23rd April (1918)

My songster has been performing and continuing throughout the forenoon, but somehow the glare of day distracts from his charm.  He hadn’t sufficient reserve – not like our native wren who gives you just enough to make you long for more.

A shell whistles overhead every little while and crashes into some ill-starred village, but even the old French peasants have abandoned interest in such occurrences.  The peasant women are very sturdy and a soldier who carried a refugee woman’s bundle for a mile or so, said that he was glad to put it down and resume his pack and rifle.  Fritz is now potshotting at a balloon, failing to hit either it or to silence the skylark now making melody above me.

8 p.m.  The distant fire of large guns is very like the sound of an empty iron tank being beaten or rolled over a hard surface; that of the shells that burst in our terrain, like deep coughing of consumptive leviathans.  A man has in a way gained something when merely to be dry has become a luxury.  All is a matter of comparison, after all, and the fellows who find respite in cognac or “two up” are attending the same end as the superior individual who seeks solace in Shelley and keeping a crazy diary.

A few days ago my wrist watch stopped.  Yesterday I was preparing to pack it up when – it went.  The poor brute is obviously dirty and I can’t get it cleaned.  He’s too small to groom.

1-2 013140-G NZ soldiers gathering shellcases, Bus-les-Artois 20 April 1918

[Image: A party of New Zealand soldiers gathers salvaged shellcases and loads them for transport to the bases at the rear of the lines. Photograph taken Bus-les-Artois 20 April 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.  Turnbull Library, Wellington.  Ref: 1/2-013140-G]

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