Another beautiful day. Watch aeros. At work, much fired at, firing very wild. Route march in morning. Visit Soissons in afternoon. Rough horse. Cathedral still getting occasional shells. Several windows, and some of the building damaged. Almost every other house in the town damaged, spires of arch-church damaged, but place kept very clean, and many inhabitants still living in. Now occupied by the French. One sees beautiful uniform in pictures of war, but in practice they are very dirty. The Algerian troops look very Arab-like. Heard that Hetty has had letter card. A sort of cobweb stuff, which the natives call fil de vierge is falling from the sky, it catches on all the wires, and covers the ground. One sees balls floating in the air. Write several letters in evening. We are five at night in a small room, Lee and I in beds, the rest on straw, on the floor. The couple who own the house are pleasant simple old folk, very willing. The house is only two rooms, and some out buildings. They can get nothing but vegetables to eat. We have had some butter and fresh meat since we have been here. The butter came from Paris, and was a great treat. Because we have an easy time, the men seem to think the war is over, they will probably be rudely awakened from this dream. We cannot stay here much longer, and will probably be pushed up to relieve some roughly-handled brigade.
Woken with a scare at 5.45 a.m., dress hurriedly, eat some chocolate and biscuit. Hear Germans are breaking through at Conde. We to take up position in trenches at Cerches. However, hear all well, wash, etc. Church Parade. Our wastage for 14 days, probably 100,000. Germans more. Germans must wear out. Hear our danger at Le Cateau was enormous.
Up at 4-30, we must now always stand to arms at 5. Route march. Sleep.
Stand to arms. Breakfast at 6-30. Parade 7. Dig gun pits, return 2-45. Bath in pail. Write letters. (Gun pits close to Acy, hear good deal of firing, and two German aeros. over). Slight cold.
Improving trenches. See captive balloon, think French.
Very cold at the dawn parade, which lasts an hour, but feel every minute. How fortunate to have a house to sleep in. Dig all morning, making fine trenches. Bath. Getting several small luxuries in the feeding line, piece of butter at breakfast, also an egg, country jam at tea time. People always being accused of eating too much. This is the depth to which the war sinks you. Riddell and I have been shooting a little. Only one gun, and very few cartridges are available.
Not quite so cold. No letters or parcels. Digging improving trenches. Writing letters, returning maps, working out rosters.
There seems to be an idea that Germans are likely to retire, and so we will have to leave our comfortable quarters, however, no one can have any regrets, if it is to push the Germans. I fancy we will move now. Refills have come for this book, which I am very glad of, so shall be able to be fuller.
Food is one of the principal pleasures of life during war. We are doing very well now. This is a norm for the day, which does not vary much.
Breakfast Bacon, bread, jam. Tea with condensed milk, and sugar. Small piece of butter. (All but bread strictly limited).
Lunch. Bully beef in some form, potatoes, bread, cheese, tea (as much as you want, some people excepted owing to special capacity).
Tea Bread, very small piece of butter, jam , tea.
Dinner. Stew, bully (latterly fresh meat), with vegetables. Stewed apples or pears. Cheese, tea (sometimes rum). To this is sometimes added a luxury, such as an atom of pâté de fois gras, or walnuts. Drink at dinner, red wine with water, but this is now finished.
The usual routine just at present is as follows:-
Rise at 4-30 a.m. Stand to arms from 5 to 6 a.m. Wash and shave, breakfast at 7 a.m. Parade at 7-50 a.m. (at O.[Orderly] Room 9 a.m. parade 9-30) return from parade about 12-30 or 1 p.m., lunch at 1 p.m. (in two relays). Then read papers, and eat piece of chocolate (if any), then wash and lie down an hour. Tea at 4-15 p.m. Take a walk with Lee up hill, and view battle. During this walk the subject of war is banned. Return at dusk, and write letters, and diary, till dinner, which is in two relays. First lot at 7-15, second at 8. HQ always second, so go late every third day. Then go to A Coy’s [Company’s] billet. (A Coy have seceded from the general mess), and play a rubber of bridge. Oakley [Major Richard Oakley, Officer Commanding C Company], Chaplin [Major James Graham Chaplin, Officer Commanding A Company], McLellan [Capt Thomas Rainsford McLellan, Second in Command A Company] and self. Then to bed about 9-30 p.m. Proper bed, and boots off. Five of us in rather small room.
Start day by breaking old woman’s chair, she very angry, but I not pleased, finally nearly kissed, thank heaven not quite! Drill. Splendid mail, many letters, chocolate. Present of shirts, vest and socks from friends in Scotland. All sorts of rumours today. Surrender of Mauberge to that of Von Kluck