Well, the “tumbril,” as we called it, arrived each day for nearly a week, and we drove off gaily to the appointed spot and saturated ourselves in the characteristics of the land we were shortly to attack. In the mornings, before we started, I took the machine-gun sections out into the fields, and by mapping out a similar landscape to the one we were going to attack, I rehearsed the coming tribulation as far as possible. My gunners were a pretty efficient lot, and I was sure they would give a good account of themselves on “der Tag.” We practised bolting across a ploughed field, and coming into action, until we could do it in record time. My sergeant and senior corporal were both excellent men.
The whole battalion were now in excellent trim, and ready for anything that came along. A date had been fixed for the “show,” and now, day by day, we were rapidly approaching it. It was Friday, I remember, when, as we were all sitting in our billets thinking that we were to leave on Sunday, a fresh thunderbolt arrived. A message was sent round to us all to stand-to and be ready to move off that evening. Before the appointed day! What could be up now? I was full of enthusiasm and curiosity, but was rather hampered by having been inoculated the day before, and was feeling a bit quaint in consequence. However, I pulled myself together, and set about collecting all the machine gunners, guns and accessories. We said good-bye to the fair ones at the billets, and by about five o’clock in the evening the whole battalion, transport and all, was lined up on the main road. Soon we moved off. Why were we going before our time? Where were we going to? Nobody knew except the Colonel, but it was not long before we knew as well.
WE MARCH FOR YPRES—HALT AT LOCRE—A
BLEAK CAMP AND MEAGRE FARE—SIGNS OF
BATTLE—FIRST VIEW OF YPRES
We marched off in the Bailleul direction, and ere long entered Bailleul. We didn’t stop, but went straight on up the road, out of the town, past the Asylum with the baths. It was getting dusk now as we tramped along.