Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915
Author: Anonymous
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I got some bath water from a friendly engine, and went to bed at 12 next day.

We were off again the same evening, and got to B. this morning, train full, but not such bad cases, and are on our way back again now: expect to be sent on to Rouen. Now we are three instead of four Sisters, it makes the night work heavier, but we can manage all right in the day. In the last journey some of the worst cases got put into the top bunks, in the darkness and rush, and one only had candles to do the dressings by. One of the C.S.'s was on leave, but has come back now. All the trains just then had bad loads: the Clearing Hospitals were overflowing.

The Xmas Cards have come, and I'm going to risk keeping them till Friday, in case we have patients on the train. If not, I shall take them to a Sister I know at one of the B. hospitals.

We have got some H.A.C. on this time, who try to stand up when you come in, as if you were coming into their drawing-room. The Tommies in the same carriage are quite embarrassed. One boy said just now, "We 'ad a 'appy Xmas last year."

"Where?" I said.

"At 'ome, 'long o' Mother," he said, beaming.

Xmas Eve, 1914.—And no fire and no chauffage, and cotton frocks; funny life, isn't it? And the men are crouching in a foot of water in the trenches and thinking of "'ome, 'long o' Mother,"—British, Germans, French, and Russians. We are just up at Chocques going to load up with Indians again. Had more journeys this week than for a long time; you just get time to get what sleep the engine-driver and the cold will allow you on the way up.

8 P.M.—Just nearing Boulogne with another bad load, half Indian, half British; had it in daylight for the most part, thank goodness! Railhead to-day was one station further back than last time, as the —— Headquarters had to be evacuated after the Germans got through on Sunday. The two regiments, Coldstream Guards and Camerons, who drove them back, lost heavily and tell a tragic story. There are two men (only one is a boy) on the train who got wounded on Monday night (both compound fracture of the thigh) and were only taken out of the trench this morning, Thursday, to a Dressing Station and then straight on to our train. (We heard the guns this morning.) Why they are alive I don't know, but I'm afraid they won't live long: they are sunken and grey-faced and just strong enough to say, "Anyway, I'm out of the trench now." They had drinks of water now and then in the field but no dressings, and lay in the slush. Stretcher-bearers are shot down immediately, with or without the wounded, by the German snipers.

And this is Christmas, and the world is supposed to be civilised. They came in from the trenches to-day with blue faces and chattering teeth, and it was all one could do to get them warm and fed. By this evening they were most of them revived enough to enjoy Xmas cards; there were such a nice lot that they were able to choose them to send to Mother and My Young Lady and the Missis and the Children, and have one for themselves.

The Indians each had one, and salaamed and said, "God save you," and "I will pray to God for you," and "God win your enemies," and "God kill many Germans," and "The Indian men too cold, kill more Germans if not too cold." One with a S.A. ribbon spotted mine and said, "Africa same like you."

Midnight.—Just unloaded, going to turn in; we are to go off again at 5 A.M. to-morrow, so there'll be no going to church. Mail in, but not parcels; there's a big block of parcels down at the base, and we may get them by Easter.

With superhuman self-control I have not opened my mail to-night so as to have it to-morrow morning.

Xmas Day, 11 A.M.—On way up again to Bethune, where we have not been before (about ten miles beyond where we were yesterday), a place I've always hoped to see. Sharp white frost, fog becoming denser as we get nearer Belgium. A howling mob of reinforcements stormed the train for smokes. We threw out every cigarette, pipe, pair of socks, mits, hankies, pencils we had left; it was like feeding chickens, but of course we hadn't nearly enough.

Every one on the train has had a card from the King and Queen in a special envelope with the Royal Arms in red on it. And this is the message (in writing hand)—

"With our best wishes for Christmas, 1914.

May God protect you and bring you home safe.


That is something to keep, isn't it?

An officer has just told us that those men haven't had a cigarette since they left S'hampton, hard luck. I wish we'd had enough for them. It is the smokes and the rum ration that has helped the British Army to stick it more than anything, after the conviction that they've each one got that the Germans have got to be "done in" in the end. A Sergt. of the C.G. told me a cheering thing yesterday. He said he had a draft of young soldiers of only four months' service in this week's business. "Talk of old soldiers," he said, "you'd have thought these had had years of it. When they were ordered to advance there was no stopping them."

After all we are not going to Bethune but to Merville again.

This is a very slow journey up, with long indefinite stops; we all got bad headaches by lunch time from the intense cold and a short night following a heavy day. At lunch we had hot bricks for our feet, and hot food inside, which improved matters, and I think by the time we get the patients on there will be chauffage.

The orderlies are to have their Xmas dinner to-morrow, but I believe ours is to be to-night, if the patients are settled up in time.

Do not think from these details that we are at all miserable; we say "For King and Country" at intervals, and have many jokes over it all, and there is the never-failing game of going over what we'll all do and avoid doing After the War.

7 P.M.—Loaded up at Merville and now on the way back; not many badly wounded but a great many minor medicals, crocked up, nothing much to be done for them. We may have to fill up at Hazebrouck, which will interrupt the very festive Xmas dinner the French Staff are getting ready for us. It takes a man, French or British, to take decorating really seriously. The orderlies have done wonders with theirs. Aeroplanes done in cotton-wool on brown blankets is one feature.

This lot of patients had Xmas dinner in their Clearing Hospitals to-day, and the King's Xmas card, and they will get Princess Mary's present. Here they finished up D.'s Xmas cards and had oranges and bananas, and hot chicken broth directly they got in.

12 Midnight.—Still on the road. We had a very festive Xmas dinner, going to the wards which were in charge of nursing orderlies between the courses. Soup, turkey, peas, mince pie, plum pudding, chocolate, champagne, absinthe, and coffee. Absinthe is delicious, like squills. We had many toasts in French and English. The King, the President, Absent Friends, Soldiers and Sailors, and I had the Blesses and the Malades. We got up and clinked glasses with the French Staff at every toast, and finally the little chef came in and sang to us in a very sweet musical tenor. Our great anxiety is to get as many orderlies and N.C.O.'s as possible through the day without being run in for drunk, but it is an uphill job; I don't know where they get it.

We are wondering what the chances are of getting to bed to-night.

4 A.M.—Very late getting in to B.; not unloading till morning. Just going to turn in now till breakfast time. End of Xmas Day.

Saturday, December 26th.—Saw my lambs off the train before breakfast. One man in the Warwicks had twelve years' service, a wife and two children, but "when Kitchener wanted more men" he re-joined. This week he got an explosive bullet through his arm, smashing it up to rags above the elbow. He told me he got a man "to tie the torn muscles up," and then started to crawl out, dragging his arm behind him. After some hours he came upon one of his own officers wounded, who said, "Good God, sonny, you'll be bleeding to death if we don't get you out of this; catch hold of me and the Chaplain." "So 'e cuddled me, and I cuddled the Chaplain, and we got as far as the doctor."

At the Clearing H. his arm was taken off through the shoulder-joint, but I'm afraid it is too late. He is now a pallid wreck, dying of gangrene. But he would discuss the War, and when it would end, and ask when he'd be strong enough to sit up and write to that officer, and apologised for wanting drinks so often. He is one of the most top-class gallant gentlemen it's ever been my jolly good luck to meet. And there are hundreds of them.

We had Princess Mary's nice brass box this morning. The V.A.D. here brought a present to every man on the train this morning, and to the orderlies. They had 25,000 to distribute, cigarette-cases, writing-cases, books, pouches, &c. The men were frightfully pleased, it was so unexpected. The processions of hobbling, doubled-up, silent, muddy, sitting-up cases who pour out of the trains want something to cheer them up, as well as the lying-downs. It is hard to believe they are the fighting men, now they've handed their rifles and bandoliers in. (It is snowing fast.) We have to go and drink the men's health at their spread at 1 o'clock. Then I hope a spell of sleep.

We have chauffage on to-day to thaw the froidage; the pipes are frozen.

6 P.M.—We all processed to the Orderlies' Mess truck and the O.C. made a speech, and the Q.M.S. dished out drinks for us to toast with, and we had the King and all of ourselves with great enthusiasm. Mr T. had to propose "The Sisters," and after a few trembling, solemn words about "we all know the good work they do," he suddenly giggled hopelessly, and it ended in a healthy splodge all round. Orders just come to be at St Omer by 10 P.M. If that means loading-up further on about 1 A.M. I think we shall all die! Too noisy here to sleep this afternoon. And the men are just now so merry with Tipperary, and dressing up, that they will surely drop the patients off the stretchers, but we'll hope for the best.

Sunday, December 27th.—Had a grand night last night. Woke up at Bethune. Went out after breakfast and saw over No.— Cl. H., which has only been there 48 hours, in a huge Girls' College, partly smashed by big shell holes, an awful mess, but the whole parts are being turned into a splendid hospital. Several houses shelled, and big guns shaking the train this morning.

The M.O.'s went to the Orderlies' Concert last night, when we went to bed. It was excellent, and nobody was drunk! We are taking on a full load of lying-downs straight from three Field Ambulances, so we shall be very busy; not arrived yet.

6 P.M.—Nearing Boulogne.

I have one little badly wounded Gurkha (who keeps ejaculating "Gerrman"), and all the rest British, some very badly frost-bitten. The trenches are in a frightful state. One man said, "There's almost as many men drowned as killed: when they're wounded they fall into the water." Of three officers (one of whom is on the train and tells the story) in a deep-water trench for two days, one was drowned, the other had to have his clothes cut off him (stuck fast to the mud) and be pulled out naked, and the other is invalided with rheumatism.

