lost.
This same bull has a pal, a white bull terrier, who came out with the
officers’ class the other morning. We had not been drilling more than
fifteen minutes when he came back with a large rabbit. We stewed it at
night. It certainly was good.

One of the mechanics has forged an Iron Cross which has been presented to
the dog in recognition of his services.

I doubt if I shall ever be able to sit up to a table again regularly. I
would much sooner sleep on the floor, and I have found, when on leave,
that I preferred sitting on a hearthrug to a chair. Even while writing
this I am lying on my blankets. My pipe is burnt down on one side from
lighting it from my candle.

                  -------------------------------------

To-day being Sunday and as there were only two of us left in the tent, the
others being on leave, we gave it a thorough spring cleaning. It needed
it! By some oversight the sun came out to-day, so that helped. We also
washed up all our canteens and pannikins with disinfectant.

The infantry are bayonet-fighting and practicing charges every day. If you
want a thrill, see them coming over the top at you with a yell; the
bayonets catch the light and flash in a decidedly menacing fashion. They
practice on dummies, and are so enthusiastic that they need new dummies
almost every lesson.

Every man, on becoming a soldier, becomes a man with a number and an
identification disk. My number is 45555 and my “cold meat ticket,” a tag
made of red fiber, is hanging round my neck on a piece of string.

                  -------------------------------------

We’re packing up and expect to go away next week. Of course, it may be
another bluff, but somehow I think we really are going now, as we have
been fitted out with a “field service-dressing,” a packet containing two
bandages and safety pins, which we have to sew into the right-hand bottom
corner of our tunics. We have also been given our active service pay book,
a little account book in which we have our pay entered. We don’t get paid
much in the field. We carry this book instead.

It seems always cold and wet. We are very hardened. We look tough and feel
that way. I haven’t had a bath for a month. Since I have been soldiering I
have done every dirty job that there is in the army, and there are many.
Often when a job seemed to be too dirty and too heavy for anybody else,
they looked around for Keene and Pat.

                  -------------------------------------

“On guard.” Writing this in the guard tent, when we are not actually on
sentry. We keep all our equipment on, as we are liable to be called out at
any minute. We sleep with our belts and revolvers in place.

A quarter guard is three men and a noncom. The men do two hours on and
four off. When it comes to a man’s turn he has to be on his beat no matter
what the weather is like during the day or night. The cold is pretty bad
and occasionally it snows. Some units have sentry boxes, but we haven’t.
We use a bell tent. I was called this morning at five o’clock to do my
sentry from five to seven. The small oil stove which serves to heat the
guard tents had evidently been smoking for an hour, and over everything
was a thick film of lamp-black. Everybody thought it a great joke until
they looked at themselves in the mirror and caught sight of their own
equipment. We must come off guard as clean as we go on. I got out quickly
and left them swearing and cleaning up.

From five to seven is the most interesting relief. I had first to wake the
cooks at five o’clock and then I watched the gradual waking up of the
camp. At six o’clock I had to wake the orderly sergeants and then far away
in the distance the first bugle sounded reveille, then it was taken up all
around and gradually the camps all over the Plains woke up. Men came out
of the tents, the calls for the “fall in” sounded, and the rolls were
called and the usual business of the day commenced. The change from the
deadness of the night with its absolute stillness all takes place in a
very short time. To a person with any imagination it seems rather
wonderful. You must remember that we can see for miles, and in every
direction there are hundreds of tents. Each battalion is separate, and
they have great spaces between them; still wherever you look you can see
tents.

I wonder if I told you that aeroplanes are all the time flying over our
camp. With characteristic British frankness they always have two huge
Union Jacks painted on the undersides of the wings. We have become so used
to them that we scarcely trouble to look up unless they are doing stunts.

                  -------------------------------------

The frost makes a fine grip for the cars; when the ground freezes over we
can take the cars anywhere, but unfortunately it thaws again too quickly.
As we are a motor battery we are of course a mile from the road, and
sometimes it takes an hour and a half to get on to it.

                  -------------------------------------

It is a howling night, wind and rain galore. I’m wondering how long the
tent will last. I have been out three times already to look at the tent
pegs. How often it has been so since we first came on to these plains. If
you are living in tents you notice the changes in weather more than under
ordinary circumstances, and every rain-storm has meant wet feet for us.
But now we have been given new black boots, magnificent things, huge,
heavy “ammunition boots,” and the wonderful thing is they don’t let water
in. They are very big and look like punts, but it’s dry feet now. I can
tell you I am as pleased with them as if some one had given me a present
of cold cash. At first they felt something like the Dutch sabots. They
seemed absolutely unbendable and so we soaked them with castor-oil. Once
they become moulded to the feet they are fine. Of course they are not
pretty, but they keep the wet out.

We have had new tunics issued to us of the regular English pattern, much
more comfortable than our other original ones, and then instead of the
hard cap we now have a soft one, something like a big golf cap with the
flap on to pull down over the ears. These are much more comfortable. They
have one great advantage over the old kind—we can sleep in them. We can
now lie down in our complete outfits even to our hats. Once I considered
it a hardship to sleep in my clothes. Now to go to bed we don’t undress;
we put on clothes.

I managed to get a pass to Salisbury on Saturday and went to the local
vaudeville show. In the row in front of me were several young officers of
the British Army, and it was striking what a clean-cut lot they were.
England is certainly giving of her best. They were not very much different
from any others, but at the same time they are the type of Englishmen who
have done things in the past and will do things again. They are all
Kitchener’s Army. Thousands of men who have never been in the army before
threw up everything to go in the ranks. You see side by side professors,
laborers, lawyers, doctors, stevedores, carters, all classes, rich and
poor, a great democratic army, drilling to fight so that this may be a
decent world to live in.

At present it is almost impossible to use each man in his own profession
as they do in Germany, but sometimes the non-commissioned officers work it
out in this way.

Sergeant to squad of recruits:—

“Henybody ’ere know anythink abart cars?”

“Yes; I do. I own a Rolls Royce.”

“Olright; fall out and clean the major’s motor bike.”

One patriotic mother who had a son who was a butcher did her best to get
him to join the Royal Army Medical Corps, because he was proficient at
cutting up meat and would feel quite at home assisting at amputations.

                  -------------------------------------

Now that we are approaching the time for our departure to France we are
hearing that favorite farewell to all men going to the front, “Good-bye,
I’ll look every day for your name in the casualty list.”

The “Princess Pats” have already been in action. They had a hard fight and
many of them have been put out of business. We envied them when they went
away and still do, although it only seems yesterday that we were lying
together here and now a number of them are lying “somewhere in France.”

The jam-making firm of Tickler was awarded a huge contract for the supply
of “Tommy’s” daily four ounces of jam; either plum and apple were the
cheapest combination or else the crop of these two fruits must have been
enormous, because every single tin of jam that went to the training camps,
France, Dardanelles, or Mesopotamia, was of this mixture.

We became so tired of it that we used the unopened tins to make borders of
flower-beds, or we used them to make stepping-stones across puddles.
Eventually the world’s supply of plums and apples having been used up, the
manufacturers were forced to use strawberries.

In the army all food is handled by the Army Service Corps, and as soon as
they found real jam coming through they took it for their own and still
forwarded on to us their reserve “plum and apple.” The news got around
amongst the fighting units: result—the Army Service Corps is now known as
the “Strawberry Jam Pinchers.”

Reviewed by King George V, and it was indeed a very impressive sight.
Although there were only twenty thousand troops, they seemed endless.
During the time that the King was on the parade ground in company with
Lord Kitchener, two aeroplanes kept guard in the sky. Our K. of K. is a
big, fine man who looks the part. An inspection by the King is always a
sure sign of a unit’s impending departure. He traveled down on the new
railway which had just been built by the defaulters of the Canadian
Contingent.

At the last minute I managed to get weekend leave and went to London. No
Canadians there! I caught sight of a military picket, sergeant and twelve
men, looking for stray ones, though. Another picket held me up and made me
button my greatcoat. I did! It isn’t clever to argue with pickets at any
time!

The train was three hours late. Troops’ trains were occupying the lines.
From Bulford we walked home in a hail-storm. Got in about five o’clock
just as the reveille was blowing in the other lines. They were just
leaving for the front, and had made great fires where they were burning up
rubbish and stuff they couldn’t take with them. Tons of it! Chairs,
mattresses, and tables. When we move, everything except equipment has to
be discarded. We can’t do anything with extras. We have to cut our own
stuff down to the very smallest dimensions. I walked through the lines
afterward of other battalions who had left, and I saw fold-up bedsteads,
uniforms, equipment, books, buckets, washing-bowls, cartridges and stoves
of every conceivable kind and shape; hundreds, from the single “Beatrice”
to the big tiled heaters. Some tents were half full of blankets thrown in,
others with harness. All the government stuff is collected, but private
stuff is burnt.

In the army you soon realize that you have to make yourself comfortable
your own way. I don’t hesitate to take anything. If I have on a pair of
puttees which are a bit worn and I find a new pair,—well, I just calmly
yet cautiously annex them and discard the old ones. We found a barrel of
beer had been left by one of the other units, so we carefully carried the
prize to our lines and then tapped it. Zowie! It was a beer barrel all
right, only it was filled with linseed oil.

                  -------------------------------------

Thank the Lord!! Under a roof, sitting on a real chair; tablecloth,
plates; and I’m dry. We have come to Wilton (of carpet fame) and I’m in a
billet. I have a real bed to sleep in. Last night I lay on the floor of a
mildewed tent; couldn’t sleep on account of the cold. To-night I sleep
between sheets, and the wonderful thing is that I’m not on leave.

We drove our cars down here, each of us hoping that we would never again
see Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, as long as we lived; it had been our
home for five months. Yesterday we felt like mutiny; to-day every one is
smiling. As soon as we were “told off” Pat and I went to our billet, a
nice clean little house close to the center of the town. The owner is a
baker. I felt kind of uncomfortable with my boots and clothes plastered up
with mud, but the good lady said, “Don’t ’e mind, come in, bless you; I’ve
’ad soldiers afore. The last one ’e said as ’ow he couldn’t sleep it were
so quiet ’ere.”

I had a wash (this is Friday night), the first since Wednesday morning.
The idea of having as much water as you want, without having to go a half
mile over a swamp, pleased me so much that I used about six basinsful in
the scullery.

When the lady of the house asked us _what_ we would _like_ to eat, we both
fainted. I’m afraid we’re going to get spoiled here. Couldn’t sleep at
first. Cold sheets and having all my clothes off—too great a strain! Had
breakfast and then drove our cars to the canal, where we scrubbed and
washed them down inside and out.

This afternoon I’ve been into every shop I could find, chiefly to talk to
people who are not soldiers. Even went into the church to look around and
listened to the parrotlike description of the place by the sexton.

