7th December 1915 Tuesday
Through the night and the next day the train ambled its way along through the flat countryside. The track seemed to be lined all along the route by French troops. The locals were crying out to the slow moving train’s occupants to give them souvenirs as they passed. The young men responded by throwing them hard biscuits and empty bully beef tins. By 2pm they eventually reached Abbeville where the officers took lunch. The lunch consisted of Camp pie*, Oxo, biscuits, cheese, lemon cheese and whisky! The whisky was described as “doing them a power of good”!
On they went through Etaple, Boulogne, Calais, St Omer. As well as travelling at a slow pace there would have been plenty of signal stops for passing traffic, but eventually they arrived in Aires sur Lys where they finally got off the train.
Out now again into the darkness and the driving rain they set off on another five mile march. Three times they lost their way, finally arriving in a village called Roquetoire around midnight where they knocked up the local mayor, who managed to find them all billets.
Douglas writes, “His (the mayor’s) wife gave me a glass of beer and I aired some of my schoolboy French. I slept on a mattress on the floor of an empty room, with rats chasing all around me”.
* Camp pie is a kind of luncheon meat
Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here