This covers the period 25 July to 20 November 1915.
Edie is at Casualty Clearing Station No. 3 near Ypres.
Volume 2 of the diaries is very long so we have divided it into two parts: the first, for the period 25 July to 20 November 1915, when Edie was in a CCS near the front line and the second, from 21 November 2015 to 25 April 1916, when Edie had relocated to a General Hospital at Etretat on the coast.
Click here to read Volume 2 Part 2
This volume of the diary included 4 loose sheets of hastily written notes in pencil which we have added (in grey text) below the entry for each date. They cover the period 1st August to 21st October.
July 25th. Just back from 10 perfect days leave & feeling disinclined for work. Owing to a little accident on my part at Boulogne on the way home. I have had a little too much time – they expected me back on Friday night – sent a car to Hazebrouck for me. Next day thought for sure I should come – sent the car again – put 4 hot bottles in my bed & a jar of roses on my table & finally when I did come – no car – cold hot bottles & faded flowers — & a very frosty visit from the Sister in charge – however they will understand in time how innocent of it all I am!
The R. C. Padre stole a chair & table for his tent & was so proud of them he took every one to see how comfortable his tent was. While he was away asking one Sister to come, some M. O slid in — & slung the chair up to the roof – hid the table, so when the Padre found they had vanished, he started throwing stones at the only M. O. in sight – meanwhile the real culprits sneaked in & filled his boots with water — poor Padre was nearly winded with so much exertion, but ran off & filled everything he could find in their tent with water.
Taubes have been over and round us all day. The one that was over yesterday was brought down at Pop [Poperinge. Ed]. & the two G. Officers taken to No. 10 C.C.S. Our craft has been in hot pursuit, one returned tonight with 25 shrapnel holes in it. I have got charge of the Acute Surgical ward – so have had quite a busy day. 4 cases for op. 1 death, & a fairish number of admissions.
July 27th Do not like big ward as much as being all over the place. 3 Zepps were reported from Ypres tonight being heavily shelled. We saw shells bursting over one of our own machines, which was having difficulty in getting back owing to a 50 mile an hour wind that was blowing. There is a rumour that we are to be moved to Arras. Taubes over again.
July 28th Quiet day. Off duty for first time since leave. Went into town to see Miss Congleton. [This is Sister Jessie Congleton – see separate page for her]
July 29th Taking in day, only took 15, some bad, 3 for op. One a very sad case – a man with his leg pulped so much that it had to be amputated. He was suffering badly from shock & nothing seemed to touch him. This evening I gave him some strong coffee & he just roused up enough to say he must go home to his wife and boy then “Will you pray for me & my wife & boy”! poor fellow – I suppose he has a glimmer of a chance. Robert has volunteered for listening post duty & is now Officer in charge of his Brigade – good boy he is doing well & I do hope may be kept safe. I expect his Mother is anxious about him. [This is almost certainly Robert Chambers who sadly died just three months later on 15 October 1915 – see Edie’s diary entry for 20 October 1915. Ed]
July 30th Fairly busy day. The man who had his leg off is still alive – a shade better, but does not yet know he has lost his leg. One man had a bullet taken out in the ward. Went in between the ribs slid round & was taken out of the wall of the stomach. Heavy firing all day & this evening. Off in afternoon, walked – alone to Mt Noir & wrote letters. Our aeroplanes were being fired at, hope not hit.
July 31st 6.00 am Rudely awakened by shots being fired at a Taube right over us, it is a loathsome way of being called – it feels as if the place is being shelled. Had the 1/2 day off duty, having evacuated 2 of my 6 cases. I called for Miss Congleton & took tea on to Mt Noir. Sat in a lonely spot overlooking Ypres — & had it. She got the R. R. C. for the Neuve Chappelle business & was telling me odd bits about it. [The Royal Red Cross is a decoration, established in 1883, for exceptional service in military nursing. It can be awarded for devotion and competency over an extended period or for one exceptional act of bravery. Edie would later receive the RRC herself. The Battle of Neuve Chappelle, to which she refers here, occurred on March 10 1915, and was a second attempt to retake the village of Neuve Chappelle from its German occupiers. Although successful, the casualties were very high – 11,200 Allied troops were killed, wounded or missing, out of a total of 40,000 men engaged in the action. Ed] The whole staff, Orderlies & all were worn out, the Mortuary Corporal included – one afternoon he came to Miss C. & asked her to help him “sort them out” & when she got there he threw off blanket after blanket from the poor dead things – who had been brought down in such numbers that some tickets were off. He said “Did you ever see ‘im before — & did you ever see ’im”. His one job was to sort out R.C.s — & Church of England – so that each Padre might bury his own. Then he found a fresh difficulty – over one – whom he thought was an Officer – but had nothing to mark him – “And ‘ow am I to bury ‘im – as a’ Officer – or man”. Sister said – “Surely they all get buried the same.” “No, they don’t.” said the bewildered Cpl. “Men is hammered – Officers is screwed.” Poor Sister who was worn out as well as every one else – suddenly went hysterical — & laughed & laughed — & the more she told herself it was tragic – not funny – the funnier it all looked — & the little white faced corporal with hair on end just gazed helplessly at her — & everything. That is one of the truest pictures of over work & under sleep — & perhaps it shocks you – but I have lived through much the same — & it is dead true. Taubes over us all morning off & on. Someone said they were taking the range of the aerodrome. Hope not. We saw a most beautiful grotto to the V. Mary like a telescope of three caves leading out of each other beautifully cut into the stone. Stone roof & walls & floor decorated with flowers – palms — & statues.
Aug 1st. Miss McC came to lunch. [Miss McCarthy. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maud_McCarthy. Also see separate page for Miss McCarthy. Edie and (later Dame) Maud McCarthy clearly had great respect for each other and maintained a wartime correspondence. In her diary McCarthy refers to Edie as ‘a woman of considerable experience’ and after the armistice Edie joined her staff in Bolougne, where she stayed from February 1919 until her demobilisation that December. In 1923 Dame Maud persuaded an initially reluctant Edie to join the Territorial Army Nursing Service.] M. Denton thinks I am the next for a move – don’t want it – 17 patients in – most v. bad – 4 for op. not off. Miss McC. Showed us a wonderful trick – “Ravens [?] passport – will show it you one day.
[From loose sheets of notes for: Aug 1st. – Miss McCarthy came to lunch – took in 17 pts. 4 for theatre.]
Aug 2nd. St Omer. They evidently got our range all right. A Jack Johnson [A low-velocity shell which created a cloud of dense black smoke, it was named after the US boxer who was nicknamed ‘The Big Smoke’. Ed] was fired into our night Orderlies tent this morning. It has killed 4 of our best Orderlies & wounded two. The thing was so close to the hospital the orders came at once to evacuate all patients, we got them out by about 3 p.m. then they sent us off. All but Miss Denton & I went at 3 p.m. but as mine was the heavy ward – I couldn’t get away to pack until nearly 3 o’c so we went at 6 p.m. Hartigan is in charge – & made us all most comfortable & welcome. [See separate page on Matron Helena Hartigan]
We are living under canvas in little tents like this.
The J. J. made a huge hole about 30 ft. deep & the Orderlies were blown many feet away – Tonight I am lying with the cool night air blowing over me. There are about 70 little tents & a big mess tent – sitting room tent & cookhouse. We had a beautiful drive here in a motor ambulance.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 2nd. Shell fell into night orderlies tent – we were all sent to No 1 Gen – St O.]
Aug 3: Rain & wind all day. Went over hosp. fine place well run. Chilly under canvas. Hear our hosp is in flames. If so – let’s hope the M. Os and lunatics got away first. Tea with Hartigan. This is an old monastery. The monks are in part of it still. Have been in my tent most of the day. Some old friends from 10 Stationary called.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 3rd. Cold rainy day – not pleasant under canvas – we were shown all over the hospital – It is part under canvas – part in an old monastery –]
Aug 4th: No orders. Walked to St.O [St Omer]. They have had 4 bombs dropped there. After dinner 4 of us walked to a charming old home in the country which with its huge garden belongs to a convent & is used as a place of Retreat. It is a large old fashioned beautifully kept old place – floors all scrubbed & sanded. Caretaker and his wife and daughter live there. Splendid people typical French, merry light hearted. They jabbered away to us – showed us over the garden – beautiful – so unspoilt & natural. After we had tea in the kitchen first butter & bread & jam – then coffee — & then liqueur, then another sort of liqueur. Tonight we went to a concert given by the Orderlies and 1 M.O. Quite good. Tonight I am going to sleep with my head outside the sky is so beautiful. Planets & stars & moonlight all so glorious.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 4th. 4 aeroplane bombs were dropped on St O, a little while ago – did not much damage.
We went to a concert given by the M.O.s & Orderlies – no post yet for us – refugees –]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 5th. Walked to Arques with Miss Denton after lunch – tea there – back by car – The Q.M. & S.S. Riley came from Bailleul – brought our letters & the news that all is calm there – Bombs dropped on Hazebrouck – The other two C.C.S. at Bailleul are not keeping patients – just dress them & send them on –]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 6. We refugees picniced on a Common at the back of Sir J F’s house]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 7th. We all went to St O – saw the damage done in the Rue St Bertin]
August 8. Have done nothing exciting, picnicked one day behind Sir John French’s house in some woods – saw him coming back from his ride. Looking fat & well – but very white haired – walked to town & saw the damage done by the bombs went to tea with the old caretaker once more – went to English church on Sunday heard a good sermon by the Bishop of Khartoum. He thinks the war is like a festering sore on the equals [?] – no more shells at Bailleul – our place was not burnt. The other two hosp are not allowed to keep patients – dress & send them on. No clear weather since we left. If there are no more shells after the weather clears we shall go back.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 8th. We all went to the English Church at St O. Bishop of K. preached – fearfully windy night – like tents best in weather that is not windy. Guns sound very far distant from here.]
