This covers the period 21 June 1918 to 27 December 1918.
Edie is at No. 3 General Hospital at Le Tréport
Towards the end of 1918 Edie is in charge of a carriage on Ambulance Train 42.
For information about the background to
The Trianon Hotel which became
No. 3 General Hospital in 1914, click here.
June 21st. I returned to Abbeville from leave – June 15th & found orders awaiting me to proceed forthwith to No 3 Gen. Hosp.
They seemed a sad little group at Sick Sisters & the Home – & I was sorry to leave them. There was very little work being done – & why they don’t close both places remains a mystery. I did not proceed at once. I wanted a few hours to say Goodbye & collect my odds & ends. So – postponed the procedure to next morning.
Major Jolley of the R.A.F. very kindly lent a tender to take me – instead of going by train – & we made a good spin of it round by Dieppe etc – a good day & I enjoyed the trip, but not the arriving at a fresh hospital. There is nothing I hate much more than that – The hospital is splendid – partly in a huge hotel perched on the top of a high cliff. In a way it reminds me of when we (No 3. C.C.S.) were in the International Lunatic Asylum at Bailleul. [Jean-Luc Dron, who was born in Le Tréport, has a collection of postcard images of the VERY splendid Hotel Trianon. Click here to view.]
I arrived in time for second lunch 1 p.m. & after that, not being wanted for duty – made myself scarce in my room for the rest of the day – picking my trunk lock – & sawing off the padlock of my kit bag – as I had by accident left my keys either in Leeds or Burnsall – or Abbeville or at the Gibbs.
I have a ward of 60 beds – in the big building – acute medical & surgical – At present there are only 40 patients in it – but some of them are pretty bad. It felt a little strange at first being back to large numbers, big wounds – the smells of g.g. (gas gangrene) & pus – & antiseptics – but my nose is getting used to them now. One poor fellow died a few hours after admission – & another two are I am afraid following him – One badly gassed – & the other was in the C.C.S. suffering from Trench fever – when it was bombed. He has lost an arm – & one foot is useless. I am afraid he will not get over it.
[Entry added later:] * Dec 17th he did get over it & is now on his way home to Australia.
Every day I have been for a long & lonely walk – A big mess is a rare place for making one feel desperately alone – but as I enjoy my own company all is well.
Yesterday & today have been very stormy & I can hardly see the vessels at anchor for the storm of mist or spray over the sea. Fourteen small steamers came in to anchor this evening. It is rather a pathetic sight – I think they all anchor near some one else – & I suppose it is that there shall be some one to rescue the other – if the other gets hit.
Up on this cliff there are 4 or 5 hospitals & no other camps within about 2 miles – but we know the Bosche so well now – that every hut is being sandbagged as a protection in time of air raid – I have been down into the town once- rather a “dirty little place” was my impression. There is a funicular railway down the cliff – or if you like to walk – you can do so, down 365 steps – I chose the steps, as there were people I had never set eyes on at the railway – Sisters! terrifying people! The M.O. of my ward is a Yankee. Young & quite amenable & conscientious. No 2 Canadian, had a convoy in today & I think we take the next.
The last one we had was chiefly wounded – & many badly wounded.
There is a concert on tonight, but as you see I am not there.
Now as day light is fading I think I will turn in.
June 24th. We have had a continuous big wind storm since I last wrote – this morning seems a wee bit calmer – Although the sea is still very rough – A sister went a joy ride to Abbeville yesterday – they had Fritz over twice during the day – so were probably bombed again last night – I wish they would send the few remaining sisters away from there. It is very trying having your night’s rest shortened to two or three hours. My ward is lighter than it was – we have sent about 16 patients to England – The poor “gassed” boy has died – & the one with bomb wounds is better, may live, but is still quite off his head.
It is a great interest to listen to the mens’ conversation. Their opinion on the situation in Ireland. How prisoners should be treated, what was the matter – that the 5th Army played false – & the general situation. I wonder if there is truth in what they say about the bombing of hospitals.
They say – that in German territory (the flying men) have seen – what are without doubt – aeroplane hangers & amunition dumps – marked with huge red crosses, near no railway – & so placed that they simply cannot be hospitals – I suppose they think we do the same – & they bomb us on the chance of it – we – of course bomb their hangers & dumps – should be fools if we didn’t! I am quite sure though that they do know – what is a hospital. They can see the wounded men walking about & some lying out in beds. No as a nation they are dirty dogs! In one C.C.S. a German spat at a Sister – & the Tommy nearest him, hit him over the head with the butt of his rifle, & got punished, ought not to have been.
June 25th. I awoke this morning to find the weather had changed from very rough – high wind & sea – to a gentle breeze & sea dead calm – If I were an artist – I would show you what I can see from my window – The cliff edge – with many crows very busy along it – & beyond – a big, wide stretch of calm grey blue sea – one little steamer & about a dozen fishing smacks getting on with their daily work.
Shrieks! are coming from the plot of grass just below – some V.A.D.s are out early, practising cricket for the match tomorrow – The Patients were well satisfied with the news in the Daily Mail yesterday – “Get the Austrians to give in – & we’ll see this war over, by the end of July” If only that would happen! Anyway the Austrians have made a bit of a failure of their offensive so far! & for once the weather favoured the Allies – rain came down in big storms & swept away the bridge across the Piane – & made it impossible for the enemy to bring up supplies or guns.
The night super – Tilney got orders last night to report at Abbeville – in a way – I envy her – but believe in taking what comes. How near turn I am for night duty – I don’t know, or for the matter of that – care.
June 28th. We had a Convoy in yesterday – I only took 8 of them. Some nasty wounds – 2 with appendicitis – one a New Zealander who has been in the war since 1914. He thinks Taff [Edie’s youngest brother, Alfred James Appleton (but known as Taff or Jim) was born 19 January 1887 and went to South Africa and later to New Zealand. Ed] must be at Doullens- as all the N.Z.ers are there. I hope he is – as at the moment that part of the line is quiet – if you can call any part of it quiet.
Another sister got her orders for Abbeville yesterday.
A sad tragedy happened at 5 yesterday morning. A mental patient – a lady driver – managed to dodge her special attendant – & flung herself over the cliff. Her body was soon picked up – quite smashed in every part. She evidently meant to do it – as she had left letters for people telling them so.
It is said – she had a similar attack a few years ago – & her father insisted on her coming out to France to work – he thought the complete change & occupation would cure her.
I think myself – if he knew her tendency – it was wrong – at any time to allow her to be in charge of helpless men.
The cricket match was much enjoyed by all – but no one seems to know quite clearly who won. They all turned up smiling for a strawberry & cream tea after it – so I think no one was badly beaten.
I have not dared to bathe yet – it looks cold. Have found one nice country walk – & must look for others – I usually take myself for my walks – as I don’t know any one here – & naturally they all have their own plans – & friends – & catch me putting myself in with any party! Anyhow – what is the matter with a walk alone – I enjoy it.
It is evidently calmer this morning – the crows are able to drill – during the stormy weather they could not – but they had fine fun – They used to start off from the edge of the cliff – & see who could stay like an aeroplane longest – without moving tails or wings – they are funny creatures. I shouldn’t wonder if Miss McCarthy or Miss W. Smith comes today – after yesterday’s tragedy.
The other end of Treport – the one like the South end of Deal – is very typical – of a French seaside resort – Gay – quite gaudy little houses – in all odd shapes & forms – very gimcrackily built, & painted all colours – are along the whole sea front – which is – from our cliff – to the next – Treport is in a valley – or a little dip – in the cliffs.
It quite interested me yesterday – watching the visitors – well off people – are staying along there with nice children – all smartly dressed – Their little youngsters have to play in smart clothes – you hardly ever see a child dressed for digging in the sand – or doing just what it likes like you do in England.
The lads in the ward are still satisfied with the news – & we are all hoping hard that Austria Bulgaria – & Turkey – will get themselves a separate peace – Then according to yesterday – Russia would not mind coming in again – & having another go at the Germans – but – that is not exciting – as I don’t suppose they would be much use – for ages – long after – the war is over perhaps. Now up.
June 29th. When I got down to breakfast yesterday, everyone was asking if I were kept awake long – by the air raid warning – a bugle call – & saying how many hours they were kept awake – etc – etc. I lay dead low – as I had slept through it all. The morning before I was wakened by Bosche planes passing overhead – that is a noise once heard, never slept through I think – & tonight – I was up like a bird at what I thought was a bomb – but as I heard no planes or other excitement, think it must have been a door banging. It ought to be a punishable crime – to bang a door in these days.
This morning the sea is like glass – with a light haze over it – going to be a hot day I think.
The poor suicide is to be buried this morning. I went for a nice long country walk last night. Have somehow felt off the cliff walk – alone – the last day or two.
Letter from Major Martyn – he has broke[n] loose from his moorings & is to report to D.D.M.S. [Deputy Director of Medical Services. Ed] Etaples for a fresh job – I wonder – what & where it will be – hope somewhere nearer than his last one.
Some of my lost laundry has returned, & in with it was a packet of delicious, Blackie made, rock cakes – they are kind.
June 30th. The poor suicide girl was buried yesterday.
To my way of thinking – far too much of a pageant was made of it. There was a long procession headed by the C. Camp band – The ambulance with the coffin – smothered in flowers first – then all the Drivers – about 40 – then the girls own car – also full of most lovely flowers – then big contingents of M.O.s – Sisters from 47. G.H. our own hospital – the Can[adian] & American hospitals – men from the C. Camp. then the [D.D.M. crossed through. Ed] our own Col. & the Surgeon General, then the 3 commandants of the Drivers. Must have been about 300 people. The French photographers were all over the place taking photos for post cards! If I were her people I should be heartily disgusted at the whole thing. A quiet funeral would surely have been more comely. The whole thing reminded me of when the bomb victims were buried at Abbeville – I was on my way to the Station with some patients, & all round the Cathedral was so absolutely blocked by debris of fallen houses – about 20 (hurses)(hearses) gaudily trapped – with the bodies of the dead – & a crowd of 100s & 100s of civilians seething round. Our M.P.s – were keeping order – & sending all traffic another way.
Yesterday – I had a half day off – & went with other 3 to Bois de Cise – a very pretty wooded little place about 4 miles along the coast.
We walked by the main road – as the flag was flying from the Tank Camp – warning us that they were practising firing – & that it was not safe to walk seawards of them.
We passed right through their camp. It is very well laid out – there are blocks of huts – divided by broad roads – each road named after a battle – “Poelcapple [Poelcappelle. Ed] Street – Messines Street – Bois Boulins – etc. etc. In front of the huts the ground has been worked into little flower beds – with big green tubs of shrubs – to mark the entrances – every hut & tub has a yellow painted Tank – on it.
It is a big camp. It is a school for Officers & men – for instruction in the working of tanks. We had our tea at a Restaurant at Bois de Cise – like everywhere else near here – It was already thick with officers & Sisters & Tommies – for my own part I would take tea – & have a quiet picnic where no other folk are – We took a loaf – which came in very handy for our own – & other people’s tea. They had only a very little there.
Have just come back from early service – quite a big congregation today. about a dozen sisters & V.A.D.s – & 2 men. Now I must get ready for breakfast. My view was charming first thing – there was a brigantine in full sail – coming in. Sun – full on her, besides lots of other little fishing boats.
Evening I heard today – from two New Zealanders who were visiting one in my ward – that the New Zealanders were to go over the top last night – I am wondering if our boy [Edie’s youngest brother ‘Taff’. Ed] was going with them – & hope he is all right – am longing to hear from him.
The whole line seems to be livening up a bit – & the Germans are preparing for an offensive again. Hope they will fail as badly as the Austrians did.
A Padre – who is down to rest with the 21st Division preached tonight – I have heard since that he has a church at Leeds – must try to find out if he knows Fred.
There is a very virulent form of influenza spreading like wild fire among the hosps & our hospital is nearly full up with them – Temperatures anything up to 104° or 105°. The good thing is, it is usually over in a week – but if everyone is going to get it! We shall have a long time with it.
July 1st. Today – is Dominion Day with the Canadians which probably accounts for the band & cheering I heard a short while ago – 6 a.m.
Yesterday – a procession of Sisters, Officers & men – headed by their band – marched to all cemeterys where Canadians are resting – & held short services – & sounded the Last Post. The Sisters marched well – & looked rather pretty in the distance – quite a long line of them four deep – in their bright blue dresses & white caps.
July 3rd. The Canadian’s Sports went off well – I did not go – but those who did – say so, & they gave a good concert in the evening.
Tomorrow is [Inde – crossed out. Suspect she really meant ‘Independence Day’ on July 4. Ed] Thanksgiving Day – & the Americans will be en Fête.
I went for a country walk yesterday – nearly as far as Eu. The country is very beautiful – in places – quite scarlet with poppies. The one drawback – is when one meets Portugese soldiers – they are an ill-mannered lot – & very objectionable to meet. I can’t think why it is – The colouring at Étretat was about triple what it is here – sunsets, sunrises – clouds – sea – were all, far more glorious there. I have heard it said that it is so, but never believed there could have been such a great difference. Sister Gregson took a patient there two days ago – & did not come back until quite late. She asked me what sort of sunset we had – I told her – ‘ordinary’ & she said that Étretat was aglow – like it used to be of many colours. No wonder we all liked it so much.
I love watching the life on the strip of sea opposite me – just now – a line of steam trawlers is heading out to sea – & there is a tiny tug with three queer looking – lighters? in tow – hurrying after them, & there are – I should think hundreds of fishing smacks out. I sometimes wonder – if I realize that I am living in one of France’s smartest Hotels – beautifully situated – good rooms – wide corridors – bath-rooms galore – I always choose one that looks towards the rising Sun – & over the Harbour & Town – it is so quaint & beautiful in the early morning. And all – free of charge! Influenza is still raging – & my poor surgical patients, are surrounded & swamped by them – my ward & corrider all full of them – and still they come!
The Huns have scuttled another Hospital Ship! They did not take the trouble to board her – to see if all were correct – just torpedoed her without warning, & then fired on the small boats full of survivors, because they thought there were American airmen on board – There were none – but that of course was a detail to them – It made an excuse!
They are asking for trouble – & they will get it. – It would do them good – I find it soothing myself – to see the men’s faces stiffen when they read a thing like that, & the comment I heard many of them make was “and all those sisters gone”. only 14 after all! but men are so wonderfully chivalrous. Then you hear them say “H’m! catch me taking any more prisoners – we don’t want them & they have to be fed.” It doesn’t matter what nationality they are – there blood is up – & they are going to remember it. It was luckily not carrying patients – was on it’s return journey from Canada – fully marked as a hospital ship. The Llandovery Castle. Brutes!
July 5th. This is my day off. Thought I would sleep late, but Nature can’t do with such irregular habits – & it was business as usual at 5 a.m. A great blow! some one is sharing my room – & it makes early rising rather an agony as I am afraid of waking her. A staff nurse – quite nice – she objected to sharing rooms with the one she was supposed to – a Bart’s contemporary of mine & an absolute Prize grouser – so – if I get tired of this child – I know what to do – start bemoaning my Fate – & perhaps she will again ask to be moved. Major Martyn is working at Etaples now – No 24. He likes the work by day – but does not like spending hours in a dug out at night.
It is absolutely dead calm this morning – & I feel tempted – first time – to bathe.
The grouser – & one other day off sister want me to walk to La Madeleine – the day will see what we do do.
Yesterday was the Yanks great day – They gave a Baseball match & invited all of us & the officers to it & to tea – I went to the Match but did not stay to tea – I hear the tea – was a feast to remember [-] cocktails – iced tea & coffee – wonderful cakes just like in pre war time – I am not sorry I missed it – all the same.
The Yanks at play – are most un-English. They loose all scrap of self control & act like so many lunatics – not knowing the game – I can’t judge it – but it gives me far greater pleasure to watch a good game of Rugby – than Baseball – any day. They are queer folk – Sisters & orderlies were all crowded together & standing on seats – & yelling – for their side – I suppose they were so much excited. The Town was full of tipsy Yanks before 2 in the afternoon.
I tremble to think what they were like later on. My staff have insisted on sending my breakfast to me from the ward – good of them! The order of the day here is – to draw your rations over night & make your own breakfast.
The Germans seem rather long winded about making their next great attack, perhaps they don’t fancy facing the music –
There is a rain board – across my window – which obstructs my view – why shouldn’t I remove it – I must try – I could replace it when the rain comes.
Now I must call my room mate.
