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n 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.

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