Aug. 9th We are to go back to Bailleul tomorrow. Today has been the last word – hot. We have been stifled in our tents & roasted outside them. Went to town alone. Made straight for the Cathedral and sat there to cool down. body and soul. The drone of the women praying in the soldiers chapel always does that for me. After that went to Public Gardens – a blaze of bright colours — & grass. Saw some very rare kind of plant called “cactus echéria.” Wandered round the wild wooded part & enjoyed all – swans swimming about & all. Hope we are not going back to the same building in Bailleul. Must pack.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 9th. Orders have come for us to go back to Bailleul tomorrow. Fearfully hot day – too hot to do anything – we all sewed & tidied our trunks –]
August 10th Many Happies to Fred. [Frederick Appleton, born on 10 August 1873, was an older brother of Edie. He started his working life in insurance and later went into the church. Was an army padre in the 1914-18 war. Ed] We came back by ambulance — via Cassel — & saw the damage done there. Found a letter from Mother awaiting me. very nice. We are in the same building. & are supposed to take in tomorrow after unpacking & fixing my room – walked to town to tea with Miss Congleton then back & took flowers to our Orderlies’ graves. Scratch supper in the tuck [?] after which Middleton & I walked along the Ypres Road & watched the firing. The gun flashes were very effective tonight – with the black storm clouds.
[From loose sheets of notes for: Aug 10th. We came back to B by ambulance – through Cassel & saw the damage done by the one shell that was sent there. A taube over the town – two of our machines chased it off but did not damage it.]
August 11th Did not take in today as things were slack & it was No. 2’s turn. Went to no. 8 & took a lesson in lace making – a Taube flew right over the town & 2 of our machines went after it – We could hear them firing their guns at each other — & watched the fight till they were both out of sight. Wonder very much how it ended. Am very tired for no reason so goodnight.
August 12th We are taking in – not many so far. Guns going all day. Generals Plummer [General Herbert Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer (1857-1932) was Commander of the British Second Army. Ed] and Porter and a few others called.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 12th. We took in – not many – Generals Plumer – Porter & 2 or 3 other people came round today & seemed to like the place.]
August 13th last night was remarkable for 2 terrific explosions – frightened us out of our wits to be wakened at 2 a.m. by them. People have various theories of what they were – Zepp bombs – mines being exploded – our own guns – a field or two away, etc., etc.
See note paper next [refers to next 6 pages being on loose pages].
Whatever it was the whole building trembled and rattled with vibration. Not off. Have been feeling thoroughly nervy all day – silly fool that I am too.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 13th. Two big explosions in the night. ? what.
Miss Charlesworth went on leave.
Flames were burning for an aeroplane, out late – they are out now, so I suppose it is home again.]
August 14th Evacuated nearly all patients. Had 1/2 day off duty. Spent it at Mt. des Cats with Miss C. delightful sunny day – splendid view all over Pop [Poperinge], Ypres, Vlamertinge – Fourth R.C. padre – Mr. Wain & Mr. Baxter there. They left their glasses with us – a wonderful clear view in every direction – we could see beyond Lillens – La Bassée etc. & the colours of the sky at sunset were glorious. We drove in a little chaise & kept it to come back in then went to no. 8 for a time then back. They were sending up coloured rockets from the aerodrome & had their four flares burning to guide a late comer aeroplane home. I suppose it did come as the fires were all put out quite soon.
August 15th I don’t think I mentioned yesterday that I saw the shells bursting over our trenches S. of Ypres. The picture was vivid – there we saw the shells bursting & the huge volume of smoke & muck shot up into the air – the suggestion of what was happening to our Tommies. The khaki coloured ambulances were all the time creeping to & fro – bringing the wounded in. We saw one of the Trappist Monks walking about looking quite happy dressed in white serge robes with a brown girdle. They may speak to people in war time but I don’t think they do to women.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 15th. We had 4 Belgians in amongst our wounded – Their families were in Liege with the Germans & they had not heard from or of them for 10 months.]
August 16 We had 4 Belg [Belgians] amongst our wounded y’day. Their wives & children were in Liège with the Germans & they had not heard a word of them or been able to write to them for 10 mos. They seem very confident that the war will end this winter. May they be right if not before
August 16 & 17 Quiet days – bought fruit & veg in town. Walked to Mt. Noir – No. 8 Sisters went to a whist drive at No. 2. 7 of our own men were injured & 1 killed in a bomb experiment. Guns sound very near tonight.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 16th. Whist drive at No 2. 7 of our own men were injured & 1 killed by experimenting with a bomb.]
August 18th This place is a marvel at rumours. The latest is that one of our big caterpillar guns is being fixed a field off us—and that we shall have to move – as the firing will break our windows etc. Next told me by an Officer in the officers ward – that we sisters (of no 3) were nearer the firing line than any others – & it wasn’t right etc. etc. etc. & that we were “in the field”! There is a huge gun firing now – it simply rattles this place & we hear the whiz – whirr of the shells. Much busier day – took in 1/2 a ward full – dressed and evacuated them – Then took in lots more – badly wounded.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 18th. Busy day. Took in about 20 – dressed & sent them away – then admitted 20 more – some badly wounded!]
August 19th Very busy day – no evacuation off in afternoon went for walk with Miss Denton after dinner. Guns and rifle fire sounding very near – flashes – very bright. A big gun has just been taken past in a dark cart, being shifted to a fresh position under cover of darkness
[From loose sheets of notes for: 19th. No evacuation – still fairly busy.
Went for a walk with Miss Denton after dinner – gun flashes very bright – rifle fire distinctly heard. glorious night.]
August 20th Evacuated most of my patients. Went to tea at No. 8. Met Captain Ormrod & Capt. Phillips. They suggest a whist drive — & say they will take us to see the shells burst after.
August 21 Busy day – took in about 114 – not many after the 2804 we have done – but most in my ward bad – 7 very bad — & some I am afraid will die. All leave stopped: Submarine making itself a nuisance. Off in afternoon.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 21st. We took in about 114 pts. 7 very bad – Heavy firing & great display of star shells -]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 22nd. Early service – quiet day. All leave stopped – reported submarine in ships way.]
August 23rd. Yesterday was the clearest day on record through the War. The men in our observation balloon discovered 3
G[erman] batteries. An Officer in the ward says they have got the range of 15 batteries which they will shell when we make an attack. T & C 1/2 days – picniced on Mt. Rouge – & Mt. Noir. I joined them for tea & was on duty again at 5. Early to bed – dosed with Asp[irin] & hot whiskey for a cold. We hear that a good many German men of war have been sunk. Good luck. I suppose I had better go to sleep after that whiskey.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 23nd. Y’day was the clearest day on record – men in observatory balloon discovered 3 fresh G batteries.]
August 24th: Quite a busy day – admitted 28 cases to my ward. Evacuated 23. Still have my family of 7 really very ill ones. Not off – No letters. Miss Charlesworth not back so she can’t talk about my two days any more.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 24th. Quite busy – admitted fair number of cases to Ward 2. Miss Charlesworth due back
6 of us went to a concert given in town by the 12th Division – quite good – Earl of Cassilis spoke thanking the artists – & Col. Somebody returned thanks. Glorious moonlight night. so bright no star shells are being used –]
August 25th: Good news in the paper about the Dardanelles. Also our fleet have done good work. Off a short time this afternoon. 6 of us went to a concert in the town this evening – given by the 12th Division. Enjoyed it very much. One Officer & a man came in from the trenches to sing – & then went back. Some of the men were music hall professionals – in peace time. The Earl of Cassilis made a little speech at the end thanking the Artists – Colonel Somebody returned it. Glorious night. The hall was packed with Officers & men & there were 12 Sisters. Luckily only one song was at all risky. Letters from you & Hilda. Tonight is beautiful the Moon & Jupiter close together – shining oh so brightly – So brightly that there are no star shells being used along our bit of the line. There were no lights belonging to the concert Hall – so they borrowed motor & bicycle lamps. 2 Tommies behind screens shone lights on the performers & the motley array of bicycle lamps did for footlights.
August 26. Our Sister in Charge does not approve of us taking part in the Sisters Egg & Spoon race at the inter clearing Station Sports on Saturday. Had a 1/2 day – went to Mt. Noir with J. H. C. [Jessie Congleton. Ed] also watched the Sisters at No. 8 practising egg & spoon race. Very busy morning. 2 men dying – many, many dressings. Day intensely hot & hazy.
August 27. A very busy day – only admitted 15 or 16 but 3 were dying & one was screaming with pain, & all had bad wounds which took a long time to dress & some had to be dressed twice because they bled so. One of the dying ones was shot clean through in the middle of the forehead & his brains were pouring out & he had fits at intervals of not more than 10 mins all day. Another, a Canadian, was doing some Cavalry drill & two horses charged each other killing one man & concussing & breaking the back of my patient. I think he will die tonight. The third dying one was shot through the stomach & is sick & in agony all the time. Not off duty. Am going to strufe [strife? Staff? Ed] about the hos[pital] Sports & then to bed.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 27th. Busy day – only admitted 27 to Ward 2, but 3 were dying & some very badly wounded –]
August 28th. We had a lad of 18 in with a fractured skull this morning. 2 hrs later his brother came to see him. I was certain it would be an elder brother, but to my utter amazement a small unbroken voiced blue eyed creature of about 15 was sent in – I asked him how old he was – he said – standing at salute – “18 regimentally.” A poor little creature not much older was brought in dying from a stomach wound – he only lived 1 1/2 hours. He asked me to write to his Father & say it was all right he didn’t mind going – then he said “I have done my bit, but I didn’t think I should die so young.” The Sports were held in the fields at No. 8 this afternoon. No. 2 won – score 32. No. 8 second score 21. No. 3 badly last score 4 & serves it right. Miss D. objected (old fool) to us doing any – thought it ‘unladylike’. As a matter of fact she was terrified of displeasing Miss McCarthy – terrified of her own skin. The Officers of No. 8 did the entertaining & did it well. Miss Congleton – Thompson – Capt. Toms – Capt. Stirling Capt. O.T. & I had a gay tea party in our corner of the tent. All went well. Congleton gave the prizes.
