By Casualty, Arnold Gyde
A Soldier with the British Expeditionary Forces recounts his tale of the horror of conflict.
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Additional resources for Contemptible: A Soldier's Tale of the Great War
There were plenty of people in the village street, but the Subaltern could not get coherent speech out of any one of them. Fear makes an uneducated Englishman suspicious, quickwitted and surly. It drives the French peasant absolutely mad. That village street seemed to have less sense, less fortitude, less coolness than a duck-run invaded by a terrier. The Subaltern caught a man by the arm and pushed him into a doorway. " he said, with as much insistence and coolness as he could muster. The poor fellow broke into a tirade in which his desire to cut German throats, his peculiarly unfortunate circumstances, and his wish to get away literally tripped over each other.
They were caught. About half a dozen men sprang on to the railway bank and began furiously to wag white sheets of paper or rag--anything white. They must have been brave men to do such a thing. The British gunners either did not see their signs, or perhaps refused to accept them on account of various "jokes" that the enemy had at other times played with the white flag. Anyway the firing continued with unabated fury. They stood there to the end without flinching, and when they fell other men took their places.
Continuous retreat had first evoked surprise, then resentment, then, as fatigue began to grip them like a vice, a kind of dull apathy. He felt he would not have cared whatever happened. The finer emotions of sorrow or hope or happiness were drugged to insensibility. With the exception of odd moments when, absolutely causelessly, wild anger and ungovernable rage took possession of him and seemed to make his blood boil and seethe, he seemed to be degenerating into the state of mind commonly attributed to the dumb beasts of the field--indifferent to everything in the wide world except food and sleep.