The Casino Lechin, one of six sections of No. 2 General Hospital at Le Havre. Image: Imperial War Museum Q 10561
Hospital Ship Asturias
Other nurses in her diary
Information from the Army Lists 1914 & 1917, and The National Archives WO 399
October 1st - October 30th 1914 (starting at No. 2 General Hospital, and moving to Boulogne)
October 1st: Today they wd be popping at the “Long Tails” at home, we're all well, but now Davis has come to help me in my ward so now I have not so much to do. Underwood (my double pneum.) is better & beginning to get quite interested in things. I have to put his cigarettes & choc. by that the visitors bring him until he is better. It’s quite pathetic as he is simply longing for them. However I gave him some thin b. & butter & ½ a pear wh. he devoured. Such a lot of visitors this afternoon. M. Guillard (I don’t remember any of their names!) the deputy who took us in his car yesterday to see the Fr. hospital & Mme the senator’s wife & Mme Perquen the president of the Red X Societé here, & another Mme McCloud & her little girl May, & Mme the Soeur Supérieur of the Fr. hosp. & dear little Sister Aloysius, the Eng. sister whose wards we went round yesterday at the Fr. hosp. She is altogether charming, a saintly woman I should think with the most delicate & cultured soul & withal so human. I am going again to see her. I forgot to say at the Fr. hosp. the sisters give the anaesthetics not the Drs, that’s better than us! Miss Cox also came with them. They were v. much struck with the superiority of the pts’ slippers, also the bedsteads. Then another batch of Eng. ladies who had come over fr. Deauville brought the Tommies papers & cigarettes & matches. They had to have passports to come & their photos, & passports to go back, so it was most good of them to take all this trouble & bring them so many cigarettes (for they are v. dear in France) & I’m sure they were not rich. Then quite late an awfully Fr. lady I had met yesterday turned up with more cigarettes & flags for them & P.P.Cs. Mme Vevert is the daughter of the Colonel who is the head of all the hosps here. Her husband & both brothers are at the war but she is so brave & bright. She is also coming to see us again. Majeur Prisiliwitzi (Mme Vevert’s father). I went out for a short walk in the evng. & had a long talk with Mme Lambert at the photographer’s shop. My last snaps are quite good. I’ve ordered one for all the orderlies of the group I took of them. Sunset superb again. I walked home along the plage to enjoy it. It made me rather sad tonight & a bit “homie” sick! I don’t what we are going to do here when the winter comes. We have no place to have a single fire for ourselves or pts, & no means of heating the place. We shall just freeze into icebergs! Rec'd 20th letter fr. home & 1st parcel of biscuits etc. Had cutting of Mr Aveling’s being wounded.
October 2nd: Sent p.c. home also to May Maxwell & P.O.S. bank letter. We heard today 2 German submarines had appeared just outside the harbour here at 10pm last night. The pier guns fired on them but missed them but in consequence the S’hampton boat did not sail last night but went this mng & today the harbour is full of boats. Really things are getting more interesting here! Some of the men heard the guns firing. A territorial sister fr. Barts sent to help us Miss Cockshot arrived today. She came last Frid. via St Nazaire. No 1 hosp. has also arrived here fr. Pournichet. We met a H.A.C. boy out today & stopped him to ask if he knew anything of Twitchin’s nephew who is in the H.A.C. He did not but is going to try & find out for us. It’s most amusing. He was a gentleman & told us he was an officer’s batman! We told him about our “Harrys” & hoped he was better than they were. Major Harrison has taken over the Casino now & Mr D. is only 2nd in command. I like him better now & he really has most adorable eyelashes, they curl up like a girl’s. I wish I had them. I don’t think my boy Underwood is quite so well today. Temp. up again. I wrote to his aunt yesterday about him. With much sorrow I had to pick my 6 most conval. men to go tomorrow to the Rest Camp. I shall be sorry to say goodbye to them & know to what they are going back. One of them said to me, “It’s alright sister when you are fighting, you forget everything, but it’s awful the going back to what we know now, & after the awful things we have seen”. I understand perfectly. They are heroes, they go back because Eng. needs them & it is their duty to, but I don’t think I cd do it. I spent the day on the ward. Davis has left me, & went off about 6pm, & went out for a little walk with Jane (Twitchin). S. Tunly leaves tomorrow for Orléans, & S. Johnstone has gone to the Gare.
