Their physical and mental stress was so strong at times that it blocked out their minds, filling them with fear, grim reality, tension, strain and anxiety whenever they approached a battle zone. They would fall into silence, asking themselves if they could cope with the dangers they were about to face. They always dreaded snipers, shell shock, infections and injuries, or to be damaged with shrapnel. It could make their mind go completely numb, particularly if they suffered the loss of a friend. Some could be walking wounded, or could only sleep on a groundsheet against the cold.
Infantry soldiers often knew very little about where they were or what was going on elsewhere. They lacked the facility of maps, news and information, relying on gossip and rumour. Food in Blighty was very much a problem. They might be given bacon and liver, brawn and kidneys, bread and dripping, but not too much food was available. They might have porridge with a few smashed army biscuits boiling in a mess tin with some water and sugar. Sometimes they were given a small drink of beer, and they would take a sip of rum and roll it on their tongue. Soldiers were also expected to keep their boots, caps, badges and buckles well-polished, and would hide them at night in case one of the other chaps might pinch them. Life was not easy, and they very much depended upon friends and letters from their family. It was a relief for them to be given a short break from the frontline when they were feeling worn out, perhaps to walk through the streets unthreatened by locals. Or to enjoy a performance.
Amazon Lake Union
War might drain men of energy, but Cecily firmly believed that their minds and spirit needed nurturing. Her team gave regular performances in the camp and at local hospitals. It was not unusual for wounded men to be wheeled out of the wards and lie on stretchers in order to watch, having been treated or were simply waiting for the necessary care. They often happily accepted they could be soaked as rain beat down on them. Cecily would regularly sing and on one occasion, they performed a play. Because some couldn’t be moved, following a concert Cecily would visit the hospital and sing to patients in their beds, or to one alone if he was blind or dying. It was exhausting but moving, her team’s situation ripe with danger too. They performed popular songs, poetry, Shakespeare, comedy and gave a glimpse of ‘Blighty’ often to an audience of thousands. The soldiers were always overjoyed to be entertained.