Everybody is happy, and although it has rained ever since we have been
here, we haven’t noticed it yet. I may say there are four or five kids,
and the whole house could be packed into our front room. Still, “gimme a
billet any time.”

                  -------------------------------------

I have just received the news that I have been given a Second Lieutenancy
in the Motor Machine Gun Service, Royal Field Artillery, and I go into
camp at Bisley at once. I am very glad that before being an officer I have
been a private, because I now have the latter’s point of view. I am going
to try hard to be a good officer; promotion always means more work and
responsibility,—so here goes.

I have been very busy lately training my new section, and we are now part
of the 12th Battery, Motor Machine Guns, 17th Division British
Expeditionary Force, leaving to-day for the “Great Adventure.”

Somewhere in France. At last we are here. We landed at a place the name of
which I am not allowed to mention, and were then taken by a guide to a
“Rest Camp” about two miles from the docks. If they had called it a
garbage dump I shouldn’t have been surprised. You would be very much
surprised with the France of to-day. Everybody speaks English; smart khaki
soldiers in thousands everywhere.

Already I have seen men who have been gassed and the hospitals here are
full of wounded. Our troops are arriving all day and night and marching
away. English money is taken here, but French is more satisfactory as you
are likely to get done on the change. The officers have a mess here just
as in England. Actually we are farther away from the firing line than we
were in camp at Bisley; but we leave to-day on our machines going direct
to it. There was a transport torpedoed just outside; they managed to beach
her just in time. The upper decks and masts are sticking up above water.

Since I last wrote anything in this diary we have ridden over one hundred
and ten miles by road towards the firing line. All day yesterday it
poured. The country was beautiful, ripening corn everywhere, the villages
are full of old half-timbered houses, the roads are all national roads
built for war purposes by Napoleon, and run straight; on either side are
tall, poplar shade trees, so that the roads run through endless avenues.

At night we stayed in a quaint village inn. The men all slept in a loft
over their machines. Our soaked clothes were put in the kitchen to dry,
but owing to the number of them, they just warmed up by the morning. One
officer has to follow in the rear of every unit to pick up the stragglers.
I had to bring up the rear of the column to-day—result: I didn’t get in
until early in the morning, only to find the other subalterns “sawing
wood.”

                  -------------------------------------

Yesterday was the French National Day. We were cheered as we rode along,
and women and children smothered us with flowers. In the morning a funeral
of two small children passed us. Our battery commander called the battery
to attention and officers saluted. The priest was two days overdue with
his shave—soldiers notice things like that, you know.

                  -------------------------------------

To-day we continued our ride; the weather was much better—dried our
clothes by wearing them. Strange to run through Normandy villages and
suddenly come across British Tommies—many of them speaking French. A Royal
Navy car has just passed us; our navy seems omnipresent. I saw an old
woman reading a letter by the side of an old farmhouse to some old people,
evidently from a soldier, probably their son. It reminded me a great deal
of one of Millet’s pictures. Every one thinks of the war here and nothing
but the war; it’s not “Business as Usual.”

We stay here one night and move away to-morrow. We can hear the guns
faintly.

The three section officers, myself and two others, are sleeping in a hut
together. It is one of these new collapsible kind, very convenient. We are
now all in bed. Outside the only sound we can hear is the sentries
challenging and the mosquitoes singing.

                  -------------------------------------

All males are soldiers in France, even the old men. They look very fine in
their blue uniforms, but I have a prejudice for our khaki Tommies. We get
good food as we travel, but pay war prices for it. Cherries are now in
season; we don’t pay for them, however.

                  -------------------------------------

Rode another sixty miles to-day. A car smashed into the curb, cannoned off
and ran over me, busting my machine up. The front wheel went over my leg.
My revolver and leather holster saved me from a fracture, but I got badly
bruised up. I was very scared that I should not be able to go “up” with
the Battery. It would be almost a disgrace to go back broken up by a car
without even getting a whack at the Boche. Had to ride later on another
machine twenty-five miles through the night without lights, in a blinding
rain.

                  -------------------------------------

Everything interesting. Should like to have a camera with me. I had to
post mine back. So many things are done in the British Army by putting a
man on his honor. They just ask you to do things. They don’t order you to
do it. It was that way with me; they merely “asked” me to post my camera
back.

Great powerful cars rush by here all day and all night, regardless of
speed limits. Every hour or so you see a convoy of twenty or thirty motor
lorries in line bringing up ammunition or supplies, or coming back empty.
Every point bristles with sentries who demand passes. If you are not able
to answer satisfactorily, they just shoot. The French soldiers have
magnificent uniforms; the predominating color is a sort of cobalt blue. To
see sentries, French and British together, they make quite a nice color
scheme.

Officers censor all letters. I censor sometimes fifty letters a day. One
man put in a letter to-day, “I can’t write anything endearing in this, as
my section officer will read it.” Another, “I enclose ten shillings. Very
likely you will not receive this, as my officer has to censor this
letter.” Of course we don’t have time to read all the letters through. We
look for names of places and numbers of divisions, brigades, etc., but I
couldn’t help noticing that one of my men, whom I have long suspected of
being a Don Juan, had by one mail written exactly the same letter to five
different girls in England, altering only the addresses and the
affectionate beginnings.

The village in which I am now was visited last September by twelve German
officers who came through in motor cars; the villagers cried, “Vivent les
Anglais,” for not having seen an English soldier they took it for granted
that the “Tommy” had come.

Everybody goes armed to the teeth. I have my belt, a regular Christmas
tree for hanging things on, with revolver and cartridges on even while I’m
writing this. We carry a lot, but we soon get used to it.

                  -------------------------------------

The corn is being cut now. Through the window opposite I can see it
standing in newly-stacked sheaves. These places are the favorite sketching
grounds of artists in normal times, and I often wonder if they ever will
be again.

We return salutes with all the French and Belgian officers. It is
difficult sometimes to distinguish them. I got fooled by a Belgian
postman, and then went to work and cut a French general.

The nearer we get to the firing line the finer the type of soldier. They
are the magnificent Britishers of Kitchener’s First Army. It makes you
proud to see them marching by, dirty and wet with sweat. I watched two
battalions come through; they had marched twenty miles through the sun
with new issue boots; a few of them had fallen out, and other men and
officers were carrying their equipment and rifles; many of the officers
carried two rifles.

I am now well within sound of the guns. A German Taube was shelled as it
came over our firing line yesterday. One man was lying on his back asleep
with his hat over his eyes, when a piece of shrapnel from one of the
“Archies” hit him in the stomach—result: one blasphemous, indignant
casualty. From the road I can see one of the observation balloons, a queer
sausage-shaped airship. We may be moved up into the thick of it at any
time now.

                  -------------------------------------

I have been over into Belgium to-day: crossed the frontier on my motor
bike; the roads are terrible, all this beastly “pavé” cobblestones; awful
stuff to ride over on a motor cycle. Shell holes on both sides of the
road, and I saw three graves in the corner of a hop garden. All along the
road there were dozens and dozens of old London motor buses, taking men to
the trenches. They still have the advertisements on them and are driven by
the bus-drivers themselves. Three hundred came over with their own
machines. They are now soldiers. The observation balloon I mentioned
yesterday was shelled down to-day.

I am writing this in an old Flemish farmhouse, and the room I’m sitting in
has a carved rafter ceiling, red brick floor and nasty purple cabbage
wallpaper. All the men of the house with the exception of the old man are
at the war; one son has already died. The Germans have been through here.
They tied the mayor of the town to a tree and shot him. The trenches have
been filled in, all the wreckage cleared, and they have a new mayor.

                  -------------------------------------

It is not yet 7 A.M. I am an orderly officer and have to take the men out
for a run at six. I came back and bought a London “Daily Mail” of
yesterday from a country-woman. We are at least three miles from the town,
but they are enterprising enough to bring papers to us at this time in the
morning. A “Daily Mail” costs four cents.

Since I last wrote I have been up to the front line. Everything is
different from what you imagine. The German trenches are easily
distinguished through glasses; their sand-bags are multi-colored. Shrapnel
was bursting over ruins of an old town in their lines. When you look
through a periscope at the wilderness, it is difficult to imagine that
thousands of soldiers on both sides have burrowed themselves into the
earth. The evidence of their alertness is shown by their snipers, who are
always busy whenever the target is up.

A battery of eight-inch howitzers was opening fire. Our battery commander,
hearing this, sent us up. The guns, big fellows, were well concealed. They
were painted in protective colors and covered with screens of branches to
prevent aerial observation. In the grounds all over the place were
dug-outs, deep rabbit burrows, ten or twelve feet down, into which
everybody went immediately. The Germans started their “hate.” The firing
is done by hand cord; other big guns are fired electrically. An enormous
flash, an ear-splitting crash, a great sheet of flame from the muzzle, and
two hundred pounds of steel is sent tearing through the air to the
“Kultur” exponents. The whole gun lifts off the ground and runs back on
its oil-compression springs. These guns are moved by their own caterpillar
tractors which are kept somewhere close by. In three quarters of an hour
they can get them started on the road. The ground for these emplacements
was the orchard of a chateau. While we were there a whistle blew three
times, an order shouted; immediately the guns were covered up and the men
took cover. The enemy had sent an aeroplane to locate them. If they could
once find them, hundreds of shells would rain on this spot in a few
minutes. At a few yards’ distance I couldn’t see the guns myself. The
“Hows” were firing at a house in the German lines which had been giving
trouble. In three rounds they got it and then started in to “dust” the
neighborhood. Of course, the firing is indirect. The officers and men who
are with the guns don’t see the effects. Apparently they fire straight
away in the air. The observation is done by the forward observing officer
in the fire trenches who corrects them by ’phone.

After the appointed number of rounds had been fired, we adjourned to the
chateau, a fine house, marble mantelpiece, plaster ceilings, gilt mirror
panels, etc. It has still a few pieces of furniture left, no carpets, most
of the windows are smashed; shells have visited it, but chiefly in
splinters. I saw one picture on the wall with a hole drilled in by a
shrapnel bullet which had gone clean through as though it had been
drilled. It hadn’t smashed the glass otherwise. From a window of the room,
which the officers use as a mess, a neat row of graves is to be seen.
Outside there are great shell holes, most of them big enough to bury a
horse. Suddenly a shriek and a deafening explosion occurred in the garden.
“Sixty-pound shrapnel! Evening hate,” said an artillery sub. We left! We
had been sent up to see the guns fire and not to be fired at.

To go home we had to pass a village completely deserted, a village that
was once prosperous, where people lived and traded and only wanted to be
left alone. Now grass is growing in the streets. Shops have their
merchandise strewn and rotting in all directions. On one fragment of a
wall a family portrait was still hanging, and a woman’s undergarments. A
grand piano, and a perambulator tied in a knot were trying to get down
through a coal chute. To wander through a village like this one that has
been smashed up, and with the knowledge that the smashing up may be
continued any time, is thrilling. Churches are always hateful to the
Germans. They shell them all; bits of the organs are wrapped around the
tombstones, and coffins, bones and skulls are churned up into a great
stew. In some of the villages a few of the inhabitants had stayed and
traded with the soldiers. They lived in cellars usually and suffered
terribly. British military police direct the traffic when there is any,
and are stationed at crossroads with regular beats like a city policeman.