October 3rd: 6 of my men went today to Conval. Camp at Sanvic. I said goodbye to them wondering if I shld ever see them again or next read their names in the papers “killed”. Miss Cox came again & brought Underwood some Allenbury’s food & some sponge fingers. She is v. kind indeed. Another Fr. lady & gentleman gave me 25 frs for “les blessés” & were most touching in their gratitude for what our soldiers are doing for them & France. Not off at all today, as more wounded expected. About 20 arrived & 36 more bad cases they said were coming, but not arrived yet. The nice H.A.C. boy we met yesterday (Twitchin stopped him to ask if he knew her nephew who is in H.A.C.) came up this afternoon to tell us he cd not find out anything about George Roberts. His name is Robinson (W. A.) No 2 Coy1. After supper we all scaled the heights behind the Casino just to see what cd be seen in our rooms when the lights were on. The result filled us with horror! Everything was visible. We dare not think of our past. The night orderlies’ tent is up there, also one isolation patients’ tent. We have all vowed to drape our windows in future. As I write my dressing gown hangs over mine. I had a great wash tonight, & also cleaned my oil stove which was smoking horribly. I washed the floor of my “cubby hole” over last night.
October 4th: Rec'd 2nd parcel (socks etc.) fr. home & 19th letter fr. Al. We had 40 more wounded in today. I had the worst of the medical. None v. bad tho’. They had been passed on fr. a French hosp & fr. St Nazaire & were remarkably clean & looked after. This afternoon we had a visit fr. a lot of War Office officials & also fr. Mrs Charles Clyde, (her husband is in the Grenadiers) fr. the Red X Society in England to see why it was we were not receiving the comforts for the Tommies. Such a nice woman. She had tea with us & told us many amusing stories & many sad! These last few days we have begun to receive the shirts etc. but only v. slowly coming in. We have just been giving to those going straight back to the front. We had such a splendid service this afternoon. The Chap. Mr Buridge came & gave a most touching address to our boys; I think there were tears in many eyes during it. I couldn’t sing our last hymn “Abide With Me”, I had a wee bit of a lump in my throat. We had it in wd 2. I opened the door between it & my wd so my poor boy Underwood cd hear. I have a feeling he is not going to get better. I can’t help spoiling him a bit. S. Hyde calls him my “ewe-lamb”. I meant to have gone to church tonight. I was able to get off about 5.30, but my head ached so, I decided not to go. I haven’t been out for a few days & think I miss the fresh air. I must try for a little run out tomorrow, all being well. I hear Miss McCarthy is visiting us this week.
October 5th: Rec'd 19th letter fr. Min & 20th & 21st letters & 5 papers. Last letter dated Oct 1st. Spent a v. busy mng in the ward. More wounded, & now I am full up. This afternoon I got off for a bit & Mr Allen asked me to come & have tea with him & Mr Foster. I asked if I might bring Flower & Twitchin with me & we all had a quite jolly tea-party at the Café Moderne. Quite a lot of Eng. officers staying there. Mr Foster has asked us all to his flat to tea on Wed. & is going to sing to us. He is head of a cotton business here, & was at Jesus, Cambridge. This evng 57 more wounded came in, & all my pts were moved out to turn my wd into an enteric wd. I’m sorry as absolutely no arrangements to nurse enterics properly here at present. My “ewe-lamb” Underwood was sent to wd 6. I went to see him this evng. He is miserable & said to me so pathetically, “Sister, you won’t desert me”. Miss Cox & M. Guilland brght a Franciscan priest round this afternoon to see the R.Cs. Mr Foster told me lots of Tommies were being sent to Dunkerque, also big guns. I’m v. tired tonight, but it’s been a happy day. We have hardly an empty bed in the place now. My feet are bleeding from being so much on them lately. I’m quite proud of it!
October 6th: Sent 11th letter home, also p.cs. to Jordison & Cyril. Rec'd 2 parcels fr. John B, vaseline missing fr. one, & no scarves in other, but think latter must have been forgotten as parcel did not look touched. The one with vaseline in it arrived v. torn & it could quite well have dropped out. Also rec'd parcel fr. Miss Gordon for Travellers’ Aid Society2, with v. nice fitted kit bag etc. It will certainly have to be given to a ewe-lamb! Have had v. heavy day in wards today. Many more real enterics in, but at last they have given me a nursing orderly, Denham my old orderly fr. the Cambridge3. I’m going to get all the nursing in my ward. It means all the work too, but I don’t mind that. We have put all the definite cases in wd 3, & all suspects in a bit of wd 2 screened off. Of course we are working under the greatest possible difficulties it is possible to nurse enterics under. No hot water, & practically no cold, no heating apparatus of any kind in either wd, just a tin bath to disinfect the linen in, & until this afternoon I cd hardly get any disinfectant. One tiny lavatory, wh. is continually getting stopped up, & a door in the wd that won’t shut! However Miss Dale & I are v. cheerful in the face of all these difficulties. It will really be a miracle if one of us doesn’t get enteric, with the enormous risks we must run, thro’ lack of proper conveniences. In fact I feel like it tonight. My feet have been bleeding v. slightly again, & my legs feel as if they had 10lbs weight on them & my back aches so much I can’t keep upright, in addition to which I have a little cold, slight toothache & feel generally as if my body had been beaten all over. It’s really only I’m jolly tired tonight, but I am really glad to be so. I do feel I’m being some good at last. Have got a man in the Coldstreams in who knows Coz. Laura & all my Melton folk. Several others have got enteric pretty badly I think, but it’s early days to tell. I did not have time all day to go & see Underwood. I think he misses me. There’s my conceit. Col. Morgan simply lives in my wd now I’ve got the enterics. I don’t think myself he knows much about them!! I’m afraid it doesn’t look likely getting off tomorrow to have tea with Mr Foster. I shall be disappointed as I’m simply starving for a little music. Haven’t been off at all today, & Miss Davis got off after 6pm. Heard today of Mr Ball’s death but no particulars. Wrote Van p.c.
