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Notes of a Camp-Follower on the Western Front   By: (1866-1921)

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NOTES OF A CAMP FOLLOWER ON THE WESTERN FRONT

BY E. W. HORNUNG

LONDON CONSTABLE & COMPANY, LTD. 1919

To THE KINDEST MAN IN THE BOOK

CONTENTS PAGE AN ARK IN THE MUD 11 UNDER WAY 11 A HANDFUL OF MEN 20 SUNDAY ON BOARD 29

CHRISTMAS UP THE LINE 39 UNDER FIRE 39 CASUALTIES 45 AN INTERRUPTED LUNCH 53 CHRISTMAS DAY 57 THE BABES IN THE TRENCHES 71

DETAILS 79 ORDERLY MEN 79 THE JOCKS 89 GUNNERS 102 THE GUARDS 110

A BOY'S GRAVE 121

THE REST HUT 141 FRESH GROUND 141 OPENING DAY 152 THE HUT IN BEING 160 WRITERS AND READERS 170 WAR AND THE MAN 182

'WE FALL TO RISE' 193 BEFORE THE STORM 193 ANOTHER OPENING DAY 201 THE END OF A BEGINNING 210 THE ROAD BACK 221 IN THE DAY OF BATTLE 228 OTHER OLD FELLOWS 238 THE REST CAMP AND AFTER 247

AN ARK IN THE MUD

( December, 1917. )

UNDER WAY

'There's our hut!' said the young hut leader, pointing through iron palings at a couple of toy Noah's Arks built large. 'No that's the nth Division's cinema. The Y.M.C.A. is the one beyond.'

The enclosure behind the palings had been a parade ground in piping times; and British squads, from the pink French barracks outside the gates, still drilled there between banks of sterilised rubbish and lagoons of unmedicated mud. The place was to become familiar to me under many aspects. I have known it more than presentable in a clean suit of snow, and really picturesque with a sharp moon cocked upon some towering trees, as yet strangely intact. It was at its best, perhaps, as a nocturne pricked out by a swarm of electric torches, going and coming along the duck boards in a grand chain of sparks and flashes. But its true colours were the wet browns and drabs of that first glimpse in the December dusk, with the Ark hull down in the mud, and the cinema a sister ship across her bows.

The hut leader ushered me on board with the courtesy of a young commander inducting an elderly new mate; the difference was that I had all the ropes to learn, with the possible exception of one he had already shown me on our way from the local headquarters of the Y.M.C.A. The battered town was full of English soldiers, to whom indeed it owed its continued existence on the right side of the Line. In the gathering twilight, and the deeper shade of beetling ruins, most of them saluted either my leader's British warm, or my own voluminous trench coat (with fleece lining), on the supposition of officers within. Left to myself, I should have done the wrong thing every time. It is expressly out of order for a camp follower to give or take salutes. Yet what is he to do, when he gets a beauty from one whose boots he is unfit to black? My leader had been showing me, with a pleasant nod and a genial civilian gesture, easier to emulate than to acquire.

In the hut he left me to my own investigations while he was seeing to his lamps. The round stove in the centre showed a rosy chimney through the gloom, like a mast in a ship's saloon; and in the two half lights the place looked scrupulously swept and garnished for our guests, a number of whom were already waiting outside for us to open. The trestle tables, with nothing on them but a dusky polish, might have been mathematically spaced, each with a pair of forms in perfect parallels, and nothing else but a piano and an under sized billiard table on all the tidy floor... Continue reading book >>




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