While traveling to another part of the line we had an opportunity of
seeing the “Archies” (anti-aircraft guns) working. They were mounted on
lorries and fire quite good-sized shells. They fired about fifty shots at
one Taube, but didn’t register a bull. Later in the evening from a trench
we had the satisfaction of seeing another aeroplane set on fire, burn, and
drop into the German lines like a shot partridge. Aeroplanes are as common
as birds. Yesterday a “Pfeil” (arrow) biplane came right over our lines
and was chased off by our own machines. The enemy’s aeroplanes have their
iron cross painted on the underside of their wings and are more
hawkish-looking than ours. They are more often used for reconnoitering and
taking photographs than for dropping bombs.

We are being moved up closer to the firing line. I have been made
billeting officer. I went to headquarters; a staff colonel showed me a
subdivision on a map. “Go there and select a place for your unit.” The
place was a wretched village of about six houses, all of which are more or
less smashed about, windows repaired with sacking and pieces of wood. All
of the inhabitants have moved except those who are too poor. Every square
inch is utilized. I managed to get a cow-shed for the officers. It looks
comfortable. On the door I could just decipher, written in chalk, by some
previous billeting officer,—


    2 Staff Officers
    6 Officers
    2 Horses


Billeting chalk marks are on almost all the shops and houses up from the
coast to the front.

The field which we are expecting to put the men into belonged to a miller
who lived in a different area. We went to see him. He couldn’t speak
English or French, so I tried him with German. While we were talking, I
noticed some non-coms watching us very intently and was not surprised to
find one following us back down the road. When he saw our car he came up
and apologized for having taken us for spies. They are looking for two
Germans in our lines wearing British uniforms, who have given several gun
positions away. Two days ago the enemy shelled the road systematically on
both sides for half a mile when an ammunition column was due. It was quite
dark before we left; the sky was continually lit up by the star shells,
very pretty white rockets, which light up No Man’s Land. The enemy has a
very good kind which remains alight for several minutes.

Our days of comfortable billets are over, I am afraid. Unless you are
working hard, it is miserable here,—wrecked towns, bad roads, shell holes,
smells, dirt, soldiers, horses, trenches. The inhabitants are a poor,
wretched lot. Many of them are thieves and spies. We are right in Belgium,
where flies and smells are as varied as in the Orient.

Wherever we travel by day or night we are constantly challenged by
sentries and have to produce our passes. We stopped in one darkened
shell-riddled town and knocked up an _estaminet_; we got a much finer meal
than you can get at many places farther back. We talked to the woman who
kept it and asked her if she slept in the cellar. “Oh, no! I sleep
upstairs, they never bombard except at three in the morning or nine at
night. Then I go into the cellar.” This woman was a very pleasant,
intelligent person, most probably a spy. Intelligent people generally
leave the danger zone.

Marching through the sloughed-up mud, through shell holes filled with
putrid water, amongst most depressing conditions, I saw a working party
returning to their billets. They were wet through and wrapped up with
scarves, wool helmets, and gloves. Over their clothes was a veneer of
plastered mud. They marched along at a slow swing and in a mournful way
sang—


    “Left—Left—Left
    We—are—the tough Guys!”


Apparently there are no more words to this song because after a pause of a
few beats they commenced again—


    “Left—Left—Left—”


They looked exactly what they said they were.

Windmills, of which there are a good many, are only allowed to work under
observation. It was found that they were often giving the enemy
information, using the position of the sails to spell out codes in the
same way as in semaphore; clock-hands on church towers are also used in
the same way.

I saw a pathetic sight to-day. A stretcher came by with a man painfully
wounded; he was inclined to whimper; one of the stretcher-bearers said
quietly to him, “Be British.” He immediately straightened himself out and
asked for a “fag.” He died that night.

                  -------------------------------------

We had a terrific bombardment last night; the ground shook all night and
the sky was lit up for miles. The Boches used liquid fire on some new
troops and we lost ground.

I found this piece of poetry on the wall of a smashed-up chateau, and I
have copied it exactly as I found it. The writing was on a darkened wall,
and while I copied it my guide held a torchlight up to it. The place
passes as “Dead Cow Farm” on all official maps.


    I’ve traveled many journeys in my one score years and ten,”
    And oft enjoyed the company of jovial fellow men,
    But of all the happy journeys none can compare to me
    With the Red-Cross special night express from the trenches to the
                sea.

    “It’s Bailleul, Boulogne, Blighty, that’s the burden of the song,
    Oh, speed the train along.
    If you’ve only half a stomach and you haven’t got a knee,
    You’ll choke your groans and try to shout the chorus after me.

    Bailleul, Boulogne, and Blighty, dear old Blighty “cross the sea.”

    “Now some of us are mighty bad and some are wounded slight,
    And some will see their threescore years and some won’t last the
                night,
    But the Red Cross train takes up the strain all in a minor key
    And sings Boulogne and Blighty as she rumbles to the sea.

    “Oh, it’s better than the trenches and it’s better than the rain,
    It’s better than the mud and stink; we’re going home again,
    Though most of us have left some of us on the wrong side of the
                sea.
    We are a lot of blooming cripples, but—downhearted? No, siree.

    “There’s a holy speed about this train for each of us can see
    That we will cross the shining channel that lies ’twixt her and me
    To the one and only Blighty, our Blighty, ’cross the sea,’
    Where the blooming Huns can never come, ’twixt her and home and
                me.”


“Blighty” is the wound which sends a man home to England; it’s a war word
which came originally from the Indians, but now universally adopted in the
new trench language.

I was walking along a trench when a man, who was sitting on a firestep
looking up into a little trench mirror (which is used by putting the end
of the bayonet between the glass and the frame), just crumpled up, shot
through the heart. He didn’t say a word. The trench had thinned out and
the bullet had come through, nearly four feet down from the top of the
parapet.

Bad shell fire this afternoon. Saw shells churning things up seventy-five
yards away; many passed overhead; had a ride on my motor cycle with the
other officers to reconnoiter the roads leading down to the part of the
trenches we have taken over; road was shelled as we came along. Two “coal
boxes” hit the road and smashed up a cottage in front of us; we picked up
pieces of the shell too hot to hold.

Our billet now is another large farm, with the pump in the center of the
manure heap as usual; our machines are parked all round a field close to
the hedges to make a smaller target and also to prevent aerial
observation.

I went through a town this morning which has been on everybody’s lips for
months—I have never seen such devastation in my life; it baffles
description. The San Francisco earthquake was a joke to this. Thousands
and thousands of shells have pummeled and smashed until very little
remains besides wreckage. Most of the shelling has been done to
deliberately destroy the objects of architectural value.

My quarters are in a loft amongst rags, old agricultural implements,
sacks, and the accumulation of years of dirt; flies wake me up at
daylight.

This morning I went for a drink in the _estaminet_ I have mentioned
already. Two shells have been through the sides of the house since we were
last there, but they both came through at the usual scheduled time.

This poor country is pockmarked with shell craters like a great country
with a skin disease. Trees have been splintered worse than any storm could
do. Nothing has been spared. The mineral rights of this territory should
be very valuable some day. When we have all finished salting the earth
with nickel, lead, steel, copper, and aluminum, old-metal dealers will
probably set up offices in No Man’s Land.

Belgium will have to be rebuilt entirely, or left as it is, a monument to
“Kultur.”

                  -------------------------------------

My section has been ordered up to a divisional area on the south of the
salient. In accordance with instructions I went up to Ypres this morning
to find a place to park the machines.

Contrary to the popular belief, we do not fight our guns from the motor
cycles themselves. We use our machines to get about on, and the guns are
taken up as near as possible to the position we are to occupy, which is
usually behind Brigade Headquarters. Brigadiers have a great aversion to
any kind of motor vehicle being driven past their headquarters, owing to
the movement and noise, which they believe attracts attention to
themselves, and as a rule the sentries posted outside will see that no
machines go by. We get up as far as we can, because after we part from our
machines, everything must be carried up through the trenches by hand.

                              [Illustration]

                     Bringing Up A Motor Machine Gun


I arrived at the town early and reported to the major who is in charge of
the town and of the troops quartered there. He was living in the prison, a
substantial brick and stone building, which has been smashed about a bit,
but which is still a fairly good structure. The major is a fine, gruff old
gentleman who was a master of fox hounds in the North of England. He came
over with a detachment of cavalry. He is past the age limit, and it was
decided that although he was a fine soldier, perhaps his age would be a
deterrent and his job ought to be something lighter, so they gave him one
of the fiercest jobs in the world—O. C. Ypres!

I was sent in, and when he heard my errand he said, “You want to park your
machines in Ypres? Why don’t you take them up in the German front lines?
You’ll be safer there than here. Listen to the shelling now.” I knew this,
but I was doing just exactly what I was told. He continued: “I have now
thousands of troops here and my daily casualties are enormous, so
naturally I don’t want any more men. The best plan for you will be to go
down the Lille road and pick a house below ‘Shrapnel Corner.’ ”

I went on through the town, under the Lille gate, across the tram lines,
past the famous cross-roads known as “Shrapnel Corner” and chummed up with
some artillery officers. They told me that I could have any of the houses
I wanted. I picked a couple which looked to me to be more complete than
the rest and chalked them up. This whole place was alive with batteries.
While I was there I heard a shout and suddenly a hidden battery of guns,
sunk behind the road with the muzzles almost resting on it, started firing
across in the direction of the part of Belgium occupied by Fritz. I had
passed within two feet of these guns and yet had not seen them, they were
so well “camouflaged.” On my way back I saw the “Big Berthas” bursting in
the town, and I was surprised that so little damage had been actually done
to the Lille gate itself. Shells had visited everywhere in the
neighborhood, but had not smashed this old structure.

I went home, collected my men together, and told them the importance of
the work we were to undertake. I have found it always a good thing to make
the men think the job that they are doing is of great importance. Better
results are obtained that way.

We went to an “engineer dump” on the way up just after the enemy had
landed a shell on a wagon loading building material, and wounded were
being carried off and the mangled horses had been dragged on one side. As
the wounded came by I called my section to attention, the compliment due
to wounded men paid by units drawn up.

We drew our sandbags in the usual way by requisitioning for five thousand
and getting one thousand. Always ask for more than you expect to get.

