This covers the period 8 May 1916 to 15 November 1916.
Edie is still at General Hospital No. 1 at Étretat.
Click here for lots of background on Etretat as well as pictures of many of the places Edie mentions.
You will need to click on some of the images to enlarge them.
May. 8th. Back from leave. Miss Wilton Smith R. R. C. our Pop[erhinge]. Matron is now in charge [see page for Acting Matron Gertrude Wilton Smith]. Poor old Barclay Smith (with us at No. 3) died a week ago, of septic endocarditis [see page for Assistant Matron Jeanie Barclay-Smith]. Enjoyed my leave in the bosom of my family very much – am in C & D La Plage again & frantically busy. Short handed of Sisters & Orderlies – operations every day. C is full of operated on patients & part of D. which makes the washings & bed makings alone – a stiff job. However – 3 Sisters have joined the Asturias – & like it. 2 have gone to Calais & do not. Off duty yesterday afternoon – planted plants on the men’s graves. lovely day – This morning very rough & stormy. Coming back on the boat – I was standing at the very end of the deck looking forward – there were many officers sitting behind us also looking forward – when a sudden gust of wind blew my dress & coat up over my head – so that I looked like a grey tulip with a couple of flame & black stalks – you know my flames – It was a terrible business getting out of it all. We saw three torpedoed vessels – as we were going in to Havre. Did not get in till 11:30 a.m.
May 9th. One month from today & I shall be 39 – oh ‘orrors ‘ow old I am –
Yesterday was the busiest day imagineable – 6 evacuated 6 admitted – 5 operated on – 6 transferred to the upper storey – carried in blankets – to leave the beds on my lower floor for the newly operated on ones. 47 bed patients to do every mortal thing for – & only 2 orderlies – 1 S. N. & me to do it – However we worked hard & fast – & all had off duty time – & got done. It is no use waiting for a less busy time to give off duty. At that rate we should not have it. In the evening I went for a walk with Miss W. Smith over the cliffs & home by the rue du Havre.
I forgot to tell you y’day – that the last part of our journey was by far the least comfortable – they could not spare an ambulance for us – so we came with the mail – like this – when we jerked the bags fell on us. That is me in the corner toes this way.
We saw these the other day when we were coming back – The French actually want us to pay harbour dues for the one with the funnel showing because she is in port. The other 1 one I showed you in your other diary are both outside harbour.
May 10th. Yesterday was ditto of the day before, except there were no operations owing to workmen in the theatre – gave Cummings 1/2 day – hope she spent some of it in buying a new cape – she is not remarkable for tidiness, but works well. Little Johnstone – an excellent V.A.D. came to me in place of – let me think – who was the last – Ernest.
6:30 a.m. the others have just been called – cold – sunny lovely. I am being nearly blown out of bed – but think I am well enough tucked up to withstand it. Off duty evening spent most of the time in a bath. Winnie Smith went to a barge for duty.
May 11th. Calm morning – fishing fleet off, very busy & about 6 mine sweepers – sweeping. They did a funny thing just now, & I must ask somebody who knows – about it. They were going along in a line of 3 far apart when suddenly the furthest away one disappeared & all I could see was a thimble shape of what looked like spray. I wonder if it could be a bursting mine.
I watched closely & now can see all three sweepers proceeding as usual. They are going so slowly – I should not have thought they could burst a mine, but don’t know what else it could have been. There is nothing “to write to the Times” about the sunrise today – but last night’s sunset was a glory – I don’t wonder this is called “The Hamlet of the Setting Sun.” Yesterday was busy, but not quite so busy. Our new Matron is altering things for the better in the Plage. The theatre is on the ground floor – & hitherto – patients have been carried from there to the 3rd or 4th floors – bad for them – & fearful work for the Orderlies. Y’day she came in & stopped it – & had them put (with the Major’s consent) – into beds on the same floor as the theatre, which throws some of the acute nursing on to the Sisters there. I hope in time we shall amalgamate – & the whole staff run the whole place.
In the afternoon was off & went to a concert given by a troup of A.S.C. & Ordinance men from Havre – calling themselves the “Red Dominoes.” They were beautifully dressed in black sateen & red trimmings.
The local photographer arrived in the middle & took a photograph of it. It must have been rather quaint to see the smart troup out on the Casino Parade – with rows & rows of many coloured quilted beds – with patients in – & a group of up patients as audience – with a few French people – & us thrown in.
I was talking to a patient last night , who has been out since the beginning of War. He told me just the same stories of the German cruelties as many others have done. How they would go through villages & see old bearded men pinned to their own doors on lances & swords – babies lying about naked & maimed, dying & dead. Women – with their hands – or arms cut off. All horrible & perhaps best left untold.
May 12th. You know I told you the mine sweepers were very busy y’day & the day before – they found what they were looking for.
At about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon we saw 3 mine sweepers – a torpedoe destroyer – & a funny thing like a small terrace of China junks – in tow of a tug – passing. 3 hrs later we heard they had found a submarine between here & Fécamp – & were going to repair it for the French to use. – this is the best I can remember of it.
Bond left yesterday to get married. She had a very tame send off – but no one knew she was going until nearly 7 o’clock. Orders only came through then. Good luck to her.
Maxey & I were too tired for a long walk last night – So went to the grounds of a house owned by a French doctor who has an English wife – He is on Military duty somewhere. She & the children away somewhere else. She has given permission for her caretaker to give us flowers – & to walk in her grounds. About a 50 acre property – part park – part woodland – & many lovely gardens – up steps & down steps & in all sorts of odd places. Tennis court & pond. I should like to meet her & thank her. We loved it there – Just for 1 hour I tried to illusion myself that there was no war – that that was my place – & I had this poor tired nurse (Maxey) down for a rest. Very misty morning – a foghorn has been blowing. I can see the dead calm sea but the upper half of the cliffs is blotted out quite.
May 13th. Quiet day yesterday – no operations. Maxey & I took 1/2 days off – & planned – a business & pleasure tea picnic – so started off at 3 – with tea & Punch – for pleasure – & stockings to darn for business. We decided to go to my favourite wood – far from everywhere. Before we got there a few clouds had rolled up & a spot or two of rain fallen. In spite of it – we spread macks & settled ourselves to tea. Before we had got to the end of the hard boiled egg stage – the fun began. A gust or two of wind – & then an inky sky – & a down pour – we crept into the bushes – but in a few minutes that was worse than outside – so we packed our goods – & walked fast to the nearest shelter – where we found a Frenchwoman & her daughter.
It was under the eve of a thatched roof – our foot hold was the side of a cement gutter – very steep & every time our feet slipped we were in a swift running river.
The old French woman – soon gave up trying & stood in the water. They had walked out from Étretat to drive home with ‘Father’ in his tip cart – Maxey & I soon made a move further on – & found good shelter in a waggon shed – 2 waggons at home. We settled ourselves on one – & started tea again – we were absolutely drenched to the skin from top to toe. My big coat weighed about 20 lbs – I think & Maxey’s waterproof evidently leaked. Next excitement was a sharp thunder storm & very vivid lightning which drove – the Mother & daughter – Father – wagon & horse in beside us – We shared what was left of the food – & enjoyed a merry time for about 1/4 of an hour.
When the force of rain abated a bit – then we joined the driving party – & rode home in state – much to everyone’s amusement. The old French woman – simply was weak with laughter all the way. We enjoyed it too.
Home – hot bath – Madame’s kitchen hung thick with every sort of garment – all over. Bed early – still raining this morning.
May 13th. As usual. 5 operations – 2 cases to England.
Miss Rentzsch joined the Asturias as Ass. Matron. Some of our Sisters went to Havre with her & saw Allen – Mason & Leedam. They appear to be in the lap of luxury – beautiful wards – a large – & well furnished cabin each – plenty of Stewards – stewardesses, & boys in brass buttons to wait on them. Plenty of orderlies, etc. They are all looking well & rested. There is a talk of them taking out of action Australians home! Lucky people – fancy going to Australia ! Very windy day. The little orphans love the wind, when they are walking out in a crocodile they throw up their caps & the wind blows them far & they have to chase them – which annoys their keepers – very much – I was noticing yesterday that she clouted them – whether the cap was blown or thrown off – so no doubt things will improve for her –
I am meaning to get up for 6.30 service so must be quick. Went to watch tennis last night two motor V.A.D.s & 2 M.O.s played a good game – one of the V.A.D.s – they say is almost in Wimbledon form. Must get up.
May 15th. Quiet day – yesterday – 6.30 church – sent the other two to church in the morning – did very little myself – rested & walked all alone in afternoon – on duty evening. V.A.D. Mostin [Martin? Ed.] sent for duty to Abbeville. Very rough – all yesterday – still rough & raining this morning.
May 16th. Had an unexpected 1/2 day off yesterday. Miss W. Smith wanted me to go to Havre with her – to do the talking! She must think my French has improved! We went by the 2 o’c[lock] Ambulance & got in soon after 3 o’c, did our shopping, then the Ambulance picked us up again & took us to No 2 General. Matron wanted to talk business with our Principal Matron who is there. I met some Sisters I had known up the line – & she met some she had worked in Egypt with, so we had a gay tea party – some M.O.s came in too. No 2 General is – at least that part of it is – the station & station hotel. From the window of their mess room – the train comes in just below – so that if you spat it would hit the train – & just to one side the boats – hospital ships & leave boat – & all sorts of interesting things happen. It must be intensely interesting. It is just where the Seine ends – & you see the opposite bank of it in the dim distance. We came back at 7. The evening was beautiful. The weather had been tearful all day, but in the evening the sun broke through & made the tender green trees & the flowers of all colours sparkle with dew drops – the country is really very pretty round us. This morning is absolutely perfect. I should like a whole day off & to go far into the country. Past 7 o’c must get up. The lady chauffeurs are a great success. The one who drove us in – has been doing the work since the beginning of War. I remember her in Boulogne in 1914. Her husband is Surgical Specialist at one of the General Hospitals out here. Now I shall be late! & your breakfast will be coming up to you in a minute.
Fishing boats are enjoying a good race this morning over the sunny sea.
May 17th. Nothing exciting happened yesterday. There was just a mild flutter abroad – amongst us & the Orderlies over the “Inspection by the D. G. & Matron-in-Chief – one day this week. I suppose we shall have to be our cleanest which does not appeal to me much. I’m not naturally good at having the place smart. Off 2-5 yesterday – it was too hot to do much. Maxey & I went on to the beach & watched the fishing boats come in – & the fish auction. Then 1/2 a dozen Orderlies entertained us, by diving from a boat & swimming etc. Then we repaired to my room for tea – & did mending for the rest of the time.
Last night was a joy! The moon well up in the E & Venus the same distance in the W. Sea like a mill pond – & everything flooded in moonshine – Venus made a little path of shine across the sea. I should like to have stayed out instead of stuffing off to bed – after all – the rabbits have some advantage. Now wouldn’t it be nice if I could take my pencil & show you what it all looked like comme ça.
View from my window
May 18th. 5:30 a.m. Glorious morning tide far out. The brown rocks look well in the sunshine – covered in patches with vivid green seaweed. Off duty yesterday evening. Called with Matron on the Chauffeur V.A.D.s. They have a glorious house and garden. Their unit consists of 17 persons. 14 Chauffeurs, a cook – housekeeper & housemaid. I was talking to the housemaid – & admire her very much – Such a nice well educated girl – I think she sometimes wishes she were doing more than housework for the War – but, I argued with her, that it was a necessary job – & personally I rather admired the people who took the out of sight jobs – or quietly carried on with necessary peacetime work – & so I do. They have asked us to tea on Monday. After that I took Matron to the garden of the house where the Mother is English & we roamed all over the place, but found no one. Later Maxey & I went – found the gardener, & he gave us each – a double arm full of flowers for the wards – I don’t expect Miss McC. & the D.G. will come before tomorrow, but still – it’s all right – I must get up early this morning – as a convoy is coming.
4 more people going on leave tonight & going to Greece [? or leave?] 2 weeks – lucky devils.
May 19th. Last night I heard Major Segundo [?] – yelling under our windows at 9 p.m. for some one to go round to the lady Chauffeurs – with him – to see the sick one – I lay low – as I was in bed – He only seemed to know two of our names – but as my light was out – I didn’t answer.
Just passing in a sunny mist looks rather pretty
May 19th. I have got a day out in dates somewhere. We had a convoy of 300 odd in yesterday chiefly wounded from the Albert region. Some of them are very badly wounded. In one ward – there is a poor youngster – with both legs broken – both arms wounded – one eye shot out & the other badly damaged. He is on the D. I. list. Then there are 3 others in the same ward – on the S. I. list – one with his whole buttock muscle blown off – & many are really very bad indeed. Scott, Palmer – & Sheard – returned from leave last night. Maxey & 3 V.A.D.s – Sutherland – Craig, Williams went. They should have had a glorious crossing – judging by the sea this morning.
It was No. 1 train that brought our convoy. My old chum Paterson came up to see me. She is not looking at all well – & dislikes train life – I always feel I should like it for a bit. Last night I helped Maxey to get off – then after first supper – went for a stroll in the gloaming with Miss Atkinson – poor thing she is being sent to England – after having had an outbreak of nasty boils. She is terribly sorry to go – She is the N.Z. V.A.D. aged 56 I told you about.
May 20th. Quiet – & beautiful weather day yesterday. We were all on duty in the afternoon in accordance with Matron’s wishes that we should be at our posts if the great ones came to inspect. We sent the V.A.D.s off on conditions they kept their weather eyes lifting & came back at the first sign of Miss McC. I was off in the evening. Had my dress fitted – that is becoming quite a pastime with me – they have fitted it four times already. Afterwards I took Matron for one of my favourite walks – along the Rouen Rd. up through the woods – & home by the Fecamp Rd. The wild flowers are such a joy – I wish you could come & enjoy them too. We found Solomon’s Seal – & all sorts of lovely things. I brought some back for the church. The next two Sundays are mine – one for myself & one for Maxey – on leave. Matron & I had a good talk over the old days at Pop[erhinge] & Bailleul & of the present. She is a very good enterprising Matron & tries to make life pleasant for her staff – at the same time is most particular that rules should be kept. It must bore you terribly to hear morning after morning – that the sea is this or that, but really – Mother – today – is. The sea is dead calm, low tide – & the sunshine is making an edge round the rocks – of sparkling diamonds. Fishing boats under full sail – far out – & the sky – a pinky – ripe melon colour. If I am to take night duty again this year – I should like to in June – & be up to watch the sunset & sunrise everyday. Some of the Sisters have started batheing – I must buy a gown. Ritchie Thomson back from leave y’day.
May 21st. We were inspected yesterday by the D.G. He seemed to like the place all right. Miss McC & Princess Victoria are supposed to be coming today. [Edie is referring to Princess Helena Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria who was born in England but when Edie was writing still bore a German title, that of Her Highness Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. The reference to Schleswig-Holstein would be dropped when George V anglicised all the Royal Family’s names in July 1917. In her capacity as founder and president of the YWCA Women’s Auxiliary Force, the princess was encouraged by Lord Kitchener to visit British troops in France and arrange entertainments for them. Princess Helena Victoria had two elder brothers, Prince Christian, who had served with the British Army, and Prince Albert, who had served with the Prussian Army. During World War I Prince Albert was excused from service against the British, but spent the war years in Berlin. Ed.]
Off y’dy afternoon did flowers in both churches – & thought about a batheing gown. Truslove & Collings [played] a horrible trick on me last night. I tried Woods batheing gown on – with a view to letting Madame – make me one like it. I had to search high & low for the old thing & was flying upstairs four at a time & suddenly found myself under a water spout of hot & cold water – Most generous – they gave me their all! 4 gay sparks are out batheing now. I don’t mean to start before May June.
Lovely morning, must get up – as it is Sunday. Somebody – has found a treasure, this huge hulk is just passing my window.
May 22. Sunday yesterday – went to early & evening services. Glorious day – we were duly inspected by Princess Victoria – Princess Christian’s daughter. I hope she is not a a spy – having a brother with the Germans – does put one off her a bit. She seemed to like everything. The V.A.D. Chauffeurs – lined their convoy of cars up – & stood by them – in the square – & were the first visited. P.V. shook hands with them all – & they made their curtsies to her. Lady Guernsey & two other ladies were with her. Poor little L. Guernsey – is a charming young thing. She lost her husband at the beginning of the War – & has been running a French hospital at Fécamp ever since. After the inspection they all came to tea with us. Princess V. & the 3 ladies with her – Miss McCarthy, Col. Jenkins – a Staff Officer, the A.D.M.S., our C.O., & about 6 M.O.s. The V.A.D. drivers – & a bunch of us.
The Princess is very smiling etc, but it gives one a feeling of nausea – to think she has a brother doing his best for our enemies. You don’t want to know how she was dressed do you? Only in a blue dress – & blue hat with a red silk crown – & something white at her neck – You see? elderly – grey haired.
