In the village I could not find our men, but discovered a field ambulance that did not know what to do. Their horses were dead tired, but I advised them strongly to get on. They took my advice, and I heard at Serches that they left Villers-Pol as the Germans entered it. They were pursued, but somehow got away in the darkness.
At all other good stews it was recalled and discussed, but never did a stew come up to the stew that we so scrupulously divided among us on the bright morning of Sept. 12, 1914, at Ferme d'Epitaphe, above Serches. Later in the day we took over our billet, a large bicycle shed behind the school in which D.H.Q. were installed.
He is able at the end of his ride to give an account of all that he has seen on the way. D.H.Q. were at Serches, a wee village in a hollow at the head of a valley. So steeply did the hill rise out of the hollow to the north that the village was certainly in dead ground. A fine road went to the west along the valley for three miles or so to the Soissons-Rheims road.
There was no noise of firing to tell me that the men of our right brigade were making a desperate resistance to a fierce advance. A mile from Serches I passed a field-ambulance loaded up for instant flight; the men were standing about in little groups talking together, as if without orders.
It was humbly brought and placed in the car: then I sent boys flying round the town for jam and bread and butter, and in the meantime we entertained the crowd by showing them a German helmet. I explained volubly that my bandaged fingers there was an affair of outposts with an ambulance near Serches were the work of shrapnel, and they nearly embraced me.
It was in Serches itself that George received the surprise of his life. He was after potatoes, and seeing a likely-looking old man pass, D.H.Q. ran after him. In his best French "Avez-vous pommes-de-terre
Doubting, we snuggled down in the straw, and went soundly to sleep. All the maps were in use. Looking afterwards at the map which I obtained later in the day, I am unable to trace my route with any accuracy. It is certain that the Germans temporarily thrust in a wedge between the 13th and 15th Brigades. A small patrol of cavalry, I should imagine, if the tale I heard at Serches be true.
One of the company rode it quietly to Serches, then it went on the side-car, and was eventually discarded at Beuvry. I found the Division very much in action.
Curiously enough, months after this was written the author was wounded by shrapnel. We left Serches at dusk with little regret and pushed on over the hill past Ferme d'Epitaphe of gluttonous memory, past the Headquarter clerks, who were jogging peacefully along on bicycles, down the other side of the hill, and on to the village of Maast. Headquarters were in a curious farm.
It seems that the old fellow had settled in Serches years and years before. He had a very pretty daughter, who spoke a delectable mixture of Yorkshire and the local dialect. Of course she was suspected of being a spy in fact, probably was so the military police were set to watch her, a job, I gathered later from one of them, much to their liking.