A horse had been left close to the house where we billeted. The poor thing had been left alone in a barn, too tired to work. Whomever it had belonged, had left it with plenty of food but forgotten to leave it any water. Although there was enough animal food to last all winter, without water that horse would have died. The beast had been worked to exhaustion; it looked delirious. It stumbled around the small barn with wild eyes.
I was given the job of looking after the workhorse. I fetched water into the barn, groomed its tired limbs whilst talking soothingly into its ear. I sang songs to it recalled from my childhood, soothing cradle songs I’d listened to from my bed. They were my mother’s songs, the tunes she used to entertain my younger siblings on long evenings. I did not sing loudly, I was careful not to let the other fellows hear my voice. I sang for the horse, to gain its trust as well as to ease its anguish.
Looking after that horse became my job by default. The other men with me were all town people. Where I can harness a horse, know how to care for one, the others do not and so it became my new job.
Along with the horse, there was a two-wheeled cart. It was a two-wheeled trap and its tyres still had plenty of wear in them. One day a Field kitchen turned up at the house unexpectedly, it had arrived to feed the front line troops. As I was the only one to have befriended the horse, plus the only one who knew how to drive a trap, I was assigned to the soup kitchen and tasked with taking soup out to the front line fighters.