The great excitement of yesterday – was on the sea. Two torpedoe destroyers – 3 pairs of trawlers – & that huge submarine elevator. [See page May 12th.] were up & down all the afternoon. I do hope they caught something, but have not heard. An airship & hydroplane were busy overhead all the morning. I think they did find something, because at one time two of the trawlers stopped – & one blew her whistle in great agitation – & the 2 torpedoe catchers came to them. I didn’t see any great explosion or anything like that.
May 23rd. Quiet & calm day. 1/2 day off. Went to tea at the Chauffeurs & afterwards for a walk with her. Found I had many acquaintances in common with Mrs. Graham Jones – chief chauffeur. Her husband is at one of the Gen. Hosps. Tea on the terrace was cool & delightful – Wiggelia looking beautiful. News of heavy fighting at Verdun & Suchez in last night’s paper.
Someone is roasting coffee & it smells uncommonly good.
I have just had a letter from an old patient of mine, telling me – he is enjoying a month’s convalescence at a castle belonging to Lord Buccleuch in Dumfriesshire. They have the use – of trout streams, tennis, bowls, croquet, golf – & says it is a glorious place. How kind of L. B. to lend it.
May 24th. The Awe-strylians went back to their own Unit yesterday. They liked being here – & were sorry to go – we shall miss them too! Our staff is very fluctuating. It means we are minus 7 trained people. I am to take over the Annexe today – & am pleased to. It is the one part of the hospital I do not know – but Major Martyn is in charge – a nice man to work for [see page on Major Martyn. Ed]. A new job always makes one feel terrified! The C.O. gave a tennis tea yesterday – I don’t know who went – was off in the evening myself – & went for a glorious long country walk with Hindle – along the Rouen Rd – up to the right, across the Havre Rd – & home by the cliffs. The banks that were tufted heavily with primroses a little while ago – are heliotrope now – not tufted but just prettily covered with a little plant “Thrift” – you know it probably – I don’t remember seeing it before – rather like a small scabia – Won’t bore you with the lights & shades of the setting sun – through the tall young green trees or the fields upon fields of deep crimson trefoil mixed with Star of Bethlehem – & others [-] clover, daisies & poppies – you are probably enjoying the same yourself – hope you are.
Three people have just gone out to bathe – the sea looks tempting but I don’t mean to bathe before June.Many happy returns of the Day to The Empire.
May 25th. Cold, rough choppy sea day – the fishing boats are having a fine pitch & toss. Wonder if the bathers will bathe this morning. A convoy was expected at 2 a.m. – but don’t think it has come yet. We shall all be called for first breakfast, which means in quarter of an hour. The Port of Havre is closed again. We had no mail last night! There are rumours of a six weeks blockade of letters in the near future – don’t know what for & hope it will not be necessary. I took over the 4 Annexes yesterday – which means 118 beds. At present have a V.A.D. only. We are a bit short of staff again. Major Martyn is M.O.An old Sergeant was telling me about the different sorts of shells – the German send over. He says one kind, called the “oil can” – whose duty it is to upset the nerves of the troops is most feared of all. It looks like an oil drum & explodes with a terrific noise – & vibration that is most unnerving. It is not nearly such a dangerous one as the others. But what the brutes do is to send over one of them then the Infantry all run away from it to a dug out then they send over a big one to destroy the dug out. Infernal inventive demons – May they suffer a martyrdom of contience [sic] & die a slow death. Some men say our shells are so splendid & some say they are no good.
May 26th. The convoy came in at 5:30 a.m. y’day- & we were all called for first breakfast. About 300 – chiefly medical cases came – Mine were – many of them – poor old worn out things who had been out all through the war – & were going home for a rest. In one room I had a Q.M.S. aged 59 -, a C.Q.M.S. & a S. M. & another old thing all about the same age. Going round last night Major Martyn said, he thought the best thing to order for them was a stiff brandy & soda each & a good sleep – So they had the first & I hope by now have had the other. One, such nice man was feeling terribly bad with an appendix abscess – Later in the day he was moved to the Casino for operation. Last night I heard he was terribly ill with general peritonitis. We sent 10 men to C.C. & some to Rouen for Permanent Base – yesterday – among them that Old Sight[?] who sings in “The Follies”. Port evidently open again. I had a letter from you last night & one from Min yesterday morning. We never get letters in the morning, so I suppose a post came in odd just when it opened. McFarland, V.A.D. left for some other hospital yesterday. They keep nibbling at our staff, but are not so good at replenishing it!
Sea choppy – weather cold – not off yesterday. Better luck today.
May 27th. Very busy day yesterday – I had to send one of my V.A.D.s to help in Casino 5, which I did gladly – as it was to enable them to give “Barber” the Appendix man from us, a nurse to himself – He is doing badly – may even be dead now. The English patients did not go – so with one thing and another the day was quite full – Off in afternoon, picked marguerites along the Havre Rd fields – to do the churches with today. No letters. Three new V.A.D.s arrived from England. They look terribly young – & untrained – we should be grateful for a few trained people. I have felt uncommonly in sympathy, with an old brown spaniel here – who hobbles about on three legs & looks miserable! The cold gave me rheumatism but today looks beautifully sunny & warm – & the sea is as calm as a millpond.
May 28th. Very busy day. The Col. (who apparently thinks the best way to get more titles is to say “yes” to every question asked him by those in authority) said “yes” he could take another convoy. There was no push – other hosp. were longing for it – but “yes”! He might have added – that understaffed as we are – the ones ahead here – only just get all the attention they need, but as the care of the 3 or 400 extra. I had to be prepared to take 190 instead of 140 for instance – enough of the C.O. I loathe him. The sky last night was a joy! Dark crimson with black clouds – sea white calm silver – with the red reflected on it. Now having had a thorough good grumble – I will get up.
May 29th. Slack day – gave Garrett 1/2 day – & Johnstone 10-4. Off in evening went to church with Miss Atkinson & a lovely walk after – home for second supper. Being ahead [?] I sat beside my illest man for a great part of the afternoon [-] he can neither read nor write but has a good memory. Has been out from the beginning, was through Mons – the battle of the Aisne – Marne etc. & was at Ypres – while we were at Poperinghe. Slow funny creature said he used not to like fighting – “but when your blood’s up, it’s all right.” His injury is a kick in the stomach by a horse – since shot for cruelty. I asked him what he meant by a horse being cruel, “He was terribly cruel, used to run about – biting people & knocking down the pickets, but it was a shame to kill him – he was a prize animal & a lovely worker. He didn’t mean to hurt me. There were two of us on picket & he owed the other fellow a grudge because he had teased him with a stick & he came straight for me & dug his foreleg at my stomach. I just said ‘Nancy’ & he knew me & was quiet as a lamb & nosed me & stayed beside me until they came to pick me up. He was terribly sorry for what he had done. Once a man was told to harness him & he went gingerly up to throw the harness across him [-] the horse waited until he was near enough & then picked him up by the back of his shirt & flung him away. They oughtn’t to have killed him tho’ – there is a chap in the Warwicks who can manage him – why couldn’t they get him transferred to look after him while I am away.” Wish I could remember some of the many stories he told me. Do you remember I told you about Meteren – a place near Bailleul – where there was a lot of fighting in 1914? He was in all that & apparently loved it. Our men were charging straight through the village – driving the Germans before them – as they passed one house – my man’s mate saw a bayonet being shoved out to kill my man – so he turned his own bayonet backwards – & dug it in the way the other was coming from – killed his man. Then they all went into the house & found a woman fastened to the table to make a screen for them – behind her was a little child with both arms cut off. When they saw that their blood was up – & they killed the whole six Germans.
Once at Ypres – they had a lovely post of observation not being shelled. The Germans were bombarding from six different batteries, our men took careful observation & let them bombard. Next morning our artillery let fly at all the battery positions – gave them a thorough peppering – Next night all was quiet! & the Lieutenant with them said – “Boys you can get a good sleep tonight. I think the Germans have gone to get fresh guns. Col. Brainsfather [Bairnsfather. See http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/bairnsfather.htm. Ed], the artist was with them. He used to make true pictures of the men – & wrote down the actual things the men said – & sent them to some paper. He told me how one Sapper was made Sgt. There was a Co. of R.E.s working with them. The Germans were making a fine big sap – but had not finished it. The sapper – dashed down amongst the Germans – put a fuse and dashed back. It took a certain number of seconds to go off. He was well away when it exploded. It went off well – & blew up – the Germans in their own sap. Meanwhile the R.E. Capt. was sitting at a post of vantage – sniping any odd Germans that tried to escape! When our Artillery were shelling the batteries – our Infantry cheered as the shells burst. The German Infantry heard the cheering & thought something was coming & flew to their dug out – so we put a shell in the dug out & took their trenches. He has suffered the usual hardships of nothing but biscuits & bully for so long – no chance of a wash for a month. Only water to drink – from a stream where dead bodies were. He says an officer who is hated is killed by his own men when they go into action. Their Capt. he swears was a German spy when he got angry he spoke so furiously they could not understand him. The men will kill him if they get a chance. Another of my men is in the Secret service – He says ours is a splendid service, & told me all sorts of stories of spies being tracted [tracked or traced? Ed] – most interesting. Sometimes English Officers & French women – & often Germans speaking English perfectly.
One of my dear old Tommies who is only 1/2 sharp wandered into church last night & sat amongst the officers-! & sang away quite unconcernedly [-] nice of him. 7 a.m. time to get up.
May 30. One gruesome thing Sam Maddox told me – was that when they were marching into Ypres – they saw another Company of the Warwicks resting by the roadside, some sitting on the kerbstones some lying about – They took not the least notice of the passing officer – no salute – no nothing. Then the officer went up to them & touched one man’s cheek – white powder fell off, & he was stone dead. They had all been killed by gas as they sat or lay. Maddox said – it was a horrible sight, some of them were smiling, & some looked as if they were asleep. Very peaceful day yesterday. Off in afternoon, watched the batheing, & did not much else. Major Martyn is sick of life out here & has written to the C.O. requesting to be transferred to the home service so that he can have his wife & children with him.
It seems so comical, he & the C.O. mess together & see quite a lot of each other & yet he has to write such a very formal application & “begs to have the honour.” The C.O. will know nothing about it before letter time today so you & I are before him with the old man’s secret.
Rules concerning batheing arrived yesterday.
– “No mixed batheing will be allowed.
– The nursing staff will bathe at a given place at the given time 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. when a boat will be in attendance.
– Batheing before breakfast will only be allowed, with a responsible Sister in charge.”
Dead calm morning – no sun – 1 fishing boat – many diver ducks.
May 31. A convoy of about 300 – arrived yesterday – which filled us right up – & overfilled the hospital – Some will be going on to England by the next boat. Off for 1st supper instead of second – otherwise not off duty, lists, lists, lists, besides the treatment, kept me busy – The V.A.D., had one the afternoon & one the evening – & worked like blacks when they were on. Good little creatures.
Yesterday, was the first of 3 days Fête for the R.C. Church. “First Communion” for the children. They went to church in a long procession – girls in white carrying very long candles – boys with ordinary suits, left arms tied with white ribbon white sailor hats. I think there were over 100 of them.
The glorious 1st of JUNE. Lovely morning. Ascension day. I have called some of the others to get up for Early Service, but am not going myself. I never did go to the Early Service at home, on Ascension Day. Yesterday was a blessedly peaceful day. No one had a half day – The orderlies odded round – & looked up equipment for the monthly inspection & my two V.A.D.s & I had ample time to enjoy & perhaps spoil the patients. It must be a ghastly thing to be buried alive. One of my men was. He knew his company was shorthand – & the chances were – he would never be found – as only part of one hand was showing. His head was doubled over on to his chest & there was only ventilation enough for him to take short slow breaths. There was a tremendous weight on his shoulders sandbags and earth. He spent the time wishing he had been killed outright by a shell instead of being buried in a mine. When at last they got him out – he fainted & knew no more until he was in hospital. He is a quaint dreary creature – says he will never be the same again. Had another of the Chauffeuses in for treatment yesterday. She had crushed her hand in trying to take her tyre off. Quite a nice youngster. It seemed to open her eyes – to be in a Sisters Bunk for a bit. When I had cleaned her hand up – I left it to soak in lotion, while I did the diets – & saw about various things. The orderlies came up – & I did each one’s diets with him – then the V.A.D.s came to know what to do – of the treatment & a thousand odd things – then I finished – the sore hand & sent her off. She came in the evening – again to have it looked at – & said – “I had no idea you had to do such a lot of things – you seem to have to see about everything.” I told her that was the Sisters job. I think she had an idea that the Chauffeuses were the people who counted & we amused the patients, meanwhile.
Today is the day of the year that the Sea is blessed.
June 2. Ascension Day Festivities were held in perfect weather & the place swarmed with happy trippers of all classes. They started pouring into the town at an early hour – on bicycles – & walking pushing perambulators full of babies & food for the day. Later on the carriage folk rolled up in dog carts – landaus – & motor cars. It was just like a Regatta day at home. All the flags were flying & people dressed in their Sunday best. The event of the day was the Annual service to ask a blessing on the sea – for the use of “the fishermen – & all – save our enemies.” The first part of the service was held in the church. Then they came down to the sea – a long procession of first the newly confirmed children – in their robes & ties carrying banners, then the very young orphans, beautifully dressed, the girls in white with white wreathes, instead of hats – & the boys in smart little suits of all sorts from Lord Fauntleroys to sailors.
After them the choirmen, black cassocks – lacey surplices – acolytes in scarlet & lace – & the Priests magnificently robed – in handsome lace – & yellow silk etc. Our R. C. Padre took the leading part & wore most wonderful robes – there was something that looked like Brussels lace – almost trailing the ground. When they got to the shore – the Priest (our R. C.) & his acolytes & the man bearing the crucifix – were pushed out to sea in a little boat & the blessing was asked from there. After that they processed back – & the rest of the day was en fête. In the afternoon our Scottish Canadian band from Havre played in front of the Casino – The bagpipe turns caused great excitement. It was not by any means all unselfishness that made me send both V.A.D.s off – & the Orderlies turn about for the afternoon & quietly kept house & patients myself. I loathe a crowd – & I saw a good deal from the windows – all the latest Paris fashions for instance.
This is not a little girl with her doll.
It is a woman of about 30 with her son.
There was a strong resemblance about the lengths of garment.
V.A.D. Walker left last night. I had a letter from Fred asking for further particulars of 2 wounded officers for Mr. Warner – I can’t help him much.
I made a candlestick & a chair yesterday. Army fashion.
June 3. Before I forget I want to tell you what I was too late to see of the Ceremony yesterday. The Priest made the sign of the Cross – (with the big crucifix that was carried at the head of the Procession – one about 4 ft) – in the sea, first at one side of the boat, then the other. Then he sprinkled the sea round him with water that had been blessed. For this, to our amazement he used an old wooden bowl covered with silver paper & an ordinary blacking brush – decked the same way.
Had the half day off yesterday – & walked with matron to a tiny Village – in the Grand Val – of the Seine – called Villianville [Villainville. Ed] – about 6 Kilometres away. We went along the Cricquetot [Criquetot. Ed] Rd – which means through the Grand Val of the Seine – It was beautiful all the way, in colours – & in form. We really were walking along a tiny Rd – which formed the bottom of the Valley & both sides of us, hills rose high & irregular – covered variously – trees – woodland growth bracken & foxgloves, pasturage – that bright red clover – & multitudes of marguerites, lazy old cows tied by one leg – eating all they could of the clover. Very occasionally we passed a small farm – or big house in an exquisite garden, otherwise we saw no sign of human beings. Rhododendrons were at their best & were growing in clumps of mixed colours, heliotrope & bright red all in huge masses together looked so pretty. The village is tiny. We went over the old church – just a little old plain one – with seats for 172 people, lit by a few candles, & with not much in except statues of St. Antoine, St. Joseph & St. Marie – decked in trinell [?] flowers -. Besides that there were two big beautiful houses two small farms – & the place where we had tea – Café – public house – grocers shop – combined. The people ought to have lived about 100 yrs ago, dear simple things! After much description of how to get tea ready for us – the man & wife said they would do their best. We came back in 1/4 hour – & found one of the bar tables cleaned – a loaf of bread sat on it – no plate – & two eggs – an egg cup & plate each for us & that was all. We asked for butter & they seemed delighted we thought we could manage a little butter as well as all the rest. The tea stumped them quite. The man said – “pardon” but would we drink it hot or cold. We told him hot & he quickly brought a big jug of it – they used no milk, but it was most delicious & very hot. Their children, big fair baby things hung round the door – & wondered what strange creatures we could be. The man’s brother was coming to see him next morning & he was half laughing & half crying with joy over it. Matron’s little dog distinguished himself by nearly killing a chicken – he is a pup. We rescued it & scolded him – so that tragedy was averted.
