We passed houses looking more and more dilapidated and the road got muddier and muddier. Finally we arrived at the village of Ramscapelle. It was like passing through a village of the dead—not a house left whole, few walls standing, and furniture lying about haphazard. We proceeded along the one main street of the village until we came to a house with green shutters which had been previously described to us as the Belgian headquarters. It was in a better state than the others, and a small flag indicated we had arrived at our destination.
BEHIND THE TRENCHES
We got out and leaped the mud from the pave to the doorstep, and an orderly came forward and conducted us to a sitting room at the rear where Major R. welcomed us, and immediately ordered coffee. We were greatly impressed by the calm way in which he looked at things. He pointed with pride to a gaily coloured print from the one and only “Vie” (what would the dug-outs at the front have done without “La Vie” and Kirchner?), which covered a newly made shell hole in the wall. He also showed us places where shrapnel was embedded; and from the window we saw a huge hole in the back garden made by a “Black Maria.” Beside it was a grave headed by a little rough wooden cross and surmounted by one of those gay tasselled caps we had seen early that morning, though it seemed more like last week, so much had happened since then.
As it was only possible to go into the trenches at dusk we still had some time to spare, and after drinking everybody’s health in some excellent benedictine, Major R. suggested we should make a tour of inspection of the village. “The bombardment is over for the day,” he added, “so you need have no fear.” I went out wondering at his certainty that the Boche would not bombard again that afternoon. It transpired later that they did so regularly at the same time every afternoon as part of the day’s work! There did come a time, however, when they changed the programme, but that was later, on another visit.