Two men were telling me how they caught a sniper established in a tree, with a thousand rounds of ammunition and provisions. He asked for mercy, but he didn't get it, they said. He had just shot two stretcher-bearers.

Monday, December 28th.—This trip to Rouen will give us a longer journey up, and therefore some more time. And we shall get another bath.

The following story is a typical example of what the infantry often have to endure. It was told to me by the Sergeant. Three men of the S.W. Borderers and five of the Welsh Regt. on advancing to occupy a trench found themselves cut off, with a 2nd Lieut. He advanced alone to reconnoitre and was probably shot, they said—they never saw him again. So the Sergt. of the W.R. (aged 22!) took command and led them for safety, still under fire, to a ditch with one foot of water in it. This was on the Monday night before Xmas. They stayed in it all Tuesday and Tuesday night, when it was snowing. Before daylight he "skirmished" them to a trench he knew of two hundred yards in advance, where he had seen one of his regiment the day before. This was in water above their knees. He showed me the mud-line on his trousers.

This turned out to be one of the German communication trenches. They stayed in that all Wednesday, Wednesday night, and Thursday, living on some biscuit one man had, some bits of chocolate, and drinking the dirty trench water, in which was a dead German dressed as a Gurkha. "We was prayin' all the time," said one of them. Then one ventured out to get water and was shot. On Xmas Eve night it froze hard, and they were so weak and starved and numb that the Sergt. decided that they couldn't stick it any longer, so they cast their equipment and made a dash for a camp fire they could see.

One of them is an old grey-haired Reservist with seven children. By good luck they struck a road which led them to some Coldstreams' billet, a house. There they were fed with tea, bread, bacon, and jam, and stayed an hour, but didn't get dried.

Then these C.G.'s had to go into action, and the Sergt. took them on to some Grenadier Guards' billet. By this time he and one other had to be carried by the others. There they stayed the night (Xmas Day) and saw the M.O.'s of a Field Ambulance, who sent them all into hospital at Bethune, whence we took them on this train to Rouen, all severely frost-bitten, weak, and rheumatic.

An infant boy of nineteen was telling me how he killed a German of 6 ft. 3 in. "Bill," I says, "there's one o' them big devils (only I called him worse than that," he said politely to me), "and we all three emptied our rifles into him, and he never moved again."

9 P.M.—At Sotteville, off Rouen. We got unloaded at 1 P.M. and then made a dash for the best baths in France.

Tuesday, December 29th.—We've had a quite useful day off to-day. Still at Sotteville; had a walk this morning, also got through arrears of mending and letter-writing. They played another football match this afternoon, and did much better than last time, but still got beaten.

Wednesday, December 30th.—Still at Sotteville. One of our coaches is off being repaired here, and goodness knows how long we shall be stuck.

Had a walk this morning along the line. The train puffed past me on its way to Rouen for water. I tried to make the engine-driver stop by spreading myself out in front of the engine, but he "shooed" me out of the way, and after some deliberation I seized a brass rail and leapt on to the footboard about half-way down the train; it wasn't at all difficult after all. We had Seymour Hicks' lot tacked on behind us; they are doing performances for the Hospitals and Rest-camps in Rouen to-day, but unfortunately we are too far out to go in.

Thursday, December 31st, New Year's Eve.—Still at Sotteville, and clemmed with cold. There was no paraffin on the train this morning, so we couldn't even have the passage lamps lit.

This afternoon I went with Major —— and the French Major and the little fat French Caporal (who is the same class as the French Major—or better) into Rouen, and they trotted us round sight-seeing. The little Caporal showed us all the points of the cathedrals, and the twelfth-century stone pictures on the north porch and on the towers, and also the church of St Maclou with the wonderful "Ossuare" cloisters, now a college for Jeunes Filles. We had tea in the town and trammed back. This evening, New Year's Eve, the French Staff had decorated the Restaurant with Chinese lanterns, and we had a festive New Year's Eve dinner, with chicken, and Xmas pudding on fire, and Sauterne and Champagne and crackers. The putting on of caps amused every one infiniment, and we had more speeches and toasts. I forgot to tell you that the French Major's home is broken up by Les Allemands, and he doesn't know where his wife and three children are. On Xmas night, during toasts, he suddenly got up and said in a broken voice, "A mes petits enfants et ma femme."

The coach is mended and back from l'atelier, and we may go off at any moment. I hope we shall wake up on the way to Boulogne and mails.

New Year's Day, 1915, Rouen.—A Happy New Year to us all! We are not off yet, and several other trains are doing nothing here. We came into Rouen this afternoon, and heard that we are to clear the hospitals here to-morrow, and take them down to Havre.

Thank goodness we are to move at last. Went for a walk in the town after tea, and after dinner the O.C. and Sister B. and one of the Civil Surgeons and the French Major and I went to the cinema. It was excellent, or we thought it so, after the months of train and nothing else.

Saturday, January 2nd, 12 noon.—Just loading up for Havre with many of the same men we brought down from Bethune on Sunday; it seems as if we might just as well have taken them straight down to Havre. They look clean now, and have lost the trench look.

Have been asked to say how extra-excellent the Xmas cake was; we finished it yesterday, ditto the Tiptree jam.

It is a week on Monday since we had any mails.

There is a Major of ours on the train, getting a lift to Havre, who is specialist in pathology, and he has been investigating the bacillus of malignant oedema and of spreading gangrene. They are hunting anaerobes (Sir Almroth Wright at Boulogne and a big French Professor in Paris) for a vaccine against this, which has been persistently fatal. This man knew of two cases who were, as he puts it, "good cases for dying," and therefore good cases for trying his theory on. Both got well, began to recover within eight hours. And one of them was my re-enlisted Warwickshire man with the arm amputated, who was got out by the wounded officer and the Padre.

January 3rd.—A sergeant we took down to Havre yesterday told me of his battalion's very heavy losses. He said out of the 1400 of all ranks he came out with, there are now only 5 sergeants, 1 officer, and 72 men left. He said the young officers won't take cover—"they get too excited and won't listen to people who've 'ad a little experience." One would keep putting his head out of the trench because he hadn't seen a German. "I kept tellin' of him," said the sergeant, "but of course he got 'it!"


On No.— Ambulance Train (5)


January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915

"The winter and the dark last long: Grief grows and dawn delays: Make we our sword-arm doubly strong, And lift on high our gaze; And stanch we deep the hearts that weep, And touch our lips with praise."



On No.— Ambulance Train (5).


January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915.

The Petit Vitesse siding—Uncomplainingness of Tommy—Painting the train—A painful convoy—The "Yewlan's" watch—"Officer dressed in bandages"—Sotteville—Versailles—The Palais Trianon—A walk at Rouen—The German view, and the English view—'Punch'—"When you return Conqueror"—K.'s new Army.

Thursday, January 7th.—We moved out of Boulogne about 4 A.M., and reached Merville (with many long waits) at 2 P.M. Loaded up there, and filled up at Hazebrouck on way back. Many cases of influenza with high temperatures, also rheumatisms and bad feet, very few wounded. When they got the khaki hankies they said, "Khaki? that's extra!"

9.30 P.M.—We have 318 on board this time, including four enterics, four diphtherias, and eighteen convalescent scarlets (who caught it from their billet). A quiet-looking little man has a very fine new German officer's helmet and sword. "He gave it to me," he said. "I had shot him through the lung. I did the wound up as best I could and tried to save him, but he died. He was coming for me with his sword." Seems funny to first shoot a man and then try to mop it up. The Germans don't; they finish you off.

An officer on the train told me how another officer and twenty-five men were told off to go and take a new trench which had been dug in the night. Instead of the few they expected they found it packed with Germans, all asleep. "It's not a pretty story," he said, "but you can't go first and tell them you're coming when you are outnumbered three to one." They had to bayonet every one of those sleeping Germans, and killed every one without losing a man.

All my half of the train had khaki hankies and sweets; they simply loved them. They are all, except the infectious cases, just out of the trenches, and such things make them absurdly happy; you would hardly believe it. I am keeping the writing-cases and bull's-eyes for the next lot. There were just enough mufflers to muffle the chilly necks of those who hadn't already got them.

The wet has outwetted itself all day—it must be a record flood everywhere. We shall not unload to-night, so I had better think about turning in, as I have the third watch at 4 A.M.

I found some lovely eau-de-Cologne and shampoo powders from R. among the mufflers, and a pet aluminium candlestick from G. Such things give a Sister on an A.T. absurd pleasure; you'd hardly believe it.

Friday, January 8th.—Still pouring. We unloaded by 9 A.M., got our mail in. My wardmaster was so drunk to-night that the Q.M.S. had to send for the O.C. And he had just got his corporal's stripe. He was a particular ally of mine and was in South Africa.

We are in that foulest of all homes for lost trains to-day, the Petit Vitesse siding out of B. station, with the filth of all the ages around, about, and below us. You have to shut your window to keep out the smell of burning garbage and other horrors.

It is nearly three months since I sat in a chair, except at meals, and that is only a flap-down seat, or saw a fire, except the pails of coke the Tommies have on the lines.

I expect we shall be off again to-night somewhere.