As we came into Ypres, a military policeman on duty told me it was
unhealthy to go the usual way through the Market Square, because the
shelling was bad in that part of the town, so I spread the machines out
and started on down a side street. We were getting on finely and I was
congratulating myself on getting through, when two houses, hit from the
back, collapsed across the street in front of my machine. Without any
ceremony I turned my machine back along the street which we had come and
went through the Market Square down the Lille road, under the gate, being
followed by my section. About four hundred yards down I stopped; holding
my solo motor cycle between my legs, standing up, I looked back. I counted
my machines as they came up. If it hadn’t been so scary, it really would
have been funny, to see these machines coming down the road through shell
holes and over piles of bricks, as fast as the drivers could make them go.
The men were hanging on for dear life and the machines rocked from side to
side, but they were all there.

Down the road we went to the houses; there we parked the machines and
unpacked. A guard was placed over them and the rest of us marched down to
the trenches.

                  -------------------------------------

An officer has to buy all his own equipment and is allowed two hundred and
fifty dollars by the Government towards the cost. An officer carries a
revolver, but all junior officers as soon as possible acquire a rifle. The
men of a “salvage company” were collecting all the rifles, bayonets, and
parts of equipment near where I was to-day and I managed to get a
Lee-Enfield (British rifle) in good shape. I felt that I would like to
have a rifle and bayonet handy. I found a good-looking bayonet sticking in
the side of a sandbag wall. It looked lonely. The scabbard I am using was
resting in a loft of a deserted brewery. I am now complete with rifle,
bayonet, and scabbard.

                              [Illustration]

                                 "Wipers"


Sometimes you see a man smashed about in a terrible way, such a mess that
you think he is a goner; he may recover. Another man may have just a small
wound and will die. A bullet hitting a man in the head will smash it as
effectually as a sledge-hammer. Once a man leaves your unit, wounded, you
don’t see him again. You get a fresh draft.

No one thinks of peace here. Germany must be put in a similar state to
Belgium first.

We never travel anywhere without our smoke helmets; they come right over
our heads and are tucked into our shirts; they have two glass eye-pieces.
When we have them on we look like the old Spanish gentleman who ran the
“Star Chamber.” Helmets must always be ready to put on instantly. Gas is a
matter of seconds in coming over. The helmets are better than respirators,
but have to be constantly inspected. A small hole, or if one is allowed to
dry, means a casualty.

Storm brewing. Flies bad, driven in by the wind. Nature goes on just the
same. I suppose that this farm would be just as fly-ridden in an ordinary
summer. During the bombarding yesterday I noticed swallows flying about
quite unconcerned. Corn, mostly self-planted, grows right up to the
trenches. Cabbages grow wild. Communicating trenches run right through
fields of crops; flowers grow in profusion between the lines, big red
poppies and field daisies, and there are often hundreds of little frogs in
the bottom of the trenches.

                  -------------------------------------

A trip to No Man’s Land is an excursion which you never forget. It varies
in width and horrors. My impression was similar to what I should feel
being on Broadway without any clothes—a naked feeling. Forty-seven and one
half inches of earth are necessary to stop a bullet, and it’s nice to have
that amount of dirt between you and the enemy’s bullets. The dead lie out
in between the lines or hang up on the wire; they don’t look pretty after
they have been out some time. It’s a pleasant job to have to get their
identification disks, and we have to search the bodies of the enemy dead
for papers and even buttons so that we can know what unit is in front of
us. Flowers grow in between, butterflies play together, and birds nest in
the wire. When the grass becomes too high it has to be cut, because
otherwise it would prevent good observation. In some places grass doesn’t
have a chance to even take root, let alone grow. The shells take care of
that.

I managed to get a translation of a diary kept by a German soldier who
fell on the field. Below is an exact translation and gives the point of
view of a man in the trenches on the other side of the line. He was
writing his diary at the same time I was writing mine, and we were both
fighting around the salient at Ypres, Hooge being on the point of the
salient farthest east. This part, which was once a place of beauty which
people came long distances to see, is now like a great muddy Saragossa Sea
which at the height of its fury has suddenly become frozen with the
tortured limbs of trees and men, and wreckage and reeking smells, until it
can again lash itself in wild fury into whirlpools. It is in all respects
Purgatory, but of greater horror than Dante ever dreamt of.

                  -------------------------------------

_Diary of F---- P---- of the 6th Company, 3d Battalion, 132d Regiment.
Killed at Hooge on August 9th, 1915._

On May 10, we were told to prepare for the journey to the front. Each man
received his service ammunition and two days’ rations, and we then started
with heavy packs on our backs and our water-bottles full of coffee. After
a long march we reached our reserve position, where we were put into rest
billets for two days in wooden huts hidden in a wood. We could hear from
here the noise of the shells coming through the air.

On May 13, we moved into the trenches, in the night. We were a whole hour
moving along a communication trench one and one-half metres deep, right up
to the front line some fifty metres from the enemy. This was to be our
post. We had hardly got in before the bullets came flying over our heads.
Look out for the English! They know how to shoot! I need hardly say we did
not wait to return the compliment. We answered each one of their greetings
and always with success, inasmuch as we stood to our loopholes for
twenty-four hours with two-hour reliefs.

At length early on the 15th, at four o’clock, came our first attack. After
a preliminary smoking-out with gas, our artillery got to work, and about
ten o’clock we climbed out of the trenches and advanced fifty metres in
the hail of bullets. Here I got my first shot through the coat. Three
comrades were killed at the outset of the assault, and some twenty
slightly or severely wounded, but we had obtained our object. The trench
was ours, although the English twice attempted to turn us out of it.

The fight went on till eleven o’clock that evening. We were then relieved
by the 10th Company, and made our way back along the communication
trenches to our old positions. Here we remained until the third day,
standing by at night and passing two days without sleep. We were hardly
able to get our meals. From every side firing was going on, and shots came
plugging two metres deep into the ground. This was my baptism of fire. It
cannot be described as it really is—something like an earthquake, when the
big shells come at one and make holes in the ground large enough to hold
forty or fifty men comfortably. How easy and comfortable seemed our road
back to the huts.

We remained in the huts for three days, resting before we went up again to
“Hell Fire,” as they call the first line trenches in front of Ypres.

Then suddenly in the middle of the night an alarm. Our neighbors had
allowed themselves to be driven out of our hard-won position, and the 6th
Company, with the 8th and 5th, had to make good the lost ground. A hasty
march through the communication trenches up to the front, the night lit up
far and wide with searchlights and flares and ourselves in a long chain
lying on our bellies. Towards two in the morning the Englishmen came on,
1500 men strong. The battle may be imagined. About 200 returned to the
line they started from. Over 1300 dead and wounded lay on the ground. Six
machine guns and a quantity of rifles and equipment were taken back by us,
the 132d Regiment, and the old position was once more in our possession.
What our neighbors lost the 132d regained. There was free beer that
evening and a concert! At 11 P.M. once more we withdrew to the rear, our
2d, 4th and 10th Companies relieving us. We slept a whole day and night
like the dead.

On June 15th, we again went back to rest billets, but towards midday we
were once more sent up to the front line to reinforce our right wing,
which was attacked by French and English. Just as we got to our trenches
we were greeted by a heavy shell fire, the shells falling in front of our
parapets, making the sandbags totter. Seeing this, I sprang to the spot
and held the whole thing together till the others hurried up to my
assistance. Just as I was about to let go, I must have got my head too
high above the parapet, as I got shot in the scalp. In the excitement I
did not at once realize that I was wounded, until Gubbert said—“Hullo,
Musch! Why, you’re bleeding!” The stretcher-bearer tied me up, and I had
to go back to the dressing-station to be examined. Happily it was nothing
more than a mere scalp wound, and I was only obliged to remain on the
sick-list four days, having the place attended to.

June 24th. All quiet in the West, except for sniping. The weather is such
that no offensive can take place. The English will never have a better
excuse for inactivity than this—“It is raining.” Thank God for that! Less
dust to swallow to-day! Odd that here in Belgium we are delighted with the
rain, while in Germany they are watching it with anxiety.

To-day we shall probably be relieved. Then we go to Menin to rest. Ten
days without coming under fire. It is Paradise!

Sunday, June 27th. At nine o’clock clean up. At eleven roll-call. At three
o’clock went to the Cinema—very fine pictures. In the afternoon all the
men danced till seven, but we had to take each other for partners—no
girls.

July 2d. 11 P.M. Alarm. Three persons have been arrested who refused to
make sandbags. They were pulled out of bed and carried off. Eight o’clock
marched to drill. This lasts till 11. Then 1 to 4 rest. Six, physical
drill and games. I went to the Cinema in the evening.

July 6th. Inspection till eleven. Three hours standing in the sun—enough
to drive me silly. Twenty-three men fell out. Three horses also affected
by the heat. Eleven to one Parade march—in the sun. Thirty-six more men
reported sick. I was very nearly one of them.

July 9th. Preparation for departure. From seven to ten pack up kits.
Eleven, roll-call. One-thirty, march to light railway. At seven reached
firing trench. The English are firing intermittently over our heads;
otherwise, all is quiet. We are now on the celebrated,
much-bewritten-about “Hill 60.” Night passes without incident.

July 12th. At three in the morning the enemy makes a gas attack. We put on
respirators. Rifle in hand we leap from the trenches and assault. In front
of Hill 60 the enemy breaks, and we come into possession of a trench.
Rapid digging. Counter-attack repulsed. At nine o’clock all is quiet, only
the artillery still popping. This evening we are to be relieved. The 132d
Regiment is much beloved by the English! In a dugout we found two labels.
One of them had the following writing on it: “God strafe the 132d Regiment
(not ‘God strafe England’ this time). Sergeant Scott (?) Remington,
Sewster Wall (?).” On the other was, “I wish the Devil would take you, you
pigs.”

At 7.20 Hill 60 is bombarded by artillery, and shakes thirty to fifty
metres, as if from an earthquake. Two English companies blown into the
air—a terrible picture. Dug-outs, arms, equipment—all blown to bits.

July 17th. Marched to new quarters. We have got a new captain. He wants to
see the company, so at 8 A.M. drill in pouring rain. Four times we have to
lie on our belly, and get wet through and through. All the men grumbling
and cursing. At eleven we are dismissed. I, with a bad cold and a
headache. I wish this soldiering were all over.

July 19th. At seven sharp we marched off to our position. Heavy
bombardment. At nine we were buried by a shell. I know no more. At eleven
I found myself lying in the Field Hospital. I have pains inside me over my
lungs; and headache, and burning in the joints.

July 20th. The M.O. has had a look at me. He says my stomach and left lung
are suffering from the pressure which was put on them. The principal
remedy is rest.

July 21st. Thirty-nine degrees of fever (temp. 100° Fahr.). Stay in bed
and sleep, and oh! how tired I am!

July 22d. I slept all day. Had milk and white bread to eat.

July 26th. Returned to duty with three days’ exemption, i.e., we do not
have any outdoor work.