The walk home I won’t tell you about – you have heard of the evening beauties too often but I don’t wonder that they called the place “Étretat” which means “Hamlet of the Setting sun.” Walking along the valley towards it, one sees it to great advantage.
Maxey & 3 V.A.Ds returned from leave.
June 4. Too terribly sad news of a naval battle [This was the Battle of Jutland, the last and largest naval battle of the war, which was fought through the afternoon and night of May 31 and into the morning of June 1. Ed] in which we appear to have lost very heavily – 18 ships – & men (?) I only hope we shall get further details that will show it to be not quite so bad. One thing we have knocked out a German Battleship. Yesterday was calm & uneventful cold – windy. No mail.
June 5. News of the sea fight not quite so bad as was rumoured yesterday – It seems we won – but with a terrible loss of life – Rough – wet Sunday – off aft’n did not go out. A Sgt I have in the ward – was opposite the Gas attack made by the Germans on Ap. 25- 27 – Soon after the gas was let out the wind changed so that it was blown back over their own lines. He said it was a sickening sight to see the men lying in heaps. It took 4 rows of ambulances – all their time night & day to take them away – Rather beautiful that it was their men & not ours. Very rough sea – much too rough for batheing. Thank goodness, lets me off another day.
June 6. Half a gale of wind blowing – a tremendous sea – rain or spray beating in at my window – don’t know which. We are all dead beat of this eternal wind – the good thing of it is – it may be keeping the Zepps off England. My glasses came last night – thank you very much. Matron had a parade of out door uniform yesterday – & found some people sadly equipped – one so that she is not to be allowed to go on leave until she has more uniform uniform. Convoy of between 2 & 3 hundred in y’day. No very serious cases. Some of the men say that we & the Germans are amassing men & guns at Hullock [Hulluch – East of Bethune. Ed].
June 7. Less than no news – just a horribly, shorthanded muddle day – all the time trying to get the place clean – there is more cleaning to do there in comparison to the number of patients, than anywhere I have ever nursed. In one house for instance – a huge stone hall to be scrubbed – four flights of polished stairs to be kept emaculate – landings & all rooms the same, that is 9 rooms & 2 kitchens – & when all is said & done – it is the accomodation for only 28 patients – The next house is as bad – the 3rd worse – & the fourth – worst of all – except the woodwork is scrubbed & not polished – If only I could have a couple of good sized marques [marquees] – & be damned all this housework – we could get on with the patients – The Army! No – I won’t start on it. I started doing a job of carpentering in the coal house in my off time to relieve my feelings on the subject – A patient was telling me – the other day – about a doctor their regiment had – who drank – & took no trouble with his patients – ordered M&D [Medicine & Duty. Ed] for everything. One man died (who had been terribly neglected) & the doctor was court marshalled “and” said my man “’e got ‘orribly aquitted & was sent ‘ome.”
June 8. Lord Kitchener & all on board the Hampshire were blown up off the Orkney Iles on Tuesday evening. No survivors – I wonder if there was a Spy on board – If so he succeeded in giving a famous man a glorious death – & many suffered at the giving. Meanwhile do the Germans think for one moment, that the burden of the War was on poor Kitchener’s shoulders? Aged over 70.
June 9. A very beautiful morning out to sea. The sun shining on the passing steamers, about 8 at present & such a lot have already passed. The sea is green & choppy – sky very blue with white flecks of cloud. I’m quite content with it for my birthday Day. No excitements yesterday. I only hate the Annex buildings more & more every day. Letters from Mother, Min & Madge & baby last night. Funnily enough – Mother has sent me – what I was going to buy – a pair of grey gloves & Madge & baby have sent me a champion needle book – with fine big bobbins & needles that I have great use for – in carpentry as well as sewing. I got them last night but saved them to open on my veritable birthday. A Destroyer & 7 or 8 other vessels – which some said were submarines – they weren’t though – unless they have changed very much in form – of late – were up & down several times – I finished my cabinet yesterday – all but the polishing – & hope to hand it over to Matron today – I have stained it dark oak – made of a concoction of Condy – methylated spirit – & iodine. It looks like this now.
The shelves & divisions slide out – & in – of grooves – so that the case can be used as an ordinary box – in times of moving.
I have just spotted the airship parading up & down over the sea – evidently there is a suspicion of submarines about.
June 10th. Received a nice budget of birthday letters last night from Lil, Madge. Baby. Hilda & Amy very nice indeed.
Lena Ashwell’s concert party came yesterday & were a great success. I went for one song & the Ventriloquist & thought them good. In the evening Maxey, Constable & I walked to the garden – of the English lady & gathered armfuls of lovely flowers – I kept some roses & honeysuckle for my own room [-] they are a great joy. Sunset grand last night – morning rough – it has been raining, but is off again. Rumour of a convoy coming at 9a.m. – perhaps we shall all be called for first breakfast – Hope not – it is such a crowd. Matron is much pleased with her cabinet, & really now it is polished with beeswax & turpentine it does not look very unlike old oak. Here comes the fiend with the bell – wonder if he will knock & say “Convoy – Sisters please” which is the polite way of saying – “you have got to get up for first breakfast” but anyway that is preferable to turning out at 1 or 2 a.m. to admit.
Whitsunday 11th. Many happy returns to Hilda! dear me she is 36 – & not married yet! We had a convoy in yesterday morning & sent about 300 away to England in the evening. I did not get any very bad cases in the Annexe. They did in Casino 5. One poor man – shot in the head. There was only a tiny dry wound the size of a small pea – to be seen – in the corner of the eye – but his brain was hit. He did not know who he was – or where he lived – only babbled incomprehensible words. Another with a fractured skull – & one hand blown off – both on the D.I. list – as well as the poor boy they had in the other day with a bullet near the heart, so near – that when they operated to get it out, they could not, because they dare not go nearer the heart than they were. Cold rough day. Received a photo of Mrs. C. & one of the 4 children – excellent of all – in such a nice smelly case. Our little chapel has been repainted & looks much more like a chapel now. Heny & Burnett received orders & left for Étaples yesterday. Take warning – & don’t accumulate possessions – you will be sorry when it comes to packing all your worldly goods in a couple of hours.
June 12th. Letters (with illustrations) from the Twinnies last night. Work slack. Have closed A, B & C Annexes – & have only 16 patients in D. Perhaps I will take a half day if things keep quiet – today or tomorrow. There is great excitement – in watching the fishing boats get off, on a day like this, rough – full high tide – strong wind – the wrong way. They are shoved off as far as possible then pull themselves through the big shore waves with a haul off rope, then when they drop that, one man punts at the stern for all he is worth, while the other two fix the mast & hoist the sail, then quick as lightning the man ships his oar, & fixes the rudder – then if the wind is kind – off they go – if not they stand & the sails quiver – until they get right with the wind, then it is the finest yacht race ever you saw to see half a dozen of them trying to get round the corner first. I can see trouble brewing. 2 S.Os (sick officers) are batheing, right under our windows – & it is our time & place & it is in Orders that “Mixed batheing is strictly forbidden.” They probably don’t know that these are our quarters – one is a very good swimmer. Goodbye.
A man told me the other day, that a whole lot of American ammunition had to be called in. Some of the shells did not explode some were filled with saw dust & in many cases – the nose & time fuse only flew over to the enemy – & the shell burst on our side.
June 13. Have just opened my window doors, had to shut them at 2 a.m. as I was being soaked with rain. The wind has blown about 1/2 a gale all night with gusts of rain, when it had time to throw it down. In spite of the high sea the S. O. is batheing – & having a fine game of pitch & toss. The boats appear not to be going out. Work calm. I came off duty at 4:30 & took Matron for a walk to Benouville. We walked all round the chateau grounds, so thick with trees, that we were almost out of the wind for a short time. Had a letter from Agnes, the girl who taught me lace making at Bailleul, she asks for an immediate answer. I have forgotten her surname – & address. Excellent Russian news – we have begun a heavy bombardment on our front. Does it mean the beginning of the end – there is a long streak of red from the shore going out to sea. Has the batheing Officer been dashed to bits – & all that is left of him is a streak of blood! Or on second thoughts it may be a line of brown seaweed.
June 14th. Took the 1/2 day y’day – Walked to Villainville with Maxey. It was a rather enjoyable grey day – windy – going, but as happened to us once before – on the way back a terrific rain storm swept over us when we were still 5 miles from home. However we clung to our flowers – & arrived after a time in an awful state of wetness. It was through my mack & all my clothes to my skin. Maxey was the same so we took an outfit of dry clothes to the baths – had good hot baths – & felt like Saints in our dry things.
Just look at the rain – I am carrying the foxgloves.
Rumour of a convoy today. Very rough day – no boats out – no man batheing.
We had tea at the same place Matron & I did at Villainville. The man’s brother had been home on leave from Verdun. Of his section of 180 – only 5 are left. Another man home on leave – wrote after he got back to say – while he was away all the rest of his section fell. So leave saved his life that time. Once at Verdun they were 3 days without rations. They must have been done up! I forgot to say – Maxey and I had a lift – in the funniest little cart – on our way outward bound. The old man was just a little bit drunk – & was very keen to take us to Criquetot where he lived – And he could tell his wife – he was content he had now two English wives. We would have gone if the weather had looked less threatening but it meant two more miles each way. The old man sat over the edge his side – so did I mine & Maxey had about 3 inches in the middle, it was a very small turn out. A French Officer dashed past in a smart dog cart & stopped & saluted – & I fancy wanted to ask us to change into his cart, but we gave a final sort of bow – & he looked as if he couldn’t collect much English. We prefered our old drunky.
June 15th. Extract from last night’s Orders “all clocks will be …… so that 11 p.m. will become 12 midnight..” and so it did – At least – some of us put our watches on at bedtime from 8:30 to 9:30 – & this morning I woke at 6 instead of 5:30 – so the jerk was not so sudden. It must have given them great joy on night duty to move the clock on – Yesterday from 6 p.m. we were officially recognized as a 950 – instead of 750 bedded hospital. Our share – in the annexes – amounted to putting 60 mattresses down – with blankets which gave us a good deal of furniture moving to do.
In the evening I went for a walk with Matron along the Havre Rd. to a little old village called ?. We looked over the church – & decided it was very old. V.A.D. Turner – left for good – she had an auction sale the night before & made nearly 50 francs. She sold a variety of things from shampoo powders – & a dressing gown – to the mat on the floor – which belonged to the Hotel – & a candlestick she did not own – She was a nice girl but too young for this work.
[June] 16th. Very lazy day yesterday – only 4 well patients to mind instead of 195 – in my 4 homes & one of them will be going out today, so we really are ready for “The Push” – when it likes to. Did nothing exciting had no excitement by post. Occupied myself on duty last night by cutting out 8 dainty & very pretty figures of children – in old fashioned French uniforms – each wielding or holding a different weapon – They are all making a picture without words on my wall now – longside side of Queen mab – (spring fairy) – throwing flowers – down to the Earth – from the back of a beautiful big blue butterfly. & various others. If it were not for the saving of expense – I should prefer the daylight as it was. It seems so silly to go to bed in the sunshine.
June 17th. Another very quiet day. My V.A.D. helped in the Qns. so I & the 4 Orderlies had it to ourselves. Off duty from 4:30. Went for a very pleasant walk with Matron to try to find the American farm – we got within sight of it – but had not time to go all the way. We asked one farmer – whom we found pottering about in his garden – if his were it. He seemed much pleased that such an idea had entered our heads – & he & his wife were most kind, showed us over the farm – & hoped we would come again.
We had a wild windy walk home over the cliffs. Still blowing, but sunny & bright this morning. The bishop of Rum-ti-foo is coming to tea with us today. He means to make the acquaintance of all Sisters & M.O.s in France – He has his work cut out!
Now if I had a sunshine pencil – I would do it all over with it – & you would have an outline of what my view is:
Brown – rocks
Green – ” covered seaweed
X – Beach
June 18. The air is vibrant with the awe & excitement of the great Advance. The well men are being hurried back to duty [-] the others sent to England. So that all along the lines the hospitals – from Base Generals – to Clearing Stations, are prepared & standing by – to receive any number – of the poor fellows who must inevitably (it seems to us) suffer. We are all waiting breathless for Joffre [General Joseph Joffre (1852-1931), the French general. See: http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_joffre.html. Ed] to give the word of command to advance & attack – and that may be any day, may even have been given – We shall soon know. The Bishop came to tea yesterday. He is a fine man & earns reverence for what he really is touring for. He told Major Martyn, who is an old friend, that he was visiting all the chaplains & telling them to pray as they never prayed before, for success in our grand Push. He has been told something of the lines it is to be attempted on & we can take the tip & pray as we never did before. Anyway – knowing where all strength & victories are given from we may as well ask for the lion’s share for our side – which we believe to be the right one. The A.O.C. band played twice yesterday – it was a great treat to all – we loved it. I went to both performances – although I was on duty in the evening, but there was nothing to do. My 3 patients are as well as the rest of us – 2 going out tomorrow. Sunset & evening sky wonderful – on the next page [below], is bad – of what it looked like at 9.30 p.m.
I am having the day off today – bar convoy. Woke as usual at 5 – but may possibly settle down for a doss before breakfast. I have called some of the others for early service & am not getting up for it.
June 19th. I had the day off & thoroughly enjoyed it – breakfast in bed – church at 11, good sermon – Lunch with old Madame – A 1. First a topped up plate of petit pois – with a few new potatoes & shreds of lettuce boiled with them – & covered with plenty of fresh butter – second – a beautifully dressed salad – all sorts of greenery – & a hard boiled egg – cheese – cider – coffee. Most enjoyable. After lunch walked to Pierrefiques with Matron – a little place – 2 1/2 miles away. Very quaint old village – we went over the church – like many others it was small – only 104 seats – very plain – & old. On the way back we discussed whether or not it was possible to bear another person’s mental burden. I said – yes – to help them bear it – she was not certain. Church in evening with Collins. Constable off night.
June 20. Even slacker day – only about 120 patients in the whole hosp – which can now extend to 1300 beds. Maxey, Constable – & 2 people you don’t know had long days yesterday – & went to Caudebec. I was off in the evening & walked to meet them – got as far as Villainville – was just beginning to think I should be late for both suppers – when they appeared – & picked me up – 5 in a 4 seater – quite comfortable! Orders came at 8.30 p.m. for S.N.s Smith & Palmer – to join the Asturias at once. Palmer was in bed, Smith on night duty – however, both had many friends – & we all turned to & packed & got them off by 9.30 p.m. – not bad work either – if you saw the amount of stuff there was to pack. Smith is an absolute mad hatter – first she would not take her clubs & racket – then would – & so on – finally, she jammed her hat on all over her head – took racket under one arm – clubs under the other – & paraded across the room – “Is this the Asturias please? Thank you. Can you show me to the tennis court?” & played the fool till we were all much too weak to pack properly. In the end someone supplied an old kit bag that some one had left behind – & we put the rest of the things in it. When at last the luggage of both of them was in the Ambulance – the Red Cross driver – turned sadly to them & said “I say! I’m afraid you will be short of things, you’ve hardly any luggage!” Good tempered man!
A cable boat arrived yesterday – escorted by 2 torpedoe boats. She was working so close in we could see the cable. The torpedoe boats are creeping about – dead slow & close in – this morning – looking at Étretat perhaps – & now the fishing boats are going off – it all looks pretty.
June 21. Busy day. Convoy – which was supposed to come at 7 a.m. arrived at 2 p.m. – not a heavy one – I had only 7 stretcher cases – & filled up the rest of D with walkers.
Two brothers of different regiments, met in the train coming down – both were suffering from trench feet – both had been to Gallipoli – they were almost weeping for joy – when they found themselves both marked E. They deserved it. Several were suffering from shell shock. In all we have already marked 13 for E – which is fine. Kerr, my piper – who plays his pipes daily – to the great delight of Étretat, was telling me about his work – mining. They often are making saps – so close to the German ones, that they have to be quite quiet – wear rubber boots – trollies have rubber tyres & run on wooden rails. Sometimes they hear the Germans under them – when they do they make a cross sap – let down a shaft – in mine under them – of course it all is – who happens to blow up first. We have mined an entire village – somewhere up the line where he was – when the right moment comes will blow it up Germans & all! Good. Not off duty. Sea very calm – but looks cold. Am not taking my first bathe yet.
June 22. Calm – warm morning fishing boats all off. We were not busy yesterday. English patients did no go. I was off in afternoon. Went to see Maxey’s dress fitted, then sat on the cliffs & made lace – she darned – Matron joined us for a bit. The day was – for a wonder still & hot. After dinner Matron & I walked towards the cliffs to watch the Sunset – a glorious panorama – truly is this place called “The Hamlet of the Setting Sun.” The sky & sea were just a rich and glorious sight of all colours – including shining – gold & silver – Major Segundo left for Rouen – No. 6. Gen. Major Martyn is doing his duties of Secretary & Registrar.
