More mud—rain and bullets—A
cake—“Wind up”—Night rounds
The rose-pink sky fades off above to blue,
The morning star alone proclaims the dawn.
The empty tins and barbed wire bathed in dew
Emerge, and then another day is born.
I wrote that “poem” in those—trenches, so you can see the sort of state to which I was reduced.
Well, my first trench night was over; the dawn had broken—everything else left to break had been seen to by the artillery, which started off generally at about eight. And what a fearful long day it seemed, that first one! As soon as it was light I began scrambling about, and having a good look at the general lie of things. In front was a large expanse of root field, at the further side of which a long irregular parapet marked the German trenches. Behind those again was more root field, dented here and there with shell holes filled with water, beyond which stood a few isolated remnants which had once been cottages. I stood at a projection in one of our trenches, from where I could see the general shape of our line, and could glimpse a good view of the German arrangements. Not a soul could be seen anywhere. Here and there a wisp of smoke indicated a fire bucket. Behind our trenches, behind the shattered houses at the top of a wooded rise in the ground, stood what once must have been a fine chateau. As I looked, a shrieking hollow whistle overhead, a momentary pause, then—“Crumph!” showed clearly what was the matter with the chateau. It was being shelled. The Germans seemed to have a rooted objection to that chateau. Every morning, as we crouched in our mud kennels, we heard those “Crumphs,” and soon got to be very good judges of form. We knew they were shelling the chateau. When they didn’t shell the chateau, we got it in the trenches; so we looked on that dear old mangled wreck with a friendly eye—that tapering, twisted, perforated spire, which they never could knock down, was an everlasting bait to the Boche, and a perfect fairy godmother to us.
Oh, those days in that trench of ours! Each day seemed about a week long. I shared a dug-out with a platoon commander after that first night. The machine-gun section found a suitable place and made a dug-out for themselves.
Day after day, night after night, my companion and I lay and listened to the daily explosions, read, and talked, and sloshed about that trench together.
The greatest interest one had in the daytime was sitting on the damp straw in our clay vault, scraping the mud off one’s saturated boots and clothes. The event to which one looked forward with the greatest interest was the arrival of letters in the evening.
Now and again we got out of our dug-out and sloshed down the trench to scheme out some improvement or other, or to furtively look out across the water-logged turnip field at the Boche trenches opposite. Occasionally, in the silent, still, foggy mornings, a voice from somewhere in the alluvial depths of a miserable trench, would suddenly burst into a scrap of song, such as—