August 29th Church at 7 a.m. only 2 patients in my ward. Padre’s voice hoarse with shouting at the Sports. Major Ray took service – wishes in future to be call – “The Rather Rev” – thinks he had better not have “Very Rev” yet. The war is making a big noise tonight. Much rifle fire & our own guns sound so near we can hear the shells travelling through the air.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 29th. Major Ray took the Service this morning – & in future wishes to be styled “The Rather Rev.” Much gun & rifle fire going on -]
August 30th. This [journal] has just arrived with Mother’s love so I had better start it – & trust to luck to copying in stray notes I have made before – We are taking in today – & so far have taken exactly 0.
August 31st. We only took 6 into my ward – & have evacuated 5 of them – only a bad abdominal left. Major Ray was telling me about when he was with a regiment. One night there was nothing much doing – only snipers – sniping – both sides – at last a voice from the German trenches said – “For God’s sake stop it. & let’s go to sleep.” If you won’t fire – we won’t” – so they stopped & did go to sleep. All the trenches – communication trenches – all sorts are named – The have Harley Street – Brompton Road – Piccadilly – & all sorts like that. They are ordered to name them. I am hoping to take my first lesson in lace making today. At present am v. busy finishing off a couple of bread boards. Guns were quiet last night – but very noisy the night before. There is a bare [base] ball match at No. 8. today which I hope to dodge. I would rather learn lace tha watch rounders. Later. I hear they have been shelling in St Jans-Capelle today – so I am glad we did not take our off duty walk there. Had my lace lesson & found it most interesting & a little bewildering.
1 September. Practically no work – only one abdominal in ward. Had the half day off. Went to Bailleul to have lace making lesson – & then on to No. 8. made more lace (bad weather). Capt Shepherd came to tea, he is Aide de Camp to the General commanding 8th Div. He & the General were both nearly killed y’[ester]day – they were up at the trenches when a German mine blew up. Luckily no one was killed – they saw one of our aeroplanes brought down in the German lines – both airmen killed – I stayed to dinner at No. 8. Very black walk back – no light at all from Heaven above or Earth beneath – to show up the irregularities & holes in the road. I was terrified of a man whom I heard but could not see – keeping pace with me whether I went fast or slow – at last he struck a match & I saw it was one of our own airmen & I gratefully walked the rest of the way with him. I have lost my Black Cat charm – & I had white heather sent me – both today – bed time.
September 3rd. 1 a.m. Three Sisters got their marching orders today – Tully & Coulter [see separate page for Sister Susanna Coulter] for No. 8 Gen – Rouen – Charlesworth for No. 3. Gen Letrepore [No 3 General Hospital at Le Tréport. Ed]. Very sorry they are going – I have been here months longer than they have but am very glad it is not I being moved. Drenching night. I came off duty at 2 to take Miss Tully’s place on night duty. We are taking in – & so far have taken 2 Officers – 3 stretcher men – & 2 cars of “sitters”. We may get a heavy convoy at 5. “Sick” after all this rain – & “wounded” after the firing that has been going on – There was a heavy bombardment by our guns this afternoon & evening – I should think easily 40 shots a minute – it just kept on – bang – whirr – whiz – bang – whiz – so loud – & for such a long time. This place – simply rattled with it. The Germans have been shelling our trenches too – shells looked to be bursting right in them this evening. Search & star lights – were very busy too.
Illustration of observation balloon
The R. N. D. [Royal Naval Division ? Ed] have charge of these things & the men sometimes stay up for 20 hrs at a time. When there is wind it lurches & wobbles horribly & makes them seasick.
There is a man in the ward down below too well for the base – who is going back to duty tomorrow. He may be well as far as his wound is concerned but he is very nervy – He shouts out in his sleep – & thinks this place is surrounded by Germans.
The three who are leaving at 8 a.m. this morning had a joy ride to Pop[eringe] yesterday – they say the big church is a good deal knocked about – & on an average – 1 in 3 houses – smashed. There are still a few shops open & people about. It is getting colder & colder – & I sleepier & sleepier – only 7 hours & a bit more before the others come on.
4:15am: Dawn is breaking & there is another big bombardment going on. I have been watching the flashes as they dart up many at a time & it is just a thunder of bangs & whirrs of shells all the time. The guns are big – & close – even the brickwork of this building shivers when they are firing.
[From loose sheets of notes for: Sept 3. Tully-Coulter & Charlesworth’s orders came – [I am going on n] Appleton goes on night duty. Taking in day – Heavy bombardment by our guns.]
September 4th. 5 a.m. Last night 2 abdominals & 1 head case dying in ward 2. Others doing all right – No post – Saw 5 Sisters off to the Base yesterday – three from here – 2 from 8. There are only 4 of us now – until our 3 new ones come. Had a lace lesson y’day morning & brought my pillow back in the pouring rain – no joke – with a huge German umbrella & a wind as well – I have been making lace in my spare time tonight – had to unpick 3 times – but I think it is all right now. No guns tonight – but there were German shells bursting along the horizon & I could see flashes of guns – but heard no noise.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 4th. The three left by the 8.8 a.m. – also – 2 from No 8. [I saw] Heavy guns – pouring rain.]
September 5th. 5 a.m. Very quiet night. The 3 who were dying last night still are – & the rest are getting better. Guns have been very loud again tonight. Since we have had these big ones round us – we have had torrents of rain – perhaps the firing causes it. When they started at 6 last night I was asleep – & woke with a tremendous jerk. I thought my own door had banged with all its might, but it was only the guns. I have made about 7 inches of lace tonight.
My lace pattern
[From loose sheets of notes for: 5th. Miss Clement arrived in exchange for Charlesworth.]
September 6th. We are taking in tonight – only about 50 patients in so far. Got up at 6 p.m. & went for a walk with Miss Congleton – am paying for it now – by being abnormally sleepy. Miss Clements who came y’day – thinks I ought not to have been at a C.S. so long – “doesn’t give other people a chance.” Sorry I have not the distribution of Sisters – & am afraid I cannot do much in the matter.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 6th. Taking in – not too busy.]
September 7th. Our 8 patients tonight all comfortable – Did shopping with Miss C yesterday morning… bought fruit & flowers in a charming old garden. We had to wait for some of the things, & to be truly rural – sat on a round white stone which we thought was the well cover – & admired the sunshine – & general beauty of colouring – sky etc., until we became aware of a horrid smell – and tumbled to the truth! We were sitting on an open cesspool!! I saw a gaudy & pathetic sight in the town – the funeral procession of a child. First walked the acolytes carrying a mace & incense, then a Priest – the 3 children – with a huge cross – one carrying it – & the other two one on each side holding ribbons that streamed from it. Behind that was the coffin borne on the shoulders of 4 little boys – still in socks – about 10 yrs old. The coffin was covered with a blue satin pall – & on it stood 3 silver (or tin) crowns – After all these came a long line of women and children. No men perhaps they are all away at the war.
Glorious day. I am going to market, then a lace lesson – then a walk if all be well. I made a stationary [sic] cabinet – & about 7 inches of lace in the night.
September 8th. Very quiet night. A Zeppelin was reported to be passing over us at 2 a.m. but I neither heard nor saw it. I went to market then a walk & bed. Latham called.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 8th. A Zepp reported passing over.]
September 9th. It was a Zeppelin overhead last night – have not heard where it went. Went for a lovely walk y’day morning through the fields towards Neuve Eglise – Weather was hot sunny still & perfect – in the far distance somebody’s guns were booming. German I think – they were not very near. Nearer – a regimental drum & fife band was practising – & close round me the birds were singing – & the hops smelling strong. I stayed & enjoyed it until I was so sleepy – that I had to march in time to the music – to get myself along – coming back. This has been our taking-in day & we have only taken about 40, including 4 officers. Am dreadfully afraid of going to sleep – so will make a little lace now.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 9th. Took in only 40 including 4 officers –]
September 10th. Did some shopping & then went for a walk with Martin (No 2.) I am afraid she is a pessimist. Work slack – Guest night in Officers’ Mess. 1 a.m. they are just going.
September 12th. Busy night. Some quite badly wounded people in.
Got up at 4 o’c yesterday afternoon & went to tea with Miss Congleton in the fields – also learnt another stitch in lace making, a half stitch – not very difficult I think. May I be forgiven [if] it is wrong, but I made about 6 inches of lace in the night (Sunday) – as the only means of keeping myself awake between times of working in the wards. I had a letter from Miss Coulter y’day. She & Tully are loathing being at Rouen & a General Hospital, but we must all be prepared to take our turn at everything. Saw three small French boys who pleased me very much yesterday – the biggest one was drilling the other two – & giving all his commands in English. The two drilled smartly – just as correctly as any full blown soldier too – it was quaint to hear the two small objects ordered to “form fours” “right wheel” “quick march” “on guard” “point” “as you were” “attention” “Halt” “Stand at ease” “Dismiss” Some Tommies who were watching them were delighted with them. I am sitting in a field close by a garden of ripe hops – & the day is perfect – I wish the war were over. Our heavy guns are making a great noise pummeling away – & a German aeroplane is being fired out, so the outlook is not dull.
It is not surprising that some of these people are spies – walking through their horrid pavé slums – the dirty, undergrown – badly nourished creatures stare at us – as much as to say – “You in your clean clothes! What have we got.” I fancy a good dinner means more than who wins the war to them & they would do anything for money & live equally miserably under the Government of any nation – Some of course are clean & charming, but some are bad!
[From loose sheets of notes for: 12th. Busy night. some quite badly wounded people in.]