October 7th: Another heavy day in the wards, but I was able to get off for 2hrs this afternoon to have tea at Mr Foster’s flat. Neither Flower or Twitchin cd come, so Medforth came with me. His is a charming little appartement, his drawing room just like a Varsity man’s “sitter”. It was full of his things from when he was up at Jesus College Cambridge. Mr F. sang to us. I didn’t like his first song, a rather florid Italian one, but his German lieder, & one of Grieg’s afterwards were exquisite. He sang “Absence” also most touchingly. His music really rather upset me, he stirred up “the depths” & it takes some time for them to settle down again. I’ve come to the conclusion much good music will not be good for me on active service. We had tea in his charming little dining room. It reminded me of one of Peter de Hooch’s interiors, shiny parquet floor, oak dresser & willow pattern china, & the daintiest of tea services, a woman’s hand most evident in the choosing of some of his things. Mr F. has spent part of his time in the artists’ quarter in Paris. I think if you ask me he has seen a bit of life! He looked frightfully ill today. I’m very sorry for him. It’s hard to be so much an invalid with his temperament. We had to tear off at 5 min. to 5 & just got on duty about 3 mins late. I have asked him to tea on Sat. & also written to ask Miss Cox. I spent 11 francs on things for the ward this afternoon. Rec'd a Weekly Despatch fr. home tonight. Wrote p.c. Coz. Laura. October 8th: Rec'd 3rd parcel fr. Coz. Em, & 1 from Mrs Gott & letter fr. Em dated Oct 5th opened. Plenty to do all day with my sick men, & I’ve not felt at all well myself today. It was bitterly cold last night. I couldn’t sleep I was so frozen but I dare not begin my “billy-boy” yet. I shall need it much more later on. My left foot still continues to bleed & hurts a good deal. Mr Allen asked me to run over to his laboratory this afternoon & have tea with him. I took Flower with me & we quite enjoyed looking at his “bugs” after tea. She knows something about them herself, clever girl. Mrs Gott sent me such scrummie chocs & most fascinating tins of things. Mr Fry looked at my tooth this afternoon & kindly said he would stop it tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it!
October 9th: My enterics are getting v. interesting. I think 2 are going to be bad. I don’t know about others yet. Rec'd 1 paper (D. Graphic) fr. home. I had tea in the afternoon with Mme Denis. She gave me one piece of comforting news, that the reason the Eng. were retreating now was they had mined the in between ground, & dug splendid trenches for themselves & hidden our guns, & now they wanted the Germans to fall into this trap, by following them. I feel the Gs’ spies will find it out however. October 10th: Mr Fry did not come until 4.55 to do my tooth, so I told him it was impossible then as I had guests coming to tea in 5 mins’ time, so he just put something in to stop the nerve hurting & said he wd do it on Monday. Plenty to do all day & I wasn’t sorry to go off at 5pm. Miss Medforth, Mr Foster, Donaldson, Allen & a Fr. gentleman M. André & I had tea in the men’s room (really it’s Mr D’s bedroom, however he had discreetly removed the bed, so it looked quite proper!) & we had a v. jolly party. Mr Foster improves on acquaintanceship but is a confirmed pessimist. Miss Cox could not come. Mr Allen was still feeling a bit poorly fr. having anaesthetised himself as well as his patient this mng with chloroform! Medforth has her orders to proceed to hosp. ship to take charge, the St David. We shall miss her, as she is game for any fun, & not a grouser. She is waiting to leave us any minute. A lot of pts went this afternoon for hosp. ship. I got a parcel tonight, I do not know fr. whom, fr. Miss Pelham Burn falling to pieces, 2 shirts, 7 helmets, 7 scarfs , 7 bedsocks missing!! We changed our army blankets today for some the govnt has commandeered. I got 3 that look warm. I hope they will be! as it’s getting v. chilly now.
