Day One

London Charing Cross to Dover

An easy journey from London (in the grips of London 2012 mania) to Dover via Southeastern. Though I’m not exactly sure how authorities managed the transport of soldiers via rail between 1914 and 1918, some surely would have passed through Charing Cross to Dover before embarking for France. And many would have followed the reverse path on their return. I found the rail journey particularly useful. It was sunny and I enjoyed some fine prospects over the countryside. I couldn’t help wondering what thoughts might have occupied the minds of soldiers entrained for France during the war as they looked out over the same fields and woods. Did they feel a sense of nostalgia and farewell? Did they even pause to consider the landscape amid the excitement and anxiety of the great adventure? Probably it depended on the individual and also the stage of the war. Those who departed first in the late summer of 1914 must have had very different expectations than those who did so for the first time in 1917. Likewise those returning from leave or convalescence after a ‘blighty’ would certainly have been in a different psychological place than those contemplating their first trip to the Front. Of course, in either case, what they encountered in the trenches would have offered a shocking contrast to the countryside through which had travelled on their outward journey. Had a short walk about the town and up to the castle in the evening and caught a glimpse of France low on the horizon from the castle. Wondered again what soldiers thought at their first glimpse of France. Wondered also, could they hear the guns on clear quiet nights? I seem to recall reading somewhere that they could but the details escape me at the moment.

About cahagerman

Dad, husband, writer, historian, recovering academic, and the Consulting Professor.
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