July 6th. Had a delightful day off yesterday. Breakfast 8.45 a.m. brought by my kind ward V.A.D.s. Sewed & enjoyed myself until 10 o’c, then dressed & prepared lunch – for two of us – Hansard – the other – & at 11.30 – we started for a long walk – to the Woods of Eu. Post arrived just as we were starting, & so I took my 3 unopened to enjoy at leisure! The day was very fine & calm – & the way there along pleasant country roads. The Woods themselves are EXquisite. The property belongs to the Count d’Eu – very large & beautiful grounds & woods & a fine old Chateau! He is poor – & has let the place to the English – but as far as we could see, no one was in it – & we seemed to have it all to ourselves.
7/7/18. We chose a pleasant slope under some pine trees, the pine smell pleased us – & the midges & flies do not like it – The birds were singing joyfully – & a squirrel was very busy in the tree above us – quite big sticks & all sorts of debris were constantly hurtling down round us – We could see him up there. After lunch – ham – sandwiches, cheese – & tea – we sat & enjoyed our surroundings for an hour & a half – & then walked on to Eu. It is a quaint, very old place I should think a gay place in ordinary times. Close round the Count’s chateau, are many very fine old houses with large grounds. Besides them there is the small village – the College & its chapel – & the old Notre Dame church a very fine structure. The only date we could see anywhere on the building was 1308. Perhaps it was built then. We came back by tram – in time for first dinner, & a dramatic performance given by the Amercians. The orchestra was enjoyable – & the piece funny.
The view out of my window is a never ending joy to me – The colouring at eventide is not a patch on what Étretat can show – but it is very pretty – & we look right down on to the shipping. On the evening of my day off we saw a large convoy of steamers – big merchantmen – about 30 of them, heading for England. It looked so very funny – like a fleet of them. There is always something going on.
I rather think we must have invented an aeroplane like the Gothas – sometimes I hear the same noise – brrr – brrr – brrr – first one engine, then the other – they take it in turns. It still makes my heart jump into my mouth – it is so much like a Gotha. Heard from Miss Wilton Smith yesterday – she thinks the Office will quite soon be moved to Boulogne. I’m glad.
Yesterday I took myself for a long country walk & gathered an armful of poppies, cornflowers – & corn & white flowers – (wild) & today the ward is a blow of red white & blue. The “up” patients in blue suits with white shirts & red ties. & huge vases of poppies daisies & cornflowers dotted about look very gay.
Most of our influenza patients are a good deal better, but some are still very ill indeed.
8 p.m. The picture on the next page needs an explanation. I have never seen anything like it before – I am in my bedroom – above is clear blue sky – & an unclouded Sun. The cliff also is clear – but over the sea looks like nothing else – than mountains, covered in thick soft snow & glistening in the sunshine – I suppose it is a fog bank & we are above it. I remember once in Wales – you (Mother) & I saw the same thing from a mountain top. Under all that fog – bells are ringing – & horns being blown – there must be quite a number of vessels there but we can see absolutely nothing beneath the glistening top of snow like cloud.
6 a.m. 8/7/15. Fog bank still there & I am in clear air & bright sunshine. There are some vessels so close – we can hear rattling of machines, but cannot see a thing of them. The original is much more beautiful & soft & billowy than the picture would lead you to believe.
9/7/18. Yesterday was a boiling day. Sea dead calm. I took my first plunge – & enjoyed it A.1. Bought a gown from Sister Hansard & made up my mind all on the spur of the moment. She is about 2 sizes taller & bigger round than me – So I cut off a good bit of the skirt of the coat – that was all right. Made a deep tuck in the body of the trousers, & made them short enough – never thought about the elastic being too loose – & when I began to swim – the way of the sea nearly washed them off – I had to swim two strokes – pull up my breeches – & so forth & so on- but they did keep on all right. For a change, this morning is stormy – but quite warm. Hope it is true – that the Germans are suffering so many losses of men through influenza that they cannot attack, more the merrier, because in the meantime the Americans are still arriving.
14th July. – last Thursday – I had a lovely walk along the sands – shoes & stockings off – It was very beautiful, the varying lights & colours of the setting sun – reflected on the Cliffs & wet sand & rocks were beautiful – people were out crabbing & shrimping – quite tiny crabs they use for food.
On Friday – I took patients for England – sisters – to Abbeville to join the Ambulance Train there.
We had a fine run there – Spent 5 hours in visiting my old hospital – & friends – including Miss Wilton Smith – & started back for Treport at 2.30 p.m. We came through a field so blue with cornflowers- we had to stop & gather armfuls – The lady driver was a good sort – & like us – in no hurry to get back – we left at 6.30 a.m. – got back – 4.30 – & did not go on duty as the wards were slack. The other Sister who came with me – arrived back – with a high temperature & influenza – & has been a patient in Sick Sisters ever since.
I had a strong feeling all along that I had been sent in disgrace from Abbeville – it was so sudden and unexpected. I heard – on Friday – that it was the Matron of the Home – who had me ejected – she told Miss McCarthy that I influenced the Staff – so that she could do nothing with them. The truth is – that she tried to boss me & run the hospital when I was in charge. I would not have that – & told her so – After all – when I am in charge it is quite sufficient for me to boss the staff. She hated me for not allowing her to – & so got me thrown out! The dirty dog! Being in disgrace does not sit heavy on my chest. [See reference to Miss Baldry in final paragraph for 14 July – below. Ed]
Austria seems to be in a fine old muddle – The Army is in Retreat & loosing heavily. The Germans are anxious to put Germans in command – but the Austrians say, as they have never sent the twelve Divisions they promised – they refuse to have German generals over them until the Divisions are sent. Sensible folk – & poor creatures – their plight seems to be deplorable.
Today – the 14th – is a National Fete – & all ships in the Harbour are decked with flags – & those poor dears in the cemetery – had another service held over them! on June 30th – the Canadians held one – Today – the French & Americans did. It is the Anniversary of the taking of the Bastille? Isn’t it?
A convoy is due to arrive tonight. The hospital has been terribly slack this week – & it has been difficult to find enough for the Staff to do – let alone myself.
The two last evening skies have been lovely – but not up to Etretat effects. I think it would be difficult to equal that.
Col. Barfoot the A.D.M.S. of Etaples is in here a patient – He has had a rough time through the war & very little leave – he has been spitting blood – is to go home.
My new dresses arrived today & fit well.
I went for a long walk yesterday along the Dieppe road – quite pretty – the corn is ripening – & though it is a pity – from the corn’s point of view – it is all very gay & bright – with myriads of poppies – I suppose it was not weeded when it was young.
Miss Baldry! the Matron of the Home – came up to me – on Friday – as if she had never been fonder of any one – but it didn’t last – as I was duly polite to her – & saw as little of her as I could – She knew she had done wrong! So did I. [see page on Acting Matron Ellen Baldr(e)y. Ed] Now I want to watch the Sun set – it is beautiful again – Goodnight.
15th July. Many happy returns of the Day to Mother! & many of them – will there be biggeroo cherries for tea at home? I wonder. We had a convoy in last night – I fancy chiefly wounded – the sister who shares my room – was called up – for the Theatre – a head case.
July 16th. I took 15 patients only from the convoy – but most of them were badly wounded – One poor thing had a shot across the back – from side to side – & it seems to have left a furrow of about 4 inches across & very deep. He is D.I. very cheerful – lying on his water bed – says he is as comfortable as a ship at sea. Another one S.I. has a gash across the left chest – & a biggish piece of shrapnel in his lung. He belongs to the Tank Corps – & says going over the top in a Tank is “great”. Telling me about one attack he said “A hundred tanks went over – each tank has a crew of 6 + 1 officer – each one has his allotted job – we just go on until we see the infantry held up somewhere – then we make straight for the place & fire on the MG nest – & if they won’t shift – we ride over them.”
One sergeant brought down two beautiful little photo maps – taken from the air – showing the country round Hamel. Nowadays when they are ordered to take a certain position or space – the Sgt is given one of these maps, showing his objective. The maps – or photos have been useful in another way – they have shown how very distinctly even tiny foot paths show – & of course when the Bosche takes photos, he sees them too, & gathers from them often where a Battery is. Paths to Batteries are to be camouflaged – he thinks – & rightly too. Yesterday – was so hot & heavy. I did not go out – & during the night we had two or three very heavy thunderstorms, squalls of wind & torrents of rain. It does not feel much cooler this morning.
The Sunset was beautiful, & reflected on a mill pond like sea – made quite a picture – with the fishing fleet coming in – so slowly, they hardly seemed to move. I had to get up to shut my window – & saw a wonderful sight, about half a dozen small vessels were at anchor – just beneath – each burning a huge light – the sea was calm – & the lightning very vivid – & incessant – I could distinctly see all the rigging – by the glare of lightning.
People living on the other side of the house say there was a heavy bombardment two nights ago – patients from this convoy think we are going to make an attack soon.
The Bosche devils have got a new gas – odourless. Its effect is to paralize people – the first they know of it is – that they have lost all power of voluntary muscles.
July 18th. The Bosches opened up on a 50 mile front on the 15th – against the French & Americans. I think they made a poor show – they threw in 40 of their best Divisions, but did not come on much – and by the end of the first day the attack was counted “broken.” I think the French Airmen didn’t give them much chance of bringing up supplies & reinforcements in comfort. The Americans made a brilliant counter attack at one place & drove the enemy back. Our counter preparation artillery fire seems to have upset them also & killed large numbers of them who were assembled to make the attack – but I hope before the end of the Battle they will get more than that.
I read in yesterday’s paper that America has a great number of bombing planes ready to come across – that will not be pleasant reading for the Bosche.
We have been having intensely hot weather with stormy intervals – thunder, lightning – rain – & a hot strong wind off the land.
July 20th. We sent several patients to England today – so shall be pretty slack – bar convoy.
My half day has been a dead failure – so least said soonest mended. A Sister whom I do not like tied herself round my neck & would not be shaken off. Poor thing! Nobody likes her – she talks nothing but unpleasant things about everybody & anybody – which is very boring to folk who are forced to listen. The Bosche offensive seems to have met with a speedy nip in the bud. The French & Americans have done magnificently. Today’s paper says 17,000 prisoners 360 guns! That really is good. Naturally all Americans have been on tenter hooks – waiting – & wondering how their men would do in an important affair. They need not fear now – I hope. Their men have done capitally. I think I won’t write any more diary – I am far too much on edge – at having wasted good afternoon hours – in a dreary slouch round the dirty little beast of a town & tea in a horrid place – instead of having a decent country walk – this person – said she was coming – & then after the first few steps was too tired for the country. Do come to the town!
July 23rd. Up to the present the news keeps good. The British are in it now – near Reims – & are doing as well as the French & Americans are South. The Italians are with us.
The total of prisoners in the paper two days ago was 20,000 – & nearly 400 guns. We are using a deadly gas that eats through the German helmets. I really wish both sides would give up gas – it is a devilish way of fighting – it isn’t fighting. One patient told me yesterday that one time they were using this gas – a German rushed across to give himself up & said it was terrible they couldn’t stand it. He died almost at once.
One poor creature in the ward is very ill indeed. D. I. & has gas gangrene. He wrote home yesterday – “Dear Mother – You will be pleased to know I am wounded in the left leg & am in hospital”. I have never yet known a man write a letter home that could worry his people. They are a wonderful lot.
July 26th. I heard a convoy arrive in the night – I wonder what came – our last batch are doing well – the Mother of the boy with g.g. is here – & the one with the badly wounded chest is extraordinarily better in spite of – as shown by X ray – having a large piece of metal near the 1st sacral vertabra, which has fractured one of the bones of the pelvis & another biggish piece in his chest! They cannot possibly operate, until he is able to breathe a bit better.
The news still keeps good! What a thing to be grateful for – & how very disquieting pour les Bosches – if they know. Many of our orderlies have been taken away – we have heard – that a general hospital is being mobilized to be sent with the 47th Division to Russia. They say 3 General Hospitals are going. I should like to go too – unless I could be where I could see something of brother Taff – no luck in that direction so far. I watched the French Army tailors at work the other day. They are established in what was well I don’t really know – in my own mind I had always called in Swimming baths. The room I looked into was about 60 feet long & wide in comparison. It was filled with tables running nearly the whole length of it – just one table ran across – at one end.
All tables had the light blue serge of the French service uniform – running the whole length – I tried to count how many thicknesses – & came to the conclusion “24”. On one table a girl had a trolley laden with a huge roll of the stuff. It ran up & down on rails – same idea as a breakfast tray on legs is across the patient – & as it went the roll of stuff unwound on to the table – two girls followed it & laid the material smoothe. The middle table was already covered with its twenty four layers. At the small cross table – a tailor was chalking out the pattern of a greatcoat – the middle table was waiting to be chalked into greatcoats.
At the table nearest the window the cutter out was at work – wonderful, he has an electric apparatus something like I’m going to try to draw – of course like a silly I did not leave enough room.
1 is a great steel hand shaped plate very thin at the far end – that runs under the part that is to be followed by the knife. No 2 is a deadly sharpe blade – that I imagine is worked up & down by electricity – although it only appeared to shiver – No 3 is the handle the tailor pushes it by & the cord is the connection with a battery which was out of sight.
He changed some part of it while I was watching – & it seem to burn his hands – he put it down in a mighty hurry. He was a careful cutter, & all the little bits from the pattern were cut into small squares – to go behind buttons, or something. Behind him came a girl – with a huge bundle of self-edge – of calico. She tied all the different parts in bundles. Then came a trolley & neat bundles of front sleeves – back sleeves – shoulder straps – backs – & fronts – were piled up on it – to be taken to the machinists I suppose. I could not see them.
The weather has been very unsettled all this month – but not bad – windy – but of course we do feel every puff of wind here.
It makes one almost nervous to look at the paper – lest the news shall not be good. I do hope it still will.
July 27th. Weather still noteable for devastating heavy showers of rain & hail. Yesterday a sister – McCorqudale [see separate page on Staff Nurse Janet McCorquodale. Ed] & I had half days – took our tea & went for a most glorious walk. To Eu by tram – then straight out & up – up – up – all the way – first through cultivated land – then woodland. When we had walked what seemed to us about 4 miles we came upon an old man – tidying up a château garden – Château – as most, closed. We asked if we were nearly at “La Madeleine” – our destination. He laughed and said he hoped we were not in a hurry – as we had “encore cinq kilometres”! More than three miles more! We had plenty of time, so didn’t mind a bit – & went on – still up hill for a little way – then a gentle down – through heather clad moorland – & then La Madeleine!
La Madeleine is a huge – forest owned by the State, – pines, larches, oaks, mountain ashes – birches – every sort of tree. The pines & larches keep very much to themselves. It was like walking on velvet – going through them – the ground thick in last year’s needles – & the scent was refreshing & good. The mountain ashes were just red – & it was very pretty to look far into the depths of the forest – all the tree trunks were covered in brilliant green moss – & the bright red berries of the mountain ashes – peeped through – & all the many tints of greens & browns – & above – violet blue sky & dead white clouds. There is only one house – & that is a trim red brick one – with lots of quaint old out houses – The Forester lives there – the head forester I suppose – judging by a photograph on the wall – there are quite a lot of them – The wife & daughters have quite a good sized farm – We had tea there, (saying nothing about having had one at 4 o’c by the road side). Fruit, & cream rusks & butter & tea. They put a bowl quite full of cream on the table & are hurt if you don’t finish it – we did. The walk back was very beautiful – after the one little up hill – it is a gentle slope down into Eu – all the time. The view of the place was interesting – the church, the many fine old châteaux, round about the Château of Le Conte d’Eu -, the rambling quaint old town, – & just now – what looks like another town outside – Camps upon camps upon camps, all in huts, of Belgians & Americans – there is a war on. We might not have known it – from the blessed peace & quiet of our half day beyond all signs of it. We meant to go – weather or no – & luckily it was kind – one tre-mendous shower – while we were waiting for the Treport tram to Eu – & were in shelter – & one on our way home – just where the Forest was very dense – & it didn’t come near us. We got to Eu – just as the tram was starting, & with the rest of people anxious to ride to Treport – threw ourselves at the way in – & were successfully packed in – on or off our feet by the crowd behind. I should think there were about twice too many on board. I was standing with the knees of a sitting Belgian shoving me into the middle of the car – & the behind of a very fat Frenchman standing behind me – shoving me towards the Belgian. I was carrying a huge bunch of mountain ash etc. & had to plant both hands firmly on the wall over the Belgian’s head – to keep myself in any sort of shape at all – The berries hung – just where they hit his nose every time the car rattled, & he did look cross – but as he might have at least – offered me his seat – I left things as they were.