September 13. Very quiet night – chiefly washed stockings & made lace & tried not to feel sleepy – Glorious sky all night and lovely sunrise this morning. A German aeroplane is being shot at – at the moment – but of course won’t be hit.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 13th. Exciting air duel – between a German & Egh [English?] aeroplane – we won – brought the G down – not very far from here – the 2 Germans were not hurt – but they turned their maxim on to the Canadians – who were coming to take them prisoner – & were shot by the other Canadians who fired 2 volleys at them. One [was a] German was an officer of high rank – wearing all sorts of medals etc.]
September 14th. That’s just where I was wrong – the German aviator was hit – not by shell – but by the maxim of the aeroplane who was duelling with him – it was one from our own Squadron piloted by Capt Miles – We watched the duel – it was most exciting. Our aeroplane was tilted right over on its side – to work its maxim & had to shoot straight upwards to hit the G[erman]. When he was hit he fell like a stone & grounded at Steenwerck in a Canadian Camp. The two G[erman] officers fired their maxim [the first automatic machine-gun] on the Canadians to give themselves time to start off before being taken prisoner. One Canadian was killed – & the rest were so infuriated – they fired two volleys & killed both officers – One was a very smart person wearing all sorts of decorations including the Iron Cross. Our airmen are sorry they were shot, they think the Germans will make it an excuse for shooting our airmen when they are brought down in German territory.
I was watching 5 nuns – & 3 orderlies washing soldiers’ shirts in the courtyard of the Convent at No. 8. The men were working the washing machines & mangle – & the nuns – 4 washing in one huge tub – & one rinsing in another. They were all chatting happily together – when a bell rang – the men stopped talking – one nun said prayers – & the other 4 asked the Virgin to hear them – at the end of each sentence – they went on with their washing just the same. It was quite picturesque to hear & see them. The garden is old fashioned & rather suited the nuns with their clogs & quaint head gears.
We hear that a big push is to be made this month and all along our lines – we three hospitals are putting up 50 marquees each – to be prepared for a rush.
September 15th. Nothing fresh. 3 concerts in town – I went to none from choice –
[From loose sheets of notes for: 15th. 3 concerts in town – some went to one. Heavy firing for 1/2 an hour in the night.]
September 16th. Quiet day & night – one very very ill man – & two very ill – the rest comfortable. Letter today saying Fred has offered his services as Army Chaplain – I think he will like the work very much.
There has been tremendously heavy firing tonight. It only last[ed] 1/2 an hour – it made such a noise & rattled the place so much that some of the Sisters got up to see if it was the Germans coming. They must have been tight asleep to think that because we could hear the whiz of the shells – after the explosion.
Have been trying a new lace pattern tonight.
September 17th. The town is to be closed from the 20th – no civilian to enter or leave it – & no market to be held – business at last I suppose. Perhaps after all I am lucky to get my night duty over before I am really due to begin it – the penalty of being the only old hand left. As I expect next month will be much busier than this – I wonder – wonder – what we are going to do – let’s only hope it will be a successful push –
[From loose sheets of notes for: 17th. Town to be closed for 10 days – for the passage of troops.][From loose sheets of notes for: 19th. Miss McCarthy came
Capt Bell Irving had a nasty accident but cleverly did not hurt himself much.
Weather clear sunny cold.]
September 20th. Miss McCarthy came yesterday – she told Miss Denton she was going to move me soon – I had been here a very long time. I wish she would mind her own business & let me mind mine.
Quiet night. An aeroplane has just shot up in pursuit of a German one – the A. A. guns are shooting at it too. Capt. Bell Irvine had a nasty accident yesterday – his engine went wrong & he fell smash to earth. Luckily he is a splendid pilot & saved himself all injury except a scratch & the machine will be repaired all right. [see newspaper cutting found loose in pages of the diaries]
The nights are getting very cold indeed. I made about 2 inches of lace but was kept rather busy with a dotty pneumonia. He has rather a down on me because he says he came just to see how I was getting along – & I have kept him all this time. The nights and days are glorious cold sunny & autumnally clear. Good for walks. I am sorry to leave this unit & wonder where I will go next. Rouen or Boulogne I suppose.
September 22nd. Everything is as usual & quiet still. The town is closed & hundreds & hundreds of troops are passing through on their way up – it is a sickening & heart rending sight! These long columns of fine healthy cheery men marching so gaily to the music of drum & fife bands – & they must know as we do that a great many will not come back – & a great many more – spoilt – heads smashed – or short of a limb or something sad. I had a lace lesson this morning & was much interested in stories the little girl was telling me of when the Germans were here. A great many of the inhabitants were disloyal & cheered “Vive les Al[l]emands” when the Germans marched in. I have made up my mind never to buy a farthingsworth again at a shop I have dealt at. The people here had German soldiers guarding their house against the German soldiers. I suppose they are spies. At Méteren a place two miles out – a little boy ran in to tell his Mother the Germans were here – & went out again to look at them. When the Mother came out they jeered at her & asked her where her boy was – she said she didn’t know – & they uncovered a hole in the side of the road & showed her the child lying with his throat cut – then they cut hers & put her in beside him. The inhabitants of Lille were made to nurse the German wounded – 3 girls who were there said that one day 3 German 3 English & 2 French wounded were brought to their house – the officer said the Germans were very ill & must be well cared for – then he took the French & English into the garden & shot them – & buried them – before they were quite dead.
This is a most glorious moonlight night. An aeroplane has just whirred its engine – I wonder if it is going up. I hear there is to be a bombardment at dawn today. I shall soon know – as it is only 2 hours to dawn now. The big explosion which we all thought was a shell on Sunday night was one of our own mines exploding. There was another big bang at 10 p.m. tonight that they say was one of our own big guns. It rattled this place so much – that I made a special visit to see if it had frightened any of the very ill patients. Now I must quickly write some letters while for the moment I am not feeling deadly sleepy. I wrote to you last night to thank you for so kindly sending me some bulls eyes – & clothing for the men.
4:30 a.m. Things are beginning to stir. Dawn is showing in the E & from that part of the horse shoe of guns that surround us – boomings have begun – & everything indoors that will rattle is rattling at each fresh boom. There is an engine panting in the aerodrome – waiting to be off on some business at a moment’s notice I suppose. As dawn lights up more of the sky – more guns will begin I suppose – at present their flash would give away their position too badly. I can hear rifle fire in the distance when I am at the window. I wonder where those poor creatures are – the hundreds of young ones unbaptised with fire – who went up yesterday – Braveness & good luck to them now.
By the way, I forgot to tell you what a man told me. Several of them were billeted on a farm – & every night some on picket duty were shot by a sharpshooter. They could not find out where the man hid himself until one day they caught him red handed & Lo! & behold – it was their host himself – he farmed & talked to them all day – & crept out with his rifle & sniped them at night. So like them!
[From loose sheets of notes for: 22nd. Hundreds & hundreds of troops passing through the town.]
September 23. I don’t think we have ever had such a continuous “rumble” & “thump” of guns as tonight. They have been going all the time sounding like an angry woman banging at an iron door – that resounds. & now – 4.30 a.m. the nearer ones are waking up – & joining in – The windows & doors have kept up a gentle rattle all night. Received a parcel from Hilda today – bags – chocs – & books – all very welcome.
The night has been uneventful except for one patient – a mental one – who has been rather like a religious maniac all night – deploring his evil ways – & declaring he is doomed.
Got up early yesterday – & went to tea at No. 8. & made a little lace – c’est tout. An officer told me today that our whole line was ready to make the big push – they were only waiting for orders giving them the date & time.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 23rd. Heavy bombardment by our guns all night & day. Could see German shells bursting on the horizon – through the night. Huge fire – I should think a farmhouse blazing somewhere towards the east.]
September 24th. Quiet night on “take in”. Two poor things with smashed heads were brought in at 10.30 – one is already dead – the other dying. Guns quieter but going most of the time – yesterday morning from 4 to 1/4 to 5 they were going at the rate of 62 a minute or more. We just counted as accurately as we could – but there were others firing at the same time which did not get counted. No lace tonight – horrid bad headache. Only admitted about 20 altogether.
September 25th. Tonight has been quite a revelation of what war can be like – I think I have told you that we are in a horse shoe shape of guns all round us – Tonight all the guns round us have been going without ceasing. It has been a panorama of vivid flashes of light from the guns – & the huge bursts of fire where shells are bursting & the rumble, thud – rumble – roar – the whole night. I shall be surprised if we are not very busy after this. Walking past every window in every direction except one – is like walking past a fence with chinks – & the sun glints into your eyes a few times every second. Just now there is a huge fire blazing – it looks like just behind the trees about a mile off, but I am sure it is further than that. It has not been a succession of starlights – bursting shells – & gun flashes – they have all been going all the time. The star lights look like so many Jupiters or Venuses thrown up into the sky – & they float down – It is quite the biggest bombardment I have seen & shall be surprised if we do not fill up after it. I think some of the shells bursting have been our own because I hear the gun & a few seconds after see the yellow burst of the shell. We are quiet so far. No. 8 are taking in – we cleared right out except 15 patients yesterday – in the intervals of watching the bombardment I am making lace & writing this.
September 26th. Very busy night – extra nurse on night duty
[From loose sheets of notes for: 26th. Our Army made a push – we acted as overflow for the stations that serve the second army.
all the hospitals here were soon filled – We took about 20 Prussians in.]
September 27th. Our first Army made a push yesterday, which started things going – in the hospitals – We really serve the 2nd Army – but we acted as overflow – & all three of us were soon filled with the wounded – The news on the whole is good – we seem to have advanced a little, & taken a great many prisoners – the French have done splendidly. The wounded we have are not nearly so bad as those we had from Hill 60. Perhaps the worst have gone to Merville and Sillars [?] & places down South. The C. O. asked for my particulars at the office yesterday – I suppose it means a move soon.
Went for a walk with Kelsey (No. 8) this morning to Méteren – where the graves of the Warwicks – who were killed there are. Pathetic little cemeteries in turnip & potato fields or in people’s gardens.
[We have tried to identify these three and, so far, have just found Sergeant Easey: See Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Register for details here: Editor]
We took in about 20 Prussian wounded last night – great strong clean looking creatures they are too!
