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ceiving escape from the limitless malevolence of the
Front Line? . . . Well, whatever it was, it was some
compensation for the loss of last year's day-dreams
about England (which I could no longer indulge in,
owing to an indefinite hostility to "people at home
who couldn't understand"). I was beginning to feel
rather arrogant toward "people at home". But my
mind was in a muddle; the War was too big an event
for one man to stand alone in. All I knew was that
I'd lost my faith in it, and there was nothing left
to believe in except "the Battalion spirit". The Bat-
talion spirit meant living oneself into comfortable
companionship with the officers and N.C.O.s around
one; it meant winning the respect, or even the affec-
tion, of platoon and company. But while exploring
my way into the War I had discovered the imperma-
nence of its humanities. One evening we could be all
together in a cosy room in Corbie, with Wilmot play-
ing the piano and Dunning telling me about the
eccentric old ladies who lived in his mother's board-
ing house in Bloomsbury. A single machine-gun or a
few shells might wipe out the whole picture within a
week. Last summer the First Battalion had been part
of my life; by the middle of September it had been
almost obliterated. I knew that a soldier signed away
his independence; we were at the front to fight, not
to think. But it became a bit awkward when one
couldn't look even a week ahead. And now there was
a steel curtain down between April and May. On the
other side of the curtain, if I was lucky, I should meet
the survivors, and we should begin to build up our
little humanities all over again.

That was the bleak truth, and there was only one
method of evading it; to make a little drama out of
my own experience—that was the way out. I must