And any moment may descend
To shatter limbs! pulp, tear, blast
Beloved soldiers, who love rough life and breath
Not less for dying faithful to the last.
O the fading eyes, the
grimed face turned bony,
Open mouth gushing, fallen head,
Lessening pressure of a hand shrunk, clammed, and stony
O sudden spasm, release of the dead!
Was there love once?
I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
O loved, living, dying, heroic soldier
All, all, my joy, my grief, my love are thine!
AFTER TWO YEARS
My dream of going out to work again with the F.A.N.Y.s was never realised. Something always seemed to be going wrong with the leg; but I was determined to try and pay them a visit before they were demobilised. On these occasions the word “impossible” must be cut out of one’s vocabulary (vide Napoleon), and off I set one fine morning. Everything seemed strangely unaltered, the same old train down to Folkestone, the same porters there, the same old ship and lifebelts; and when I got to Boulogne nearly all the same old faces on the quay to meet the boat! I rubbed my eyes. Had I really been away two years or was it only a sort of lengthy nightmare? I walked down the gangway and there was the same old rogue of a porter in his blue smocking. Yet the town seemed strangely quiet without the incessant marching of feet as the troops came and went. “We never thought to see you out here again, Miss,” said the same man in the transport department at the Hotel Christol!
I went straight up to the convoy at St. Omer, and had tea in the camp from which they had been shelled only a year before. This convoy of F.A.N.Y.s, to which many of my old friends had been transferred, was attached to the 2nd army, and had as its divisional sign a red herring. The explanation being that one day a certain general visited the camp, and on leaving said: “Oh, by the way, are you people ’army’?”
“No,” replied the F.A.N.Y., “not exactly.”
“Red Cross then?”
“Well, not exactly. It’s like this,” she explained: “We work for the Red Cross and the cars are theirs, but we are attached to the second army; we draw our rations from the army and we’re called F.A.N.Y.S.”
“’Pon my soul,” he cried, “you’re neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but you’re thundering good red herrings!”
It was a foregone conclusion that a red herring should become their sign after that!
The next day I was taken over the battlefields through Arcques, where the famous “Belle” still manipulates the bridge, and along by the Nieppe Forest. We could still see the trenches and dug-outs used in the fierce fighting there last year. A cemetery in a little clearing by the side of the road, the graves surmounted by plain wooden crosses, was the first of many we were to pass. Vieux Berquin, a once pretty little village, was reduced to ruins and the road we followed was pitted with shell holes.