Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915
Author: Anonymous
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The troops have all gone except the 1st Division, who are waiting for the French to take their place, and then all the British will be on the Arras line, I believe, where we shall go next. (There's another close to the train.) They make such a fascinating purring noise coming, ending in a singing scream; you have to jump up and see. It is a yellowish-green sound! But you can't see it till it bursts.

None of the twelve taken on need any looking after at night besides what the orderly can do, so we shall go to bed.

We had another shell over the train, which (not the train) exploded with a loud bang in the wood the other side; made one jump more than any yet, and that was in the "safer place" the R.T.O. had the train moved to.

Friday, October 16th, 2 P.M.—Have had a very busy time since last entry. The shelling of the village was aimed at the church, the steeple of which was being used by the French for signalling. A butcher was killed and a boy injured, and as the British Clearing Hospital was in the church and the French Hospital next door they were all cleared out into our train; many very bad cases, fractured spine, a nearly dying lung case, a boy with wound in lung and liver, three pneumonias, some bad enterics (though the worst have not been moved). A great sensation was having four badly wounded French women, one minus an arm, aged 16; another minus a foot, aged 61, amputation after shell wounds from a place higher up. They are in the compartment next three wounded officers. They are all four angelically good and brave and grateful; it does seem hard luck on them. It was not easy getting them all settled in, in a pitch-dark evening, the trains so high from the ground; and a good deal of excitement all round over the shelling, which only left off at dusk. One of the C.S.'s had a narrow shave on his way from the train to the R.T.O.; he had just time to lie flat, and it burst a few yards from him, on the line. S. and I stayed up till 3 A.M. and then called the others, and we got up again at 8 and were all busy all the morning. It is a weird business at night, picking your way through kitchens and storerooms and wards with a lantern over the rickety bridges and innumerable heavy swing-doors. I was glad of the brown overall G. sent me, and am wearing the mackintosh apron to-day that N. made me. We are probably staying here several days, and are doing day and night duty entire—not divided as last night. I am on day. We have a great many washings in the morning, and have to make one water do for one compartment—(the train ran out of water this morning—since refilled from the river alongside); and bed-makings, and a lot of four-hourly treatment with the acutes. The enteric ward has a very good orderly, and excellent disinfecting arrangements. It is in my division of the train. Lack of drinking water makes things very difficult.

I thought things were difficult in the hospitals at Le Mans owing to lack of equipment, but that was child's play compared to the structural difficulties of working a hospital on a train, especially when it stands in a siding several days. One man will have to die on the train if we don't move soon, but we are not full up yet. Twenty-seven men—minor cases—bolted from the church yesterday evening on to the train when the shells were dropping, and were ignominiously sent back this morning.

It has so far been the most exciting journey the train has had. Jack Johnson has been very quiet all the morning, but he spoke for a little again just now. I'm going to have a rest now till four.

Four Tommies in one bunk yesterday told me things about the trenches and the fighting line, which you have to believe because they are obviously giving recent intimate personal experiences; but how do they or any one ever live through it? These came all through the Retreat from Mons. Then through the wet weather in the trenches on the Aisne—where they don't always get hot tea (as is said in the papers, much to their scorn). They even had to take the tea and sugar out of the haversacks of dead Germans; no one had had time to bury for twelve days—"it warn't no use to them," they said, "and we could do with it."

In the Retreat they said men's boots were worn right off and they marched without; the packs were thrown away, and the young boys died of exhaustion and heat. The officers guarded each pump in case they should drink bad water, and they drank water wrung out of their towels!

"And just as Bill got to the pump the shell burst on him—it made a proper mess of him"—this with a stare of horror. And they never criticise or rant about it, but accept it as their share for the time being.

The train is to-day in a place with a perfect wood on both sides, glowing with autumn colours, and through it goes a road with continual little parties of French cavalry, motors, and transport waggons passing up it.

Saturday, October 17th.—We are to stay here till Monday, to go on taking up the wounded from the 1st Division. They went on coming in all yesterday in motor ambulances. They come straight from the trenches, and are awfully happy on the train with the first attempts at comforts they have known. One told me they were just getting their tea one day, relieving the trenches, when "one o' them coal-boxes" sent a 256 lb. shell into them, which killed seven and wounded fifteen. One shell! He said he had to help pick them up and it made him sick.

10 P.M.—Wrote the last before breakfast, and we haven't sat down since. We are to move back to Villeneuve to-morrow, dropping the sick probably at Versailles. Every one thankful to be going to move at last. The gas has given out, and the entire train is lit by candles.

Imagine a hospital as big as King's College Hospital all packed into a train, and having to be self-provisioned, watered, sanitated, lit, cleaned, doctored and nursed and staffed and officered, all within its own limits. No outside person can realise the difficulties except those who try to work it.

The patients are extraordinarily good, and take everything as it comes (or as it doesn't come!) without any grumbling. Your day is taken up in rapidly deciding which of all the things that want doing you must let go undone; shall they be washed or fed, or beds made, or have their hypodermics and brandies and medicines, or their dressings done? You end in doing some of each in each carriage, or in washing them after dinner instead of before breakfast.

The guns have been banging all the afternoon; some have dropped pretty near again to-day, but you haven't time to take much notice. Our meals are very funny—always candles stuck in a wine bottle—no tablecloth—everything on one plate with the same knife and fork—coffee in a glass, served by a charming dirty Frenchman; many jokes going on between the three tables—the French officials, the M.O.'s, and us. Our own bunks are quite civilised and cosy, though as small as half a big bathing-machine—swept out by our batman.

We have some French wounded and sick on the train.

I see some parsons are enlisting in the R.A.M.C. I hope they know how to scrub floors, clean lavatories, dish out the meals, sleep on the floor, go without baths, live on Maconochie rations, and heave bales and boxes about, and carry stretchers; the orderlies have a very hard life—and no glory.

Must turn in.

Sunday, October 18th, 9 P.M.—Got under way at 6 A.M., and are now about half-way between Paris and Rouen. We outskirted Paris. Passed a train full of Indian troops. Put off the four wounded women at Paris; they have been a great addition to the work, but very sweet and brave; the orderlies couldn't do enough for them; they adored them, and were so indignant at their being wounded. Another man died to-day—shot through the pelvis. One of the enterics, a Skye man, thinks I'm his mother; told me to-night there was a German spy in his carriage, and that he had "50 dead Jocks to bury—and it wasn't the buryin' he didn't like but the feeling of it." He babbles continually of Germans, ammunition, guns, Jocks, and rations.

Sunday is not Sunday, of course, on a train: no Padre, no services, no nothing—not even any Time. The only thing to mark it to-day is one of the Civil Surgeons wearing his new boots.

We shan't get any letters yet till we get to the new railhead. I'm hoping we shall get time at Rouen to see the Cathedral, do some shopping, have a bath and a shampoo, but probably shan't.

Monday, October 19th.—Rouen, 9 P.M. Got here late last night, and all the wounded were taken off straight away to the two general hospitals here.

One has 1300 cases, and has kept two people operating day and night. A great many deaths from tetanus.

Seen General French's 2nd despatch (of September) to-day in 'Daily Mail.' No mail in, alas! Had a regular debauch in cathedrals and baths to-day. This is the most glorious old city, two cathedrals of surpassing beauty, lovely old streets, broad river, hills, and lovely hot baths and hair shampooing. What with two cathedrals, a happy hour in a hot bath, a shampoo, and delicious tea in the town, we've had a happy day. The train stays here to-night and we are off to-morrow? for ——?


On No.— Ambulance Train (2)


October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914

"The thundering line of battle stands, And in the air Death moans and sings; But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, And Night shall fold him with soft wings."



On No.— Ambulance Train (2).


October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914.

Rouen—First Battle of Ypres—At Ypres—A rest—A General Hospital.

Tuesday, October 20th, 6 P.M.—Just leaving Rouen for Boulogne. We've seen some of the Indians. The Canadians seem to be still on Salisbury Plain. No one knows what we're going to Boulogne empty for.

We have been busy to-day getting the train ready, stocking dressings, &c. All the 500 blankets are sent in to be fumigated after each journey, and 500 others drawn instead. And well they may be; one of the difficulties is the lively condition of the men's shirts and trousers (with worse than fleas) when they come from the trenches in the same clothes they've worn for five weeks or more. You can't wonder we made tracks for a bath at Rouen.

We've just taken on two Belgian officers who want a lift to Boulogne.

