"The Glory of the World," as the soldier sees it, can be understood by most of us.  There is the glory of having served his Queen and his country, and of having done his duty like a man.  There is, probably, the glorious memory of some great charge and of the storming of some stubborn trench.  And there is the home-coming, made glorious by the ringing of bells and the waving of flags, by a march through familiar streets and through shouting and cheering crowds, with the rattle of drums and fifes, with hurrahs and yells of welcome for the regiment he loves so well.  A home-coming like this is worth many days of hardship, many a Spion Kop, and many a dull week in a hospital tent.  But it does not fall to the lot of all.

I remember at Chieveley one morning before breakfast watching a solitary man approach the hospital lines.  He was as melancholy an object as ever a war has produced.  He was a soldier who had fought at Colenso, at Vaal Krantz, and before Pieters, and he was now staggering towards the hospital, a ragged, broken-down, khaki-coloured spectre of a man.  He dragged his rifle along with him; his belt was gone; his helmet was poised at the back of his head; his frowsy tunic was thrown over his shoulders; he was literally black with flies. His clothes had not been off for many days, and he had missed the ambulance, he said, and had walked to the hospital.

How far he had come he could not tell, nor could anyone gather how he had fared or where he had slept.  All that was evident was that he was wet with dew and had spent the night in the open.  He knew that for vague hours he had been making his way, with ever faltering steps and failing eyes, towards the red cross flag on the crest of the hill.  And now he had reached it.  As to why he had come: "Well! he had a touch of the dysentery," he said, "and was about played out."

Poor lad! this was a sorry home-coming at the last.  A squalid ending of a march; staggering in alone, a shuffling wreck, without a single comrade, with no fifes and drums, no cheering crowd, and no proud adoration of mother or wife.  He was helped to a bell tent and put to bed on a stretcher, and on the stretcher he died; and this was the end of his soldiering.  Sic transit gloria mundi!

Parent Category: Books
Category: Treves: The tale of a field hospital
Hits: 281