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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Wednesday, 12 October 2016
To think that only a hundred miles or so from here there are men crouching in trenches, trying to stay warm and dry, perhaps thinking of the life they used to live and wondering if it was not a dream. And tomorrow they may be called upon once again to shoot at other men as frightened and ignorant as they are themselves. How is this possible in a so-called civilised world? Suppose I had a dispute with my neighbour who I dislike. Would I really attempt to resolve it by brawling on the lawn between our houses to see who was the strongest?
On Monday Clegg brought Captain B. (of his battery) to lunch. Had been out at Ypres ten months and then wounded in the head, in front of the right ear. He carries a good scar. He said the newspaper correspondents' descriptions of men eager to go over the parapet made him laugh. They never were eager. He related how he had seen a whole company of men extremely pale with apprehension and shaking so that they could scarcely load their rifles The he said that men who nevertheless did go over in that state were really brave. I didn't say anything but I know that if they refused to go then they would likely be shot for cowardice, so not much of a choice. He said that he really wanted to be back with the battery, and that they had glorious times now and then, glorious. He said that to sit on a factory chimney and see the Boches going over was better than big game shooting. He said that the Boches had any amount of pluck and grit. What are we doing to these young men I wonder, and will they ever be normal again?
All of which made me think of conscientious objectors some of whom I hear are being held at Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. I am inclined to think that they are the brave ones. Apparently many are socialists and (reasonably) take the view that the "other side" is composed of working men like themselves, equally ignorant about why they are fighting, with whom they have no argument. Good for them I say.