While we were waiting for our tram in Treport, a lorry arrived from somewhere near Amiens – bring[ing] twenty officers down – on a few hours leave. Just about there I was looking in a Café. Some tables were occupied by soldiers – at one – were two girls, dressed & painted to a high degree – “playing cards” & laughing loudly. They did not seem much interested in their game – but the lorry load of clean young officers seemed to need all their attention. There are hundreds of such in every big French town.
I asked the lorry driver if Amiens has been much knocked about. He said – as I thought he would – not so much – only once the Cathedral has been hit. I marvelled at that – then he told me – that we had billetted German officers there! Oh, clever thought! I would pack it with them – it is such a beautiful cathedral.
July 29th. An old friend of mine appeared here yesterday. She is going on leave – from her train – A.T. no 20 which brought us a convoy last night.
She & I went for a long walk last night Eu – Road – & home Dieppe Rd – & cliffs – all very beautiful. We found quite a lot of mushrooms.
There are a great many of the “Guards” out at rest at Mesnil Val. Grenadiers – Coldstreams – Irish. It is noticeable – how dearly they love us to say even “Goodnight” & one man said, “I was hoping you were going to speak. It is 18 months since I heard an Englishwoman talk.” They do like it. We had an air alarm at 11 a.m. yesterday – I think there was a raid about 25 Kilometres away. Sister Woods (from the train) told me they had been having disturbed nights. They were never allowed to sleep on the train – when they had no patients on board and wherever they happened to be – they were sent off either to some one’s dug out – or with blankets & pillows to the fields! This moon – I must say has had greater decency than the last – in the way of shrouding its treacherous face. I’m sick of the moon – it seems to be always there – other times we used to get dark nights. Abbeville & Etaples have been raided again too. It is the railway they want. There is a man out here – a Col. Boden – who started the war in the munition department – but I think he is sort of Specialist at the job he is doing now. That is – he is in charge of making light railways – & trucks & cars to run on them – right the way from the base to Kandas (?) [Edie’s question mark. I think she meant Candas – 30 miles East of Abbeville. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Department_Light_Railways. Ed]. There is an ‘up’ rail & a ‘down’ & junctions & by rails – innumerable. They say it is a marvelous organization & saves a tremendous amount of traffic on the main railway – Ammunition, supplies – patients, troops, can now all go up on his rail so leaving the other less congested & also greatly relieving the lorry traffic & leaving the roads alone – très bon.
July 30th. I have come to the conclusion that we are so high up – that we do occasionally get that cloud effect. Here it is this morning. I am looking down on to a leaden sea with bunches of soft cumulus cloud over it – a long strip of (cirus ?) cloud at the horizon & here I am in the clear pink melon colour of sunrise – never a cloud.
Yesterday was calm & two trawlers & three aeroplanes were very busy – looking for a mine or a submarine – instead of going out, I stayed in my window & watched them. The aeroplanes reminded me of seagulls over sewage – they would swoop down – & along – almost on the water – then up – & circle round – then down again. In the meantime there was a great deal of tooting going on from trawler to trawler & they were steaming – what looked like round in circles. I don’t know if they “found”.
Another convoy came last night. I don’t know how big – or how bad.
20 Canadian Sisters were added to our strength yesterday! For temporary duty! It is a great education and I am sure – very good for us to rub shoulders with all sorts. In my ward I have two sorts of Americans. One a Yankee – & one who would scorn to be a Yank – & now – a Canadian, as well as English – Scotch & Irish! Not a single letter yesterday – better luck today.
July 31st. Yesterday was wonderful – from a spectacular point of view – the sea – for the whole enormous spread of it that we can see – like glass. I should think hundreds of fishing boats were out – chiefly sitting in the one place – with all their sails up – not moving an inch. They are about the size of Deal luggers – & have all coloured sails – blue – red – brown – white. Think of them all in reflection! If it hadn’t been upside down you wouldn’t have known which was boat – & which was reflection – some drifted home to harbour – & as soon as they were near enough sent a long tow rope ashore in the dingy – & a long line to men & women pulled them in – they had a fine catch of mackerel.
I only wish you could have seen the sun set last night – you could have drawn it with a ruler. I have never seen such a straight strip of brilliant gold – of course the glow – couldn’t hold a candle to Étretat, it must have been wonderful there last night.
Aug 2nd. I wonder how Fred is getting on. I think he will like it. I have had glorious bathes yesterday & the day before. Yesterday – a non batheing friend & I walked to Mesnil Val – where is a huge Con. Camp & Rest Camp. The water there was thick with bathers – but we turned sharp to the right & walked along to where there was not a soul on the shore – & lovely little cliff caves to undress in.
On the way we passed three Canadian Sisters sitting on the beach – two non bathers & one pining to go in but not liking to alone. So we went together – I was meaning to bathe alone – but vastly prefer some one beside me in the water. The sea looked calm – but it was a very strong current – & we were out of our depths long before we thought, a delightful dip – must try to go there again soon.
The day before – braved the crowded room – but I loathe it. We are busy – have had a convoy down every day for the past 12 days.
News in the paper still good – Von somebody [This was German diplomat Count Wilhelm von Mirbach, who was assassinated at the request of the Central Committee of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. Ed] – a big German in Moscow – has been assassinated. As one of my men says – he does not like murder, but thinks it quite a good thing for some of these influencial Germans to be put aside.
Aug 3rd. I heard yesterday that Boulogne had been badly raided the night before – The Bosche got through the barrage & did pretty much as he liked – Hotel Devereux (D.M.S. – H.Q.) burnt to the ground – a Food Store – & a Detail Camp – luckily very little loss of life – which is a great thing to be grateful for.
This morning looks like being a fine day.
[Aug] 5th. I had a very pleasant half day on Saturday. Sister Payne & I took tea to Mesnil Val – walked there over the cliff – then came back – under it – until we found a quite deserted spot. The tide was at its lowest, but after walking – for what seemed like 1/2 a mile over sand & rocks & pools I came to a deep basin into which every wave dashed. I bathed there – & had a thorough swirling – it was lovely – I did not go out to sea as I was alone – sea strong – rocks unknown. We thought as it looked to be working up for a storm – the S. W. sky was deep violet & spreading – we would walk home by the coast as a short cut. We found our mistake – when every inch was over rocks & pebbles – & it was somehow much further. The storm raced us – & gave us a drenching before we got home. My coat now looks like nothing on Earth.
We still feel like holding our breath about the news – up to yesterday – it was still excellent! Long may it last. Soissons has fallen to us – & we are near Reims! All the Allies seem to have fought splendidly, including the Americans – who of course ought to, they are useing the cream of their men – & they are fresh.
We are getting a convoy of wounded down every day now – Etaples is not being used. I suppose it is still out of action from it’s last bombing raid. Wish I could hear of or from Taff [Edie’s youngest brother. Ed] – am wondering very much where he comes in, in all this.
On the cliff – behind where we had our picnic is a big Rest Camp – Australians are there just now, & we much enjoyed their band – which was just a right distance away to sound pretty.
Aug 9th. Since the last entry we have been fairly evenly busy – a convoy every day but one – I heard that a million men were to go over the top, & I am deeply wondering if A.J.A. will be one – good luck to the boy! He will be sorry if he does not go – & with Tommy I say – if there is no bullet with his number on – he won’t get it. Good luck – to them.
The Dining Hall – gave a huge tea the other day – to their boys – & kindly invited all who were able of mine – to go. They had an excellent tea – salad – cakes – jellies – fruit.
After tea – there was an impromptu concert got up by a Sick Officer who when he is not fighting composes music. Judging him by his appearance & the way he sings & plays – his peace time occupation suits him better than his present one. Two or three of our staff contributed – one a violin solo – one played the ‘cello & one sang. That officer – Mr. Vernon Lee – has gone back to duty now – we were all sorry – while he was in, he used to borrow the piano from the M.O.’s mess – & give a concert somewhere – nearly every night.
Yesterday – I went out with a sister who plays golf – she wanted to practise, so I did too! My. It is not a bit like it looks! You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to hit the ball! & when you do – it goes & hides itself so cleverly – that it takes ages to find, but I can quite realize the fascination of the game to one who can play. I may try again one day.
A very funny thing for about 10 days – I have felt positively ill, like influenza – with a stiff neck – & left arm – & nothing has done it much good – rubbing, applications, all have failed. So I sort of settled down to calling it “chronic rheumatism” & letting it take it’s chance. It is like a bad toothache – mine is a good bit better now – but I can’t look sideways very well. Well – that is not the funny thing. Two days ago – I met a sister on the stairs looking about 100 years old – & stiff. She had it just the same – was having the day off next day – & felt so seedy was going to spend it in bed. Last night I heard of another with it – & another with a stiff back – & another with stiff legs. I believe it is some sort of a germ going round.
Some of my own patients were on the Warilda when she was torpedoed. [See: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Ships/HMHSWarilda.html. Ed] I was very thankful to get a letter from one of them yesterday – a boy who had been on the D.I. for some time & whose Mother came. I think I mentioned him.
Aug 10th. Many happy returns of the day to Fred.
The times are stirring – & of an exciting week – I think yesterday was top day.
When I went on duty at 8, I was met by a patient half way – & asked if I had heard the news? we had broken through at Albert & in front of Amiens & had advanced 9 miles – a little later my Yankee M.O. arrived – flushed & excited. Had I heard – we had taken prisoner two Divisional Generals – lots of big guns, 2 complete C.C.S. (or as he said 2 C.C.s in to-to). Our tanks had done wonders & we had taken lots of German tanks. The ward is full of men who had taken part in it. Some had got only as far as the German first line – some to the 2nd & some to the 3rd – & they were perked up – & longing for more to arrive to know – if the wood in front of [words crossed out] – behind – – no – well anyway the German side of the 3rd line trench had been taken.
Of course – we only had the slight cases down so early on – during this night – more trains were to arrive – & today more again – & will probably bring the severely wounded. The spirit & cheer of the men is unbounded. You hear them talking about it – as excitedly as if it were a game of football & once the tale is told they, many of them – go off into such a sleep, there seems no wakening them for anything. Just sometimes I wish I were up at a C.C.S. but I don’t think I really do. They say – British – by that I mean all English speaking troops including Americans – have done it so far – The French – are held in readiness, resting with their very best cavalry – & when we are tired out – the French are going to make a dash & carry on – that is the plan – let us only hope it will carry out all right.
Also – they say – that our Casualties are light – one serious to 5 slight wounded, & not a heavy toll of killed. Thank God for that. Our tanks did good work – they went over 5 to a battalion, & when they got to the German front line – they turned & paraded up & down the line – firing all the time – which made a good protection for our Infantry. The weather was misty two days ago – & our big bombing planes could not take part. Yesterday was clear – & I expect they did.
Aug 11th. Yesterday was a good old time busy day. Convoys in, convoys out – patients going to the theatre – others to be X-rayed. It was for a time, a whirl of men with stretchers. We had some very badly wounded in – those who were left behind in C.C.Ss. or F.As. when we got the slight ones yesterday.
There is one youngster with his leg off above the knee who says – when the doctor comes round to mark them for Blighty – he wishes to be sent to Brighton. The bad ones were all very exhausted – poor dears – tired from the fight – as well as having in most cases lost a lot of blood, & what a quantity they drink! The very best thing for them & their natures evidently demand it – what an agony of thirst a wounded man – out of reach of water must suffer.
My neck is still frightfully stiff, & some other people have it now. Out of my window – is such a pretty ‘Peace” Sunday picture – hazy morning – pink sunshine – lots of little fishing boats, with coloured or white sails – to & fro on a nearly mill pond sea.
The reading in the Daily Mail was thrilling yesterday, especially where the Cavalry & Whippets [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium_Mark_A_Whippet] charged ahead of the Infantry. The Infantry opening out to let them pass. The Tanks! really did marvels – some of them went so far into the German lines – they paraded the streets of a village occupied by the enemy & fired their guns – point blank into rooms where Officers were feeding or dressing or working – truly a great surprise for them! Surely the Germans cannot stand long of such treatment. Letter from Taff yesterday written on the 3rd – held up by way of censoring probably.
Aug 14th. This “push” is a very steady going one. We have had 3 & 4 trains a day in since it began. Everywhere is crowded out. Those fit to travel go almost straight on to Blighty, but we are accumulating a heavy residue of those “unfit”. In my ward I have 10 D.I. & S.I. 3 bad spine cases, one fractured skull & so the work if anything becomes heavier.
We have a great number of very badly wounded Germans – & I hear from Major Martyn that 24 Gen. is full of them.
By what the men say as well as by the paper the enemy resistance is stiffening considerably, & our casualties less light in consequence. I wonder how long they can keep up this pitch of warfare!
The weather I think has favoured us.
The Theatre has been busy all day & the greater part of the night lately.
Aug 16th. My ward – is rather a sad place just now – so full of extremely badly wounded – plenty of gas gangrene – 2 fractured spines – dying & a room – which is very difficult to ventilate. One feels the horrible smell in one’s throat & nose all the time – poor old things! They are very good – one died yesterday – an Australian – his leg was very gangrenous & had to be taken off high up – but it was too far gone. His one cry was to get up – & go out, he was quite all right – then about 1/2 an hour before he died he settled down – said “I’m done – I’m dying fast “ & he was quite right. It is very sad for these Colonials with their people so far away – but when he was off his head – I think he thought I was his Mother – from the way he hugged & kissed my hand – Well – so long as he does not get a great disappointment in a lucid interval I do not mind. The news is keeping very good – long may it last.
There is a heavy sea fog this morning. I am getting quite blazy [sic = blasé. Ed] of them now but it is a funny sight – a cloudless sunny sky above us – the soft fluffy mass that looks like newly fallen snow on the sea – & from out it ship bells and steamers’ horns – no sign of the vessels themselves.
Joyce Simpson called yesterday. She is “resting” at Mesnil Val. W.A.A.C. Con Camp. She is still working at H.Q. L. of C. whose office moved from Abbeville to Dieppe a little while ago. She says Officers on the staff speak very hopefully of the progress of the War.
Aug 19th. Our last convoy was a heavy one – of gassed men. I only took eleven but eleven such as they added to my already very busy ward means a lot. The two poor spines are dying so slowly – one an old Sgt is quite happily rambling on to his wife a queer old fish who looks reproachfully & almost reprovingly at him – for dying – in broad Lancashire “I did not think he would die”!
The other is an Australian – of Danish decent really a most handsome fair lad – 24 years old yesterday. His Mother & fiancée are in Australia. I hope to get his Aunt from England to see him. He is a marvel – can’t feel a single thing below his chest – upper part is always happy & content & cheerful.
A sister of another ward, who comes from nearly the same part of Australia comes & talks to him when she can.
The gassed patients all say this is quite a new sort of gas. Their eyes are all swollen – blood shot & streaming – & their skin burnt a copper colour, the tender parts of their bodies is burnt too. The gas does not take effect at once – but comes on by degrees. They may be sick after their first meal as a preliminary symptom – then their eyes begin to prick. By the time they reach the base they are extremely ill. Breatheing like a person dying from bronchitis – horrible discharge pouring from nose & mouth T[emperature] about 104 pulse about 140.
My own M.O. is on leave – & taking his place is a Bart’s man – Capt. Randle of my own year. I like him. He was with a Battalion until a few weeks ago – they did well – were terribly cut up – & the remnant sent to the base – to be quiet for a bit.
In talking one day – I said I thought not one person if they spoke the truth would say they want to go back to the front – he quite agreed – but said he knew just one man – who was an exception – a Major in his Battalion – a big man – very slow of speech – who was absolutely fearless. Once – when the Germans had advanced – he went back – to where the Batt[alion] had retreated from – to find out some information for his Colonel. He found out what was wanted, & then went down to one of their old dug outs, where he knew there was a telephone back to H.Q., rang up his Col. & told his tale. The Colonel asked him where he was, & when he heard – said “Thank you very much for the information which will be most useful – & now – will you please come back as quickly as you can.” The Major answered in his drawl “Very well Sir – I will if I can – but there are rather a lot of Bosches about – I can hear some talking outside the dugout.” He got back all right. He was always loathe to take leave – & had to be sent.
Someone showed him an account in a home paper of some of his exploits on the Marne – no name mentioned but a Major who has won the D.S.O. & Military Cross – both with bars – & the exploits left no doubt it was he. He was extremely angry about it.
