Edith Elizabeth Appleton Diaries - Volume 4
[N.B.: These pages have been proof read but we expect to add useful footnotes at some point.]
I returned to Abbeville from leave - June 15th & found orders awaiting
me to proceed forthwith to No 3 Gen. Hosp.
June 24th. We have had a continuous big wind
storm since I last wrote - this morning seems a wee bit calmer -
Although the sea is still very rough - A sister went a joy ride to
Abbeville yesterday - they had Fritz over twice during the day - so were
probably bombed again last night - I wish they would send the few
remaining sisters away from there. It is very trying having your night’s
rest shortened to two or three hours. My ward is lighter than it was -
we have sent about 16 patients to England - The poor “gassed” boy has
died - & the one with bomb wounds is better, may live, but is still quite off his
June 25th. I awoke this morning to find the
weather had changed from very rough - high wind & sea - to a gentle
breeze & sea dead calm - If I were an artist - I would show you what I
can see from my window - The cliff edge - with many crows very busy
along it - & beyond - a big, wide stretch of calm grey blue sea - one
little steamer & about a dozen fishing smacks getting on with their
June 28th. We had a Convoy in yesterday - I
only took 8 of them. Some nasty wounds - 2 with appendicitis - one a New
Zealander who has been in the war since 1914. He thinks Taff [Edie’s
youngest brother, Alfred James Appleton (but known as Taff or Jim) was
born 19 January 1887 and went to South Africa and later to New Zealand]
must be at Doullens- as all the N.Z.ers are there. I hope he is - as at
the moment that part of the line is quiet - if you can call any
part of it quiet.
June 29th. When I got down to breakfast
yesterday, everyone was asking if I were kept awake long - by the air
raid warning - a bugle call - & saying how many hours they were kept
awake - etc – etc. I lay dead low - as I had slept through it all. The
morning before I was wakened by Bosche planes passing overhead - that is
a noise once heard, never slept through I think - & tonight - I was up
like a bird at what I thought was a bomb - but as I heard no planes or
other excitement, think it must have been a door banging. It ought to be
a punishable crime - to bang a door in these days.
June 30th. The poor suicide girl was buried
July 1st. Today - is Dominian Day with the
Canadians which probably accounts for the band & cheering I heard a
short while ago - 6 a.m.
July 3rd. The Canadian’s Sports went off well -
I did not go - but those who did - say so, & they gave a good concert in
July 5th. This is my day off. Thought I would
sleep late, but Nature can’t do with such irregular habits - & it was
business as usual at 5 a.m. A great blow! some one is sharing my room -
& it makes early rising rather an agony as I am afraid of waking her. A
staff nurse - quite nice - she objected to sharing rooms with the one
she was supposed to - a Bart’s contemporary of mine & an absolute Prize
grouser - so - if I get tired of this child - I know what to do - start
bemoaning my Fate - & perhaps she will again ask to be moved. Major
Martyn is working at Etaples now - No 24. He likes the work by day - but
does not like spending hours in a dug out at night.
Now I must call my room mate.
July 6th. Had a delightful day off yesterday. Breakfast 8.45 a.m. brought by my kind ward V.A.D.s. Sewed & enjoyed myself until 10 o’c, then dressed & prepared lunch - for two of us - Hansard - the other - & at 11.30 - we started for a long walk - to the Woods of Eu. Post arrived just as we were starting, & so I took my 3 unopened to enjoy at leisure! The day was very fine & calm - & the way there along pleasant country roads. The Woods themselves are EXquisite. The property belongs to the Count d’Eu - very large & beautiful grounds & woods & a fine old Chateau! He is poor - & has let the place to the English - but as far as we could see, no one was in it - & we seemed to have it all to ourselves.
7/7/18. We chose a pleasant slope under some pine trees, the pine
smell pleased us - & the midges & flies do not like it - The birds were
singing joyfully - & a squirrell was very busy in the tree above us -
quite big sticks & all sorts of debris were constantly hurtling down
round us - We could see him up there. After lunch - ham - sandwiches,
cheese - & tea - we sat & enjoyed our surroundings for an hour & a half
- & then
walked on to Eu. It is a quaint, very old place I should think a
gay place in ordinary times. Close round the Count’s chateau, are many
very fine old houses with large grounds. Besides them there is the
small village – the College & its chapel - & the old Notre Dame church a
very fine structure. The only date we could see anywhere on the
building was 1308. Perhaps it was built then. We came back by tram –
in time for first dinner, & a dramatic performance given by the
Amercians. The orchestra was enjoyable - & the piece funny.