Wednesday, October 21st.—Arrived at Boulogne 6 A.M. Went on to Calais, and reached St Omer at 2 P.M., where I believe we are to take up from the motor ambulances. A train of Indians is here. Some Belgian refugees boarded the train at Boulogne, and wanted a lift to Calais, but had to be turned off reluctantly on both sides. Have been going through bedding equipment to-day.

No mail for me yet, but the others have had one to-day.

3.30 P.M.—Off for Steenwerck, close to the Belgian frontier, N.W. of Lille. Good business Just seen five aeroplanes. Have been warned by Major —— to wear brassards in prominent place, owing to dangerous journey in view!

4.30.—This feels like the Front again. Thousands and thousands of Indian troops are marching close to the line, with long fair British officers in turbans, mounted, who salute us, and we wave back; transport on mules. Gorgeous sunset going on; perfectly flat country; no railway traffic except de la Guerre.

6 P.M., Steenwerck.—Pitch dark; saw big guns flashing some way off. The motor ambulances are not yet in with the wounded. The line is cut farther on.

8 P.M.—We have had dinner, and have just been down the line to see the place about 100 yards off. The Germans were here six days ago; got into a big sewer that goes under the line, and blew it up. There is a hole 30 feet long, 15 across and 15 deep—very good piece of work. They occupied the station, and bragged about getting across to England from Calais. The M.O. who lives here, to be the link (with a sergeant and seven men) between the field ambulances and the trains, dined with us. It is a wee place. The station is his headquarters.

Thursday, October 22nd.—Took on from convoys all night in pitch darkness—a very bad load this time; going to go septic; swelling under the bandages. There was a fractured spine and a malignant oedema, both dying; we put these two off to-day at St Omer. We came straight away in the morning, and are now nearly back at Boulogne.


Friday, October 23rd.—All unloaded by 11 P.M. last night. (1800 in a day and a night.) No.— A.T. was in; visited M. and S. Bed by 12; clothes on for forty hours. Slept alongside quay. Two hospital ships in; watched them loading up from ambulances. No time to go ashore. The wounded officers we had this time said the fighting at the Front is very heavy. The men said the same. They slept from sheer exhaustion almost before their boots were got off, and before the cocoa came round. In the morning they perked up very pleased with their sleep, and talked incessantly of the trenches, and the charges, and the odds each regiment had against them, and how many were left out of their company, and all the most gruesome details you can imagine. They seem to get their blood up against the Germans when they're actually doing the fighting—"you're too excited to notice what hits you, or to think of anything but your life" ("and your country," one man added). "Some of us has got to get killed, and some wounded, and some captured, and we wonder which is for us."

11.15.—Just off for ——? I was in the act of trotting off into the town to find the baths, when I met a London Scottish with a very urgent note for the O.C.; thought I'd better bide a wee, and it was to say "Your train is urgently required; how soon can you start?" So I had a lucky escape of being left behind. (We had leave till 1 P.M.) Then the Major nearly got left; we couldn't start that minute, because our stores weren't all in, and the R.T.O. came up in a great fuss that we were holding up five supply trains and reinforcements; so the British Army had to wait for us.

The worst discomforts of this life are (a) cold; (b) want of drinking water when you're thirsty; (c) the appalling atmosphere of the French dining-car; (d) lack of room for a bath, and difficulty of getting hot water; (e) dirt; (f) eccentricities in the meals; (g) bad (or no) lights; (h) difficulties of getting laundry done; (i) personal capture of various live stock; (j) broken nights; (k) want of exercise on the up journey. Against all these minor details put being at the Front, and all that that includes of thrilling interest,—being part of the machinery to give the men the first care and comparative comfort since they landed, at the time they most need it—and least expect it.

6 P.M.—Hazebrouck again. We are said to be going to Belgium this time—possibly Ypres. There are a terrible lot of wounded to be got down—more than all the trains can take; they are putting some of them off on the stations where there is a M.O. with a few men, and going back for more.

There were two lovely French torpedo-boats alongside of us at Boulogne.

7.30 P.M., Ypres.—Just arrived, all very bucked at being in Belgium. An armoured train, protective coloured all over in huge dabs of red, blue, yellow, and green against aeroplanes, is alongside of us in the station, manned by thirty men R.N.; three trucks are called Nelson, Jellicoe, and Drake, with guns. They look fine; the men say it is a great game. They are directed where to fire at German positions or batteries, and as soon as they answer, the train nips out of range. They were very jolly, and showed us their tame rabbit on active service. They have had no casualties so far. Our load hasn't come in yet. We are two miles from our fighting line. No firing to-night to be heard—soon began, though.

Sunday, October 25th.—Couldn't write last night: the only thing was to try and forget it all. It has been an absolute hell of a journey—there is no other word for it. First, you must understand that this big battle from Ostend to Lille is perhaps the most desperate of all, though that is said of each in turn—Mons, the Aisne, and this; but the men and officers who have been through all say this is the worst. The Germans are desperate, and stick at nothing, and the Allies are the same; and in determination to drive them back, each man personally seems to be the same. Consequently the "carnage" is being appalling, and we have been practically in it, as far as horrors go. Guns were cracking and splitting all night, lighting up the sky in flashes, and fires were burning on both sides. The Clearing Hospital close by, which was receiving the wounded from the field and sending them on to us, was packed and overflowing with badly wounded, the M.O. on the station said.

We had 368; a good 200 were dangerously and seriously wounded, perhaps more; and the sitting-up cases were bad enough. The compound-fractured femurs were put up with rifles and pick-handles for splints, padded with bits of kilts and straw; nearly all the men had more than one wound—some had ten; one man with a huge compound fracture above the elbow had tied on a bit of string with a bullet in it as a tourniquet above the wound himself. When I cut off his soaked three layers of sleeve there was no dressing on it at all.

They were bleeding faster than we could cope with it; and the agony of getting them off the stretchers on to the top bunks is a thing to forget. We were full up by about 2 A.M., and then were delayed by a collision up the line, which was blocked by dead horses as a result. All night and without a break till we got back to Boulogne at 4 P.M. next day (yesterday) we grappled with them, and some were not dressed when we got into B——. The head cases were delirious, and trying to get out of the window, and we were giving strychnine and morphia all round. Two were put off dying at St Omer, but we kept the rest alive to Boulogne. The outstanding shining thing that hit you in the eye all through was the universal silent pluck of the men; they stuck it all without a whine or complaint or even a comment: it was, "Would you mind moving my leg when you get time," and "Thank you very much," or "That's absolutely glorious," as one boy said on having his bootlace cut, or "That's grand," when you struck a lucky position for a wound in the back. One badly smashed up said contentedly, "I was lucky—I was the only man left alive in our trench"; so was another in another trench; sixteen out of twenty-five of one Company in a trench were on the train, all seriously wounded except one. One man with both legs smashed and other wounds was asked if it was all by one shell: "Oh yes; why, the man next me was blowed to bits." The bleeding made them all frightfully thirsty (they had only been hit a few hours many of them), and luckily we had got in a good supply of boiled water beforehand on each carriage, so we had plenty when there was time to get it. In the middle of the worst of it in the night I became conscious of a Belgian Boy Scout of fourteen in the corridor, with a glass and a pail of drinking water; that boy worked for hours with his glass and pail on his own, or wherever you sent him. We took him back to Calais. He had come up into the firing line on his cycle fitted with a rifle, with tobacco for the troops, and lived with the British whom he loved, sharing their rations. He was a little brick; one of the Civil Surgeons got him taken back with us, where he wanted to go.

There were twenty-five officers on the train. They said there were 11,000 Germans dead, and they were using the dead piled up instead of trenches.

About 1 o'clock that night we heard a rifle shot: it was a German spy shooting at the sentry sailor on the armoured train alongside of us; they didn't catch him.

It took from 4 to 10 P.M. to unload our bad cases and get them into hospitals on motor ambulances: they lay in rows on their stretchers on the platform waiting their turn without a grumble.

There have been so many hundreds brought down this week that they've had suddenly to clear four hotels for hospitals.

We are now in the filthiest of sidings, and the smell of the burning of our heaps of filthy debris off the train is enough to make you sick. We all slept like logs last night, and could have gone on all day; but the train has to be cleaned down by the orderlies, and everything got ready for the next lot: they nearly moved us up again last night, but we shall go to-day.

I think if one knew beforehand what all this was going to be like one would hardly want to face it, but somehow you're glad to be there.

We were tackling a bad wound in the head, and when it was finished and the man was being got comfortable, he flinched and remarked, "That leg is a beast." We found a compound-fractured femur put up with a rifle for a splint! He had blankets on, and had never mentioned that his thigh was broken. It too had to be packed, and all he said was, "That leg is a beast," and "That leg is a Beast."

