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Christmas came—a day of disciplined insobriety—
and the First Battalion entered 1916 in a state of
health and happiness. But it was a hand-to-mouth
happiness, preyed upon by that remote noise of
artillery; and as for health—well, we were all of us
provisionally condemned to death in our own
thoughts and if anyone had been taken seriously ill
and sent back to "Blighty" he would have been looked
upon as lucky. For anybody who allowed himself to
think things over, the only way out of it was to try and
feel secretly heroic, and to look back on the old life
as pointless and trivial. I used to persuade myself that
I had "found peace" in this new life. But it was
a peace of mind which resulted from a physically
healthy existence combined with a sense of irrespon-
sibility. There could be no turning back now; one
had to do as one was told. In an emotional mood I
could glory in the idea of the supreme sacrifice.

But where was the glory for the obscure private
who was always in trouble with the platoon sergeant
and got "medicine and duty" when he went to the
medical officer with rheumatism? He had enlisted
"for the duration" and had a young wife at home. It
was all very well for Colonel Winchell to be lecturing
in the village schoolroom on the offensive spirit, and
the spirit of the regiment, but everyone knew that he
was booked for a brigade, and some said that he'd
bought a brigadier's gold-peaked cap last time he
was on leave.

When I instructed my platoon, one or two evenings
a week, I confined myself to asking them easy ques-
tions out of the infantry training manual, saying that
we had got to win the War (and were certain to), and
reading the League Football news aloud. I hadn't
begun to question the rights and wrongs of the War