July 28th and 29th. Still on exemption. Nothing to do but sleep and think
of home and of my dear wife and daughter. But dreaming does not bring
peace any sooner. How I would love an hour or two back home.

July 31st. In rest. Baths going. Duke of Württemberg passed through our
camp.

August 1st. Up to the trenches. Shrapnel flying like flies. A heavy
bombardment; bombardment of Hooge. Second Battalion, 132d Regiment, sent
up to reinforce 126th Regiment, which has already lost half its men.

August 4th. Heavy artillery fire the whole night. The English are
concentrating 50,000 Indians on our front to attack Hooge and Hill 60.
Just let them come, we shall stand firm. At three marched off to the
front. Watch beginning again. Five o’clock marched off to the Witches’
Cauldron, Hooge. A terrible night again. H.E. and shrapnel without number.
Oh, thrice-cursed Hooge! In one hour eleven killed and twenty-three
wounded and the fire unceasing. It is enough to drive one mad, and we have
to spend three days and three nights more. It is worse than an earthquake,
and any one who has not experienced it can have no idea what it is like.
The English fired a mine, a hole fifteen metres deep and fifty to sixty
broad, and this “cauldron” has to be occupied at night. At present it
isn’t too badly shelled. At every shot the dug-outs sway to and fro like a
weather-cock. This life we have to stick to for months. One needs nerves
of steel and iron. Now I must crawl into our hole, as trunks and branches
of trees fly in our trench like spray.

August 6th. To-night moved to the crater again, half running and half
crawling. At seven a sudden burst of fire from the whole of the artillery.
From about eleven yesterday fires as if possessed. This morning at four we
fall back. We find the 126th have no communication with the rear, as the
communication trenches have been completely blown in. The smoke and thirst
are enough to drive one mad. Our cooker doesn’t come up. The 126th gives
us bread and coffee from the little they have. If only it would stop! We
get direct hits one after another and lie in a sort of dead end, cut off
from all communication. If only it were night. What a feeling to be
thinking every second when I shall get it! ---- has just fallen, the third
man in our platoon. Since eight the fire has been unceasing; the earth
shakes and we with it. Will God ever bring us out of this fire? I have
said the Lord’s Prayer and am resigned.

                  -------------------------------------

To-day I saw the “Mound of Death” at Saint-Eloi; it has been mined a
number of times, and thousands of shells have beaten it into a disorderly
heap of earth; the trenches are twenty-five yards apart; all the grass and
vegetation has been blown away and never has had time to grow up again.

It’s all arranged for you, if there’s a bit of shell or a bullet with your
name on it you’ll get it, so you’ve nothing to worry about. You are a
soldier—then be one. This is the philosophy of the trenches.

                  -------------------------------------

                              [Illustration]

                             What’s The Use?


War is a great ager. Young men grow old quickly here. It can be seen in
their faces; they have lost all the irresponsibility of youth. I have met
many men who have been here since Mons; they all look weary and worn out
by the strain. Now new troops are coming forward and it is hoped that they
will be able to send some back for a rest.

Several days ago the adjutant of the Tenth Battalion Sherwood Foresters
came to me with this message which was sent through our lines:—

                  -------------------------------------

Arrest Officer Royal Engineers with orderly. Former, six feet, black
moustache, web equipment, revolver. Latter, short, carries rifle, canvas
bandolier. Please warn transports and all concerned.

                  -------------------------------------

Everybody kept a good lookout for these spies. One sentry surprised a real
R.E. officer named Perkins who was working out a drainage scheme. Seeming
to answer the above description, he stalked him,—“Come ’ere, you ----
----, you’re the ---- I’ve been looking for.” The officer, nonplussed,
commenced to stutter. “Sergeant, I’ve got ’im and he can’t speak a word of
English.” The sergeant collected him in and guarded him until another
engineer officer, known to the guard, came along. As soon as Perkins saw
him, he said, “F-r-r-ed, t-t-tell this d-d-damn fool wh-ho I am.” “Who the
hell are you calling Fred? I don’t know him; hold him, sergeant, he’s a
desperate one.” Scarcely able to contain his joy, Fred went back to the
Engineers’ Camp to tell the great news and Perkins spent three hours in
the sandbag dugout listening to a description of what the sergeant and his
guard would do to him if they only had their way.

The real spies, who did a great deal of damage, were finally rounded up
and shot in a listening post trying to regain their own lines.

                  -------------------------------------

Enemy snipers give us a great deal of trouble. It is very difficult to
locate them. One of our men tried out an original scheme. He put an empty
biscuit tin on the parapet. Immediately the sniper put a bullet through
it. Now thought the Genius, “If I look through the two holes it will give
me my direction,”—so getting up on the firestep he looked through, only to
roll over with the top of his head smashed off by a bullet. The sniper was
shooting his initials on the tin.

                  -------------------------------------

We are all used to dead bodies or pieces of men, so much so that we are
not troubled by the sight of them. There was a right hand sticking out of
the trench in the position of a man trying to shake hands with you, and as
the men filed out they would often grip it and say, “So long, old top,
we’ll be back again soon.” One man had the misfortune to be buried in such
a way that the bald part of the head showed. It had been there a long time
and was sun-dried. Tommy used him to strike his matches on. A corpse in a
trench is quite a feature, and is looked for when the men come back again
to the same trench.

We live mostly on bully beef and hard tack. The first is corned beef and
the second is a kind of dog biscuit. We always wondered why they were so
particular about a man’s teeth in the army. Now I know. It’s on account of
these biscuits. The chief ingredient is, I think, cement, and they taste
that way too. To break them it is necessary to use the handle of your
entrenching tool or a stone. We have fried, baked, mashed, boiled,
toasted, roasted, poached, hashed, devilled them alone and together with
bully beef, and we have still to find a way of making them into
interesting food.

However, the Boche likes our beef. He prefers the brand canned in Chicago
to his own, and will almost sit up and beg if we throw some over to him.
The method is as follows: Throw one over ... sounds of shuffling and
getting out of the way are heard in the enemy trench. Fritz thinks it’s
going to go off. Pause, and throw another. Fritz not so suspicious this
time. Keep on throwing until happy voices from enemy trenches shout,
“More! Give us more!” Then lob over as many hand grenades as you can pile
into that part of the trench and tell them to share those too.

It takes some time to distinguish whether shells are arrivals or
departures, but after a while you get into the way of telling their
direction and size by sound. Roads are constantly shelled, searching for
troops or supply columns. I was coming home to-day, up a road which ran
approximately at right angles to main fire trenches. At one place the road
was exposed for a matter of thirty or forty feet, and again farther up it
was necessary to go over the brow of a small hill. This was about three
hundred yards farther on and was exposed to the enemy’s view. Thinking
they wouldn’t bother about a single rider on a motor cycle, I went up past
the first exposed position. My carburetor was giving me some trouble and I
thought I would see if any rain had got into it, so I turned off the road
down a cross-road and dismounted when _crash_! a shell landed right in the
middle of the road as far up the exposed place as I was round the corner.
Then five more followed the first shell. Had I gone on I could not
possibly have missed collecting most of the fragments. The German gunners
had spotted me in the first position and decided that a lone man on a
motor cycle must be either an officer or despatch rider. So they tried to
get him. The shells were shrapnel and the time was calculated splendidly.
They had taken into consideration the speed of my motor cycle. Cross-roads
are particularly attended to, for there is a double chance of hitting
something, and in consequence it is always unhealthy to linger on a
crossroad.

                  -------------------------------------

Dugouts are often made very comfortable with windows, tiled floors and
furniture taken from neighboring shattered chateaux. I have even seen them
with flowers growing in window-boxes over the entrance. They all have
names. Some I saw yesterday were called “Anti-Krupp Cottage,” “Pleasant
View,” and “Little Grey Home in the West.” There was one very homey site,
well equipped and fitted, which had been dubbed the “Nut,”—the colonel
lived there.

My old corps brought an aeroplane down with a machine gun last night. They
were in a shell hole between the main and support trenches.

For the last few days I have been “up” looking for gun positions.

The lice are getting to be a torment. You have no idea how bad they are.
Everybody up here is infested with them. I have tried smearing myself with
kerosene, but that does not seem to trouble them at all. Silk underwear is
supposed to keep them down. I suppose their feet slip on the shiny
surface.

The food lately has taken on a wonderful flavor and I now know how
dissolved German tastes. The cook, instead of sending back two miles for
water to cook with, has been using water from the moat in which a Boche
had been slowly disintegrating.

To-day I was able to see what a German seventeen-inch shell could do; one
had made a crater fifty feet across and twenty feet deep in the middle of
the road. The top of the road was paved—think it over—and pieces kill at a
thousand yards. Thirty horses were buried in another hole.

                  -------------------------------------

I have been given a special job by the general to enfilade a wood over the
Mound. I have my section now in the second-line trenches waiting till it
is dark before making a move. We have to make a machine-gun emplacement in
a piece of ground which is decidedly unhealthy to visit during daylight. I
have been there in daylight, but I had to creep out of it. On the map it
is called a farm, but the highest wall is only three feet six inches high.

                  -------------------------------------

Arrived home about two o’clock this morning. We crawled to the place we
have to take up, and I put some men filling sandbags in the ruins and
others even digging a dugout. The enemy had “the wind up” and were using a
great number of star shells. When one goes up we all “freeze,” remain
motionless, or lie still. They send them up to see across their front, and
if they locate a working party, then they start playing a tune with their
machine guns. Bullets and shells whistled through the trees all the time.
They seemed to come from all directions. The men didn’t like it at all. I
wasn’t altogether comfortable myself, but an officer must keep going. I
walked about and joked and laughed with them. The range-taker said, “Some
of us are getting the didley-i-dums, Sir.” I don’t know what that is, but
I had a feeling that I had them too.

Of course, to start with, everybody thinks every single shell and bullet
is coming straight for him. Then you find out how much space there is
around you. One man came to tell me that two men were firing at him with
his own rifle from the ruins of the alleged farmhouse, ten yards away from
the dugout we are making. Just then a field mouse squeaked, and he jumped
up in the air and said, “There’s another.” I told the men to fill sandbags
from the ruins; they all crowded behind this three-foot-six wall for
protection; they dug up a French needle bayonet—that was all right, but
they afterwards dug up a rifle and I noticed a suspicious smell, so I
moved them.

We came home very tired. We are attacking Hooge, a counter-attack, to take
back trenches lost in the liquid fire attack—you will hear what we did
from the papers, probably in three months’ time.

                  -------------------------------------

I’m writing this in a new home, this time a splinter-proof dugout. The
Huns are again strafing us—last shell burst fifty yards away a few minutes
ago. Several times since I started writing I have had to shake off the
dust and debris thrown by shell bursts on to these pages. I was again
sniped at with shrapnel this morning on my machine while reconnoitering
the roads—they all missed, but they’re not nice. I’m filthy, alive, and
covered with huge mosquito bites; you get sort of used to the incessant
din in time. Even the forty-two centimeter shells, which make a row like
freight trains with loose couplings going through the air, are not so
terrible now.