Monday, the 26th, 7 A.M., Ypres.—We got here again about 10 P.M. last night in pouring wet, and expected another night like Friday night, but we for some reason remained short of the station, and when we found there was nothing doing, lay down in our clothes and slept, booted and spurred in mackintosh, aprons, &c. We were all so tired and done up yesterday, M.O.'s, Sisters, and orderlies, that we were glad of the respite. There was a tremendous banging and flashing to the north about three o'clock, and this morning it was very noisy, and shaking the train. Some of it sounds quite close. It is a noise you rather miss when it leaves off.

One of the last lot of officers told us he had himself seen in a barn three women and some children, all dead, and all with no hands.

The noise this morning is like a continuous roll of thunder interrupted by loud bangs, and the popping of the French mitrailleuses, like our Maxims. The nearest Tommy can get to that word is "mileytrawsers." There are two other A.T.'s in, but I hear we are to load up first.

This place is full of Belgian women and children refugees in a bad way from exhaustion.

A long line of our horse ambulances is coming slowly in.

Had a very interesting morning. Got leave to go into the town and see the Cathedral of St Martin. None of the others would budge from the train, so I went alone; town chock-full of French and Belgian troops, and unending streams of columns, also Belgian refugees, cars full of staff officers. The Cathedral is thirteenth century, glorious as usual. There are hundreds of German prisoners in the town in the Cloth Hall. It was a very warrish feeling saying one's prayers in the Cathedral to the sound of the guns of one of the greatest battles in the world.

An M.O. from the Clearing Hospital, with a haggard face, asked me if I could give him some eau-de-Cologne and Bovril for a wounded officer with a gangrenous leg—lying on the station. Sister X. and I took some down, also morphia, and fed them all—frightful cases on stretchers in the waiting-room. They are for our train when we can get in. He told me he had never seen such awful wounds, or such numbers of them. They are being brought down in carts or anything. He said there are 1500 dead Germans piled up in a field five miles off. They say that German officers of ten days' service are commanding.

Tuesday, October 27th, Boulogne.—We got loaded up and off by about 7 P.M., and arrived back here this morning. There are two trains to unload ahead of us, so we shall probably be on duty all day. It is the second night running we haven't had our clothes off—though we did lie down the night before. Last night we had each a four-hour shift to lie down, when all the worst were seen to. One man died at 6 A.M. and another is dying: many as usual are delirious, and the haemorrhage was worse than ever: it is frightfully difficult to stop it with these bad wounds and compound fractures. One sergeant has both eyes gone from a shell wound.

The twelve sitting-up cases on each carriage are a joy after the tragedy of the rest. They sit up talking and smoking till late, "because they are so surprised and pleased to be alive, and it is too comfortable to sleep!"

One man with a broken leg gave me both his pillows for a worse man, and said, "I'm not bad at all—only got me leg broke." A Reading man, with his face wounded and one eye gone, kept up a running fire of wit and hilarity during his dressing about having himself photographed as a Guy Fawkes for 'Sketchy Bits.'

Wednesday, October 28th.—Got to Boulogne yesterday morning; then followed a most difficult day. It was not till 10 P.M. that they began to unload the sick. The unloading staff at Boulogne have been so overworked night and day that trains get piled up waiting to be unloaded. Fifty motor ambulances have been sent for to the Front, and here they have to depend largely on volunteer people with private motors. Then trains get blocked by other trains each side of them, and nothing short of the fear of death will move a French engine-driver to do what you want him to do. Meanwhile two men on our train died, and several others were getting on with it, and all the serious cases were in great distress and misery. As a crowning help the train was divided into three parts, each five minutes' walk from any other—dispensary on one bit, kitchen on another. Everybody got very desperate, and at last, after superhuman efforts, the train was cleared by midnight, and we went thankfully but wearily to our beds, which we had not got into for the two previous nights.

To-day was fine and sunny, and while the train was getting in stores we went into the town to find a blanchisserie, and bought a cake and a petticoat and had a breath of different air. We expect to move up again any time now. Most welcome mails in.

News of De Wet's rebellion to-day. I wonder if Botha will be able to hold it?

'The Times' of yesterday (which you can get here) and to-day's 'Daily Mail' say the fighting beyond Ypres is "severe," but that gives the British public no glimmering of what it really is. The —— Regiment had three men left out of one company. The men say General —— cried on seeing the remains of the regiments who answered the rolls. And yet we still drive the Germans back.

There is a train full of slightly wounded Indians in: they are cooking chupatties on nothing along the quay. The boats were packed with refugee families yesterday. We had some badly wounded Germans on our train and some French officers. The British Army doesn't intend the Germans to get to Calais, and they won't get.

Thursday, October 29th, Nieppe.—Woke up to the familiar bangs and rattles again—this time at a wee place about four miles from Armentieres. We are to take up 150 here and go back to Bailleul for 150 there. It is a lovely sunny morning, but very cold; the peasants are working in the fields as peacefully as at home. An R.A.M.C. lieutenant was killed by a shell three miles from here three days ago. We've just been giving out scarves and socks to some Field Ambulance men along the line.

Just seen a British aeroplane send off a signal to our batteries—a long smoky snake in the sky; also a very big British aeroplane with a machine-gun on her. A German aeroplane dropped a bomb into this field on Tuesday, meant for the Air Station here. This is the Headquarters of the 4th Division.

Friday, October 30th, Boulogne.—While we were at Nieppe, after passing Bailleul, a German aeroplane dropped a bomb on to Bailleul. After filling up at Nieppe we went back to Bailleul and took up 238 Indians, mostly with smashed left arms from a machine-gun that caught them in the act of firing over a trench. They are nearly all 47th Sikhs, perfect lambs: they hold up their wounded hands and arms like babies for you to see, and insist on having them dressed whether they've just been done or not. They behave like gentlemen, and salaam after you've dressed them. They have masses of long, fine, dark hair under their turbans done up with yellow combs, glorious teeth, and melting dark eyes. One died. The younger boys have beautiful classic Italian faces, and the rest have fierce black beards curling over their ears.

We carried 387 cases this time.

Later.—We got unloaded much more quickly to-day, and have been able to have a good rest this afternoon, as I went to bed at 3 A.M. and was up again by 8. It was not so heavy this time, as the Indians were mostly sitting-up cases. Those of a different caste had to sleep on the floor of the corridors, as the others wouldn't have them in. One compartment of four lying-down ones got restless with the pain of their arms, and I found them all sitting up rocking their arms and wailing "Aie, Aie, Aie," poor pets. They all had morphia, and subsided. One British Tommy said to me: "Don't take no notice o' the dirt on me flesh, Sister; I ain't 'ad much time to wash!" quite seriously.

Another bad one needed dressing. I said, "I won't hurt you." And he said in a hopeless sort of voice, "I don't care if you do." He had been through a little too much.

It is fine getting the same day's London 'Daily Mail' here by the Folkestone boat.

It is interesting to hear the individual men express their conviction that the British will never let the Germans through to Calais. They seem as keen as the Generals or the Government. That is why we have had such thousands of wounded in Boulogne in this one week. It is quite difficult to nurse the Germans, and impossible to love your enemies. We always have some on the train. One man of the D.L.I. was bayoneted in three different places, after being badly wounded in the arm by a dumdum bullet. (They make a small entrance hole and burst the limb open in exit.) The man who bayoneted him died in the next bed to him in the Clearing Hospital yesterday morning. You feel that they have all been doing that and worse. We hear at first hand from officers and men specified local instances of unprintable wickedness.

Saturday, October 31st.—Left Boulogne at twelve, and have just reached Bailleul, 6 P.M., where we are to take up wounded Indians again. Somehow they are not so harrowing as the wounded British, perhaps because of the block in language and the weirdness of them. Big guns are booming again. (This was the most critical day of the first battle of Ypres.)

H. sent me a lovely parcel of fifty packets of cigarettes and some chocolate, and A. sent a box of nutmilk choc. They will be grand for the men.

One drawback on having the Indians is that you find them squatting in the corridor, comparing notes on what varieties they find in their clothing! Considering the way one gets smothered with their blankets in the bunks it is the most personally alarming element in the War so far.

Sunday, November 1st, BoulogneAll Saints' Day.—We loaded up with British after all, late in the evening, and had a very heavy night: one of mine died suddenly of femoral haemorrhage, after sitting up and enjoying his breakfast.

