Bruce Bairnsfather: a photograph
The Birth of “Fragments”: Scribbles on the farmhouse walls
That Astronomical Annoyance, the Star Shell
A Hopeless Dawn
The usual line in Billeting Farms
“Chuck us the biscuits, Bill. The fire wants mendin’”
“Shut that blinkin’ door. There’s a ’ell of a draught in ’ere”
A Memory of Christmas, 1914
A Messines Memory: “‘Ow about shiftin’ a bit further down the road, Fred?”
“Old soldiers never die”
Photograph of the Author. St. Yvon, Christmas Day, 1914
Off “in” again
“Poor old Maggie! She seems to be ‘avin’ it dreadful wet at ’ome!”
“They’re devils to snipe, ain’t they, Bill?”
Down South, in the Valley of the Somme, far from the spots recorded in this book, I began to write this story.
In billets it was. I strolled across the old farmyard and into the wood beyond. Sitting by a gurgling little stream, I began, with the aid of a notebook and a pencil, to record the joys and sorrows of my first six months in France.
I do not claim any unique quality for these experiences. Many thousands have had the same. I have merely, by request, made a record of my times out there, in the way that they appeared to me.
Landing at Havre—Tortoni’s—follow
the tram lines—orders for the front
Gliding up the Seine, on a transport crammed to the lid with troops, in the still, cold hours of a November morning, was my debut into the war. It was about 6 a.m. when our boat silently slipped along past the great wooden sheds, posts and complications of Havre Harbour. I had spent most of the twelve-hour trip down somewhere in the depths of the ship, dealing out rations to the hundred men that I had brought with me from Plymouth. This sounds a comparatively simple process, but not a bit of it. To begin with, the ship was filled with troops to bursting point, and the mere matter of proceeding from one deck to another was about as difficult as trying to get round to see a friend at the other side of the ground at a Crystal Palace Cup final.