April, 1915 — Mont de Cats

Apr.9

The country round about is most beautiful. We route-marched this morning to the top of Mont de Cats, a great hill rising some five hundred feet above sea-level. The view was magnificent. In the distance lay the Belgian frontier and everywhere, close at hand, were little hamlets and tall church spires, half-hidden behind poplar trees. The red roofs of the house-tops contrasted pleasingly with the green and brown of the rich country side. Great white cobbled highways stretched themselves into long ribbons over the hills, and the poplar trees followed them, until they ran out of sight, beyond the waving arms of distant windmills.

As we gazed upon this bit of Old Eden, it was hard to realize that, but a few miles away, the guns were roaring and men were falling in agony.

On the summit of Mont de Cats is a Monastery—a relic of the Middle Ages—which has been lately turned into a Hospital. There is also, here, the antique framework of a windmill long since superannuated.

June, 1916 — Third Battle of Ypres

June 7 Advanced Dressing Station, "Railway Dug-Outs."

We arrived here—three stretcher squads of us—this afternoon. Along the Ypres road were scattered the debris of War—rifles, pieces of equipment, ammunition limbers, ration wagons, and dead horses. Guns of all calibre are massed hereabouts. The small guns are firing continuously. The Dressing Station is built into the Railway Embankment, and is practically shell-proof.

June 14

For forty-eight hours we have been working without a stop, and still the fighting is going on, and the wounded are falling faster than we can pick them up. It has rained all week. The trenches are knee-deep—in some places waist-deep, with mud and water. The dead and wounded lie everywhere: in trenches, and shell pits, and along the sodden roads. Two thousand wounded have passed through our hands since the attack. Hundreds more are dying of exposure a mile away, and we cannot reach them. The wounded who are already here must lie outside the Dressing Station, in the open, under the rain, until their turn comes.

We shall be relieved tonight, for twelve blessed hours, by the 3rd Field Ambulance. We are all in.

Mont de Cats

September, 1916—The Somme—An Air Battle

Sep.11

The aeroplane activity alone, every day, would be quite enough to make life interesting out here. No grander tournaments were ever staged in the old days of Chivalry, than what these 20th-century knights pull off so nonchalantly in the blue sky. This morning saw a grand duel between a British and a German squadron of planes. They battled up there in the clouds for some thirty minutes, to the immense satisfaction of the scattered audience below which, to the number of some quarter-million, cheering lustily from every corner of the Line. The fight centred around two machines, which were manoeuvring about each other like hostile eagles. Backwards and forwards, over the breathless trench-lines they soared, each seeking to swoop upon the other from higher ground. Finally, "our man" got the advantage, opened his deadly machine-gun fire, and sent his opponent blazing to the ground, where he landed with the sickening thud of a thunderbolt—like Milton's angel—"Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky."

During the fight, all traffic had halted and the whole activity of War seemed to have stopped like a piece of clock-work. Now the wheels automatically started again—teams trudged over the roads as before; men picked up their discarded rifles, or fell into step, or went back to dinners and card-games; and the Colonels climbed back into their dug-outs.

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