22nd July 1917 (Sunday)

The day was hot and cloudless as we lay in the fields and orchards of the quiet countryside around Sus St Leger.  There were no parades, a disturbing portent in itself, and we had all the time in the world in which to ponder over the Colonel’s homily of the previous Friday.  Moreover, no post from home had been delivered for some days and our spirits were low.  This was the mood in which Forster, Bradley and I wandered that evening along the deserted road to Ivergny towards the blood red sun sinking in the west.

We were completely alone in the silence except for an ominous rumble far away to the north.  We kept our thoughts to ourselves and no word was exchanged until at length the sun tipped the distant horizon and we rested awhile by a five barred gate leading into the deserted Picardy fields.  I said “I wonder where we three will be in a month’s time”.  The other two made no response and I blundered on.  I spoke of all the possibilities the future held and felt much better for having aired my hopes and fears.  On the assumption that one’s chances of getting through unscathed were slight I suggested a preference for the little finger of the right hand.

Bradley’s reaction was immediate.  His face registered anger and bitterness such as I would never have dreamed possible.  He spoke at last and his words shocked me to the core.  “I want no ‘blighty’.(1)  I won’t have those bloody bastards over there mutilate the body God gave into my keeping.  If they do get me I want complete oblivion.”  Forster and I accepted this outburst in silence.  There was nothing more to be said.  Anyway, I regretted opening my big mouth in the first place.  The incident in itself was not one ever likely to be forgotten but the aftermath, some few months later, not only registered the memory of that day for all time but created in me a sense of wonderment which in my lifetime on this earth will never be resolved.  We returned to Sus St Leger in complete silence.  It was dark by the time we reached billets and the subject of the day was thereafter taboo.

In orchards, fields all day.
No post out for three days.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes
(1) A 'blighty' wound was one which was sufficiently serious to merit being shipped home to Britain.