|| 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
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