October 11th: Mr Somerville took over my wd this mng. I stayed on this afternoon as we heard the D.D.M.S. fr. Rouen (S. G. Woodhouse4 I believe) was coming but he never came so I left at 5 o’c to go to church. Miss Medforth came with me. Quite a nice lot of Tommies & officers in church, & I heard one Col. marched his whole reg. to church this mng. The Asturia we saw come in this evng packed with either troops or wounded, most probably the former. Rec'd letter fr. Kathleen Pelham-Burn about parcel she sent me. It’s v. cold here today. I drew 2 more rugs out of stores but I mustn’t use them yet alas! but keep for winter. My poor enterics are starving, poor things. I believe they would eat each other if they got the chance. One heard me say to Miss Dale when she was saying she hoped she wd be home for Xmas, “Not a bit, you’ll be eating a bit of skinny leg of mutton or bully on Xmas day”, & Gooling piped up, “I’ll send for a mince-pie sister”! We heard today that Antwerp has fallen, as official, but also that it was strongly undermined by the Belgians, & as soon as the Gs enter it they wd blow the place up! Wrote to Miss Gordon & Miss Pelham Burn.
October 12th: Rec'd parcel of Oct. 6th fr. home, socks fr. Mr K., May Halls & Mrs Verichoyle & parcel of cards fr. May Maxwell, also p.c. fr. Colonel Morton. Sent p.c. home. Had nothing but “brass hats” round today. First Col. Morgan & Miss Richards came but of course they often comes, then the Staff Col. of the sanitary dept. paid us a visit. Then about 3 o’c the D.D.M.S. (S. General Woodhouse fr. Rouen) & Col. Caton-Jones & a crew of smaller “brass hats” paid a tour of inspection of hospital. Col. C. Jones has been before, & we are quite friendly now! I like him. The D.D.M.S. was very pleased with my ward, thought it “the nicest ward of all“, & thought “everything had been most admirably arranged for nursing the enterics”. Then Miss McCarthy arrived also fr. Rouen & she was also v. pleased & said she thought it looked charming! She looks better than when I last saw her. She asked me if I were better, said she heard I had been ill! I think she must have muddled me with Davis. Heard today that Capt. Grant-Dalton’s death is officially announced to papers. Poor boy. Another hosp. ship “The Oxfordshire” is here now, a great many Territorial sisters here now, also Havre is full of Tommies & brand new officers! It is easy to tell they are that as they forget to salute you! I went & took some letters to the censor tonight. He was v. nice but I must get to him before 5.45pm for letters to go that night. Rec'd 2nd parcel fr. Miss Pelham Burn. Rec'd 23rd letter fr. home. Heard 20 bombs had been dropped in Paris, & much damage done. Now the Gs have got Antwerp I expect they’ll have a shot at London next. October 13th: Rec'd 2nd parcel fr. Mrs Gott (2 shirts & socks) also 24th letter fr. home (2). Wrote letters to Mr Kingsford & May Halls. A peaceful day today, no “brass hats” today thank goodness. I was able to go out for a short time in the afternoon. I am alright again now but for a heavy cold. It was evidently a slight attack of ptomaine poisoning I got after eating tinned salmon, as some of the others were ill after it too. Still we must eat tinned things, or what about bully beef! I saw crowds of people lining the street close to the Hôtel de Ville & on enquiring found the King of the Belgians & some of his ministers were coming to stay here as they had been obliged to evacuate Antwerp. About 8pm the King followed by several carriages passed the Casino on his way to St Addresse where he is going to stay. I’m quite sure he will come in tomorrow to see us! Miss Richards had tea here this afternoon & she darkly hinted that some of the Q.As., the senior sisters were going to be taken fr. Havre to go to station hospitals nearer the Front. How I wish I might be one of the ones chosen, but of course am far too junior. Rec'd Weekly Mirror, also Punch fr. John B.
