22 January 2012
In the trenches in 1916 Stephen Wraysford recalls how,six years earlier aged twenty,he was staying in Amiens with the Azaire family whilst studying draughtsmanship at the unsympathetic Rene Azaire's factory. Rene's hardness has brought his workers out on strike and Rene's younger wife Isabelle takes food to the starving families. Stephen is attracted to her and they begin an affair,leaving Amiens when they are found out. Back in the trenches Stephen is seen as aloof and a loner,his only friend being Captain Michael Weir,an engineer in charge of digging tunnels to plant explosives under the German lines.Michael's best worker is the popular miner Jack Firebrace and,when Stephen catches Jack asleep on sentry duty,Michael persuades him not to press for the man's court-martial. Forced to join the tunnellers Stephen is appalled by their working conditions and,after a confrontation with the Germans,he is left for dead,his body being rescued from the rows of corpses by Jack Firebrace.
29 January 2012
Stephen recovers in hospital and returns to the army camp at Amiens. Here he comforts a drunk Jack,desolate after the death of his young son. He also reencounters Isabelle who,after an idyllic few months with him,left to return to her children. She is widowed and wounded by the war and not especially welcoming. Next day an ill-conceived attack on the German trenches wipes out scores of British soldiers and Stephen is again wounded. Two years later he learns that Isabelle has died,weakened by her injuries. He takes part in another abortive task to tunnel under German lines but the whole party is killed except him and Jack,who,despite Stephen's efforts to keep him alive,dies,stating that all there is in life is to love and be loved. Soon after that the war ends and Stephen visits Isabelle's sister Jeanne,who is raising Isabelle's youngest child. Stephen is the father and he prepares to introduce himself to the little girl.
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