Saturday, January 9th.—Did you see the H.A.C.'s story of the frozen Tommy who asked them to warm his hands, and then seeing they were on their way to his trench hastily explained that he was all right—only a bit numb. One thing one notices about them is that they have an enormous tolerance for each other and never seem to want to quarrel. They take infinite pains in the night not to wake each other in moving over the heaps of legs and arms sprawled everywhere, and will keep in cramped positions for hours rather than risk touching some one else's painful feet or hand. If you want to improve matters they say, "I shall be all right, Sister, it might jog his foot." They never let you miss any one out in giving things round, and always call your attention to any one they think needs it, but not to themselves. It is very funny how they won't fuss about themselves, and in consequence you often find things out too late. Last journey a man with asthma and bronchitis was, unfortunately as it turned out, given a top bunk, as he was considered too bad to be a sitting-up case. At 6 A.M. I found him looking very tired and miserable sitting on the edge; "I can't lie down," he said, "with this cough." When I put him in a sitting-up corner below, he said, "I could a'slep' all night like this!" It had never occurred to him to ask to be changed. They get so used to discomfort that they "stay put" and never utter. We had missed his distress (in the 318 we had on board), and they were sleeping on the floors of the corridors, so the middle bunks were very difficult to get at. Any of them would have changed with him. This happens several times on every journey, but you can't get them to fuss. The Germans and the Sikhs begin to clamour for something directly they are on the train, and keep it up till they go off.

Another typical instance (though not a pretty one) of Tommy's reluctance to complain occurred on the last journey. I came on one compartment full, busily engaged in collecting J.J.'s off one man in the middle, with a candle to see by. His blanket, I found, was swarming, and it was ours, not his, one of a lot taken on at Rouen as "disinfected"! (For one ghastly moment I thought it might be the compartment where I'd spent a good half-hour doing up their feet, but it wasn't.) I had the blanket hurled out of the window, and they then slept. But they weren't going to complain about it.

There was one jovial old boy of 60 with rows of ribbons. He had three sons in the Army, and when they went "he wasn't going to be left behind," so he re-enlisted.

Sunday, January 10th.—Woke up at Bailleul, sun shining for once, and everything—floods and all—looking lovely all the way down. Loaded up early and got down to B. by 4 P.M. to hear that we are to go on to Rouen—another all-night touch. We have put off the fourteen worst cases at B., and are now on our way to R. This is the first time we have shipped Canadians, P.P.C.L.I., the only regiment as yet in the fighting line. They are oldish men who have nearly all seen service before, many in South Africa.

Lots more wounded this time. Some S.L.I. got badly caught in a wood; they've just come from India.

When I took the Devonshire toffee round, a little doubtful whether the H.A.C.'s would not be too grand for it, one of them started up, "Oh, by George, not really!"

We have a boy on board with no wound and no disease, but quite mad, poor boy; he has to have a special orderly on him.

Monday morning, January 11th, Rouen.—The approach to Rouen at six o'clock on a pitch-dark, wet, and starlight morning, with the lights twinkling on the hills and on the river, and in the old wet streets, is a beautiful sight.

My mad boy has been very quiet all night.

Tuesday, January 12th.—At S. all day. By some mistake it hasn't rained all day, so we took the opportunity to get on with painting the train. We worked all the morning and afternoon and got a lot done, and it looks very smart: huge red crosses on white squares in the middle of each coach, and the number of the ward in figures a foot long at each end: this on both sides of the coaches. We have done not quite half the coaches, and are praying that it won't rain before it dries; if it does, the result is pitiable. The orderlies have been shining up the brass rails and paraffining the outside of the train, and have also played and won a football match against No. 1 A.T.

Wednesday, January 13th.—Woke at Abbeville; now on the way to Boulogne, where I hope we shall have time to get mails.

5 P.M.—We went through Boulogne without stopping, and got no mails in consequence; nor could we pick up P., who has been on ninety-six hours' leave. We have been on the move practically without stopping since 11 P.M. last night, and are just getting to Bethune, the place we went to two days after Christmas, where we were quite near the guns, and went over the Cl. H. which had been shelled. Expect to take wounded up here. The country is wetter than ever—it looks one vast swamp. Of course the rain has spoilt our lovely paint!

Thursday, January 14th.—We picked up a load in the dark and wet, with some very badly wounded, who kept us busy from 6 P.M. to 4 A.M. without stopping. Some were caked with mud exactly to their necks! One told me he got hit trying to dig out three of his section who were half buried by an exploded coal-box. When he got hit, they were left, and eventually got finished by our own guns. Another lot of eleven were buried likewise, and are there still, but were all killed instantaneously. One man with part of his stomach blown away and his right thigh smashed was trying to get a corporal of his regiment in, but the corporal died when he got there, and he got it as well. He was smiling and thanking all night, and saying how comfortable he was. Another we had to put off at St Omer, on the off chance of saving his life. He was made happy by two tangerine oranges.

Many of the sitting-ups have no voice, and they cough all night. We unloaded this morning, got a sleep this afternoon, and are now, 5 P.M., on our way up again. The Clearing Hospitals are overflowing as of old, and like the Field Ambulances have more than they can cope with. We have to re-dress the septic things with H{2}O{2}, which keeps them going till they can be specially treated at the base. Some of the enterics are very bad: train journeys are not ideal treatment for enteric haemorrhage, but it has to be done. Two of my orderlies are very good with them, and take great care of their mouths, and know how to feed them. It is a great anxiety when a great hulking G.D.O. (General Duty Orderly, not a Nursing Orderly) has to take his turn on night duty with the badly wounded.

It is time the sun shone somewhere—but it will surely, later on.

Friday, January 15th.—We got to Bailleul too late last night for loading, and went thankfully to bed instead. Now, 3.30 P.M., nearly back at B., but expect to be sent on to Rouen: most sick this time, and bad feet, not exactly frost-bite, but swollen and discoloured from the wet. One of my enterics is a Field Ambulance boy, with a temp. of 105, and he only "went sick" yesterday. How awful he must have felt on duty. He says his body feels "four sizes too big for him."

It is a mild day, sunny in parts, and not wet.

Still Friday, January 15th.—We unloaded at 6 P.M. at B., and are to start off again at 4.15 A.M.; business is brisk just now; this last lot only had mostly minor ailments, besides the enterics and the woundeds.

The French Major has had a letter from his wife at last, they are with the Germans, but quite well. We drank their health to-night in special port and champagne! and had Christmas pudding with sauce d'Enfer, as the lighted brandy was called! But we are all going to bed, not ivres I'm glad to tell you. This going up by night and down by day is much the least tiring way, as we can undress and have a real night in bed.

Later.—Hazebrouck. We have been out, but couldn't get as far as No.— Cl. H. (where I find T. is), as the R.T.O. said we might be going on at 11.30.

We came across an anti-aircraft gun pointing to the sky, on a little hill. The gunner officer in charge of it seemed very pleased to see us, as he is alone all day. (He walks up and down the road a certain distance, dropping stones out of his pocket at each turning, and clears out the surrounding drain-pipes to drain his bit of swamp, as his amusements.)

He showed us his two kinds of 12 lb. shells, high explosives and shrapnel. The high explosive frightens the enemy aeroplane away by its terrific bang, he says: our own airmen say they don't mind the shrapnel. He says you can't distinguish between one kind of French aeroplane and the Germans until they are close enough over you to see the colours underneath, and then it may be too late to fire. "I'm terrified of bringing down a French aeroplane," he said. He was a most cheerful, ruddy, fit-looking boy.

9 P.M.—Another train full, and nearing Boulogne; a supply train full of minor cases came down just before us from the same place, where we've been three days running. The two Clearing Hospitals up there are working at awful high pressure—filling in from Field Ambulances, and emptying into the trains. All cases now have to go through the Clearing Hospitals for classification and diagnosis and dressings, but it is of a sketchy character, as you may imagine. They are all swarming with J.J.'s, even the officers. One of the officers is wounded in the head, shoulder, stomach, both arms, and both feet. A boy in my wards, with a baby face, showed me a beautiful silver, enamelled and engraved watch he got off a "Yewlan"; he was treasuring it in his belt "to take home to Mother." I asked him if the Yewlan was dead. "Oh yes," he said, his face lighting up with glee; "we shot him. He was like a pepper-pot when we got to him." Isn't it horrible? And like the boy in 'Punch,' he'd never killed anybody before he went to France. I wonder what "Mother" will say to his cheerful little story.

I have been busy bursting a bad quinsy with inhalers and fomentations. After a few hours he could sing Tipperary and drink a bottle of stout!

There are two Volunteer shop-boys from a London Territorial Regiment, who call me "Madam" from force of habit.

Sunday, January 17th.—We didn't unload at Boulogne last night, and are still (11 A.M.) taking them on to Etretat, a lovely place on the coast, about ten miles north of Havre. The hospital there is my old No.— General Hospital, that I mobilised with, so it will be very jolly to see them all again.

We are going through most lovely country on a clear sunny morning, and none of the patients are causing any anxiety, so it is an extremely pleasant journey, and we shall have a good rest on the way back.

3 P.M.—Just as I was beginning to forget there were such things as trenches and shrapnel and snipers, they told me a horrible story of two Camerons who got stuck in the mud and sucked down to their shoulders. They took an hour and a half getting one out, and just as they said to the other, "All right, Jock, we'll have you out in a minute," he threw back his head and laughed, and in doing so got sucked right under, and is there still. They said there was no sort of possibility of getting him out; it was like a quicksand.