Through a hole in my dugout I can see the Huns’ shells Kulturing a
chateau. It was once a very beautiful place with a moat, bridges, and
splendid gardens. Now it’s useless except that the timber and the
furniture come in useful for our dugouts and the making of “duck walks,”
the grated walks which line the bottom of the trenches.

Last night I was sitting in the Medical Officer’s dugout when a man I knew
came in. He was an officer in the Second Gordons. “I feel pretty bad,
doc.” He explained his symptoms. “Trench fever; you go down the line.”
“No, fix me up for tonight and maybe I won’t need anything else.” He
didn’t! All that is left of him is being buried now, less than a hundred
yards from where I write this.

                  -------------------------------------

Before I came here I had to go to another part of the line, in which the
“Princess Pats” distinguished themselves. We have been hanging on ever
since, and a mighty stiff proposition it is. The O.C. to-day told me that
he had not slept for fifty-six hours. The Germans in one place are only
twenty-five yards away—so close that conversation is carried on in a
whisper.

In one place they had stuck up a board with “Warsaw Captured” on it.

My section worked until two o’clock and then the sandbags gave out, so we
had to come home. This was a disappointment to me. I wanted to get the job
finished. My men went on filling sandbags from the same place last night
and discovered the remains of the late owner of the sword bayonet. He has
now been decently buried, with a little wooden cross marked—


    TO AN UNKNOWN FRENCH SOLDIER
    R.I.P.


When you read in the newspapers, that a trench was lost or taken, just
think what it means. Think what happens to the men in the trenches; that’s
the part of it we see. Stretchers pass by all day. Since I have been here
the cemetery has grown—a new mound—a simple wooden cross. Nobody talks
about it, but everybody wonders who’s next. The men here are splendid, the
best in the world, and the officers are gentlemen.

                              [Illustration]

                            A French Soldier.


                  -------------------------------------

We have moved to the famous Langhof Chateau on the Lille road. This is
supposed to have belonged to Hennessey of “Three Star” fame, but the
Germans had been through the wine cellars. We looked very, very carefully,
but only found empties. My batman has made me comfortable. I’m writing
this on a washstand; in front of me I have a bunch of roses in a broken
vase. My trench coat is hanging on a nail from a coat-hanger. A large
piece of broken wardrobe mirror has been nailed up to a beam for my use.
One of the men just came in to ask if a trousers press would be of any
use. We have a fine little bureau cupboard of carved oak; we use this for
the rations. A pump, repaired with the leather from a German helmet, has
been persuaded to work and has been busy ever since. The roof of my cellar
is arched brick and has a few tons of fallen debris on the floor upstairs.
That strengthens it. It is shored up from inside with rafters. This makes
the roof shell-proof, except for big shells, and the enemy always use big
shells. The cellar floors are concrete.

It is very strange the lightness with which serious things are taken by
men here, and it took me some time to understand it. I met a young captain
of the Royal Marine Artillery who was in charge of a battery of trench
mortars. He was telling me of how one of his mortars and the crew were
wiped out by a direct hit. He referred to it as though he had just missed
his train.

Two days later I went up with the Machine-Gun Officer of the Second
Gordons to look at a piece of ground. To get there we had to crawl on our
hands and knees. In one part of our journey we came to a sunken road. The
day was fine, so we lay there. He asked me about Canada. He wanted to know
something about the settler’s grant. He said: “Of course you know after a
chap has been out here in the open, it will be impossible to go back again
to office life.” I boosted Canada and suddenly the irony of the situation
occurred to me. Here we were lying down in a road quite close to the
German lines, so close that it would be suicide to even stand up, and yet
here we were calmly discussing the merits of Canadian emigration. I
commented on this and he replied: “My dear fellow, when you have been out
as long as I have, you will come to realize that being at the front is a
period of intense boredom punctuated by periods of intense fear, and that
if you allow yourself to be carried away by depression it will be your
finish.” He had been out since just after Mons.

I remembered this and I found that the nonchalant and care-free attitude
of the average British officer was really a mask and simulated to keep his
mind off the whole beastly business: this great big dirty job which white
people must do.

I was sitting one afternoon by the side of the canal bank about two
hundred yards in front of my chateau having tea with the officers of the
East Yorks when suddenly the chateau-smashing started again. To go back
was dangerous and useless. My men were under cover, resting, so that they
would be ready for the night work. The shelling was intermittent. One
shell went over and presently I heard _crack_,—_crack_,—_boom_, _crack_,
_crack_,—_crack_; my heart was in my boots and I was unable to move.

The colonel listened for a few seconds, then said: “Keene, do you know
what that is?” I lied: “No, sir.” I thought it was the explosion of my
machine-gun bullets in their web belts and I dreaded to go up to see my
section. I had worked with them and tried hard to be a good officer and
the feeling that I should probably only find their mangled remains
sickened me. The colonel said: “That’s the ‘Archie’ in Bedford House. I
think the last ‘crump’ got it. You two”—indicating myself and another
officer—“go up and see if we can do anything. See if they want a working
party and let me know.”

We started to run. On the way up I looked into the cellars to see the men
whom I, the minute previously, had mourned for, and found two asleep,
three hunting through their shirts, and the rest breaking the army orders
by “shooting craps.” From Bedford House a long trail of smoke was rising
and the explosions became louder. We suddenly discovered the “Archie” in
flames. It was in the courtyard and for camouflage had been covered with
branches. It was mounted on an armored Pierce-Arrow truck. The “crump” had
hit it, and gasoline, paint, branches, and hubs were supplying the fuel
which was cooking out the ammunition, the _crack_, _crack_, being the
report of single shells, whereas one loud _boom_ signified the explosion
of an entire box. These shells were going off in all directions and it
became dangerous to stay too near.

The flames on the car were of pretty colors. It is surprising the amount
of inflammable material there is on a car. The late owner of the car, a
lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery, was cursing in a low, but
emphatic, marine manner, and several other officers from nearby batteries
were attracted by the noise and the pyrotechnic display. I spoke to the
lieutenant and sympathized with him, and he retorted: “Gott strafe
Germany. Why they should hit the ‘bus’ when I have a brand-new pair of
trench boots that I had never worn, I dunno.” Just then and there the case
cooked out and a piece of shell cut between us and buried itself deep in
the support of a dugout, so we got under cover.

                              [Illustration]

                              “Whiz-Bangs.”


In the group was a splendid type of army chaplain. He came over almost at
the start of the war and had seen a great deal of the open warfare at the
commencement of hostilities. He said: “My friend Fritz is not through;
he’ll try to do some more yet.” As the smoke died down and the cracking
stopped, the enemy decided that an attempt would be made either to carry
out salvage of whatever they had hit or else we would try to get the
wounded away. So without any preliminary warning the whole area was
covered by a battery fire of _whiz bangs_, and the shrapnel bullets came
down like rain, several men being hit. The fire eventually died down and
the wreck was allowed to cool off. The “Archies” are used so much to keep
the aeroplanes up, and next to the loss of his boots the officer in charge
was worried by the fact that the enemy would send an aeroplane over to see
what they had hit. It was very necessary to keep the planes away, because
at this time there were one hundred and fourteen batteries of artillery in
the neighborhood.

Later on the battery commander came down, and as he looked at the red-hot
armor plates he said: “Five thousand pounds gone up in smoke. Sorry I
missed the fireworks.” The Divisional general called him up at the dugout
and gave him areas for the distribution of the four anti-aircraft guns and
cars comprising his battery. After he was through the commander replied:
“Very good, sir, that will be done with all the guns except the third
gun.” The voice over the wire became very dignified, a preliminary to
becoming sulphuric. “What do you mean, all but the third gun?” “Because,
sir, the enemy has just ‘crumped’ the third gun and all that remains of it
is scrap iron.”

One of the battalions has a fine victrola in the officers’ mess dugout
with a good selection of records. I have heard Caruso accompanied on the
outside by an orchestra of guns. It was a wonderful mixture. Speaking of
canned music reminds me we have a small portable trench machine, which
closes up like a valise, easily handled and carried about. One man near
had a box full of needles distributed in his back by a bomb; he considers
himself disgraced; he says it will be kind of foolish in years to come to
show his grandchildren twenty-five or thirty needles and tell them that
they were the cause of his wounds.

The Tommies play mouth organs a great deal and it is much easier to march
to the sound of one, even


    ’Ere we are; ’ere we are,
        ’Ere we are agin.
    We beat ’em on the Marne,
    We beat ’em on the Aisne,
    We gave ’em ’ELL at Neuve Chapelle,
        And ’ere we are agin—


sounds well with the addition of a little music.

Anything is used for trench work; often if we waited for the proper
materials we should be uncomfortable, so it is one of the qualifications
of a good soldier to find things. Sometimes we steal material belonging to
other units, then stick around until the owners come back and help them
look for them; however, it is always advisable to steal materials from
juniors in rank; if they find it out, and are senior, then you are in for
a one-sided strafe.

One of the other battery subalterns found a deserted carpenter’s shop and
he let his men loose to dismantle it. They took the parts of steel
machines and used them for the construction of a dugout. One man said,
“It’s like coming home drunk and smashing up the grand piano with an axe.”
They must have attracted the attention of the ever-alert Boche, for no
sooner had they moved out than the place was shelled to the ground.
Everything I now look at with an eye to its value for trench construction;
thus, telegraph poles, doors, iron girders, and rails are more valuable to
us out here than a Rolls Royce.

                              [Illustration]

                               The “Crump.”


                  -------------------------------------

Slang or trench language is used universally. My own general talks about
“Wipers,” the Tommy’s pronunciation of Ypres, and I have seen a reference
to “Granny” (the fifteen-inch howitzer) in orders “mother” is the name
given to the twelve-inch howitzer. The trench language is changing so
quickly that I think the staff in the rear are unable to keep up to date,
because they have recently issued an order to the effect that slang must
not be used in official correspondence. Now instead of reporting that a
“dud Minnie” arrived over back of “mud lane,” it is necessary to put, “I
have the honor to report that a projectile from a German Minnenwerfer
landed in rear of Trench F 26 and failed to explode.”

Sometimes names of shells go through several changes. For example, high
explosives in the early part of the war were called “black Marias,” that
being the slang name for the English police patrol wagon. Then they were
called “Jack Johnsons,” then “coal boxes,” and finally they were
christened “crumps” on account of the sound they make, a sort of
_cru-ump!_ noise as they explode. “Rum jar” is the trench mortar.
“Sausage” is the slow-going aerial torpedo, a beastly thing about six feet
long with fins like a torpedo. It has two hundred and ten pounds of high
explosive and makes a terrible hole. “Whiz bang” is shrapnel.