September 28th. Very sorry – I had a letter saying you had been ill again. O I do hope you will soon be better – was much pleased that you thought my first attempt at lace was not bad. News is excellent the French & we have advanced all along the line, 5 kilometres in some places. So our casualties were not in vain this time. We have one young officer still in who was too ill to travel yesterday – suffering from a lung wound & badly from shock. He cannot sleep even with the help of morphine & keeps on muttering things like, “The men were in such horrid shapes” “Little bits & big bits of men” – “Get the men in – they will all be killed” & so he rambles on – evidently his mind has never left the battlefield. He does not look much like getting over it – but youth & a strong body can stand a good deal. Went for a lovely long walk to Mt. Noir with Wheatley (the new one) yesterday morning. We were both on duty last night, although we were quite slack. I slept from 10.30 to 12.30 then after 1 a.m. slept went off till 6.
I made a little lace in the night. It is a glorious morning & the German aeroplanes are already astir & being shot at by our guns. Our aeroplanes are also out, but up to now I don’t see any German shots in the sky.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 28th. All or most evacuated.
We hear we have advanced all along the line 5 kilometres in some places.
1 officer too ill to evacuate still in]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 29th. German aeroplanes very busy all day – none hit]
September 30th. No evacuation today, so we have the same family as last night – the man with most of his insides outside who was so very ill all night died during the day & tonight another, shot in the lungs is, I am afraid dying – anyway he is terribly ill & the funny old Daddy who was kicked in the stomach by a horse is also very sorry for himself – but I think he is doing quite well. It has been raining on & off for 48 hrs & it is like walking about in a duck pond – gum boots, mackintosh coat & skirt – meet the occasion. Very few guns tonight. They have been many & near today & an officer has warned us to be prepared for ever louder firing. I made lace at No. 8 this morning & left my pillow there as it was too rainy not to. A man in the ward was telling me tonight what an abject picture some Germans made who were giving themselves up – they looked not like men as they came across shaking & trembling like leaves – shambling along, some with hands up all more or less wounded, ragged & hungry. The news tonight is quite the best we have heard. 3 Divisions, Cavalry & all of the French have broken through, the German lines at the Champagne District & have got them on the run – long may they stay so! & the French have taken the 3 front lines of trenches at Souchez. We have done well & so have the Russians. Letter from Hilda – she is a good old dear & writes about twice at least every week. It is a cold night. I have put a towel over the mackintoshed table – a blanket to sit on – & a roll of wool to put my feet on & am very sleepy. The second night Sister has gone for a doss – as we are slack again & do not really need two. In fact I prefer being on alone. Am hoping very much that you are better.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 30th. No evacuation. It has rained all day & night. Guns quiet.]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 31st. [No such date! – Ed] We hear tonight that 3 Divisions of the French cavalry & all have broken through the G lines in the Champagne district. The French have taken 3 lines of trenches at Souchez – & we have done well – & the Russians too – work slack again.]
1 October. Came off night duty today – & am thankful – Spent 1st half day in the town at No. 8 – sewed, lunched – dossed – came back – had an hour’s gramophone & then to bed where I am. My last night was a busy one – we did not evacuate until 11 p.m. then two men were very very ill – one died at 4:30 a.m. one did not.
[From loose sheets of notes for: Oct 1st. Appleton off night duty Middleton on. we evacuated at 11 p.m. – all but a few men.]
October 3rd. Many happies to Syd – I was in bed 1/2 of yesterday with some deadly illness – chill I think – feel all right today – & am going to get up after breakfast. Luckily we were slack enough for me to go off. Hope you are better too. I don’t think the guns were very busy yesterday.
October 4th. Letter from Mother – she is better – Have not taken in many today – heavy firing all day – still going this evening – It is getting a bit active servicing cold stone floors – & no heating apparatus – no more news tonight.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 4. Heavy firing all day – weather getting cold –]
October 5. Very noisy of guns all day – & shells bursting about 5 miles off. We hear they are shelling the road – to get our troops going up. We took in quite a fair number of blessé yesterday & evacuated all but 4 today. 3 too ill to travel & 1 poor wretch with a self-inflicted wound – who has been taken to a hospital for those unhappy men – to await their trial. Such a highly strung nervous youth – one can only feel very sad indeed for him – & wonder how one would have borne oneself in his circumstances.
I have been in to No. 8 tonight – Poor Miss C. is really ill & I don’t wonder at it – She has some horrible form of neuralgia that comes on in agonizing attacks about every hour – or 1/2 hour – after what she has been through the last 8 months I don’t wonder at any sort of break down. No letters today. We had a grand display of searchlights last night – looking for a Zepp. I don’t know if they saw him in the end. Very dark night – Capt. Stirling kindly called for me & escorted me back. No special news. Except I hear the town is full of troops again
[From loose sheets of notes for: 5th. We hear they are shelling the Ypres Rd to catch the troops going up – We took in quite a lot of wounded yesterday & evacuated all but 4 today – 3 too ill – & one awaiting trial for a supposed self inflicted wound.
Grand display of searchlights looking for a Zep.]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 5th. Town still full of troops.]
October 6th. Letter from Hilda. Quiet day – off from 12 to 5 p.m. Lunched at No. 8 & made lace & had tea there. Poor old Miss C. is thoroughly ill with neuralgia. A taube was brought down – quite near here a few days ago – wish I had seen it – A silly fool of an orderly watched the whole thing & never told a soul. We have rather a trying Canadian patient who wants to know his temperature & the drugs used in his medicine all the time. If he were not so ill & badly wounded I would feel irritated by him – It is very cold weather now.
October 7th. We are taking in – about 100 – chiefly Canadians – 2 poor wounded spines – one is dead – the other dying. Cold – damp – little sunshine.
Received my welcome parcel from Hilda of pyjamas etc.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 7. We are taking in – chiefly Canadians. 2 bad spine cases.
Weather cold – damp. little sun.]
October 8. 4 cases in theatre otherwise calmish day. Busy morning – dressing & getting the train load off. Off this evening – went to see Miss C. She is looking frightfully ill. There is a huge fire raging over towards Dickybush [Dikkebus – see: http://www.1914-1918.net/sacredground/ypres/dikkebus.htm] – making a wide red glow in the sky – some of their inflammable bombs I suppose.
We had some rather badly wounded people in last night & yesterday. I was dressing a man shot all over the place – including his l. eye. I told him I was afraid the eye was done for. He simply said “Oh, well – then I shan’t have to shut it for shooting next time I come out.” Letter from Lil. There is a charming variety of little carts in this town, from the size of an ordinary goat chaise – up to a big donkey cart – Drawn by – one – two three – four or five dogs of any kind – sometimes an old man – or woman perched in it driving – if only I could draw I would. It is a very dark walk out from the town nowadays at night – & the[y] have their door steps half across the pavement. The gramophone is going in the officers’ ward so I want to hurry in there into bed to listen to it – Goodnight.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 8th. 4 cases in theatre otherwise calm day – busy morning getting convoy off. There is a huge fire blazing over towards Dickibush making a wide red glow in the sky. Some rather badly wounded in last night & yesterday –]
October 10th. Our taking in day – but we haven’t taken much – I am staying late on duty to help with the first night convoy – & wish it would hurry up & come, I want to go to bed. One poor man who came in this morning shot right through the head is trying hard to die, but is taking a long time. We shouldn’t allow an animal to remain alive in the condition this poor fellow is in – He can scarcely breathe for the brain matter that is oozing down his throat & his whole head is in a hopeless state & he is making a terrible noise all the time.
Went to early service in our own little cellar church – then we had evening service in one ward – & all the walking cases from upstairs came to it. Hurrah – here is the convoy – so now for it & then to bed.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 10th. Our taking in day – Evening Service in Ward I.]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 11 & 12. Very quiet]
October 13. Yesterday & the day before were quiet – only about 7 patients left in my ward. Off duty on Monday evening. Went to dinner at No 8. Tea there yesterday. Miss C. is still waiting for her relief to come. Met Colonel Christie there at tea. He was telling us about when they had their Head Qrs. up at Ypres in a dugout. The Germans knew they were somewhere there & were always trying to locate it to shell it. The shells fell closer & closer & at last were so near that they shook the dug out so violently that all the ascetelene [acetylene] lamps went out – they dare not use paraffin in case of a shell coming right in. He said the language was appalling. The different officers would be reading or writing – & every few minutes were left in total darkness. Theirs was an old dug out that had been made by the French in the early part of the war & had become very thin on top – in fact was not at all bomb proof. They wondered which would be better, to remain old looking & unsafe & take their chance of not being hit – or to have more loads of earth put over them, which would have made them safer – but more noticeable. They chose to take their chance – with the old grass grown roof – & were only hit by small shells twice – & they stood that all right. [Small drawing at this point in the diary. Hard to decipher but it may say “Also Mayor” meaning the name of another nurse who left with Latham – see below]
[From loose sheets of notes for: 13th. Our taking in – not busy early – but later on more came in – case in theatre abdominal from 11 p.m. to 2.30. Quite a good convoy in between 11 & 4 – not many after – chiefly from Kemmel]
October 14th. Miss C. went this morning. Latham called hurrying to say Goodbye – she has orders for No 8. Station Wimmereux so all my old friends are going & I expect I shall be sent toute suite.
I did not go to bed last night till 4.15 this morning. Had a bad abdominal op. in the theatre until 2.30 – Helped with the convoy until 4.15. We had a fair sized one in between 11 & 4 – from Kemmel – our men attacked the G. trenches to discover the strength of theirs. Found only a few, but quite enough to wound hundreds of our men with their maxims & rifles. We evacuated 2 or 3 hundred by 10 a.m.
October 15th. Many Happy returns to Bud. Quiet day – no rumours. The big gun has gone. Off 2-6, gathered autumn leaves on Mt. Noir with Miss Hutchinson [see separate page for Sister Ethel Hutchinson]. We take in tomorrow.