One told me—not as such a very sensational fact—that he went for eleven weeks without taking off his clothes, or a wash, and then he had a hot bath and a change of everything. He remarked that he had to scrape himself with a knife.

We have been travelling all day, and shan't get to Etretat till about 7 P.M. It is a mercy we got our bad cases off at Boulogne—pneumonias, enterics, two s.f.'s, and some badly wounded, including the officer dressed in bandages all over. He was such a nice boy. When he was put into clean pyjamas, and had a clean hanky with eau-de-Cologne, he said, "By Jove, it's worth getting hit for this, after the smells of dead horses, dead men, and dead everything." He said no one could get into Messines, where there is only one house left standing, because of the unburied dead lying about. He couldn't move his arms, but he loved being fed with pigs of tangerine orange, and, like so many, he was chiefly concerned with "giving so much trouble." He looked awfully ill, but seldom stopped smiling. Of such are the Kingdom of Heaven.

Later. On way to Havre.—These are all bound for home and have been in hospital some time. They are clean, shaved, clothed, fed, and convalescent. Most of the lying-downs are recovering from severe wounds of weeks back. It is quite new even to see them at that stage, instead of the condition we usually get them in. Some are the same ones we brought down from Bethune three weeks ago.

One man was in a dug-out going about twenty feet back from the trench, with sixteen others, taking cover from our howitzers and also from the enemy's. The cultivated ground is so soft with the wet that it easily gives, and the bursting of one of our shells close by drove the roof in and buried these seventeen—four were killed and eleven injured by it, but only two were got out alive, and they were abandoned as dead. However, a rescue party of six faced the enemy shells above ground and tried to get them out. In doing this two were killed and two wounded. The other two went on with it. My man and another man were pinned down by beams—the other had his face clear, but mine hadn't, though he could hear the picks above him. He gave up all hopes of getting out, but the other man when rescued said he thought this one was still alive, and then got him out unconscious. When he came to he was in hospital in a chapel, and it took him a long time to realise he was alive. "They generally take you into chapel before they bury you," he said, "but I told 'em they done it the wrong way round with me. That was the worst mess ever I got into in this War," he finished up.

Wednesday, January 20th, Sotteville.—The others have all been out, but I've been a bit lazy and stayed in, washed my hair and mended my clothes. This place is looking awfully pretty to-day, because all the fields are flooded between us and the long line of high hills about a mile away, and it looks like a huge lake with the trees reflected in it. No orders to move, as usual. Ambulance trains travel as "specials" in a "marche," which means a gap in the timetable. There are only about two marches in twenty-four hours, and the R.T.O.'s have to fit the A.T.'s in to one or other of these marches when orders come that No.— A.T. is wanted. We do not get final orders of where our destination is till we get to Hazebrouck or St Omer. We have been six days without a mail now, and have taken loads to Etretat and to Havre.

Thursday, January 21st.—We were not a whole day at Sotteville for once: moved out early this morning and are still travelling, 9 P.M., between Abbeville and Boulogne. It has been a specially slow journey, and, alas! we didn't go by Amiens: the only time we might have, by daylight. Beauvais has a fine Cathedral from the outside. I believe we are to go straight on from Boulogne, so we may not get our six days' mail, alas!

Friday, January 22nd.—We didn't get in to B. till midnight, too late to get mails, and left early this morning. At Calais it was discovered that the kitchen had been left behind, in shunting a store waggon, so we have been hung up all day waiting for it at St Omer. Went for a walk. It is a most interesting place to walk about in, swarming with every kind of war material, and the grey towers of the two Cathedrals looked lovely in a blue sky. Such a dazzling day: we were able to get on with painting the train, which is breaking out into the most marvellous labelling, the orderlies competing with each other. But when at 6 P.M. it seemed the day would never end, No.— A.T. steamed up with our kitchen tacked on, and in the kitchen was the mail-bag—joy of joys!

We have just got to Bailleul, 10.30 P.M.: a few guns banging. We are wondering if we shall clear the Cl. hospitals to-night or wait till morning: depends if they are expecting convoys in to-night and are full.

11 P.M.—P. and I, fully rigged for night duty, have just been gloomily exploring the perfectly silent and empty station and street, wondering when the motor ambulances would begin to roll up, when B—— hailed us from the train with "8 o'clock to-morrow morning, you two sillies, and the Major's in bed!" so now we can turn in, and load up happily by daylight, and it's my turn for the lying down, thank goodness, or rather the Liers, as they are called.

Saturday, January 23rd.—Another blue, sunny, frosty morning. Loading up this morning was hard to attend to, as a thrilling Taube chase was going on overhead, the sky peppered with bursting shells, and aeroplanes buzzing around: didn't bring it down though.

The train is full of very painful feet: like a form of large burning chilblain all over the foot, and you can't do anything for them, poor lambs.

Still Saturday, January 23rd.—This is our first journey to Versailles. My only acquaintance with it was on the way up from Le Mans to Villeneuve to join this train. Two kind sisters, living in a sort of little ticket office in the middle of the line, washed and fed me at 6 A.M. in between two trains, but I saw nothing of the glories of Versailles—hope to to-morrow.

I don't think the men will get much sleep, their feet are too bad, but we are going to give them a good chance with drugs, the last thing. We shall do the night in three watches.

Sunday, January 24th, 5 A.M., Versailles.—They've had a pretty good night most of them. If you see any compartment, say six sitters and two top-liers showing signs of being near the end of their tether, with bad feet and long hours of the train, you have only to say cheerfully, "How are you getting on in this dug-out?" for every man to brighten visibly, and there is a chorus of "If our dug-outs was like this I reckon we shouldn't want no relievin'!" and a burst of wit and merriment follows. You can try it all down the train; it never fails.

They are all in 1st class coaches, not 3rds or 2nds.

9.30 A.M.—They have only four M.A.'s, and the hospital is 1-1/2 miles off, so all our 366 limping, muddy scarecrows are not off yet. There is a mist and a piercing north wind, and lots of mud. The A.T.'s do so much bringing the British Army from the field that I hope some other trains are busy bringing the British Army to the field, or there can't be many left in the field.

They told me another story of a man in the Royal Scots who was sunk in mud up to his shoulders, and the officer offered a canteen of rum and a sovereign to the first man who could get him out. For five hours thirteen men were digging for him, but it filled up always as they dug, and when they got him out he died.

6 P.M.—Just getting to Rouen, probably to load for Havre. They do keep us moving. We just had time to go and see the Palais Trianon with the French Sergeant (who is nearly a gentleman, and an artist). Is there anything else quite like it anywhere else? It was defense d'entrer, so we only wandered round the grounds and looked in at the windows, down the avenues and round the ponds and hundreds of statues, and went up the great escalier. Louis Quatorze certainly did himself proud.

It was a long way to go, and we were walking for hours till we got dog-tired after the long load from Bailleul, and after lunch retired firmly on to our beds. I don't think we shall take patients on to-night.

Monday, January 25th.—We have been at Sotteville all day; had time to read last week's 'Times'—an exceptionally interesting lot.

Have just had orders to load up at Rouen for Havre to-morrow; then I hope we shall go back to Boulogne. We have not stayed more than an hour or two in Boulogne since January 9th—that is, for seventeen days; but we've managed to just pick up our mails every few days while unloading the bad cases. We ought to get back there for a mail on Thursday.

We have taken down a good many Northamptons lately. They seem an exceptionally seasoned and intelligent lot, and have been through the thick of everything since Mons.

Did I tell you that in one place (I don't suppose it is the same all along the line) they are doing forty-eight hours in the trenches, followed by forty-eight hours back in the billets (barns, &c.) for six times, and then twelve days' rest, when they get themselves and their rifles cleaned; they have armourers' shops for this.

They nearly all say that only the men who are quite certain they never will get back, say they want to. If any others say it, "well, they're liars." But for all that, you do find one here and there who means it. One Canadian asked how long he'd be sick with his feet. "I want to get back to the regiment," he said. They seem rather out of it with the Tommies, some of them.

Just had a grand hot bath from a passing engine in exchange for chocolate.

We shall have a quiet night to-night. Sotteville is the quietest place we ever sleep in; there is no squealing of whistles and shouting of French railwaymen as in all the big stations. Last night they were shunting and jigging us about all night between Rouen and Sotteville. Slow bumping over hundreds of points is much worse to sleep in than fast travelling. In either case you wake whenever you pull up or start off. But we shall miss the train when we get into a dull hotel bedroom or a billet, or perhaps a tent. My month at Le Mans in Madame's beautiful French bed was the one luxury I've struck so far.

