Colette sets the reader up with a vivid description of how the English camps were set up during the first world war. The soldiers and shelters blended in with the surrounding sand, making everything become a sea of khaki. She describes how the camps appear luxurious, pushing aside what the soldiers were truly there for. Colette explains,
“It’s all there. The abundance, perfection even, and that soldier’s gait so distinctive in its relaxed agility, inspire in us in the first instance a kind of respectful dismay; as an image of mobilization transfixed, it gives a worrying impression of permanence... the notion doesn’t last. Regularly swelled by landings from England, the camp feeds a measured flow of combatants to various fronts.”
The imagery Colette uses to describe the camp and soldiers helps the reader to visualize how appealing the military looked on the home front but a deeper look shows how they were masking the horrors of the Great War. She describes the soldiers as,
"Wearing the smiles of children at First Communion, they look at us with curious eyes made bluer still by contrast with their tanned skin..."
Later in the reading, Colette encounters an Indian officer who, with no hint of an accent, shows her around a less appealing and less crowded part of the camp due to the recent deployment of Indian troops. The different cultures embraced the war with different attitudes. The English more laid back, where as others were much more serious.