all would be well. On those fields where the awful game of life & death is organised with a scientific skill that is almost diabolical, it would be easier to die, than in an outwardly calm England to face the thought that the beloved individual may die out there without one, any minute of any day. He says he has not yet been afraid – although he has now been under fire. I can understand that well enough. He is afraid of his imagination, afraid of being afraid – so am I. That’s why now he in the midst of the actual dangers fears & dreads nothing, while I far away from all signs of active warfare read of the perils he is undergoing, & shudder & tremble. His letters are most vivid – I can picture every thing he describes, I believe almost exactly. The presence of danger seems but to render his gift the more brilliant. The first letter which was the shortest, was written as I discovered by our dot-code, from Armentières, a fairly large town on the borders of France & Belgium, not very far from Lille. I should describe his letter fully, as nothing I have ever or seen has given me so definite an impression of the real meaning of war. From Armentières he wrote last Sunday morning that he was now actually in the firing line & was to take his platoon in the trenches at 7.0 that evening. The trenches run right into the town & he could hear the rifle fire as he lay in bed. The Germans had been shelling the town two days before, but he said nothing of it except one shrapnel that burst on their right as they marched in. The walls showed signs of former bombardment & were riddled with bullet-holes. (It has of course been the scene of a great deal of fighting ever since the war began.) He & another subaltern were billeted in a small house on the outskirts of the town, facing a square called the Gare République. It seems incongruous, he says, to find good shops & buildings & beds half an hour’s walk from the trenches. They are to go in to-night & still [sic] till Tuesday night – 48 hours -- after which they will be relieved. An inexperienced regiment does not hold part of the line on its own at first,
Brittain, Vera, Diary, 17 April 1915
From Youth to Experience: Vera Brittain’s Work for Peace in Two World Wars
17 April 1915
McMaster University Libraries
Vera Brittain estate; McMaster University has a non-exclusive licence to publish this document.