Monday, 7th October (1918)

I am seated here on a section of light-railway material (rails and sleepers, all iron, made in lengths ready to lay) twisted into all shapes and sizes.  Some land recently cropped, probably by the invader.  In the distance enormous clouds of smoke show where he is burning materials.  As I write, a gigantic, mushroom-shaped sprout of white smoke towers up to a height of possibly 10,000 feet, from some terrific explosion of munitions.  (The difficulties of writing with a hungry horse walking on top of me are not slight.)  We have already come 4 or 5 miles, and our balloons are still being moved up ahead.  You might expect the Hindenburg line to present some such appearance as the Great Wall of China, but as a matter of fact one crosses it without being aware.  For miles we have traversed country showing the recent marks of our own barrage – a gash in the soil about every five yards.  Not a pleasant thing to be caught in.

Saw a French peasant driving his three cows before him; at this early hour making back to his pre-war home.

9 p.m.  ‘Tis not “the head that wears the crown” alone that “uneasy lies”.  At present I am lying in mud, on my haversack, full of shaving gear, cigarette tins and the like, under a tarpaulin hurriedly draped from a gun-wheel, the candle being perched on the hub, and our lullaby being distant guns and the munching of uncomfortably close quadrupeds.

After a hurried tea (everything is hurried now) we again took the road, trecking in the sunset and the light of a young moon for another 5 or 6 kilos, past villages with tall and apparently intact churches and through a manufacturing town, deserted, save for a few prowling soldiers, but undamaged.  In the north a long row of distant fire showed the whereabouts of the enemy.  We are bivouaced on the outskirts of this dark and unknown town, with the cheery advice that we shall probably go into action during the night.

One thought on “Monday, 7th October (1918)”

  1. So informative. Rarely has such subtle, perceptive exposition of the German retreat been encountered elsewhere.

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