June 23. English patients did not go. There is a boat in – & 4 trainloads waiting to be put on her – so ours may not go. We hear our bombardment has started, & that our men have been practising open country fighting for some time. We have heard guns the last day or two, but hardly think they are as far off as our business ones, probably practice going on somewhere. It all looks like the awe full push. Against that – Col. Douglas – who is on the Staff & knows a good deal – says we are not going to make a push – that we are intimidating the Germans – from taking troops from this front – but personally I think & hope we shall – & have done with it – Yesterday was sultry.
[June] 24. English patients not away yet. I love the way the men talk about happenings on their own front. A poor bag of bones who is “done” & waiting for the boat was telling me about his part of the line, “Our part by Arras is better, but we must have the Vimy Ridge.” I said “must we – why?” “Oh – we must have the Vimy Ridge to make things right for the Cavalry to go over – & get them on the run.” “They have been sweeping our roads with their guns from ? wood – so our artillery have got to blow the wood to pieces.” He talks with great interest about it all – & as if there is never a doubt that what we “must have” done – will be done. I must write to you & tell you there is a chance of ports being stopped for 6 weeks. Went for such a lovely walk – last night with Matron – Fécamp Rd. almost to Bordeaux St Clair past some fine old chateaux & glorious country. Sunset not exciting – or calming.
June 25. English patients went – others back to duty – leaving me with 12 – The hospitals all along the line are slack – waiting —- for the Push. 3 more Sisters were sent up to Clearing Stations & I wish – one had been me – although in my sane moments – I know it is selfish – & all ought to have a turn – but if my chance comes to go again, I shall rejoice. But I am not going to ask to be sent anywhere.
June 26. In a mad hour yesterday – I beat up recruits for an early bathe today – asked Major Martyn to order the boat for 6:30 – & now! in one short hour – we must take the plunge – “orrid I call it.”
My chief occupation yesterday was hunting my senior orderly. He is a man who – when he’s good he’s very very good – but when he’s bad he’s horrid. I cannot let it go on any longer – & he will be before the Col. this morning – for – absenting himself from duty – In the Army a man is not drunk – unless he is incapable, & there is nothing between being drunk – & nothing to do with drink. Most people who were off took their tea on the cliffs – in bunches of twos, threes & fours. It is raining now but I suppose those silly donkeys of other sisters will say – we can bathe in the rain! There seems to be no escape. Went for a lovely walk with Matron last night same old way – fields – to Fécamp Rd – back by road. We have heard – distant heavy firing – I wonder if it can be the business guns – I hardly think so – our nearest front is 80 miles off – more’s the pity – there is no mistake about it – I should like to go back to a C. C. S.
My view is a study in greys this morning.
June 27th. Quiet day. Hospital is getting very empty. We heard that our Push was to begin yesterday. BATHED – & swam to the raft & dived. Water cold – but lovely. This morning is very windy & rather rough – but I expect we shall take a dip if the boat goes out. It isn’t 6 o’c yet.
June 28th. The sea is calm so perhaps some of us will venture for a bathe in an hour’s time. Went for a walk with Miss English – driver V.A.D. a nice girl. A youth in the ward has his 21st birthday yesterday – some gave him a party. It was a great success. There were 13 of them but 2 had to feed early – as they were leaving – so only 11 sat down together. They had a real gorge – of strawberries & cream – & cakes – & were very happy. The dear old vet. said – never had he seen such a tea – he only wished he could have had a photo of the table! They are such dear grateful creatures. I heard on good authority that in future V.A.D.s are to be paid £20 a year only. No allowances – & their camp kit to be handed in when they leave. And a good thing too, I always have felt very strongly on the subject – we trained people – hardly smelt money – for our three first years – & worked much harder.
These people have had money simply pushed at them – with the result – that absolutely unsuitable ones have joined for the sake of the money. Perhaps now – each one will do what she is best at. Yes.
June 29th. June has been a very rough month – bluster & rain nearly all the time – We bathed yesterday afternoon – & I went for a walk alone – to Bénouville in the evening, which happened to be calm – for an hour or two – It is rough again this morning. A convoy is expected at 6.30 a.m. Something over 300. No much news.
June 30th. We were all called early – yesterday – Convoy – 362 was chiefly surgical – very few sick – & badly – terribly badly wounded some in many places. One poor fellow died soon after he was brought in. They tell tales of great doings at the front. We have been bombarding hard for 5 days – at the rate of 1000 shells a battery – per day – & how many batteries – hundreds upon hundreds. The Germans are getting very windy – if we send over a shell or two – they at once, or send out a small party to find their strength, they blaze away as if the general attack has begun. Also they are carrying on with their dirty tricks. Their snipers bandage themselves up – & lie out & shout for mercy – & when it is shown – start sniping our men – but not twice! & I’m afraid they have done their own wounded a bad turn.
It is 6 o’c & I am wondering if the batheing boat will be out in 1/2 an hour – Hope not.
S.N. Williamson – joined the Staff June 27th. Sister Weirle [?] June 28th.
The sea far out is a blaze of roughness but close in it looks calm – I don’t want to bathe.
One old man – who had lied about his age to be young enough to enlist – wept like a baby yesterday – when I told him – he was going to England by the next boat. All he could say was – “Oh I have been lucky.” & told me once – when they had to attack, he dropped as soon as he was over the parapet – his rheumatism was so bad – & an officer hauled him up – & pushed him back over it – & neither was hit! He has a wife & 10 children to go back to – & has honestly done his bit – so good luck go with him.
July 1st. Not much time for diary this morning – I “slept in” & Collins called me at 6. to go for a bathe – now it is nearly 7. The water was A.I. cold – strong tide, but low – even so one is out of one’s depth very quickly – not like Hunstanton – where at low tide it is impossible to get in water deeper than 2 ft – Our English patients left yesterday – leaving the work light. Five Sisters arrived from England. 2 stripes 3 staffs. They had been travelling a long time & were weary people. Letter from you last night – you seem to have had a happy time on the Moor. Received a little silver paper knife from Thomas last night – a memento of her illness – very kind of her.
July 2. The last 8 days – guns have been firing the whole time – fine big ones they need to be for us to hear them so distinctly – & how the china must be rattling at the Clearing Stations. The Germans have been giving themselves up & coming across in dazed groups – which is fine – How absolutely glorious if we knock them right out & level them flat – & our Infantry & Cavalry – have a walk over – such as shall make good reading in history. We had a quiet day yesterday – sent more patients to England – Took the 1/2 day – & went to Gonneville with Matron & Toby. We walked there – along the Havre Rd. 9.Ks. had tea at the famous old inn – I must have told you about – found a couple of Padres at tea before us – so we all came back in their car, along the valley – by Criquetot. Parry Evans – & Mr. Girdlestone. There was a wonderful sunset last night – the sea like a mill pond – & the reflection on it like molten gold – too bright to look at – & as it changed – through every colour in the paint box – it became more & more beautiful. I must dress for church now – it is past 6 – Wonder if the others will bathe.
July 3. Our much longed for advance has begun after many days of heavy bombardment – we launched an attack at 7.30 – on Saturday morning. They went over in waves – The second one so many minutes after the first & so on. Where one man came from the first wave was wiped out, so was the second – which gave the Germans time to adjust their machine guns to receive the rest. After the second – they began to make headway, and had them fairly on the run. We took the front line trenches for a distance of 25 miles – we actually took the four front lines but had to retire to the first because – they had the range of the other three & started shelling them. We had a couple of train loads of wounded down – 1100, in all – 153 officers – very dirty – the London Scottish kilts were a sight to behold. I don’t know how many we took in the Annexes – I remembered up to 140 – then lost count – The first lot were all fed – more or less washed – & not all dressed – when the second lot came – at 6 p.m. At 9.30 we sent off 360 – from the whole hospital – at 2 a.m. – more were to go – & at 7 the next train of wounded is expected – I hear the calling bell – going & must be up – betimes – so no more now. I don’t know if there were any letters for me – forgot to look, so may get an agreeable surprise this morning. Miss Wilton Smith is a fine Matron – & Major Martyn a fine M.O. – in a rush. 3 of our M.O.s were sent to the front yesterday.
July 4. Wounded! hundreds upon hundreds on stretchers, being carried, walking – covered from head to foot in well caked mud. The rush & buzz of ambulances & motor busses is the only thing I can remember of yesterday – of outside my wards – Inside it took us longer than the day – to anything like cope with the work of changing – feeding – & dressing the wounds of our share of them. I can’t tell you much about them. We had – in numbers – horribly bad wounds – some crawling with maggots, some stinking & tense with gangrene. One poor lad had both eyes shot through & there they were lying smashed & all mixed up with the eye lashes. He was quite calm – & very tired. He said “shall I need an operation, I can’t see anything?” Poor boy – he never will. 3 men died in the train & 2 only just reached hospital & went again – West. They say we are serving the Division that has acted as “draw” – to save the other divisions – if any are left they deserve all honour. Three were dumb.
July 5th. Ditto of day before – no time.
July 6th. I give up description – It beats me. In ordinary times we get a telegram from Abbeville saying a train with so many – on board – has left – coming to us. Then they stopped giving numbers – just said “full train” Now – not even a telegram comes, but the full trains do. Yesterday in addition to our 1300 beds we took the lounge of a large Restaurant, the Orderlies barracks the Ambulance garage – & the Casino front – & part of the Officers Mess – & used all except the Garage – which is ready for today. We were not able to send any on as the boats were full. So if full trains continue to pour in today – we shall have to start on private people’s houses. I have 41 German prisoners amongst my lot. How many English I don’t know. I hadn’t time to make lists they just sent in as many as they liked – it is just a case of all houses over full. The Restaurant lounge – & Officers mess belong to me too. Some of the men are terribly wounded – 8 have died & more will. One thing to be grateful for – very few officers came down with the last lot. It is wonderful how sufficient work – makes one not mind certain things . Unpleasant insect companions are the terror of my life. Many came down with the Tommies – & some have transferred their affections to us. & we hadn’t a quarter of a second to hunt them so just forgot all about them until bed time which came late. It is a mercy to have had dry weather – for the men we have out in the open. My Germans see very little of me or of my V.A.D.s. Some must do without a woman’s care & be left chiefly to Orderlies so with pleasure they may. Some of them are Prussians and very bitter, so they can just get on with their bitterness. Yesterday I had to close the shutters of their room – the French people were treating us like a peep show – Now I must get up – What is before us today I only think – for the moment & dress & go to breakfast – which is not difficult or unpleasant.
July 8th. (7th – the limit – & no time) It is to be hoped our attacking is doing useful work for the War – we are paying a tall price! Every day now we have trainfuls down – the place is thick & threefold with them. The Surgeons are amputating limbs – & boring through skulls at the rate of 30 a day – & not a day passes without Death taking his toll. My German prisoners have gone to England – & yesterday one came is in the attic with 3 Englishmen – One thing we all get up early & work late & feel a bit “done” sometimes which gives us the satisfaction of feeling that now at least we are giving our full strength to the War. What the weather has been like & other odd bits of news I can’t tell you because all I know for certain is that it was pouring when I came along to Qrs. yesterday.
This is the sort of last straw! Yesterday afternoon we were doing dressings etc. as fast as we could – In came Major Martyn – & said – “If you can find 12 stretcher cases – who could sit as far as Havre – get them quick & I can put them on full cars going now. I then had to rush like a lunatic through all the houses to find 12 (and only did 8) who could sit for 1 1/2 hrs. Rig them up – in any clothes – & get them carried to the Ambulances as they passed. The Batman has just rung the call bell – & has not thumped on the door & said “Convoy Sister please”. I am so thankful – Must get up for first breakfast all the same. They took one of my Orderlies yesterday for up the line leaving me – I V.A.D. (a good one) & 3 Orderlies for ? patients – One house has 100 in – the other 3 not so many – but more stretcher cases – However we can only do our best – now ooo-aah – the day must begin.
July 9th. Yesterday – was a big scramble 600 were evacuated from all parts of the hospital – chiefly to England – but also to Con-Camp – & 1 to Havre – I don’t know how many we sent – but all our stretcher cases & English walking cases – You have no idea Mother dear what it is like! To begin with & all through – to be the person – to answer everyone’s inquiries – about my own place only of course but there seem to be so many questions. All dressings to be done – all patients to be fed once or twice – & all got ready – off or on a stretcher, & moving these painful people takes it out of me [one] – To get all away when there was room on the floor of a car I looked round for a stretcher case who could sit for a short time & shot him in. I think they would rather be strapped to the roof than be left behind. I have just come back from 6:30 service – & am going to second breakfast for the first time for 8 days. It is like meeting an old friend to look at the sea – & to be able to spend long enough to enjoy its colourings & doings.
I have not written to you for ages but you will guess why.
July 10th. We evacuated all day yesterday & cleared most of the hospital. I have only 8 patients left. Spent the afternoon in Casino 5. where the cases too bad to travel are – and was OFF DUTY in the evening. Went to church with Matron – had a good sermon. The Padre asked me to play the organ – I said “yes” failing a better – thank Goodness – the better soon came – the Presbyterian Padre plays beautifully & he arrived in the nick of time. It is like old times – very old they seem – to be sitting up in bed & writing before getting up – instead of being as quick as a lunatic from 6 a.m. to midnight. Oh – the sea looks lovely & jumpy & clean & thirst quenching – By the way – I wonder if any one – short of a wounded man really knows what thirst is. If you were to stand at the door of any ward you would hear – one continuous plead from all sides for water, a drink – anything to drink – & all of us are giving drink as much as we possibly can as well as doing the other jobs. One man in 5. died while I was there – & at least three will be the happier when they manage it too – one with his brain out – another his intestines – & a third wounded all over and wildly off his head. Some drink deep – vomit it anywhere – & plead for more water. Many men have told me that after our men have attacked – the Germans sweep the ground low – with a machine gun – to kill our wounded – I should think that is an act best left to God to reward. He will do it thoroughly.
July 11th. Many Happy Returns to Elizabeth [Mary Elizabeth Ledger – daughter of Edie’s older sister, Madge. Tragically, Elizabeth died 12 years later, aged only 19, trying to save a man drowning in the sea off Boulogne. More information here. Editor] – I must write to her today. We were grateful for a calm day yesterday – to put our houses in order. The D.G. Sir Arthur Sloggett- & Col. Black came round, the D.G. asked Matron to accept for herself – & to convey to her staff – his thanks for the way the rush – of the last week – was met & dealt with. It was kind of him to be appreciative. Off in afternoon went for a walk with Constable – & another after supper with Matron. The morning is bright – sea rough. Al—most time to get up.
July 12th. Sorry I have slept late this morning & now have been called – with the well known – “Convoy Sister please” so there is no time for anything. Yesterday was a peaceful day – I gardened in our back yard in the morning – crabbed in the afternoon caught quite a lot, but gave them to a woman – who showed us how. I took my shoes & stockings off – the sea was warm. Many variecoloured anemonies – shells & seaweeds made the rocks beautiful. In the evening short walk with Constable – & now – Convoy Sister please. so get up.
July 13th. Yesterday was a very busy day. Convoy in first thing – sent one out in the afternoon – to be ready aye ready for the next on – rush (thank Goodness – no “Convoy Sister please – with the call bell”). I had only 63 of yesterday’s convoy – 2 too ill to go on for a time – I fear one boy may not get better. He has pneumonia – caused by a lump of lead in his left lung – I suppose they will not be able to operate – & he is so blue & bad – poor dear. [This is Edie’s first reference to James Lennox – see separate page for him. Ed]
Went for a short walk with Matron along the Fécamp Rd. last night. She is much distressed that the muzzling order is to be enforced here. & Toby has to wear one – or die. We made him a soft little one – & hope he will get used to it. Yesterday’s cases were on the whole not so bad – only about 20 on the D.I. list – We had 5,000 men through this hospital last week.
July 14. Calm day. My two ill boys are still one very ill, D.I. the other a little better. If only I knew the creature had no bits of shrapnel in his lungs I should be much happier, but am terribly afraid he has.
One motor V.A.D. told me things last night – that if all true are horrible. She said sometimes on the way to Havre the men on stretchers cried out, with pain caused by the jolting – One man told her – that he would rather stay in France for 20 years than do that journey again. Another started bleeding badly from the jolts – what is to be done – Our poor M.O.s – on the one side have a man ? fit to travel – & on the other – If he is going to die – get him home to see his people – & the D.M.S. & A.D.M.S. – coming & sending to say – “Clear all beds you anyhow can.” One thing – the driver V.A.D.s – are very young – & probably can’t help – thinking a mole hill a mountain –
Yesterday afternoon Maxey – Constable & I crabbed – & caught 8 between us – gave them to old Madame – She will cook them today & tell us if they are “bon pour manger” if so we will get more – if we can. The rocks are a joy at low tide – more beautiful colours – & lovely plants & anemonies – & stones it would be hard to find – If I had the time I would collect seaweed in a book – There is one sort I have never seen before – under water it is a bright blue – out of water just like that valuable old pottery a sort of blackish brown – with a blue glisten on it. We walked across the fresh water stream & found it strong & cold – The old washerwomen thought we were quite mad – but that we are used to by now – old villians! We saw how it is our clothes come back in holes – each one had a bottle of chloride of lime – & at the least stain pour it lavishly on all the same – coarse or fine clo[th] – In the evening after supper I went for a walk with Matron & Toby – without his muzzle – I made him a new one in the evening that is a muzzle, but he can open his mouth wide in it.
