After they had finished searching and issuing the utensils, they sent us back to our tunnels, where we were at liberty to talk among ourselves, with two sentries with fixed bayonets walking amongst us. About 12 noon, they brought up the soup, with the aid of those of our men who were strong enough to carry it. The soup was very thin, but it was hot, and it helped to fill a vacant place in my ‘little Mary,’ which was beginning to wonder if it had to keep going on wind and water. After soup (I will not say dinner, as it would be an insult to the name of dinner), we had nothing to do, so I had a sleep, which is the best ease for an empty stomach, as I found out by experience later on. I woke up after about four hours’ good sleep, so I had not long to wait to see what the next meal was like. About 6 P.M., up came soup again, like that we had at dinner-time, and I may say there was a rush for it, as the boys were beginning to feel the pangs of hunger, which has a very sharp thorn, and I was very pleased to see my new-found chum come along with some for both of us. After we drank it, and he had washed the bowl out, we all set to telling yarns, when there came word that we were going away early the following morning, and had to be in Lille station by about 5 A.M. before the townspeople were up. That set us all wondering where they were going to send us, but we all dropped off to sleep, abut as wise as before we started thinking.
We were roused about 3:30 A.M., the 24th, and fell in on the parade-ground, and I should say that we were counted at least a dozen times before they knew how many they had on parade. At last we got on the move, and reached the station about 5:30 A.M.; then we were told off to our trucks and we were not long before we left Lille on our way to Hell, as we found out a few days after. It was the worst railway journey I ever had in all my life. The weather was very cold. It was snowing and freezing. Hungry and cold, we crouched on the bottom of the truck, and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, and passed the time away by having a few songs and telling yarns of what we had seen and done. About 3 P.M. we had a slice of bread and a drink of water. The names of the stations I cannot remember, but at each station we stopped at, the doors of the doors of the trucks were opened so that the people on the platforms could see us, and then we would hear ‘Swiner,’ from the youngest to the oldest of them. We were on view like a lot of wild animals. We passed the night away shivering with the cold, and trying to have a snooze, but we could not sleep for the shaking of the train. The driver was well up in the way of giving you a good jolt now and again, and so on through the night and the next day (Christmas day, the 25th).
What a Christmas day that was! I remember I dropped off to sleep once, and I was having cake and jam-tarts, and fairly enjoying myself. I fancy I can see them now, as I write this, but alas, I woke up with a start, the train having stopped with a sudden jerk, and set my arm on the go again. But the worst disappointment was, I could not see any cake or jam-tarts around. It was only a dream. After a short time on view, we set off again. About 10 P.M. the train stopped, when we were shunted onto a siding, where we had to get out, and then were marched into a shed with a lot of tables and forms in it. I began to wonder if my dream was coming true, for on some of the tables there were some small Christmas trees with a few bright things on them; but I had no need to wonder long, for in they came with some soup for which I was very thankful, and then after soup we had some coffee and a bit of bread. And then we were marched back to our trucks again. I confess I felt a bit more comfortable in my little Mary after that feed. Off we go again, all of us a little brighter. First one and then another would have a pull at a fag-end, as they were very scarce, and we passed the remainder of the night and up to about 1 P.M. the next day (26th), in talking and snoozing. We had given up wondering where they were taking us to. And we did not know until we got to a station and we saw Klein Wittenberg—a hell on earth, as we found out.