Ronnie Poulton’s Battalion has now moved on to Steenvoorde, the Brigade headquarters, where the troops were inspected by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien (General i/c British 2nd Army), who explained that they were to undergo further instruction before going up to the Front.
Ronnie’s journal tells of his other duties too.
Saturday 3rd April. “This day passed quietly with parades in the morning, spoilt by rain. The beautiful weather of the last few days seems to have broken up. We had several interesting talks with French soldiers who have just been relieved from the trenches. They were very cheery, but not very smart.
Franking the men’s letters is a great nuisance, though unavoidably one gets some interesting lights on their characters. The men were paid five francs this day.”
Easter Day was spent at Flêtre.
Monday 5th April. Flêtre. “The people round here in the farms are very much on the make. My French is coming on by leaps and bounds and I am doing my best to stop the fellows getting cheated. The food is very plentiful and good, but mostly tinned and biscuit; so they will buy bread at exorbitant prices.
It is much better fun than at Chelmsford because, though discipline is more strict in lots of ways and the punishments much more severe, the tone can be much more friendly with one’s men and it’s rather humorous to receive compliments unofficially by reading the men’s letters, as we have to censor them; and they are meant because the writers do not give their names and you only know that they come from the Company, but do not know which Platoon.”
From Flêtre, Ronnie has now moved on to Bailleul and it cannot be long now before he reaches the Front.