October 16. [Written on] 18-10-15. We had a rather busier “taking in” day – some bad abdominals – operated on & doing badly – the operation gives them their only chance – & that a slender one – when the intestine is like a badly damaged inner tube of a bicycle – with tears & holes all along it. Maj. Ray took 15 inches from one man – & 4 at one operation & another 4 at a second operation from a youth who died last night (17th).
“….when the intestine is like a badly damaged inner tube of a bicycle – with tears & holes all along it. ”
On the 17th – yesterday – was off 6 – 8. Quiet day – 1 abdominal operation – 2 1/2 hrs. Went to town in the evening with Lawton & Constable, who came to see us from No 8. Miss C. & I went to the Canadian service – or at least the tail end of it – at the theatre – we were just in time for the last 2 mins of sermon & hymn “Abide with me”. It sounded fine on their brass band – & they played for about an hour after service – all sorts of things, chiefly patriotic music. About 5 wks ago some of the Can. Battalion thought they would like some music – & set to work at once to form a “Band”. They collected £60 amongst themselves & sent to England for instruments – & with a few odd practices – have got a good well played band in going order in 5 weeks. The Theatre is a huge Hall with a stage & hung round with flags – it was rather a warlike looking place last night – packed with officers & men – in all stages of cleanness & dirtyness – some in who were in the middle of a march. All along, the sides were lined with rifles, axes – panikins – equipment of all sorts brought by those who were, really on march. They loved the music & for the most part looked cheerful – There were only 6 women – 2 of us – 3 Sisters from No. 2 & 1 from No. 8. but we have to get used to being very much in the minority. The music was most refreshing. I only wished the poor fellows who lay a-dying in our Hospital could have heard it too.
On the way home we met a Battalion coming in from the trenches for a rest – a raggedy sandy looking crew – very happy – singing & cheering as they steadily marched along to the music of a drum & fife band – streams & streams & streams – infantry chiefly – some officers & other things on horses. They looked rather picturesque in the moonlight filing up the quaint narrow pavé street – clanking their boots on these hated stones. They were cheering for anything & nothing – cheered when they passed us – the little band away at the head of the line could hardly be heard for the noise the men made – & the length of the line – That big gun that was sitting at our gate for some time is in position – not too far off & has started coughing – & this place rattles & shakes worse than ever – it is really difficult to sleep through although it is wonderful how one gets used to it.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 16th. We had rather a busier taking in day – some bad abdominals – operated on – one doing badly – one query –
I went to Canadian Service at the theatre.]
October 18th. Quiet day – went with Hutchinson Lawton & Constable [see separate page for Sister Nora Constable] to Mont Noir – to get autumn leaves. Glorious it all looked with its hundreds of soft shades & tints & the sun setting & a blue haze over all. Really beautiful. I had a large lunch of steak & carrots at 1:30 – then we found the two from No. 8 had to be on duty again at 5 so we had tea at 3:30 – boiled eggs – anchovy & sardine sandwiches plum bread & butter & tea – I don’t want my dinner tonight – at least I wish I didn’t – it would be more refined. P.S. We got leaves – lovely red oak ones etc.
October 19th. Busy day – 3 cases in the theatre, the last a very young Officer – about 18 – with his poor head – cracked – like a nut
[From loose sheets of notes for: 19th. Fairly busy. 3 cases in theatre. 1 officer [nephew] head – died 12 hrs later.]
October 20th. He died this morning. As I was crossing the aerodrome coming back from dinner a sentry somewhere called “Halt” in such a sharp tone – I did halt & stood still looking for him – but the moonlight was not good enough to show him up – so I coughed in a treble voice & went slowly on – I don’t think he was challenging me – but I had no fancy to be shot.
I received a letter from Mrs. Chambers – telling me of Robert’s death from wounds & severe concussion – dear boy – I am terribly sad about it. [See Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Register for details: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/53889/chambers,-/. Editor] [Update 26 June 2019. Following a visit to Crediton in Devon in June 2019, to give an ‘Edie’ talk and to watch a wonderful production of The Men Who Marched Away by Crediton Operatic & Dramatic Society, more information was very kindly provided about Robert Chambers by a member of the local area History & Museum Society. If you look at the CWGC link above and access the commemorative certificate you will see that no first names are shown – just ‘R A M Chambers’. However, the 1911 census shows that Charles, then aged 16, and his older brother, Charles aged 19, were living with Edie at 17 St Augustine’s Road in Bedford. They are both shown as sons of Edie but this is incorrect. So, Robert’s full name was Robert Avalon Montagu Chambers. More information to follow. Ed]
We have 3 men in suffering from shock – No. 1 – is stone deaf – No. 2 is not deaf – but dumb – & has a nervous tremor – No. 3 sits with the expression of a thoughtful monkey – & keeps saying “I remember playing football – but after that ———“. I think probably what did happen after that was that the shell broke up his football pitch – & buried him. We have 8 cases left over from the convoy 5 very bad – one – having had – right arm & foot & left hand fore finger amputated for gas gangrene & who is now mad from septic poisoning.
An abdominal – who is dying slowly – another whom I think will die – & two head cases mad as hatters at present.
October 21st. We had the two head cases in the theatre trephined [A trephine is a surgical instrument with a cylindrical blade, used for drilling holes in the skull. Trephining, or trepanning, is a procedure that has been used for millennia to relieve pressure on the brain. Ed]. I am afraid they haven’t much chance – poor things!
There were two very loud & very near explosions this afternoon – we thought they were shells – but some one said they were our own people experimenting.
The C.O. & Mr Flether left – for permanent moves – today. Major Ray is in Command for the present.
Miss Hutchinson & I went to a concert given by the Canadians in aid of British prisoners in Germany. The Concert was excellent & they are sending £60 – proceeds – The “Minstrel troop” – were very cleverly dressed in hospital “blues” – jacket blue side out – trousers white side out – & a flaming red bow at their necks. There were many Staff Officers – the Earl of Cassilis, Sir John Stewart & Canon Scott spoke – shortly. It has been fine all day but is pouring now. There were 4 sisters from No. 8 – two from No. 2 – 2 from us – the rest of the theatre packed tight with Officers & men.
[From loose sheets of notes for: 21. Two head cases in theatre
Two big explosions somewhere near this afternoon – our men testing bombs – some one says.
Canadian concert in aid of British prisoners Miss Hutchinson & I went. They took £60.
[Two addresses – presumably relations of patients – written perpendicular to the other notes: Ed]
Mrs Ethel Wilson Field House – Home Church Lane Beverley Yorks –
Thomas Cooper abdominal Mrs. Cooper 29 Wilbert Lane Beverley Yorkshire -. [See Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Register for details: http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=198894. We cannot be certain but this looks like the right person. Editor]]
October 22nd. 1 case in theatre this evening – tidying up a leg which had been blown off. Letter from J. H. C. Not off – did not take in many. No news.
October 23rd. Quiet day – one op. trephine – fairly hopeful case.
Off 2 to 6 – Went for lovely walk along Neuve Eglise Rd with Miss Hutch[inson].
October 24th. Wrote to Madge. Very young Officer admitted this evening very badly torn & wounded in a painful part of his anatomy at present heavily under morphia– Off this morning went for long walk alone – Bed early – arrowroot & no dinner. Major Ray & Capt. R.T. came to tea. Major Ray was in Pop today – he says the place is deserted, but people still live in a few of the houses & the place is shelled regularly every day – I believe the man who was Mayor there in our day has been taken as a Spy.
Concert at Flying Corps last night – Major Ray inspected the unit – today at 11:30 Parade.
Col. Boyle is going to the Balkans in charge of a hospital. Our new C.O. has not come yet.
The man in No. 2 ward who had 15 inches of gut taken away is dying – he is quite mad poor fellow & looks terrible.
October 25th. Many Happy returns of the Day to Madge – we should have been taking in today, but after getting only a few ambulance loads – we were stopped & told that No. 2 was taking in. This afternoon. I heard why. The King is coming on Wednesday – & will be taken to No. 2 as it is senior C. C. S. here & they want to have plenty of patients when he comes so they are to take in today & tomorrow. King will come on Wednesday & then they will evacuate afterwards. It has been pouring with rain all day. Miss Hutchinson and I were off 2 to 5. Walked in to No. 8 to tea – no letters.
October 26th. Glorious day – sparklingly clear – view simply wonderful – No. 2 still taking in – to have enough for the King to see tomorrow. Went to town to buy vegetables for the mess & drove in in a motor lorrie & noticed every – single person – of hundreds facing the sky – soon could stand it no longer & got down just in time to see a Taube hit & fall – in our own lines. The observer was killed & the pilot wounded in the head – I did not see him but they said he looked a mere boy – of 17 or 18. Later on another German aeroplane was brought down but I didn’t see that. The afternoon was cold – I was on duty in the ward from 2 – 6 & made lace there for about 1 ½ hours. After 6 I took my lace pillow to town & had a lesson. The little girl was full of news & told me that King George had been to Bailleul today & visited one Hospital. It was being kept a dead secret – how these people get to know everything is marvellous – the guns have been fairly active all day.
October 26th. [Should be 27th as the next date is 28th? Ed] We took in not many – one head case too bad to operate on who died in about 1 hour. 6 Officers.
We saw the King today – quite close up, on his way to the town – to No 2. The who[le] procession of him was – outriders – consisting of a car with 2 Staff Officers & 3 motor bicycles – all flying red flags – then followed 4 cars – 2 officers in the first – the King & Gen. Plumer in the second – then more officers in the last two. Our poor abdominal died today. 4 of us Sisters – 4 M.O.s & about [sic] officers of the R.F.C. stood at our gates to salute the King as he passed – he looked very grave & saluted us. The road was uncommonly like a river with mud & we were splashed from head to foot but it was nice to see him so close. Day has been very rainy & bright intervals. No guns heard all day.
