Blunden's War - Part 11B: Biscuits, bathing and Boche
Blunden had two more lucky escapes in these final days of the Festubert area.
The Christmas Day truce is well known and established in the minds of many. But Blunden, had he come on duty two hours later, would have been confronted by a German officer and twenty men; "Good morning Tommy, have you any biscuits?" Subalterns Cassells and Redway told the men not to fire, there was an exchange of shouted remarks and eventually both sides retreated to their parapets.
If Blunden had been responsible, he would have been placed under arrest, the Brigade Commander could not be prevented from hearing of the incident. Such is the savagery of the military in WW1, Redway was sent out on a dangerous night patrol the same day, but returned; Cassels shortly afterwards won the Military Cross. Both were to march southwards to the Somme battlefield, still under arrest.
Blunden recounts how his bathing party was ruined by the Boche. The men were marched down in the afternoon to an area of the canal protected by a heavy concrete lock, the Germans only a few hundred yards away. There they bathed, despite the telephone wires laid through the water:
"Sudden shelling on the high south bank scattered unwelcome jags of iron in the still lapping water. O ho, Fritz! I never dressed quicker."
And so, on August 11th 1916, the battalion marched away, first west from Bethune, then south towards the Ancre. Blunden had come of age.