Skip to main content

Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

See other formats

polishing). No; one couldn't reckon the effect of the
war on people by weeks and months. I'd noticed
that boys under twenty stood it worst, especially
when the weather was bad. Mud and boredom and
discomfort seemed to take all the guts out of them. If
an officer crumpled up, Kinjack sent him home as
useless, with a confidential report. Several such offi-
cers were usually drifting about at the Depot, and
most of them ended up with safe jobs in England. But
if a man became a dud in the ranks, he just remained
where he was until he was killed or wounded. Deli-
cate discrimination about private soldiers wasn't pos-
sible. A "number nine pill" was all they could hope
for if they went sick. Barton sometimes told me that I
was too easy-going with the men when we were out of
the Line, but it often seemed to me that I was asking
them to do more than could be fairly expected of
them. It's queer, I thought, how little one really
knows about the men. In the Line one finds out which
are the duds, and one builds up a sort of comradeship
with the tough and willing ones. But back in billets
the gap widens and one can't do much to cheer them
up. I could never understand how they managed to
keep as cheery as they did through such drudgery and
discomfort, with nothing to look forward to but going
over the top or being moved up to Flanders again.

Next evening, just before stand-to, I was watching
a smouldering sunset and thinking that the sky was
one of the redeeming features of the war. Behind the
support line where I stood, the shell-pitted ground
sloped sombrely into the dusk; the distances were
blue and solemn, with a few trees grouped on a ridge,
dark against the deep-glowing embers of another day