July 15th. MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY TO YOU – and joy in the coming year – also St. Swithin’s Day.
Had a glorious 1/2 day yesterday. Sister Nicholas looked after my ill boy for me. Matron & I went to Havre by the C.C. car. she had to see the P.M. I watched patients loaded on to the Asturias, meanwhile, & spoke to some of the Sisters whom I knew on her. She is a magnificent boat. The ship’s officers were playing tennis on a deck away up in the sky. When Matron came back, we mounted our car again, & after touring round the pretty parts of Havre, came back along the Étretat Rd as far as the turning to St Jouin. Then we alighted & found our way to St Jouin – a charming little seaside place famous for its old Hostess – La Belle Ernestine – & the home she lives in, where one can get tea. We saw the house we thought was it, but would not go in without asking, it looked so exactly like an old chateau, belonging to some high & mighty family. In its beginning, I feel sure it was. Having made sure – we went in – & were introduced to La Belle. She is 75 – a tall fine woman not very pretty now – but such a dear old thing. After tea she showed us some of her treasures – a letter written to her in Indian by an Indian Prince who lived for some time at Étretat & was an admirer of hers, & some queer Indian gods he had given her – The picture of his body being burnt on the shore at Étretat – according to Indian custom – (surely I told you all about him long ago). A little sketch of Queen Elizabeth of Spain – done by an artist while she was staying there. Several poems written to her – many years ago by artists & poets staying there, she read to us – with great feeling. I couldn’t understand all but most of them eulogised “her beautiful blue eyes” – “her figure – her spirit – which was so joyful – so kind – that to demand – was to have the thing done.” She read them all in a most unconceited way.
There are dozens of pictures of her painted in all sorts of attitudes – one she looks very fine on horseback – another where she is fishing – a charming one – is of her, most fashionably dressed this period frying an omellette over the kitchen fire – done on a little wooden panel.
In another she is “Hostess of the village” – with many smartly dressed men paying homage. The house is full of valuable old china – pewter & copper & brass – & would take days – to really see & know. The garden – a dream – Her granddaughter, her daughter’s child whose father was a nobleman – was there – a very pretty aristocratic girl of 18 who spoke English like a well bred Englishwoman.
She was educated in England. N.B….La Belle…has never…been married …. she has …. a large … family. We walked home by the valley – through Bruneval – Le Poteries [La Poterie-Cap-d’Antifer. Ed] – Le Tilleul & home at 8:30 – late for supper. The view along the valley beat description, the hills on both sides were a blaze of all colours! & we had occasional peeps of the sea – through clefts in the hills on our left. We gathered heather & honeysuckle. The V.A.D. who drove us was a nice woman poor dear – she has lost both brothers in this War. The Elder was a barrister, doing well in China. He died at No 2. C.C.S. at Bailleul 3 months after he joined the Army. The younger was in the Navy & lost his life in that great battle that our muddle headed papers at first gave out as a defeat. Silly fools. He was on board one of the three plucky little cruisers who rushed – like 3 terriors into a pack of mad bulls – An officer told Miss Douglas all about it afterwards. It was a splendid act of the utmost bravery – These three cruisers went full speed all guns blazing away right in amongst the German fleet & drew all fire on to themselves, for the sake of our Battle Squadron coming up behind & they expected & knew they must all die in the doing of it. Miss Douglas’ father retired Admiral – & was given a beautiful all silk Admiral’s flag – at the time. She had been longing for a Naval Victory – for an occasion to hoist the flag. When the news of this battle came – she thought “It isnot a victory” but she heard the truth later – & hoisted it – on the day of her brother’s memorial service – It had only been used once – & that was to cover her Father’s coffin. She was very sad about her elder brother’s death, because he did not belong – to the Army – & was her advisor & about all she had – The younger one – she said had been in the Service since his school days – & they always knew he might have to give his life.
July 16. Calm day yesterday – My ill boy is holding his own – & that is all – & if there is a bit of lead near his heart – has he a chance! he may be dead when I got on duty even. Off in afternoon – had the most delightful bathe I remember – sea warm – & absolutely clear – waves smooth topped & lumpy. After our bathe Maxey & I took Toby on to the top of the cliffs & sat for about 1/4 of an hour – to dry our hair. After this I went to the shore – met the baby I know – & enjoyed her for 1/2 an hour – She was much pleased to watch a boy in his batheing suit – dashing about in a canoe – & three huge horses batheing. This morning bids fair to be fine now I must call folk for church.
July 17th. Rough – rainy – cold day yesterday. Today bids fair to be the same. Convoy of 300 – odd – arrived at 1.30 p.m. None – Thank God – D.I. or S.I. Where they all went I don’t know. I only had 34. 13 stretchers – the rest sitters. They all seemed very comfortable. My poor little chest boy is dying. The lump of lead is in the diaphragm – causing an agony of pain – & a poisonous abscess. He has a general poisoning from it now – T. 104° all the time. I hope he will still be there this morning, so far as I am concerned – but for him – I wish him well away – where he only knows about happy things.
THE BRITISH CAVALRY HAS BEEN IN ACTION – first time since 1914. & we have entered our enemy’s 3rd line of defence – oh happy day – when the Blighters start to run!
July 18th. There is a thick white haze – Cliffs are out of sight – boats & shore very dim – perhaps it is the fore runner of a gloriously hot day.
My ill boy was surprisingly well yesterday, and yet they say there is humanly speaking no hope at all for him. Perhaps he will have quietly slid out through the night – I hope he won’t mind going. Sent most of my patients to England yesterday morning – was off – but in & out – in evening. Went for a walk with Matron after supper. No letters.
It was — —’s wedding yesterday – 15th anniversary. He says – he is quite pleased with married life – thinks it infinitely preferable to living single – & advises one – to “take the man – if he loves you” even if you don’t love him – it will grow. I said I would bear it in mind, but was afraid it had come a little late for me. News good but not much of it.
July 19th. I hardly dare write down – my dying boy was a shade better yesterday – Perhaps we have yet to learn what the Great Physician can do – or perhaps it was a flash of betterness – I am longing to see this morning.
Yesterday six of us – went down to bathe, but the S.M. said it was too rough for the boat to go out. So much as we should have enjoyed the dip – we could not have it without breaking a very rigid rule – we went to the rocks instead & paddled in the breakers for a bit.
Made lace beside my sick boy in evening – as the other patients were well enough to be looked after by an orderly. This morning is cold but sunny, & the sea & rocks look beautiful – I always want to draw them, but can’t for nuts – So au revoir – I have been glued to the Base – for 8 months – wish they would send me back to a C.C.S. Never mind – take your job & don’t grizzle. This is a lovely place.
Ill boy still holding his own – but we won’t say too much about it. Am longing to know how he is this morning. Lovely summer’s day yesterday – the boat was out – & many off duty people bathed. I was not off till evening, then went for a long walk with Matron & Toby. Rested in a hay field on the Cliff top – to enjoy the view – & came back – just a breath late for second supper. Two English airships & some English trawlers were on the submarine hunt yesterday afternoon & evening. This early saving bill is most misleading. [To save energy and help the war effort by saving energy, the Summer Time Act 1916 followed the example of Germany and many other European countries by advancing the clocks for one hour between May 21 and October 1. Ed] It was really 4.30 a.m. when I got up – & very cold – only now – 5, calling itself 6 – is it beginning even to look warm. The sea is dead calm – & there are salmony-pinky coloured clouds warming up to full day. Excitement is growing amongst the people here – & they think the war will end in or before September. Long may they be right! It is frightfully tempting to run out for a dip – but rules are so strict – not to go without a boat! If only the boat would go – It looks so tempting for a swim.
July 21. No. My ill boy is going to die after all. He is simply being poisoned by his own poison. I suppose the lump of lead is making havoc of the lung – & that is going bad & poisoning him. He talked more yesterday than ever before, but does not look right – & has such a quick pulse. I think he will die quite soon. Yesterday was a gloriously fine day. I was off in afternoon – Many of us bathed, & one Miss Andrew, swam out into the strong currents & was nearly drowned – sank twice, then the boat got her. It is a pity to swim out too far – it only means rules being made for everyone.
After my bathe I sat in a hay field & dried my luxuriant locks. Miss Kaberry (Q.A.) our Ass. Matron left yesterday to be Matron of No 26, Étaples [see page for Acting Matron Mabel Kaberry. Ed]. Went for a short walk after supper with Matron & Toby. This morning – would give an extravagance of francs to be allowed a dip & a swim in the sea.
Note reads: 6.30 a.m. – Excuse me mentioning that where the sea is yellow – is reflection made by bright sun – It really is yellow
Ill boy still alive, but very, very ill indeed. Lovely day – off in afternoon, bathed – the sea was so clear we could see the under sea part of people swimming far away – & could see the bottom easily – in water deeper than ourselves. After bathe, Maxey, Constable & I took tea on to the cliff – watermelon – & rolls – & tea – very good – New Ass. Matron arrived – she has been jumped from Staff Nurse to her present job. Name, Wilson. It is only a little past 5 – perhaps at 6.30 – we shall bathe – if the boat condescends to go out.
23rd. I will not give you a bulletin of my ill boy. it might not be true. We will wait & see how he is today. Off last night, Walked to Bénouville with Matron & Toby. Weather unsettled – & very blowy this morning. (Excuse me – I have just inked my sheet & am going for some milk) – then it will be time to get up for church.
24. Many happy returns of the Day to Little Min. A heavy Convoy is coming in this morning, so we must all be up for first breakfast. And it isn’t to be wondered at after the fighting there has been the last two or three days. Longueville [probably La Longueville – East of Bavay. Ed] – we took – & then the Germans got a footing in the North of it again – & another village – before 5.30 yesterday – had changed hands twice. Off yesterday afternoon – slept on my bed. Truslove off night. Wait, on.
25th. Busy day yesterday – Convoy of 450 arrived at 9 a.m. We took in 80 – sent 22 on to England – & 20 to No … Gen. Poor wretches! one cannot help feeling sorry for them, while they are waiting for their car to take them to their destination – 2 of them added to their troubles by getting away & drinking brandy. They were found drunk – & put in the guard room, where they became violent & smashed all they could. I wonder why they have sunk so low, they may have the kindest natures, and a whole lot of good in them.
When I told one old Sergeant to change back quick to khaki to go to England – He laughed & sobbed & thanked me – all in one. He had been through many “thick of its” & had not been home – to his wife & children. I told him it was the M.O. who was sending him – not me. They so often think it is we, Sisters who send them – & after all – what could we do without the signature of the M.O. in charge – & of the C.O. The sea looks very tempting for a dip – but the boat is sure to be late or not at all – & I am tired of being made a fool of. Ill boy – in statu quo.
26th. Lovely day yesterday – Many of us bathed & enjoyed it very much – the evening – sky & sea – were a picture of beauty & soft shadows. This morning is just right too, but the silly boat will not be out – for sure. Did not do much else in afternoon. The airship was over yesterday very low down & near in – Mahoney – an Irish Sister entirely in sympathy with the Sinn Feiners left on Monday to take a Matron’s job in a Civil [?] Hosp. in Dublin. Don’t ask me how my ill boy is – I dare not say, in case he is not really. 7.30 – later. I risked it – found the boat was out – & had the bathe of my life. The water was as clear as glass – when farish out of my depth I could see the pebbles – as clearly as in 6 inches of fresh water. Collins came too – & the others will be sorry they did not.
27. My ill boy may be dead by now. He was dying yesterday & knew it. I stayed with him until 11. He implored me “not to leave him the night” but that would be impossible I only hope the poor little creature is happily away. No boat out this morning – so no bathe. The English patients were to go at 4 – so I expect the men were all up then and are too tired. No other news. Epilepsy is very much like being possessed of devils. While I was on duty late – one Epileptic had a succession of about 4 fits –
28th. My poor ill boy did not manage to get away yesterday, but he is terribly feverish & weak & keeps coughing up – stuff from fresh abscesses – as soon as one dies off – another starts.
Lena Ashwell’s Concert party were here – & gave us a charming selection of songs – & violin & piano – pieces. Yesterday was muggy, everywhere shrouded in white mist – Today bids fair to be the same. The sea is just right for a dip – but I have not the least doubt – the men of the boat will say it is too foggy. Any excuse is better than taking the boat out. I had a pathetic letter from my boy’s Mother last night – poor thing, she is suffering far more than he is.
29. Ill boy in statu quo. There was a heavy sea mist yesterday – Bathed in afternoon, went for a walk with Matron & Toby after supper. The lights & shades & various effects were wonderful. From the Golf Course cliff – Étretat showed clear – like a tiny view in a penholder – all the country even close round – was blotted out, the opposite cliff & the church – not to be seen at all – only the little crescent of houses & batheing huts. Out to sea, there was a magnificent sunset in progress but only at the brightest part was it able to glimmer through. The sea – dead calm, managed to get just a few of the sunset rays – to play with – very curious & wonderful. This morning is calm – & if the boat goes out – perhaps I will – but I know it is very cold – The freshwater stream is steaming like it does in winter.
30th. The boat did go out & we had a glorious bathe. a French girl went out too far & got into trouble. A Frenchman in all his clothes dashed after her first – then one of our orderlies went to the rescue – by the time we had floundered up – she was out & had returned what she had taken of the sea – & was feeling better – If only they would bathe nearer our boat! Yesterday was a glorious day. Sunny & summerlike – & there were many people of the Gay Parisienne type to amuse us – they – do – dress – queer! Now I must get up for church.
Off in afternoon went with Maxey to a glorious garden – where we cut flowers to our hearts’ content & when we both had a double arms full – asked the old man how much – He – with an appologetic look of “hope it is not too much” – said – 2 francs les deux!! then we did the flowers in both churches – took bundles to the ward – gave some away – & still had some left for our own rooms.
31. Not a glimmer of hope for my poor boy. He is getting a generally poisoned condition, & is daily weaker & worse. He has been good, but now, is so tired I think he will be glad of a rest. Off duty last night, went for a lovely walk with Matron & Toby, over the Golf Links cliff as far as the first Coast Guard Station, climbed down to the shore – & found to our great surprise – Miss Wallen’s hut was there, not miles further on, as we thought. The evening was the sunniest & hottest we have had – She was just going for a bathe, & I wished I could – she was undressing like lightning to go out in a little fishing boat, that was starting off. Matron had a brain wave, she said – why not hurry up & have a dip – a boat is a boat – & that is enough to swear by. So I borrowed a gown that was there, & had a delightful bathe, all far from Étretat & everyone – in this wild little bay. Never enjoyed a bathe more in my life. It was twins with one Fred & I had once, on our way from Sandwich to Deal – When we couldn’t bear it any longer & bathed in what was next our skin – & loved it – & an old shepherd – thought we were stark mad.
Miss Blakely [see page for Acting Principal Matron Maud Blakely] & 5 or 6 V.A.D.s – came to tea here from Havre yesterday – they like this place. I don’t so much on Sundays. It is crowded with smart cars – & ultra smart people – from Paris & thereabout. It is amusing to look at their clothes, they are really quaint in their extremeness, but they made the place so noisy for my poor ill boy.
This morning is cold – & draughty. & I am hoping those fiends will not come & dig me out for a bathe – why can’t they quietly go & bathe – if they want to.
AUGUST 1st. Fine calm morning for the 1st of Aug. A most queer thing passed here at 1/4 past 5. I imagine, something to do with the excitement of yesterday. All the morning & up to tea time 4 or 5 hydroplanes – & the airship were scouting busily. Just at tea time (I was at tea with Matron) there was an explosion – to those who knew – it was unmistakably a shell bursting – We were both startled nearly out of breath, & went out – to find – absolutely nothing. No one even seemed to have heard it – or wondered what it was. When I went back to the ward – the men all said – it was a bursting shell – perhaps a shot from a naval gun at sea – or a bomb – dropped – for practice by an aeroplane. One man told me he was quite sure he had seen a submarine. In the evening we heard from the coast guard on the cliff that the aircraft had been scouting for a submarine all day – & one of them had dropped a bomb on it. If so good luck & I enjoyed the noise. A convoy of 380 arrived soon after 8 o’c yesterday morning – my share made me up to a family of 69 – so instead of a bathe it was “Convoy Sister please.” & first breakfast. I wonder if some unwelcome nuisance of a person is coming to call me for a bathe. I got up soon after 5 o’c by mistake, but am glad, because I saw that queer thing – what the break of white was – I could not make out. she was going at a decent rate.
