Tuesday in the Leaving Train (15 October 1918)

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.

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