Tuesday, 26th January.—A dazzling blue spring day. As we were not going in to load at Rouen till 3 P.M., we went for the most glorious walk in this country. We crossed the ferry over the Seine to the foot of the steep high line of hills which eventually overlooks Rouen, and climbed up to the top by a lovely winding woody path in the sun. (The boatman congratulated us on the sinking of the Bluecher, as a naval man, I suppose.) "Who said War?" said P. while we were waiting on the shingle for the boat; it did seem very remote. At the top we got to the Church of Le Bon Secours, which is in a very fine position with a marvellous view. We had some lovely cider in a very clean pub with a garden, and then took the tram down a very steep track into Rouen. I was standing in the front of the tram for the view over Rouen, which was dazzling, with the spires and the river and the bridges, when we turned a sharp corner and smashed bang into a market-cart coming up our track. For the moment one thought the man and woman and the horse must be done for; the horse disappeared under the tram, and there arose such a screaming that the three Tommies and I fell over each other trying to get out to the rescue. When we did we found the man and woman had been luckily shot out clear of the tram, except that the man's hand was torn, and the old woman was frantically screaming, "Mon cheval, mon cheval, mon cheval," at least a hundred times without stopping. The others were out by this time and the two tram people, and the French clack went on at its top speed, while P. and the Tommies and a very clever old woman out of the tram tried to cut the horse clear of the broken cart, and I did up the man's hand with our hankies; the only one concerned least was the horse, who kept quiet with its legs mixed up in the tram. At last the tram succeeded in moving clear of the horse without hurting it, and it was got up smiling after all. The outside old woman went on picking up the fish and the harness, &c., the man was taken off to have his hand bathed, and the poor old woman of the cart stopped screaming "Mon cheval, mon cheval," and went off to have a drink, and we walked on and found a train at Rouen. That sort of thing is always happening in France.

I hope the overworked people at the heads of the various departments of the British Army realise how the men appreciate what they try and do for them in the trenches. If you ask what the billets are like, they say, "Barns and suchlike; they do the best they can for us." If you ask if the trench conditions are as bad for the Germans, they say, "They're worse off; they ain't looked after like what we are."

9.30 P.M.—On way to Havre. I was just going to say that from the Seine to Le Havre there is nothing to report, when I came across a young educated German in my wards with his left leg off from the hip, and his right from below the knee, and a bad shell wound in his arm, all healed now, done at Ypres on 24th October. And I had an hour's most thrilling and heated conversation with him in German. He was very down on the English Sisters in hospital, because he says they hated him and didn't treat him like the rest. I said that was because they couldn't forget what his regiment (Bavarians) had done to the Belgian women and children and old men, and the French. And he said he couldn't forget how the Belgian women had put out the eyes of the German wounded at Liege and thrown boiling water on them. I said they were driven to it.[2] I asked him a lot of straight questions about Germany and the War, and he answered equally straight. He said they had food in Germany for ten years, and that they had ten million men, and that all the present students would be in the Army later on, and that practically the supply could never stop. And I said that however long they could go on, in the end there would be no more Germany because she was up against five nations. He said no man has any fear of a Russian soldier, and that though they were slow over it they would get Paris, but not London except by Zeppelins; he admitted that it would be sehr schwer to land troops in England, and that our Navy was the best, but we had so few soldiers, they hardly counted! He got very excited over the Zeppelins. I asked why the Germans hated the English, and he said, "In Berlin we do not speak of the English at all(!!!); it is the French and the Russians we hate." He said the Turks were no good zu helfen, and Austria not much better. He was very down on Belgium for resisting in the first place! and said the Schuld was with France and Russia. They were very much astonished when England didn't remain neutral! He had the cheek to say that three German soldiers were as good as twenty English, so I assured him that five English could do for fifty Germans, and went on explaining carefully to him how there could be no more Germany in the end because the right must win! and he said, "So you say in England, but we know otherwise in Deutschland, and I am a German." So as I am an English we had to agree to differ. His faith in his Vaterland nearly made him cry and must have given him a temperature. I felt quite used up afterwards. He is fast asleep now. There is also an old soldier of sixty-three who says General French and General Smith-Dorrien photographed him as the oldest soldier in the British Army. He has four sons in it, one killed, two wounded. He was with General Low in the Chitral Expedition, and is called Donald Macdonald, of the K.O.S.B.'s. "Unfortunately I was reduced to the ranks for being drunk the other day," he said gaily. "But the Captain he said, 'Don't lose 'eart, Macdonald, you'll get it all back.'"

[Footnote 2: I have since found that no sort of evidence was brought forward by the Germans to support this charge, and it is emphatically denied by the Belgian authorities.]

Wednesday, January 27th.—They have found a way of warming our quarters when we have not an engine on. I don't know what we should have done without it to-day; it is icy cold. Mails to-morrow, hurrah! Going to turn in early.

Thursday, January 28th.—Got to Boulogne this morning. Have been getting stores in and repairs done; expect to be sent up any time. Sharp frost and cold wind.

Friday, January 29th.—One of those difficult-to-bear days; hung up all day at a place beyond St Omer, listening to guns, and doing nothing when there's so much to be done. The line is probably too busy to let us up. It happens to be a dazzling blue day, which must be wiping off 50 per cent of the horrors of the Front. The other 50 per cent is what they are out for, and see the meaning of.

We are to go on in an hour's time, "destination unknown."

Saturday, January 30th.—We got up to Merville at one o'clock last night, and loaded up only forty-five, and are now just going to load up again at a place on the way back. We have been completely done out of the La Bassee business; haven't been near it. No.— Cl. H. that we saw on December 27th, where S.C. and two more of my No.— G.H. friends were, had to be evacuated in a hurry, as several orderlies were killed in the shelling.

One of my badly woundeds says "the Major" (whose servant he has been for four years) asked him to make up the fire in his dug-out, while he went to the other end of the trench. While he was doing the fire a shell burst over the dug-out and a bit went through his left leg and touched his right. If the Major had been sitting in his chair where he was a minute before, his head would have been blown off. He said, "When the Major came back and found me, he drove everybody else away and stayed with me all day, and made me cocoa, and at night carried my stretcher himself and took me right to Headquarters." His eyes shine when he talks of "the Major," and he seems so proud he got it instead.

I asked a boy in the sitting-ups what was the matter with him. "Too small," he said. Another said "Too young"; he was aged fifteen, in the Black Watch.

A young monkey, badly wounded in hand and throat (lighting a cigarette—the shatter to his hand saved worse destruction to his throat, though bad enough as it is), after we'd settled him in, fixed his eye on me and said, "Are you going to be in here along of us all the way?" "Yes," I said. "That's a good job," and he is taking good care to get his money's worth, I can tell you.

Some of them are roaring at the man in 'Punch' who made a gallant attempt to do justice to all his Xmas presents at once. There is a sergeant-major of the Royal Scots very indignant at having been made to go sick with bad feet. Any attempt to fuss over him is met with "I need no attention whatever, thank you, Sister. I feel more like apologising for being in here. Only five weeks of active service," he growled.

The latest Franco-British idea is to Arras the Boches till they Argonne!

Sunday, January 31st.—We did go on to Rouen. B. is full to the brim. We have only unloaded at B. three times since Christmas.

I'm beginning to think we waste a lot of sympathy on the poor wounded rocking in a train all night after being on it all day. One of mine with a bullet still in his chest, and some pneumonia, who seemed very ill when he was put on at Merville, said this morning he felt a lot better and had had the best night for five days! And my fidgety boy with the wound in his throat made a terrible fuss at being put off at Boulogne when he found he was the only one in his compartment to go and that I wasn't going with him.

I had the easy watch last night because of my cold, and went to bed at 1 A.M.; got a hot bath this morning, and lay low all day till a stroll between the Seine and the floods after tea (Sotteville). There are four trains waiting here, and the C.S.'s have been skating on the floods. We move on at 1 o'clock to-night. No.— A.T. had a bomb dropped each side of their train at Bailleul, but they didn't explode.

The French instruction books have come, and I am going to start the French class for the men on the train; they are very keen to learn, chiefly, I think, to make a little more running with the French girls at the various stopping places.

Two officers last night were awfully sick at not being taken off at B., but I think they'll get home from Rouen. One said he must get home, if only for ten minutes, to feel he was out of France.

Wednesday, February 3rd.—Moved on last night, and woke up at Bailleul. Some badly wounded on the train, but not on my half.

On the other beat, beyond Rouen, the honeysuckle is in leaf, the catkins are out, and the woods are full of buds. What a difference it will make when spring comes. On this side it is all canals, bogs, and pollards, and the eternal mud.

We found pinned on a sock from a London school child, "Whosoever receives this, when you return conqueror, drop me a line," and then her name and address!

Thursday, February 4th.—For once we unloaded at B. and went to bed instead of taking them on all night to Rouen.

Moved out of B. at 5 A.M., breakfast at St O., where we nearly got left behind strolling on the line during a wait. We are going to Merville in the mining district where L. is.

3 P.M.—We have just taken on about seventy Indians, mostly sick, some badly wounded. They are much cleaner than they used to be, in clothes, but not, alas! in habits. Aeroplanes are chasing a Taube overhead, but it is not being shelled. Guns are making a good noise all round. We are waiting for a convoy of British now.

It is a lovely afternoon.

The guns were shaking the train just now; one big bang made us all pop our heads out of the window to look for the bomb, but it wasn't a bomb. A rosy-faced white-haired Colonel here just came up to me and said, "You've brought us more firing this afternoon than we've heard for a long time."

We are filling up with British wounded now on the other half of the train. It is getting late, and we shan't unload to-night.

Later.—We were hours loading up because all the motor drivers are down with flu, and there were only two available. The rest are all busy bringing wounded in to the Clearing Hospital.

The spell of having the train full of slight medical cases and bad feet seems to be over, and wounded are coming on again.

Three of my sitting-up Indians have temperatures of 104, so you can imagine what the lying-downs are like. They are very anxious cases to look after, partly because they are another race and partly because they can't explain their wants, and they seem to want to be let die quietly in a corner rather than fall in with your notions of their comfort.

