The 4th Leicesters had sat in trenches overlooked by the Boche on the Messines Ridge and at Hill 60. And now at Vimy the enemy were at the top of the ridge again thanks to those responsible for our shortage in guns and munitions.
If you had wished to visit the trench system at Vimy in March 1916, you would first have arrived at the huts of the battalion in rest at Camblain L’Abbe.
These were not much to write home about. They were dirty because they had been occupied by dirty troops. For the French Army standard of cleanliness is not the same as ours. They do not notice little things like broken meats and garbage littered about. A dead animal or two in vicinity of the men’s huts does not worry them. And any old place is good enough for any old latrine.
The French are great writers, great thinkers, great artists. But collectively their proclivity for tidiness is not pronounced, and their sense of smell is undoubtedly deficient. Camblain L’Abbe was not a bunch of violets, but a sanitary sergeant and a few defaulters can work wonders, and did.
If Camblain L’Abbe four miles from the front line was not salubrious, Villers au Bois a mile nearer the enemy was far more uncomfortable. It consisted of support trenches and dugouts which were the remains of a French camp. Filth, and then more filth.
John Milne, Footprints of the 1/4th Leicestershire Regiment.