1915 is now juddering to a highly unsatisfying end. The British War Committee, having just installed Wully Robertson as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, would be more than a little unhinged if it refused now to take his advice. His advice is clear, unqualified, and unsurprising: to concentrate on the Western Front in 1916 and do no more than is absolutely necessary in any other theatre. Since this will necessarily mean operating in close co-operation with the French, they’ve now effectively bound the BEF to another year of acting according to General Joffre’s wishes.
Not that they could have reasonably done much else, mind you. The Army establishment is firmly behind the idea of a strong effort on the Western Front, and they have a year’s worth of embarrassment at Gallipoli and in Mesopotamia to back their views up. Even if there had been a unified political will to try something else, it would have meant direct showdowns both with their own army and with Joffre.
Yes, it’s Private Flora Sandes; yes, she and her company are still retreating; yes, they still seem to be keeping their peckers up.
One night we halted on rather funny camping ground, on the side of a hill covered with holly bushes, and had to find our way through them in the dark. We slept round the fires, as there was not room to put up tents among the prickly bushes.
Our Company Commander, telling his ordonnance that they were all too slow for a funeral, lit our fire himself in two minutes under the shelter of a huge holly bush, and we were half-way through supper, very comfortably sitting round a roaring blaze, while other people were still looking for a good spot for their fire, and were asleep at opposite sides of ours before half the others were well alight.
Robert Palmer is still dispensing his Boxing Day news, but he’s just about finished.
It has most tactlessly begun to rain again, and with an east wind it may continue, which will mean a vile slime for marching.
The Christmas sports were really great fun: one of them—one-minute impromptu speeches—would make quite a good house-party game.
In point of fact, it’s going to make a very good and long-running BBC radio panel show called Just a Minute. Anyway.
Christmas passed off quietly and cheerfully. Tommy Atkins is so profoundly insensible of incongruities that he saw nothing to worry him in the legend “A Merry Christmas” and the latest casualty list on the same wall: and he sang “Peace on earth and mercy mild” and “Confound their politics” with equal gusto. And his temper is infectious while you’re with him.
For those who need it: “Peace on earth and mercy mild” is from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, a rather wet Christmas carol hoping for peace and goodwill and etc. “Confound their politics” is from the second verse of God Save The King, which talks about what should be done to the King’s enemies.
Louis Barthas and his new regiment are being moved again, and for once he’s going to benefit from a new, modern form of transport. Of course, he can find something to complain about.
At 8 o’clock in the morning we suddenly left Ivergny in trucks and, after four bone-jarring hours of bumps, leaps forward, leaps backward on pot-holed, muddy roads, we arrived at Hersin-Coupigny, our old resting place when we were in the Lorette sector. The inhabitants recognized us and gave us a nice welcome, but what were we going to do here in this village? We certainly weren’t here to pay a friendly visit to the Hersinois and their womenfolk.
Certain indiscretions informed us that we were going to rejoin our new division, which was holding the Loos sector. Nothing abnormal about that, but what was far from appealing to us was knowing that we were incorporated into a so-called elite, shock, or attack division.
Was this an honor or a penalty, an homage or a punishment?
A shock division full mostly of men who are the wrong side of 35. Of course. It’s not impossible that this wasn’t an official definition, but some hare-brained proclamation from a mid-ranking officer to improve morale. The war continues.
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The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)