6 a.m. 8/7/15. Fog bank still there & I am in clear air & bright sunshine. There are some vessels so close – we can hear rattling of machines, but cannot see a thing of them. The original is much more beautiful & soft & billowy than the picture would lead you to believe.
9/7/18. Yesterday was a boiling day. Sea dead calm. I took my first plunge - & enjoyed it A.1. Bought a gown from Sister Hansard & made up my mind all on the spur of the moment. She is about 2 sizes taller & bigger round than me – So I cut off a good bit of the skirt of the coat – that was all right. Made a deep tuck in the body of the trousers, & made them short enough – never thought about the elastic being too loose - & when I began to swim – the way of the sea nearly washed them off – I had to swim two strokes – pull up my breeches - & so forth & so on- but they did keep on all right. For a change, this morning is stormy – but quite warm. Hope it is true – that the Germans are suffering so many losses of men through influenza that they cannot attack, more the merrier, because in the meantime the Americans are still arriving.
14th July. – last Thursday – I
had a lovely walk along the sands – shoes & stockings off – It was very
beautiful, the varying lights & colours of the setting sun – reflected
on the Cliffs & wet sand & rocks were beautiful – people were out
crabbing & shrimping – quite tiny crabs they use for food.
July 16th. I took 15 patients only from the
convoy - but most of them were badly wounded - One poor thing had a shot
across the back - from side to side - & it seems to have left a furrow
of about 4 inches across & very deep. He is D.I. very cheerful - lying
on his water bed - says he is as comfortable as a ship at sea. Another
one S.I. has a gash across the left chest - & a biggish piece of
shrapnel in his lung. He belongs to the Tank Corps - & says going over
the top in a Tank is “great”. Telling me about one attack he said “A
hundred tanks went over - each tank has a crew of 6 + 1 officer - each
one has his allotted job - we just go on until we see the infantry held
up somewhere - then we make straight for the place & fire on the MG nest
- & if they won’t shift - we ride over them.”
The Bosches opened up on a 50 mile front on the 15th
– against the French & Americans. I think they made a poor show – they
threw in 40 of their best Divisions, but did not come on much – and by
the end of the first day the attack was counted “broken.” I think the
French Airmen didn’t give them much chance of bringing up supplies &
reinforcements in comfort. The Americans made a brilliant counter attack
at one place & drove the enemy back. Our counter preparation artillery
fire seems to have upset them also & killed large numbers of them who
were assembled to make the attack – but I hope before the end of the
Battle they will get more than that.
We sent several patients to England today – so shall be pretty slack –
Up to the present the news keeps good. The British are in it now
– near Reims - & are doing as well as the French & Americans are South.
The Italians are with us.
I heard a convoy arrive in the night – I wonder what came – our last
batch are doing well – the Mother of the boy with g.g. is here - & the
one with the badly wounded chest is extraordinarily better in spite of –
as shown by X ray – having a large piece of metal near the 1st
sacral vertabra, which has fractured one of the bones of the pelvis &
another biggish piece in his chest! They cannot possibly operate, until
he is able to breathe a bit better.
He changed some part of it while I was watching - & it seem to burn his
he put it down in a mighty hurry. He was a careful cutter, & all
the little bits from the pattern were cut into small squares - to go
behind buttons, or something. Behind him came a girl - with a huge
bundle of self-edge - of calico. She tied all the different parts in
bundles. Then came a trolley & neat bundles of front sleeves - back
sleeves - shoulder straps - backs - & fronts - were piled up on it - to
be taken to the machinists I suppose. I could not see them.
July 27th. Weather still noteable for
devastating heavy showers of rain & hail. Yesterday a sister -
McCorqudale & I had half days - took our tea & went for a most glorious
walk. To Eu by tram - then straight out & up - up - up - all the way -
first through cultivated land - then woodland. When we had walked what
seemed to us about 4 miles we came upon an old man - tidying up a
château garden - Château - as most, closed. We asked if we were nearly
at “La Madeleine” - our destination. He laughed and said he hoped we
were not in a hurry - as we had “encore cinq kilometres”! More than
three miles more! We had plenty of time, so didn’t mind a bit - & went
on - still up hill for a little way - then a gentle down - through
heather clad moorland - & then La Madeleine!
July 29th. An old friend of mine appeared here
yesterday. She is going on leave - from her train - A.T. no 20
which brought us a convoy last night.
July 30th. I have come to
the conclusion that we are so high up – that
we do occasionally get that cloud
effect. Here it is this morning. I am looking down on to a leaden sea
with bunches of soft cumulus cloud over it - a long strip of (cirus ?)
cloud at the horizon & here I am in the clear pink melon colour of
sunrise - never a cloud.
