20th August (1918)

Don’t seem to be able to get away from this place – told a “Yank” Dr. I was all right – felt my pulse awhile and said “I guess you’ll stay another day”.  Alphonso seems to be getting worse instead of better – the bacon dip disagrees with him.  He has given up breaking into song – strange, high, inarticulate moanings – still it was a song in the making.

19th August (1918)

Large gangs of Hun prisoners have been working on the railway line – a mixed lot.  One chap of about 45 years took my fancy; he wore a child’s straw hat and a long walrus “mow” of similar material.  Some of them are certainly very young, but no younger than many of the “tommies” and they average a heavier build than the latter.  A soft-toned bell was calling the villages to an evening service, the long-robed priest standing in the doorway.  We looked in.  The interior was plain and neat.

18th August (1918)

My penultimate breakfast of bread and dip gastronomically accommodated I sit and face the future with self-righteous fortitude.  But where is my mail?  Alphonso sits and polishes his buttons and shines his boots like a good soldier.  I do neither, being after all, a “N.Zedder.”  Having now read nothing of importance for a couple of years I find my mind growing curiously bankrupt.  Yet, if one’s mind can be maintained only by assimilating the ideas of others, how is it to gain originality? (Echo – of some similar phenomenon – answers – “How?”).

17th August (1918)

Breakfasted upon bread dipped in bacon fat and fragment of the real fried article.  Last evening Alphonso and I roamed the riverside, where he wrote to his missus, as he termed his lady-love, and I did a sketch.  You could see miles of cultivated country, rolling hill and valley, and hardly one farm-house.  The farm people here keep to the towns, as in other parts they congregate in the villages.

That fictitious temperature, still haunts me.  The C.O. today gravely underlined it and said “give him another day”.  The indefinable sensation of having finished with a certain phase of existence steals over me and I feel that it is time for the next act to open.

Sunday, 16th August (1918)

After tea I accompanied “Alphonso” to the town.  Alphonso, so christened by a big Waikato boy, is a nice youth with a Lancashire brogue.  When we came in view of the church I ventured to draw it and, very soon, a dozen youngsters crowded round and gasped “Dessin! L’eglise!”.  Alphonso was much interested and wants to come sketching and try his own hand.  We poked about the town and then ascended to the church, which we found open and empty.  It struck me as a being a fine structure both within and without, built of stone which time has mellowed into delicate greys and blues.  The triple altars seemed very fine and the stained glass windows above them particularly rich.  There are also several large figures of Christ.  Half obliterated mural carvings and inscriptions over the tombs of medieval warriors showed the great age of the building.  I am now “ordinary” and “conval” again.  Alphonso on the other hand, though outwardly presentable has given evidence of the concealment of certain “cells” that may lengthen his incarceration.

The Hun dropped some very big bombs over Doulens way last night.  There is an aerodrome hereabouts, that he often tried to attack, but he is always met with such swarms of our big wasps that he has to bolt for it – (By the way a wasp stung me on the elbow the other day and I had an egg there for a few hours).

14th August (1918)

The orderly this morning dazzled the doctor with science.  He apparently gave us all good high temperatures, with the result that we were told to carry on as at present.  Mine attained the fictitious altitude of 99.6˚.  Tea over, four of us strolled to the town, Auxi-le-chateau, by way of the river-side bank giving us shelter from the afternoon sun and the fields of rich gold, green and yellow, spreading out on either hand.  As we neared the town we gained picturesque views of it.  It possessed a handsome church or cathedral built high on a hillock, its foundations being thus about level with the roofs, red and grey, of the town buildings, over which it seems to keep watch and ward.  The town itself is a charming, neat, clean-swept little place of, I should say, a peacetime population of two or three thousands.  We visited many shops and bought a few articles.  Most of the shops were in charge of women, polite, dainty and wonderfully neatly dressed.

We wandered slowly back in the sunset, everything looking like fairyland, but we felt like old, old men who had spent their last energies in a hundred mile march, and just had enough strength to get back to hospital.

13th August (1918)

Up bathed and clothed and almost in my right mind after a restless night with queer qualms in my innards.  My “ordinary” companions had similar and more drastic symptoms.  Sequel – very important thick-spectacled orderly fuming round and cursing (respectfully) the M.O. for putting us on “ordinary” rather than “light”.  So that was a mistake and is to be rectified today.  Still one feels sorry for that M.O. he looks like a disappointed parson and spends his spare time mooning along the riverside picking ears of wheat.

Dr. has marked us “convalescent” and the orderly has put us on light diet, so we don’t quite know what we are.

12th August (1918)

Most of us in this tent are on the mend and frantically hungry, so don’t object to being put straight on “ordinary diet” by the doctor.

Far be it from me to complain, but the medical people certainly have extraordinary ways.  Perhaps they go on the “kill or cure” principle; it certainly came as a shock to one’s tired and empty internals.

Strolled down to the river and found it a considerable body of water.

11th August (1918)

In bed throughout this hot summer’s day – about 10 of us in a small marquee, we have peeps of trees, crops and meadows and tall trees, between which wheat fields and green patches take on a richer colouring.

Saturday 10th (1918)

Auxi-le-Chateau, is situated some miles beyond Doullens.  I got a box seat and enjoyed the drive of 10 or 12 miles through exceedingly pretty country.  This is a large hospital controlled by a British unit.  Its situation seems very pleasant and peaceful.  We have been given pyjamas.  Several nurses are to be seen moving about amongst the tents.  Here’s the infernal orderly with more castor oil – they pour it into you at every stage.  Ugh!