In my ward I have a sergeant with 14 years Army Service – rather a character too. He was in the Navy two years – didn’t like it, because he said – “you get beaten every time you dare speak to an A.B.” so he swam ashore – to Plymouth – at 1 a.m. one night, bought himself some clothes – took train to London – without a ticket, & straight away enlisted in the Army. He was caught & court-martialled two years later – at Malta, but seems to have got on all right.
This is his 6th time of being wounded – He has two bits through his lungs – but he “thinks if he starts deep breatheing exercises he will be better soon – he is accustomed to doing them every day.”
Etaples is still being bombed from time to time – there are 100s of Bosches there & at Abbeville & here.
An Australian was telling me – that they were obliged to take more prisoners than they wanted, because they were too tired to bayonette any more. They came over in shoals – & the Australians – bayoneted & bayoneted until they could do no more. I sat out on the Pierhead yesterday afternoon it was gloriously breezy – & I was entertained by watching a Belgian officer, making love to a Belgian lady – who seemed far more taken up with keeping her skirts from being blown over her head than with him. As it was her little powder puff blew away & two little boys had a fine game chasing it, until it finally dodged through a port hole & flew out to sea.
A large convoy passed on it’s way to Dieppe – & one of three – from Dieppe to England.
My staff nurse is going on leave today – hope she won’t have a bad crossing.
Aug 22nd. St. Bartholomew’s Day. I wonder if the children will get their buns – don’t suppose there will be many plums in them – if any, but it is the bun – that is the joy. One spine case died yesterday. His wife was with him. Dear simple soul – it was very pathetic, & she suffered untold anguish but Grief is strange – the heart enveloped in it is constantly finding little peepholes of comfort, & occasions for rejoicing. The poor thing would weep that she was losing a good husband, then: “but his Colonel was proud of him, & is going to write to me, and then it’ll all be in the paper!” Then she would be sorry again – & then – “All Accrington will know of him – it’ll all be in the papers” [-] “Ah well – I’m glad I’ve seen the last of him – I shall be more content.” He – Sgt. Partlin, was only 35, I thought from looking at him he was about 50. War does age them. [Note: in November 2008 I was contacted by Sgt Partlin’s great granddaughter – full information here. Ed]
I heard a good argument from that other Sgt. I told you about who ran away from the Navy – in favour – of being 2 parts drunk – when you “go over the bags.” He is a man who has done well – & won medals. To begin with – if you’re wounded – you don’t bleed as much – 2nd – You are quite sensible enough to know what is expected of you – & you do the job – with a crest high spirit – & daring – minus fear.
He told me – in one big attack – at their first objective they found a dug out – where four German officers were lunching – ham, bread – wine in plenty – they killed the four – had lunch – themselves & had a good drink of rum – of which they found dozens of bottles in our English Bass bottles. First he & four other sergeants had it – then an officer joined them – then the Colonel – & when they had finished they sent the men down. After that they took another 90 yards in a brilliant dash. I take a good deal of notice of what this Sgt says – he is a man of fine physique – goes in for long distance running – deep breatheing & all sorts of things. When he is in the line he takes 2 meals a day – & his rum issue – but when they are back for a rest he eats 3 meals a day & drinks 3 pints of stout every night at the Estaminet before going to bed!
Judging by the tramping there was a convoy in last night! We are getting rather short of staff but – who is not used to that!
My gassed men are terribly ill – every one of them the colour of a dirty penny, pulses rocky, throats raw – eyes streaming – lids swollen – & off their heads at intervals – weather, like living in a Green house. It is all right at night, because no one cares if you have nothing on – but the day time! with correct uniform! I ask you!
27th Aug. The battles are raging – hot & strong & up to date of yesterday – there seemed to be no holding back the allies – God speed them still! Our boy [younger brother, Taff] is in the thick of it at Bapaume – at least so I imagine – a New Zealander I have in told me the whole Division was there – which of course includes Pte 54268. It is a difficult part of the line & I’m wishing the whole bloody war at an end – & all the boys safely home.
The ward is a shambles – of men with broken skulls – legs off – spines broken – it is also a shifting scene – of ins & outs – every day 2 or 3 train loads come in & every day those who are at all fit to travel go on. Roll on the war & why oh why – since you have to squeal for Peace – don’t you wretched Bosches start about the squealing now.
We are getting 100s of Bosches in – many mortally wounded – no time for me or things as diaries… if there were I would just say how pretty the sea & sky are this morning – blue & copper!
Miss Wilton Smith is on leave – first time of going to England since the beginning.
Aug 30th. Thank God! The news keeps good – we have no breathing time between trains, & trains & more trains – how the whole British Army is not at the different Bases by now I don’t know.
The New Zealand Div. is at Bapaume. God speed our boy. My ward is full to overflowing all the time & many have their relatives wired for by the War Office – really it is heart breaking – one dear old old lady came all the way alone – had never traveled in her life before – to see her youngest boy. Fathers – Fathers & Mothers – Brothers – Aunts – all kinds of relatives.
I can hardly answer for the weather nowadays – we have no time to realize what it is doing but it seems all right.
Every day more Bosches come – they are thick on the ground – many badly wounded.
Sept 2nd. Bullecourt has been taken – and lost –Peronne is ours – and lots of other places – Roye – Noyon – Mont St Quentin – lots of prisoners taken! & still the tide of wounded comes in & passes on – to England, or to its last resting place. September is here & the War not nearly ended – God speed the Allies to do something to stop it before it’s 5th winter!
A Corporal in my ward tells how a Chink was killed in an air raid – the Chinese Compound was close to a huge German Prisoners cage – at the death of their man they broke bounds – got to a bomb dump, equipt themselves & left not one alive in the German cage.
We are still flooded out with Germans – and talk about the “Blighty smile” it sits as surely on the face of prisoners going to England as on our boys. Yesterday I was watching a huge bus that carries about 40 sitting cases. The two last rows were Bosches – & they were all smiles & just as excited looking as our own men.
Sept 4th. The Battle proceeds – all along the line & in Russia – one feels breathless & nervous of shouting too soon but up to yesterday the Allies were sweeping forward, All hospitals are kept at top speed – receiving & passing on wounded – all those not likely to be fit to fight in 10 days – Blighty – others C.C. Even so they say thanks to aeroplanes & tanks, our casualties are light for the Victories won.
The Germans got news that we were bringing out a new tank – so our people wrote many accounts of the “whippet” a small new one in use – to throw dust in their eyes – of the real new ones – that we are now using. They are big enough to carry 15 Infantry men as well as their own crew & are so big that up to the present they have not come to the trench too big for them to cross.
We are absolutely flooded out with Germans, and I imagine hundreds are being killed. A Canadian I had in yesterday was surprised when I told him how many we had – he said they had orders to kill as many as they could & said they killed them just as fast as they could. God help us.
I went crabbing last night with a V.A.D. It is great fun – you scramble about over rocks & poke them out with a stick – we brought about 9 home of an edible size. Besides it is very beautiful there in the evening with the Sunset making pretty pictures & so far away from everybody.
They are still nibbling at our Staff – I suppose to lend help to the C.C.Ss. – quite right although we are so busy we don’t know which way to turn.
Sept 11th. The busy time continues although the last two train loads have had quite a percentage of what we call “I.C.T.” that is such things as poisoned sore – or tears of barbed wire – but an empty bed is still an unknown thing. I don’t know how the soldiers keep it up but I think hospital staffs are beginning to feel a bit done – but still we would much rather them get on with the war – If it means ending it sooner. We have got the funniest old Scot in the ward – shot through the stomach – has to be dressed often. He knows each time exactly how he wants to be laid & tells us – “on ma right side – with ma bxttxm theyre” – or sometimes he does not say which side. “Poot ma bxttxm theyre, & I’ll be right” so we do exactly as he says & he is quite content.
Rogers – that Sandwich boy – is still running a temp between 103°& 105° – but I hope he will pull through. The newspaper news is good still – but we don’t seem much nearer the end of the War. No news of Taff – I suppose he is still in the thick of it.
Quite a well off wounded relative said she would like to send me something for the ward – I warned her – I really did not know the prices of things & said I should like a gramophone. She has promised it. I hope it is not too expensive – her husband is Head master of a School & the children like collecting.
12th Pouring rain! This will put a stopper on our “Push” but I fancy we are in better position than the Bosche. Looking down a row of beds yesterday – No. 1 was an Australian – 2 a S. African – 3 a N. Z.er – 4 a Scot – 5 & 6 Canadians – 7. Irish – 8 E[nglish] – 9 Portuguese – after that it became more monotonous.
13th Very rough weather – I was in & out of bed a dozen times shutting the window for rain – opening it again at last, knowing it was only heavy showers. I tucked my head under my R. [right] arm – when it rained – the bed & floor & everything blows quite dry in the tween times. Yesterday’s paper reported the Germans counter attacking. I do hope we shall get St. Quentin before the Winter sets in. It is a beautiful touzled morning – black & copper clouds & a rough sea.
Miss Eardley & I went for a rough & muddy walk last night – got caught in two deluges – luckily we were in a corn field at the time, & buried ourselves in the sheaves – found a fair number of mushrooms. We were coming home by a straight narrow lane – muddy everywhere – ponds, in parts. We scrambled along the upright banks past the ponds. An old, old Frenchman was coming towards us & was evidently very anxious to help us over the difficult parts – we met him in due course & he insisted on helping us from one side of the lane to the other – p – e – r – haps a shade less muddy than the one we were on – a dear old man – he hurried to help us along the bank I think – but as we had finished with that for the time he helped us over whatever we happened to be on.
Rogers still critically ill – I had a letter from his Father yesterday – & a box of chocolates from poor old Limbrick’s (now dead) fiancée.
Really this push makes one’s correspondence a bit heavy. The Padre is fine – out after all. The D.I.’s relatives, like to hear from those who nurse their dear ones.
Sept 19th The last few days have been quieter although busy. All our American Sisters & 3 of our own have been taken – an old friend of mine of 45 C.C.S. days has come here for duty. She went on leave from her Ambulance train & asked for a move when she came back. The strain was too great for her – most nights in dug outs, & no steady work to counterbalance things.
The weather has been hot. Several N.Z.ers came on the last convoy.
Have you ever read Kipling’s poem called “Trawlers”. It is true to life – We see it done in our view. The good little trawlers are up & down the fair way scooping up mines & seeing that all is safe – then at evening a huge convoy – often over 40 big steamers shoot across from Dieppe to somewhere in England.
I had two spine cases in a month ago apparently wounded the same & paralysed the same. One died in a few days – one is much better – & going to England today. Three head cases all looking to be equally wounded – one got (apparently) quite well – one became childish & traveled home – well – but 10 years younger than when he came out & the third is dying by quarter inches poor fellow! Mother & wife both in N.Z.
Sept 24th The morning is beautiful. Golden red clouds making golden red patches on the steely calm sea & little ships sailing past – & it is cold & lovely. News up to date is good – work steady & quite enough of it.
25th Had a half day off yesterday & enjoyed it. Went with Sister Payne in the afternoon to the pier – tide was very high & rough yet many people were fishing. There was a school of sprats in the sea & it was a case of catch who catch could, between the fishers on the pier & the porpoises in the sea. They used no bait – simply lowered a line, with many hooks on & drew it up with the little sprats hanging on. One man had a sort of shrimp net which he lowered deep – by the four corners – but he hadn’t much luck.
It was wild & glorious there. The end of the pier is railed off – dangerous. Each big wave made it wheeze & creak. In harbour was quite a big Brigantine Norwegian drew 14 feet of water. The Harbour is a joy at high tide with all the steamers & fishing boats in & it did feel very tempting to step on some vessel or another & fly the country!
In the evening Miss Williams (Ass. Mat.) & I walked to the country – gathered flowers – picked mushrooms & returned for first dinner & an early bed. A convoy was scheduled to arrive during the night so we may expect a busy day today. My ward was already pretty full. The mornings are getting very dark now & I shall be quite pleased when the clock is moved back – 5 days time. 7 o’c up.
Oct 1st Weather cold & stormy – I thought even this hotel would be blown away last night but after all it has stood 6 years – perhaps it will manage one or two more. It was built by the Germans – I think I told you – I expect they thought it would be a good observation place for when they took Le Tréport.
We are very busy all the time & they keep taking from our staff – to reinforce up the line. News A.1. up to date & the men say the newspapers do not exaggerate it! The casualties are the sad, tragic part – whatever the papers say in that direction the men say we have lost a terrible lot killed and wounded.
Poor old Sgt Chitty died two nights ago – that frac. skull I told you about.
My second spine case I had in ages ago went to England – & is now marked for Australia – his home.
Leave is still being granted – quite right too because if fighting goes on all the winter we should never get any leave at all if we waited for a calm period.
47 Gen. Hosp. – a hut & tent camp – beside us was all blown down last year. I wonder if it will fare better this year! All the same I have a sneaking regard for this hurly burly weather. I went to the end of the pier yesterday – it was glorious although very difficult to stand. We had one man brought in dying two days ago but something is very good to the dying. He laughed & seemed delighted to see us, & said “Oh it’s good to be here” & he died smiling. He must have thought we were his home people.
I have just taken a poor old Irishman from the mental hut, one leg off at the top of the thigh – other foot wounded – one hand wounded – one eye – & his throat, badly cut. He did that himself – as he lay on the field – he had lain there a long time – couldn’t move on account of his wounds & heard a creeping barrage coming towards him. He couldn’t bear it – groped for his razor – cut his throat, & knew no more. I don’t blame him & nobody would, but of course he is under arrest. He is getting on well now.
2 Oct. Many happy returns to Guy! I am enjoying myself very much this morning. It is still grey dawn, the clouds as yet have not a tinge of colour, but soon they will be putting on little dabs of gold & heliotrope & all sorts.
A brig has taken the lucky chance of high tide, & no one looking, & has quickly left the harbour & is speeding out to sea FREE – Two men, looking very friendly – walking in step – & rubbing shoulder to shoulder have just passed. When they were opposite my window I saw one was a Bosche & the other his guard — so in the darkness even enemies may be friends! In daylight the Bosche walks in front – & the guard behind, carrying a fixed bayonet. There was no bayonet this morning. Dare we feel that there is one small chip of Peace? Yesterday’s paper talked about the Bulgarians unconditional surrender – Peace on Allies terms – armistice to be arranged at once! Thank God for Peace in one small part. And now – of course – Turkey will not be able to get ammunition for her big guns through from Germany – so perhaps she also will sue for Peace. Peace deserves a capital letter every time it is written.
Our last load of wounded – are very badly wounded – half mine were either D.I. or S.I. & some will die – poor, poor mothers. It is not as bad for the boys themselves, they die happy – but the relatives are left unhappy. Now I must get up – the clouds are burnished copper.
Oct 6th We are living through stirring times. Three mornings ago “Bulgaria has asked for Peace at our price” was on every one’s lips. Yesterday – “Turkey is going to give in” – & today – “The Central Powers have asked President Wilson for a 2 months armistice.” They must not be granted it! Oh I do hope no one will be in favour of it! [Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 28th President of the United States. Towards the end of the war Wilson had taken personal control of the peace negotiations with Germany, and his famous ‘Fourteen Points’ speech of January 1918 eventually formed the basis of the armistice.]
Think how they would prepare & dig in & then at the end make our task twice as heavy as it would be – if we keep straight on. No! for all sakes – & tired as every one is – I do hope we shall keep on until he asks for Peace – in a rather less arrogant tone than appears in today’s paper.
A Jew Padre – from 24 General – called on me two days ago. He was most interesting. He said the Jews would still be in mourning in spite of Jerusalem being taken, until the Temple was rebuilt. The Jews have already a vast amount of money for the rebuilding of it.
When a Jew dies he has to say three times – in Hebrew – “Christ did reign – Christ is reigning, & Christ shall reign” (something like that). An English Jew & German Jew were in hot conflict trying to kill each other – when they both thought their last hour had come – they both repeated the three lines of verse in Hebrew – heard each other – stopped killing – & saved each other. Part of the Jewish creed is that a man must repent the day before he dies, but as he never knows the day of his death he must repent every day.
Oh – I do wish the fighting could stop! We are all wondering if Turkey will stand with Germany whatever happens or if she will sue for a separate Peace – in the event of us not granting the 2 months armistice.
We put our clocks back an hour last night & now – 18 o’c (army time) it is getting quite appreciably dark.
I have never known the men so absolutely buoyant over the news – as they have been this week.