July 31st. Yesterday was wonderful – from a spectacular point of view – the sea – for the whole enormous spread of it that we can see – like glass. I should think hundreds of fishing boats were out – chiefly sitting in the one place – with all their sails up – not moving an inch. They are about the size of Deal luggers – & have all coloured sails – blue – red – brown – white. Think of them all in reflection! If it hadn’t been upside down you wouldn’t have known which was boat - & which was reflection – some drifted home to harbour - & as soon as they were near enough sent a long tow rope ashore in the dingy - & a long line to men & women pulled them in – they had a fine catch of mackerel.
I wonder how Fred is getting on. I think he will like it. I have had
glorious bathes yesterday & the day before. Yesterday – a non batheing
friend & I walked to Mesnil Val – where is a huge Con. Camp & Rest
Camp. The water there was thick with bathers – but we turned sharp to
the right & walked along to where there was not a soul on the shore - &
lovely little cliff caves to undress in.
I heard yesterday that Boulogne had been badly raided the night before –
The Bosche got through the barrage & did pretty much as he liked – Hotel
Devereux (D.M.S. – H.Q.) burnt to the ground – a Food Store - & a Detail
Camp – luckily very little loss of life – which is a great thing to be
I had a very pleasant half day on Saturday. Sister Payne & I
took tea to Mesnil Val – walked there over the cliff – then came back –
under it – until we found a quite deserted spot. The tide was at its
lowest, but after walking – for what seemed like 1/2 a mile over sand &
rocks & pools I came to a deep basin into which every wave dashed. I
bathed there - & had a thorough swirling – it was lovely – I did not go
out to sea as I was alone – sea strong – rocks unknown. We thought as
it looked to be working up for a storm – the S. W. sky was deep violet &
spreading – we would walk home by the coast as a short cut. We found
our mistake – when every inch was over rocks & pebbles - & it was
somehow much further. The storm raced us - & gave us a drenching before
we got home. My coat now looks like nothing on Earth.
Aug 4th. Since the last entry we have been
fairly evenly busy - a convoy every day but one - I heard that a million
men were to go over the top, & I am deeply wondering if A.J.A. will be
one - good luck to the boy! He will be sorry if he does not go - & with
Tommy I say - if there is no bullet with his number on - he won’t get
it. Good luck - to them.
Aug 10th. Many happy returns of the day to
Yesterday was a good old time busy day. Convoys in, convoys out –
patients going to the theatre – others to be X-rayed. It was for a
time, a whirl of men with stretchers. We had some very badly wounded in
– those who were left behind in C.C.Ss. or F.As. when we got the slight
This “push” is a very steady going one. We have had 3 & 4 trains a day
in since it began. Everywhere is crowded out. Those fit to travel go
almost straight on to Blighty, but we are accumulating a heavy residue
of those “unfit”. In my ward I have 10 D.I. & S.I. 3 bad spine cases,
one fractured skull & so the work if anything becomes heavier.
My ward – is rather a sad place just now – so full of extremely badly
wounded – plenty of gas gangrene – 2 fractured spines – dying & a room –
which is very difficult to ventilate. One feels the horrible smell in
one’s throat & nose all the time – poor old things! They are very good
– one died yesterday – an Australian – his leg was very gangrenous & had
to be taken off high up – but it was too far gone. His one cry was to
get up - & go out, he was quite all right – then about 1/2 an hour
before he died he settled down – said “I’m done – I’m dying fast “ & he
was quite right. It is very sad for these Colonials with their people so
far away – but when he was off his head – I think he thought I was his
Mother – from the way he hugged & kissed my hand – Well – so long as he
does not get a great disappointment in a lucid interval I do not mind.
The news is keeping very good – long may it last.
Aug 19th. Our last
convoy was a heavy one – of gassed men. I only took eleven but eleven
such as they added to my already very busy ward means a lot. The two
poor spines are dying so slowly – one an old Sgt is quite happily
rambling on to his wife a queer old fish who looks reproachfully &
almost reprovingly at him - for dying - in broad Lancashire “I did not
think he would die”!
