It was just about this time we heard our first really heavy firing and it gave us a queer thrill to hear the constant boom-boom of the guns like a continuous thunderstorm. We began to feel fearfully hungry, and stopped beside a high bank flanking a canal and not far from a small cafe. Bunny and I went to get some hot water. It was a tumble-down place enough, and as we pushed the door open (on which, by the way, was the notice in French, “During the bombardment one enters by the side door”) we found the room full of men drinking coffee and smoking. I bashfully made my way towards one of the oldest women I have ever seen and asked her in a low voice for some hot water. As luck would have it she was deaf as a post, and the whole room listened in interested silence as with scarlet face I yelled out my demands in my best French. We returned triumphantly to the waiting ambulance and had a very jolly lunch to the now louder accompaniment of the guns. The passing soldiers took a great interest in us and called out whatever English words they knew, the most popular being “Good night.”
We soon started on our way again, and at this point there was actually a bend in the road. Just before we came to it there was a whistling, sobbing sound in the air and then an explosion somewhere ahead of us. We all shrank instinctively, and I glanced sideways at my companion, hoping she hadn’t noticed, to find that she was looking at me, and we both laughed without explaining.
As we turned the corner, the usual flat expanse of country greeted our eyes, and a solitary red tiled farmhouse on the right attracted our attention, in front of which was a group of soldiers. On drawing near we saw that this was the spot where the shell had landed and that there were casualties. We drew up and got down hastily, taking dressings with us. The sight that met my eyes is one I shall never forget, and, in fact, cannot describe. Four men had just been blown to pieces—I leave the details to your imagination, but it gave me a sudden shock to realize that a few minutes earlier those remains had been living men walking along the road laughing and talking.
The soldiers, French, standing looking on, seemed more or less dazed. While they assured us we could do nothing, the body of a fifth soldier who had been hit on the head by a piece of the same shell, and instantaneously killed, was being borne on a stretcher into the farm. It all seemed curiously unreal.
One of the men silently handed me a bit of the shell, which was still warm. It was just a chance that we had not stopped opposite that farm for lunch, as we assuredly would have done had it not been hidden beyond the bend in the road. The noise of firing was now very loud, and though the sun was shining brightly on the farm, the road we were destined to follow was sombre looking with a lowering sky overhead. Another shell came over and burst in front of us to the right. For an instant I felt in an awful