Sunday, 2nd December (1917)

In the dull weather with leaden sky the country is looking sad and gloomy, but it is not un-picturesque, especially the hill-top windmills, which take my fancy greatly.  Of course, the whole country-side here, as it is everywhere within a belt of perhaps 10 to 15 miles wide behind the lines, is riddled with military activity and quite abnormal; still one can study something of the remnant of its inhabitants, their abodes and belongings.  (Have just drawn my rum issue which we get every other night, and am toping it out of a tin.)

Interesting to recognise here and there someone with whom I have at some place and some time been in camp.  There was a white, but not very severe frost this morning and a few flakes of now this evening, the day breaking a little before 7 a.m. and darkness settling in soon after 5 p.m.  All indications are for a mild winter.  We soldiers look a chap wounded and in England as being in luck’s way and don’t dream of being sorry for him.

Item:  I have found that I can dry a damp pair of socks by hanging them above my candle.  About a week back I badly burnt a good pair and for penance sat right down and darned up the several huge holes.  I scorn the numerous needles in my “housewife” and do everything with a curved sack-needle I have.  Once you have pushed its burly blade through the fabric you know that there is plenty of room for the eye and the wool.  Put one in the next parcel.

Strange to see small groups of civilians, mostly women, going off to church in their Sunday blacks; one begins to forget that there is such a thing as civil life.  The stables here are almost dark inside and it is weird pottering about with the mules in them, grooming, watering and feeding the long-eared mongrels.  One of my mules is a quite energetic little fellow; the other is very touchy and troublesome.  By the way, when we were up at the lines one of the chaps killed a mole which had been burrowing in our ‘bivvy’ and I found that my conception of that curious little animal was entirely wrong.  It was only twice the size of a mouse, almost oblong in shape, covered with fine black fur, blind, with embryonic eyes, pig-faced, and had great bare hands turned sideways for scuttling out the earth.

nlnzimage 1-2 013736-G

[Image – A badly damaged windmill that has withstood repeated shelling in World War I France. Photograph taken near Courcelles 31 May 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. National Library, Ref: 1/2-013736-G]

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