How nice that leave had been! To-morrow night I should be going along back to the trenches before Wulverghem.
BACK FROM LEAVE—THAT “BLINKIN’
—JOHNSON ’OLES—TOMMY AND “FRIGHTFULNESS”
As I had expected, the battalion were just finishing their last days out in rest billets, and were going “in” the following night.
Reaction from leave set in for me with unprecedented violence. It was horrible weather, pouring with rain all the time, which made one’s depression worse.
Leave over; rain, rain, rain; trenches again, and the future looked like being perpetually the same, or perhaps worse. Yet, somehow or other, in these times of deep depression which come to every one now and again, I cannot help smiling. It has always struck me as an amusing thing that the world, and all the human beings thereon, do get themselves into such curious and painful predicaments, and then spend the rest of the time wishing they could get out.
My reflections invariably brought me to the same conclusion, that here I was, caught up in the cogs of this immense, uncontrollable war machine, and like every one else, had to, and meant to stick it out to the end.
The next night we went through all the approved formula for going into the trenches. Started at dusk, and got into our respective mud cavities a few hours later. I went all round the trenches again, looking to see that things were the same as when I left them, and, on the Colonel’s instructions, started a series of alterations in several gun positions. There was one trench that was so obscured along its front by odd stumps of trees that I decided the only good spot for a machine gun was right at one end, on a road which led up to Messines. From here it would be possible for us to get an excellent field of fire. To have this gun on the road meant making an emplacement there somehow. That night we started scheming it out, and the next evening began work on it. It was a bright moonlight night, I remember, and my sergeant and I went out in front of our parapet, walked along the field and crept up the ditch a little way, considering the machine-gun possibilities of the land. That moonlight feeling is very curious. You feel as if the enemy can see you clearly, and that all eyes in the opposite trench are turned on you. You can almost imagine a Boche smilingly taking an aim, and saying to a friend, “We’ll just let him come a bit closer first.” Every one who has had to go “out in front,” wiring, will know this feeling. As a matter of fact, it is astonishing how little one can see of men in the moonlight, even when the trenches are very close together. One gets quite used to walking about freely in this light, going out in front of the parapet and having a look round. The only time that really makes one apprehensive is when some gang of men or other turn up from way back somewhere, and