Had a letter from you last night – So sorry you have been plagued with that beastly neuritis again.
August 2nd. Yesterday was the hottest day this summer, lovely. Off in evening went for long walk with Matron & Toby. Havre Rd – home by cliffs – sunset a glory – Ill boy – weaker & more nearly dead. Had a lovely bathe before breakfast yesterday. Again there was a man batheing! Standing order – for batheing “On no account is mixed batheing to be allowed.” but as 6.30 a.m. is our time – He was the mixture, not us. The A.D.M.S. has received orders – to prepare all base hospitals – on the super expansion scale – for the next big push – which means we are to be ready to take 1600 – without turning a hair – any number at a push.
August 3rd. Yesterday was calm – & no special news. The afternoon was so hot. all I felt equal to was a bath & then to sit on the shore & watch the bathers. the women kind finish at 3. Then patients, Orderlies – Officers, all & sundry have their innings. There must have been well over 100 of them & all but about 12 could swim well – They looked like so many seals swarming round the raft – & diving off in all directions! My ill boy has got a surgical emphasema which shows – lung destruction is going on – & I am afraid he cannot put up a fight against that. Call bell! & a beautiful, beautiful sea.
August 4th. No fresh news. Hot – calm – lovely weather. Off last night – walked over the cliffs with Matron & Toby. Had a letter from the Mother of my ill boy. She asks that he may write just two words to her & she will feel more content. So I went back to the ward last night – in case he is not there this morning – & helped him do it – It is a poor little 5 words scrawl – but I hope it will please her poor soul. The Hospital Sports are to be held tomorrow bar convoy etc. Two items for Sisters – an egg & spoon race – & a table decoration competition. Our Mess is giving the prize for the Tug o’War.
6.30 a.m. A hospital ship has just slip past – looking very cool & white & beautiful.
August 5th. Ill boy – very sick & sore all day – worse. No special news – 3 sisters are already up & away to gather flowers for the decorating of their tables this afternoon.
August 6th. I’m too headachy & bored – to write my diary.
The Sports were a great success – & all went off well – & the Ordinance Band was a great treat to us all. Both my V.A.D.s – went in for the table decoration – one got 1st Prize & the other 2nd – so that was not so bad for the old Annexe – Iglu [?](orderly) took two prizes too & came in 4th – in the 3 mile race. I did not go up until the evening, but it was all very pretty & good fun.August 7th. I am sorry I didn’t tell you more about the Sports, but will try to get some snap shots for you. Yesterday – quiet – Walk in evening to Cliff with Constable. No letters – Westminster. Ill boy even worse. Two or three Sisters were promised “long days” but at suppertime a telegram came – telling of a Convoy of 400 – coming this morning so it will be “Convoy Sister Please” – & early breakfast.
The Port has been closed for 3 or 4 days – owing to submarines. A merchantman with ammunition arrived safely 3 days ago – the vessel behind him was blown to bits – & he was unable to help. I expect the Spies keep our enemies well informed of when ammunition is sent. The submarines are probably caught as there was a mail last night.
August 8th. Convoy of 400 in – Sent an English Convoy out – Busy day. I am left with a family of 64. None seriously ill – except poor Lennox, who really seems to be chained to Earth. He is so utterly weak, that even to turn his head is hard work. I wrote for him to his Mother & fiancée again yesterday, wanted him to tell me his own words – but all he said was, “I don’t know what there is you could say.” I knew his Mother was his greatest anxiety, & wrote “I am no stronger at all – but I have tried my hardest to take all my food & medicine, & to get well” he said “Yes – say just that I wanted her to know just that.” I don’t think he will be detained longer than this week, & hope not for his own sake. There was an old S.A. campaigner D.S.M. amongst my men – a Sergeant Major – a typical old soldier – Wonder if the boat will be out – it is calm enough in all conscience. Was not off duty, but went for an hour’s walk with Matron from 6.30 – about which I shall hear from my M.O. If ever I am off in the evening – he tells me I had a half day off – old silly. He likes to come at the same time, sit in the same chair – find the same person writing the night report – every night. I suppose because at home – he finds the same person to talk to – he thinks he ought to here.
August 9th. It is getting uncommonly parky in the early morning – of course we must not forget that 5.30 – is really 4.30 so it would be cold. Quietish day – yesterday. sent patients to England. Off in afternoon, took tea – with old Atky (V.A.D.) – to the small woods off Havre Rd – very delightful – Yesterday morning something rather interesting – crossed our path. A biggish steamer, evidently wounded – was towed backwards – past here towards Havre. There were two mine sweepers – just in front – & an addition[al] tug in attendance. Some people say there was a submarine alongside – personally I did not see that, if so – probably – the steamer had been torpedoed – ineffectually, & the submarine had been taken. I had a terrible fierce lecture from my M.O. last night, on not being married – He is a dear old thing, & says he has found marriage – an undiluted success! So – I told him – with the saddest look I could raise – that “my day was done” – it was too late!
The sea is calm & high & strong. I have promised to be ready for a dip at 6.30, which is a nuisance – I far prefer – someone to come & persuade me!
August 10th. Many happy returns of the day to Fred. I had a half day yesterday. Matron & I took tea to the beautiful, solitary bay where Miss Wallen has her hut. She is very kind & allows us to use it & all her things – so we only took milk & eatables. First we bathed, the sea was dead calm & warm – then had tea – if you like to know what – hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumber – & bread & butter. We started for home at about quarter past 6 – & met Miss Wallen – with a heavy load of supper. She was having two of our Sisters out to supper. She has asked us to go some day. The sea is choppy & I don’t want to bathe, but – if others do & I do not – there will be trouble.
August 11th. Nothing of note. McBride – Q.A. had orders for Wimmereux – & will go this morning. In some ways I wish it was me. Had a lovely rough bathe yesterday – sea is calmer today – Suppose in half an hour I shall be chased out. Now-a-days we help shove the boat off – it warms us up before going in to the sea. Not off yesterday – My ill boy was too ill – I thought he was going to manage to slip away – but no – he was not allowed to, poor boy – he will be vastly happier when he does. I hope he will be alive this morning, all the same – I have a letter from his Mother, he will like to know about.
August 12th. 31 days ago – Lennox came in – & he is still not able to get away. He won’t be long – the bad chest attacks are more frequent now – & poor dear – he will be so grateful to be away. The last two days & nights have been sultry, & I have been glad of my morning dip to cool me down. This morning is beautifully calm. Poor old Maj. Martyn has to bathe all alone after us – he can’t get any of the others to come out! He is a married man – with a large family – I don’t see why he shouldn’t come with us – Mrs. Grundy makes a bit of an ass of herself sometimes, I think. Went for short walk with Matron last night, then back to the ward.
Toby is ill – we think he has been kicked. The old Vet – my blue corporal is attending him & he is getting better – Yesterday he gave him a dose of Epsom salts, turpentine, iodine – & olive oil – all mixed up together. He was much better for it – Flowers are lovely & in abundance. Birdy [?] left for Boulogne. We hear that the firing we heard two nights ago – was from some of our boats probably firing at Zeppelins on their journey to & from England – There were three outbreaks of heavy firing – at 9 p.m. 10 p.m. & 2.30 a.m. Looks rather like it – Now I must get ready for my dip.
August 13th. Lost my pen yesterday. Hottest day we have had – bathed before breakfast & in the afternoon too. Capt Scott [see photograph of Medical Officers in Etretat. Ed] came to examine Lennox in the evening – wish to Goodness he would leave him alone – Toby better. Port closed! more submarines about.
August 14th. Pen not found. The firing & explosion we heard about 4 days ago – was a steamer of ours being blown up by a submarine – there were six hidden away there & our vessels fired at them – I don’t know if any have been caught – The Port is still closed. Lennox in statu quo.
Maxey, Constable & I – took tea to a cave & were cool for once – It is underwater at high tide – & the water was dripping through the rocks all the time – it is a huge cave could hold 100 people without turning a hair & we just sat – & looked at the heat & Étretat & got cooler & cooler & cooler. It was a very fairyland of a cave – with all sorts of anemonies & small shell fish clinging to the rocks – when we touched the anemonies they let our a tremendous squirt of water at us!
August 15th. Many happies to the twins. Yesterday was quiet in the hospital. Matron is – on the Sick list – with an over strained heart. We are all terribly sorry – but I do not in the least wonder at it – after all she has gone through & done – & the little leave she has had. As I know her I am doing her washings & bed makings – morning & evening – while my wards are not heavy. She & Lennox are my two bad patients. English patient left yesterday although the Port is still closed. Palmer – Allen – Ginboal [?] Smith & Leedam – visited us – from the Asturias – they are looking fat & well. Two submarines have been caught – so I suppose there are still four more to be rounded up. Now I must get up betimes, to see about my private patient before breakfast.
Port open. Huge mail in last night. The early mornings are getting very grey. It is low tide & the men crab hunting on the rocks – look like big crabs themselves creeping about in their red, sail cloth garments. Batheing still off – owing to roughness of sea – Yesterday was a scampering busy day – for me – up early – did Matron for the day – when I was going to be off – had to be back in ward – for Maj. Martyn & Capt Scott to explore Lennox’s chest. Evening – bathed Matron – then flew on duty again – poor Lennox is bad. Everywhere – seemed to mean at the top of the house – except Lennox – Matron is at the very top of the Blanquet – I am at the top of the Blanquet Annexe & then on duty – everything is up & down – the two houses I have open. But – when no one watches – if you take the stairs at the bounce – they are not so tiring – & I am more than pleased to do just all I can for matron. Another Sister off duty. Hickman.
August 17th. Lennox worse – Matron the same. Off in evening. Glorious day. Batheing boat out again – I was too busy.
August 18th. No news – coldish – roughish – day. Off in afternoon did nothing. Matron & Lennox – in statu quo.
August 19th. I see by yesterdays Casualty lists that 4 nurses have been wounded. I knew one of them – Miss Tunley was Matron at No. 10 Stationary when I was there [see page for Acting Principal Matron Mabel Tunley. Ed] . Funnily enough – she was told by a fortune teller there, that she would be sent up the line & would be wounded! That was nearly 2 years ago & she has been to Egypt – Nice & all over the place – in between. A convoy is expected today. 8 V.A.D.s were to have had long days but convoy will put the lid on it! One thing it is rough & raining, so they need not grieve quite so much. Letter from Fred.
August 20th. We had a Convoy of 450 in on Saturday, making my family up to 79. As we have only 2 orderlies we were quite busy enough. Matron is still my Out patient. She has improved much in her week of complete rest – & may be allowed to wash herself after today. The morning is rose coloured & beautiful & I shall have to get right far away – for a breather. The sea has been too rough for batheings but it looks calmer today. I feel sunk in debt in the way of letters & must try to write some today. Poor Lennox is even worse only his heart & eyes are alive – all other of him is dead poor dear.
August 22nd. quiet day. Did not want to bathe – did – & loathed it – shan’t today if I don’t want to. Matron up for the first time yesterday. She looks none too well – & my private opinion is that she ought to be sent away – for a long rest. Maj. Martyn – has fixed a good map of the Western front – on the wall of my bunk – so now we shall know all about where we are!
August 23rd. Lennox died soon after 8 o’c last night. Never have I seen such a slow painful death. It was as if the boy was chained to Earth for punishment. Towards the end it was agony for him to draw the little gasp breaths – & I felt I must clap my hand over nose & mouth – & quench the flickering flame. I am very glad for the boy to be away.
[Click here for much fuller information on Rifleman James Lennox. Ed]
Had a glorious bathe yesterday afternoon. No letters – no news. Matron better.
August 24th. Quiet day. Had earache all yesterday – it is the size of half a pigeon’s egg (sideways) this morning, but less painful – too rough & rainy to bathe.
August 28th. Quite a gap in my diary – since I last wrote – I have had a 1/2 day – & a long day – spent both of them fomenting my ear – yesterday morning Maj. Martyn opened it with a knife since when it has been vastly more comfortable, but I’m as deaf as an adder in both ears – One because I have wool in it – & the other – I have a cold. Collins, Cummings & Armstrong received orders to join Nos. 4 – 5 & 9 Hospitals – one each. The weather has been rough & rainy. There is going to be a Board on Maj. Martyn today – to consider the advisability of giving him 3 weeks sick leave. His heart goes wrong at times. I had a letter from Mrs. Sharpe last night, offering me – lavender – sweet lavender – which I shall accept. Hope you are all well – this weather is very exhaustive.
SEPTEMBER 8th. I have not written my diary since Aug 24 because my ears have been bad & I have been a very miserable person – just creeping out of bed in time for breakfast – & spending all my free time in my bed with head poultices on my ears. On the 6th we saw a dis-abled submarine pass in company with a torpedo boat – I don’t know what nationality it was. Yesterday I had a half day – from 2-4 took Matron in the car – to Yport – & other pretty little places along the coast. After that Maxey & I walked to Miss Wallen’s hut for a bathe. Unfortunately she was giving a tea to large number of French people – so we quickly changed our plans & trudged along the beach to some huge rocks – The tide was rough & high – We undressed into our batheing gowns – & played the mermaid in the rock pools – & over the rocks – it was great fun & we had a good buffetting – Then we sat on the rocks & got dry in the wind.
September 9th. The Col. is away on urgent family affairs. Major Martyn on sick leave for 3 weeks – Matron off duty. Truslove went sick yesterday – & our staff is far under number – so heaven help us – when the expected rush does come. Off duty last night – Gathered & skinned mushrooms for breakfast.
September 11th. We had a convoy of 399 in yesterday, only 70 wounded – Far the most of the sick were suffering badly from shell shock. It is sad to see them, they dither like palsied old men, & talk all the time about their mates who were blown to bits, or their mates who were wounded & never brought in. The whole scene is burnt into their brains & they can’t get rid of the sight of it. One rumpled – raisin faced old fellow said – his job was to take bombs up to the bombers, & sometimes going through the trenches, he had to push past men with their arms blown off – or wounded anywhere – & they would yell at him – “Don’t touch me,” but he had to get past, because the fellows must have their bombs. Then he would stand on something wobly & nearly fall down – & see it was a dying or dead man – half covered in mud. Once he returned to find his own officer blown to bits – leg in one place – body in another. One man told me quite calmly, “Our Div was terribly cut up – because we had to be a sacrifice to let the others advance – & they did advance all right.” A Canadian said to me yesterday he didn’t know how the British Tommies had done – what they had – advanced up hill & taken dug outs – like underground fortresses – some as much as 60 ft deep – & well fortified. They all think the next advance will be less difficult than the last – also – that Fritz’s number is up. May they be right.
September 12th. I sent 17 of my shell shocks off to Havre yesterday – where they are to receive special treatment – Should have liked to keep them here – treating them will be very interesting. I got very sick of hospitals – rules – people in clean aprons etc yesterday, & in my off time 2 -5 – took Toby for a walk over the cliffs to Miss Wallen’s hut. I was quite alone there – & enjoyed it immensely bathed, sat with not much on – & my hair loose & read – then a heavy rain shower came – & we sheltered in the hut – I must do that again quite soon – while I was there an aeroplane flew past – so low over the water, that the man on board waved. A mine sweeper – put a boat load of men ashore for provisions. Such a relief – to see the blue uniforms! The sailor boys – looked such young clean creatures. They went off again during the afternoon.
Lena Ashwell came with her party yesterday and gave us a most excellent concert, quite the best so far. She is a true artist in the way of reciting and acting. The men loved it. There were two short acts, one something about – a bathroom at 8.30 – funny one – & the other “The £12 look” in which Lena took chief part. As I was really on duty I was back in the ward before it was over. The men were like great children when they came back – trooped after me – all talking at once – One boy knew Mr. Ben Field – the principal actor – he had taken boys’ parts with him before his voice broke – Very measley English mail. New Sister (stripes) arrived – The tales the men from the Somme tell are terrible. How some poor fellows go mad – & some die – from fright or shock – & all swear terribly – One very quiet man told me – swearing was not his habit, or any joy to him – but he swore as much as any man when shells were coming over – it helps one to bear it – wonderfully, he said. One time they were following the 1st Warwicks & the Black Watch – & had to advance over no man’s land – strewn thick with our own dead – not a square yard without a dead body on it. The Warwicks had been almost entirely wiped out – & the Black Watch nearly as bad, they – as they always say “Took what we had to.”
September 14th. We had a sudden hurried order – to clear the hospital yesterday – So we have. I have only 20 patients left. Should have had 19 – only a sergeant threw himself into the water – & is now a prisoner patient. It was sad to send so many to Con Camp [Convalescence Camp] – who have only been in 4 days. They were not well – but too nearly well to go to England – & they will be wanted back – up the line as soon as possible. No letters.