11th Oct. We had some cavalry men down with our last batch. One was telling me what a surprise they gave the Germans – at the turn of the tide of War on the Amiens front. There were four Divisions of Cavalry following the Infantry & as soon as a breach was made – through they went – & had a clear run of nearly 9 miles. Then they dismounted & dug themselves in – The Germans apparently ignorant of them having broken through. They saw three Fritzs bicycling towards Amiens & took them & found out from them where their Bgde [Brigade] H.Q. was. They found it & captured it. They found a “Leave” train full of men going on leave – Shot the engine driver – made all the men prisoners. Also they found an Ambulance train – again – shot the driver & took the complete train – apparently there were chiefly sisters on board – no wounded – the sisters were sent down the line & subsequently returned to their own land. Another man I had in – with a knee so bad that he will most likely lose the leg – told me that he was a prisoner with the Germans for a few days & he was never given even a drink of water the whole time & his wound was not dressed – hence its badness. That I forgive them – they probably do as we do – our own first – & God help them! do they ever get to the end of their own? They have enough – & judging by the ones we have – each badly wounded man is enough to get on with. Whether they left their worst for us or not I don’t know – but they are blown to bits – & torn to ribbons – inside & out.
We had an unusually busy day. I have only one staff nurse – & two V.A.D.s at present. On that day my staff nurse & one V.A.D. went sick & two blue boys [Patients who were well enough to be up and dressed were given blue suits to wear] – whom we have taught to help us with the dressings – had to be kept in bed – high temperatures & sore throats, but the 2 G.S. girls – which were all I had of them, turned up trumps & we got through all right – by the end of the day. [Note from Sue Light (http://greatwarnurses.blogspot.com/): These were General Service VADs. They were a different breed to the nursing VADs, and more akin to the women’s army. They first went out to France in 1917 to take over jobs in hospitals normally done by men – stores, basic orderly work, officers’ servants (i.e. nursing sisters’ servants) – that sort of thing. They were definitely considered a social step down from the nursing VADs, although that wasn’t always the case, but they did no nursing. So that entry shows that in a time of staff shortage, the GS girls chipped in and helped with the nursing – they were probably employed cooking or helping in the kitchen, although might have been clerks or even dispensers.]
Our whole hospital is very understaffed – only 20 trained people for about 2,000 beds is not enough. Thank Goodness my V.A.D.s are good in fact splendid. I don’t know if I told you – Nicol [?] – a 45 C.C.S. friend of mine – is now on night duty here – which is fine – & yesterday I heard that Hamilton Watts – another of our 45 staff is at the hospital adjoining ours – I am glad.
Sad – I have taken my beautiful winter coat to be made hideous & regulation. (silly fools).
I went for a walk along the sea front at Mers [Mers-les-Bains] yesterday – & saw a French hydroplane – broken – on the beach. How it came by its trouble I don’t know – but it came down at sea – & evidently sent word for help. It was towed in here at about 3 in the afternoon – It looked pretty badly smashed – but it was very interesting to see it – No wonder they shine like silver birds when they are high up. The car was of shining aluminium.
I thought the sea front quite a respectable place to walk alone in the evening, but evidently it is not. Every Frenchman – who was by himself – cooed me – at least I don’t know what you call it – a sort of “tweet tweet” noise – so there you are – I can’t walk alone at night now the clocks are put back. I suppose they thought I was on the lookout for a companion! Not much! They evidently don’t realize the bliss & joy of being quite alone – when you live in a hum of many voices always.
Oct 14th. Great excitement yesterday over the newspaper heading “Kaiser’s Cabinet gives in” & we are all wondering just what it means. The Hun is no more sorry for what he has done now – than he was 4 years ago. Of that all are certain – and as to saying he agrees to vacate Belgium – The fool! agrees! There’s not much “agrees” about it. He is being made to do it – every minute of his life – and at top speed. Dirty dogs every one of them. They want an armistice & time to prepare some foul new device of Satan to launch at us. An arrogant Prussian officer here was saying yesterday – boastingly – “It has taken the whole world to move us.” They are dirty dogs every one of them (Prussians). We had an airman officer to dine with us last night. He says there are no first class Germans now & their planes are made of bad material – propellers of coarse rough wood – instead of polished mahogany! He was a gentleman & not an evil speaker of his kind but he did say that in the early war days the German flying men showed considerable chivalry but that now that was sadly lacking – & they did very ill tricks in the air.
This airman said they had great fun dropping their first bomb on Lille. They floated over & over the place – & finally dropped it. The Huns saw this object descending & flew for shelter, & many were still flying when it arrived – plumb in the middle of the “Place”. It bounced & bounced a few times & finally stayed still. Little by little the Huns became brave & ventured to look at this unexploded object. It was a football with the message “Love from the R.F.C.” tied on. He said they did not bomb places like Lille more than they were obliged to. We English have got a diabolical new bomb which makes an unearthly syren whistle on its way down. I believe its moral effect is very far reaching.
This morning is as pretty a picture as one needs – a light emerald sea – brilliant pink clouds – bright blue sky – & six mine sweepers just swinging with the tide – a mist is rolling off to the right & a full rigged brig is making its way through it – very beautiful.
I think the Americans should give the Germans a thorough rap over the knuckles before they finish.
Oct 15th. Many happy returns of the Day to Bud.
The Peace talk seemed all fizzled out yesterday & now the popular opinion is 2 years more! It is no good going by papers or popular opinion – we must just wait & see.
It is drenching with rain & not so pretty to look at out of the window. I thought as we sent patients out the day before – & no convoy was announced – we should have a few empty beds yesterday – but the convoy came unannounced. Men from the Douai region. They say the Germans are making a bit of a stand there but that we are both sides of it.
Rogers – that man from Sandwich – who has been D.I. for such a very long time & still is – has taken a most funny turn & makes the men roar with laughter. He mimics my voice – to a T. It quite made me jump when he began it, because I recognized myself quite well. He calls the V.A.D. “nurse” – but lately it has been ‘ “Miss Welford! I want you.” I suppose it is that he is only partly sensible & doesn’t really know.
Oct 18th. Not useing newspaper talk, or authorities ideas or thinking it out one bit in my own brain – I hope we shall not give the Germans Peace yet, for the one reason that the men, one & all are fiercely against it and it is they who bear the brunt – if they feel they can stand a little more of it, why should they be held back. They feel they have not yet hit hard enough for the dirty mean brutal tricks played by the very unhonourable enemy. Given another few months they may make a far more satisfactory job of it.
The C.C.S.s are playing a great game of leap-frog and just sometimes something stirs in my blood that I wish I were back at one – advancing every few weeks over the heads of all the others – then feeling annoyed when they get ahead again & then taking our turn to jump comes again. I love it all – except the shelling & bombing & that’s horrible.
It must be very interesting just now as of course they are following up the Armies over the new battlefields – & unsalvaged battlefields do tell such thrilling tales. Yes – on the whole I believe I should welcome orders to go up – but it never pays in the Army to ask for anything at all.
My ward is full up of heavy cases – some are “residents” & likely to be – far too ill to move on – but most of the beds we fill – the man becomes fit to travel in three or four days – & he goes to make room for someone fresh. There has been an unending stream of them since August, or July – whenever we did begin.
We are glad – all the while the news is good!
No one knows the difference in nursing men from a successful & unsuccessful battle, except those who have done it. Ill as they are – these men are happy & cheerful. The German Sisters must be having a hard & sad task.
Oct 19th I was off last evening & had to go to town for my coat. It was nearly dark when I got there & there were huge flags flying! I wondered what on Earth for but I soon found! The people were rejoicing over the retaking of Lille – Ostend & Bruges – Lille especially. Little urchins were marching through the town with improvised bands – drums – voices & whistles – but it sounded joyful. Many of the inhabitants here are refugees from somewhere the Bosches invaded.
The tailor who altered my coat, & who lives in a tiny house – told me last night that he came from La Bassée. He had a big shop – tailor’s shop – & as he said “beautiful things also” & many assistants. There are, I think hundreds in this place alone the same.
News good – still busy. I hear rumours of eleven sisters coming – may it be true! We could do with double the number.
We had a poor youngster from the last convoy with a ghastly shoulder wound. I do not expect to find him there today – it was all gas gangrene. We have an Anti gas serum now but to do any good it must be given at the earliest stages & this boy was too far advanced when he came. His Mother was told she might come but I doubt if she will arrive in time poor dear.
The church bells are making a great to do – a special service perhaps.
Oct 23rd The news yesterday was good – but didn’t make such splashy headlines as usual lately.
The good thing seems to be that the French are at the Danube so that Germany cannot send to Constantinople by that way – in fact all ways except by Russia seem to be barred.
We had a very heavy convoy in yesterday – most of them from the front near Cambrai. They say that there are hundreds of civilians in the villages we are taking now – one boy was trying to tell me all about it yesterday but he was not a very fluent person.
He said the people had been told that the “Tommies” were coming. The people were delighted when they came & as this boy said “some of the chaps who speak French told me the people said the Germans made them do all the cooking & slapped them if it was not well done.” Lots of the girls & women had been taken “to work” for the Germans. One old man this boy said was very funny – he didn’t seem to know what to do – he was over 80 – he walked up & down & half cried & half laughed. Many of the civilians have been wounded – & are in our C.C.S.s – (wish I was at a C.C.S. again.).
I had a terribly sad case on the convoy before last. Such a nice cheery man – a gentleman farmer – was brought in with a very deep thigh wound. It looked fairly clean & he was so all right in himself – except for a bad headache (great symptom of gas).
He wrote to his wife saying he hoped to go to England soon & was constantly rejoicing, at soon going to his wife & child & farm. There was g.g. [gas gangrene] in the wound & he died in less than a day.
We still have some very very ill people whom I have not the least idea if are going to get better or not. We took 22 mostly bad yesterday – 5 S.I. I saw in yesterday’s paper that we have captured a 15” gun on the Belgian coast that was used for shelling Dunkerque.
The 4th Army are “At home” today if I can I shall go. There is an old 45 friend of mine at the next hospital & we both decide that we should like to go back to a C.C.S. but doubt whether we ever shall.
Oct 24th Miss Williams – Assistant Matron – & I went to the Army School At Home ……did we enjoy it?
The first part was quite interesting – when they showed us the School mascot – a boar – which they had brought with them from Fliers [unclear ?] Wood & when they showed us all sorts of photographs of the battle areas taken from aeroplanes. Tea was all right – then —– there was a band which played outside the mess during tea – but after tea played in the lecture hall – a large hut – with a splendid waxed floor. British nurses are not allowed to dance – Canadians & Americans are. That explains our misery in a nut shell – OUR PEOPLE DANCED. & it is Miss Williams’ duty as being in charge of the party to report it. If she reports it officially it means drastic punishment for the offender. If she does not she has not done her job.
The moment we spotted 3 of ours in full swing we fled from the hut & spent the rest of the time wandering anywhere that was not near the dancing. We talked the matter inside out & came to the conclusion – the thing to do is to tell Matron unofficially – & pretend we did not see it – but to warn them if any one dances next time, no further invitations will be accepted. Do you wonder I asked not to have a charge – in some ways it is a grizzly, policeman’s job. The photographs were most interesting, one – of the Hindenburg system looked roughly like this:
There was another interesting photograph of a part where the Americans had been holding the line. They had to advance over a canal which ran underground for about 2,000 yds.
The Yanks dashed straight ahead over the canal – never thinking to guard the two ends of the tunnel. The Bosches were lying in wait – in numbers along the towing path in the tunnel – & when the Yanks were well over came out & with machine guns killed most of them. The Australians were coming over after the Yanks & the Germans bobbed up in between & gave them both a bad time.
Getting up time – misty morning.
25th Many happies to Madge.
British are making a fresh attack – round Valenciennes – & are having a stiffer job than over their last attack. Am afraid our Casualties are heavy.
The place is bristling with Bosches.
Did I tell you a little way back – about an airman who came to visit his brother – a dangerously ill patient in the Officers’ ward? & who dined with us? He flew over two days ago & did some marvelous low flying & dropped a message for his Father & Mother who are visiting the other son. We thought he would graze the huts he was so low. He started back – when it was dark & difficult to see – & crashed to ground & was killed. It really is a sad thing – for us all & his Father & Mother – poor dears, who have already had one son killed & one is a prisoner in Austria – the third here – D. I. & now this 4th one killed. He had only been married a short time. He looked so young – I couldn’t believe he was married.
Oct. 27th Some C.I.R. (Canterbury Inf. Reg.) came down on yesterday’s convoy – Taff is with them – one of them told me they left their place of short rest last Tuesday night to be ready for the attack on Wed. They had a hard hot time. I wish he knew Taff – but he does not.
The Colonel has bought 50 Turkeys – 8 geese – & many head of chicken – a good idea.
Weather very cold indeed.
Just back from early service.
Oct 28. Sister Nicol had a letter from an Officer who passed through Achiet [Achiet-le-Grand or Achiet-le-Petit. Ed] a little while ago & who was a patient of hers there in 1917. I read the letter – he said “Do you know – I spent the night where the old 45 CCS used to be. It is now a scene of devastation & ruin – it made me feel very sad – the Officers Ward where I spent so many happy hours is just a tumbled ruin. I could just recognise where your little bunk used to be. And then the Sisters Mess! The only recognisable thing was the fireplace which I remember being built & the two little chimney corner seats. The Mess was also marked “Believed to be mined – Not to enter”. The hut where your room was was removed bodily & a disused machine gun post had been ?busted? there.” So that’s that—
I often wonder if these men know how funny they are – our Ass. Matron – a charming person of whom we are all fond – amongst her many jobs brings round the bundles of magazines sent to the hospital. One day she came in looking like – I don’t know what – from the huts – drenched blown – sou’wester on any way but straight. I was just thinking, she didn’t mind a bit what figure she cut when a man bobbed up in bed & said “Here comes the sketch”. She noticed it & enjoyed the aptness very much. I think they love the Sketch most of all the papers we get.
Influenza is raging everywhere.
Oct 31st. Sister Nicol has gone back to a C.C.S. & why have not I? I wrote to Miss Wilton Smith yesterday & asked her not to let me become a shirker at the base. I have had over a year at a base now. Still it is always best to take what comes. A new Red Cape arrived yesterday with orders that she was sent here as Assistant Matron. That means the present one must go & every one will be terribly sorry.
Of yesterday’s convoy most were Jocks – two of mine very badly wounded – the rest not so bad. The news seems good & I believe the heads of the Nations are conferring in Paris on the Peace Problem – good luck to them.
I have got a sailor in my ward a stoker from a collier. I was telling him something the paper had reported from Norway. “Don’t believe it” – he said “Don’t believe a single thing any Norwegian tells you.” He says that they are the biggest lot of spies imagineable. They were caught carry[ing] letters for enemy subjects, to & fro from England – lots of times. Now when a Norwegian vessel enters the Humber, or any other port, the Pilot who boards the ship has to take all binoculars & telescopes & lock them up – not to be used until the vessel is out of port again. That is not done on a British vessel.
Nov. 3 I am sorry to say Miss Williams – our Ass. Matron – has been moved to 72 Gen at Trouville – thanks to those young villains who let her down by dancing the other day. On Nov. 1st she & Matron & I walked to La Madeleine to tea. I expect I have told you all about the place – a glorious unspoiled forest, 7 kilometres beyond Eu. We went on All Saints Day. All people were dressed up – finer than on Sunday – & were going in huge groups & families to honour their dead – The cemeteries were a blaze of flowers when they had finished.
The news of the Surrender of Turkey came on that day – so they ended in making quite a day of rejoicing of it & French, British, Belgian & American flags were flying everywhere. The men off our yesterdays convoy (we had two convoys in yesterday) were all very cheerful. They had come from Le Cateau – & said that the enemy there was putting up hardly any fight at all – wise enemy!
Bulgaria entered Oct 1 – 1915. Armistice took effect Sept 30 1918
Turkey entered Nov 5th 1914. Armistice took effect Oct 31st 1918
Austria entered July 28th-29th 1914. Armistice took effect Nov 4th 1918
Germany entered July 28th-29th 1914. Armistice took effect Nov 11th 1918
Nov 9th There is a whole lot of peace talk going on but they don’t seem to be getting on with it. The news has been absolutely glorious & yesterday we have had lots of convoys down – chiefly not very severe cases. & my head has been too much like a pumpkin with neuralgia – to tell a single word of anything that may have happened – they have swarmed in & swarmed out & some have had influenza & all are very cheerful about the news.
Rather helpful for us! the German navy has mutinied – badly. [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelmshaven_mutiny]
Nov. 12th. Peace! Thank God for that!
It feels very queer too – kind as if your elastic had snapped.
