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Sorry about the vague subject line, but it's the best I could think of that wasn't a spoiler for 1917.

At the end of the movie, Schofield meets up with Tom Blake's brother (Joseph), safe and uninjured behind allied trenches near the casualty clearance centre.

But how did Joseph Blake get back from the German line? Earlier, a soldier told Schofield that Blake must have already gone over the top with his men in the first wave.

I know the attack was called off, but the first wave had already gone. Were they somehow called back? There was a three-whistle signal which seems to be the "stand down" order, but the boys attacking the enemy trenches could hardly have heard that. Would they be allowed to retreat simply because the attack wasn't going well and backup didn't seem to be arriving?

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You can use the British Battle of the Somme from 1916 to get an idea of how combat charges took place in World War I. Ultimately, there was a fair amount of time before the first wave and the second wave. During the Somme the time between charges could as long as 45 minutes because each charge itself were so massive. This meant that troops in the first wave would go attack over the course of several minutes because it simply can't be done instantaneously.

In the film they had not yet attacked with the second wave during the time Blake was speaking with the Colonel Mackenzie - about three minutes. There were a lot of troops in the first wave of attacking British and they couldn't all go out at once.

Ultimately, we can't know because it happened off-screen but it seems very likely Lt. Joseph Blake was in wave 1 but he was not among the first line to go over the top and therefore was able to remain uninjured. The fact that Joseph was somewhat clean compared to the other injured troops reinforces the concept that, while he was in the first wave, he did not go over the top of the trench.

Using the Battle of the Somme as a reference again, we know that the casualty rate of a charge was about 60% to 80%. It is not impossible for Joseph Blake to be among the very first line to attack, hear the whistle to call off the attack and return to the safety of allied trenches uninjured. Incredibly unlikely, but not impossible. With 1,600 attacking troops somebody's going to survive, right?

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