The night after the news, another battalion arrived, and, after handing over our trenches, we started off on the road to “Somewhere in France.” It was about 11.30 p.m. before we had handed over everything and finally parted from those old trenches of ours. I said good-bye to our little perforated hovel, and set off with all my machine gunners and guns for the road behind the wood, to go—goodness knows where. We looked back over our shoulders several times as we plodded along down the muddy road and into the corduroy path which ran through the wood. There, behind us, lay St. Yvon, under the moonlight and drifting clouds; a silhouetted mass of ruins beyond the edge of the wood. Still the same old intermittent cracking of the rifle shots and the occasional star shell. It was quite sad parting with that old evil-smelling, rain-soaked scene of desolation. We felt how comfortable we had all been there, now that we were leaving. And leaving for what?—that was the question. When I reached the road, and had superintended loading up our limbers, I got instructions from the transport officer as to which way we were to go. The battalion had already gone on ahead, and the machine-gun section was the last to leave. We were to go down the road to Armentieres, and at about twelve midnight we started on our march, rattling off down the road leading to Armentieres, bound for some place we had never seen before. At about 2 a.m. we got there; billets had been arranged for us, but at two in the morning it was no easy task to find the quarters allotted to us without the assistance of a guide. The battalion had got there first, had found their billets and gone to bed. I and the machine-gun section rattled over the cobbles into sleeping Armentieres, and hadn’t the slightest idea where we had to go. Nobody being about to tell us, we paraded the town like a circus procession for about an hour before finally finding out where we were to billet, and ultimately we reached our destination when, turning into the barns allotted to us, we made the most of what remained of the night in well-earned repose.
NEW TRENCHES—THE NIGHT INSPECTION—
LETTER FROM THE “BYSTANDER”
Next day we discovered the mystery of our sudden removal. The battle of Neuve Chapelle was claiming considerable attention, and that was where we were going. We were full of interest and curiosity, and were all for getting there as soon as possible. But it was not to be. Mysterious moves were being made behind the scenes which I, and others like me, will never know anything about; but, anyway, we now suddenly got another bewildering order. After a day spent in Armentieres we were told to stand by for going back towards Neuve Eglise again, just the direction from which we had come. We all knew too much about the war to be surprised at anything, so we mutely prepared for another exit. It was a daylight