Brittain, Vera, Diary, 17 April 1915

Diary of Vera Brittain


Case Study: 
From Youth to Experience: Vera Brittain’s Work for Peace in Two World Wars
Brittain, Vera
17 April 1915
McMaster University Libraries
Vera Brittain estate; McMaster University has a non-exclusive licence to publish this document.


7 ft square & 5 ft high, containing bunks for sleeping, shelves, a table & two chairs. For some unknown reason it was called "Le Château Germaine," & had a weathercock of wood & tin, fixed there by the bravado of a former occupant. He continued at 4 p.m. the same day. The guns had been at it again & the Germans in return shelling our communications trenches. The continual noise gave him a headache. I don't wonder! The artillery fire had stopped as he wrote but he says "some damned German keeps on sniping at the top of a small wooden post" a few feet to the left of the hut with "a persistence worthy of a better object." He evidently mistook it for a periscope.
Stray bullets are always flying about their heads, but no one minds them, he says. They can look over the parapet at night as even with flares it is too dark for the Germans to aim, & they are fairly safe if by day if they keep their heads down. Of course the chief danger is getting in & out of the trenches. At that point the Germans have the advantage of several buildings to snipe them from although most of the moving is done at dusk. Snipers seem to be their chief trial. As Roland & his men went into the trenches the night before they met two men carried out on stretchers, who had both been hit, though not seriously. "A cheerful introduction to life in the trenches." None of his men had been hit, but a bullet whizzed near his own head when they were getting in. He can't realise these "little singing things" that fly near him hold latent the power of death for someone. Nor can I. When I read about bullets just missing him I feel as if I were reading about someone quite different, not Roland at all. "Someday," he says, "perhaps I may see death come to someone near, & realise it & be afraid. I have not yet been afraid." He goes on again after tea. There is not much to do in the trenches, but officers have to go round every now & then to see that the men & sentries are in their places. They go round at night too, so don't get much sleep. They