18th April (1918)

Orders were to take the gun to Ordnance, about 10 miles back near Doullens.  The country we traversed was very pretty, sprinkled with villages and hamlets.  We wound through a great wood, the floor of which and the road-sides were chequered with wild violets, cowslips, thyme, and snowdrops.  The trees are just burgeoning with a glow of dull bronze colour, their straight stems are freckled with green and silver.  Going through this I sang “Under the Greenwood Tree”.  In the villages were plenty of women and girls, neatly dressed and comely; soldiers, French and English, old folk and children and every one of them at work.  Quaint old houses, pretty grey stone churches, all with their background of trees traced against the sky.  I hummed “The Two Grenadiers” and it almost made me shed tears to think how many of such peaceful places have been or are being devastated.  The greatest charm of the villages is their approaches.  As the roads wind toward them, embowered in protecting trees, with their small but predominant church-spires they make an appeal as much to the heart as to the eye.  The people seem fond of trellised trees, lopped to a fair height, boughs and branches cunningly interwoven on one plane, as a tree is trained to a wall.  Crucifixes often enclosed by such trees are placed at the approach to each village.

Every available building under British occupation is numbered and has a notice announcing its billeting capacity.  The streets also are often given English names, which look very incongruous, as you can imagine. – “Leicester Square” for instance, in a humble Frankish hamlet.

IWM Q 61329 British troops in the Rue de l'Eglise (Church Street) at Mailly-Maillet, 20 April 1918

[Image: British troops in the Rue de l’Eglise (Church Street) at Mailly-Maillet, 20 April 1918. IWM (Q 61329)]

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