war prose imagines the German looking at him through his gun-sight.
He spent a weekend in Paris for the publication of a translation of his second ‘propaganda’ book, Entre Saint Denis et Saint Georges, and was thanked by the Minister of Instruction. The leave was scarcely less stressful than the line. Ford worked so hard revising the translation that he collapsed, and was told he was ‘suffering from specific shell-shock & ought to go to hospital’. But he wouldn’t go. He was back in the Salient by 13 September. None of this stopped him writing about the episode, in the article ‘Trois Jours de Permission’.11
Soon after this he was sent back to the 3rd Battalion’s home base in North Wales, at Kinmel Park, near Rhyl. Ford found his new posting a new waste of his abilities, and – without overseas pay – a strain on his financial resources.
When the War Office did eventually order him back to France at the end of November, he tried without success to avoid being re-attached to Lieutenant-Colonel Cooke’s 9th Welch. He was given ‘various polyglot jobs’ such as ‘writing proclamations in French about thefts of rations issued to H. B. M.’s forces & mounting guards over German sick’. But he fell ill himself in December. ‘As for me, – c’est fini de moi, I believe, at least as far as fighting is concerned,’ he told Conrad: ‘my lungs are all charred up and gone’. The Medical Board wanted to send him home, but he protested that he ‘didn’t in the least want to see Blighty ever again’.12
Ford said his respiratory illness was due to ‘a slight touch of gas I got in the summer & partly to sheer weather’.13 He has been accused of lying about being gassed; not least because he elaborated the story later, telling a marvellous tale about how, while on leave in a Paris hotel, he opened his portmanteau and inadvertently released gas trapped there since he had begun packing during an attack. But there may be some truth in this. Clothes do give off yesterday’s fumes, and someone with breathing difficulties would have been sensitive to even a hint of the lethal chemicals. However, the fictionalised version given in one of the pieces here, ‘True Love
11 Ford to C. F. G. Masterman, 13 Sept. 1916: Letters, p. 76. ‘Trois Jours de Permission’,
Nation, 19 (30 Sept. 1916), pp. 817–18. 12 Ford to Masterman, 5 Jan. 1917: Letters, pp. 81–3. Ford to Conrad, 19 Dec. 1916: The
Presence of Ford Madox Ford, pp. 177–8; Ford to Cathy Hueffer, 15 Dec. 1916: House of Lords Records Office. 13 Ford to Masterman, 5 Jan. 1917: Letters, p. 82.