23 April 1916

Easter Day

A most unusual & profane Easter, but it cannot be helped.   Good Friday the General was in trenches & as for some reasons which there is no need to mention he had to come down he told me to get up there & spend the night, my job was to discover how things lay in general – there had been a good deal of excitement one way & another during the two previous nights & no one quite knew how we stood.  It was raining quite hard enough to be unpleasant & I did not get up to the scene of operation until it was nearly dark.  The rest of the night until the early hours of next morning I was there or thereabouts – soaked to the skin & getting more & more muddy every minute.  Just before dawn I reinforced myself with a fairly stiff rum ration & then returned to see the matter by daylight.  We got a bomb or two over in the morning but the other gentleman soon desisted when he found that he got more than he gave. I thoroughly enjoyed myself & got all I wanted in the way of plans & sketches, & finally returned wet through, & disguised as a cake of mud about mid-day.  By the time I got back everyone had cleared out – I may have mentioned that we were going for a bit of rest.  There was no means of getting back until about eight o’clock so I had a bath and packed up.  At 8.30 we set forth on a motor lorry ride with a few sick men of one of the regiments to whom we were giving a lift.  I had no map but both the driver & I knew the way – it was about nine miles.  Unfortunately the police would not let us go by the ordinary route for some reason or another, so we tried to find another road.  Five times we turned back from roads that were too bad for the lorry.  Once we got into a village & could not get back, & then when we were at least getting near the place we had a calamity.  We had gone up a road which, according to a sign-post, led in the right direction, only to find that it practically ceased to exist after about a mile.  With much skill & great difficulty our driver managed to turn around in a ploughed field, & we started back.  But fate was against us & a few yards further we skidded off the road & stuck fast.  For an hour & a half we tried for all we were worth to work our way out – but it was all of no avail. The sick men were mostly “bad feet” & to ask then to march home was out of the question – so I set off myself.   More by luck than good judgement I set off in the right direction & struck a village at 12.45 AM – there was one light burning – I decided to ask the way.  Just as I got near the window the noises coming from it convinced me that its occupant was either a lunatic or having a fit – so I gave it up as a bad job, trusted to the sign-post and walked on.  I got to our new head-quarters at 2.0. AM swallowed a mouthful of hot soup & some cold beef & rushed into bed.  It was very nearly forty eight hours since I had had any sleep, & for ten or eleven hours I was absolutely wet through.  So rising early was out of the question & I got up for lunch to the tune, as it happened, of “Art Thou Weary”.  According to all accounts the padre forgot that it was Easter Day & provided three Lent Hymns – at least, as one subaltern told me – “They contained allusions to coffins & things”.  I will make up for my delinquencies by going to Church with you next Sunday all being well.  Unless anything very untoward happenes I shall turn up at some hour or other on Friday.    I probably told you that Bosworth had crocked up – I have a very useful person at present in his place named Hall, but am glad to hear that B. will be back in a day or two & is much better.  Meanwhile we have a new mess waiter.  His age is sixteen & he looks fourteen, so goodness only knows how he ever got out here.  To judge by the clumsiness of his ways I should say he had spent most of his existence in a farmyard or else down a coal mine, & even my most patient self am beginning to despair of ever turning him into anything.  He will insist that we drink with our left hands & eat porridge with a knife.  We are at present in what must at one time have been a most magnificent Chateau.  It has a tower & some very large rooms, in one of which we feed.  It has rather fallen into a state of decay through not being properly looked after since the war began, but is still very comfortable.  Its owner was one M. Bethune who with his two daughters was one of the victims of the villainous Le Bon at Arras in ’93 or thereabouts.  It is the first time that we have struck any really old chateau – the others have been the country residences of some wealthy Parisian “Parvenue” as a rule.  This was first built in 1485 so is really quite old.  Viccars is very struck with the window glass which he calls hand blown & old with old-world tints.  The General, on the other hand is very scornful, & says he prefers to see things as they are when he looks through a widow, & does not admire two curly trees leaning against each other – with a “flaw” in the sky.  They had a long argument about it at lunch.  But V. is the sort of man to give £5 for an old pewter plate so you can imagine what he is like.  My own billet is in the same house as the Brigade Major & Escombe, also the interpreter.  The owner is the schoolmistress an austere old dame – very talkative.  There is also an exceedingly handsome young lady who favours one occasionally with a sweet smile, but is most struck with Godsal – presumably on account of his red-hat.   All the village turned out this afternoon to listen to our band which gave selections on the square much to everybody’s delight.  Several of the players had for some time been away on leave, long leave given to those who are willing to re-engage on the expiration of their term of service.  Now that they are back the band HAS greatly improved, & ARE now really worth listening to.  The last is bad grammar but it is getting late.  I told you that we were going out of sound of the guns, but that is not true as we can hear them fairly distinctly.  This afternoon we could even see them bursting – crowds of them all round some aeroplanes that were up; it was all a long way away over the lines so we could not tell whether it was a Bosch or one of our fellows that was running into the Archies.

J.D.H. came home on leave April 26th until May

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s