But on the horizon the bombardment bumped and
thudded in a continuous bubbling grumble. After a
long stare at sun-flecked foliage and idly reflective
alleys I bustled back to the farmyard to find my
platoon all present and correct. Before I'd finished
my formal inspection Barton emerged from the house
with bulging pockets, his burly figure hung like a
Christmas tree with haversack, water-bottle, revolver,
field-glasses, gas-mask, map-case, and other oddments.
The Battalion moved off at eight o'clock; by twelve-
thirty it was at Morlancourt, which was now con-
gested with infantry and supply columns, and "lousy
with guns53 as the saying was. A colony of camouflage-
daubed tents had sprung up close to the village; this
was the New Main Dressing Station. We were in our
usual billetsóDurley and I in the room containing a
representation of the Eiffel Tower and a ludicrous
oleograph of our Saviour preaching from a boat,
which we always referred to as jocular Jesus. After a
sultry dinner, the day ended with torrents of rain.
While I lay on the floor in my flea-bag the blackness
of the night framed in the window was lit with in-
cessant glare and flash of guns. But I fell asleep to
the sound of full gutters and rainwater gurgling
and trickling into a well, and those were comfortable
noises, for they signified that I had a roof over my
head. As for my flea-bag, it was no hardship; I have
never slept more soundly in any bed.
Operation Orders were circulated next morning.
They notified us that Thursday was "Z" (or zero)
day. The Seventh Division Battle Plan didn't look
aggressively unpleasant on paper as I transcribed it