Thursday (17 October 1917)

The Marquee leaked like billy-o in the night and some of us got very wet.  Novelty in deafening reveille when we played awake by the band.  The ablutionary arrangements beat all.  We skated (literally) down the slope of what recently was a meadow but now is slush, and grouped ourselves around murky ponds, half-covered with green scum.  There we ladled out water and “abluted”.  Seven or eight of us got a shave with an inch of water in the bottom of one mug.  Had breakfast of bully and bread, and hot tea, and later on went for a short route march.  Much amusement when they told us off in threes (instead of 4s) owing to the narrowness of the lanes, so you see I have actually seen the “three ‘um threes” joke come off.  We have passed and seen pass endless columns of ammunition wagons, batteries, “archibalds”; saw an aeroplane being shelled in the far distance, little white puffs of smoke breaking out all around it – heard occasionally the distant rumble of the guns.  Oh!  The mules:  they lope along with their great ears floperty-floperty rhythmically as if they moved them deliberately – weird cross-breeds – many a kick I’ll get from them before I’ve seen their tails for the last time.  Weather clearer.  There was some really canine barking in the marquee last night and I put such a tax on my hanky that this morning I couldn’t look it in the face.  Henceforth I adopt the common or Irish method of emunction merely utilising the mouchoir for finishing touches.  You would be amused to see us having our tucker, squatting on our tin hats on the mud and splashing mess tins full of stew and tea over one another.  All you read about the wonderful busyness for miles behind the lines is quite true, but it is equally impossible to picture it without being here.

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