29th December (1917)

One of our horses came down so heavily as to break a leg and have to be shot.  The difficulty is got over by putting what are called “frost nails” in the animals shoes and ours are being done now.  These are small wedge-shaped steel plugs screwed into either side of each shoe.  Even my sure-footed pair were performing a kind of mulish mazurks on the way to water.

Talk about lacrymatory gas!  We have a supply (purloined railway sleepers) of very green pine-wood and every half hour or so, when the fire is replenished, our eyes, noses, and lungs have to undergo an ordeal that out to render us proof against anything ‘Jerry’ may have in store for us.  In spite of its various discomforts, the life we have been leading lately is a lazy and monotonous one.  I was quite envying some infantry that I saw drilling today in the snow.  At this game one grows very like an animal and one’s chief pleasure is eating.  The older hands are most of them very taciturn (except for expletives) and unresponsive to the casual remark.  Whereas the songs of the Boer War (Soldiers of the Queen etc) were painfully jingoistic, those of this war ignore the whole business.  Here are some:

Tipperary – Coming Hom – and When you Come Home (Maudlin).  On the Telephone – Take me Back to Blighty – (light and cheerful) I like that Girl – Down in the Valley – Charlotte the Harlot – (all unprintable) Come to the Army (i.e. Salvation Army) etc. etc.  Evidence that when the situation is deadly serious jingoism goes by the board.

We read the peace proposals by the various belligerents with avidity, the very sound of the word peace is electrifying.  Sometimes we abandon all hope of it ever coming and lugubriously discuss the dread possibility of being here for the rest of our naturals.

Footnote:  In World War II bad taste reached its apotheosis in such absurdities as We are the Men – The Army, the Navy and the Air-Force – etc. an exception being Hitler, I’ve got my eyes on you – to the tune of Colonel Bogey.  [Note – this footnote is included in Lincoln’s typescript]

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