October 14th: Rec'd parcel of 2 scarfs fr. postmark Carnforth. Do not know who sent it. Also parcel fr. Mr Gott containing 3 prs socks, cigarettes & 3 scarfs . Very nice of him to send them. A great many pts went off to the hosp. ship this mng, all arranged in a great hurry, & others to C.C. I had my hair shampooed at a nice little shop. Mme spoke a little English, but the man who did my hair spoke French only, so I had a v. interesting conversation with him while he was doing my hair. He is waiting to be called up next month. He is only 19. The ordinary age for conscription is 20 but the war has made 19 yrs necessary now. He was to have gone to England this month to do hairdressing, now! They are all so delighted to find an Eng. person speaking Fr. I know my French isn’t much, but I can always carry on a conversation with anyone. The others would say, “Of course Robinson would be able to talk in any lingo!”. With the usual Fr. politeness they tell me, “Mlle parle Française parfaitement”. May they be forgiven. Heard today the King of Belgium did not arrive yesterday & is not coming here, going to stay with his Army. He is a brick. I should like to have the pleasure & honour of shaking his hand. The carriages we saw were the Belgian ministers arriving. We heard tonight Notre Dame was in flames, but I don’t believe a word of it. Sent letter to Auntie Laura. Did I mention 2 days ago Queen Alexandra sent all of us some tea, for her nurses! October 15th: Nothing v. exciting to chronicle except that last night there was firing in the harbour & all the lights were put out. The hosp. at Sanvic had also to put their lights out. Things are happening at Havre tho’ we are kept so completely in the dark. A sealed order came tonight to us that no one was to ask the patients who arrive tonight where they came from. Not a question was to be asked them. What are we to conclude? We are still expecting the train to bring them in. It’s 10pm. I shall go to bed & get up if they come later on. We are all rather depressed today. The war news is bad. We heard today that the Boers in S. Africa had gone over to the Germans, bribed over. I don’t believe all have gone, perhaps a few traitors. 3 German Army Corps are released by the fall of Antwerp & we have practically lost 2,000 men, (i.e. the ones who had to go into Holland). The last order is not a single civilian is allowed inside the Casino, not even our tradespeople. Evidently spies are in our very midst. The Tommies will miss all the visitors’ gifts to them. Wrote 12th letters to go tomorrow to home & Mrs Gott. Rec'd parcel of socks fr. M. & Snelgrove [Marshall & Snelgrove] sent by Col. Morton. I sent 6 snaps in home letter. Hope they won’t get taken out. The British Ambassador was to have come round today but didn’t. The A.D.M.S. (Col. Caton Jones) came instead & grumbled I heard at everything. I think everybody is upset & snappy today.
October 16th: Miss Hill came & told me last night just as I was creeping into my bed that the Germans were in Ostend. We could not find out today if that were true or not. My enterics seem to be getting on nicely, but 3 are not round the corner yet. Mr Somerville is good with them, & a nice man so well to work with. He will tell me the most ridiculous tales about his aunt which simply send me into convulsions when we are doing the round. Before our pts too. Most unprofessional. The latest was his aunt wrote saying she wants to come to Havre. He wrote back, “Archibald certainly not”!! I cannot raise a razor (quite unintentional) anywhere to get my men shaved. Our only razor after being vigourously stropped for 1 hour by Hughes would not cut a pat of butter, & another is not to be found. Of course being infectious we cannot borrow the other men’s ones. I must ask someone to present me with one. Meanwhile I’ve instructed Mr S. to pinch Major Harrison’s best one at 1st opportunity. I sent Miss Dale off all day until 5 o’c, to get a good blow by sea & get rid of her cold & tomorrow she is going to stay the day in bed. It will do her good & I can manage quite well singlehanded. I ran out tonight & took Min’s & Mrs Gott’s letters to censor’s. He told me the war news was better. I didn’t want him to read either of these letters so I kept him talking until I saw him stick them down (he hope he didn’t open them again after I had gone!) & only arrived just before mail bags were going not to give him time to read them, so my 6 photos ought to arrive safely. A great many Belgian officers it seemed were about the town. They looked so smart & nice, quite a different nation to the French. I think I cd trust & respect a Belgian. I shouldn’t all French men by a long chalk. I am sure I met 2 spies tonight. One man looked so furtively at me. I went on a little way & then pretended to look into a shop in the Rue de Paris & I noticed a minute later another man joined him. They did not speak but just walked away together. I turned back & followed them at a little distance. They walked about a yard or so ahead of each other & never spoke one word. I was eagerly waiting for one word of German & I should have given them into arrest, but I could not get them to speak a word, so as I could not make any charge against them I had to leave them, but I feel quite sure they were spies. We have had 85 more wounded in today, no more real enterics, but 2 suspects. Got a D.M. of Oct. 12th fr. Em. B. today. I gave Hughes a lesson in French this afternoon while I was making the pts whey. They were all frightfully interested in it!
October 17th: Rec'd 25 letter fr. home, p.c. fr. Coz. Laura, & 2 papers fr. Coz. John. A German spy was found in front of Casino this mng. Have not heard what became of him. A great many Belgian officers pass here all day. They say the King is here, but not official. I am still working the enteric ward alone. Miss Dale is staying in bed to get rid of her cold. There is a good deal to be done so I’m not sorry to get to bed tonight. My own cold makes me feel a bit slow doing things. Sent p.c. to Mr Phillips today. October 18th: Busy day in ward again. Miss Dale came back this afternoon to relieve me so I was able to attend the 3 o’c service here. Such a nice one & a most helpful address by Mr Buridge on “Dig ditches”. I was so glad I sat at the very back as the references to our dear ones at home always upsets me. It is very stupid of me. 2 of the officers fr. next door came to it, one nice old naval commander. Mr Buridge took my 13th letter to post in Eng. & also one to Coz. John & Coz. Em B. I sent 2 photos of German prisoners inside home letter. It’s quite exciting we have caught what is almost certainly a spy! among our patients at the Casino. Today an Eng. soldier driving a motor had an accident just outside the Casino & was brought in. He was in khaki officer’s coat but said he was a mechanic. We at once began to be suspicious. He was searched, but nothing incriminating found on him, but under his mattress a letter was found saying amongst other things “he would be in England tonight”. Of course it is kept v. quiet but the man is lying under arrest in wd 2 & the Col. saw him this mng, & he was searched again. He was terrified when he saw a Tommie with a bayonet come in & things certainly point to his being a spy. I await developments. Today a new order came out. If aeroplanes were seen we were immediately to take the nearest cover, not be in groups & extinguish all lights but candles. Rec'd a letter fr. Cole tonight. She has seen Mr Aveling.
