We made for the church which had according to custom been shelled more than the houses. The large crucifix was lying with arms outstretched on a pile of wreckage, the body pitted with shrapnel. The cure accompanied us, and it was all the poor old man could do to keep from breaking down as he led us mournfully through that devastated cemetery. Some of the graves, even those with large slabs over them, had been shelled to such an extent that the stone coffins beneath could clearly be seen, half opened, with rotting grave-clothes, and in others even the skeletons had been disinterred. New graves, roughly fashioned like the one we had seen in the back garden at headquarters, were dotted all over the place. Somehow they were not so sinister as those old heavily slabbed ones disturbed after years of peace. The cure took me into the church, the walls of which were still standing, and begged me to take a photo of a special statue (this was before cameras were tabooed), which I did. I had to take a “time” as the light was so bad, and quite by luck it came out splendidly and I was able to send him a copy.
It was all most depressing and I was jolly glad to get away from the place. On the way back we saw a battery of sept-cinqs (French seventy-fives) cleverly hidden by branches. They had just been moved up into these new positions. Of course the booming of the guns went on all the time and we were told Nieuport was having its daily “ration.” We had several other places to go to to deliver Hospital stores; also two advanced dressing stations to visit, so we pushed off, promising Major R. to be back at 6.30.
We had to go in the direction of Dixmude, then in German occupation, and the mud at this point was too awful for words, while at intervals there were huge shell holes full of water looking like small circular ponds. Luckily for us they were never right in the middle of the road, but always a little to one side or the other, and just left us enough pave to squeeze past on, which was really very thoughtful of the Boche!
The country looked indescribably desolate; but funnily enough there were a lot of birds flying about, mostly in flocks. Two little partridges quietly strutted across the road and seemed quite unperturbed!
Further on we came across a dead horse, the first of many. It had been hit in the flank by a shell. It was a sad sight; the poor creature was just left lying by the side of the road, and I shall never forget it. The crows had already taken out its eyes. I must say that that sight affected me much more than the men I had seen earlier in the day. There was no one then to bury horses.