Aug 22nd. St. Bartholomew’s Day. I wonder if
the children will get their buns - don’t suppose there will be many
plums in them - if any, but it is the bun - that is the joy. One spine
case died yesterday. His wife was with him. Dear simple soul - it was
very pathetic, & she suffered untold anguish but Grief is strange - the
heart enveloped in it is constantly finding little peepholes of comfort,
& occasions for rejoicing. The poor thing would weep that she was losing
a good husband, then: “but his Colonel was proud of him, & is going to
write to me, and then it’ll all be in the paper!” Then she would be
sorry again - & then - “All Accrington will know of him - it’ll all be
in the papers” [-] “Ah well - I’m glad I’ve seen the last of him - I
shall be more content.” He - Sgt. Partlin, was only 35, I thought from
looking at him he was about 50. War does age them. I heard a good
argument from that other Sgt. I told you about who ran away from the
Navy - in favour - of being 2 parts drunk - when you “go over the bags.”
He is a man who has done well - & won medals. To begin with - if you’re
wounded - you don’t bleed as much - 2nd - You are quite sensible enough
to know what is expected of you - & you do the job - with a crest high
spirit - & daring - minus fear.
27th Aug. The battles are
raging – hot & strong & up to date of yesterday – there seemed to be no
holding back the allies – God speed them still! Our boy [younger
brother, Taff] is in the thick of it at Bapaume – at least so I
imagine – a New Zealander I have in told me the whole Division was there
– which of course includes Pte 54268. It is a difficult part of the
line & I’m wishing the whole bloody war at an end - & all the boys
Thank God! The news keeps good – we have no breathing time between
trains, & trains & more trains – how the whole British Army is not at
the different Bases by now I don’t know.
Bullecourt has been taken – and lost –Peronne is ours – and lots of
other places - Roye – Noyon – Mont St Quentin – lots of prisoners taken!
& still the tide of wounded comes in & passes on – to England, or to its
last resting place. September is here & the War not nearly ended – God
speed the Allies to do something to stop it before it’s 5th
The Battle proceeds – all along the line & in Russia - one feels
breathless & nervous of shouting too soon but up to yesterday the Allies
were sweeping forward, All hospitals are kept at top speed – receiving &
passing on wounded – all those not likely to be fit to fight in 10 days
– Blighty – others C.C. Even so they say thanks to aeroplanes & tanks,
our casualties are light for the Victories won.
The busy time continues although the last two train loads have had quite
a percentage of what we call “I.C.T.” that is such things as poisoned
sore – or tears of barbed wire – but an empty bed is still an unknown
thing. I don’t know how the soldiers keep it up but I think hospital
staffs are beginning to feel a bit done – but still we would much rather
them get on with the war – If it means ending it sooner. We have got
the funniest old Scot in the ward – shot through the stomach – has to be
dressed often. He knows each time exactly how he wants to be laid &
tells us – “on ma right side – with ma bxttxm theyre” – or sometimes he
does not say which side. “Poot ma bxttxm theyre, & I’ll be right” so we
do exactly as he says & he is quite content.
12th Pouring rain! This will put a stopper on our “Push” but I fancy we are in better position than the Bosche. Looking down a row of beds yesterday – No. 1 was an Australian – 2 a S. African - 3 a N. Z.er – 4 a Scot – 5 & 6 Canadians – 7. Irish – 8 E[nglish] – 9 Portuguese – after that it became more monotonous.
Very rough weather – I was in & out of bed a dozen times shutting the
window for rain – opening it again at last, knowing it was only heavy
showers. I tucked my head under my R. [right] arm – when it
rained - the bed & floor & everything blows quite dry in the tween
times. Yesterday’s paper reported the Germans counter attacking. I do
hope we shall get St. Quentin before the Winter sets in. It is a
beautiful touzled morning – black & copper clouds & a rough sea.
Sept 19th The last few days
have been quieter although busy. All our American Sisters & 3 of our
own have been taken – an old friend of mine of 45 C.C.S. days has come
here for duty. She went on leave from her Ambulance train & asked for a
move when she came back. The strain was too great for her – most nights
in dug outs, & no steady work to counterbalance things.
Sept 24th The morning is beautiful. Golden red clouds making golden red patches on the steely calm sea & little ships sailing past - & it is cold & lovely. News up to date is good - work steady & quite enough of it.
25th Had a half day off
yesterday & enjoyed it. Went with Sister Payne in the afternoon to the
pier – tide was very high & rough yet many people were fishing. There
was a school of sprats in the sea & it was a case of catch who catch
could, between the fishers on the pier & the porpoises in the sea. They
used no bait – simply lowered a line, with many hooks on & drew it up
with the little sprats hanging on. One man had a sort of shrimp net
which he lowered deep – by the four corners – but he hadn’t much luck.
Oct 1st Weather cold & stormy
– I thought even this hotel would be blown away last night but after all
it has stood 6 years – perhaps it will manage one or two more. It was
built by the Germans – I think I told you – I expect they thought it
would be a good observation place for when they took Le Tréport.
