Friday, 11 July 2014

Apples of chicken

When frequenting the estaminets of France, it was an opportunity for the men to try out their French.  Anyone who has tried to cobble a sentence together from the fragments of a language they know may feel some sympathy with the following extract.

This is from an anonymised account that was published in The Bede, the magazine of Durham's teacher training college for men (June 1915 vol. XI no.3): 
“One did not like the wine but one bought some just to air a bit of French.  Some people’s French was limited and Private X smiled at recollections.  ‘Pommes de poulet’ was not bad for the man who had forgotten what the French for eggs might be, and ‘CafĂ© au lait without milk’ still tickled him, and he remembered how the French waitress who told him the story enjoyed the joke, especially as she knew far more English than the Englishman did French.” (E/HB 2/579)
The literal translations of these terms are ‘Apples of chicken’ and ‘Coffee with milk without milk’. 

Colour sketch of a soldier drinking cider, drawn By Reverend Birch [1918] (D/DLI 7/63/4(5))
D/DLI 7/63/4(5) Colour sketch of a soldier drinking cider, drawn By Reverend James Birch [1918]
Life was a little different for the officers.  The first of these extracts is from a letter written by Colonel HHS Morant to his wife in April 1918 whilst he was commanding the 3rd Infantry Brigade.  The second is from a diary entry by Major JA Crosthwaite of 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry written in December 1914.
“The only advantage of this Warfare is that one gets a certain amount of luxuries…We had salved Champagne last night.  The troops of course get drunk occasionally on the drink they find.  We have to smash bottles and bottles as it can’t be carried or controlled, it does seem wasteful but can’t be helped.” (Morant, D/DLI 7/1230)

“We got a bottle of light Bordeaux from the cellar of our farm to drink the health of the Colonel’s father Major McMahon late 14th Light Dragoons (which regiment he joined in 1842) whose 89th birthday it was.  Incidentally it may be noted that this belonged to one of our allies, it was paid for, not looted.” (Crosthwaite, D/DLI 7/153/1)

Drawing of a soldier by Private T McCree, possibly Captain Pickering, at a table in a dugout, eating, Hill 70, France, [1917] (D/DLI 7/956/3(41))
D/DLI 7/956/3(41) Drawing by Private Thomas McCree of a soldier, possibly Captain Pickering, eating at a table in a dugout, Hill 70, France, [1917]
To round off this series of posts, Lieutenant Fred Rees found an alternative use for food as a means of getting rid of unwanted trench buddies of the furry variety:
‘A great trick with these rats is to put a bit of cheese on the bayonet and rest it on the parapet and when a rat starts nibbling, pull the trigger – result no rat.’ (D/DLI 7/560/4)

No comments:

Post a Comment