October 28th. Chiefly remarkable for having rained without stopping a single minute all last night today & tonight – a heavy wet rain.
Two cases in theatre – an abdominal – 3 inches cut out of his small intestine – fix shrapnel tears – & a smashed hand (Officer) – by the way – I am coming out of the theatre at the end of the month. Off 2-5. Paddled to town – took a lace lesson – & waded back with my lace pillow & the large German umbrella. Major Mackintyre came today, Major Ray left. Capt Hey came. He came from 9 Field Ambulance at Vlammertinghe [Vlamertinghe] -& says there are only about 3 buildings left there now. Last week – he was going up to Ypres to fetch wounded – with two ambulances when they were just outside the town a shell burst close to them, killed the driver on one side of him – wounded the Padre (going up to bury the dead) so badly that he died in a few hours- wounded all three men on the second car & he was the only one unhurt.
It shook his nerves rather – he had been friendly with the Padre for the last 6 months.
It is so cold tonight – I could not face my bath. One inch of water covers one such a little way up & the rest shivers, so here I am in bed all unwashen.
October 29th. Anniversary of the Passing of a Good Man – our dear Father.
Our two abdominals died in the night. One was Lord George Sanger’s [see http://www.berkshirefamilyhistorysociety.com/journal/Sep2000/Sep2000OWhatACircus.htm. Ed] son – such a charming man & so grateful for all that was done for him. I am afraid the man wounded in the chest will die too, he is terribly ill. I took my lace pillow & sat beside him this afternoon – he liked it very much & hated me to move even to get things for him. At 3, I made him a feeder of tea with brandy in – he said it was very good & wanted me to have some of it – I refused – & he pressed & insisted & was making himself breathless over it – so I did drink some from the back of the feeder – which pleased him very much indeed. He is a very nice man – as most of them are.
The boy who had his leg blown off by one of our own guns is doing well. He told me all about it today – says he remembers everything. He was mending a wire in front of the gun when the telephone message came for it to be fired – he did not hear the order – “Fire” & the shell blew his leg off without exploding – then went on & burst in the German trenches. He told me “We aren’t in action all day – only when the German Infantry give any trouble, then our own Infantry telephone back to us – to fire on them to quiet them. Each battery has four guns – & each gun has its own division of German trench to attend to, so when they are giving trouble the Infantry telephone & say which part of the German trenches they want shelled – & then the gun to be used is ordered – “Eyes front” & fires so many rounds & if that doesn’t quiet them – we go on firing.”
Today the weather has been an improvement on y’day – but very damp & cloudy. I went to town & did shopping for the mess this morning. Heard a rumour today that the King was injured while he was here. The story goes that when he was reviewing troops, they cheered & startled his horse – & it threw him & rolled on him. Hope it is not true.
October 31st. We took in some bad cases yesterday – one a bomb accident died as he was being brought in – quite a wealthy man – joined as a Private – & the sad part is that it was one of our own bombs. 4 badly smashed heads – all except one – dying – an abdominal dying – & the chest man we had in 3 days ago is dying a slow & very painful death. I was writing a letter for the abdominal boy to his fiancée & he wanted to know if he could say he would soon be better – I told him what I thought – & he said “Well, never mind I must just trust to God – He will take care of me.” These dying men are so tired & don’t seem to mind dying if only it will rest them, they are splendid people. I was writing a letter for one boy tonight to his Mother & found – he lived at Bedford – & was at school with the Chambers – & played against Robert in House matches. R. went to Ceylon & this boy went to Canada. 2 cases in the theatre today – one head and the Bedford boy – leg.
I have a pouring, horrible cold & have had it for days. I think it is getting hot in the wards & then going over in the rain & mud to meals. Also the stone floors are not the warmest things to stand on in the Theatre. I think I will skip dinner & go early to my bed ce soir.
The big gun near us was trying to get the range of some cross roads at Messines [known as Mesen in Belgium] yesterday. I think it must have got it because – although it is cloudy & misty today – it has been firing. The King had an accident while he was at Bailleul – hope it is not bad. Now for my bed – there goes that old gun again – “Lizzie” – I wonder what damage is happening at the other end of the shots.
1.11.15. All Saints Day. Pouring without ceasing all day. There was a service held in the Soldiers Cemetery this afternoon – for all our Tommies who were lying there. It was quite impressive. They had made a mound nicely done with paths round & flowers in & a flag staff in the middle flying the Union Jack & tricolour flag half mast high – Four chaplains took the service – & the Earl of Cassilis & several Staff Officers were in the middle round the flag staff – then all along the paths by the graves were lines & lines of Tommies & in another patch officers & Sisters (9 from the 3 hosps). First we sang two hymns – “For all the Saints who from their labours rest” & “Through the night of doubt & sorrow” – then some prayers – & a splendid short address. Hymns were – 1st “Oh God our help in ages [past]” then “For all the Saints who from their labours rest”. Then after the sermon “Through the night of doubt & sorrow” & after the Blessing – “God Save the King”. It was a simple little service – but I don’t think one could forget it. The whole crowd of us – standing there & singing & joining in the service in the pouring rain & thick mud – with the guns booming away to Eastward of us & these pathetic graves marked by a simple wooden cross. Just outside – in the ordinary town cemetery crowds of French civilians stood watching.
[There is a very faint pencil sketch of this scene between the text here but not clear enough to reproduce.]
The chaplain gave a sensible address – not one to make the Tommies weep – as they so easily do. He said we had come “to rejoice over the loyalty & devotion of the men who had died – not to mourn over their death” – & he felt sure if they could have had it otherwise they wouldn’t & it was quite true that “we faintly struggle – they in Glory shine.” We took wreaths to the graves of our four orderlies & the young Officer who died the other night & to two other Officers.
Bought lace in the town for Capt. Hey. Tea at No. 8. back in a luxurious car – of a Canadian. He picked up & said “These roads are bad for you girls” & gave me a lift. Nice of him – He was in from the trenches & says they are terribly wet. The poor Canadian is still dying but not dead. We have only two patients left in Ward 2.
November 2nd. Saw some reinforcements going up yesterday with some such tired hobbly old men amongst them. I did wish they could have been taken out of it & sent back. Went to town this afternoon to do shopping for the mess – 2 cauliflowers 2 lb. sausage (none for me thank you) 1 lb. tomatoes 1 lb. grapes – a huge bundle of leeks, ointment envelopes etc etc. & I was going to carry them all back – in the pouring rain – and wondered how. Mr. Stragnel FC Officer – kindly settled it by taking me in, in his car an F.C. lorry – he got out at his billet and lent me his car to do my shopping in – then we picked him up on the way back. We have not taken in much today. The poor Canadian died at 3:30 a.m. & the abdominal has been operated on and I think will die. One charming man I was writing a letter for tonight – told me he could not write very well as his education hadn’t been looked after much. His father was killed when he was one year old and his mother died from the shock. He was passed from farm to farm until he was seven when he ran away and joined a circus – then his good days began – before that he was sometimes short of food and had only a little shirt & breeches & no shoes and socks.
His brother was through here a month ago with one eye shot out – he is back in Canada now. I hear there has been a big row amongst the M.Os & that we are to have another O. C. – wonder what it is all about. A biggish convoy is arriving – or at least it sounds big – but it all seems to make more fuss at night than in the daytime – Guns not much in evidence today. Miss McC. Not come yet. Capt. M. R. T. on leave tomorrow. Mr. Leach has gone to his regiment R. Scots. Hutchinson on night duty visa [sic] Miss Middleton now ward 1. German shells have been bursting very audibly today & our guns are taking their turn tonight. The Canadian who died this morning was so much worried all day – he said he had to go on “Sentry” that night & did not feel well enough. After much careful explanation I got him to understand that he was not to go on duty but that he was going to his Mother (dead) & he was delighted – He was off his head poor man.
I don’t think I ever told you that the Mayor of Pop was had up for a spy after we left.
November 3rd. Quite the muddiest day I have known. Miss Middleton & I went for a walk this afternoon – & found the roads so deep in mud – we tried a different way coming back – through St Jans Capelle but to our dismay they were worse – so bad, that we had to give up – & simply walk through deep mud – our whole feet were hidden when they were down. At last we met a man & asked if we had better go back or keep on – He said “go on – it is shorter – but you have not come to the worst bit.” So on we went & found the worst bit was where a lorrie had quite broken up the road & it was a pond – but by that time we didn’t care – & just waded through it – The traffic was constant, lorries & cars – & motor bicycles & each one sent a wave of filthy mud right up to our heads. We decided not to go for a walk again after so much rain. We evacuated all but 4 of our p[atien]ts this morning, but they are a sad 4. two abdominals – dying – 1 man hit in the lungs – thank God – I think will get better – & perhaps the saddest of all – a man with a bullet wound through his big toe “self inflicted” at least that is why he is being detained on suspicion. They are the sad people poor things perhaps when shells are bursting all round them they feel they must do something, to save themselves for the wife & children at home & in a moment of madness shoot themselves. He has told 3 different tales of how it happened – the last one to his wife. Dear Wife – I hope this finds you & the children quite well – I am slightly wounded – so don’t send any more letters & parcels until I am back in the trenches. I think I shall be all right again soon. I was cleaning my rifle & being greasy another man pushed me & mine went off. Yr. loving husband, William. The first tale was that it was done by shrapnel, then that a shell made him jump so that his own rifle went off. Poor thing – he has my sympathy.
Guns have been very noisy & tonight the star shells are many – & very bright.
November 4th. Lovely day. Heavy firing by the batteries near us – the taubes have been trying to find them but I hope have not succeeded. Off this morning drove to town in the car of a man who passed through this hospital in June – he remembered me but I did not him. He & six other Officers are under orders for Servia – so is Maj. Ormrod. Stopped in town – visited No. 8 & got a lift all the way back in an ambulance. I tried to get a lift, because the roads are the worst I have ever seen once you are off the pavé – which is clean of course.
Two abdominals still very ill indeed – we take in tomorrow.
