From the above it appears that I left off a week ago in the middle of our move up to the front. Since then mules, mud and murder have been taking up the whole of my time not including the few hours of sleep one gets between Fritz’s fits of bombing and shelling. I shall have the greatest difficulty in giving you even the slightest idea of what it’s like here and what I have been doing. After several marches last Sunday night we were all split up in the dark and drafted off to different batteries and ammunition columns. I got separated from W. and have no idea where he is. We then shambled along for about an hour in mud often up to our knees; – Never below our boot-tops. As we have been told, all have to act as drivers. Well, we crawled into various shake-downs or “bivvies” crowded with men and next day (after an ample bombing over night) awoke to find ourselves in a vast sea of mud indescribable. Standing in the mud, or out of it, were horse-lines and wagons as far as the eye could see and the huge horseshoe of observation balloons showed that we were right in the middle of the salient (Ypres) now driven into the Hun’s lines. Our work is to pack, on mules, ammunition up to the guns of our battery; getting out at about 3.30 a.m., saddle up in the dark and rain and mud, leaving camp about 5 a.m. We get it in turn but never less often than every other day. On the days off we scrape up the slush around the horse lines and try to scrape the mules themselves – the poor devils are too done up to kick. The first day I went out (Tuesday last) three of us new chums got separated from the rest and lost, spending most of the day roaming about amongst the maze of mud-covered roads in the theatre of war, getting our first experience of its unspeakable horror, filth and desolation. A whole city (Ypres) in utter ruin, the city with its much-pronounced name, simply knocked to smithereens. Not a single building intact – one horrible jumble of bricks, muck, and topsyturvydom. It is quite impossible to describe it, none of the pictures, photos, or newspaper accounts of conditions on the front can give even the faintest idea of the reality. One is at first dazed and stupefied and I think that, to such of us as survive it, it will seem like a horrible nightmare, rather than an actual experience.
[Image: New Zealand artillery firing from shell-holes, Kansas Farm, Ypres Salient, ca 12 Oct 1917, National Library 1/2-012946-G. This often-published image shows the ‘vast sea of mud indescribable’ Lincoln describes, while faintly in the background can be seen a mule train – presumably taking ammunition to the guns]