12 noon.—We are still unloaded, but I was up all night, and so went out for a blow after breakfast. Found two British T.B.D.'s in dock; on one they were having divine service, close to the quay. I listened specially to the part about loving our enemies! Then I found the English Church (Colonial and Continental), quite nice and good chants, but I was too sleepy to stay longer than the Psalms: it is ages since one had a chance to go to Church.

After lunch, now they are all unloaded, one will be able to get a stuffy station sleep, regardless of noise and smells.

We carried thirty-nine officers on the train, mostly cavalry, very brave and angelic and polite in their uncomfortable and unwonted helplessness. They liked everything enthusiastically—the beds and the food and the bandages. One worn-out one murmured as he was tucked up, "By Jove, it is splendid to be out of the sound of those beastly guns; it's priceless." I had a very interesting conversation with a Major this morning, who was hit yesterday. He says it's only a question of where and when you get it, sooner or later; practically no one escapes.

Rifle firing counts for nothing; it is all the Coal-boxes and Jack Johnsons. The shortage of officers is getting very serious on both sides, and it becomes more and more a question of who can wear out the other in the time.

He said that Aircraft has altered everything in War. German aeroplanes come along, give a little dip over our positions, and away go the German guns. And these innocent would-be peasants working in the fields give all sorts of signals by whirling windmills round suddenly when certain regiments come into action.

The poor L. Regiment were badly cut up in this way yesterday half an hour after coming into their first action; we had them on the train.

They say the French fight well with us, better than alone, and the Indians can't be kept in their trenches; it is up and at 'em. But we shall soon have lost all the men we have out here. Trains and trains full come in every day and night. We are waiting now for five trains to unload. It is a dazzling morning.

Monday, November 2nd.—On way up to ——. The pressure on the Medical Service is now enormous. One train came down to-day (without Sisters) with 1200 sitting-up cases; they stayed for hours in the siding near us without water, cigarettes, or newspapers. You will see in to-day's 'Times' that the Germans have got back round Ypres again (where I went into the Cathedral last Monday). No.— A.T. was badly shelled there yesterday. The Germans were trying for the armoured train. The naval officer on the armoured train had to stand behind the engine-driver with a revolver to make him go where he was wanted to. The sitting-up cases on No.— got out and fled three miles down the line. A Black Maria shell burst close to and killed a man. They are again "urgently needing" A.T.'s; so I hope we are going there to-night.

Eighty thousand German reinforcements are said to have come up to break through our line, and the British dead are now piled up on the field. But they aren't letting the Germans through. Three of our men died before we unloaded at 8 P.M. yesterday, two of shock from lying ten hours in the trench, not dressed.

Tuesday, November 3rd, Bailleul, 8.30 A.M.—Just going to load up; wish we'd gone to Ypres. Germans said to be advancing.

Wednesday, November 4th, Boulogne.—We had a lot of badly wounded Germans who had evidently been left many days; their condition was appalling; two died (one of tetanus), and one British. We have had a lot of the London Scottish, wounded in their first action.

Reinforcements, French guns, British cavalry, are being hurried up the line; they all look splendid.

Wednesday, November 11th.—Sometimes it seems as if we shall never get home, the future is so unwritten.

A frightful explosion like this Hell of a War, which flared up in a few days, will take so much longer to wipe up what can be wiped up. I think the British men who have seen the desolation and the atrocities in Belgium have all personally settled that it shan't happen in England, and that is why the headlines always read—


You can tell they feel like that from their entire lack of resentment about their own injuries. Their conversation to each other from the time they are landed on the train until they are taken off is never about their own wounds and feelings, but exclusively about the fighting they have just left. If one only had time to listen or take it down it would be something worth reading, because it is not letters home or newspaper stuff, but told to each other, with their own curious comments and phraseology, and no hint of a gallery or a Press. Incidentally one gets a few eye-openers into what happens to a group of men when a Jack Johnson lands a shell in the middle of them. Nearly every man on the train, especially the badly smashed-up ones, tells you how exceptionally lucky he was because he didn't get killed like his mate.

Boulogne, Thursday, November 12th, 8 P.M.—Have been here all day. Had a hot bath on the St Andrew. News from the Front handed down the line coincides with the 'Daily Mail.'

Friday, 13th.—Still here—fourth day of rest. No one knows why; nearly all the trains are here. The news to-day is glorious. They say that the Germans did get through into Ypres and were bayoneted out again.

Friday, November 13th, Boulogne.—We have been all day in Park Lane Siding among the trains, in pouring wet and slush. I amused myself with a pot of white paint and a forceps and wool for a brush, painting the numbers on both ends of the coaches inside, all down the train; you can't see the chalk marks at night.

This unprecedented four days' rest and nights in bed is doing us all a power of good; we have books and mending and various occupations.

Saturday, November 14th.—Glorious sunny day, but very cold. Still in Boulogne, but out of Park Lane Siding slum, and among the ships again. Some French sailors off the T.B.'s are drilling on one side of us.

Everything R.A.M.C. at the base is having a rest this week—ships, hospitals, and trains. Major S. said there was not so much doing at the Front—thank Heaven; and the line is still wanted for troops. We have just heard that there are several trains to go up before our turn comes, and that we are to wait about six miles off. Better than the siding anyhow. Meanwhile we can't go off, because we don't know when the train will move out.

The tobacco and the cigarettes from Harrod's have come in separate parcels, so the next will be the chocolate and hankies and cards, &c. It is a grand lot, and I am longing to get up to the Front and give them out.

Sunday, November 15th.—We got a move on in the middle of the night, and are now on our way up.

The cold of this train life is going to be rather a problem. Our quarters are not heated, but we have "made" (i.e., acquired, looted) a very small oil-stove which faintly warms the corridor, but you can imagine how no amount of coats or clothes keeps you warm in a railway carriage in winter. I'm going to make a foot muff out of a brown blanket, which will help. A smart walk out of doors would do it, but that you can't get off when the train is stationary for fear of its vanishing, and for obvious reasons when it is moving. I did walk round the train for an hour in the dark and slime in the siding yesterday evening, but it is not a cheering form of exercise.

To-day it is pouring cats and dogs, awful for loading sick, and there will be many after this week for the trains.

Every one has of course cleared out of beautiful Ypres, but we are going to load up at Poperinghe, the town next before it, which is now Railhead. Lately the trains have not been so far.

Monday, November 16th, Boulogne, 9 A.M.—We loaded up at Bailleul 344. The Clearing Hospitals were very full, and some came off a convoy. One of mine died. One, wounded above the knee, was four days in the open before being picked up; he had six bullets in his leg, two in each arm, and crawled about till found; one of the arm wounds he got doing this. I went to bed at 4. The news was all good, taken as a whole, but the men say they were "a bit short-handed!!" One said gloomily, "This isn't War, it's Murder; you go there to your doom." Heard the sad news of Lord Roberts.

We are all the better for our week's rest.

Tuesday, November 17th, 3 A.M.—When we got our load down to Boulogne yesterday morning all the hospitals were full, and the weather was too rough for the ships to come in and clear them, so we were ordered on to Havre, a very long journey. A German died before we got to Abbeville, where we put off two more very bad ones; and at Amiens we put off four more, who wouldn't have reached Havre. About midnight something broke on the train, and we were hung up for hours, and haven't yet got to Rouen, so we shall have them on the train all to-morrow too, and have all the dressings to do for the third time. One of the night orderlies has been run in for being asleep on duty. He climbed into a top bunk (where a Frenchman was taken off at Amiens), and deliberately covered up and went to sleep. He was in charge of 28 patients. Another was left behind at Boulogne, absent without leave, thinking we should unload, and the train went off for Havre. He'll be run in too. Shows how you can't leave the train. Just got to St Just. That looks as if we were going to empty at Versailles instead of Havre. Lovely starlight night, but very cold. Everybody feels pleased and honoured that Lord Roberts managed to die with us on Active Service at Headquarters, and who would choose a better ending to such a life?

7 A.M.—After all, we must be crawling round to Rouen for Havre; passed Beauvais. Lovely sunrise over winter woods and frosted country. Our load is a heavy and anxious one—344; we shall be glad to land them safely somewhere. The amputations, fractures, and lung cases stand these long journeys very badly.


On No.— Ambulance Train (3)


November 18, 1914, to December 17, 1914

"Because of you we will be glad and gay, Remembering you we will be brave and strong, And hail the advent of each dangerous day, And meet the Great Adventure with a song."

From a poem on "J.G."


On No.— Ambulance Train (3).


November 18, 1914, to December 17, 1914.