Shelling is continuous. We have thousands of pieces of shells and fuse
caps about the premises. I have in front of me a fragment of a shell about
fourteen inches long and about four and one-half inches across, which came
from a German gun. The edges are so sharp that it cuts your hand to hold
it. I use it as a paper-weight.

                  -------------------------------------

This morning I experienced a wonderful surprise. I had gone up to one of
the North Stafford Batteries to borrow a clinometer. The major, while he
was getting the instrument for me, casually remarked: “There’s yesterday’s
‘Times’ on the bench if you care to look at it.” I turned first to the
casualty list and later to the “London Gazette” for the promotions, and
wholly by accident perused carefully the Motor Machine Gun Service list
and there noted the announcement, “Keene, Louis, 2d Lieut., to be 1st
Lieut.,” and for a fact this was the “official” intimation that I had been
promoted. I had a couple of spare “pips”, rank stars, in my pocket-book,
so I got my corporal to sew them on right away.

                  -------------------------------------

We are all very happy at times, very dirty, and covered with stings and
bites; have no idea how long we are to remain up. Getting used to the
shell fire, and can sleep through it if it’s not too close. When it comes
near it makes you very thoughtful. Still working at night and resting
during the day. Made another emplacement for one of my machine guns last
night; had twenty men digging; surprising how fast men dig when the
bullets are flying.

                  -------------------------------------

It’s about 2 A.M. We have just come in. My new emplacement is splendid;
we’ve made it shell-proof and have it ready for firing. I was coming home
this afternoon after having been to the fire trenches when I heard a
shout: “Keene!” I looked up on the canal bank and I saw the general with
one of his A.D.C.’s sitting watching an aeroplane duel. “I’ve come up to
see your gun position, Keene.” I saluted, waited for him, and took him to
it. It is below the level of the ground under tons of bricks in the ruins
of a farmhouse. He was standing on the roof of it and said, “Well, where’s
the emplacement?” “You’re standing on it, sir.” “Tut, tut, ’pon my word,
that’s good.” He was delighted and congratulated me on it. My preliminary
work under the eyes of the general has gone off quite well. I start firing
to-night.

Intimacy between generals and lieutenants is unusual, but it looks as if
mine had taken an interest in me, because when he noticed my insect-bitten
face, he sent me down some dope he had used with good effect in India. I
expect the mosquitoes in India were the ordinary kind, but, believe me,
trench “skeeters” are constructed differently and are proof against the
general’s pet concoction.

I have several miners in my section who take a personal pride in the
digging and shoring up of dugouts. So far the other two sections of the
Battery are always behind in this work but they may look better on parade.

The canal has one big lock suitable for swimming; a lot of “jocks” were
bathing there to-day. I ordered a bathing parade for my section. Later I
found that the swimming had livened three Germans, long submerged—the
bathing parade is off.

A Belgian battery commander has just wakened up and his shells are
rattling overhead. From the fire trenches an incessant rattle of rifles is
heard; all the bullets seem to come over here; constantly the whine of a
musical ricochet bullet is heard. Otherwise things are dead quiet. It’s
getting on for three, so I’m going to bed in my blankets on one of the
late chateau owner’s splendid spring mattresses and carved oak bedstead.
Oh! how nice it would be to sleep without lice. From an adjoining cellar
my section are snoring, and I’m going to add to the chorus. Good-night,
everybody.

                  -------------------------------------

We have been having Sunday “hate.” Eight-inch crumps are once more busting
“up” the chateau. How they must detest this place. My tea and bully beef
are covered with dust of the last shell. You have no idea how terrible the
shell-fire is. First you hear the whistle and then a terrific burst which
shakes the ground for a hundred yards around; when it clears away you find
a hole ten feet across and six feet deep. At least fifteen have dropped
around us in the last half hour.

This place isn’t somewhere in France, it’s somewhere in Hell! It has been
the scene of a great many encounters; decayed French uniforms, old rifles,
ammunition and leather equipment and bundles of mildewed tobacco leaves
are strewn all over the place. I found the chin-strap of a German
“Pickelhaube” in the grounds, the helmet of a French cuirassier, and the
red pants of a Zouave, close together. When digging in the trenches or
anywhere near the firing line you have to be careful: corpses, dead
horses, and cattle are buried everywhere. I’m building a trench to my
emplacement and we have a stinking cow in the direct line; this will have
to be buried before we can cut through.

Everybody is cheerful and going strong. Yesterday some of my men went
swimming in the moat of the chateau; a shell dropped in the water near
them, and threw up a lot of fish on to the bank. That kind of discouraged
the Tommies swimming, so they cooked the fish and decided that safety
comes before cleanliness out here.

It’s hot and sticky, and when you have to wear thick clothes and equipment
it makes you very uncomfortable, but it’s all in the game.

All through the night we fired single shots from a machine gun; my orders
were to fire between half-past eight at night and four o’clock in the
morning. We have a number of guns doing this. It harasses the enemy and
keeps them from sleeping; anything that will wear a man down is practiced
here.

I’ve constructed a fire emplacement amongst the ruins underground; to get
to it you have to travel through a tunnel eighteen feet long; inside it’s
very damp. I was working with my corporal, crouched up; we were both wet
and cold, and so to cheer things up every now and again we let off a few
rounds and warmed our hands on the barrel. Outside it poured with rain,
and mosquitoes sought refuge inside and mealed off me. The corporal was
immune. I had a water bottle full of whiskey and water. We used it to keep
out the cold, but it wasn’t strong enough. In a case like that you need
wood alcohol. I would like to have had some Prohibitionists with me here.
We had no light except the flash of the gun and the enemy star shells.

At daybreak I came home dead beat. I got into my cellar, was so tired that
I threw myself down on the bed and wrapped myself up in my blankets,
boots, mud, lice and all. I hadn’t been asleep long before the Huns
started “hating” the chateau. They have put over twenty-five large calibre
shells into my place, the grounds and the house. They are still at it.
Every time a shell bursts it makes a hole big enough to bury five horses,
and it shakes the foundations all round. The shells are bigger than usual.
The smoke and earth are blown up fifty or sixty feet in the air. The
effect is a moral disruption. _Why can’t they keep that cotton out of
Germany?_

I have divided my section up into two teams, one in the cellars and one in
the gun-pits. I relieve them every twenty-four hours, and I practically
have to be in both places at once, but I have got a telephone in between
the two places. I have it by my bed so that I can constantly know how
things are going. However, the wire is cut two or three times a day by
bullets and shell splinters, my linesman has a constant job.

Fired all night; came back at six o’clock this morning, very tired. Had a
telegram from the general to fire two thousand rounds in twenty-four
hours; this is quite hard work. Actually we could fire the lot in five
minutes, but it would attract too much attention. The enemy use whole
batteries of artillery to blot out machine guns which attract attention,
so we have to fire single shots.

We have for neighbors four dead cows and an unexploded six-inch shell,
liable to go off any time, all in a radius of one hundred yards. We have
smashed holes through five walls so that we can go through the ruins
unobserved. In one place we pass over a dead cow, and in another we wade
through several tons of rotten potatoes, and I believe we have a corpse
handy; and part of our trench goes through another heap of rotten mangles.
I’m an authority on smells. I can almost tell the nationality of a corpse
now by the smell. It will soon be necessary to wear our smoke-helmets to
go into the emplacement. I don’t think that I have told you that I cross
the Yser canal about six times a day. I’d been up a week before I knew
what it was. Now it only has a few feet of water in it, the rest being
held in the German locks. The part I cross over is full of bulrushes, and
is the home of moor-hens, water rats, mosquitoes and frogs.

On one side of the canal is a bank which is in great demand by the machine
gunners, who are able to get a certain amount of height and observation of
their fire. The general has ordered a field gun to take up a position on
this bank. He refers to it as his “Sniping eighteen-pounder.” It is firing
at seven hundred yards right at the German line and smashes up their
parapet in a style that is pretty to watch. The machine gunners are in a
great state, because the enemy will soon be “searching” with his artillery
for the eighteen-pounder and the lairs of the smaller hidden guns will
suffer.

The men are hunting for lice in their underwear. This is the kind of
conversation that is coming through from the next cellars: “I’ve got you
beat—that’s forty-seven.” “Wait a minute”—a sound of tearing cloth—“but
look at this lot, mother and young.” “With my forty and these you’ll have
to find some more.” They were betting on the number they could find. I
peel off my shirt myself and burn them off with a candle. I glory in the
little pop they make when the heat gets to them. All the insect powder in
the world has been tried out on them and they’ve won.

All sentries here are doubled; one thing it’s safer, and another it’s
company; even when things are quiet, rats and mice scamper about and it
sets your nerves on end. Things which are inanimate during the day become
alive at night. Trees seem to walk about. I wonder what it tastes like to
have a real meal in which tinned food does not figure; fancy a tablecloth;
my tablecloth is a double sheet of newspaper, and even then I can’t have a
new one every day.

                  -------------------------------------

Had a good night’s rest; came in about twelve o’clock and slept until
eight-thirty this morning. One eye is completely closed up by a sting.

A German aeroplane has been hovering over our positions looking for my
gun, so we have stopped firing and all movement. I know just how the
chicken feels when the hawk hovers over it. Few people realize how much
aeroplanes figure in this war, for war would be much different without
them. They do the work of Cavalry only in the sky. Whenever they come
over, the sentries blow three blasts on their whistles and everybody runs
for cover or freezes; guns stop firing and are covered up with branches
made on frames. If men are caught in the open they stand perfectly still
and do not look up, for on the aeroplane photographs faces at certain
heights show light; dugouts are covered over with trees, straw or grass.
We use aeroplane photographs a great deal; they show trenches distinctly
and look very like the canals on Mars.

The Huns have been “hating” the road one quarter of a mile away all the
morning. That doesn’t worry us a bit as long as they don’t come any
closer. I’m willing always to share up on the shelling.

This order has just been issued. It speaks for itself:—


    All ranks are warned that bombs and grenades must not be used for
    fishing and killing game.


I went over another farm to-day. It is one of the well-ventilated kind,
punched full of holes. In the kitchen, stables and outhouses there was a
most wonderful collection of junk: ammunition, British and French
bandoliers, old sheepskin coats abandoned by the British troops from last
winter, smashed rifles, bayonets, meat tins, parts of broken equipment,
sandbags, stacks of rotten potatoes and three dead cows. The fruit trees
are laden with fruit, and vines are growing up the houses with their
bunches of green grapes.

In the garden several lonely graves are piled high with old boots, straw,
American agricultural implements, rotting sacks and rubbish of every
description, pieces of shells, barrels, and in one room the rusty remains
of a perambulator and sewing machine; rats are the only inhabitants now.
In the garret (the staircase leading up to it gone long ago) I found a
British rifle, bayonet fixed, ten rounds in the magazine, and the bolt
partly drawn out. Evidently the owner was in the act of reloading his
chamber when something happened. The graves were dated second and third
months of this year. The poor wooden crosses were made of pieces of ration
cases and the names written with an indelible pencil. The wretchedness of
this farm, which was flourishing only a short time ago, is very pathetic.