October 19th: Heard this mng that we have sunk 4 destroyers (Gs) off Dutch coast. Splendid! It is true the Gs are in Ostende . Rec'd 26th letter fr. home, 2 Weekly Mirrors, letter fr. Mrs Graham Murray. Heard news of Van’s illness. Went this afternoon to call on Mrs Cox. Took Holbech with me & we both stayed to tea. 3 other French ladies there, one’s husband was a prisoner of the Germans. Miss C. Cox came in later bringing Miss Richards & Colonel Morgan in for tea, so we were quite a merry party. M. Guillard also came. Heard tonight that Mr Wagstaffe & Mr Scott were going up to the Front at once. Major Harrison also might be going. Mr Allan came back in the train with us. He still looks rather seedy. Miss Dale is going to do housekeeping tomorrow & Miss Holbech is coming to me. I begin to dread that enteric ward. They are of course ravening for food & 2 of them think I don’t give them more to eat just because I don’t want to! It’s v. wearing all day long the continual grousing for more to eat tho’ I have explained to them why I cannot give them more at present. I think Miss Dale is quite glad to be getting away from it. I know I should be. I am losing Hughes too tomorrow. He has been splendid for a man with so little training.
October 20th: Rec'd large box of garments fr. Richmond Red X Society & 27th letter fr. home enclosing the pictures Al spoke of. Went this afternoon to the British P.O. down at the Transatlantique Quay, a most unholy place to have a P.O. in! Picked up some letters & then took my letter to Mr Gott to censor. Mr Fry came this evng & gave me a very beastly time with my tooth. He said the nerve was completely exposed & put arsenic & chloroform to it to kill it, before he can stop it. He told me I wouldn’t get any sleep at all tonight as it was going to be jolly painful & to take a big dose of aspirin before going to bed. I also was not allowed to eat any supper so I am going to bed hungry, & tooth aching, & altogether rather sorry for myself tonight. The enterics have been worrying again today on the same old theme, more food!
October 21st: Rec'd 2 parcels of chocolate fr. Miss Horner & parcel of garments fr. Coz. Em. Sent letter to Colonel Morton. War news seems better today. We have pushed the Gs 16 miles back. The fear now is submarines fr. Ostende . My tooth kept me awake a great part of last night & was bad this mng. I took some more aspirin which relieved the pain but I’ve had a horrible headache since midday. Lady Lethbridge came round to see hospital this afternoon. She has been working for Red X at Ostende . Rec'd letter fr. Miss Pelham Burn & Miss Gordon.
October 22nd: Sent letter to Miss Horner. Rec'd parcel fr. Mrs Graham Murray, socks, cigarettes, handchfs & shirts. Nothing interesting to chronicle except that I have had toothache all day. S. Hyde came & played the gramophone tonight for us outside wd 3. I hope we didn’t infect it. The men enjoyed it immensely, especially “It’s a long way to Tipperary” & “Little Grey Home”. I’m going to have a bath tonight so must cut my diary short, as Harry has deposited my bucket of water in my cubby hole about 20 mins ago, & if I delay much longer, it will be cold.
October 23rd: A day of parcels for me! I rec'd one fr. home with tea, sardines, milk, soup, choc., May’s apple (!), 28th letter fr. home, 3 parcels fr. Mrs Graham Murray, 2 fr. Miss Gordon, 4 fr. Coz. Em. I have spent the evng distributing warm garments. The gloves were most eagerly snapped up, & 2 such nice dressing gowns fr. Coz. Em. One has gone to the officers’ hospital as much needed there. I have given all the orderlies of the hospital each a shirt & pr of socks. Poor things they have to sleep every night on the pebbles! No mattress of any kind, not a grumble, & I think being hospital orderlies their comfort gets a good deal overlooked. The mittens for us nurses went also with a rush. So good of the kind old lady who knitted them for us. Had p.c. of 20th fr. Coz. Laura. Had a lot of bigwigs round this mng. All the civilian Drs who have been given big army posts came to inspect, among them being Sir Answorth5.