The Boulogne siding—St Omer—Indian soldiers—His Majesty King George—Lancashire men on the War—Hazebrouck—Bailleul—French engine-drivers—Sheepskin coats—A village in N.E. France—Headquarters.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2 P.M.—At last reached beautiful Rouen, through St Just, Beauvais, and up to Sergueux, and down to Rouen. From Sergueux through Rouen to Havre is supposed to be the most beautiful train journey in France, which is saying a good deal. Put off some more bad cases here; a boy sergeant, aged 24, may save his eye and general blood-poisoning if he gets irrigated quickly. You can watch them going wrong, with two days and two nights on the train, and it seems such hard luck. And then if you don't write Urgent or Immediate on their bandages in blue pencil, they get overlooked in the rush into hospital when they are landed. So funny to be going back to old Havre, that hot torrid nightmare of Waiting-for-Orders in August. But, thank Heaven, we don't stop there, but back to the guns again.

5 P.M.—We are getting on for Havre at last. This long journey from Belgium down to Havre has been a strange mixture. Glorious country with the flame and blue haze of late autumn on hills, towns, and valleys, bare beech-woods with hot red carpets. Glorious British Army lying broken in the train—sleep (or the chance of it) three hours one night and four the next, with all the hours between (except meals) hard work putting the British Army together again; haven't taken off my puttees since Sunday. Seems funny, 400 people (of whom four are women and about sixty are sound) all whirling through France by special train. Why? Because of the Swelled Head of the All-Highest.

We had a boy with no wound, suffering from shock from shell bursts. When he came round, if you asked him his name he would look fixedly at you and say "Yes." If you asked him something else, with a great effort he said "Mother."

8 P.M.—Got to Havre.

Wednesday, 18th November, 6 P.M.—Sotteville, near Rouen. This afternoon's up-journey between Havre and Rouen has been a stripe of pure bliss with no war about it at all. A brilliant dazzling day (which our Island couldn't do if it tried in November), rugs, coat, and cushion on your bed, and the most heavenly view unrolling itself before you without lifting your head to see it, ending up with the lights of Rouen twinkling in the smoke of the factory chimneys under a flaring red sunset.

We are to stop here for repairs to the train—chauffage, electric light, water supply, and gas all to be done. Then we shall be a very smart train. The electric light and the heating will be the greatest help—a chapel and a bathroom I should like added!

At Havre last night the train ran into the Gare Maritime (where we left in the Asturias for St Nazaire early in September), which is immediately under the great place that No.— G.H. bagged for their Hospital in August. I ran up and saw it all. It is absolutely first class. There were our people off the train in lovely beds, in huge wards, with six rows of beds—clean sheets, electric light, hot food, and all the M.O.'s, Sisters, and Nursing Orderlies, in white overalls, hard at work on them—orderlies removing their boots and clothing (where we hadn't done it, we leave as much on as we can now because of the cold). Sisters washing them and settling them in, and with the M.O. doing their dressings, all as busy as bees, only stopping to say to us, "Aren't they brave?" They said we'd brought them an awfully bad lot, and we said we shed all the worst on the way. They don't realise that by the time they get to the base these men are beyond complaining; each stage is a little less infernal to them than the one they've left; and instead of complaining, they tell you how lovely it is! It made one realise the grimness of our stage in it—the emergencies, the makeshifts, and the little four can do for nearly 400 in a train—with their greatest output. We each had 80 lying-down cases this journey.

We got to bed about 11 and didn't wake till nearly 9, to the sound of the No.— G.H. bugle, Come to the Cook-house door, boys.

Thursday, November 19th.—Spent the day in a wilderness of railway lines at Sotteville—sharp frost; walk up and down the lines all morning; horizon bounded by fog. This afternoon raw, wet, snowing, slush outside. If it is so deadly cold on this unheated train, what do they do in the trenches with practically the same equipment they came out with in August? Can't last like that. Makes you feel a pig to have a big coat, and hot meals, and dry feet. I've made a fine foot muff with a brown blanket; it is twelve thicknesses sewn together; have still got only summer underclothing. My winter things have been sent on from Havre, but the parcel has not yet reached me; hope the foot muff will ward off chilblains. Got a 'Daily Mail' of yesterday. We heard of the smash-up of the Prussian Guard from the people who did it, and had some of the P.G. on our train. Ypres is said to be full of German wounded who will very likely come to us.

Friday, November 20th, 10 A.M., Boulogne.—Deep snow.

Boulogne, Saturday, November 21st.—In the siding all yesterday and to-day. Train to be cut down from 650 tons to 450, so we are reconstructing and putting off waggons. It will reduce our number of patients, but we shall be able to do more for a smaller number, and the train will travel better and not waste time blocking up the stations and being left in sidings in consequence. The cold this week has been absolutely awful. The last train brought almost entirely cases of rheumatism. Their only hope at the Front must be hot meals, and I expect the A.S.C. sees that they get them somehow.

A troop train of a very rough type of Glasgow men, reinforcing the Highlanders, was alongside of us early yesterday morning; each truck had a roaring fire of coke in a pail. They were in roaring spirits; it was icy cold.

My winter things arrived from Havre yesterday, so I am better equipped against the cold. Also, this morning an engine gave us an hour or two's chauffage just at getting-up time, which was a help.

Sunday, November 22nd.—Left B. early this morning and got to Merville about midday. Loaded up and got back to B. in the night. Many wounded Germans and a good lot of our sick, knocked over by the cold. I don't know how any of them stick it. Five bombs were dropped the day before where we were to-day, and an old man was killed. Things are being badly given away by spies, even of other nationalities. Some men were sleeping in a cellar at Ypres to avoid the bombardment, with some refugees. In the night they missed two of them. They were found on the roof signalling to the Germans with flash-lights. In the morning they paid the penalty.

The frost has not broken, and it is still bitterly cold.

Tuesday, November 24th.—Was up all Sunday night; unloaded early at Boulogne. Had a bath on a ship and went to bed. Stayed in siding all day.

Wednesday, November 25th.—Left B. about 9.30.

Last night at dinner our charming debonair French garcon was very drunk, and spilt the soup all over me! There was a great scene in French. The fat fatherly corporal (who has a face and expression exactly like the Florentine people in Ghirlandaio's Nativities, and who has the manners of a French aristocrat on his way to the guillotine) tried to control him, but it ended in a sort of fight, and poor Charles got the sack in the end, and has been sent back to Paris to join his regiment. He was awfully good to us Sisters—used to make us coffee in the night, and fill our hot bottles and give us hot bricks for our feet at meals.

Just going on now to a place we've not been to before, called Chocques.

The French have to-day given us an engine with the Red Cross on it and an extra man to attend to the chauffage, so we have been quite warm and lovely. We ply him at the stations with cigarettes and chocolate, and he now falls over himself in his anxiety to please us.

The officers of the two Divisions which are having a rest have got 100 hours' leave in turns. We all now spend hours mapping out how much we could get at home in 100 hours from Boulogne.

Wednesday, November 25th.—Arrived at 11 P.M. last night at a God-forsaken little place about eight miles from the firing line. Found a very depressed major taking a most gloomy view of life and the war, in charge of Indians. Pitch-dark night, and they were a mile away from the station, so we went to bed at 12 and loaded up at 7.30 this morning, all Indians, mostly badly wounded. They are such pathetic babies, just as inarticulate to us and crying as if it was a creche. I've done a great trade in Hindustani, picked up at a desperate pace from a Hindu officer to-day! If you write it down you can soon learn it, and I've got all the necessary medical jargon now; you read it off, and then spout it without looking at your note-book. The awkward part is when they answer something you haven't got!

The Germans are using sort of steam-ploughs for cutting trenches.

The frost has broken, thank goodness. The Hindu officer said the cold was more than they bargained for, but they were "very, very glad to fight for England." He thought the Germans were putting up a very good show. There have been a great many particularly ghastly wounds from hand-grenades in the trenches. We have made a very good journey down, and expect to unload this evening, as we are just getting into Boulogne at 6.30 P.M.

Thursday, November 26th.—We did a record yesterday. Loaded up with the Indians—full load—bad cases—quite a heavy day; back to B. and unloaded by 9 P.M., and off again at 11.30 P.M. No waiting in the siding this time. Three hospital ships were waiting this side to cross by daylight. They can't cross now by night because of enemy torpedoes. So all the hospitals were full again, and trains were taking their loads on to Rouen and Havre. We should have had to if they hadn't been Indians.

We loaded up to-day at Bailleul, where we have been before—headquarters of 3rd and 4th Divisions. We had some time to wait there before loading up, so went into the town and saw the Cathedral—beautiful old tower, hideously restored inside, but very big and well kept. The town was very interesting. Sentries up the streets every hundred yards or so; the usual square packed with transport, and the usual jostle of Tommies and staff officers and motor-cars and lorries. We saw General French go through.

