In February 1916, Robert has been stationed in France for two months and is heading toward Belgium on a road obscured by fog and smoke. The conditions are terrible, as the soldiers are surrounded by the mud-filled flats of Flanders. Men and horses frequently sink into the mud and drown to death, contaminating the water in the ditches on either side of the road.
The mud in France is a likely result of the exceptionally wet autumnal season mentioned in Part 1, Chapter 14. Though the soldiers have yet to see combat, the natural landscape in Europe is an enemy in and of itself, disorienting the new soldiers and showing the wide variety of dangers that caused troops to suffer in World War I.