The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

WAR, 1916-1919

I arrived in the town of Oisemont in the Autumn of 1916 to do a course in signalling. Why signalling puzzled me. I had no interest in the subject - not that one's aptitudes or tastes were ever considered in time of war and I should have preferred something like a course in how best to use the machine-gun: at least that would have fortified my chances for survival. As it turned out, my four weeks' stay in Oisemont, a little north‐ east of Dieppe, was to offer me a course in love-making. I do not say this flippantly because in retrospect I think that I loved Lucille Sannier with the ardour and passion of few other loves in my long life. It lasted only for the four-week period, but while it lasted it drained me of so much energy, of which I had a superabundance, and filled me with so much rapture, that it left me with the feeling that the relationship spanned four years instead of four weeks; as it certainly could have done were the conditions at the time not so disruptive.

In defence of Lucille, and so many other thousands like her, bear in mind that all the world was at war; and this included not only the fighting forces, it included the civilians too, who were equally exposed to danger. The aeroplane and long-range guns had, so to speak, brought the civilians, old men, women and children, into the firing lines; and this had given rise to a new decalogue, the first commandment of which was: "Thou shalt make the most of the physical pleasures for life is brief." All too brief, these young women said, to leave this world a virgin.

-55-

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