November 5th. We have had rather a busier taking in day – but fortunately not many very bad cases. 1 (smashed head) was found dead in the ambulance & two died soon after admission also heads – 1 abdominal much better – 1 worse – they were equal y’day. An aeroplane was brought down a mile off – within sight of us – don’t know Eng. or German. No letters fairly fine – cold.
I simply CANNOT write my diary on taking in night the ambulances make such a horrible noise under my window – & sound so many – & I am wondering all the time what they have brought – 20 – have fizzled up & turned round under my window & gone – already. & they are still coming.
November 6th. I am writing this beside my poor little abdominal boy. He is quite off his head today & when he does rouse up & talk asks me if he is being punished that he has all this pain to bear. I have tried hard to make him understand that he has done splendidly & it is an honour to be wounded like he has been – Went for a lonely walk to Mt. Noir in the mist &mud for autumn leaves.
Major Ray came back to the OC, Maj Mc— has gone – & we don’t ask why. Capt Collard came to lunch. 4 of the Sisters are going to a whist drive at No 2. Miss D was distinctly (?) because I refused to go. We evacuated 36 from this ward. 3 to heaven – 1 to a place where the less fortunate ones go to – who are marked “S.I.” which means self-inflicted & the rest towards England. Some big explosions a mile or so off & heavy gun firing.
November 7th. Little abdominal boy died quite peacefully at midnight. Quiet day. Went to 7o’c but not parade service. Weather foggy – cold –
November 8th. Very heavy day indeed – an extraordinary high per centage of seriously wounded – out of 28 admitted to my ward – all except 4 were very bad indeed – 3 or 4 have been to the theatre – & more are to go – & still they come – 10 p.m.
November 9th. A very busy day, with intakings – & evacuations by train & by death – & the 15 who stayed are extremely ill. The day’s work feels like walking miles quickly being bombarded right & left with requests for water – morphia, to be lifted up, turned over, etc, etc. & all the time we are trying to get the routine work done – dressings, feedings, etc. & if one were divided into 6 – all the bits would be busy.
November 10th. Very busy day – of lifting very heavy men – poor dears. I’m afraid they don’t know how heavy they are, or they would not ask to be lifted up so often. I really do not know what the weather has been like, because there has been no time to notice it. One of our own aerodrome machines had a nasty accident today – in coming down the wind blew it into some high trees, where one plane caught & the engine & men fell to the ground – luckily the officers on board her were not killed – both were concussed, & 1 had his shoulder dislocated & a rib broken – both were brought to Ward 2 where we sorted them out – & after they had been examined they were sent to the Officers Ward
November 11th. A very busy day – admitted some very serious cases – amongst our lot, some are dying – Raining & cold second half of day. A huge convoy has just come in & I can hear the Theatre is in use – it is under my bedroom. My arms are really too tired to write tonight.
November 12th. Very busy in Ward 2, until after evacuation – then handed over to Wheatley – & took on the Officers Ward. It is the first time since I joined the unit, that I have not been in theatre or heavy surgical ward – & I just don’t know what to make of it. Went to town in the pouring rain after lunch. Hear that our artillery has smashed the German H.Q. at St. Quinton [St. Quentin] – & an ammunition train.
Am quite pleased to have a light ward for a time but should like to go back to “2” again.
November 13th. Taking in day – No patients in Officers Ward. This afternoon Gen. Porter & Col. Geddes came to inspect the place. They want a Rest Camp for a regiment & think of lending them us – until something else can be arranged. Fancy being a rest camp! Gen. Porter says we are losing 1,000 men a week – for the want of resting them in time. Tonight the Bishop of Kartoum held a confirmation in the Chapel of “No 2.” Eight of our orderlies were confirmed – Miss D, Miss M & I went.
He gave them a very good – simple little address.
November 14th. Bishop Gwynne took Parade Service here today. I did not go – but believe it was appreciated by those who did. I had 6 officers in tonight – not at all bad – Freezing hard.
November 15th. Chiefly remarkable for the concert held to get some money for the Fund for British prisoners in Germany.
We evacuated all 6 officers & took two more in who stayed. They belonged to our aerodrome – & had a nasty accident. Their machine would not rise & would have rammed into the fence full force, but the pilot had the presence of mind to steer so that the engine made for our gateway. The planes smashed into the gate posts & were broken up. One man was only shaken – the other had a nasty scalp wound as well.
One dear old officer was very charming – He told me last night it was such a long time since had talked to women & today the poor old thing wept & said “God bless you” when he went – I suppose it was his long abstinence of not talking to our kind upset him. Went for a walk to Mt. Noir with M. Mud filthy & about a foot deep in places – & I lost one of my fur gloves & am disgusted. I loathe the mud of this filthy place. The sky tonight is wonderfully beautiful with planets, stars & moon all shining brightly.
Mr Gregory & Mr Howe took us to the Concert in a funny old motor thing that had been under fire fairly often & was not improved thereby. The 13th Batt. Canadian Scottish pipers played in the Interval – 10 minutes without a stop. It was a glorious noise of bagpipes & drums – they brought their regimental mascot – a goat, with them & while they were making that deafening noise, it walked calmly amongst them – sniffing them – & eating little bits of dust. It wore a handsome silver collar. The first half was the Canadian Minstrels [see newspaper cutting found loose in pages of the diaries] – after the interval “The Casualties” did the rest. They were excellent – a troop consisting chiefly of orderlies & got up by Capt McKenzie – at No 2 Casualty Clearing – at the end we sang the Marseillaise – & then God Save the King – As soon as the beginning chord for our National Anthem was struck – every man in the place stiffened & stood at attention – & we all sang it with great gusto – The place was packed with all sorts of troops – Padres – Staff Officers & about 9 Sisters, so I hope they took a fair amount of money.
November 16th. Received orders to proceed on arrival of relief to Gen. Hosp No 1, Etretat. Constable & Bond from No 8 are going too. A tremendous bombardment is going on tonight – sounds like continuous heavy thunder.
November 18. “Abancourt” 9 p.m. We left Bailleul at 8:08 – got to Boulogne in time for lunch _ Miss Congleton met us & took us to the Louvre fed us & saw us off at 2:19. Then we crept here – & were turned out at 8:30 – decided to go no further & put up at this Buffet. Very comfortable – room each – ripping bed – two mattresses – which I can tell you is lovely – after none. We had lunch early & meant to get tea in the train but there never was any to get – we asked at every station but had no luck – lots of times French Red Cross ladies popped a money box for collections but that didn’t refresh us much – So we waited till we got here then we did all drink tea & ate fruit until we didn’t feel thirsty any more. Can’t remember all the places we came through – Wimmereux [Wimereux – near Boulogne], Fontanette [?], [Calais – but crossed out], Boulogne, Le Trepore, Le Touquet, Abbeville, Etaples (swarming with hospitals) – in huts houses, hotels – under canvas – etc.
Lady Gifford’s place – that she has lent to tired nurses looks lovely – all wild & sandhills. I think I must be liverish my eyes will not keep open. If you were to guess for a month – you would still be surprised at where I slept last night – In the Officer’s ward. My room leads out of it. I wanted to pack my bed – there were no patients in & I didn’t care a straw if the orderlies came so I put a screen round bed no. 9 and slept there. The Orderly Officer came in at 11:30 – & said he was going to sleep there it was too cold on the stretcher downstairs & when the night Sister tried to put him off he said – “what are you so fussy about there is no one here is there?” & buzzed his torch up the ward – she little fool said “oh no”. So heslept in bed 2 quite a long way off – but there it was – & I lay stiff as a mackerel until I heard him snore – before I dare move & I was up at 6 – & away before anyone else was the wiser. Miss Hutch[inson] & I went along to the Night Sisters’ Bunk at 2 a.m. for a farewell tea fight.
In the train between Abancourt & Rouen. We spent a very comfortable night at the Buffet; a room each – most comfortable bed. I had no watch nor matches, so there was nothing for it but to sleep. Constable left her suitcase in our last train & it has gone on to Paris. We hope to recover it. I left my mackintosh somewhere, so I am afraid it is a gone-er. Madam made us an excellent omlette this morning – the rolls & butter were good too.
The whole life at the Inn reminded me of the Scarlet Pimpernel. All the time French officers & soldiers were in & out – sitting down at the tables & banging until they were waited on. Some dressed in most glorious uniforms & fur coats & the suave French people serving everyone so attentively & politely.
There is a thick white fog this morning & the snow that has been falling the last 4 days is still unthawed – We are going through pretty bracken covered woodland & ploughed fields white with snow.
November 20th. In the train between Rouen & ?. I had a most amusing time at No. 8. Miss Clements the Matron came out with us (No 14) on board the “Palm Branch” which you know all about. I called on her in her office & had a little chat – & she invited me to spend the night there instead of putting up at a Hotel. So after taking the others to town & fixing them up at the Hotel Dieppe & after doing a little necessary shopping & seeing the place, returned & was made welcome by Gascoigne – an old Bart’site whom before I only knew by name. We Tully Coulter & Matthews dined with Matron – & later minus Matron – we had a tea party in Tully’s hut. At 10:30 I went to bed – Sick Sisters’ ward – & was much entertained & amused there. A V.A.D. took care of us – warmed my bed (first bed – after Abancourt for over a year) not counting the mattressless camp variety. At 6 a.m. she brought me tea & filled my bath – a proper big one. Sisters can be just as exacting fussy old patients as any one else – I find. Went to 7.30 breakfast then walked to town to gather the others.
Went to the Cathedral for a short time alone – & enjoyed it.
It is no use for me to try to describe Rouen Cathedral it is too great a task, but it is beautiful specially the little chapel behind the altar. I saw the place to advantage – Standing at the Western end & looking up the long aisle & chancel where a dear old priest in magnificent robes was conducting a service, the organ was playing some soft chant – & the little choir boys in their scarlet & all with the sun shining on them from the side windows – was really beautiful.
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