At Bailleul on our last journey we took on a heavenly white puppy just old enough to lap, quite wee and white and fat. He cries when he wants to be nursed, and barks in a lovely falsetto when he wants to play, and waddles after our feet when we take him for a walk, but he likes being carried best.

Some Tommies on a truck at Railhead brought him up for us; they adore his little mother and two brothers.

Friday, February 5th, Boulogne.—We did get in late last night, and got to bed at 1 A.M. They are unloading during the night again now, and also loading up at night.

One boy last night had lost his right hand; his left arm and leg were wounded, and both his eyes. "Yes, I've got more than my share," he said, "but I'll get over it all right." I didn't happen to answer for a minute, and in a changed voice he said, "Shan't I? shan't I?" Of course I assured him he'd get quite well, and that he was ticketed to go straight to an eye specialist. "Thank God for that," he said, as if the eye specialist had already cured him, but it is doubtful if any eye specialist will save his eyes.

To-day has been a record day of brilliant sun, blue sky and warm air, and it has transformed the muddy, sloppy, dingy Boulogne of the last two months into something more like Cornwall. We couldn't stop on the train (there were no orders likely), in spite of being tired, but went in the town in the morning, and on the long stone pier in the afternoon, and then to tea at the buffet at the Maritime (where you have tea with real milk and fresh butter, and jam not out of a tin, and a tablecloth, and a china cup—luxuries beyond description). On the pier there were gulls, and a sunny sort of salt wind and big waves breaking, and a glorious view of the steep little town piled up in layers above the harbour, which is packed with shipping.


On No.— Ambulance Train (6)


February 7, 1915, to March 31, 1915

"Under the lee of the little wood I'm sitting in the sun; What will be done in Flanders Before the day be done?

* * * * *

Above, beyond the larches, The sky is very blue; 'It's the smoke of hell in Flanders That leaves the sun for you.'"



On No.— Ambulance Train (6).


February 7, 1915, to March 31, 1915.

The Indians—St Omer—The Victoria League—Poperinghe—A bad load—Left behind—Rouen again—An "off" spell—En route to Etretat—Sotteville— Neuve Chapelle—St Eloi—The Indians—Spring in N.W. France—The Convalescent Home—Kitchener's boys.

Sunday, February 7th.—This is a little out-of-the-way town called Blendecque, rather in a hollow. No.— A.T. has been here before, and the natives look at us as if we were Boches. There are 250 R.E. inhabiting a long truck-train here. We have given them all our mufflers and mittens; they had none, and the officer has had our officers to tea with him. Our men have played a football match with them—drawn.

We went for a splendid walk this morning up hill to a pine wood bordered by a moor with whins. I've now got in my bunky-hole (it is not quite six feet square) a polypod fern, a plate of moss, a pot of white hyacinths, and also catkins, violets, and mimosa!

I suppose we shall move on to-night if there is a marche.

Many hundreds of French cavalry passed across the bridge over this cutting this morning: they looked so jolly.

One of the staff who has been to Woolwich on leave says that K.'s new army there is extraordinarily promising and keen. So far we have only heard good of those out here, from the old hands who've come across them.

9.45 P.M.—We are just getting to the place where all the fighting is—La Bassee way. Probably we shall load up with wounded to-night. There's a great flare some way off that looks like the burning villages we used to see round Ypres. It is a very dark night.

Monday morning, February 8th.—We stood by last night, and are just going to load now. All is quiet here. Said to have been nothing happening the last few days.

7 P.M.—Nearing B. We've had a very muddly day, taking on at four different places. I have a coach full of Indians. They have been teaching me some more Hindustani. Some of them suddenly began to say their prayers at sunset. They spread a small mat in front of them, knelt down, and became very busy "knockin' 'oles in the floor with their 'eads," as the orderly describes it.

We have a lot of woundeds from Saturday's fighting. They took three German trenches, and got in with the bayonet until they were "treading" on dead Germans! The wounded sitting-ups are frightfully proud of it. After their personal reminiscences you feel as if you'd been jabbing Germans yourself. They say they "lose their minds" in the charge, and couldn't do it if they stopped to think, "because they're feelin' men, same as us," one said.

A corporal on his way back to the Front from taking some people down to St O. under a guard saw one of his pals at the window in our train. He leaped up and said, "I wish to God I could get chilblains and come down with you." This to an indignant man with a shrapnel wound!

I've got five bad cases of measles, with high temperatures and throats.

Tuesday, February 9th.—Again they unloaded us at B. last night, and we are now, 11 A.M., on our way up again. The Indians I had were a very interesting lot. The race differences seem more striking the better you get to know them. The Gurkhas seem to be more like Tommies in temperament and expression, and all the Mussulmans and the best of the Sikhs and Jats might be Princes and Prime Ministers in dignity, feature, and manners. When a Sikh refuses a cigarette (if you are silly enough to offer him one) he does it with a gesture that makes you feel like a housemaid who ought to have known better. The beautiful Mussulmans smile and salaam and say Merbani, however ill they are, if you happen to hit upon something they like. They all make a terrible fuss over their kit and their puggarees and their belongings, and refuse to budge without them.

Sister M. found her orders to leave when we got in, but she doesn't know where she is going. So after this trip we shall be three again, which is a blessing, as there are not enough wards for four, and no one likes giving any up. It also gives us a spare bunk to store our warehouses of parcels for men, which entirely overflow our own dug-outs. As soon as you've given out one lot, another bale arrives.

We have had every kind of infectious disease to nurse in this war, except smallpox. The Infectious Ward is one of mine, and we've had enteric, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and diphtheria.

7 P.M.—We got to the new place where we wait for a marche, just at tea-time, and we had a grand walk up to the moor, where you can see half over France each way. There is a travelling wireless station up there. Each pole has its receiver in a big grey motor-lorry by the roadside, where they live and sleep. The road wound down to a little curly village with a beautiful old grey church. On the top of the moor on the way back it was dark, and the flash signals were morsing away to each other from the different hills. It reminded me of the big forts on the kopjes round Pretoria.

I had my first French class this afternoon at St Omer, in the men's mess truck. There were seventeen, including the Quartermaster-Sergeant and the cook's boy. I'd got a small blackboard in Boulogne, and they all had notebooks, and the Q.M.S. had arranged it very nicely. They were very keen, and got on at a great pace. They weren't a bit shy over trying to pronounce, and will I think make good progress. They have a great pull over men of their class in England, by their opportunities of listening to French spoken by the French, such a totally different language to French spoken by most English people. My instruction book is Hugo's, which is a lightning method compared to the usual school-books. They are doing exercises for me for next time.

Wednesday, February 10th, 9 P.M.—We woke at Merville after a particularly rocky, noisy night journey, and loaded up there with woundeds and sick, also Indians (but not in my wards for once). My blesses kept me busy till the moment we unloaded this evening at B., and I had not time to hear much about their doings. One extraordinarily sporting boy had a wound right through his neck, involving his swallowing. It took about half an hour to give him a feed, through a tube, but he stuck it, smiling all the time.

Another older man was shot in the stomach, and looked as if he wouldn't get over it. He told me he'd already been in hospital eight weeks, shot in the head at the Aisne. I said what hard luck to have to go through it again. "It's got to be done," he said. "I didn't give it a thought. I think I shall get over this," he said, "but I don't want to go back a third time." He has a wife and three children in Ireland.

We are to move up again at 4 A.M. Just had dinner (soup, boiled beef as tough as a cable, and ration cheese and coffee), and the 'Daily Mail.'

Thursday, February 11th.—We have spent most of the day at St Omer, and got a lovely walk in this morning, along the canal, watching the big barges which take 2000 tons of beetroots for sugar.

There is a scheme on foot for fitting up these big barges as transport for the sick (this one came from Furnes) as moving Clearing Hospitals. I've been over one, in Rouen. They are not yet in use, but might be rather jolly in the summer.

It is the warmest spring day we've had. I had my second French class this afternoon again at St Omer. We are now moving on, up to Bailleul. I expect we shall take patients on this evening, and have them all night.

Friday, February 12th, 6 A.M.—We did a record loading up in fifty minutes last night, chiefly medical cases, and took eight hours to crawl to Boulogne. Now we are on the way for Havre, but shall not get there till about 10 P.M. to-night, so they will have a long day in the train.

A good many of the lying-downs are influenza, with high temperatures and no voice. It is a bore getting to B. in the night, as we miss our mails and the 'Daily Mail.'

7 P.M.—This is an interminable journey. Have not yet reached Rouen, and shan't get to Havre till perhaps 2 A.M. The patients are getting very weary, especially the sitting-ups. The wards of acute liers you can run like a hospital. Some of the orderlies are now getting quite keen on having their wards clean and swept, and the meals and feeds up to time, and the washings done, but it has taken weeks to bring them up to it. When they do all that well I can get on with the diets, temperatures, treatments, and dressings, &c. On the long journeys we take round at intervals smokes, chocolate, papers, hankies, &c., when we have them. The Victoria League has done me well in bales of hankies. They simply love the affectionate and admiring messages pinned on from New Zealand, and one of them always volunteers to answer them.

We shall be up in shifts again to-night.

We are all hoping to have a day in Rouen on the way back, for baths, hair-washing, shopping, seeing the Paymaster, and showing the new Sister the sights. For sheer beauty and interestingness it is the most endearing town; you don't know which you love best—its setting with the hills, river, and bridge, or its beautiful spires and towers and marvellous old streets and houses.

