20 February, ’17.
I often think how significant it is — how the world for years and years has covered itself with a sort of armour. Very clever it all was. People with money and no brains, to cover their lack of brains hedged themselves around and called the hedge class distinction, even educated themselves in separate schools, using a different accent and form of speech. What a joke! Then along comes this war — more than a war, that word doesn’t describe it — and off has to come the armour, and a man is just a man — or not — as God made him. What surprises, what shocks must have occurred! But you can’t realize it as I can, because you have never seen the home life of England as I have.
Right here in our little shack is a splendid example. There’s a young Englishman millionaire, an ideal boy at a pink tea, able to talk rot to women by the hour, very careful in his appearance — and quite useless to any one. Along comes the war and dear little F. enlists; he is a duck in his uniform, and holds his own right up till he reaches the front line; then — falls all to pieces. Quite helpless — opinion worthless — just ignored. And then B.! Quite useless at a pink tea, would be unnoticed anywhere at home. He runs an electric crane or something for a living, has worked ever since he could walk, nearly. Here, where things matter, B. is looked up to, his opinion counts; he wins promotion; an ideal man to live with, a hustler and a man.
Now — when it’s over what’s going to happen? Do we drift back in the same groove?
I tell you yes, with a slight difference, only — F. again will be the pretty useless doll (only more so as he’ll talk F. and war); but only till he gets in company with those who have been and seen. Then he’ll beat it, of course. B. will be as before, too. He’ll never talk war; but he’ll have added a number of staunch friends, friends for life.
And that is my opinion of how it will be. These cases are typical of many thousands of others; it just happens that I live with the two extremes.
There doesn’t seem to be anything else, just yet, happening between the U.S. and Fritz, but I really think it will be war. Lens has not opened up yet and there are no signs that it will lift. There’s a fellow I came up with from Le Havre due back tonight. I used to knock around with him quite a bit. He was LCpl. here. As he knew something of bombing they made him Sgt. Instructor. He learned on the Somme, by the way. He taught me here. One day while teaching a bunch of recruits, a fellow lost his nerve — they do sometimes — and after pulling out the pin, got scared and dropped the bomb into the next bay where there were three officers and a man. There was just five seconds to act. G. ran around the bay, picked up the bomb and just got it over the parapet in time. . . .