battalion after battalion had endured intensities of
experience in that intensified strip of territory. Night
after night the tea-dixies had been carried up that
twisting communication trench. Night after night
sentries had stared over sodden parapets until the sky
reddened and the hostile territory emerged, familiar
and yet foreign. Not a very good sector to hold, I
thought, observing how our cramped trench system
had been overlooked by the Germans. That mile-and-
a-bit back to Basseux hadn't been so easy a couple of
In peace time the village must have been quite a
pretty little place, and even now it wasn't very badly
damaged. All our officers were billeted in a dilapi-
dated white chateau, which I now explored until I
was sitting with my feet out of the window of an attic.
Down in the courtyard Ormand and Dunning and
one or two others were playing cricket with a stump
and a wooden ball, using an old brazier as a wicket.
Wilmot had found a ramshackle piano from which
he was extracting his favourite melodies. Pigeons
fluttered around the red tiled roofs and cooed in the
warm evening sunshine. Three yellow balloons were
visible. Then the little Adjutant bustled across the
courtyard with a bunch of papers in his hand. There
was no time for relaxation in the orderly room, for
after to-day we were under orders to move at the
shortest notice. . . . Young Ormand shouted up at
me, "Come down and have a knock at the nets."
The Battle of Arras began at 5.30 next morning.
For two days we hung about the chateau, listening to
the noise (of Military History being manufactured re-
gardless of expense) and waiting for the latest rumours.