In Troop train on the way back to the Front (as an Irishman might put it) all day and likely to be in all night.
In the Soldier’s club once more.
Had my name taken by several guards for travelling to Devon on the “Inverness” pass and refusing to pay the fare.
Slept in the “Sparrows” boarding establishment. We call them “sparrows” because they are like two little spinster bodies who twitter.
My bedroom was a pious affair, the walls being copiously hung with pictures either of actual angels or innocent-eyed human imitations. After breakfast we went for a fine ramble along the cliffs, the scenery being most picturesque and the views of the Channel and coast extensive.
One of the old ladies has christened me “the Lum” – an old word for chimney (a thing that smokes a great deal.) and it is now my accepted soubriquet; if that’s the word, tho’ I’ve an uneasy feeling that it means a fast lady.
The air has been full of rumours of peace. She is an elusive jade, this same Peace. No, my boy, it’s another winter in the mud I very much imagine.
We spent the evening in abstract discussion by the fireside, finishing with an argument on the reality or unreality of time – until the striking of midnight forced us both to agree that it must at least have some relative reality to mortals.
At the cottage, Ipplepen. Decided to catch 12-30 train to Torquay and travelled all night. Managed to get a compartment between a sailor boy and myself, so that we could stretch our limbs and snooze. Sailor proved to be a Nelson boy, and a school chum of my cousin’s, in the submarine service. He entertained me with his adventures. Having fallen asleep I was carried beyond my destination to a quaint little town of Totnes, but all came right in the end.
Aboard London train, having seen something of Grantham and my English relations. I feel that, at this time of year, it would be a mistake to spend more precious days racketing about in railway trains and exploring the Caledonian distances.
English people are incorrigible in their hatred of fresh air – now, in a small compartment, full, hermetically sealed, the heat unbearable. Most appear to sleep with their bedroom windows shut tight.
Got the Flying Scotsman last night intending to go through to Edinburgh. Car packed with sailors and soldiers; began to yearn for a good bed, hopped off at Grantham. Wandered round for an hour banging up publicans, only to find every place crowded with military: 1.30 am. and in desperation. Bribed a constable to lead me to my Uncle’s house: kicked up a devil of a row; down comes Uncle* in his dressing gown – greetings and explanations – a snack and into a feather bed. Got up this morning to find myself just in time for lunch.
[*Lincoln’s uncle was Rothwell Lee. Rothwell was the younger brother of Robert Lee, Lincoln’s father, who had emigrated to New Zealand in 1864]
Inevitably wasted much of the first day, drawing pay, clothes from Ordinance. Then wandered to the Strand and thence to the National Gallery, but most of it is now closed. However, struck up a brief acquaintance with an artist who kindly put me on the track of the kind of collection I wanted to see – viz. modern watercolour and landscape work. He turned out to be George Wither, one of whose pictures is in the Wellington Art Gallery, a pleasant, well preserved man of 60. Following his directions, I discovered in Bond Street, a splendid exhibition of Sir Alfred East’s work, and a fine collection of Brangwyn’s etchings.
Soldiers’ club London, after a long and tedious day. Crossed the Channel in cold drifting mist; could see nothing and were half frozen. Folkstone, and eventually London at about 9pm.
Got aboard 4 am. Company opposite; several types of “Old Bill”, men of 40 to 50 years, hard featured, stolid, enduring. The journey back from the line has given a good history of the fighting – first a slightly damaged area, then an almost clean strip, a broad belt of utter desolation, and, finally, country untouched save for the work of preparation and supply.
Passed some pretty country, the mill, the millwheel and the old rustic bridge by the mill. Country well wooded, trees a blaze of autumn fir, glowing through the still grey dampness. Am put in mind of the magnificent Ode of Meredith’s, “To the Spirit of Earth in Autumn”. A Serg Major had a good supply of tea, sugar and milk, and the exhaust pipe of our engine supplied the boiling water.
8pm. In a large camp near Boulogne.
About dusk we reached Etaples. On arrival at Boulogne we marched, through rain and darkness, up a long hill to this establishment which seems to be near the famous Une Blanket Hill. We certainly received our one blanket, not to mention a passable meal and 1/12 of a bell tent. There seem to be thousands of us going on leave, and this will give an idea of the British Army, being a daily occurrence, year in year out, except on occasions when leave is stopped.