Detering was overcome by homesickness and deserted. He was caught by the military police, and court-martialed.
Detering was "one of those who kept himself to himself". One day, he saw a cherry tree in a garden; "it had no leaves, but was one white mass of blossom". That evening, Detering was not to be found. At last, he came back with "a couple of branches of cherry blossom in his hand".
During the night, Paul heard suspicious noises coming from Detering's area. He seemed to be packing, and Paul, sensing that something was wrong, went over to him and cautioned him not to "do anything silly". When Detering responded nonchalantly, Paul asked him why he picked the cherry branches. After first answering evasively, Detering admitted dreamily that he had "a big orchard with cherry trees at home". When the trees were in blossom, they looked "like one single sheet, so white". It was the time for the trees at home to be blooming.
Two mornings later, Detering was gone. Paul said nothing, hoping that he might have gotten through to Holland, but at roll call, Detering was missed. A week later, Paul learned that Detering had been caught by the field gendarmes. He had foolishly headed directly towards Germany, which was "hopeless"; he never had a chance. Paul never did hear what happened to Detering after that, but he had little hope that the court-martial was merciful. He observed,
"Anyone might have known that his flight was only homesickness and a momentary aberration. But what does a cout-martial a hundred miles behind the front-line know about it?" (Chapter 11).