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Mud and Khaki Sketches from Flanders and France   By: (1894-1983)

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MUD AND KHAKI

MUD AND KHAKI

SKETCHES FROM FLANDERS AND FRANCE

BY

VERNON BARTLETT

SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO. LTD., 4 STATIONERS' HALL COURT : : LONDON, E.C.

Copyright First published April 1917

TO

R.V.K.C.

AND MY OTHER FRIENDS

IN THE REGIMENT

APOLOGIA

There has been so much written about the trenches, there are so many war photographs, so many cinema films, that one might well hesitate before even mentioning the war to try to write a book about it is, I fear, to incur the censure of the many who are tired of hearing about bombs and bullets, and who prefer to read of peace, and games, and flirtations.

But, for that very reason, I venture to think that even so indifferent a war book as mine will not come entirely amiss. When the Lean Years are over, when the rifle becomes rusty, and the khaki is pushed away in some remote cupboard, there is great danger that the hardships of the men in the trenches will too soon be forgotten. If, to a minute extent, anything in these pages should help to bring home to people what war really is, and to remind them of their debt of gratitude, then these little sketches will have justified their existence.

Besides, I am not entirely responsible for this little book. Not long ago, I met a man fit, single, and young who began to grumble to me of the hardships of his "funkhole" in England, and, incidentally, to belittle the hardships of the man at the front. After I had told him exactly what I thought of him, I was still so indignant that I came home and began to write a book about the trenches. Hence Mud and Khaki . To him, then, the blame for this minor horror of war. I wash my hands of it.

And I try to push the blame off on to him, for I realise that I have undertaken an impossible task the most practised pen cannot convey a real notion of the life at the front, as the words to describe war do not exist. Even you who have lost your husbands and brothers, your fathers and sons, can have but the vaguest impression of the cruel, thirsty claws that claimed them as victims. First must you see the shattered cottages of France and Belgium, the way in which the women clung to their homes in burning Ypres, the long streams of refugees wheeling their poor little lares et penates , their meagre treasures, on trucks and handcarts; first must you listen to the cheery joke that the Angel of Death finds on the lips of the soldier, to the songs that encourage you in the dogged marches through the dark and the mud, to the talk during the long nights when the men collect round the brazier fire and think of their wives and kiddies at home, of murky streets in the East End, of quiet country inns where the farmers gather of an evening.

No words, then, can give an exact picture of these things, but they may help to give colour to your impressions. Heaven forbid that, by telling the horrors of war, the writers of books should make pessimists of those at home! Heaven forbid that they should belittle the dangers and hardships, and so take away some of the glory due to "Tommy" for all he has suffered for the Motherland! There is a happy mean the men at the front have found it; they know that death is near, but they can still laugh and sing.

In these sketches and stories I have tried, with but little success, to keep that happy mean in view. If the pictures are very feeble in design when compared to the many other, and far better, works on the same subject, remember, reader, that the intention is good, and accept this apology for wasting your time.

A few of these sketches and articles have already appeared elsewhere. My best thanks are due to the Editors of the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror for their kind permission to include several sketches which appeared, in condensed forms, in their papers. I am also grateful to the Editor of Cassell's Storyteller for his permission to reproduce "The Knut," which first saw print in that periodical.

VERNON BARTLETT.

CONTENTS

PAGE APOLOGIA 11

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