Saturday, February 13th, 2 A.M.—Still on the way to Havre! And we loaded up on Thursday. This journey is another revelation of what the British soldier will stick without grumbling. The sitting-ups are eight in a carriage, some with painful feet, some with wounded arms, and some with coughs, rheumatism, &c., but you don't hear a word of grousing. It is only when things are prosperous and comfortable that Tommy grumbles and has grievances. Some of the liers are too ill to know how long they've been on the train. One charming Scotchman, who enlisted for K.'s Army, but was put into the Regulars because he could shoot, has just asked me to write my name and address in his little book so that he can write from England. He also says we must "look after ourselves" and "study our health," because there's a bad time coming, and our Country will need us! He's done his share, after an operation, and will never be able to do any more. Everything points to this Service having to put out all it can, both here and at home. Many new hospitals are being organised, and there are already hundreds.

We have a poor lunatic on board who keeps asking us to let his wife come in. The train is crawling with J.J.'s.

Saturday, 4.30 A.M.—Just seen the last stretcher off; now going to undress (first time since Wednesday night) and turn in.

Saturday, 13th February, Havre.—It is four months to-day since I joined the train. It seems much longer in some ways, and yet the days go by very quickly—even the off-days; and when the train is full the hours fly.

We went into the familiar streets this morning that we saw so much of in August, "waiting for orders," and had a look at the sea. The train moved off at tea-time, so we had the prettiest part of the journey in a beautiful evening sunlight, lighting up the woods and hills. The palm is out, and the others saw primroses. We have also seen some snowdrops.

After a heavy journey, with two nights out of bed, you don't intend to do any letter-writing or mending or French classes, but look out of the window or sleep or read Dolly Dialogues. You always get compensation for these journeys in the longer journey back, with probably a wait at Rouen or Sotteville, and possibly another at Boulogne. We have been going up and down again very briskly this last fortnight between B. and the Back of the Front.

Sunday, 14th.—A dismal day at Sotteville; pouring cats and dogs all day, and the train cold.

Shrove Tuesday.—We were all day coming up yesterday. Got to B. in the middle of the night, and went on again to St Omer, where we woke this morning, so we missed our mails again; it will be a full week's mails when we do get them. Lovely blue sky to-day. Had a walk with Sister B. round the town, and now this afternoon we are on the way to Poperinghe, in a beaten country, where we haven't been for three months. French class due at 3 P.M. if we haven't got there by then.

We have just passed a graveyard absolutely packed with little wooden crosses.

Ash Wednesday, February 17th, 6 A.M.—We took on a very bad load of wounded at Poperinghe, more like what used to happen three months ago in the same place; they were only wounded the night before, and some the same day. The Clearing Hospital had to be cleared immediately.

We have just got to B., and are going to unload here at 8.30 A.M.

Must stop. Hope to get a week's mails to-day.

A brisk air battle between one British and one French and two Taubes was going on when we got there, and a perfect sky for it. Very high up.

A wounded major on the train was talking about the men. "It's not a case of our leading the men; we have a job to keep up with them."

It was a pretty sad business getting them off the train this morning; there were so many compound fractures, and no amount of contriving seemed to come between them and the jolting of the train all night. And, to add to the difficulties, it was pouring in torrents and icy cold, and the railway people refused to move the train under cover, so they went out of a warm train on to damp stretchers in an icy rain. They were nearly all in thin pyjamas, as we'd had to cut off their soaking khaki: they were practically straight from the trenches. But once clear of trains, stretchers, and motor ambulances they will be warmed, washed, fed, bedded, and their fractures set under an anaesthetic. One man had his arm blown to pieces on Monday afternoon, had it amputated on Monday night, and was put into one of our wards on Tuesday, and admitted to Base Hospital on Wednesday. But that is ticklish work.

One boy, a stretcher-bearer, with both legs severely wounded, very nearly bled to death. He was pulled round somehow. About midnight, when he was packed up in wool and hot-water bottles, &c., when I asked him how he was feeling, he said gaily, "Quite well, delightfully warm, thank you!" We got him taken to hospital directly the train got in at 4 A.M. The others were unloaded at 9 A.M.

We are now—5 P.M.—on our way to Etaples, probably to clear the G.H. there, either to-night or to-morrow morning. It hasn't stopped pouring all day. It took me till lunch to read my enormous mail.

Major T. has heard to-day that the French railway people want his train back again for passenger traffic, so the possibility of our all being suddenly disbanded and dispersed is hanging over us; but I believe it has been threatened before.

Thursday, February 18th.—In bed, 10 P.M. We have had a very heavy day with the woundeds again from Bailleul. We unloaded again at B. this evening, and are to go up again some time to-night.

There is a great deal going on in our front.

There was a boy from Suffolk, of K.'s Army, in my ward who has only been out three weeks. He talked the most heavenly East Anglian—"I was agin the barn, and that fared to hit me"—all in the right sing-song.

A sergeant of the D.C.L.I. had a fearful shell wound in his thigh, which has gone wrong, and as the trouble is too high for amputation they will have their work cut out to save his life. They were getting out of the trench for a bayonet charge, and he had just collected his men when he was hit; so the officer "shook hands with him" and went on with the charge, leaving him and another man, wounded in the leg, in the trench. They stayed there several hours with no dressings on, sinking into the mud (can you wonder it has gone wrong?), until another man turned up and helped them out; then they walked to the Regimental Aid Post, 200 yards away, helped by the sound man. There they were dressed and had the anti-tetanus serum injection, and were taken by stretcher-bearers to the next Dressing Station, and thence by horse ambulance to the Field Ambulance, and then by motor ambulance to where we picked them up. There are lots of F.'s regiment wounded.

Friday, February 19th.—We left B. at 5 A.M. to-day, and were delayed all the morning farther up by one of the usual French collisions. A guard had left his end of a train and was on the engine; so he never noticed that twelve empty trucks had come uncoupled and careered down a hill, where they were run into and crumpled up by a passenger train. The guard of that one was badly injured (fractured spine), but the passengers only shaken.

At St Omer Miss M. and Major T. and I were being shown over the Khaki Train when ours moved off. There was a wild stampede; the Khaki Train had all its doors locked, and we had miles to go inside to get out. Their orderlies shouted to ours to pull the communication cord—the only way of appealing to the distant engine; so it slowed down, and we clambered breathlessly on. We are side-tracked now at the jolly place of the Moor and the Wireless Lorries; probably move on in the night.

Saturday, February 20th, 9 P.M.—We've had a very unsatisfactory day, loading up at four different places, and still on our way down. I'm just going to lie down, to be called at 2 A.M. Now we're four: two go to bed for the whole night and the other two take the train for half the night when we have a light load, as to-day. If they are all bad cases, we have two on and two off for the two watches. We have some Indians on to-day, but most British, and not many blesses.

The other day a huge train of reinforcements got divided by mistake: the engine went off with all the officers, and the men had a joy-ride to themselves, invaded the cafes, where they sometimes get half poisoned, and in half an hour's time there was a big scrap among themselves, with fifty casualties. So the story runs.

A humane and fatherly orderly has just brought me a stone hot-water bottle for my feet as I write this in the rather freezing dispensary coach in the middle of the train, in between my rounds. All the worst cases and the Indians were put off at B., and the measles, mumps, and diphtherias, so there isn't much to do; some are snoring like an aeroplane.

Monday, February 22nd.—We got a short walk yesterday evening after unloading at Rouen. There was a glorious sunset over the bridge, and the lights just lighting up, and Rouen looked its beautifulest. We slept at Sotteville, and this morning Sister and I walked down the line into Rouen and saw the Paymaster and the Cathedral, and did some shopping, and had a boiled egg and real butter and tea for lunch, and came back in the tram. Sister S. is in bed with influenza.

The lengthening days and better weather are making a real difference to the gloom of things, and though there is a universal undercurrent of feeling that enormous sacrifices will have to be made, it seems to be shaping for a step farther on, and an ultimate return to sanity and peace. It is such a vast upheaval when you are in the middle of it, that you sometimes actually wonder if every one has gone mad, or who has gone mad, that all should be grimly working, toiling, slaving, from the firing line to the base, for more Destruction, and for more highly-finished and uninterrupted Destruction, in order to get Peace. And the men who pay the cost in intimate personal and individual suffering and in death are not the men who made the war.

Wednesday, February 24th.—We have been all day in Boulogne, and move up at 8.15 this evening, which means loading up after breakfast and perhaps unloading to-morrow evening. It has given Sister S. another day to recover from her attack of influenza.

Have been busy one way and another all day, but went for a walk after tea and saw over the No.— G.H. at the Casino—a splendid place, working like clockwork. Lots of bad cases, but they all look clean and beautifully cared for and rigged up.

Thursday, February 25th.—Moved up to the place with the moor during the night. Glorious, clear, sunny morning. Couldn't leave the train for a real walk, as there were no orders.

This time last year the last thing one intended to do was to go and travel about France for six months, with occasional excursions into Belgium!

'The Times' sometimes comes the next day now.

9 P.M.—The ways of French railways are impenetrable: in spite of orders for Bailleul before lunch, we are still here, and less than ever able to leave the train for a walk.

This is the fourth day with no patients on—the longest "off" spell since before Christmas. It shows there's not much doing or much medical leakage.

Friday, February 26th.—We loaded up this morning with a not very bad lot (mine all sitters except some enterics, a measles, and a diphtheria), and are on our way down again.