September 15th. Hospital reduced to 13 patients – awaiting the great push – Took Constable to Miss Wallen’s hut to tea – Matron is supposed to come on light duty tomorrow. I fell down last night – & cut my knee & broke my watch. Calm morning.
September 17th. Had the day off yesterday. I think about half the Staff had – we have so very few patients in. Stayed in bed to breakfast – went for a walk with Wood & Maxey over the – other cliffs. Lunched with Madam – at 12 – Crab – roast mutton, grilled potatoes & salad – a delicious sort of cheese – that is eaten with sugar – cider – & coffee. At 1 o’c Matron, Ritchie T., Maxey & I – started off for Caudbec en Caux – you have got some p.c.s of it. We broke down – 5 minutes after we started & put back for a fresh car. The journey was a joy of beauty bathed in sunshine. The Seine was most picturesque – all the trees & hills along its banks – just beginning to turn to Autumn & there were some big steamers going to Rouen. We looked all about Caudbec – & much enjoyed the oldness of it all – specially the church – then had tea at the Hotel de Marine & left again before 6 o’c. We were not knocked up early for a convoy – so I don’t know whether we shall get one or not. Yesterday’s communiqué was the best I have seen for a very long time. Today is cold & calm & bright – a blessed relief from the stifling weather.
September 19th. We were called at 4 a.m. yesterday to admit a heavy convoy – of wounded from the last action [? hard to read]only 115 walkers – all the rest badly wounded. Amongst mine there is one boy – with his leg in such an awful state that I think it will have to come off – His chest with a deep wide – wound – 8 inches long – & both arms wounded. The two beside him have wounds right through the chest – & another man in the same room has his intestines sticking out through his ribs! etc – etc. They all seem very cheerful about things – A C. S. M. told me that these new guns that go in the advance with them – are a tremendous help – they crash along over German trenches in everything – & the Germans fear them. The Germans have been giving themselves up in groups – They come over – & help any stretcher bearers – & do anything they can – to not be killed. They are quite right not to expect mercy, because they have been doing the despicable thing of killing our wounded! The C. S. M. has an excellent photo of the Kaiser & some of his Officers – given him by an old old man to spare his life – He need not have given it. The Sgt. Maj – said he could not have killed such an old man. They say the numbers of German dead are appalling! So far they seem to be living right well – & the Tommies have found – wine – cigars – soda water & other comforts in their front line trenches. Evidently they considered their dug outs absolutely safe – because they had their wives & families to stay with them there – & often our people have found women’s bodies amongst the dead. They are wonderful underground hotels! bathrooms, h. & c. electric light etc. The C.S.M. told me about one very young & ardent Tommy who yelled down a dugout “How many of you”? They hoping to be spared said “Five Camarad” “All right” says Tommy “Here is one each for you” & sent down 5 bombs! One would have done it – & the stink & smoke was awful – but the Sgt. Major could not help laughing . We were supposed to get another train load in last night (including 15 stretcher Germans for me) but the last we heard of it it was derailed & as we were not called up – I suppose it still is. We are living through one of Étretat’s special storms – Sea where it shouldn’t be – Things blowing about – all we can do is to batten the windows & hope for the best. The theatre was going all day – & probably all night.
September 20th. Our train met with a second accident – the engine went wrong – so all on board were put off at Rouen – & we were left – not lamenting as we had quite enough to do already.
Mrs. G. Jones came to day Goodbye forever – she is going home for good – & it is very meet & right & her bounden duty that she should. I was locked in the one & only —- lavatory in this house yesterday afternoon for quite a long time with not as much as a pair of scissors on me – after thumping & banging until I was tired – (the wind had broken the connection between handle & latch) – I bespied a hook in the wall – in desperation took it out – & with it as my tool – picked my way out – the door immediately banging behind me – fast as before – So in the evening I had my own back – & went for the door – & finally got it open with the kitchen poker – a hefty 3 foot one – with a chisel end – It is no ordinary lock – it is not in a line with the crack of the door – well the door side of the crack – which made it well nigh impossible from the outside. A shout of joy & triumph went up from all present, when they saw the last signs of resistance give way. Getting up time so au revoir.
September 21. One of my D.I.s died yesterday. He was one mass of very putrid rottenness long before he died – & oozing everywhere. The smell was so very terrible I had to move him right away from every one – & all one could do was to dress & redress – Happily I don’t think he smelt it himself – But never have I breathed worse poison. We sent 6 to E. Not off duty – Dodged supper & went straight to bed – Everything smelt the same.
One of my D.I.s has the D.C.M. & Le Croix de Guerre avec Palme, both won at Loos. The French took a fright & our boys rallied them & helped them to gain their objective. Calm morning.
22nd. Another D.I. (not of mine) died yesterday. I spent the morning in Matron’s Office writing to the relatives of men of the S.I. & D.I. lists – we did 60 before lunch. In the afternoon I walked to Benouville with a Sister whose name I will not mention – because I want to tell you the story of a great experience she had.
23rd. Spent most of yesterday in the Office, writing letters & doing pay sheets. Matron invited Wilson, Maxey & me for a motor drive in the afternoon – we went through tiny country lanes – so small that all donkey carts even – had to turn into the fields to let us pass. We came home by Yport & the coast.
When I went down at 6 to make my tea – it was quite dark – & the old Moon & Venus were looking very beautiful.
Would it bore you to hear the experience that Sister had. She was in charge of a train at the time which was held up for a few days for repairs at St Pol. My lady heard that Arras was only 33 kilometres away, & thought it & thought it would be short sighted to miss seeing it. One night she told her C.O. not to worry if he did not see her for the whole day she was going for a tramp. She left at 6 a.m. & walked where she had to – & got a lift where she could – & considered herself lucky in riding the last few miles in an Ambulance – which was going up to fetch wounded. She alighted in the town of Arras & was nearly petrified with fear, at an awful rumbling, indescribable noise – as if an earthquake was in progression. She asked the officer of the Car what it was, but he was nervy & frightened & said “I don’t know – one never does know what is happening.” She left him & asked a Tommy the way to the Square & Cathedral – noticing all the way – what a dead city it was – not a soul about – except on-duty Tommies, who were hurrying to do their job & get back. The Tommy told her she mustn’t mind that noise, it was only our own guns (Don’t I know it!). She much enjoyed the sight seeing & picking up – souvenirs of the interesting ruins; when a new & terrible noise alarmed her. A sickening shrieking whistle overhead – then an explosion & the rattle of falling masonry. She knew it was a shell – & thought she would go. On her way a nun saw her from a cellar & called her down – She lunched with them & went out to find some way back – Shells occassionally falling somewhere – At last she was promised a lift on an ambulance – which had to go to the trenches to get its wounded, & finally had amongst it’s load – the driver & officer of the car that brought her in. She was told to walk slowly on & the car would pick her up. When she got to W. — H.Qrs of the Div. a brass hat spotted her – & questioned her narrowly as to who she was & how she came. Then she was left alone – & her ambulance arrived & picked her up – on account of being in Sister’s uniform not a single sentry had challenged her. Meanwhile the brass hat, telephoned – to the O.C. of the train & told him to send out a picket to escort – an arrested Sister back – then he chased after the ambulance – arrested her – took her in his own car, until they met the picket – which escorted her home. She had much unpleasantness & was threatened to be sent to England – but in the end – she was sent here – she supposes for duration of War.
September 26th. Last two days have been quiet. No convoy, but there are still many very heavy cases in hosp. There was a case of diphtheria in No 5. so the ward was closed – & disinfected & today the Sisters are having the day off. Maxey & Constable are going a little jaunt to Rouen. I should much like to be going to.
September 27th. No news. Maxey & Constable had a joy ride to Rouen yesterday – lucky – devils as their ward is not working yet – The car went to take an Indian – to the Indian hospital there. They brought me back a fairing of 6 dainty hankies! Every one seems to know my weakness.
September 28th. Am feeling very contrite because there is a 6.30 service, & I am not going to it. Had the 1/2 day off yesterday – in company with Waite [see separate page for Sister Lillian Waite. Ed], Thomson, Maxey, & Constable. It was too wet to do what we intended to. So – we – had the Ford & went a joy ride to Caudebec. The rain stopped soon after we started, so everything was bright & beautiful, & every one in good temper. The country was looking lovely – just getting the autumn colourings.
We went by all the little villages I must have told you about before – & stopped at Lillebonne to look over the ruined Roman theatre. The old man knew his story well – & made it all most interesting –
The whole amphitheatre is fairly intact – all being built of thick grey stone. One thing he told us – The amphitheatre towards the theatre was stalls & seats etc – but in time of invasion, or in case of invasion from the Seine it could be used as a fort.
I think it was in the 5th Century a complete house was discovered – underground – We saw photographs of it – It looks like a Cathedral Crypt. At one time, the Theatre was used for refugees to live in during a siege. There are beautiful Roman baths & a well in the pit of the theatre, that were built for them. They have found – from time to time – all sorts of treasures, beautifully carved ivory & bone pins used by the Roman ladies – old bits of crockery bearing Roman inscriptions, nails, lead etc – We saw them all –
There is a tiny tomb in which they found the ashes of the body of a baby – in a bottle, together with all it’s possessions – a tiny bracelet – a silver spoon – & it’s toys! It was a thick square – of stone – with a well – about 1 ft deep – & 1 1/2 long & 1 ft wide.
We saw the fine old (Roman) Tower – where William I stayed in 1063. After that we dashed on to Caudebec – along the banks of the Seine – very beautiful – & arrived at 5 o’c – just time for tea – & to see the Cathedral & a shop or two before we started for home. We came back another & equally beautiful way, by the Grand Val – which was looking grand in the evening lights & shades – through Yvetot, where the Anglo American hospital (for French soldiers) is. Home at 8 p.m.
September 29th. Quiet day yesterday. Helped in the office gathering & writing up particulars of leave. Does it mean leave is going to start? I wonder!
September 30th. Quiet day. Off in afternoon – walked in the rain. At 1/2 past 9 last night there was great excitement along the front. It was pitch black darkness. A siren was being blown, about a blow a minute – at about a mile out it sounded. No light showed from the place – & the sea was very rough. A man along shore – was waving a lamp seawards – & another in a little boat 100 yds out to sea was doing the same. They thought it was a fishing boat trying to get in – poor things I hope they managed it – it was such a rough dark night. It was very weird & horrible to hear that scream of distress, repeated & repeated – in the pitch darkness – It may be that the waving lights were all they wanted to show them where Étretat was.
October. 1 It was a fishing boat in distress the other night. A big lugger – She was water logged – & blew her siren until some of our Étretataise went to her assistance. They brought her ashore here. We had a Convoy of 347 in yesterday – badlywounded – only a dozen walking cases amongst them, so although numbers were not high, work was much & we are all going on after first breakfast. I only took 43 patients German prisoners. They always fall to my share. 6 were slight cases, but the rest! were shot to rags & putrid! Really the smell of gangrene added to always unpleasant German smell – was a trial to one’s stomach – & as I was the only trained person I had to do the dressings – which meant – doing dressings all the morning until dinner time finishing them after dinner, & then starting a most necessary second round – the minute they had finished their tea – & keeping on until ?
Most of them are Prussian Infantry, some Württembergers some Saxons – & some – something else.
One poor Saxon youngster got his wounds from his own bomb – he held it too long after the pin was out. As before when I had the Germans – the whole population of Étretat turned out to see them carried in – 37 were on stretchers – & made themselves such a nuisance, that I shut the ground floor shutters. The youth of Étretat have been parading in front of the house whistling & singing the Marseillaise, for the benefit of the Germans. Our own people are as bad. I find bunches of strange orderlies gazing at them – make myself thoroughly unpleasant – & banish the lot. I’m not going to keep a peep show. If they want to see Germans – I tell them to join an Infantry Reg. & they will get what they want.
One man gives me the creeps to look at. He is so like Beelzebub – caused by a scar on the outside & an evil spirit inside.
Our boys do their work very thoroughly judging by the wounds. They are not at all a brave set this time – they whimper & cry over their dressings before they are touched. The early daylight bill leaves off today – & I am beginning to feel – that I must have slept through the calling bell. but no – There it goes – Sunday morning – no service.
October 2nd. Many happy returns to Guy! Rampant day yesterday I sent 16 of the least bad Germans to the Canadian Hos. at Havre. They did look quaint! dressed in funny old brown civilian caps! & tweed caps – they really looked like robbers – & yet some poor cringing creatures amongst them. They were not pleased to go. Those remaining are stinking with gangrene – & ought all to be operated on – but they must wait until our own Tommies have had their turn in the theatre – & even now there are quite 30 urgent English cases still not done – & the theatre people are working night & day as it is. I gave each V.A.D. 1 hour off duty & the orderlies a short spell I can’t get off as I have no one to leave in charge. Must get up now for early breakfast.
October 3rd. Many happy returns to Syd. The Port of Havre has been closed for about 4 days – so I am having to keep my Alleman prisoners. 6 are too ill to travel – & one of them is going to die – The whole street smells worse than a bad drain of him – & two very gangrenous ones – I expect will be struck off the list too. A Sgt Major among them, told us the War would not go on through the Winter, he thought it would end next month – we asked who would win – & he said – “Not us.” I expect he thought he was throwing sand in our eyes – but on principal – I don’t believe a word they say. There was a report of a Zepp having been brought down over london – One of the orderlies told them about it – The Saxons rejoiced – One Prussian said – Das ist nix – & so I said – “Ya – das ist nix” – & explained to him, that it happened too often for it to excite us any more. One speaks English & has to interpret for us. Another Prussian asked if it were true – & when & where – & went to sleep on the facts without commenting. Some of them are very young. Two say they are 18, but don’t look it & some say they are 20 & 21 – & look – 18 & 19. I am sad to say a Petrol boat has been sunk – with loss of life. I fancy their adversary must be dead too, as the Port is to be opened today, & that would not be – with a submarine at large. The Germans are very lousie & we who are looking after them have to hunt carefully every night. We go on duty louse free – but regularly after a few hours feel things chasing up & down our spines etc, & the remainder of the busy day they rest not, if only they would have their game & go to sleep for a time – but no – either they never rest, or they take it in duties to keep us well paraded.
Major Martyn has a long extension of leave, & I very much doubt if he ever will come back. I am very sorry. The present Company Officer is too slow for the job. He is M.O. of my Division – very good hearted – but is as slow as a funeral. He was at Dover College – same time as Sydney – but did not know him – Billing – in Priory House. A very charming lad of 18 died at Officers 2 days ago – badly wounded – His Mother was here – poor thing, she has lost her husband killed in action – & this boy – & I think one other & now has only one son left. He is in the Navy – & she knows not where. There is a Sergeant attached to this Unit who has lost 6 brothers killed in action – a child – & both parents – since the beginning of War. I think leave will be started soon…ish. My German prisoners – are as happy as sandboys. They sing & laugh & talk & some seem to be really nice men. They are most grateful for all that is done for them – & their stinking wounds are cleaning up wonderfully.[October] 4. Still no sign of shifting my prisoners, day after day I hope for a boat – but no boat comes – & still the Port is closed. I shall be glad to pack them off – one of the 7 too ill to travel, is going to die I think – The rest are doing well.
I took 2 hrs off yesterday & sat on the beach & watched the batheing – & drank in clean sea air. It was such a glorious sunny afternoon.
I am missing my own M.O. very much. He is so practical & helpful. My present one is like this
It is raining this morning & very muggy & warm.
October 5th. Just where I left off the night super came to me – & said there was going to be an evacuation soon after 6.30. I dressed & went with great joy – & fixed up 20 of my Bosches for England. 21 were to have gone but one was too ill. I am left with 7. Five shot through the lungs. 1 with his whole shoulder joint removed & many other wounds & very gangrenous & one trephine, who has fits. After getting those 20 really heavy cases away – we were much lighter. The orderlies had a busy day – ridding us of the creepy crawlies – 36 beds – mattresses – pillows blankets – all had to go to be baked. Of the men who went to England – some were pleased to go – some would rather have stayed here – & one old man was shaking with fright. He thought they were being taken to be shot. They were all profuse in their gratitude. One poor old Saxon stopped his stretcher by clinging to the seat in the hall as he passed, & seized my hand & shook & shook it. Quite a fierce black – bolt-on-end haired person – made me quite a long speech – of thanks etc – & presented me with his identity disc – for a souvenir.
Last night when I was doing their dressings they were roaring with laughter at a Cartoon of the Kaiser in the Tatler. I told them they ought not to laugh at their own Kaiser. They said even people in Germany considered him very eccentric. They were with great pride telling me – that the Kaiser’s Mother was the King’s (Edward’s) own sister – I don’t know why they should – but they do all seem to envy England & the English.
