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Pastorals: a Book of Verses by E.C. Blunden

Blunden's War - Part 11A: Givenchy - Certainly not a perfume!


In those early sultry days of a French August, Blunden's future war career was determined, and there were two more lucky escapes.

Blunden recounts how he left a 'trifling' collection of verse (Pastorals, pub 1916) with a publisher. Col Harrison reads the review in the Times Literary Supplement, and "my Colonel is overjoyed at having an actual author in his battalion. How rosy he looks!"

Blunden is summoned to high command, to dinner with fine glassware, and given a quasi-promotion to 'Field Works Officer', whose job it was to do whatever was needed to repair damaged areas, and to be somewhat of a freelancer, for the battalion, often with Sgt Worley. So the tongue-tied Blunden becomes harnessed, no longer to a platoon, but to the whole battalion and its new commander, Harrison.

In the enthusiasm of youth, Blunden sets out to innocently repair the route to Red Dragon Crater. This hole - 120 yards x 70 and ten deep - had been blown by the German miners under the Welsh miners. To get to it was dangerous and difficult through a sap that kept filling up with burnt soil, and was under enemy observation. Blunden is given 100 men and the sap was dug out, his plan being to revet the sap with wood and galvanised iron. Once the work was done, the men left, leaving Blunden and Worley to contemplate the miracle. Suddenly, on the unexpected arrival of the General, Blunden is caught with a duckboard under his arm. He is immediately censured, as an officer, for carrying the duckboard himself. The dangerous work achieved by Blunden and the 100 men was completely ignored, and Blunden deflated.

Of course, the work was destroyed that same afternoon, but Blunden and Worley (with helpers) did their best to tidy it up again in 'secrecy and confidence'. But Givenchy had not finished with them.

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