I got in just in time to have a bit of a meal before the servants cleared the things away to get ready for the early start the next day. I spent that night in my greatcoat on the stone floor of the room, and not much of a night at that. We were all up and paraded at six, and ready to move off. We soon started and trekked off down the road out of Locre towards Ypres.
We got orders to get billets for our men. Locre is not a large place, and fitting a whole battalion in is none too easy an undertaking. I was standing about a hundred yards down the road leading from the church, deciding what to do, when I got orders to billet my men in the church. I marched the section into a field, got my sergeant, and went to see what could be done in the church.
On the night of the 16th June the Battalion came out of trenches and marched to the Locre huts for the last time, looking forward to a few days' rest in good weather before moving to the Salient, which we were told was shortly to be our fate.
The battalion had good quarters in Locre in the Convent School, and we soon found that a good lunch or dinner was served by the Nuns at the convent to weary officers. They also let you use the convent baths. On April 20 we held a battalion dinner there in commemoration of the Battle of St. Julien. On Good Friday we had an Easter service, as we were to be in the trenches again on Easter Day.
We were now making for Vlamertinghe, which is a place about half-way between Locre and Ypres, and we all felt sure enough now that Ypres was where we were going; besides, passers-by gave some of us a tip or two, and rumours were current that there was a bit of a bother on in the salient. Still, there was nothing told us definitely, and on we went, up the dusty, uninteresting road.
And we knew that while we gazed the roads from the doomed city to Locre and Poperinghe were choked with a terror-stricken stream of fugitives, ancient men hobbling upon sticks, aged women clutching copper pans, and stumbling under the weight of feather-beds, while whimpering children fumbled among their mothers' skirts.
Many of our camps were hardly better than the trenches. Only by duck-boards could one walk about the morass in which huts were built and tents were pitched. In the wagon lines gunners tried in vain to groom their horses, and floundered about in their gum boots, cursing the mud which clogged bits and chains and bridles, and could find no comfort anywhere between Dickebusch and Locre.
Nearly two years elapsed before I was again living in front line trenches. In the early hours of April 20 the battalion reached Locre and spent the rest of the night in billets. By 8 A.M. we resumed our march, and went through Bailleul to Meteren. It was pleasant indeed to see the inside of a town again, and to get away from the area that was broken to bits.
Then we were handed over to a friendly sergeant, who believed in more gentlemanly methods, and at Locre we had great rides though Pollers, who was gently unhorsed, is still firmly convinced that wind-mills form the finest deterrent to cavalry. In an unlucky moment two of us had suggested that we should like to learn signaller's work, so we fell upon evil days. First we went out for cable-drill.
About May 19 I got my first leave, it was for seven clear days. And I suppose there was no happier man in France just then. The train started from Bailleul station about 6 A.M. so I had to leave Locre the night before and stay the night at an hotel at Bailleul. I had a comparatively quick journey to the coast, for we reached Boulogne at 10.45 A.M. just in time to catch the 11 o'clock boat.