We have adopted an old Belgian mother cat with her family of three kittens
in the dugout. Now we find that three more little wild kittens are living
in the bricks which we have piled around the windows to protect us against
shells. They are all encouraged to live with us in the cellars. I like
cats, and they will help to keep the rats down. Although some of the rats
are nearly the size of cats.

It has been raining again and the trenches are filling up with slush. We
carry a big trench stick, a thick sapling about four feet long with a
ferrule made from a cartridge of a “very-light” (star shell), to help
ourselves in walking; our feet are beginning to get wet and cold as a
regular thing now, and we are revetting our trenches firm and solid for
the winter. Eleven P.M. A mine under the Boche line has just been
exploded. The fighting has just started for the crater.

I took a German Uhlan helmet from a gentleman who had no further use for
it. It was pretty badly knocked about; still, if I can get it home it’s a
trophy.

                  -------------------------------------

                              [Illustration]

                            Mr. Tommy Atkins.


It’s about eight o’clock Sunday evening. All day long shells have been
coming over like locomotives. Every five seconds one goes over into the
old town; every five seconds for the last two hours. The chateau has been
shelled again with “crumps”; they are such rotten shots; if only they
would put in two good ones in the center it would blow it to bits and then
they might leave us alone. The whole of the ground is pitted because they
can’t hit it squarely.

                  -------------------------------------

My work lies behind the front line and in front of the support, firing
over the heads of the men in the main trenches. The emplacement was
shelled to-day; one shell hit the roof, burst and knocked over one of my
men, cutting his head open. He is not very badly hurt, but has gone to the
hospital. The shelling has been terrible to-day.

The Germans have been very quiet lately, and working parties are out all
along their front lines at night—something’s up. Dirty work can be
expected at any time now. We have steel helmets to protect us from spent
bullets and splinters. They look like the old Tudor steel helmets and they
are fine to wash in.

You have no idea what a big part food plays in our life. Yesterday morning
I went with the machine-gun officer of another outfit to crawl about
looking for positions. We were in an orchard. I happened to look up and
saw ripe plums! Terrified lest he should see them and forestall me, I
said, “Let’s beat it, this is too unhealthy,” so we crawled back. Last
night in the light of a big moon such as coons always steal watermelons
by, a section officer and his cook crawled to the plum tree. The section
officer, being large, stood underneath while the cook climbed the tree and
dropped them into a sandbag held open by the S.O. They got about ten
pounds. They go well stewed, believe me. The fact that bullets whistled
through the trees most of the time made them taste better to-day. Sat the
rest of the night in a hedge firing at the Boches with a Lewis gun. I
struck for bed just as dawn broke.

                  -------------------------------------

To-day the guns are again “hating” the chateau, and they have put sixty
shells in the neighborhood. Still, “there’s no cloud without a silver
lining.” I’ve got a new way home. Instead of going right around the
kennels, stables, and through the yards, I go “through” the greenhouse
direct, thereby saving a lot of time. The Huns’ calendar is wrong. They
have always shelled me Sunday and Wednesday. To-day’s Tuesday!

We use up the window frames and doorways for kindling, and consequently
the doors have gone long ago. I have been smashing up mouldings this
morning with an axe. We prefer the dry wood which is built into the walls;
it burns better and doesn’t cause smoke. As soon as smoke is seen rising,
the enemy’s range-finders get busy and then we suffer.

Another mine went up yesterday; nobody seems to know where. I think it
came south from the French lines; it rocked the whole neighborhood for
miles. The ground here is a kind of quicksand for a few feet down, and
shock is easily transmitted, the whole ground being honeycombed with
mines, old trenches, shafts, saps made by French, Belgians, Germans and
our own people.

The use for timber of any description is manifold; every little bit is
used up. Our chief source of supply of dry wood is from the smashed-up
chateaux. Langhof, my home, has been punished almost every day, and after
the bombardment lets up men from the neighborhood come to collect the wood
torn up by the shelling. The men of the Tenth East Yorks came up this
morning and climbed to the remains of the second story, ripping up the
floor boards. The enemy evidently saw them, for the shelling soon started.
We have been shelled often here before, but it was nothing compared to
this. The shells were carefully placed and came over with disgusting
regularity. The buildings rocked and the whole neighborhood shook.
Fountains of bricks, mortar, and dirt were spewed up into the air. Trees
were torn to shreds, a wall in front of me was hit—and disappeared, a lead
statue of Apollo in the garden was hurled through the air and landed fifty
yards away crumpled up against the balustrade of the moat.

We were in our cellars, and gradually the shelling crept up towards us.
Slowly a solemn dread which soon moulded into a sordid fear took
possession of my being. In a flash I began to devise a philosophy of death
for my chances were fading with every crash. I took out my pocketbook,
containing some letters from my mother and some personal things, and put
them on one of the beams, so that, being in another part of the building,
they might perhaps be found some day. The shelling continued and shells
dropped completely round the cellars, demolishing nearly everything in
sight. The enemy evidently wanted to obliterate the whole place. The smell
of the smoke and the dirt from the debris was choking, and every minute we
expected to be our last. Suddenly it stopped. Philosophy and fear
disappeared simultaneously as I sputtered out a choking laugh of relief.
Then Hawkins, my servant, in a scared voice started, and the others joined
in, singing the old marching refrain of the Training Camps:—


    “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,
    What the hell do we care!
    What the hell do we care!
    Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,
    What the hell do we care NOW!”


When a man has lived night after night in a trench, he gradually finds it
quite possible to snatch a good night’s sleep. In other words, it is
merely a case of becoming acclimated to rackets, smells and food. I had
always been able to sleep, but on the night following the bombardment of
the chateau I just could not doze off. I thrashed about continuously, and
while in this restless state harbored the notion that trouble was brewing
for me. Every one has had that feeling, the feeling that hangs in your
bones and warns you to watch out. Well, that is how I felt.

At last the sun rose and with it came a beautiful morning, warm and sunny.
I walked out amongst the ruins to see the extent of the damage caused by
the shelling of the previous day. I was waiting for the stew which was
cooking on a little fire near the side of the cellar. The “dixie” was
resting on two old bayonets, and they in turn rested on bricks at either
side. Towards noon a big shell came over and landed in the moat, covering
everything around with a coat of evil-smelling, black mud. This shell was
followed by another, arriving in the part of the ruins where once a
cow-shed stood. I was talking to Hawkins, my batman, when I saw him dive
across my front and fall flat on his face. At the same time I was in the
center of an explosion, a great flame of light and then bricks, wood and
cement flew in all directions. For a few seconds I thought I was dead,
then I picked myself up and saw that blood was pouring down the front of
my jacket. I followed up the stream and found that my right hand was
smashed and hanging limp. My men rushed out and I told them it was
nothing, but promptly fell in a heap. When I came to, my hand was wrapped
up in an emergency bandage, and a stretcher was coming down from Bedford
House, an advanced dressing-station, the next house back. To the delight
of the men who were carrying it, I waved them away and told them I could
walk. Assisted up to the dressing-station by one of my men, I made it. I
then made a discovery. A soldier is a man until he’s hit, then he’s a
case. I first had an injection of “anti-tetanus” in the side, and the fact
was recorded on a label tied to my left-hand top pocket button. The doctor
tied me up, then said: “You’ll soon be all right. Will you have a bottle
of English beer or a drop of whiskey?” I had the whiskey. I needed it. All
the time I was there the wounded poured in. Seeing them I felt ashamed to
be there with only a smashed hand. A corporal came in with both hands
blown off and fifty-six other wounds. He had tried to save the men in his
bay by throwing back a German bomb and it had gone off in his hands.
Hawkins came up later on with my helmet and the fuse head of the shell
which blew me up. We were all collected together and waited in the dugouts
of the dressing station until dusk. Several shells came close to us. I
tried to write to my mother with my left hand, so that when she received
the War Office cable she would know I was able to write.

Dusk came, then night, and finally the Ford ambulance cars which were to
take us out of Hell. It was a beautiful night. Belgium looked lovely. The
merciful night had thrown a veil over the war scars on the land and a moon
was shining. I was told to sit up in the seat with the driver. We traveled
along one road, then the shelling became so bad that the drivers decided
to go back and take another road which was running nearly parallel. Back
over the line the planes of the Royal Flying Corps were bombing the Forest
of Houltholst, and the bursting of the shrapnel from the German
anti-aircraft guns pierced the velvet of the sky like stars as we went out
of Belgium into France.

                  -------------------------------------

Several times shells burst on the road, and from the inside of the car
came the stifled groans of the men as the Ford hit limbs of trees and
shell-holes.

Our first stop was a ruined windmill, the walls of which were nearly six
feet thick. Here the dangerous cases were taken off and attended to. The
last I saw of the corporal was after they had cut off his coat at the
seams and the doctors were taking a piece of wire out of his chest. While
I was waiting a chaplain asked me if I would like a cup of coffee or some
whiskey, realising that it would take some time to get the coffee made I
had some more whiskey.

I was given two more tags, which this time were tied on buttons at the top
of my jacket. I stayed here about two hours, then I was sent to a clearing
hospital. It was here that I met the first nurses. They were two fine,
splendid women who were wearing the scarlet hoods of the British Regular
Army nurse. They were both strong and quite capable of handling a man,
even if he became delirious. One of them quickly got me into bed. I
apologized for my terribly dirty state, but I was told that it made no
difference; they were used to it. To be between clean sheets again was
wonderful. I felt I wanted to go to sleep forever. Suddenly a roar, and a
terrible explosion. The hospital was being bombed; a bomb had dropped
within a hundred yards of my tent. This was the German reprisal for our
bombing Houltholst. They deliberately bombed a hospital. The doctor at
this hospital next day looked at my hand and said in a nonchalant way,
“Looks as though you will lose it.” At that time it didn’t strike me as a
great loss to lose a hand, even if it was my “painting hand.”

The hospital train of the next day was crowded and the nurse in charge of
my coach was named Keene. We tried in the little spare time she had to see
if we couldn’t work out our genealogy and find out if we were even
remotely connected, but before we did we came to the station of Étaples
and then went to the Duchess of Westminster Hospital at Latouquet. Here I
was operated on. A piece of Krupp’s steel was taken out of my hand and a
rubber drainage tube inserted instead. The Duchess used to come round a
great deal and won everybody’s affection. She used to sit on my bed and
talk to me about pleasant things. So unlike many people who visit
hospitals and ask the patients silly war questions, such as: “How does it
feel to be wounded?” or “Which hurts more, a bayonet or a shell wound?”
One exasperated Tommy, when asked if the shell hit him, said: “Naw, it
crept up behind and bit me.”

FINIS





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