2 Oct. Many happy returns to Guy! I am enjoying myself very much this
morning. It is still grey dawn, the clouds as yet have not a tinge of
colour, but soon they will be putting on little dabs of gold &
heliotrope & all sorts.
We are living through stirring times. Three mornings ago “Bulgaria has
asked for Peace at our price” was on every one’s lips. Yesterday -
“Turkey is going to give in” - & today - “The Central Powers have asked
President Wilson for a 2 months armistice.” They must not be
granted it! Oh I do hope no one will be in favour of it!
We had some cavalry men down with our last batch. One was telling
me what a surprise they gave the Germans - at the turn of the tide of
War on the Amiens front. There were four Divisions of Cavalry following
the Infantry & as soon as a breach was made - through they went – & had
a clear run of nearly 9 miles. Then they dismounted & dug themselves in
- The Germans apparently ignorant of them having broken through. They
saw three Fritzs bicycling towards Amiens & took them & found out from
them where their Bgde [Brigade] H.Q. was. They found it &
captured it. They found a “Leave” train full of men going on leave -
Shot the engine driver - made all the men prisoners. Also they found an
Ambulance train - again - shot the driver & took the complete train -
apparently there were chiefly sisters on board - no wounded - the
sisters were sent down the line & subsequently returned to their own
land. Another man I had in - with a knee so bad that he will most
likely lose the leg - told me that he was a prisoner with the Germans
for a few days & he was never given even a drink of water the whole time
& his wound was not dressed - hence its badness. That I forgive them -
they probably do as we do - our own first - & God help them! do they
ever get to the end of their own? They have enough - & judging by the
ones we have - each badly wounded man is enough to get on with. Whether
they left their worst for us or not I don’t know - but they are blown to
bits - & torn to ribbons - inside & out.
Great excitement yesterday over the newspaper heading “Kaiser’s
Cabinet gives in” & we are all wondering just what it means. The Hun is
no more sorry for what he has done now - than he was 4 years ago. Of
that all are certain - and as to saying he agrees to vacate Belgium -
The fool! agrees! There’s not much “agrees” about it. He is being made
to do it - every minute of his life - and at top speed. Dirty dogs every
one of them. They want an armistice & time to prepare some foul new
device of Satan to launch at us. An arrogant Prussian officer here was
saying yesterday - boastingly - “It has taken the whole world to move
us.” They are dirty dogs every one of them (Prussians). We had an airman
officer to dine with us last night. He says there are no first class
Germans now & their planes are made of bad material - propellers of
coarse rough wood - instead of polished mahogany! He was a gentleman &
not an evil speaker of his kind but he did say that in the early war
days the German flying men showed considerable chivalry but that now
that was sadly lacking - & they did very ill tricks in the air.
Oct 15th. Many happy returns of the Day to Bud.
Oct 18th. Not useing newspaper talk, or authorities ideas or thinking it
out one bit in my own brain - I hope we shall not give the
Germans Peace yet, for the one
reason that the men, one & all are fiercely against it and it is
they who bear the brunt – if they feel they can stand a little more of
it, why should they be held back. They feel they have not yet hit hard
enough for the dirty mean brutal tricks played by the very unhonourable
enemy. Given another few months they may make a far more satisfactory
job of it.
Oct 19th I was off last
evening & had to go to town for my coat. It was nearly dark when I got
there & there were huge flags flying! I wondered what on Earth for but
I soon found! The people were rejoicing over the retaking of Lille –
Ostend & Bruges – Lille especially. Little urchins were marching through
the town with improvised bands – drums – voices & whistles – but it
sounded joyful. Many of the inhabitants here are refugees
from somewhere the Bosches invaded.
The news yesterday was good – but didn’t make such splashy headlines as
Oct 24th Miss Williams –
Assistant Matron – & I went to the Army School At Home ……did we enjoy
There was another interesting photograph of a part where the
Americans had been holding the line. They had to advance over a canal
which ran underground for about 2,000 yds.
Getting up time – misty morning.
25th Many happies to
Oct. 27th Some C.I.R.
(Canterbury Inf. Reg.) came down on yesterday’s convoy – Taff is with
them – one of them told me they left their place of short rest last
Tuesday night to be ready for the attack on Wed. They had a hard
hot time. I wish he knew Taff – but he does not.
