Chapter 30 Summary

Henry and the ambulance drivers are on a road leading to a river. When they come to a bridge, they discover that it had been bombed, making crossing there impossible. They spot a railway bridge nearby and decide to try to cross there. Henry goes across first, checking for booby traps, and then they all cross the bridge on foot. Once across, Henry looks upriver and sees a larger bridge that has not been blown up. German officers crossing the bridge in a car. The men fear that they are cut off. They see German soldiers riding across the stone bridge on bicycles. Henry does not understand why the Germans blew up the little bridge but left the larger one intact.

Henry and the others walk along the railroad track, ducking out of sight when more Germans come by on bicycles. It is obvious that the Germans saw them but ignored them. They continue walking, trying to avoid the main line of the retreat. Climbing down an embankment, Aymo is shot and killed by Italian troops. Only Henry, Piani, and Bonello are left. They realize that they are in more danger from the Italian rear guard in retreat than from the Germans. They compose Aymo’s body on the embankment then keep walking until they find an abandoned farmhouse. Henry looks for a place to wait in the bard. Bonello and Piani go searching for food. Piani returns alone, explaining that Bonello abandoned him, going over to the Germans to be captured. Bonello feared being accidentally shot by the Italians as Aymo had and thought it would be safer as a prisoner of war.

When it is dark, Henry and Piani continue their journey and at last join the retreating Italian army on the highway. Henry asks Piani if he is married; he is. Piani puts the same question to Henry, who says that he is not. He says nothing about Catherine or the baby she is carrying.

After crossing a bridge, Henry sees members of the Italian battle police studying the retreating soldiers. They take officers to the side. They grab Henry, and he fights. A battle police officer orders them to shoot him if he resists. He watches as they question officers before him. The battle police question a lieutenant-colonel, who tells them that if they are going to shoot him they should shoot him without further questioning. The police take him off to the side and shoot him. They are executing any high-ranking officer who is not with his troops. Henry manages to escape from the police and runs to the river. Dodging gunfire, Henry plunges into the river and grabs onto a piece of timber. He floats down the river until the shore is out of sight.