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Palin takes a break from cycling in front of the farmhouse in which Hemingway stayed during the war.

Morter Shell Injury

On the afternoon of July 7, 1918, exactly one month after arriving in Italy, Hemingway set off on a bicycle from the farmhouse where he was billeted and rode a mile or so through the village of Fossalta to the Italian front-line trenches where he distributed morale-boosting supplies of chocolates and cigars.

Rumours were rife that an offensive was about to begin and Hemingway, impatient to see some action, returned to the lines that night. He talked the soldiers into letting him move up to a forward listening post beside the river. Half an hour past midnight, just after the offensive had begun, an Austrian mortar shell hit the post.

One of the men with him had his legs blown off and died from loss of blood. Though some biographers dispute exactly what happened next, it seems that Hemingway dragged the second wounded man back to the trenches, and was hit in the legs by machine-gun fire as he did so. He was taken to the town hall and then to a dressing station at the local school, before being moved by Fiat ambulance (so uncomfortably he vomited) to a field hospital in Treviso and finally back to Milan.

Palin cycles in the Italian countryside near the banks of the Piave River, where Hemingway was injured.

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Photo credit: ©Basil Pao, 1999. Text excerpt: "Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure" by Michael Palin © Michael Palin, 1999. Used with permission of Cassell & Company. Buy the book in the Palin Store.