FALL IN, GHOSTS
demonstrated how far we were from war’s alarms. (The heavy guns fired over this and neighbour establishments.) Alighting, we were hailed in glucose, soothing tones by a Padre, who looked forth from a sort of horse-box. Yes, we were new officers joining the Battalion – would be awfully glad to come in and have a wash – no, we hadn’t had tea. We were stoking up with generous spreads of Australian Quince and listening to the Padre’s eulogy of certain officers (whom we later found to be like himself members of the Church of Rome) when the Quartermaster burst in upon us. He was the jolliest, kindliest old quartermaster that there could be anywhere – he made the little dingy room sparkle with good-natured wit and wisdom. ‘Just been to see old Diamond-Dust (field cashier y’know). Pity you boys didn’t get here earlier if you wanted some filthy lucre. Golly, there were some people in Béthune today – shouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t some dirty work coming off. I saw the girl in the boot-shop, Padre – she asked after you. Now you boys, plug in on that tea. Any time you want anything you ask the old Quarterbloke. [Encouraging wink] Why, Padre, haven’t you stamped those letters yet? I say that new chestnut charger didn’t half show his mettle today – nearly whizzed me into the Hotel de France – then he backed into some Japanese general’s perambulator …’ We made a good tea, and cautiously enquired as to our fate.
‘The Colonel wants you to go up with the rations tonight,’ the Quartermaster remarked, somewhat brutally I thought, having hoped that the matter would be accomplished, like others in the Army, by easy stages. So far, however, apart from the heavy battery referred to, which occasionally bellowed, there was little noise or symptom of war. We took the air. With awe and his conversational laugh, which we later on found was successfully imitated by half the battalion, the Padre pointed out a litter of rusting ironware in a ditch, and informed us that these were old German bombs. This seemed a point of the first interest, but the interest evaporated when he told us in