The French are fond of heroic legends. I have now found out the truth about the affair in which two battalions were said to have been cut up, and there is not the least resemblance to the highly coloured yarn of the little fox-faced sergeant.
On August 10 the officers of the 130th had not the slightest suspicion that the enemy were so close. A few men were taken by surprise as they were going down to the river, unarmed and half undressed. Immediately afterwards the fight began, and the 130th defended themselves bravely against superior numbers, at first without any support from the artillery, which, having received no orders, remained in its quarters. At last three batteries of the 31st arrived and succeeded in repelling the German attack. We were the victors.
As for Lieutenant X, who, according to the sergeant, had been killed as he stood bare-chested encouraging his men to attack, it appears that, in reality, he fell into the river called the Loison. The chill of the water, together with the excitement of the first brush with the enemy, set up congestion, but he is now reported to be perfectly fit again.
That is fortunate, for he is a valuable officer.
Several of his men, charging too soon, also fell into the river, which flows right across the fields between very low banks. There they remained as if entrenched, with the water up to their waists, and fought as best they could. The flag of the 130th was never even taken out of its oil-skin case.
The whole day was spent in sleeping, cooking, and in bathing in the river. Some of the drivers with their teams were told off to transport the wounded of the 130th to Verdun.
When night fell we stretched ourselves out on the grass under the clear sky and sang in chorus until we gradually fell asleep.
If only those we have left behind anxiously waiting for news could have heard us!