Just had lunch supplemented with cake and canned fruit from our canteen, which is now making a fresh start in business. The sun has come through the grey pall out of curiosity to refresh its memory of the earth, but as the guns are opening out he will, I expect, soon retire in disgust.
We have to ride about a mile across country night and morning to water our steeds. A certain amount of fun is to be got out of that. The Trumpeter has a great horse that simply won’t walk but prances the whole time, as to the tune of “The Campbells are Coming”; in fact that air comes into your head as soon as you see him.
Some of the peasant women are superb creatures. One walked past our camp today whilst a sergeant was relieving himself. He deliberately exposed himself to her. With no hesitation in her gait or alteration in her friendly smile, she completely ignored him.
Windmills here are not so numerous as in La Belgique. One ruinous one is quite a land mark, brandishing a threatening but atrophied arm as in a dying malediction of the Kaiser and all his Myrmidons. What one misses in comparison with English landscape are the snug rose-encumbered and virginia-creepered cottages, the thick and bosky hedgerows, the cunningly spaced and seemingly self-planted trees, and a sort of “home” feeling one can’t define.
We had an al fresco tub in the evening air. As I look around me in a benign mood, I spy through the leafless hedges white and unwonted forms following my lead. Under such circumstances we scrub one another’s backs. And the guns bang off all around. I perceive that the very long, straight and branchless boles of most of the trees in France are not due to nature – they are lopped for the wood, as are the hedges, the willows and everything useable. I am sitting outside our bivvy on an ammunition box. This small box is a good example of the cost of war. It holds only two of our 4½ inch 35 lb. shells, is made of thick strong planks, screwed dovetailed together, and at each end is a stout rope handle. I should estimate its cost at 5/-. Though they are supposed to be salvaged and used again, 90% are collared, naturally enough, for firewood – countless thousands of them.
Water-pumping stations have to be put up through large districts which, like this, have no effective supply. We hear that Fritz is pushing on other parts of the Front. He is certainly making a tremendous and successful-looking effort. The idiotic papers will talk of “The last stand of the Kaiser” etc.