anti-aircraft shells explosive projectiles fired at enemy aircraft.
A1 a person who is fit for military service. Lesser degrees of fitness rate C3 or B3, for example.
Aunt Sally name of a figure of a woman’s head at which balls are thrown, as in a sideshow; a person or idea seen or set up as an easy target for criticism.
bathing drawers loose swimming trunks.
the battle of Zama a reference to the Battle of Zama of 202 B.C.; in which Scipio (237?-183? B.C.), a Roman general, defeated Hannibal (247-183? B.C.), a Cathaginian general who occupied what is now Tunisia, ending the 2d Punic War.
beer garden an establishment that serves beer, often at an outdoor patio.
Between Langemark and Bixschoote towns north and northwest of Ypres in northwest Belgium, one of the most war-ravaged communities of World War I.
billets the quarters or lodging provided for military personnel.
black-pudding a hearty sausage made of blood, suet, and spicy, pungent flavorings.
blighty a wound that assures the victim a permanent departure from action.
bobby [Informal] a British policeman.
bog-myrtle a scented evergreen that produces black berries useful as a flavoring for stew.
bon ami [French] a good friend.
bread fatigue kitchen duty.
C.B. confinement to barracks.
C.O. commanding officer.
calibre the size of a bullet or shell as measured by its diameter.
canteen a place outside a military camp where refreshments and entertainment are provided for members of the armed forces.
carbolic a solution used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, etc.
Charles the Bald Charles I A.D. 823-877; king of France (843-877) and, as Charles II, Holy Roman Emperor (875-877).
chemist [British] a pharmacist.
chloroform a toxic liquid, with a sweet taste, used as a solvent, fumigant, etc. and here as a general anesthetic.
clink [Informal] a jail; prison.
coal-boxes low velocity German shells; nicknamed “the black Maria,” because they emitted dark smoke.
commissariat food supplies.
compositor a typesetter.
confectioner’s the store of a confectioner, a person whose work or business is making or selling confections or candy.
court-martialled convicted by a court-marial, a trial by armed-forces personnel of a person accused of breaking military law.
daisy-cutters anti-personnel shells that are fired at ground level.
“An der Weser” “On the Weser [River].”
dixie an oversized iron cooking pot.
Dolbenberg a mountain outside Paul’s hometown.
dressing-station a first-aid tent where wounded men are stabilized before being transported to military hospitals.
dripping the fat and juices that drip from roasting meat.
dust-up [Slang] a commotion, quarrel, or fight.
English heavies cannons, or field artillery.
esprit de corps group spirit; sense of pride, honor, etc. shared by those in the same group or undertaking.
excreta waste matter excreted from the body, as sweat or urine.
Feast of the Tabernacles Sukkot; a Jewish festival celebrating the fall harvest and commemorating the desert wandering of the Israelites during the Exodus; observed from the 15th to the 22d day of Tishri, the first month of the Jewish year.
fete festival, entertainment.
flame-thrower a weapon for shooting a stream of flaming gasoline, oil, napalm, etc.
Flanders region in northwest Europe, on the North Sea, including a part of northwest France and the provinces of East Flanders and West Flanders in Belgium.
Flanders to the Vosges from a region in northwest Europe, on the North Sea, including a part of northwest France and the provinces of East Flanders and West Flanders in Belgium to a mountain range in northeast France, west of the Rhine.
flying divisions mobile units capable of rapid deployment wherever they are needed.
Frisian people of Friesland or the Frisian Islands, near the eastern German-Dutch border.
Froggies [Slang] the French; term of contempt or derision.
garrison a fortified place with troops, guns, etc.; military post or station.
gendarmes police officers in France and Belgium.
gun-shy easily frightened at the firing of a gun.
haricot beans any of various edible beans, especially kidney beans.
Herr [German] Mr.; Sir.; a German title of respect.
Hindenburg Paul von (1847-1934); German field marshal; president of the Weimar Republic (1925-1934).
hoarding [British] a billboard.
hop it [Brit. slang] move along quickly.
Iron Cross a prestigious German military decoration.
johnnies [British] any men or boys.
Kaiser Wilhelm, or William II (1859-1941), emperor of Germany and king of Prussia (1888-1918), whose ambitions led Germany into a fruitless and costly war.
La guerre — grand malheur — pauvres garcons [French] The war — great unhappiness — poor boys.
latrine poles poles that serve as toilet seats above holes dug to contain human excrement.
listening post an advanced, concealed position near the enemy’s lines, for detecting the enemy’s movements by listening.
Lohne a city in the western part of Germany.
lorries [British] motor trucks.
Lycurgus real or legendary Spartan lawgiver of about the 9th century B.C.
mantilla a woman’s scarf, as of lace, worn over the hair and shoulders.
mess-tin the compactly arranged metal plates and eating utensils carried by a soldier for use in the field; sometimes also referred to as mess kit or mess gear.
misere ouverte an open discussion of hardship.
morphia morphine, a bitter, white or colorless, crystalline narcotic alkaloid derived from opium and used in medicine to relieve pain.
munition-columns narrow lines of soldiers accompanying artillery to the front.
nap short for napoleon, a card game similar to euchre.
napkin [British] a diaper.
