Monday evening (3 December 1917)

At the early hour of 5.30 the sun set, Venus in the West and Jupiter in the East, backed by the intermittent flashes of the distant “heavies”.  I can’t help feeling that the sky is much nearer here than in N.Z.  The gloomier winter conditions give one the impression of being shut down under a big lid, but there is a sort of soft sweet colouring and tinting of the distance that awake one’s atavistic memory of Northern winters.  In France proper the estaminets are all “To the (so and so)”, as “Au Lion D’or”, “Au Debit des Boissons” etc., here they are “In the etc.” as in “In Den Old Stein Bier Huis”.  There is one about every 100 yards.  To revert to the great topic of “Buckshee parcels” these café au lait and other soluble drinks are, I believe, very nice once made, but dashed hard to get made.

[Note – on 3 December 1917 the 1st Otago and 1st Canterbury battalions of the NZ Division attacked German positions at Polderhoek Chateau in the Ypres salient.  The attack faced determined German resistance and the Chateau was not taken; some ground was secured and later German counter-attacks were repulsed.  NZ forces suffered around 500 casualties, including 130 dead (a bit more than half the 800 effective combatants).  The Germans recovered the taken ground some 9 days later.  Private Henry James Nicholas received a VC for his actions during the fight.  See also Colonel Hugh Stewart, ‘The New Zealand Division 1916-1918’, Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1921, pp. 305-314.]

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