During the half hour before breakfast we are all about at our ablutions whistling and singing and forgetting about the war. Birds are singing and hopping about on the now well-budded trees and flowers are popping up in the grass, “ver appetet”.*
Yes, it feels good to be washed and shaved again, to turn up the side of the ‘bivvy’ and let the sun stream in and do up the straw and towels and things. Riding to water over-took my old friend the stammering Scot (who was so frightfully sea-sick on the Corinthic) and we had a yarn. It is remarkable how we all get scattered – some in one battery, some in another, some get wounded or sick and go to England or back home and some make a lasting home under the soil of France. In these few weeks little cemeteries have grown up with their neatly aligned wooden crosses, in the neighbourhood of each dressing station. “Joan”, espying a soldier taking some water from a most filthy pool in their yard, the soakage from their dunghill, came hurriedly toddling down to stop him, looking for all the world like one of her own old hens and emitting a flow of toothless French, wonderfully like the cackle of excited poultry. Apparently she,
“Like a lover of camelon, Has grown like that it gazes on”.
Violets and buttercups add to our floral decorations and the buds on the trees are bulging. It is really praiseworthy how soon the authorities get things organised. Here now are baths available, the mail service regular, cloth provided and the labour corps in full swing mending and draining the roads. As Dad put it in his last letter, “We’re in for a big issue” – we will “go on or do down” (Lloyd George).
Aerial activities have been pronounced. A large observation balloon floats almost overhead, shaped like a monstrous elephant without legs or tail.
* “Anything beyond that spring”
[Image: Troops washing at Robecq, 12 April 1918. Imperial War Museums, ref: IWM (Q 6510)]
[Image: A group of soldiers’ graves in World War I. A soldier stands at the wire fence enclosing them. Location unknown. Original photographer is unidentified. Copy negative may have been made by Henry Armytage Sanders. New Zealand Library, ref: 1/4-009550-G]