I leant up as one of a tripod of three of us, my face towards the burning city. The two others were my old pal, the platoon commander at St. Yvon, and a subaltern of one of the other companies. I sat and watched the flames licking round the Cloth Hall. I remember asking a couple of men in front to shift a bit so that I could get a better view. It poured with rain, and we went sitting on in that horrible field, wondering what the next move was to be.
At about eleven o’clock, an orderly came along the field with a mackintosh ground-sheet over his head, and told me the Colonel wished to see me. “Where is he?” I asked. “In that little cottage place at the far corner of the field, near the road, sir.” I rose up and thus spoilt our human tripod. “Where are you going ’B.B.’?” asked my St. Yvon friend. “Colonel’s sent for me,” I replied. “Well, come back as soon as you can.” I left, and never saw him again. He was killed early the next morning; one of the best chaps I ever knew.
I went down the field to the cottage at the corner, and, entering, found all the company commanders, the second in command, the Adjutant and the Colonel. “We shall attack at 4 a.m. to-morrow,” he was saying. This was the moment at which I got my Fragment idea, “The push, by one who’s been pushed!” “We shall attack at dawn!”
The Colonel went on to explain the plans. We stood around in the semi-darkness, the only light being a small candle, whose flame was being blown about by the draught from the broken window.
“We shall move off from here at midnight, or soon after,” he concluded, “and go up the road to St. Julien.”
We all dispersed to our various commands. I went and got my sergeant and section commanders together. I explained the coming operations to them. Sitting out in the field in the rain, the map on my knees being occasionally brightly illuminated by the burning city, I looked out the road to St. Julien.
RAIN AND MUD—A TRYING MARCH—IN
THICK OF IT—A WOUNDED OFFICER—HEAVY
SHELLING—I GET MY “QUIETUS!”