Cité St Pierre, December 7, 1917

Friday     today I went to La Brevé for a bath the first in a month, it makes one feel good we got back just about four o’c[.] am in the pink

In The Valley of the Moon, Saxon, newly married, and therefore no longer working at the laundry, finds she has free time during the day, once her housekeeping is accomplished. “One time-consuming diversion of which Saxon took advantage was free and unlimited baths.” She had grown up “in the era of the weekly Saturday night bath, and any increase in this cleansing function was regarded … as putting on airs…. Also, it was an extravagant misuse of fuel, and occasioned extra towels in the family wash. But now, in Billy’s house, with her own stove, her own tub and towels and soap, and no one to say her nay, Saxon was guilty of a daily orgy. True, it was only a common washtub that she placed on the kitchen floor and filled by hand; but it was a luxury that had taken her twenty-four years to achieve. It was from the strange woman next door that Saxon received a hint, dropped in casual conversation, of what proved the culminating joy of bathing. A simple thing—a few drops of druggist’s ammonia in the water; but Saxon had never heard of it before.” (Book II Chapter 2)

The book is a long way from Percy’s experience just now, but at least he has a fresh issue of clothes, free of lice.

les brebisIncidentally, Percy very clearly writes La Brevé, and the Battery historian identifies the bath location as La Brebis, but the correct name was Les Brebis, a hamlet between Bully Grenay and Mazingarbe to the north. The main feature is the “corons,” housing built for miners and their families.


The map, a portion of a trench map, and the photograph showing the corons, the church and the crassiers, or slagheaps, are provided by participants in a forum of World War One enthusiasts.les brebis post-122129-0-66933900-1452107891_thumb

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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