October 24th: Rec'd parcel of 15th fr. home cont. biscuits, nuts, pepper, choc. fingers, pastilles, cream, matches, stationery, sponge fingers, pictures, pencils etc. cotton duck, hankies, pocket books. Also parcel fr. Mrs Hadon of shirts, socks & all wrapped in an old sheet, wh. will be v. useful. Flower, Twitchin & I went this afternoon to see the Coxs . All so nice & want us to go to tea there on Mon. as we could not stop today. Mrs Clive came to see us again, & had tea with us. She has just come down fr. Rouen, & is going on to Boulogne. Miss Richards arrived just as we were finishing tea & told us that No 2 was being sent to Folkstone !! Think if it is true. It may be, & yet I can’t think the War Office can be bringing us home, if more hospitals are being sent out. I confess I shall be horribly disappointed if we do go home, tho’ I dare say we should get much more real hard work at home. Why can’t they send us nearer to the Front. The walls of my “cubby hole” look v. gay. I’ve pinned up all the photos & p.cs. Al sent me today. I’m in a good company now. The Thing, Kitchener, French, Roberts, Grey, Jellicoe! I see in the papers today that David Dickson & Alan Austin’s names are among the missing of the Hawke. I am awfully sorry about D.D. He was such a dear boy, & such a clean nice boy, just the kind to make a future Jellicoe. His poor mother & father. I hear also that Capt. Grant-Dalton is not killed, but a prisoner & wounded. I see Major Davidson was mentioned in the despatches, also Miss McCarthy! Wish I were. October 25th: Rec'd 3 parcels fr. Coz. Em, 1 fr. Miss Morton (socks), 2 letters fr. home 29th ones, 1 fr. Mr Phillips bringing me the very bad news of Van’s accident. I am so worried about her. I only wrote a long letter to her 2 days ago asking why she did not write. I went to church tonight (Miss Willoughby is helping me now, so I am able to get off). A new Chaplain preached an exceedingly dull sermon. After service I was suddenly touted by what was evidently the Englishman who conducts the choir & he asked me if I would sing for them at their choral celebration. I explained I hadn’t any voice, but he simply refused to let me go, tho’ I also explained it was impossible for me to get off at 8.30 on Sunday next. I was weakly looking about for a way of escape when I saw Mr Robinson of the H.A.C. making signals to me from the back of the church. (I must explain this was all after the service was over!) so I went up to him for a chat, & suddenly I & 6 of the H.A.C. men found ourselves being lead up to the organ & leaflets were thrust into our hands & before we knew what we were doing, we were all singing, or rather making most horrible noises up & down the scale “as the spirit moved us” for it was most difficult music to read at night. Well we all saw the funny side of this & began to laugh, & I’m afraid some might not have thought our conduct v. suitable to being in church, but really, there we were all English, the Frenchies gesticulating & jabbering away at us, thank goodness, & we let off steam. In the end we all quite enjoyed it. Miss Clarke & I with great difficulty dashed away with only ¼ hr to get home in, & I invited Mr R. to come to tea with us next Tues. if he was able to get off, but of course he may have to “buttle” for his officer & not be able to come!! It rained as we came home, but by good luck a train was just waiting for us to step into.
October 26th: Rec'd parcel fr. home of socks, brandy with choc. etc. also PS to 29th letter fr. home & letter fr. Lady Hazelrigg, parcel fr. Macow of eucalyptus etc., parcel of bed-socks fr. Miss Pelham-Burn & weekly Times fr. Coz. John. Wrote 14th letter home to post tomorrow. I stayed in this afternoon to write a long letter home, instead of going to tea at the Coxs . I knew if I went there I could not get a letter off for 2 or 3 days more. As it is I spent all afternoon 2 - 4 writing it & then cd not get it to censor. Mr Allen came & seized me to have tea with him & Mr Donaldson & 3 of the others in Mr D’s bedroom. Again the bed was removed, & they gave us a most scrumptious tea. However I had to dash off at 5 o’c to go on duty. The night orderlies’ tent, which is just opposite my bedroom, blew down, as it was very windy today, & the poor beggars had to crawl in & tighten up the pegs etc. I shouldn’t think it’s very jolly to have to do this being rudely awakened from one’s slumbers by the roof collapsing in on you! I took some snaps this mng of the ward & Benham & Allen, but it was rather a dull day & they may not come out. I also took our 2 Harrys in their new pinafores. They are quite pleased at looking such sketches in them I think. My letter home is so fat this week, I’m sure the censor won’t believe it’s quite harmless! October 27th: I was v. glad to come off duty tonight at 5pm. My stupid old left foot bothering me again by bleeding slightly. I had to go to censor to post 14th letter home & 1 to Mr Phillips about Van. I missed the mail tonight. I knew I should as I was late getting off duty, but they will go tomorrow. One of the censors told us (Twitchin & Kerr came with me) that they had heard a rumour that Dunkirk had fallen. If it is true things are v. serious. More so I think than most people realize . It came on to rain while we were chatting to the censor so we did not do anything else but just went home. Home! indeed! A lot more troops landed today, 8 regiments we heard. Some were the Warwicks. Rec'd today 2 parcels of socks & soap in bags fr. Miss Radcliffe. I wonder how Van is tonight. My enterics seem going all wrong! One has developed a thrombosis, another has a steadily rising temperature where it should be well down now, another had a haemorrhage a short time ago, but he is doing well again. I must be looking after them very badly. Rec'd 30 letter fr. home enclosing prayers for sick soldiers by Mr Stubbs.