Matron & I took some sick Sisters to Abbeville yesterday – leaving here at 4 a.m. & reaching the A.T. at 6.30 a.m. The moment we stopped at the Siding – we were pounced upon by the Ambulance drivers & told we were much behind the times for not knowing the news – they had been told the night before.
We shifted the responsibility of our load to the Sister on the train – & then went back to the nurses Home – my old billet – & told them the news – then to the Sisters hospital & told them. We stayed there to breakfast – walked about Abbeville & I showed Matron the various air raid damages. I lost my watch – not mine either – & then we had a lovely ride back. Evidently the folk everywhere had heard the news – French girls were embracing Tommies, & French children blew kisses to us as we passed – French soldiers waved ecstatically, & looked as if – for two pins, or if we were not going so fast – they would climb aboard & kiss us. We came back to Treport only a few minutes after the news reached it & in less than an hour the whole place had gone stark mad – Flags of all nations flying from everywhere – Sirens blowing – in long shrieks – short shrieks – jerks – every way.
All the bands turned out & processed along the Camp – with convalescent patients & oddments of French following. Ambulances (allowed to carry 8 sitting – or 4 lying – & 1 sitting) bedecked with flags & streamers, & about 16 inside & as many as could manage to stay there on the roof – paraded solemnly round & round the roads – the men cheering & shouting & flag waving.
In the afternoon I think many had drunk the good health of the occasion & the ‘Entente’ spirit was well to the fore – French soldiers & Tommies – & French girls – walking about in long lines – locked in each others arms. Even the motor lorries went mad & bedecked themselves with flags.
In the Music Room – we bought 6 bottles of good port & when the lights were up we made the longest-in patient – a Sergeant of the Naval Div – make a little speech – & they all drank – to Peace. In some wards they had a special tea.
If only my gramophone would come! We are to have one more convoy – direct from the line – & then — local sick.
Here endeth the fighting part of the War – GOD SAVE THE KING.
Nov 16th. On the 14th I was detailed to go as escort to a wounded Officer – being transferred from here to a hosp[ital] in Paris. His people live there.
We had a reserved carriage & no change which was a blessing – the stretcher rested well along one seat & I had the other to myself. The train was slow & we took 6 hours to do the journey – but with a nice luncheon hamper & books the time passed all right for him – he was a fidgety youngster. The hospital he has gone to is in the Hotel Astoria – where the Kaiser had ordered lunch for a certain date in 1914 – the day he entered Paris. In those days it was a spies H.Q. & they had a wireless station on the roof.
Paris looked fine! Such a wide streeted clean looking city & flags, flags, flags, everywhere. We drove right through the City & it was all brightly lit – hundreds of beautiful cars dashing about. Shops gay – I should very much have liked to do some shopping, but had no spare time.
The Hendrys live right through Paris through the Bois de Boulogne – & beyond the city gates. They have a delightful house – beautifully furnished. I had a small suite of rooms – bed-room – sitting room – & dressing room. My train left before 8 next morning – so I had to be up – by times. Mr. Hendry was a charming host – we started too early for the station & he drove me all through the Bois de Boulogne & round all the principal parts of Paris to let me see everything there was to see. Hundreds of German field guns – Minnewerfer [Minenwerfer (“mine launcher”) short range mortars used extensively during the First World War by the German Army. Ed], French mortars, one big gun – (not a Bertha) – a whole long line of Bosche aeroplanes – a Bosch tank & a sand bag air raid shelter – quite the size of no 1 Hamilton Avenue – was hung thick with Bosche tin hats! The Statue of Liberty was draped in the National Flag – everyone seemed gay.
They are going to have a great Fête day on Sunday – I should like to have seen it then!
The 13th. Sister H. W. & I had a good half day & walked to the Madeleine for tea. Yes – thank the Good God – we are nothing like as busy now – 20 of my beds have been taken down & put into store! So now I have only 40 beds & 40 patients & some of them will be going soon. It’s a funny thing – talking about “as thy day so shall thy strength be” while we were so busy – we could have any number of badly broken people each with 5 or six wounds & get on with it with a swing – now – it almost bores me to put on a simple fomentation.
Nov. 19th What a difference! I have only 40 beds in my ward now – instead of 60 & the work is decreasing in heaviness. Of course we have & shall have for some time – heavy surgical cases – in – but – it is a very different matter nursing them, when they are well established – no shock to contend with & no convoys in khaki all smothered in mud & blood – straight through from the fight.
They all come down nicely washed & in pyjamas now. They don’t mind half as much being marked “Base” or “C.C.” (con. camp). No, things are quite altered. Instead of bustling off a large number to England every day & getting all our beds filled up straightaway – we are keeping them. Have not sent any to England for four days now.
We are starting days off. My last V.A.D. has hers tomorrow & then if all be well I shall take the next day. Think of it! A whole day. Poor old Lil – I wish she could have one too & that we could spend it together.
My room mate is in the Sick Sisters Quarters with a terribly bad sore throat.
20th. A very sudden & merry thing happened last night. Ten of the M.O.s took themselves to a Peace dinner in the town – the rest were a little hurt that they were neither told about it nor asked to it – so two of them had an idea of being equal with them. Fled to Matron & asked her to come & bring 7 sisters with her – to an impromptu dinner. I met Matron – as I was on my way to dinner – wearing a worried look to find a 7th – she had caught 6. So here went – instead of going to dinner at 7.15 I simply flew back to my room – changed & was down before 1/2 past to join the rest at the “Impromptu”. It was great fun – the A.D.M.S. & the D.A.D.M.S. were both there & enjoyed the fun like anything. After dinner – Col. Thorboon – the R.C. padre – S. Stephenson & I – played Bridge. Some played the rowdyist game of vingt & un you ever heard & some sang. 11.15 – in came the diners out! & their expressions were a study! Mr. Marriott – who took me in to dinner – has spent 17 years in China, & is most interesting on the subject. If a Chinaman who is sentenced to death can raise 50 Dollars (?) – he can always get some one to take his place – many of them will accept 30 dollars & give up their life in exchange, Also if you tip the executioner highly enough he will do the job at one blow – otherwise he is not so particular.
The Chinese like us British & most important ports where Mr. Marriott has been are held by British. He says the British Prestige is very high indeed since we have beaten the Germans at their own game of War. During the War the Japanese have been on the fence ready to side with the stronger Power – now they have plumped for the Allies.
There is a dense fog this morning & the Moon is shining full on it – weird.
I rather like impromptu Peace dinners.
Nov. 22. Yesterday I had the day off & thoroughly enjoyed it. My kind people sent up breakfast from the ward then until 10 o’c I chiefly slept – it was too cold to put as much as a nose out of bed. Then I got up & Swanzy [see separate page for Olive Swanzy. Ed] & I went to the Casino to lunch & after joined several folk who had the half day off. We walked through the Tank Camp to Bois de Cire. It was a frosty afternoon with golden sunshine & the autumn tints showed up to perfection. We went to a quaint little Hotel for tea which is kept by a charming old man & his wife. They are rather a picturesque couple – he played the gramophone to us while she prepared tea. It was quite dark before we left & no moon & no lights made it a bit difficult to find the way but we did all right & got home soon after 7 o’c. Early to bed & slept like a log.
The great excitement in Treport yesterday was the huge catch of herrings – boat after boat came in to harbour laden with them. The sea was dead calm – barrows – barrels – baskets – full of them & heaps – just on sails – being sold to the people – everyone – from toddlers upwards seemed to be carrying herrings.
I judge by the ripe melon sky & the frost on everything that we are in for another cold day and it IS cold.
25th We sent off a batch of wounded to Blighty two days ago & filled up with medical cases yesterday.
What a difference! What a mixture! We still have nearly a dozen wounded left – too bad to be moved – the rest are strained hearts – bad ears – boils – etc.
Rumour is about the busiest element in camp just now – a fresh program every day. One day we are to stay as a Demobilization base – next to disband within a month – next to get out of the building – the rent of which is enormous & keep on the huts & tents & so on & so forth. That it is quite as interesting as wondering where you’ll spend your summer holiday. The weather has been frightfully cold. Today is muggy & wet but warm.
I have been for some delightful walks in my off time – being less tired now-a-days.
I had a letter from Sister Nicol saying her C.C.S – 48 – had gone to Germany & she had been told that 6 of them (sisters) were to follow. She asks me to work it that either I go to Germany or that she comes here. How can I? How would I if I could? Not at all. It is best for each are to take what comes.
Nov. 29th Nov. 26th I got orders to proceed at once to No. 7 Stationary Boulogne for duty so I had to make a sudden ending at Le Treport & come.
We gave a splendid concert in the ward on the night of the 25th. Matron & many of the sisters & M.O.s came & the place was packed with patients from other wards. All went well & it was a success.
This hospital is a camp – high up – about 40 minutes walk along the Boulogne – Calais Rd. My first day here – yesterday – was one drench of heavy rain all day – it looks as if it means to start again too. What a change on a wet day – from living in a smart hotel with a roof over one’s head all the time – to living in one hut messing in one a muddy walk off & working in two more a longer & muddier walk off. Instead of a private bathroom one has to walk a fair distance through the camp to a general bathhouse – common to all. It is a ramshackle camp but everyone seems quite happy which is the great thing. I have charge of a couple of surgical huts – M.O. Major Martin – quite a pleasant young man.
There are scores of birds of passage sisters here waiting for distribution. Many have been sent to Bruges to nurse the Belgians & some will be sent into Germany when the places are ready for them. Matron here is Miss Jones whom I knew as a patient at Sick Sisters – not in my care – Ass. Matron – pleasant – whole staff all right as far as I know.
30th The night has been very cold & I missed my Cats’skin – must try for a half day – & go & search for it.
An evening off is a bit of a quandary on a wet night – our sitting room gets up to any temperature & everywhere else is cold but as soon as I feel my feet I hope to go for walks. Quiet day yesterday – 4 patients went to England & 4 fresh ones took their places.
No letters – hope for some today.
Our Cavalry Div. that is to be part of the army of occupation they say is a glorious sight. Beautiful horses – equipment the last word “It” [?? Ed] new lances for the lancers with new flags – King’s & Queen’s head on the top of each lance. At present it is on Show in Paris. I should very much like to go & see it.
Dec. 6th Boulogne – What a life! I was just starting dressings in the ward this morning when Matron came in & told me to go at once to 42 Ambulance Train for temporary duty so I had to take off my rubber gloves & fly to my room to pack up all my worldly belongings (that were not astray) & join this train taking with me hand luggage only. The longer one lives in this war – one learns to take less about. I brought no blankets & very few clothes with me – wrapped in a ground sheet – my hold all being anywhere in France.
This is the top dog of Ambulance Trains – the very latest out from England.
The Sister-in-Charge had a telegram from home & has gone on a fortnight’s leave & I feel like a fish out of water who doesn’t know his job but it is a fine train & of course it is A. 1. having a compartment quite to myself instead of half a beastly little hutch where you could hear every word spoken in the beastly little hutches both sides of you – they are beastly little hutches or at least not very good for beasts.
Alongside of us is a Bosche train – one of those he has to surrender according to the Armistice terms.
The O.C of this train has taken off on enamel notice from the train as a souvenir. It is just like the train we used to go to Berlin by from Sudende.
So help me God – I am in charge. We were supposed to leave here at 2:30 p.m. but have not yet got our engine on. 6:30 p.m.
Major Martyn came to tea on Tuesday. It was nice to see him again. He was coming over again tomorrow but I have sent him word that I shall not be there.
Now I think I will have a game of Patience to wile away the hours. I hear we are to go to Etaples to take a load to Calais.
Dec 7th We got to Etaples at 11 last night & loaded at 3 this morning – 291 patients – chiefly stretchers – 90 repatriated prisoners of war – one of whom was taken prisoner in 1914 in the Battle of the Marne. They do not seem in a bad state. We can order special diet for them – bacon for breakfast – milk pudding & fruit for dinner, sardines for tea. Also they are given an extra ration of cigarettes & matches. We unloaded at Calais straight on to the boat at 10 a.m. I dashed out & did a little shopping & we started back to Fontainette near Calais before lunch. Some of the prisoners looked quaint enough in civilian overcoats & odd woolen tammies – odd in colouring – some half brown & half red & so forth. Where we are now – [crossed out: I don’t know] [added:] we are at Fontainette but our tanks are being filled which takes about 2 hours.
Major Martyn came on the train to see me. His hut is right by the ambulance train siding & how he gets any sleep at all I do not know.
There was a very large & most weird vessel in Calais harbour called “War Emu” I only wish I could remember her well enough to draw but she must have been for some special work. There were lots of German trains there – & guns! Hundreds of them – our own & captured German ones. Gun carriages by the hundreds! I suppose all that War materiel is being collected at the different Ports to be returned to Angleterre. One man died on the trip last night. Gun shot wound of neck. His carotid artery had been tied & broke down. The M.O. did his best but it was a very quick & quiet ending. Wounded exactly a month ago, poor fellow!
I love my little bunk. “G coach” is for the Staff & is like this.
Mine is like a first class carriage one side & the other has a wardrobe & dressing table. Of course there is precious little room – you almost stand on your other foot when you walk – but it is very comfortable.
The French have been very busy all afternoon mending steam pipes etc – they say we are to go a long run to fetch P.O.W.s.
At Calais this morning it was interesting to see the mixture of nations working – French – Belgian – German – Chinese – & at other parts British.
It is quite funny to do nothing but listen to the engine whistles & the hooters of the men guarding the line. You could not stick a pin between the hoots & shrieks.
No 9 – & No 38 A.T.s [Ambulance Trains] are lying beside us.
Sunday 8th This morning reminded me of 1914 the morning we arrived at Ostend. I woke – found the train still – not a sound of any kind to be heard – then soon the clang of Church bells! & I knew we were at a big town. We are lying in a siding & our engine has left us. So perhaps we shall be able to get out & look at the place – Tournai. It looks a very big important place & from the number of railing lines & telegraph lines must be a big junction. Days when there are no patients on we live like millionaires – stay in bed until our batman calls us with tea – breakfast not soon than 9 o’c. – breakfast leisurely – & then go out to see the place!
This morning was glorious – Sunny & clear.
Church bells sounded joyful – a train load of Tommies past us – on their way to Blighty & everything seemed happy. I felt inclined for church so out the two of us went to see about service & after a bit heard a band & guessed it was church parade – they came our way & we followed them to the Garrison Church which is the Cinema at the other times.
The church was packed – there must have been nearly 1,000 men. The music was a good brass band – the Padre a fine fellow. Everything went with a swing as services up the line usually do. One thing impressed me – done I think, more by accident than intention. In the responses before the Venite the music & congregation could not get together in “As it was in the beginning is now and” etc. (& only a few sang it) – but when it came to the last one “The Lord’s name be praised” the clarionettes & all the band were full blast & the men sang it at the tops of their voices. It fitted the day & the sunshine & the war being over well. They wanted us to sit in front with the officers but we couldn’t face it & went to the gallery – we were the only two women there. The result was that many of the men screwing their heads round to have a look at us. After service the troops all assembled in the Square in front of the Cathedral & marched off headed by a fine band. They looked splendid.
Next we did a little sight seeing. Climbed to the top of the Belfry tower – I will send you a picture of it – from where we had a fine view for miles around. Tournai is gay with flags – chiefly huge Belgian national flag. The King & the Prince of Wales & Prince Albert were here yesterday & had a great welcome & acclamation from the people. An R.E. officer showed us all we saw – the Belfry & all the bridges that had been blown up by the Bosche a few days before he left, & King Henry VIII tower – I will also show you a picture of that. The Germans had machine guns on the roof when they were here.
It is a round tower with a flat roof – a wonderfully strongly built affair – about twice as big as a gasometer – same shape. We went on to the top of it.
Too tired to write more tonight. E.
Dec. 10th. We have stayed at Tournai all night, so have had a lovely undisturbed sleep.
In the afternoon yesterday, Mr Lowry our American M.O. took us out again. We visited the Cathedral & stayed to a service – as onlookers. The music was glorious, & the pageant very magnificent, but we didn’t understand it. Then to tea – at a hotel – tea without milk – & biscuits. Then to the evening performance of the Cinema – quite amusing. Packed with Tommies & Officers. A few of the men had brought French children, or women with them – they seemed highly amused at it all.
The piano was being played all the time, & every time a well known tune came the whole house whistled or sang to it – it was fine. Home 9.15 p.m. dinner, bed. The Cinema hall is wonderful place – huge – & I really don’t know how to explain it. It represents old Tournai & some of the buildings are painted on the walls & others are really built of brick & stone. So where you buy your tickets inside the hall is a small round grey stone tower that is an exact model of the one that was in old Tournai. There are about 8 or 10 – buildings in brick or stone, making the walls & the buildings – which would be back down the streets are painted on the wall.