The Surgeon-General had been there yesterday, and five Sisters are to be sent up to each of the two clearing hospitals there. They should have an exciting time. A bomb was dropped straight on to the hospital two days ago—killed one wounded man, blew both hands off one orderly, and wounded another. The airman was caught, and said he was very sorry he dropped it on the hospital; he meant it for Headquarters. We have a lot of cases of frost-bite on the train. One is as bad as in Scott's Expedition; may have to have his foot amputated. I'd never seen it before. They are nearly all slight medical cases; very few wounded, which makes a very light load from the point of view of work, but we shall have them on the train all night. One of us is doing all the train half the night, and another all the train the other half. The other two go to bed all night. I am one of these, as I have got a bit of a throat and have been sent to bed early. We've never had a light enough load for one to do the whole train before. The men say things are very quiet at the Front just now. Is it the weather or the Russian advance?

Great amusement to-day. Major P. got left behind at Hazebrouck, talking to the R.T.O., but scored off us by catching us up at St Omer on an engine which he collared.

Saturday, November 28th.—Sunny and much milder. We came up in the night last night to St Omer, and have not taken any sick on yet. There seems to be only medical cases about just now, which is a blessed relief to think of. They are inevitable in the winter, here or at home. The Major has gone up to Poperinghe with one carriage to fetch six badly wounded officers and four men who were left there the other day when the French took the place over.

I was just getting cigarettes for an up-going train of field-kitchens and guns out of your parcel when it began to move. The men on each truck stood ready, and caught the packets as eagerly as if they'd been diamonds as I threw them in from my train. It was a great game; only two went on the ground. The "Surprise," I suppose, is in the round tin. We are keeping it for a lean day.

6 P.M.—We are just coming to Chocques for Indians again, not far from Armentieres, so I am looking up my Hindustani conversation again.

On Friday—the day between these two journeys—Sister N. and I got a motor ambulance from the T.O. and whirled off to Wimereux in it. It is a lovely place on the sea, about three miles off, now with every hotel, casino, and school taken up by R.A.M.C. Base Hospitals. It was a lovely blue morning, and I went right out to the last rock on the sands and watched the breakers while Sister N. attended to some business. It was glorious after the everlasting railway carriage atmosphere. Then we found a very nice old church in the town. It is too wet to load up with the Indians to-night, so we have the night in bed, and take them down to-morrow.

A sergeant of the 10th Hussars told me he was in a house with some supposed Belgian refugees. He noticed that when a little bell near the ceiling rang one of them always dashed upstairs. He put a man upstairs to trace this bell and intercept the Belgian. It was connected with the little trap-door of a pigeon-house. When a pigeon came in with a message, this door rang the bell and they went up and got the message. They didn't reckon on having British in the house. They were shot next morning.

It takes me a month to read a Sevenpenny out here.

Sunday (Advent), November 29th.—On the way down from Chocques. We have got Indians, British, and eight Germans this time. One big, handsome, dignified Mussulman wouldn't eat his biscuit because he was in the same compartment as a Hindu, and the Hindu wouldn't eat his because the Mussulman had handed it to him. The Babu I called in to interpret was very angry with both, and called the M. a fool-man, and explained to us that he was telling them that in England "Don't care Mussulman, don't care Hindu"—only in Hindustan, and that if the Captain Sahib said "Eat," it was "Hukm," and they'd got to. My sympathies were with the beautiful, polite, sad-looking M., who wouldn't budge an inch, and only salaamed when the Babu went for him.

Monday, November 30th, Boulogne.—Yesterday a wounded Tommy on the train told me "the Jack Johnsons have all gone." To-day's French communique says, "The enemy's heavy artillery is little in evidence." There is a less strained feeling about everywhere—a most blessed lull.

We were late getting our load off the train last night, and some were very bad. One of my Sikhs with pneumonia did not live to reach Boulogne. Another pneumonia was very miserable, and kept saying, "Hindustan gurrum England tanda." They all think they are in England. The Gurkhas are supposed by the orderlies to be Japanese. They are exactly like Japs, only brown instead of yellow. The orderlies make great friends with them all. One Hindu was singing "Bonnie Dundee" to them in a little gentle voice, very much out of tune. Their great disadvantage is that they are alive with "Jack Johnsons" (not the guns). They take off all their underclothes and throw them out of the window, and we have to keep supplying them with pyjamas and shirts. They sit and stand about naked, scratching for dear life. It is fatal for the train, because all the cushioned seats are now infected, and so are we. I love them dearly, but it is a big price to pay.

Tuesday, December 1st.—We are to-day in a beautiful high embankment at Wimereux, three miles from Boulogne, right on the sea, and have been dry-docked there till 3 P.M. (when we have just started for?), while endless trains of men and guns have gone up past us. H.M. King George was in the restaurant car of one of them. We have been out all the morning, down to the grey and rolling sea, and have been celebrating December 1st by sitting on the embankment reading back numbers of 'The Times,' and one of the C.S.'s and I have been painting enormous Red Crosses on the train.

'Punch' comes regularly now and is devoured by our Mess. We are very like the apostles, and share everything from cakes and 'Spheres' to remedies for "Jack Johnsons." Bread-and-butter doesn't happen, alas!

6.30 P.M.—We've just caught up H.M. King George's train at St Omer, but he is evidently out dining with Sir John French. We are just alongside. He has red and blue curtains lining the bridges to keep his royal khaki shoulders from getting smutty. His chef has a grey beard. He is with Poincare.

Wednesday, December 2nd.—We got to Chocques very late last night and are loading up this morning, but only a few here; we shall stop at Lillers and take more on. We went for our usual exploring walk through seas of mud. There are more big motor-lorries here than I've seen anywhere. We wandered past a place where Indians were busy killing and skinning goats—a horrible sight—to one of these chateaux where the staff officers have their headquarters: it was a lovely house in a very clean park; there was a children's swing under the trees and we had some fine swings.

Later.—Officers have been on the train on both places begging for newspapers and books. We save up our 'Punches' and 'Daily Mails' and 'Times' for them, and give them any Sevenpennies we have to spare. They say at least forty people read each book, and they finish up in the trenches.

H.M. King George was up here yesterday afternoon in a motor and gave three V.C.'s.

We have only taken on 83 at the two places. There is so little doing anywhere—no guns have been heard for several days, and there is not much sickness. An officer asked for some mufflers for his Field Ambulance men, so I gave him the rest of the children's: the sailors on the armoured train had the first half. He came back with some pears for us. They are so awfully grateful for the things we give them that they like to bring us something in exchange. Seven men off a passing truck fell over each other getting writing-cases and chocolate to-day. They almost eat the writing-cases with their joy.

9 P.M.—We filled up at St Omer from the three hospitals there. A great many cases of frost-bite were put on. They crawl on hands and knees, poor dears. Some left in hospital are very severe and have had to be amputated below the knee. Some of the toes drop off. I have one carriage of twenty-four Indians. A Sikh refused to sit in the same seat with a stout little major of the Gurkhas. I showed him a picture of Bobs, and he said at once, "Robert Sahib." They love the 'Daily Mirrors' with pictures of Indians. The Sikhs are rather whiney patients and very hard to please, but the little Gurkhas are absolute stoics, and the Bengal Lancers, who are Mohammedans, are splendid.

Thursday, December 3rd.—We kept our load on all night, as we got in very late. I went to bed 10.20 A.M., and then took all the train: unloaded directly after breakfast. Some men from Lancashire were rather interesting on the war; they thought it would do Europe so much good in the long-run. And the French might try and get their own back when they get into Germany, but "the British is too tender-'earted to do them things." They arranged that Belgium should have Berlin! They all get very pitiful over the Belgian homes and desolation; it seems to upset them much more than their own horrors in the trenches. A good deal of the fighting they talk about as if it was an exciting sort of football match, full of sells and tricks and chances. They roar with laughter at some of their escapes.

There was no hospital ship in, which spells a bath or no bath to me, but I ramped round the town till I found a hotel which kindly supplied a fine bath for 1.75. And I found another and nicer English church and a Roman Catholic one.

Grand mail when I came in—from home.

