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Something did come soon, in the shape of a message to the effect that patrols were to be sent out immediately, and it fell to my unfortunate lot to take out the first. I gathered my weary flock together and, after seeing that they were all provided with hot soup, I settled myself to enjoy my own soup. But I had no sooner relished the first spoonful when the O.C. burst into the room and said: "Come along! Your patrol should be well away by now!" That soup was literally snatched from beneath my nose and I was thrust into the chilly night. In that moment the tortures of Tantalus were mine.

The patrol wasn't a success. We covered our route in miserable silence and returned after an hour, footsore and weary, having seen nothing. I returned to my niche in the cookhouse, and for what remained of the night was left in comparative peace.

There wasn't very much of the night left though, for at 05.00 hours we were roused for breakfast. Owing to the lack of space the meal was brought to the fellows in the stable, but there were few who cared to risk losing another meal in the manner of the previous night, so the majority of them took their plates into the farmyard and ate as best they could. I remember the corporal of No. 2 Section said he preferred to eat with the pigs and rested his plate on top of the pigsty wall. He regretted it immediately, however, for he was violently sick, and that was another meal lost.

Thus fortified, we moved off to take up a position about a mile away.


Dawn was just breaking. Now the dawn has been the inspiration of great poems and masterpieces of painting, and many apparently quite normal people have got  out of warm beds on purpose to witness the birth of a new day. But for us the dawn had no charm. It simply revealed a bleak, frost-covered landscape upon which a thick white blanket of fog had descended; and a band of wild-eyed, hungry-looking men who were becoming so desperate that they were beginning to snarl at each other. We were not allowed to smoke in case the enemy saw us. As for this, my own opinion is that if the enemy had seen us then he would have been frightened to death at the very sight of us.

We remained in this spot for what seemed like hours and hours, and we got colder and colder.

It was now full daylight, and some genius, whose name deserves to go down to posterity, found an old bucket in which he lit a fire. We were allowed to come up to the fire, three or four at a time, to warm ourselves for five-minute stretches and the Platoon Sergeant stood by the fire all the time just to see as he explained, that "nobody cheated and had six minutes". Another bright lad dug up some potatoes which were roasted in the fire, but these were badly cooked and they gave us indigestion.

The morning dragged on its weary course. We moved all over Staffordshire it seemed, but wherever we went we took our old fire-bucket with us. It was surprising how many men so unselfishly