98 rifle an upgraded Mauser rifle, which was safer and easier to use than earlier models. Adopted by the German military command in 1898, it had a 29-inch barrel and a five-round magazine.
No Man’s Land the unoccupied region separating opposing armies.
non-com [Informal] a noncommissioned officer; an enlisted person of any of various grades in the armed forces.
nose-cap the metal tip of an explosive device.
observation-balloons the enemy’s method of locating the dugouts of soldiers and assaulting them with grenades and light firearms.
old buffer [Slang] old fellow.
one mark twenty pfennig the mark and the pfennig are monetary units of Germany.
parachute star-shell a parachute carrying a light to illuminate troop movements in the dark.
parade-ground soldiering ceremonial formation in dress uniforms.
parapet a wall or bank used to screen troops from frontal enemy fire.
pill-box a low, enclosed gun emplacement of concrete and steel.
pince-nez eyeglasses without temples, kept in place by a spring gripping the bridge of the nose.
pioneer dump a supply source for the pioneers; here, a supply source for the infantrymen who are preparing the road for marching columns.
piss-a-bed [Slang] a person who is unable to control urination, particularly during sleep.
Plato to Goethe Plato (427?-347? B.C.) was a Greek philosopher and Goethe (1749-1832) a German poet and dramatist; the passage indicates the education Paul and his peers had, covering everything from ancient Greek philosophy to the height of German Romanticism.
pocket-torch [British] a flashlight.
Poetic League of Gottingen a spontaneous Gottingen University league of appreciators of romantic poetry organized in 1771, similar to the “Dead Poet’s Society.” By 1775, the students eventually drifted apart after many of them graduated.
possy a location, or position.
pothooks S-shaped hooks for hanging pots or kettles over a fire.
Prussians people of a historical region of northern Germany, on the Baltic. The Prussian ruling class was regarded as harsh in discipline, militaristic, arrogant, etc.
pushing up daisies [Slang] dead and buried.
quartermaster an officer whose duty it is to provide troops with quarters, clothing, equipment, and so on.
quids pieces of chewing tobacco.
regiments military units consisting of two or more battalions and forming a basic element of a division.
reinforcement-depot a central receiving headquarters where supplies are delivered for distribution to the field.
“Saul” a play whose title suggests the first king of Israel. In I Samuel 31:3-13 through II Samuel 1:1-27, David discovers Saul’s body alongside that of the prince, Jonathan, and mourns their wretched deaths on the battlefield.
saveloy a highly seasoned, dried English sausage.
Saxon a member of an ancient Germanic people of northern Germany; here, a blue-eyed, blond European.
schnapps any strong alcoholic liquor.
second sight the hypothesized ability to see things not physically present or to foretell events; clairvoyance.
shell-shock a psychological condition characterized by anxiety, irritability, depression, etc., often occurring after prolonged combat in warfare.
skat a card game for three people, played with thirty-two cards.
skittle-alley a narrow expanse of lawn where players roll a wooden ball at a tight arrangement of ninepins.
Soldiers’ Home a recreation center, similar to the American U.S.O.
Somme a river in northern France, which flows past Amiens, where both sides battled in 1916 and then again in 1918. The first battle, costing a million lives, was a Pyrrhic victory, with so much loss to combatants that neither could claim advantage.
Stations of the Cross a series of fourteen crosses, as along the walls of a church, typically placed above representations of the stages of Jesus’ final sufferings and of his death and burial, visited in succession as a devotional exercise. The foreboding image connects Paul’s wartime sufferings with Christ’s final days.
stickle-backs small, bony fishes with two to eleven sharp spines in front of the dorsal fin.
storm-troops the first wave of the infantry assault.
tea-cosy a knitted or padded cover placed over a teapot to keep the contents hot.
territorial a volunteer home guard.
tommy [British informal] a private in the British army.
trench mortars any of various portable mortars for shooting projectiles at a high trajectory and short range.
Un moment [French] one moment.
Valenciennes city in northern France, near the Belgian border, which the Germans occupied during World War I.
Verey light a flare gun.
waggle-top a mortar shell that wobbles like a Roman candle as it spins to earth.
the well-known phrase from Goethe’s “Gotz von Berlichingen” the reference is to the phrase “lick my ass.”
what we ought to annex that is, lands that Germany felt it had a right to claim.
whortleberries blue or blackish edible berries with a powdery bloom.
“William Tell” a dramatic historical poem written by Johann Schiller in 1804, which emphasizes the themes of freedom and patriotism. In Swiss legend, William Tell was a hero in the fight for independence from Austria, forced, on pain of death, to shoot an apple off his son’s head with bow and arrow.
wireless-men radio operators.
wiring fatigue the tedious task of laying barbed wire to slow an enemy assault.