Volume 1: Letters written on active service, A-L, 1914-1919 - Page 198
fingers when lighting the comforting and deceiving fag.
A bounding jumping excited youth almost knocks us over as he rushes at us all smiles. "I've got one, Sir, the [dashes] got me at last" (The point is that he never swears usually) "Well Harry old chap, is it bad?" "Not a bit, only in the shoulder. I'm going up in a minute, Major Rankine sent me down to have a spell, -- I'm off to get even with the brutes". His left arm is tied up and he is badly hit, too excited to know it, and I keep him by asking for details of the fight. Then he calms down and drinks tea and "thinks he'll have a rest". Finally he goes up to the firing line and gets his kit and he too goes "down to the beach". "Good bye Colonel, I'll be back in a few days". He isn't so bad as he thought and will get over it.
This is Harry Boyle, a Duntroon youth of whom I could never write enough. The youngest officer who left Australia (now a Captain) Struck more fight than any other officer up to the day he was hit, and behaved like a veteran. Had command of his Company too for some time with only two other boys to help him. Too young at 19? Not by a long chalk.
"Gunnar's done, Sir. " (Reg.Cox). "What, killed?" "No, but broken down – concussion – He He just collapsed, and the doctor says he'll never fight again. (He is in Malta, St. Andrew's, mending very slowly)
My mind rushes through the list of officers who are left, about 12 now out of 33. Then the awful tugging one feels going on in one's brain and all the time the damned infernal din as the Turks hammer away.
A stroll or two along the terrace just to see that things are O.K. below and I meet another weary subaltern, there are few left now – "Poor old Bill, Sir" He can hardly tell me for Bill Hamilton was everyone's favourite. "Don't know how it happened. We found him in the trench shot through the mouth, 3 chambers of his revolver empty. Don't know, Sir. Don't know". – "We found him in the trench shot through the mouth. I won't continue this. I dimly remember the awful strain. Yes, I remember wondering how long I COULD keep this up, keeping cool and keeping one's hand on things and just working the right levers at the right time. One never can know it, never anticipate it or prepare for it, it's too hard, but one must do it if he is to command. It's far easier to rush about up in the trenches or in the firing line, giving vent to one's feelings or letting off steam or keeping oneself occupied with the rush of close events, but I'm satisfied it's not the game for a Commanding Officer and verily am I equally satisfied of two more things (1) that if I had gone messing about the fire trenches or DOING people's work instead of DIRECTING it, then Courtney's Post would easily have run a big risk of being pushed in – and then – Well Heaven help the Australians. How much depends upon each one of us. The anxiety is truly very great. Do you wonder it wears a man down? (2) The other thing I am more than ever convinced of is that a C.O. and his Adjutant must have a single mind, they must be one of each other. What I should have done without the presence, the advice, the mere yarning if you like, of Charley Dare I shudder to think. He is the "second thought" so often best. He was the eternal Why? that brings either another course of action or confirms the first, and his the calm, unruffled, almost blase, manner that made one wonder if there were really a fight going on right here. If he suffered the mental struggle that I did he must be made of iron for when the music ceased he just went on with his daily routine of "States & Reports" while I lay me down "all out" – and the music did stop this morning about 8.30. Think of it, the demons of Hell let loose for 5 solid hours then a gradual lull till we hear no more than the ordinary rattle of rifles which goes on at all times. Did I say that when the day