26 October 1914

Calderon found Brigadier-General ‘Black Jack’ Kavanagh last night about three miles from the front and presented his letter of recommendation from Kavanagh’s brigade major in Dunkirk. This afternoon he told Kittie the result:

It is not certain that General K. can keep me, as movement by motor car is not always feasible, but, if the worst comes to the worst, I must blue my pay on a cart and a driver rather than get left behind.

The point was, presumably, that it was too painful for him to ride a horse. Where the pain was, he never specifies, but the implication of earlier letters was that it was ‘in the backside’ and ‘urethra’. Neither is there any mention still of a plausible diagnosis.

Reading between the lines, I think George was now politely marginalised as an interpreter. This morning he had nothing to do, so ‘I’m in the sun by the roadside on a chair, studying Flemish’. He had called on the Blues and was ‘delighted’ to see them. ‘I hear that Dick S. was wounded yesterday, but not badly, and is quite happy.’ Evidently the Blues asked him to liaise with the locals:

Village life rather interrupted here. Peasants and women wanting to drift by nearer to the trenches to milk cows, feed pigs, get their bread ‘from my sister’s oven’ and the like. But the ‘doorgang’ [thoroughfare] is ‘verboden’ [prohibited]. I went along half a mile with one man, and it was all quite true. I made him feed his pigs and drive his cows back. We saw a farm catch fire a mile and a half ahead. There was one blazing a little way off last night.

Yesterday was in fact Calderon’s first experience of battle (in the distance) since arriving in Belgium on 8 October.

There was the bang of shells along the low hills to front and sides, like doors slamming and horses kicking in empty barns, bright flashes of the shrapnel bursting in the twilight, distant white puffs of the Jack Johnsons [six-inch German artillery shells], like Grampuses blowing at sea. Dead horses here and there in the fields and at the roadside.

The noise was probably from German artillery pounding the tip of the salient at Kruiseecke. It was being defended by the infantry division of IV Corps, which had now lost 44% of its officers and 37% of its other ranks. Yesterday evening Rawlinson had telegraphed French that IV Corps was ‘only hanging on by our eyelids’.

By this evening the Germans had captured Kruiseecke, not far from the main Menin Road into Ypres.

Next entry: ‘Stellenbosched’


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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