The Cathedral – I thought quite the most beautiful I have seen in France. No tawdry decorations & the stone work & sculpture are very good. The windows – beautiful old stained glass – & the organ a great joy. It is a huge place.
You remember that America sent flour to feed the Belgians? The women here have been amusing themselves during the German occupation in embroidering the bags it was sent over in. Tournai is called the town of Art in Belgium. You know the ordinary small flour sacks – something like this.
They have embroidered the words & picture in the middle & made them into all sorts of things. The large coarse bags – they have made into floor mats.
The shop where we bought those cough lozenges – the woman told us what greedy brutes the Germans were, they swarmed into her shop in large numbers & while she was serving one the rest would take all they could find. She had sham packets of chocolate made – piles of them – & no real sweets at all – so when they stole they were only the better off of so much paper & firewood.
All honour to our airmen – they did their bombing here most scientifically & kindly. There is hardly a house touched. The beautiful cathedral is not minus as much as one pane of glass but by the station & the bridges! God help those who were near – they are blown to blazes.
You would have laughed yesterday morning to see sister & me crossing a temporary railway bridge. We had to go over it as our train is this side in a siding. Just beams & planks & rails, with huge gaps looking down to the road beneath, & big enough to fall through. We had gone a little way & then suddenly both took stage fright & could not budge another inch. Then a Tommy came along & said “It’s all right, ’ere, I’ll take you.” He took my hand & I had sisters & we got over safely.
Altogether we had a very full very happy day here. I forgot to tell you some time ago that in the Belgian tower at Calais a Belgian spy used to hide & signal to the invading German aeroplanes. We had our suspicions, so had a sham raid – discovered it was true – & put a French 75 shell right into the tower – to close the incident. It saved a Court Martial.
Later. We got orders to load here & then to go to Asque(?) [Villeneuve d’Ascq. Ed] to finish. Pulled in to the Main Station at 11 o’c. Soon after an R.E. came on the train & told us to open all our windows as they were going to blow up a bridge – just behind us. We had hardly got them all open when the explosion went off & the bridge & a mountain of smoke & muck flew up into the air. Twice they blew it up & as we had to have our windows open the whole train was filthy with ash – sort of stuff.
We took on at Tournai, & then stopped at Ascq for about 120 more. One or two seem rather poorly but on the whole they are a very convalescent load. We have 56 P.O.W.s on board – some have been in Germany over 4 years & some only a few months. Most complain of ill treatment, & of being shockingly badly fed. The officers in charge of Camps used to take most of the food out of their parcels from home & send it to their families.
Our load tonight consists of 3 Chinks – 12 Frenchmen – 2 Germans – 56 P.O.W.s – & the rest up to nearly 600 ordinary hospital cases. The C.O. says he expects quite soon trains will be running right into Germany.
The P.O.W.s tell endless tales. They (the Germans) complain that it was the English who caused all Revolutionary Riots in Germany – that an English Dreadnought sailed into Kiel Harbour flying a red flag & that was a signal that there was Revolution in the British Navy & that they were to do the same. I asked our boys if they believed that of the Navy – they said “No! we knew it wasn’t true.” One of them had been working in a bakery & he said they put a large quantity of saw dust in the bread. He had a bit to show me & true enough there was sawdust & quite visible sized flecks of wood too.
When the armistice was signed, the people flew flags & decorated the place – they would not have stood another winter of war.
11th. We left Turlington [Could well be Terlincthun, which is near Boulogne. Ed] at about tea time yesterday – were not able to leave the train all day as they told us we might be off at any moment. Came to Lille making short stays at St. Omer & Hazebrouck.
We are supposed to be leaving at any minute for Ath [near Mons] – a place a fair way beyond Tournai. Expect to load & return straightaway.
Can’t see much of Lille from here but it looks a big place & not at all smashed. We are just outside at a place called St André [St André-lez-Lille. Ed].
Dec 12th. We did not go out last night – left Ascq at 9.30 this morning & are now on our way to Tournai – not Ath – for a load. You may look out of the window at the myriads of lines & wonder why they hold us up every 1/2 hour or so to let some train pass – why can’t they send it along one of the other lines? they all look all right. They look all right, but as a matter of fact they are all wrong.
The Bosche has rendered them all useless by taking out all bolts at the junctions & breaking off about 6 inches at the end of each length of rail. So if you look you see the rails are like this.
These Belgians are thieves – There were many coal trucks standing alongside of us this morning and I was simply amazed to see an army of Belgian women & children arrive with sacks barrows & perambulators. They climbed into the trucks, filled their sacks & cleared off with any amount of our coal. Two Tommies were helping them too. Our O.C. says in some places it is so bad that they keep armed guards by the coal trucks. What else of our transport do they thieve I wonder.
We went for a bit of a walk around Ascq yesterday afternoon but it was drizzling with rain & not very enjoyable. It is a small place – sort of half village, half town – one or two good houses but chiefly cottages. The church was a nice clean ungaudy – un-striking one. There have been 2 C.C.S.s at Ascq but one is closing down. Not enough work for two. They are tent hospitals – not very comfortable in this weather.
Dec 13th. 3.30 a.m. I am taking the second half of the night this trip & we are nearing Calais which means we shall reach Boulogne somewhere about 7 a.m.
I have just made my round of the train – quite a walk from one end to the other. There are 16 coaches in all of which 12 are wards – 36 beds in each – although we carry more than 432 patients. In wards where we keep the stretcher patients, we sometimes have all the beds full & a dozen stretchers on the floor & where the wards are used for “sitters” the beds are put back & they pack over 60 in a coach – 72 – 80 – any number.
Tonight we have a light load – only a little over 300. It is an interesting study to go along & see them all asleep – I only wish I could draw one vision of beauty there was in the Sitters ward tonight:
There they all lie looking perfectly happy – most fast asleep. About 8 Frenchmen – 8 Moroccans – 1 Indian – 5 Germans – Australians many – & of course the vast majority British. You see such lots of feet sticking out everywhere & they are lying about on the floor quite as comfortable as if they were in a good bed.
While we were loading at Tournai No 35 A.T. passed us also with a light load. She had been to a place on 20 miles from the German frontier.
Later We unloaded at Wimmereux & started off again a few hours later on a different run. This time we are bound for Montigny – a place beyond Douai. We were not allowed to leave the train this morning so spent the time waiting for her to “leave at any minute” playing ball on the railway lines. It was a change from sitting still.
There was a good Bosche train just alongside of us. A first class compartment had been broken into and wantonly torn to bits, seats & doors – racks – & glasses all smashed. The stuffing pulled out of the seats!
The night is fair & Etaples was a wonderful sight as we came through – the vast expanse of hut & tent encampments all brightly lit looked like a vast town.
The moon is shining brightly & the sandhills & trees looked lovely.
Very dull post indeed today – & still no news of my kit or laundry! I hate the French railway people.
A trainload of Yanks passed us outside Wimereux – either a Medical or flying corps unit – with truck loads of stuff all packed for transport – it was a whole unit on its way back to America. Several of their hospitals have already gone.
Five Ambulance trains have been demobilized already & more are to be.
I shouldn’t mind being on a train for a bit – I think.
Dec. 14th We were at St. Pol when we went to bed last night & expected to wake up at our destination Montigny. To our surprise we were still moving & looking out found ourselves passing through a vast coal mining district. Sister said “It looks like Valenciennes” – still we looked. The first name we read was “Jemappes” & looking it up on the map we found we were nearing Mons.
Mons we badly wanted to see so we dressed in double quick time & watched our way through that ever famous place. It is a huge place & the station is a very big one with myriads of platforms. All morning we spent glued to the windows, leaning out – dashing across & looking out of the other side windows. It was one long pageant of intense interest to us all. They have not had many A.Ts through & passing the villages the inhabitants line up and wave & bow to us and shout “les Anglais”. We waited quite a long time in Charleroi & we two sisters got off the train & had a good brisk walk up & down.
We passed a newly made line of trenches this side of Mons. The last the Bosche made in preparation for retreat.
At Charleroi our orders were changed & we are now on our way via Namur & Liege to a Herbesthal – just across the German border. By that I should imagine we are to bring back repatriated prisoners.
We took on a fresh engine & crew at Charleroi & are now going at a fine swing.
Several times on our journey we have met German trains – both passenger & goods laden with refugees from Germany.
In some of the Vans women were cooking & men & children were huddled around eating. Lots of civilians – women – men – children – French & British soldiers too. Such long train loads & such quaint luggage – chiefly huge bundles like washing.
Bosche trains! Our eyes nearly ache with looking at them. We have seen hundreds today – one quite new was brought into Charleroi while we were there. It was clean & empty – the Belgians cheered as it came in. One thing is very striking. Every new place we come to the first thing we notice – British Tommies – British lorries – British R.E.s – mending the damage everywhere.
Twice we have been assailed by a Belgian – first an Officer then a well dressed lady – asking us to take them with us. Not Much! – in any case it is not allowed.
At one stop of the train Sister & I hopped out & were grubbing over the debris of Bosche aeroplanes & a destroyed ammunition train intending to pick up a souvenir. All the shell cases were badly scorched & not much use & we were still busily culling when Mr. Lowery our M.O. yelled to us that the train was off. It takes a little time to get up speed & we chased & caught her quite easily but it was just a bit thrilling.
Beyond Mons – also beyond Charleroi – there are large areas of hundreds upon hundreds of ammunition trucks all blown up! Never was such a scene of desolation – there had been supply trains – ammunition trains – empty trains all standing there & when the Bosche found the game was up he destroyed them. It is the only part of the district that shows devastation, but there is past description & complete. For instance one supply – a very very long one of over 100 trucks, was burnt right out – the only thing even showing what it had been was a truck laden with steel helmets & they were all burnt & twisted.
There are shells by the 1000 – some lying about unexploded – whole tracks are blown up sleepers, rails & all standing on end.
At three different stations it was the same & must have been a very wonderful sight while they were burning. Our O.C. says they must have destroyed about a million pounds worth of materiel. There is still some good ammunition lying about.
We are through Namur now – another big place & fine station – from the train these places all look much the same style but the scenery was beautiful just through Namur – on one side high beautifully overgrown rocks – on the other the river gay with barges.
Some way further back we were much interested in the barges. Some very heavily laden being towed by a man wearing a sort of harness across his chest & straining all he could & then managing about half a mile an hour.
Some were drawn by 2 women – some by 2 boys. All were decorated with flags & looked gay. At Charleroi we saw any number of destroyed German aeroplanes.
At the moment we are passing an orchard with a large number of German field guns in. At Namur there were lots of German guns – big ones – festooned with moss & stuff that looked like green seaweed – minnewerfen – trench mortars – all sorts.
All round Douai, the line was very dicky, every bridge blown to bits & the train had to go over
* /// Boulogne, St Omer, St Pol, Arras, Douai, Valenciennes, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Liège /// *
temporary plank bridges. The train seemed to be going dead slow & very gently all through that part & it was very bumpy – that was the worst knocked about part of all.
Those places named a few lines above are the way we have come. Sister was reading them off the map & I quickly jotted them down as she read. We are waiting at Liège now. An official has been along & taken the number & letter of each coach & the number of the train as this is the last big station before we cross the frontier. I think – at least the O.C. thinks we are the first A.T. to do this trip & all along the people wave & shout Vive l’Angleterre etc.
There is a N.Z. Division stationed along this line & I have gazed & gazed – not to miss seeing dear old Taff – but no luck & no French grey stars on a black back ground on the back of the coat so far.
I must say the Germans have not spoiled these places – they all look in perfect order – the people look well fed & in good health & the shops all we could see from the train seem to be well stocked & the gardens are full of vegetables. Even the refugees from Germany did not look at all bad & were neatly dressed – our Tommies & the French soldiers looked the hungriest.
At Charleroi there was one poor old Belgian man who made me feel very sad. He was so polite to us & looked frightfully thin & ill. I do hope to goodness he has enough to eat. The line along here is strewn with Bosche refuse – tin hats & tins that have held food stuffs. The scenery has been very beautiful this side of Charleroi & today altogether has been a great joy ride to us all.
We are 40 kilometres from our destination Herbesthal.
We have just been told that we are the first A.T. this side of Mons & there is a whole lot of red tape to be arranged. We go on two stations further then are handed over to the Germans – either take a German engine & crew or they take on a German pilot. I thought from the excitement of the people we must be the first Ambulance train.
It was very interesting to look out at Liège & to remember that it was the guns of her Forts that first held the Germans up in 1914. Held them up for nearly a week & so gave time for the French to mobilize & our men to come out.
It was interesting at Mons to remember that in this war it was the first place we lost & the last we won. Of course Mons has been the site of a great deal of fighting in other wars too – hasn’t it?
For miles & miles & miles we seem to have been passing through coal & iron mining districts & there are wonderful overhead railways & all sorts of clever machinery things – a bit like it was at Jaegersfontein [in South Africa where Edie’s brothers Guy and Taff had lived in the early 1900s before going on to New Zealand. Ed] – where we saw over the diamond mine there.
Dec 17th It has been a long & weary journey for the poor patients – 2 whole days – but with luck we should be at Boulogne in an hour now.
They took us across the border – just into Germany – left us there half the night then took us back to Pepinster where we loaded & have since been trying to get back.
At Mons we were diverted owing to a smash on the line & the way we came was a single line – so we were constantly held up & at one place we had to wait while they repaired the lines and at another we waited & waited until at last Mr. Lowery walked along to the signal control to ask what was in front of us – found 2 Jocks having a nice little tea party with two French girls & we were quickly on our way again.
At Lillers we stopped 2 hrs for coal & we have come by Ath – Tournai – La Bassée – Bovaise [? Ed] – Lillers – Hazebrouck– St O – etc – can’t remember the order. The La Bassée canal is beautiful – the place is no more absolutely every building is to the ground – station too. I thought of the little tailor at Tréport who altered my coat who had a large business in La Basée & hoped his house had escaped – no luck.
We are carrying lots of P.O.W.s from German hospitals – poor things! they look like raisins – skin & bone – their thighs are not so big round nearly as my arm. Their wounds are foul & their backs in a horrible state of bed sores.
Their digestions, so upset by starvation they can only take little drinks & tiny little bits of bread & butter or jam. They can’t digest meat. Their foreheads & noses look huge – the rest of the face & neck are sunk right in. They had their dressings done once in four days.
We have several frac.[tured] femurs – all the extension they had was a couple of bricks tied on the leg – no splint at all & consequently their legs are in very bad shape & short.
Thank Goodness we are stopping – Boulogne at last!
We have a suicide officer on board. Poor thing as he went so far it is a pity he did not finish it. His brain is oozing & he is paralised all down one side.
We are bringing a sister down from a C.C.S. – she has orders for the base & this seemed the only way to get here there.
Sir Douglas Haig’s train passed us at Pepinster [in Belgium, west of Verviers, on the confluency of the rivers Vesdre and Hoëgne.] yesterday. It is a fine train indeed. We heard he had been off the rails the day before.
I noticed many N. Zealanders at Huy [in the Belgian province of Liège, along the river Meuse. Ed] – & asked a chance one if he knew Taff. He did not but has promised to find him & give him a message from me – they are all together there. The Sgt Major who came over from N.Z. is a patient on the train. Pierce. I was talking to a New Zealand boy through the window – & when I came in the S.M. said – Excuse me – were you asking for a machine gunner? I said I was – he said “I trace a likeness is it – Appleton?” then he told me what a fine set of men they were – said Taff was thin but hard as nails – he thought very highly of Taff. It was very tantalizing to be so near the boy & yet so far. We didn’t know we were calling there or that his Division was there. They are supposed to leave for Germany today.
When our prisoners asked for more food they were told it was England’s fault – that there was a complete blockade. Bravo the Navy – they did their job – very thoroughly.
I asked one man what he knew of the war news – he said when there was talk of an armistice being signed he thought we must be winning because one day the German orderlies were talking about it & ended by taking down a big calendar with the Kaiser’s picture on & tore it to bits & trampled on it.
You should see the Prisoners who are up & dressed. They are not so underfed looking – but their dress! Russian trousers! Belgian coats & waistcoats – French – German – civilian – any old cap! They look like so many Bill Sykes. [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Sikes]
They say the soup they had was only cabbage water & they though themselves very lucky if they found any little bits of anything floating in it. The German civilians – they say – look absolutely starved & wretched – are wearing clothes made of paper & wooden shoes.