Friday, December 4th.—Had a busy day loading at three places: just going to turn in as I have to be up at 2 A.M.; we shall have the patients on all night. It is a fearful night, pouring and blowing. We have taken a tall white-haired Padre up with us this time: he wanted a trip to the Front. We happened to go to a place we hadn't been to before, in a coal-mining district. While we loaded he marched off to explore, and was very pleased at finding a well-shelled village and an unexploded shell stuck in a tree. It specially seemed to please him to find a church shelled! He has enjoyed talking to the crowds of men on the train on the way down. He lives and messes with us. We opened the Harrod's cake to-day; it is a beauty. The men were awfully pleased with the bull's-eyes, said they hadn't tasted a sweet for four months.

One of the C.S. has just dug me out to see some terrific flashes away over the Channel, which he thinks is a naval battle. I think it is lightning. It was. The gale is terrific: must be giving the ships a doing.

Saturday, December 5th, 7 A.M.—We had a long stop on an embankment in the night, and at last the Chef de Gare from the next station came along the line and found both the French guards rolled up asleep and the engine-driver therefore hung up. Then he ran out of coal, and couldn't pull the train up the hill, so we had another four hours' wait while another engine was sent for. Got into B. at 6 A.M.; bitterly cold and wet, and no chauffage.

Sunday, December 6th.—A brilliant frosty day—on way up to Bailleul. We unloaded early at B. yesterday, and waited at a good place half-way between B. and Calais, a high down not far from the sea, with a splendid air. Some of the others went for a walk as we had no engine on, but I had been up since 2 A.M., and have hatched another bad cold, and so retired for a sleep till tea-time.

Just got to Hazebrouck. Ten men and three women were killed and twenty wounded here this morning by a bomb. They are very keen on getting a good bag here, especially on the station, and for other reasons, as it is an important junction.

4 P.M.—We have been up to B. and there were no patients for us, so we are to go back to the above bomb place to collect theirs. B. was packed with pale, war-worn, dirty but cheerful French troops entraining for their Front. They have been all through everything, and say they want to go on and get it finished. They carry fearful loads, including an extra pair of boots, a whole collection of frying-pans and things, and blankets, picks, &c., all on their backs.

The British officers on the station came and grabbed our yesterday's 'Daily Mails,' and asked for soap, so what you sent came in handy. They went in to the town to buy grapes for us in return. This place is famous for grapes—huge monster purple ones—but the train went out before they came back. We had got some earlier, though.

9 P.M.—We are nearly back at Boulogne and haven't taken up any sick or wounded anywhere. One of the trains has taken Indians from Boulogne down to Marseilles—several days' journey.

Monday, December 7th.—Pouring wet day. Still standing by; nothing doing anywhere. It is a blessed relief to know that, and the rest does no one any harm. Had a grand mail to-day.

There is a heart-breaking account of my beautiful Ypres on page 8 of December 1st 'Times.' There was a cavalry officer looking round the Cathedral with me that day the guns were banging. I often wonder where the Belgian woman is who showed me the way and wanted my S.A. ribbons as a souvenir. She showed me a huge old painting on the wall of the Cathedral of Ypres in an earlier war.

I all but got left in Boulogne to-day. We are dry-docked about five miles out, not far from Ambleteuse.

It was bad luck not seeing the King. We caught him up at St Omer, and saw his train; and from there he motored in front of us to all our places. Where we went, they said, "The King was here yesterday and gave V.C.'s." We haven't seen the "d—d good boy" either.

Tuesday, December 8th.—Got up to Bailleul by 11 A.M., and had a good walk on the line waiting to load up. Glorious morning. Aeroplanes buzzing overhead like bees, and dropping coloured signals about. Only filled up my half of the train, both wounded and sick, including some very bad enterics. An officer in the trenches sent a man on a horse to get some papers from us. Luckily I had a batch of 'The Times,' 'Spectator,' and 'Punches.'

We have come down very quickly, and hope to unload to-night, 9.30.

Wednesday, December 9th.—In siding at Boulogne all day. Pouring wet.

Thursday, December 10th.—Left for Bailleul at 8 A.M. Heard at St Omer of the sinking of the three German cruisers.

Arrived at 2 P.M. Loaded up in the rain, wounded and sick—full load. They were men wounded last night, very muddy and trenchy; said the train was like heaven! It is lovely fun taking the sweets round; they are such an unexpected treat. The sitting-ups make many jokes, and say "they serve round 'arder sweets than this in the firing line—more explosive like."

One showed us a fearsome piece of shell which killed his chum next to him last night. There is a good deal of dysentery about, and acute rheumatism. The Clearing Hospitals are getting rather rushed again, and the men say we shall have a lot coming down in the next few days. A hundred men of one regiment got separated from their supports and came up against some German machine-guns in a wood with tragic results. We are shelling from Ypres, but there is no answering shelling going on just now, though the Taubes are busy.

We are wondering what the next railhead will be, and when. Some charming H.A.C.'s are on the train this time, and a typically plucky lot of Tommies. One of the best of their many best features is their unfailing friendliness with each other. They never let you miss a man out with sweets or anything if he happens to be asleep or absent.

Friday, December 11th.—They wouldn't unload us at 11 P.M. at Boulogne last night, but sent us on to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital at a little place about twenty miles south of B., and we didn't unload till this morning. It was my turn for a whole night in bed. Not that this means we are having many nights up, but that when the load doesn't require two Sisters at night, two go to bed and the other two divide the night. After unloading we had a poke round the little fishing village, and of course the church. A company of Canadian Red Cross people unloaded us. The hospital has not been open very long. It was all sand-dunes and fir-trees on the way, very attractive, and cement factories.

Mail in again.

9 P.M.—We came back to B. to fill up with stores after lunch, and haven't been sent out again yet; but we often go to bed here, and wake up and ask our soldier servants (batmen), who bring our jugs of hot water it the morning, where we are. I like the motion of the train in bed now, and you get used to the noise.

Saturday, December 12th.—The French engine-drivers are so erratic that if you're long enough on the line it's only a question of time when you get your smash up. Ours came last night when they were joining us up to go out again. They put an engine on to each end of one-half of the train (not the one our car is in), and then did a tug-of-war. That wasn't a success, so they did the concertina touch, and put three coaches out of action, including the kitchen. So we're stuck here now (Boulogne) till Heaven knows when. Fortunately no casualties.

Sunday, December 13th.—We've been hung up since Friday night by the three damaged trucks, and took the opportunity of getting some good walks yesterday, and actually going to church at the English church this morning.

Sister B. has been ordered to join the hospital; she mobilised to-day, and we had to pack her off this morning. The staffs of the trains (which have all been shortened) have been put down from four to three. Very glad I wasn't taken off.

We saw a line of graves with wooden crosses, in a field against the skyline, last journey.

We have seen a lot of the skin coats that the men are getting now. Sheepskin, with any sort of fur or skin sleeves, just the skins sewn together; you may see a grey or white coat with brown or black fur or astrakhan sleeves. Some wear the fur inside and some outside; they simply love them.

Reduced to pacing the platform in the dark and rain to get warm. It is 368 paces, so I've done it six times to well cover a mile, but it is not an exciting walk! Funny thing, it seems in this war that for many departments you are either thoroughly overworked or entirely hung up, which is much worse. In things like the Pay Department or the Post-Office or the Provisioning for the A.S.C. it seldom gets off the overworked line, but in this and in the fighting line it varies very much.

"The number of victims of the Taube attack on Hazebrouck on Monday is larger than was at first supposed. Five bombs were thrown and nine British soldiers and five civilians were killed, while 25 persons were injured."—'Times,' Dec. 9th.

We were at H. on that day.

Monday, December 14th.—Got off at last at 3.30 A.M. Loaded up 300 at Merville, a place we've only been to once before, near the coalmines. Guns were banging only four miles off.

Had a good many bad cases, medical and surgical, this time: kept one busy to the journey's end. We are unloaded to-night, so they will soon be well seen to, instead of going down to Rouen or Havre, which two other trains just in have got to do.

We have a good many Gordons on; one was hugging his bagpipes, and we had him up after dinner to play, which he did beautifully with a wrapt expression.

We are going up again to-night. "Three trains wanted immediately"—been expecting that.

Tuesday, December 15th.—We were unloaded last night at 9.30, and reported ready to go up again at 11 P.M., but they didn't move us till 5 A.M. Went to same place as yesterday, and cleared the Clearing Hospitals again; some badly wounded, with wounds exposed and splints padded with straw as in the Ypres days.

The Black Watch have got some cherub-faced boys of seventeen out now. The mud and floods are appalling. The Scotch regiments have lost their shoes and spats and wade barefoot in the water-logged trenches. This is a true fact.

I'm afraid not a few of many regiments have got rheumatism—some acute—that they will never lose.