Sister Nicol had a letter from an Officer who passed through
Achiet [Achiet-le-Grand or Achiet-le-Petit] a little while ago & who was a patient of hers there in 1917. I
read the letter - he said “Do you know - I spent the night where the old
45 CCS used to be. It is now a scene of devastation & ruin - it made me
feel very sad - the Officers Ward where I spent so many happy hours is
just a tumbled ruin. I could just recognise where your little bunk used
to be. And then the Sisters Mess! The only recognisable thing was the
fireplace which I remember being built & the two little chimney corner
seats. The Mess was also marked “Believed to be mined - Not to enter”.
The hut where your room was was removed bodily & a disused machine gun
post had been ?busted? there.” So that’s that—
Oct 31st. Sister
Nicol has gone back to a C.C.S. & why have not I? I wrote to Miss
Wilton Smith yesterday & asked her not to let me become a shirker at the
base. I have had over a year at a base now. Still it is always best to
take what comes. A new Red Cape arrived yesterday with orders that she
was sent here as Assistant Matron. That means the present one must go &
every one will be terribly sorry.
Nov. 3 I am sorry to say Miss Williams - our Ass. Matron - has been
moved to 72 Gen at Trouville - thanks to those young villains who let
her down by dancing the other day. On Nov. 1st she & Matron & I walked
to La Madeleine to tea. I expect I have told you all about the place - a
glorious unspoiled forest, 7 kilometres beyond Eu. We went on All Saints
Day. All people were dressed up - finer than on Sunday - & were going in
huge groups & families to honour their dead - The cemeteries were a
blaze of flowers when they had finished.
Bulgaria entered Oct 1 - 1915. Armistice took effect Sept 30 1918
Turkey “ Nov 5th 1914. “ “ Oct 31st “
Austria “ July 28th-29th 1914. “ “ Nov 4th “
Germany “ “ “ “ “ Nov 11th “
There is a whole lot of peace talk going on but they don’t seem
to be getting on with it. The news has been absolutely glorious &
yesterday we have had lots of convoys down - chiefly not very severe
cases. & my head has been too much like a pumpkin with neuralgia - to
tell a single word of anything that may have happened - they have
swarmed in & swarmed out & some have had influenza & all are very
cheerful about the news.
Peace! Thank God for that!
Here endeth the fighting part of the War - GOD SAVE THE KING.
Nov 16th. On the 14th I was detailed to go as escort to a wounded Officer
- being transferred from here to a hosp[ital] in Paris. His
people live there.
The 13th. Sister H. W. & I had a good half day & walked to the Madeleine for tea. Yes - thank the Good God - we are nothing like as busy now - 20 of my beds have been taken down & put into store! So now I have only 40 beds & 40 patients & some of them will be going soon. It’s a funny thing - talking about “as thy day so shall thy strength be” while we were so busy - we could have any number of badly broken people each with 5 or six wounds & get on with it with a swing - now - it almost bores me to put on a simple fomentation.
Nov. 19th What a difference! I have only 40 beds in my ward now - instead
of 60 & the work is decreasing in heaviness. Of course we have & shall
have for some time - heavy surgical cases - in - but - it is a very
different matter nursing them, when they are well established - no shock
to contend with & no convoys in khaki all smothered in mud & blood -
straight through from the fight.
A very sudden & merry thing happened last night. Ten of the M.O.s took
themselves to a Peace dinner in the town - the rest were a little hurt
that they were neither told about it nor asked to it - so two of them
had an idea of being equal with them. Fled to Matron & asked her to come
& bring 7 sisters with her - to an impromptu dinner. I met Matron - as I
was on my way to dinner - wearing a worried look to find a 7th - she had
caught 6. So here went - instead of going to dinner at 7.15 I simply
flew back to my room - changed & was down before 1/2 past to join the
rest at the “Impromptu”. It was great fun - the A.D.M.S. & the D.A.D.M.S.
were both there & enjoyed the fun like anything. After dinner - Col.
Thorboon - the R.C. padre - S. Stephenson & I - played Bridge. Some
played the rowdyist game of vingt & un you ever heard & some sang. 11.15
- in came the diners out! & their expressions were a study! Mr. Marriott
- who took me in to dinner - has spent 17 years in China, & is most
interesting on the subject. If a Chinaman who is sentenced to death can
raise 50 Dollars (?) - he can always get some one
to take his place – many of them will accept 30 dollars & give up
their life in exchange, Also if you tip the executioner highly enough he
will do the job at one blow – otherwise he is not so particular.
