As a reward, I suspect, I was picked for Orderly Corporal, a cushy job. We all of us had it fairly easy at Oneux. It was hot weather, and nights we used to sit out in the schoolhouse yard and talk about the war.
Some of the opinions voiced out there with more frankness than any one would dare to use at home would, I am sure, shock some of the patriots. The fact is that any one who has fought in France wants peace, and the sooner the better.
We had one old-timer, out since Mons, who habitually, night after night, day after day, would pipe up with the same old plaint. Something like this:
“Hi arsks yer. Wot are we fightin’ for? Wot’d th’ Belgiums hever do fer us? Wot? Wot’d th’ Rooshians hever do fer us? Wot’s th’ good of th’ Frenchies? Wot’s th’ good of hanybody but th’ Henglish? Gawd lumme! I’m fed up.”
And yet this man had gone out at the beginning and would fight like the very devil, and I verily believe will be homesick for the trenches if he is alive when it is all over.
Bones, who was educated and a thoughtful reader, had it figured out that the war was all due to the tyranny of the ruling classes, with the Kaiser the chief offender.
A lot of the men wanted peace at any reasonable price. Anything, so they would get back to ’Arriet or Sadie or Maria.
I should say offhand that there was not one man in a hundred who was fighting consciously for any great recognized principle. And yet, with all their grousing and criticism, and all their overwhelming desire to have it over with, every one of them was loyal and brave and a hard fighter.
A good deal has been written about the brilliancy of the Canadians and the other Colonials. Too much credit cannot be given these men. In an attack there are no troops with more dash than the Canadians, but when it comes to taking punishment and hanging on a hopeless situation, there are no troops in the wide world who can equal, much less surpass, the English. Personally I think that comparisons should be avoided. All the Allies are doing their full duty with all that is in them.
During most of the war talk, it was my habit to keep discreetly quiet. We were not in the war yet, and any remarks from me usually drew some hot shot about Mr. Wilson’s “blankety-blinked bloomin’ notes.”
There was another American, a chap named Sanford from Virginia, in B company, and he and I used to furnish a large amount of entertainment in these war talks. Sanford was a F.F.V. and didn’t care who knew it. Also he thought General Lee was the greatest military genius ever known. One night he and I got started and had it hot and heavy as to the merits of the Civil War. This for some reason tickled the Tommies half to death, and after that they would egg us on to a discussion.
One of them would slyly say, “Darby, ‘oo th’ blinkin’ ’ell was this blighter, General Grant?”
Or, “Hi sye, Sandy, Hi ‘eard Darby syin’ ’ow this General Lee was a bleedin’ swab.”