PART III. PASSCHENDAELE & WINTER IN FRANCE. “Somewhere in France” 12 October 1917

Embarked on small fast ferry steamers; a medley of all regiments; daylight failed us half way over; interesting in the method of convoy and manoeuvres adopted to ensure safety.  We arrived at Boulogne.  It was too dark to see anything of the city, but the fact that we were at last in France and hearing French spoken around us was in itself sufficiently novel.  We had a stiff and much encumbered march up-hill to a camp on the hill-tops known to old hands as “one blanket camp”.

Awakened at 5 a.m. – At about 10 we moved off and marched after various delays, chest inspections etc., through the outskirts of town, and to our joy found that we were to go to the base in motor lorries instead of marching.  Packed 25 in each and rumbled off on our first journey through France.  The countryside hereabouts is rolling and even hilly, broken by woods with villages lying in the valleys.  The only Frenchies we saw were old men, women and children, with an occasional soldier on leave.  I liked the look of the French country girls who ran along selling us apples and chocolate etc., they seem fresh and healthy.

[The significance of 12 October 1917 for the New Zealand soldiers in France must be acknowledged here.  As Lincoln Lee travelled across the Channel, 843 New Zealand soldiers lost their lives during an attack in the Third Battle of Ypres.  As historian Ian McGibbon writes, “In terms of lives lost in a single day, 12 October 1917 ranks as the most catastrophic in the country’s post-1840 history”.]

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