Yesterday I had the day off & thoroughly enjoyed it. My kind people
sent up breakfast from the ward then until 10 o’c I chiefly slept – it
was too cold to put as much as a nose out of bed. Then I got up & Swanzy
& I went to the Casino to lunch & after joined several folk who had the
half day off. We walked through the Tank Camp to Bois de Cire. It was a
frosty afternoon with golden sunshine & the autumn tints showed up to
perfection. We went to a quaint little Hotel for tea which is kept by a
charming old man & his wife. They are rather a picturesque couple – he
played the gramophone to us while she prepared tea. It was quite dark
before we left & no moon & no lights made it a bit difficult to find the
way but we did all right & got home soon after 7 o’c. Early to bed &
slept like a log.
We sent off a batch of
wounded to Blighty two days ago & filled up with medical cases
Nov. 29th Nov. 26th I got orders to
proceed at once to No. 7 Stationary Boulogne for duty so I had to make a
sudden ending at Le Treport & come.
The night has been very cold & I missed my Cats’skin – must try for a
half day - & go & search for it.
Dec. 6th Boulogne – What a
life! I was just starting dressings in the ward this morning when
Matron came in & told me to go at once to 42 Ambulance Train for
temporary duty so I had to take off my rubber gloves & fly to my room to
pack up all my worldly belongings (that were not astray) & join this
train taking with me hand luggage only. The longer one lives in this
war - one learns to take less about. I brought no blankets & very few
clothes with me – wrapped in a ground sheet – my hold all being anywhere
We got to Etaples at
11 last night & loaded at 3 this morning – 291 patients – chiefly
stretchers – 90 repatriated prisoners of war – one of whom was taken
prisoner in 1914 in the Battle of the Marne. They do not seem in a bad
state. We can order special diet for them – bacon for breakfast – milk
pudding & fruit for dinner, sardines for tea. Also they are given an
extra ration of cigarettes & matches. We unloaded at Calais straight on
to the boat at 10 a.m. I dashed out & did a little shopping & we
started back to Fontainette near Calais before lunch. Some of the
prisoners looked quaint enough in civilian overcoats & odd woolen
tammies – odd in colouring – some half brown & half red & so forth.
Where we are now – [crossed out: I don’t know] [added:] we are
at Fontainette but our tanks are being filled which takes about 2 hours.
Mine is like a first class carriage
one side & the other has a wardrobe & dressing table. Of course there is
precious little room – you almost stand on your other foot when you walk
– but it is very comfortable.
Sunday 8th This morning reminded
me of 1914 the morning we arrived at Ostend. I woke – found the train
still – not a sound of any kind to be heard – then soon the clang of
Church bells! & I knew we were at a big town. We are lying in a siding
& our engine has left us. So perhaps we shall be able to get out & look
at the place – Tournai. It
looks a very big important place & from the number of railing lines &
telegraph lines must be a big junction. Days when there are no patients
on we live like millionaires – stay in bed until our batman calls us
with tea – breakfast not soon than 9 o’c. – breakfast leisurely - & then
go out to see the place!
Too tired to write more tonight. E.
We have stayed at Tournai all night, so have had a lovely undisturbed
They have embroidered
the words & picture in the middle & made them into all sorts of things.
The large coarse bags - they have made into floor mats.
We left Turlington [Could well be Terlincthun, which is near Boulogne. Ed] at about
tea time yesterday - were not able to leave the train all day as they
told us we might be off at any moment. Came to Lille making short stays
at St. Omer & Hazebrouck.
Dec 12th. We did not go out last night - left Ascq at 9.30 this morning & are now on our way to Tournai - not Ath - for a load. You may look out of the window at the myriads of lines & wonder why they hold us up every 1/2 hour or so to let some train pass - why can’t they send it along one of the other lines? they all look all right. They look all right, but as a matter of fact they are all wrong. The Bosche has rendered them all useless by taking out all bolts at the junctions & breaking off about 6 inches at the end of each length of rail. So if you look you see the rails are like this.
These Belgians are
thieves - There were many coal trucks standing alongside of us this
morning and I was simply amazed to see an army of Belgian women &
children arrive with sacks barrows & perambulators. They climbed into
the trucks, filled their sacks & cleared off with any amount of our
coal. Two Tommies were helping them too. Our O.C. says in some places it
is so bad that they keep armed guards by the coal trucks. What else of
our transport do they thieve I wonder.
Dec 13th. 3.30 a.m. I am taking the second half of the night this trip & we are
nearing Calais which means we shall reach Boulogne somewhere about 7
While we were loading at Tournai No 35 A.T. passed us also with a
light load. She had been to a place on 20 miles from the German
Dec. 14th We were at St. Pol
when we went to bed last night & expected to wake up at our destination
Montigny. To our surprise we were still moving & looking out found
ourselves passing through a vast coal mining district. Sister said “It
looks like Valenciennes” – still we looked. The first name we read was
“Jemappes” & looking it up on the map we found we were nearing Mons.
temporary plank bridges. The train seemed to be going dead slow &
very gently all through that part & it was very bumpy – that was the
worst knocked about part of all.
