Trip after trip to the guns. Some “yankee starts” when whole batteries of 6 inch howitzers barked in our faces out of the darkness, especially from the new long-range high-velocity 6 inch guns, which have the most ear-splitting crack of them all – almost like the Crack of Doom.
I am now in the slowest team in the battery, whereas in the days of ‘Rangatira’ and the others it was one of the fastest. My two ungainly giants have to be whacked along from start to finish. The Poet emits his camel-like grunts the whole time. They are strong, but slow and lazy and the rest of the team are in their way no better. One preposterous donk, ‘Jinny’ with colossal ears, falls down periodically and lets the others walk on her – seems to enjoy it.
At the finish we found the corporal had saved a pint of beer (heavens knows where he got it) for each of us and I can assure you we had no difficulty in washing down some hard biscuit and cheese with it. I am grazing my steeds near some trenches bearing every sign of a hurried Hun evacuation – helmets, great-coats and gear of every description thrown about in confusion. Hun equipment figures quite largely in our battery just now. More than half the men have not been able to get their gear up from our old lines and they now appear in German caps, greatcoats, etc. and eat out of a huge Hun cooker in full swing and last night our stew contained cabbage, macaroni etc. meant for Fritz. It is also interesting to see notices in German all over the countryside and to inspect the numerous dumps and other abandoned munitions – all very different in appearance and design from our own, though none the less effective. They encase many of their shells in wickerwork covers. Everywhere is evidence of their great want of copper – even the driving bands of some of their shells being made of a substitute. One cannot but admire the ingenuity with which they overcome difficulties.
You people have some mistaken ideas as to our personal attitude towards the enemy. You suggest that one would feel especially bitter against them on hearing of a brother being wounded. We have no such feeling, and the only way to realise why that is, is to be here. The men are hardly philosophers, but few of them are little-minded enough to harbour any personal spite against the soldiers who are forced to fight them and whom they are forced to fight. We know that the Germans are neither more degenerate nor cowardly than we are – it is their rulers who are to blame, and when you see a dead German you feel just as much pity as you do for a Britisher.
[Image: New Zealand troops with a captured German hut, Bapaume, France. Photograph taken 27 August 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref. 1/2-013759-G.]