One of those who went to England yesterday – left a note book in his locker with much German writing that no one could understand – & a map of Metz – showing where barracks were – & a list of the names of barracks – It was most interesting – & looks as if – airmen would catch military buildings in whatever part they might drop bombs – The place – was almost covered with them. The map – & notes have been sent to the Intelligence Department. I only hope our young feather pates think to tear up – or otherwise destroy – maps or notes they may have on them when they are captured. The Hospital is still heavy – 6 of the last convoy are dead – & others dying.
October 6th. Much more peaceful day yesterday. Gave Schreiner the 1/2 day. She has one bad ear like my two – funny thing. Bosches quite happy. The one I think is going to die – is quite off his head – & wanders. I don’t know what he is talking about – just catch odd words – like Infantry – Metz – so I suppose he came from there. Off yesterday afternoon – unpacked Red + stores for Wilson. She is looking tired. Letter from Matron – Am glad to say she is better – hope she will soon be back again.
October 7th. Same story. Still have my 7 Bosches – but 4 of them are fit & marked for England. One looking at the Daily Mail yesterday – was trying hard to understand the headline – BRITISH EXHAUST 256000 GERMANS IN – ? I forget how many – DAYS. He could understand British & German – & the numbers – but was much worried over the “exhaust” – & much surprised when I told him what it meant. Apparently they get no news of failures of any kind in the trenches. He is a clever keen boy of 19. very polite & quite happy. We have taken a new house for Sisters’ Quarters instead of a dirty little pig sty in the slums – that some had to sleep in.
October 8. All my Englishmen left yesterday – so now all we have in the way of patients is 7 Bosches – I feel they will never go – are here for “duration”. Gloriously rough day. high sea strong wind. It is very beautiful to see the sunshine on clouds of spray – as it was yesterday when the sun was setting.
9th There is a patient in Casino V. called McLaughlan (please excuse this roughness [erasure of writing. Ed] as I was telling you again – that I had not an Englishman left – but I see I told you that yesterday & now I have to get up.)
October 10th. Had a man brought in who was so badly wounded across the shoulders – that both arms were entirely paralised. The story of him is pathetic. He was servant to their Major. At the attack they were both wounded – they were together getting over the parapet – quite soon the major was hit in the lungs. Mac carried him to the nearest shelter – a shell hole – but soon found that unsafe – then he carried him further back – & put him in a little nook – & sat to shelter him. After a bit Mac got hit – & found he was unable to do anything with his arms for the Major – but stayed on, he might quite well have walked to the dressing station – had his own wounds attended to – but he stayed on, doing what he could for the Major – by nosing round him like a dog & useing his teeth – After 12 hrs the stretcher bearers came – & took the Major first where he was caught by another shell & killed. When the stretcher bearers went back they found “Mac” unconscious – having been hit again. When he reached here – he asked if his Major had come down on the same train – & asked Constable to write to a Lieutenant, whom he liked to ask about him. He wrote back & told Constable the whole story of it – also he wrote to Mac – such a nice letter – you would like to read it. “Dear Mac – I have heard from your nurse & am glad to hear you are getting on well, though I am afraid the Bosches made a bit of a mess of you. Still you mustn’t mind that. I’m afraid though I can’t send you cheerful news in return. Major Sands was killed at the Aid Post, either by the shell that laid you out – or one immediately after. We all knew what you did for him & are grateful to you. Such bravery will not go unrewarded. You must not worry too much about Major S. He was too great a man to be stopped by a little thing like Death – & is carrying on somewhere – although we don’t know how or where. Yours… Yoxall”.
I sent 3 of my Bosches to England yesterday – & have about 160 empty beds – ready for the next convoy. Went to Havre yesterday to get the pay – 12064 – or 120064 francs I forget which – a big lot – because the V.A.D.s are being paid up – all their Field allowance since June – when it was stopped.
October 11th. Went for a lantern lecture on Lourdes last night given by the R.C. Padre – in his chapel. Most interesting pictures were shown – of the little shepardess Bernadette – seeing the vision – & scratching the ground – where the Spring of healing waters came up – & of people who had been cured there. I expect you know more about it than I do. [Edie is referring to the 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), who claimed to have seen a series of visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, which led to Lourdes becoming a major site for Catholic pilgrimage. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernadette_Soubirous. Ed]
October 12th. We had a convoy of about 400 in yesterday. Many very bad cases – one was dead & one dying on the train. I had 53 English – & 2 Allemans, who were sent to the Can[adian] Hosp at Havre – as they were slight cases. They were standing & laughing at our badly wounded – so got short shrift from me. I bundled them into bed at once – & told them they were not going to stay with us – they were to go to the Canadians. It made them jibber – the cowards – because they are terrified of the Canadians. Am getting up to first breakfast to see my English patients off – so au revoir.
October 13th. Sent 12 patients to England & my remaining Bosches are marked “E” so will go soon – Some of my men were very bad with shell shock – One poor child looking not a day older than 14 – but who said he was 18, was very bad – too conscious & could not forget for a moment what he had seen. 3 new staff nurses arrived.
October 14th. Quiet, busy day. Still have 44 patients – chiefly surgical & 4 Allemans. Off in afternoon – went with Wood to put the big church in order & to arrange flowers there & in our little chapel in case I have no time today. Warm muggy, damp weather. I learnt yesterday that a “barrage” is when all the batteries fire as fast as they can – at the same time. It is used to stop the enemy’s advance often. Where these men came from, there were two “Tanks” out of action – in one the bodies of two men – apparently burnt to death. Letter from Eve.
October 15th. Many happy returns of the Day to dear old Bud.
October 16. Calm & peaceful day yesterday, capped by an agreeable surprise. At 5 p.m. my M.O. told me the Germans would leave at 5.30. So with great joy I fixed them up – & had them ready. We are having much more bracing weather now – bright sunshine sharp showers – & a blustering wind – all very welcome – after the weeks of mug. Went to early service – but none other. This morning the sea is a clean blue green – with salmon coloured waves – the reflection of the clouds. Sky – baffles description of beauty – Poor old Daly who went sick a few days ago – was dispatched to England on Saturday much against her will. 4 more men have died – 1 an officer since I last wrote this two days ago.
October 17. 2 more patients to England. Condensed all but 8 into [Annexe] D. & am hoping for the best. It is too much for 2 orderlies to keep 4 large homes clean. Off in afternoon walked along Criquetot Rd. with Wood & Maxey. Morning calm, fishing boats all going off.
October 18th. Saw a thing that interested me much & of which I still do not know the explanation. Maxey & I were walking through the valley – towards the sea – I was ahead – looking at the sea. Suddenly my slow working brain said to itself – “Funny – that wave seems to be staying up in spray. It is not spray – it looks like steam” – Then I waited to show it to Maxey, & by the time I had her vision on the spot, flames were leaping out of the water – just one at a time leapt up – & went down. Quickly 7 mine sweepers came from the north – & placed themselves round the spot – like people playing rounders. I dashed up the cliff to the French sentry box – for information – found both men – the worse for drink cooking a rabbit in a shed – hadn’t seen anything of it. I should like to show you what it was like –
October 19th. Convoy arrived at 10.30 p.m. last night – I got to bed before 2 a.m. & must get up now for first breakfast. I took only 19 men – but they are rotten with gangrene & German
October 20. Very busy day yesterday. The Germans – some at least are very badly wounded – 4 on the D.I. list. They all belong to the 111th Baden Rgt – except 1 Prussian. Were their consciences tender – if they have such things, that made them such terrified creatures when they were admitted? They are settling down now. After all they might know – we don’t want the nasty job of killing them – one man is simply entered as “German prisoner name unknown” he has a bullet in his brain & has been unconscious all the time probably does not even know that he is a prisoner. Another arrived with both legs badly gangrenous, one has been amputated high up – the other – may clean up – or – may be taken off. Another has the flesh torn off his thigh so deep – one can see the femeral artery, he is lying dead still in the hope it won’t bleed – if it does there will be little chance of stopping it – as the wound extends to his stomach. The 4th D.I. has three gaping wounds across his back – into the lung. Five of the less bad ones were sent to the Canadian hosp – at Havre – Amongst my English patients I have a young thing of about 17. Short – baby faced creature. He makes us laugh – with his stories of the trenches. He said “Fancy a big fellow – putting up his hands to me – & crying “Mercy Kamarad” but they do – to a little fing like me, but he was so big – I was frightened too – but when I saw he was frightened – I wasn’t any more. & then some one else shot him.” It is better than a story to listen to the men’s conversation.
Lena Ashwell’s concert party came yesterday. A most unfortunate day – only a few patients & no sisters were able to go. We were all much too busy. This morning is calm – cold, beautiful.
October 21st. Very busy day. When I went on duty I received a message that English patients were to go in 1/2 an hour – I said they would be quite ready, knowing quite well that their half hour would be more like 1 1/2 hrs, but even so – we had to chase to get 10 badly wounded men – wounded each one in many places – wounds – dressed – clad, & on to stretchers in the time – We were ready all right. It is an extraordinary thing that the Germans rejoice to go to England, & may talk of Colonizing in England – after the War. I think they won’t. One of the slightly wounded – marked for the Can. Hos. at Havre – was left behind as the hos. was full. He asked me where he was going & I told him ‘Havre’ – he was very grumpy about it – & tried to be very ill to get marked England – but to Havre he will go, some even have asked if their wound is a “Blighty” one. Of this last lot not one speaks French or English – which sometimes makes it a little awkward – For instance one man asked me for a cushion under his buttocks (probably because I had just put the man next him an an air ring), from his pantomime description of asking – I sent the orderly to him with a bed pan!! much to his disgust – as he did not want it.
This morning is beautiful – sky all colours of pale blue – pink & salmon – & all the boats & my verandah are white with hoar frost. & now the warmth of the day is making itself felt, a cloud of steam is rising from the sea, just like it does over the marshes – If – for one short week – there could be no war – & all the men were well, what glorious walks – picnics we could have.
October 22nd. My hand is too cold to write – Sunday – I have just come back from 6.30 service. Everything is white with frost, & glistening in the pinky morning sunshine – & all is very beautiful & very cold.
My head case Bosche was operated on yesterday & will die soon. Others as usual – a new stripe Sister arrived yesterday – named “Walker”.
October 23rd. The “Unknown German prisoner” died yesterday & 1 went to Havre. of the remaining 5, 3 are D.I. & two are for England.
The Moon & Venus in the E & Jupiter in the W. are making the early morning skies beautiful.
October 25th. St. Crispin’s Day. Many happy returns to Madge. 2 Bosches left for England on the 23rd – So now I have only the three D.I.s left – & so far – they are doing well. A great flutter was caused in the dovecote by the reenforcement of an old rule – “No meals are to be taken in the Sisters’ duty room” as a rule we have a mid morning cup of tea & a biscuit, & invite our M.O. to join us – In some wards they have exaggerated it to a huge feed – that takes far too much time. There was the usual complaining & grumbling – & “we ought not to sit down under its”, but in time they will get used to it. After all it is an Army rule.
October 26th. Had the 1/2 day off yesterday – & walked with Waite to the Lighthouse. [see picture of lighthouse towards the bottom of Section 1 of the page on Etretat; it’s here] Called at Miss Wallen’s for tea. She lives in a fairly big old French house – far away from everything & everyone – except a few odd farms.
She is quite alone with one servant. The house is emaculate, beautifully polished floors, old French furniture – brasses – & bronzes. It is most refreshing to visit there, I hope to go again. We were overtaken by darkness – long before we had crossed the country between the Lighthouse & the Havre Rd & at last decided to make a straight cut – over hill or dale – ploughed or sewn, & eventually we struck the Rd. It was pitch dark – & we were miles from home – when heavy rain came on – & in 2 mins we were soaked. Luckily after a bit one of our ambulances overtook us & brought us the rest of the way – there – bath – supper – bed. It is pouring with rain – & very rough this morning. One Bosche is very ill.
October 27th. Quiet day yesterday. Bosches still very ill. Only 23 patients all told – there is a rumour of a convoy today. Lovely blowing cold wind this morning. I feel quite weather beaten with lying in bed.
Another new stripes arrived yesterday – perhaps some of us will be moved! who knows![October] 28th. I got up before the break of day – & watched it come – It made all sorts of lovely colours in the effort. Yesterday was the same as usual. I am afraid one of my Bosches will lose his left foot – the right leg was amputated the day after he arrived here. I saw a beautiful shooting star last night – We had a short very sharp thunderstorm yesterday – at lunch time – It really seemed as if bricks were falling: but they weren’t.
October 29th. Anniversary of a sad day – 19 years ago. “He is altogether lonely.” [This refers to the death of Edie’s father, Edward Appleton – a Trinity Pilot, who died following a fall from a ship’s ladder when embarking from a tender on 29 October 1897. Ed] Quiet day yesterday. My very D.I. Bosche is if anything better. A Hospital ship has struck a mine. 30 R.A.M.C. drowned. The sisters were all saved – & one at No 2 Gen. Havre. [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Galeka] Rumour of a Naval Battle.[See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dover_Strait_(1916)]
October 30th. Quiet, uneventful – wet – windy day – y’day. Off in evening – talked to Matron. No convoy in or out – no mail – people due back did not come. Port of Southampton closed. Leave started.
October 31st. Big storm raging. I have been hopping out & in of bed – trying to hit the happy medium between the stuffiness of my tiny room when entirely closed – & being blown out – when there is a crack of window open. Now I have cleared the decks and am letting it all come in. Had a heated discussion yesterday with my washerwoman on the treatment of ill Bosches – she thinks “kill the lot.” Bought a pair of sabots yesterday – & am longing for rain to wear them. Ward ‘in status quo’ – We hired a good piano for the mess – the other was horrible. No mail – I am beginning to think there never will be.
NOVEMBER. 1 & 2. All quiet – All Saints day yesterday some of us went to 6.30 a.m. service – & in the afternoon put flowers on the graves of some of our men. Wet – & calm this morning. Had the 1/2 day off yesterday – walked over the cliffs & home by the beach with Maxey & Waite – & got drenched with sea water – tres bon.
Port still closed.
November 3rd. Big boats heading for Havre this morning so perhaps the Port is open. Yesterday one boat got across – because she did not catch the wireless message – that she was to return to port soon after she left – 7 of them started & were called back, because a French boat was blown up just outside S’hampton.
Off in evening went for a lovely walk along the Havre Rd with Matron. Moonlight was perfect. Stars also.
November 4th. Chief event of yesterday, Maj. Martyn returned to the great joy of all of us. And brought me the most beautiful pair of black silk stockings that I have ever possessed – Great care must be taken of them.
November 7th. The last 3 days have been quiet. Convoy in on the 4th – amongst my lot were 3 Germans. 1 badly wounded – 2 not so bad. Shall I ever be quit of Germans. I wonder. Concert last night given by the Staff male & female – quite good – went for a walk with Maxey in glorious moonlight – after it.
November 10th. Nothing of note has happened – the Germans are still with me – One morning there was word of evacuation & I went on duty early – & dressed them & got them on to stretchers & gave morph[ia] to the painful ones – Then word came from Havre – cancelling the order – & back to bed they all had to be put. I don’t think I shall ever be without Germans. We spent a pleasant evening at the Officers’ Mess last night – music & Bridge – all very pleasant – Maj Nicholins [? Nicholson. See photo of Medical Officers in Etretat. Ed] & Maxey played – Maj Martyn & me.
November 11th. Convoy expected. It was due at Étretat at 3 a.m. but evidently did not arrive as we were not called up – & now the 6.30 call bell has rung – & still they have not called us second breakfast folk – Off last night – went for walk with Wood.
November 13th. Am nearly driven crazy with these terrible 150 Austr-i-lians. They are not ill – & are the dirtiest & most untidy men. I have ever had dealings with – & only 2 orderlies to cope with the lot. No other news.
November 14. Place still seething with Australians – only 15 went yesterday to C.C. On Sunday night – they broke out all over the town – took no notice of the police – & went to the Cafés – & generally made nuisances of themselves. 2 arrived home – next morning dead drunk – they are horrid men. It was so strange this morning I was sitting at my window in the dark – drinking my tea – & brushing my hair. The washerwomen were already at work – by the dim light of dawn – washing at the sea’s edge – & the men drawing the day’s supply of water from the tap – & so much going on in the dark.
November 15th. This morning at 5.30 the place reminded me of a fairy tale. It was brilliant blue moonlight, & the stars glittering, air frosty. The washerwomen were all at work – washing on the shore – Others coming up with their enormous packs on their shoulders & the water carriers – with their washing tents on barrows – filling them at the tap – & taking them home – for the day’s supply of water. It all looked so eerie – in the moonlight – & everything & everyone cash sharp black shadows on the ground. We are still seething with Australians – I have 100 still, they are getting to be less unruly now thank goodness. Off yesterday afternoon, went for trudge along the shore with old Waite – we wanted to go through the cave that comes out at the Station but the tide was too high for us to get in. Maj. Martyn announces that he would like to come & see you – & stay for a few days – after the War – I said – I was quite sure you would welcome him.
Volume Three ends here
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