This trip has been very interesting but very long – Friday to Tuesday.
The night has been brilliantly moonlight – good as day.
Our R.E.s have an endless task – it looks – in repairing miles & miles & miles of broken railways.
At Ath – Jerry had evidently meant to spoil the whole system – the line was blown up by mines every 20 yds in one place. There were about 20 lines abreast & every one was blown up – great deep mine craters – & the rails all twisted & broken. The one we were on was the only repaired one & we had to go dead slow – just on plank bridges over the mine craters.
The bridge they were blowing up at Tournai is quite down & looks a ponderous wreck. I can’t tell you the number of big roadway bridges that are reduced to vast heaps of wreckage on each bank & the number of iron bridges that we see over the canal like this
We are busy in odd moments making paper roses for the Orderlies’ Christmas decorations. We may be where we can’t buy flowers, & anyway that cost nearly a franc apiece.
Dec. 18th We are being punished today for our sins of yesterday. Our O.C. had a bit of a row with the R.T.O. [Railway Transport Officer. Ed] at Boulogne & our train was not ready to start at its appointed time. Consequently we lost our “marche” in the traffic and are being constantly held up. Yesterday Sister & I went into Boulogne & I did a few necessary shoppings – lunched at the Hotel Meurice & were back at 2 p.m.
We are taking 6 Canadian Sisters to Nos 1 & 2 Canadian C.C.S.s. One is at Huy & where the other is we none of us knows. At the moment we are waiting in Tournai station – at this rate we shall be about 3 days on the outward journey.
The day is bitterly cold & raining a little. Had a nice mail yesterday – parcel & letters from Mother – dozens of other letters & word of the gramophone – it is on its way to Boulogne from Tréport.
19th 9 a.m. Waiting for breakfast. At 3 this morning we stopped at Charleroi & took on a fresh engine & a vastly better driver & after that we made good pace. The country a little past that looked lovely in the moonlight – the canal or river (River Sempre [added later. Ed]) – I don’t know which – very full to overflowing. What a blessing there is no fighting for our fellows to suffer from the drenched & flooded country! Through Trooz – La Brouck – along the winding road for miles. We saw the New Zealand artillery on its way to Germany. There were infantry men standing about & in the houses as if they were billetted there & not yet underweigh for Germany. I waved hard on the chance of brother Taff being anywhere near & reading our large “42 A.T.”
They looked fine men, & made a good show.
The last we saw were within a few kilometres.
Later Here we are across the border again! & everywhere are the square heads. Some wearing white armlets – a sign that they are in favour of the Revolution I believe.
There are girl engine cleaners – dressed in ordinary mens clothes – dirty old trousers & boots & coats & caps – none of them look the least bit hungry.
A troop train has just passed us – a German train & engine & a German driver – crew & guard. All the vans & coaches are packed with laughing – irresponsible British officers & Tommies enjoying themselves.
Later We have spent the whole day at Herbesthal waiting for an engine to take us to Cologne. We have not been dull. In the morning I wrote then we went for a short walk along the lines – not daring to go too far in case the engine came on. After lunch we turned out our 6 Canadian visitors & took them for a brisk walk up & down the line. One of them had a camera – one film left – & we had great fun having a snapshot taken. After that Sister Summers [see separate page for Sister Summers. Ed] & I set to work in earnest to make paper flowers for Christmas then we changed & made ourselves smart & went to tea with the Canadians. Mr. Lowery came too – the O.C. went for a long sleep. The Can[adian] Sisters are a cheery crew & we had a gay tea party. There is word now that we are to be taken on at 7-7 tonight. It annoyed me, the other day to see the Belgians bold facedly stealing sacks & sacks of coal from our trucks. I suppose really one is as bad as another. Tonight I see our own Tommies are out pilfering lovely big cabbages from 2 trucks of them – German property. Fraser the O.C.s batman even brought one in to show me & told me they had not nearly finished yet – they had only taken 4 so far!
Another troop train went past while we were at tea. As each coach passed our coach – which was brightly lighted & the blinds not down – they shouted to us & cheered loudly.
Bosches rushed out of some of the houses & stood gaping. Some of the N.Z. Artillery that we saw at Trooz this morning has entered Germany. We saw some of them this evening.
Dec 20 We lay at Herbesthal until 4 p.m. & then were taken back to Pepinster again to load – starting loading at 6 p.m. We had a great time at Herbesthal & I think the Germans working in offices round about have done very little work – they have been too deeply interested in all the happenings.
We could not leave the train as we were liable to leave anytime. Every hour or two a troop train has passed on its way to Cologne.
The trains are just trucks for the Tommies & coaches for the officers. The Tommies all seemed in high feather. We always stand at our window & wave to them & as each truck passes they cheer like mad & sing & wave. Some of them were waving Union Jacks – one was ringing a big bell. Some were cooking. Lots were eating. No. 33 A.T. came alongside us this morning & she has turned us down & is doing the trip to Cologne instead of us – bad luck. Taff is due at Cologne tomorrow & we might have met but I have left lots of messages for him & have asked the Sister I/C of 33 to Mother him for me – she is an old & good friend of mine.
I called to a New Zealander this morning before I was dressed & asked him news of Taff. He shared beds with him at Grantham & saw him yesterday & says he is very fit & well. It is provokingly tantalising to miss him each time. I was talking to an officer – the N.Z.E.O. [NZ Evacuation Officer? Ed]. He is going to try to see that Taff gets leave whenever A.T. 42 comes up to Cologne. He was a very charming officer & stands no nonsense from the Bosche.
He was sleeping on the floor of a hut here last night & this morning told some people here he wanted a decent room. They said “By the terms of the Armistice – no claim can be made on private property”. He answered “Give me the key & a room instantly” & he said the key was not long in being handed to him. He loathes the Hun. So do I – they don’t look a bit repentant, or even becomingly thin or poor.
We all had tea with our 6 Canadians yesterday & today we were to have had a tea party of 15 – that was including 3 Sisters & 2 M.O.s from No 33 but we moved out too soon – we had to transfer our Canadian sisters to No 33. They were sad to go – nice cheery folk they have been.
We had great fun this afternoon. An R. Op. D. engine came to take an Ambulance Train to Namur. First he hitched on to us then the Germans – for some unknown reason – put him on to 33. Then all the staffs of both trains came out & had battle royal – each said they were to go to Cologne. Of course orders are orders & in the end it was we who were ordered back to Pepinster. Whether they will go on or not is a matter of conjecture – things are in such a muddle there.
No cooperation between Germans & this side the border.
Taff is due to entrain at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Herbesthal for Cologne.
Later. I am on night duty tonight. We have about 400 odd on board & are to fill up at Huy in about 1/2 an hour.
Our O.C. is a deaf – old – rather inclined to the strong minded batchelor. One fad is to visit each man – ill or well – In the sitting wards they are thick on the ground & it is nothing to see him take one man’s card & ask the questions of quite a different one. Like tonight – with a card in his hand he went to a fellow & said “Any diarrhea?” “No Sir” said the man angrily. “Any sickness?” “No Sir” – “Any pains in the stomach?” “Put out the tongue.” “That ain’t my complaint Sir – I got a ‘ammer toe.” Then he finds he has been reading the card belonging to the next man. We have got a good engine & a good driver & are going along at a nice pace.
That N.Z. Major I was talking to, said the Bosches had so spoiled a huge iron foundry outside Liège that it would take 4 years to get it ready for use again. The Hun idea – that the Belgians should be handicapped for long enough for them to work up a big trade – the Belgians think otherwise & have arranged to take over a large German foundry to work for themselves until the Bosches have repaired the Liège one.
Dec 21st. I was up until 3 a.m. We made a good run & were well through Namur when I went to bed. We stopped at Huy for a load & to our surprise found no patients. The C.C.S. had moved the day before & another A.T. had taken all their patients.
We are nearly at Douai – well through Valenciennes. All the country round about is terribly disfigured & broken.
Pill boxes are wonderful things. Shells burst all round & about them & they stay intact. About 1 1/2 or 2 yds high.
The way we are going today we go through Douai, Arras & St. Pol. The last time I was in Arras & St Pol they didn’t look badly hurt. I expect there will be a big difference.
So – not taking that second load – we have a fairly light convoy. One man is very ill indeed with pleurisy which he says he caught lying so long – cold – on his stretcher at the C.C.S. yesterday. It was a cold day. Now I must work. Write letters – do the pay sheet – etc.
We have met 6 trains on their way up the line!
The R.T.O. at Namur yesterday told us a tragedy happened there in the morning. A supply train was standing in a siding & a troop train came in – reinforcements on their way up to Cologne. The troops raided the supply train & the R.T.O. saw a long line of them proceeding back to their train – each with a sack of something – Bread – bully – biscuits – anything that could be eaten – they took. That of course meant short rations for lots of people.
The R.T.O. had an inspiration & walked along the troop train shouting “All change.” & he held the train back – out tumbled all the men – sacks & all – & he rescued a good many of them but even so lots of them got off with pockets bulging.
Dec 23rd. That last run was the slowest I have known. The French had taken control of the line the day before & were not quite used to it. We were about 12 hours late & the patients overtired of their long journey. We off loaded at Wimereux – waited there an hour or two – just time for us to scuttle off & do a little shopping – then came to Étaples where we still are.
We have just got orders to go to Tréport to take an evacuation load either to Havre or Boulogne.
Sister & I have been for a good walk & blow this afternoon – such a treat after being cooped up so long.
We looked at 24 Gen & saw Maj. Martyn’s little hut – a dreary awful place to live.
I went to bed early with a sore throat last night – it is living this shut up existence not a daily walk.
Dec 24th 4 a.m. We are taking our load to Calais which should suit us rather well if all be well! Off load about 11 a.m. – be free for the rest of the day – have our Christmas dinner tonight. As I was walking through the train tonight I was greeted with “hullo sister” & behold – two of my old patients! At last on their way to Blighty! I am soon going to call Sister & shall then turn in.
I saw my old No 3 – perched away on the cliff top. It looked very peaceful in the moonlight.
Christmas Day. A happy Christmas to all.
3.30 p.m. I am enjoying myself immensely – in a comfortable chair in the kitchen. Windows wide open & glorious sunshine making even this wrecked desolate uninhabited area beautiful. We are creeping – slowly – over some of the most fought ground in France – that between Armentieres & Lille.
Everywhere is trenches – now kindly covered in soft green grass – dugouts – gun – emplacements – barbed wire entanglements – all of Bosche construction. The poor trees are all standing – split & dead & over towards the town is one sad chaos of bricks & mortar – walls – even skeletons of houses – but I don’t see a roof on a single one. Nobody lives here now & the ground will have to be cleared of all sorts of war hamper before it can be cultivated.
We are having a very happy Christmastide. Yesterday was our day. Today is for the men. We had a very moving dinner party last night – only 4 of us – the O.C., Mr. Lowery, Sister Summers , & I. Would you like to know the menu? Soup Julienne – Fish Fried plaice – Roast porc – Fowl Roast chicken – Sweets Xmas pudding – mince pies – jelly & blanc mange. Dessert Coffee. Drinks Champagne, the gift of the O.C.
After a long & cheery meal we played bridge & ended the evening – 11-45 – by dancing in the kitchen to the music of the gramophone.
We were at Fontainette – just outside Calais – & expected to be left there over Christmas Day. Sister & I got up early & went out in search of a Church service – 8 o’c – this morning. We found a very nice one in the Church Army Hut held by a fighting man – Parson in China in peacetime but he is in an infantry Regiment fighting in wartime – a very nice man. Going back to the train Sister said “She’s not there & sure enough she was not where we had left her & we thought she had gone & left us behind. Then we saw an engine & train higher up the line – Cheers! No 42! But between us & her was a goods train about a mile long. We were going to climb under it, but it began to move so we hopped on to it & jumped out the other side & flew to our own train & found that the engine had come on a few minutes after we started out & that she was ordered to leave at 8 a.m.
(I thought myself I felt a little bump – like an engine coming on – just as we were leaving but didn’t think they would take us out on Christmas Day).
After breakfast we dismissed our staff – 2 cooks & 2 batmen – for the whole day & we are running our own mess – hence am able to sit in the kitchen & enjoy myself this afternoon. Now that lunch is cleared & washed up.
Sister & I helped decorate the men’s tables this morning & their coach looks really fine. When they sat down to dinner we went in a procession – O.C. me Mr. Lowery Sister Summers – along to see them. The O.C. made a most kind & appropriate address to them & the senior man responded then three hearty cheers & we left them to it. We are halting now at a place that sounds like Berenges [?? Ed.] – (Tommies’ pronounciation). You can see quite well where the Station buildings & platforms use to be but there is not a soul in sight nor a sound. I suppose we are waiting for some other train to get out of our way ahead of us.
We are bound for Tournai.
Dec 26th Christmas was a great success with our men. They had a splendid dinner followed by a whist drive in the afternoon.
In the evening they gave a concert to which we were all invited. Really it is wonderful what can be done in a train.
All their festivities were held in “P” coach which is at other times a ward of 36 beds. Some of the beds had been unhinged & made into a long table down the centre. The other beds were folded up – (like our table outside the drawing room at Sea Valley [the name of the name of the Appleton family home in Deal, Kent] – only up instead of down). For the concert a stage had been erected at one end of the coach & draw curtains borrowed from the ward where they are used to divide the half used for Officers from the other half used for other ranks.
The rule of the concert was that every one had to do something. Some say well – some very badly – some did card tricks. “The thing that to me was quite funniest was the Minstrel troop called “Cpl. Fox & his lunies”. They were dressed anyhow – pyjamas – cooks – white drills – anyhow – faces well blacked. One – our cook – played the big drum – a muffled coal hammer on a large round tea tray. Another the symbols – had a couple of metal ash trays which he banged together. The small drum a 7 lb. biscuit tin & a couple of pieces of fire wood. Another beat a huge poker which was hung up with a small iron used for lifting the round off the stove. Another beat a gong & Cpl. Fox conducted. Behind the scenes the gramophone played some gooey piece & the band played to the tune of it. Cpl Fox was funny & the whole thing had every one weak with laughter. At the end some one seized a big bunch of paper roses on prickly stalks which we had made for their decoration & presented them to the conductor. Cpl Fox is really cleaver & later recited a poem made up by himself on “42 A.T.”. Hits at everyone – Q.M.S. – all the N.C.Os & of course the officers & Sisters did not escape. Beer lemonade & sandwiches 1/2 inch thick were handed round but we had dined too recently & well to be able to join in. At the end we had a speech by the Chairman – Cpl. Hunt – one by the O.C. – & finished up with “The Soldiers farewell” – 2 Christmas Carols – Auld Lang Syne – (all holding hands – crossways) – & God Save the King.
As good luck would have it the train was still during the whole concert & only moved on at 11.45 just when we were singing God save the King.
We woke at Tournai at 9 a.m. & still not called. I got up – cleaned my own boots – & risked a brisk walk along the canal – came back at 10 & found breakfast nearly ready. We were told we should be in garage all day so we went for a lovely walk in glorious sunshine in the morning. In the afternoon it came up wet & we slept well. In the evening we went to the Cinema – you know in that fine hall I told you about where we went to Service first time we were here.
Dec 27th Still no orders so we are still here. It is a filthy rainy day. I have ironed all my clothes & written all my letters, & propose to do a little shopping later if there is anything cheap enough to buy. Fancy! eggs – 1 franc 20 centimes each.
Do you remember reading about a very famous German Spy who in 1916 lived in America & used to send knowledge through from Germany to England & England to Germany? Our American M.O. was telling me how he was finally caught.
He always sent his papers a different way – one time in a box of cigars – next in a case of fruit – & so on.
After much searching & trouble the American secret service men suspected him & explained to his girl clerk all about it. At last one time she found that he packed a tin of documents in a case of tins of fruit – the case was one of a hundred all looking the same. She kept her eyes on it & wondered how she was to mark it without being suspected. She was sitting on it – eating her lunch & thinking hard – when Van Pepin came in. He was a great man for flirting & came & sat by her & she encouraged him. During their little flirtation she took an indelible pencil & drew a heart on the case she was sitting on. He took the pencil from her & drew a Cupids arrow through the heart. Lunch over each went their own way. The girl went straight to the secret service men & told them the case with the documents was being shipped to Liverpool that afternoon. It was one of a hundred & was marked with a heart & Cupid’s arrow. The cables were soon busy & the boat was met by Secret Service men who helped unload – the box was found & Van Pepin trapped.
The Fourth and final Volume ends suddenly here.
The back cover is missing, as are some pages probably.
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