Xmas Eve, Kerpen (1918)

In a chilly loft in a house of a farmer.  Save for a few venturous few who have raided hen roosts and made up to the cook, Xmas fare is not yet on issue.  We find ourselves this evening in the outskirts of this small town, some distance beyond Duren.  A large tract of country traversed today was almost devoid of fences and of habitations between the many towns and villages dotted across it, the intervening land being highly cultivated, and well sprinkled with hay stacks, whose sunlit brown and gold stood out against the deep blue of a distant ridge.

We passed through the centre of the considerable town of Duren thro’ which a river of almost the size of the Meuse flows.  I was struck with an expressive bronze statue of Moltke.  At a halt in the town we were much amused by our officers stopping civilians who failed to salute them, and making them doff their hats.

I am impressed by the care and method shown by the Germans in the design and laying out not only of the towns, but also of the country generally.  Thus, in several instances we have driven up straight, tree lined roads, at the far end of which stands framed, as it were, some conspicuous object, such as a tower or a monument.

I am just underneath the bare tiles of the roof, and they strike down like a glacier.

9 p.m.  Ye Gods!  I have “done the town”, entered and jabbered in almost every shop in the place, and purchased a handful of sweets for about 1/-, and a penny clay pipe!  They are very chary about accepting French and Belgian money, and ask for “deutsch geld”.  The farmer who owns this house was a Sgt. Major, and fought at Verdun and the Somme, and was wounded.  He has a smattering of French.  A large portion of the people in this district appear to be Catholic: so I judge from the number of roadside crucifixes and shrines.  In one of the forests was a most singular crucifix carved out of wood and painted in two colours.

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