I am all ready packed to get off at B. if my leave is in Major M.'s office.

Saturday, February 27th, 9 P.M., Hotel at Boulogne.—All the efforts to get my seven days' leave have failed, as I thought they would.

Wednesday, March 3rd, Boulogne.—There is not a great deal to do or see here, especially on a wet day.

Friday, March 5th, 5 P.M.—On way down from Chocques—mixed lot of woundeds, medicals, Indians, and Canadians.

I have a lad of 24 with both eyes destroyed by a bullet, and there is a bad "trachy."

Nothing very much has been going on, but the German shells sometimes plop into the middle of a trench, and each one means a good many casualties.

10 P.M.—We've had a busy day, and are not home yet.

My boy with the dressings on his head has not the slightest idea that he's got no eyes, and who is going to tell him? The pain is bad, and he has to have a lot of morphia, with a cigarette in between.

We shall probably not unload to-night, and I am to be called at 2 A.M.

The infectious ward is full with British enterics, dips., and measles, and Indian mumpies.

Saturday, March 6th, Boulogne.—Instead of being called at 2 for duty, was called at 1 to go to bed, as they unloaded us at that hour.

Last night we pulled up at Hazebrouck alongside a troop train with men, guns, and horses just out from the Midlands.

Two lads in a truck with their horses asked me for cigarettes. Luckily, thanks to the Train Comforts Fund's last whack, I had some. One said solemnly that he had a "coosin" to avenge, and now his chance had come. They both had shining eyes, and not a rollicking but an eager excitement as they asked when the train would get "there," and looked as if they could already see the shells and weren't afraid.

Sunday, March 7th.—We are stuck in the jolly place close to G.H.Q., but can't leave the train as there are no orders. I've been having a French class, with the wall of the truck for a blackboard, and occasional bangs from a big gun somewhere.

Tail-end of Monday, March 8th.—On way down to Etretat, where No.— G.H. is, which we shall reach to-morrow about tea-time. A load of woundeds this time; very busy all day till now (midnight), and haven't had time to hear many of their adventures. They seem to all come from a line of front where the Boches are persistently hammering to break through, and though they don't get any forrarder they cause a steady leakage. We heard guns all the while we were loading. A dressing-station five miles away had just been shelled, and a major, R.A.M.C., killed and two other R.A.M.C. officers wounded.

I have a man wounded in eight places, including a fractured elbow and a fractured skull, which has been trephined. What is left of him that hasn't stopped bullets is immensely proud of his bandages! He was one of nineteen who were in a barn when a shell came through the roof and burst inside, spitting shrapnel bullets all over them; all wounded and one killed. We have just put off an emergency case of gas gangrene, temp. 105, who came on as a sitter! They so often say after a bad dressing, "I'm a lot of trouble to ye, Sister."

Later.—Just time for a line before I do another round and then call my relief. It is an awfully cold night.

Tuesday, March 9th, 12 noon.—We are passing through glorious country of wooded hills and valleys, with a blue sky and shining sun, and all the patients are enjoying it. It is still very cold, and there is a little snow about. They call their goatskin coats "Teddy Bears." One very ill boy, wounded in the lungs, who was put off at Abbeville, was wailing, "Where's my Mary Box?" as his stretcher went out of the window. We found it, and he was happy.

Wednesday, March 10th.—We got to Etretat at about 3 P.M. yesterday after a two days' and one night load, and had time to go up to the hospital, where I saw S. The Matron was away. We only saw it at night last time, so it was jolly getting the afternoon there. The sea was a thundery blue, and the cliffs lit up yellow by the sun, and with the grey shingle it made a glorious picture to take back to the train. It had been a heavy journey with bad patients, and we were rather tired, so we didn't explore much.

We woke at Sotteville near Rouen this morning, and later in the day had a most fatiguing and much too exciting adventure over catching the train. Two of the Sisters and I walked into Rouen about 10.30, and found No.— A.T. marked up as still at Sotteville (in the R.T.O.'s office), and so concluded it would be there all day. So we did our businesses of hair-washing, Cathedral, lunch, &c., and then took the tram back to Sotteville. The train had gone! The Sotteville R.T.O. (about a mile off) told us it was due to leave Rouen loaded up for Havre at 2.36; it was then 2.15, and it was usually about three-quarters of an hour's walk up the line (we'd done it once this morning), so we made a desperate dash for it. Sister M. walks very slowly at her best, so we decided that I should sprint on and stop the train, and she and the other follow up. The Major met me near our engine, and was very kind and concerned, and went on to meet the other two. The train moved out three minutes after they got on. Never again!—we'll stick on it all day rather than have such a narrow shave.

We are full of convalescents for Havre to go straight on to the boat. They are frightfully enthusiastic about the way the British Army is looked after in this war. "There's not much they don't get for us," they said.

There are crowds of primroses out on the banks. Our infant R.A.M.C. (Officer's Mess) cook (a boy of about twenty, who looks sixteen and cooks beautifully) has just jumped off the train while it was going, grabbed a handful of primroses, and leapt on to the train again some coaches back. He came back panting and rosy, and said, "I've got some for you, Sister!" We happened not to be going fast, but there was no question of stopping. I got some Lent lilies in Rouen, and have some celandines growing in moss, so it looks like spring in my bunk.

Thursday, March 11th.—Yesterday we took a long time getting to the ship from R., and unloaded at 10 P.M. Why we had no warning about the departure of the train (and so nearly got left behind) was because it was an emergency call suddenly to clear the hospitals at R. to make room for 600 more expected from the Front.

We are being rushed up again without being stopped at Rouen for the first time on record, so I suppose there is a good deal doing. (There was—at Neuve Chapelle.)

It is a comfort to remember that the men themselves don't grudge or question what happens to them, and the worse they're wounded the more they say, "I think I'm lucky; my mate next me got killed."

The birds are singing like anything now, and all the buds are coming out, and the banks and woods are a mass of primroses.

Friday, March 12th.—We came straight through Boulogne in the night, and have been stuck half way to the Front all day; I don't know why.

Saturday, March 13th.—We woke at the railhead for Bethune this morning, and cleared there and at the next place, mostly wounded and some Indians.

It was frightfully interesting up there to-day; we saw the famous German prisoners taken at Neuve Chapelle being entrained, and we could hear our great bombardment going on—the biggest ever known in any war. The feeling of Advance is in the air already, and even the wounded are exulting in it. The Indians have bucked up like anything. We are on our way down now, and shall probably unload at B.

No time for more now.

11 P.M.—We unloaded at B. by 10 P.M., and are now on our way up again; shortest time we've ever waited—one hour after the last patient is off. A.T.'s have been tearing up empty and back full all day, and are all being unloaded at B., so that they can go quickly up again. B. has been emptied before this began.

They were an awfully brave lot of badly woundeds to-day, but they always are. Just now they don't mind anything—even getting hit by our artillery by mistake. Some of them who were near enough to see the effect of our bombardment on the enemy's trenches say they saw men, legs, and arms shot into the air. And the noise!—they gasp in telling you about it. "You could never believe it," they say. An officer told me exactly how many guns from 9.2's downwards we used, all firing at once. And poor fat Germans, and thin Germans, and big Germans, and little Germans at the other end of it.

A man of mine with his head shattered and his hand shot through was trephined last night, and his longitudinal sinus packed with gauze. He was on the train at 9 this morning, and actually improved during the day! He came to in the afternoon enough to remark, as if he were doing a French exercise, "You-are-a-good-Nurse!" The next time he woke he said it again, and later on with great difficulty he gave me the address of his girl, to whom I am to write a post-card. I do hope they'll pull him through.

Sunday, March 14th, 4 P.M.—Just bringing down another load. I have a hundred and twenty wounded alone; the train is packed.

No time for more—the J.J.'s are swarming.

We unloaded at B. yesterday evening, and were off again within an hour or two.

Monday, March 15th, 2.30 A.M.—Woke up just as we arrived at Bailleul to hear most incessant cannonade going on I ever heard, even at Ypres. The sky is continually lit up with the flashes from the guns—it is a pitch-dark night—and you can hear the roar of the howitzers above the thud-thud of the others. I think we are too far N. for there to be any French 75's in it. I had to wake Sister D. to see it, as she had never seen anything like it before. We are only a few miles away from it.

Must try and sleep now, as we shall have a heavy day to-day, but it is no lullaby.

4.30 P.M.—Just time for a scrawl. The train is packed with wounded, most of whom, including the poor sitting-ups, are now dead asleep from exhaustion. The British Army is fighting and marching all night now. The Clearing Hospitals get 800 in at a time, many with no dressings on. We have twenty-seven officers on this train alone.

I have a boy of 22 with both legs off. He is dazed and white, and wants shifting very often. Each time you fix him up he says, "That's champion."

Forty of them were shelled in their billets.

The Germans are said to be, some of them, fighting in civilian clothes till they get their uniforms. The men say there are hundreds of young boys and old men among them; they are making a desperate effort and bringing everything they've got into it now.

Later.—We also have mumps, measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria in the infectious coach.

A baby lieut. with measles showed me some marvellous sketch-maps of German trenches and positions he'd made from observations through a periscope. He also had the very latest thing in sectional war maps, numbered in squares, showing every tree, farm, and puddle and trench: a place with four cross-roads was called "Confusion Corner," leading to a farm called "Rest-and-be-Thankful."

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