November 21, 1916
Monday. Discharged by Capt. M. and on duty helping Capt. Kenton with sanitation. The day following Tucker helps. Meet Major Bazin and ask about a transfer and receive some encouragement but Parkers delays it coming in spite of my anxiety.
November 25, 1916
Up the line the night before, conducted by Godfrey and McIntyre. The road they say is swept by machine guns but though it is extremely dark everything was quiet and we reached the cellar among the ruins. One would never have noticed it, as secret as the door of a rats den, inside quiet, roomy and comfortable. Little tables with candles and fellows playing cards giving it the appearance of a gamblers den which it was after the day of extra pay.
Work from eight until four and half a day on Sunday. Baldy was the cook having the position by ‘divine right’ rather than election. We doubted his cleanliness. Many were the jibs made at him but, in supreme self confidence, he kept his throne.
We have to fill the water tank from the well across the road, a hundred feet deep, a half days work. ‘Not more than two persons allowed at this well at once.’ Why? The peppered remnants of a wall was the best answer.
With pick and shovel we toiled at the A.W.S. making the kitchen with blistered hands and muscles sore but growing stronger. The dense fog allows us freedom to work on the surface of the ground.
Sunday evening Cook conducts the service and is morally supported by Tucker.
Often, at 7 p.m., we took our turns going for rations down this dangerous road we never found dangerous. Fritzy played impish games with us with few casualties.
The scene will remain clear in my memory, this Neuville St Vaast. The trenches ruined everywhere, around the cellar walls of houses and down through the cobble stones of the street. The houses are smashed almost to the last fragment, the great number of French soldiers graves with the steel helmet lying above and the wreath of flowers made from buds, the dead and shell torn trees. It seems a solitude equalled only by mountain tops, of the deserts centre, yet streams of life pass back and forth supporting the firing line. Rations and supplies each night, regiment relieving regiment, dispatched runners. Smoke rises in thin lines here and there from cellars where men live. A regiment is quartered here somewhere in reserve, a bath, a Y.M. yet at most you can see but two khaki clad figures moving quickly and silently along. At dusk the muffled sound of a gasoline engine drawing cars of supplies along the track or the tramp of the mule trains pulling cars on the same line. The evenings are spent writing, reading and studying. Our beds are the stretchers.