Having been in combat in the trenches, and having experienced the deprivations and horrors of warfare, Paul and his company are sent to a field depot where they can be re-organized and given reinforcements as many men have been lost. While they are at the field depot, the men "loaf around" since they are off-duty. When Himmelstoss, a petty man who has treated those under him cruelly, approaches the men, Paul notices that he has had "the bounce knocked out of him since he has been in the trenches." Now, he wishes to be friendly to the men, but Tjaden still suspects him. Nevertheless, he is won over when he learns that Himmelstoss has replaced the sergeant-cook who is on leave. In order to prove his goodwill, Himmelstoss gives the men two pounds of sugar, and he hands Tjaden a half-pound of butter. Certainly, the meals he provides for them are worthy of officers.
Thus momentarily we have the two things a soldier needs for contentment: good food and rest.That's not much when one comes to think of it. A few years ago we would have despised ourselves terribly. But now we are almost happy. It is all a matter of habit....even the front line.
This respite brings the men some relief and they are "almost happy." For, while they do not forget the terror and horror that they have experienced in the front lines, they push this memory to the back of their minds; in this way they do not burden themselves with feelings that are out of place for them at this time.