It’s surely no surprise that I am acutely aware of the Time-Traveller’s Paradox – what happens if you go back in time and shoot your own grandfather? I keep on thinking that if a particular bullet had hit a bit higher then my grandparents would never have met, my mother would not have been born, and neither I nor my siblings would be here today. It’s something we all know, of course, but it’s odd to think about so much. Some years ago I was in a building which had a mirrored floor and ceiling so you appeared to stand on top of an infinite precipice. Thinking about this feels a little like that.
In other news, I have bought a copy of the regimental history of the war, written by my grandfather’s commanding officer, D H Drake-Brockman. It’s fascinating. Writing after the war, Drake-Brockman has the time and the leisure for descriptions.
I kept our Battalion headquarters in the vicinity of the ruined farm in a sort of dugout. In reality it was one of those brick pits in which they store beetroots. [Oh, yes, of course, one of those brick pits]. … The farm house, or what remained of it, formed a too conspicuous object, and though the dug-out was shallow, it did us for the time very well. The cellar in the house had evidently been occupied by the headquarters signallers of the relieved regiment, and apparently a heavy howitzer had made a direct hit, for the walls were covered with the poor fellows’ brains and blood. There were still the owner’s cows and other live stock at the farm roaming about the ruins. The owner turned out to be a woman, who came daily to feed them. I had to get our interpreter to tell her to take them away and not come up again as the farm was only about 80 yards from the front line. One of her fine cows was lying dead in the stall, killed by a shell. She took the cows away at night, but left the pigs, which roamed about disconsolately. Eventually they were all killed one by one by shell and rifle fire. At night, even when it was bitterly cold and a heavy frost on, the pigs were happy as long as their snouts were covered up. They poked them under the straw at the bottom of a stack in the yard. they did not mind their bodies being exposed to the frost and cold!