It has been a long & weary journey for the poor patients – 2 whole days
– but with luck we should be at Boulogne in an hour now.
We are busy in odd moments making paper roses for the Orderlies’ Christmas decorations. We may be where we can’t buy flowers, & anyway that cost nearly a franc apiece.
are being punished today for our sins of yesterday. Our O.C. had a bit
of a row with the R.T.O. [Railway Transport Officer. Ed]
at Boulogne & our train was not ready to start at its appointed time.
Consequently we lost our “marche” in the traffic and are being
constantly held up. Yesterday Sister & I went into Boulogne & I did a
few necessary shoppings - lunched at the Hotel Meurice & were back at 2
19th 9 a.m.
Waiting for breakfast. At 3 this morning we stopped at Charleroi & took
on a fresh engine & a vastly better driver & after that we made good
pace. The country a little past that looked lovely in the moonlight -
the canal or river (River Sempre [added later. Ed]) - I don’t
know which - very full to overflowing. What a blessing there is no
fighting for our fellows to suffer from the drenched & flooded country!
Through Trooz - La Brouck - along the winding road for miles. We saw the
New Zealand artillery on its way to Germany. There were infantry men
standing about & in the houses as if they were billetted there & not yet
underweigh for Germany. I waved hard on the chance of brother Taff being
anywhere near & reading our large “42 A.T.”
Later Here we are across the border again! & everywhere are the square
heads. Some wearing white armlets - a sign that they are in favour of
the Revolution I believe.
We have spent the whole day at Herbesthal waiting for an engine
to take us to Cologne. We have not been dull. In the morning I wrote
then we went for a short walk along the lines - not daring to go too far
in case the engine came on. After lunch we turned out our 6 Canadian
visitors & took them for a brisk walk up & down the line. One of them
had a camera - one film left - & we had great fun having a snapshot
taken. After that Sister Sumner & I set to work in earnest to make paper
flowers for Christmas then we changed & made ourselves smart & went to
tea with the Canadians. Mr. Lowery came too - the O.C. went for a long
sleep. The Can[adian] Sisters are a cheery crew & we had a gay
tea party. There is word now that we are to be taken on at 7-7 tonight.
It annoyed me, the other day to see the Belgians bold facedly stealing
sacks & sacks of coal from our trucks. I suppose really one is as bad as
another. Tonight I see our own Tommies are out pilfering lovely big
cabbages from 2 trucks of them - German property. Fraser the O.C.s
batman even brought one in to show me & told me they had not nearly
finished yet - they had only taken 4 so far!
[Dec] 20 We
lay at Herbesthal until 4 p.m. & then were taken back to Pepinster again
to load - starting loading at 6 p.m. We had a great time at Herbesthal &
I think the Germans working in offices round about have done very little
work - they have been too deeply interested in all the happenings.
I am on night duty tonight. We have about 400 odd on board & are to
fill up at Huy in about 1/2 an hour.
I was up until 3 a.m. We made a good run & were well through Namur when
I went to bed. We stopped at Huy for a load & to our surprise found no
patients. The C.C.S. had moved the day before & another A.T. had taken
all their patients.
The way we are going
today we go through Douai, Arras & St. Pol. The last time I was in Arras
& St Pol they didn’t look badly hurt. I expect there will be a big
That last run was the slowest I have known. The French had taken
control of the line the day before & were not quite used to it. We were
about 12 hours late & the patients overtired of their long journey. We
off loaded at Wimereux - waited there an hour or two - just time for us
to scuttle off & do a little shopping - then came to Étaples where we
4 a.m. We are taking
our load to Calais which should suit us rather well if all be well! Off
load about 11 a.m. – be free for the rest of the day – have our
Christmas dinner tonight. As I was walking through the train tonight I
was greeted with “hullo sister” & behold - two of my old patients! At
last on their way to Blighty! I am soon going to call Sister & shall
then turn in.
Christmas Day. A happy Christmas to all.
[Dec] 26th Christmas was a great
success with our men. They had a splendid dinner followed by a whist
drive in the afternoon.
Still no orders so we are still here. It is a filthy rainy day. I
have ironed all my clothes & written all my letters, & propose to do a
little shopping later if there is anything cheap enough to buy. Fancy!
eggs – 1 franc 20 centimes each.
The Fourth and final Volume ends here