14th, Friday. The night having passed more pleasantly than could have been expected, we stood to arms in the trenches at 5.30 a.m. This is a singularly unpleasing process, especially when all you have to look forward to is the prospect of attacking 9,000 Turks in trenches behind a Canal! But one’s attention is fully occupied in trying to keep warm.
As soon as it was light we got orders to advance and marched in artillery formation to within 1,200 yards of the Canal, where we found some hastily begun trenches of the day before, and proceeded to deepen them. As there was no sign of the enemy, the conviction grew on us that he must have gone in the night; and presently the order came to stop entrenching and form a line to clear up the battlefield, i.e. the space between us and the Canal. This included burying the dead and picking up wounded, as the stretcher parties which had tried to bring the wounded in during the night had been heavily fired on and unable to get further than where we were.
I had never seen a dead man and rather dreaded the effect on my queasy stomach; but when it came to finding, searching and burying them one by one, all sense of horror—though they were not pleasant to look upon—was forgotten in an overmastering feeling of pity, such as one feels at the tragic ending of a moving story, only so oppressive as to make the whole scene like a sad and impersonal dream, on which and as in a dream my mind kept recurring to a tableau which I must have seen over fifteen years ago in Madame Tussaud’s of Edith finding the body of Harold after the battle of Hastings, and indeed the stiff corpses were more like waxen models than anything that had lived.
The wounded were by comparison a cheerful company, though their sufferings during the eighteen hours they had lain there must have been fearful: but the satisfaction of being able to bring them in was our predominant feeling.
In the middle of this work we were suddenly recalled and ordered to march to the support of the outflanking force, of whose movements we had heard absolutely nothing. But when we had fallen in, all they did was to march us to the Canal, and thence along it back to the river, where we encamped about 1 p.m. and still are.
It was a great comfort to be within reach of water again, though the wind and rain have made the river so muddy that a mug of water from it looks exactly like a mug of tea with milk in it.