Robert spends the next six days riding with the supply wagons. They are constantly shelled and bombed, and the ditches alongside the road are piled high with corpses. Robert has not yet fought in the trenches because all of his time is spent with the convoys. Although the British are gaining ground, the Germans have counter-attacked and taken prisoners, causing many British and Canadian troops to surrender. The Military Police shoot the occasional deserter.
The unrelenting attacks that Robert and his convoy experience indicate that the war is worsening, rather than approaching a resolution. The presence of the Military Police suggests that the men are becoming increasingly worn down by the constant violence they face, causing them to forgo their duty as soldiers in desperate attempts to escape the conflict, even at the risk of dishonor or death.
One night, Robert rides as part of an ammunition train. It is raining, and the mud forces him walk alongside his horse. Suddenly, the horse stops and refuses to proceed, and Robert sees an officer’s dead body in the middle of the road. Robert rolls the man over and discovers that it is Clifford Purchas.
Clifford’s death is darkly ironic, considering that he was adamant in Part 1, Chapter 23 that the war would make him into a man and earn him an honorable reputation; now, his adulthood has been taken away from him completely. It also shows the utter loss of innocence that Robert has experienced throughout his time at war, having gone from being Clifford’s classmate in boarding school to coming across his dead body in the mud.