The ploughed fields and roads are all more or less under water, and each day it rains more.

We have got a Red Cross doctor on the train who was in the next village to the one we loaded from this morning. It has been taken and retaken by both sides, and had a population of about 2000. The only living things he saw in it to-day besides a khaki supply column passing through were one cat and some goldfish. In one villa a big brass bedstead was hanging through the drawing-room ceiling by its legs, the clothes hanging in the cupboards were slashed up, and nothing left anywhere. He says at least ten well-to-do men of 50 are doing motor-ambulance work with their own Rolls-Royces up there, and cleaning their cars themselves, at 6 A.M.

I happened to ask a man, who is a stretcher-bearer belonging to the Rifle Brigade, how he got hit. "Oh, I was carrying a dead man," he said modestly. "My officer told me not to move him till dark, because of the sniping; but his face was blown off by an explosive bullet, and I didn't think it would do the chaps who had to stand round him all day any good, so I put him on my back, and they copped me in the leg. I was glad he wasn't a wounded man, because I had to drop him."

He told me some French ladies were killed in their horse-and-cart on the road near their trenches the other day; they would go and try and get some of their household treasures. Two were killed—two and a man—and the horse wounded. He helped to take them to the R.A.M.C. dressing-station.

Wednesday, December 16th.—We are on our way up again to-day, and by a different and much jollier way, to St Omer, going south of Boulogne and across country, instead of up by Calais. We came back this way with patients from Ypres once. It is longer, but the country is like Hampshire Downs, instead of the everlasting flat swamps the other way. Of course it is raining.

6 P.M.—For once we waited long enough at St Omer to go out and explore the beautiful ruined Abbey near the station. We went up the town—very clean compared with the towns farther up—swarming with grey touring-cars and staff officers. Headquarters of every arm labelled on different houses, and a huge church the same date as the Abbey, with some good carving and glass in it. We kept an eye open for Sir J.F. and the P. of W., but didn't meet them. Saw the English military church where Lord Roberts began his funeral service. For once it wasn't raining.

Thursday, December 17th.—Left St O. at 11 P.M. last night, and woke up this morning at Bailleul. Saw two aeroplanes being fired at,—black smoke-balls bursting in the air. Heard that Hartlepool and Scarboro' have been shelled—just the bare fact—in last night's 'Globe.' R. will have an exciting time. We're longing to get back for to-day's 'Daily Mail.'

There has been a lot of fighting in our advance south-east of Ypres since Sunday.

The Gordons made a great bayonet charge, but lost heavily in officers and men in half an hour; we have some on the train. The French also lost heavily, and lie unburied in hundreds; but the men say the Germans were still more badly "punished." They tell us that in the base hospitals they never get a clean wound; even the emergency amputations and trephinings and operations done in the Clearing Hospitals are septic, and no one who knew the conditions would wonder at it. We shall all forget what aseptic work is by the time we get home. The anti-tetanus serum injection that every wounded man gets with his first dressing has done a great deal to keep the tetanus under, and the spreading gangrene is less fatal than it was. It is treated with incisions and injections of H{2}O{2}, or, when necessary, amputation in case of limbs. You suspect it by the grey colour of the face and by another sense, before you look at the dressing.

At B. a man at the station greeted me, and it was my old theatre orderly at No. 7 Pretoria. We were very pleased to see each other. I fitted him out with a pack of cards, post-cards, acid drops, and a nice grey pair of socks.

A wounded officer told us he was giving out the mail in his trench the night before last, and nearly every man had either a letter or a parcel. Just as he finished a shell came and killed his sergeant and corporal; if they hadn't had their heads out of the trench at that moment for the mail, neither of them would have been hit. The officer could hardly get through the story for the tears in his eyes.


On No.— Ambulance Train (4)


December 18, 1914, to January 3, 1915

"Judge of the passionate hearts of men, God of the wintry wind and snow, Take back the blood-stained year again, Give us the Christmas that we know."

—F.G. SCOTT, Chaplain with the Canadians.


On No.— Ambulance Train (4).


December 18, 1914, to January 3, 1915.

The Army and the King—Mufflers—Christmas Eve—Christmas on the train—Princess Mary's present—The trenches in winter—"A typical example"—New Year's Eve at Rouen—The young officers.

Friday, December 18th, 10.30 A.M.—We've had an all-night journey to Rouen, and have almost got there. One of my sitting-ups was 106 deg. this morning, but it was only malaria, first typical one I have met since S.A. A man who saw the King when he was here said, "They wouldn't let him come near the trenches; if a shell had come and hit him I think the Army would 'a gone mad; there'd be no keeping 'em in the trenches after that."

This place before Rouen is Darnetal, a beautiful spiry town in a valley, pronounced by the Staff of No.— A.T. "Darn it all."

6 P.M.—We unloaded by 12, and had just had time to go out and get a bath at the best baths in France.

Shipped a big cargo of J.J. this journey, but luckily made no personal captures.

Got to sleep this afternoon, as I was on duty all yesterday and up to 2 A.M. this morning.

Pouring cats and dogs as usual.

No time to see the Cathedrals.

We had this time a good many old seasoned experienced men of the Regular Army, who had been through all the four months (came out in August). They are very strong on the point of mixing Territorials (and K.'s Army where it is not composed of old service men) and Indians well in with men like themselves.

One Company of R.E. lost all its officers in one day in a charge. A H.L.I. man gave a chuckling account of how they got to fighting the Prussian Guard with their fists at Wypers because they were at too close quarters to get in with their bayonets. They really enjoyed it, and the Germans didn't.

Saturday, 19th.—We are dry-docked to-day at Sotteville, outside Rouen. Z. and I half walked and half trammed into Rouen this morning.

It is lovely to get out of the train. This afternoon No.— played a football match against the Khaki train and got well beaten. They've only been in the country six weeks, and only do about one journey every eight days, so they are in better training than ours, but it will do them a lot of good: we looked on.

Sunday, 20th, 6 P.M.—At last we are on our way back to Boulogne and mails, and the News of the War at Home and Abroad. At Rouen, or rather the desert four miles outside it, we only see the paper of the day before, and we miss our mails, and have no work since unloading on Friday. This morning was almost a summer day, warm, still, clear and sunny. We went for a walk, and then got on with painting the red crosses on the train, which can only be done on fine days, of which we've had few. The men were paraded, and then sent route-marching, which they much enjoyed. It was possible, as word was sent that the train was not going out till 1.30. It did, however, move at 12, which shows how little you can depend on it, even when a time is given. They had a mouth-organ and sang all the way.

Monday, December 21st.—Got to Boulogne early this morning after an exceptionally rackety journey, all one's goods and chattels dropping on one's head at intervals during the night. Engine-driver rather ivre, I should think. Off again at 10.30 A.M.

Mail in.

Weather appallingly cold and no chauffage.

On way up to Chocques, where we shall take up Indians again. How utterly miserable Indians must be in this eternal wet and cold. The fields and land generally are all half under water again. We missed the last two days' papers, and so have heard nothing of the war at home, except that the casualties are over 60,000. Five mufflers went this afternoon to five men on a little isolated station on the way here. When I said to the first boy, "Have you got a muffler?" he thought I wanted one for some one on the train.

"Well, it's not a real muffler; it's my sleeping-cap," he said, beginning to pull it off his neck; "but you're welcome to it if it's any use!"

What do you think of that? He got pink with pleasure over a real muffler and some cigarettes. You start with two men; when you come back in a minute with the mufflers the two have increased to five silent expectant faces.

Wednesday, 23rd.—We loaded up at Lillers late on Monday night with one of the worst loads we've ever taken, all wounded, half Indians and half British.

You will see by Tuesday's French communiques that some of our trenches had been lost, and these had been retaken by the H.L.I., Manchesters, and 7th D.G.'s.

It was a dark wet night, and the loading people were half-way up to their knees in black mud, and we didn't finish loading till 2 A.M., and were hard at it trying to stop haemorrhage, &c., till we got them off the train at 11 yesterday morning; the J.J.'s were swarming, but a large khaki pinny tying over my collar, and with elastic wristbands, saved me this time. One little Gurkha with his arm just amputated, and a wounded leg, could only be pacified by having acid drops put into his mouth and being allowed to hug the tin.

Another was sent on as a sitting-up case. Half-way through the night I found him gasping with double pneumonia; it was no joke nursing him with seven others in the compartment. He only just lived to go off the train.

Another one I found dead about 5.30 A.M. We were to have been sent on to Rouen, but the O.C. Train reported too many serious cases, and so they were taken off at B. It was a particularly bad engine-driver too.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse