Thursday 12th September (1918)

I was very premature about the migration of the swallows, who are yet with us in large numbers.  It seems very hard to explain things to you folk at home.  One correspondent wonders that a cookhouse should be “in reach of enemy bombs”.  Most of France and England is, and any cookhouse for troops at the front is in reach of enemy shells – each side has hundreds of guns with a range of 8 to 20 miles and more.  Its pot luck.  “In the line” means roughly, anywhere within half-a-dozen miles of the front line trenches.

“Stables” was curtailed by an order for ammunition, so after a hurried early tea, we set forth up to the guns.  When we were passing Havrincourt Wood, the sun, piercing a dun cloud, threw a lurid light over all.  In the midst of this, planes came reconnoitring in brazen fashion, slowly circling above the woods and battery-sprinkled fields.  The hail of machine gun bullets and crackle of anti-aircraft that greeted them was terrific – yet so far as appeared to us none was hit.

A sparkling trot to the dump, reached as darkness fell.  Having no implement to open the boxes, we resorted to the expedient of crashing them on the ground and letting the weight of the shells burst them; loaded up and away, amid a deluge of rain.  Whop! Bang! Whop! Bang! Was something falling off?  “Too right”, it was – one of the iron doors had fallen open and the slides and drawers of shells had fallen out all along the road.  We pulled up, groped back in the darkness and, hugging to our sodden bosoms and ponderous and muddied jetsam staggered cursing up and down.

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