October 28th: Rec'd 14th parcel from Coz. Em. So v. good of her & Coz. John. They sent 2 beautiful pairs of warm “combis” for me. Also rec'd parcel fr. Miss Richardson of things for the men. We had a lot more wounded in today, but no more enterics. I went up this afternoon to Sanvic to try & find Miss Elmsly, but she’s in No 7 at Le Mans. The camp seems v. well arranged up there, but v. breezy & I’m sure cold. This sisters most of them had jerseys on, & some spats! The light was too dull & bad for me to take any snaps, & it rained as Dale & I came home. We missed the train, so had to walk all the way. Rec'd Weekly Mirror fr. home. Wrote letters to Miss Prendergast & Coz. May Maxwell to post tomorrow, also a p.c. home to post tomorrow. Miss Willoughby was whisked off at midday to help them at Gare where 300 wounded expected & Miss Holbech came to help me. Rec'd letter fr. Coz John enclosing soldiers’ letters.
October 29th: The bad news in paper I got today (yesterday’s Times) of De Wet & Beyers joining the rebellion in S. Africa, it makes it much more serious. Also so sad about Prince Maurice of Battenberg dying fr. his wounds. The fierceness of the fighting round Ostende seems too appalling. I see 100,000 more men wanted by Kitchener. Can England go on supplying them. Oh! I wish they wd form a women’s army. A great many more of our wounded went off in hosp. ship “Carisbrook Castle” today. Underwood went! Think of it. He looks frightfully ill still. He had on the dressing gown I gave him & I gave him a big packet of chocolate to put in the pocket. I took a snap of him in the ward & going along in the stretcher & getting into the ambulance, a regular cinematograph of him! I snapped Mr Donaldson after, under protest! Someone put the most lovely bunch of roses in my room today. I have not yet found the donor, but have a feeling it’s Miss Cockshott, the night sister of my ward. We had a tussle over pay, my 7d for a razor to be sharpened for the men, she had paid & I wanted to pay her back, & she wd not take it. Well the 7d travelled backwards regularly fr. her room to mine, but today I did not find any 7d lying to greet me, but these beautiful flowers, therefore I conclude…? M. Josse brought me such a lovely bunch of flowers for my ward 3 days ago, “les derniers de mes fleurs” he said pathetically. The orderly at the gate too, has determined that I am a special friend of his, so he brings up a great many of the flowers that get left with him, to me, so I do well!
October 30th: I am writing or rather attempting to write this in the train “en route” to Boulogne! The unexpected has happened, a piece of great good luck. About 10am this mng a telephone message came that S. Medforth, Kinkead, & I were prepare to proceed to Boulogne immediately. 2 of them fr. Gare also going, S. Johnston & Lyons. Wasn’t it lucky only 5 out of 42 chosen, & to be one of them. We were told to get luggage ready by 2pm, so after an awful mng cramming things into my trunk & kitbag (& I seem to have got so much more than when arrived here 5 weeks ago) we heard we needn’t be ready till 3.15. I finished packing with the assistance of all my pals. I bestowed good things on them R. & left to save packing, & some wd have got broken. My enterics were really sorry to lose me. I went in the last thing to say goodbye to them all. I thought they wd never let go my hand, as they all wished me good luck! I got quite a lump in my throat. I hate goodbyes to anybody. Eventually the ambulance called for us about 4 o’c. A great many, in fact all the staff that were in came to the front to give us a send off , & the pts again wished us good luck. I forgot to mention a little time before M. Josse presented me with a bouquet of flowers, roses etc. edged with ferns, a veritable cabbage! I had to carry it getting into the ambulance as I did not want to hurt his feelings, but once safely inside I handed it over to Mr Allen who came to see us safely off at the station. Miss Richards also came to see us off, & Miss Hodges came to see her 5 people off. It seems the 10 of us are probably going to be a station hospital near Boulogne. We all packed ourselves into 4 2nd class carriages wh. are I believe to go straight thro’. Several R.A.M.C. men with us, but I don’t know any of them. We had no food with us (except chocs & biscuits, & some tea wh. so far we have not been able to get any water to make). We hadn’t had any rations given us, & really hadn’t had anything but a cup of tea & piece of cake just before we left Casino, since 1.30. The train left the Gare at 5.31. It is nearly 10 o’c as I write now. We don’t know when we get to Boulogne, either tomorrow mng or afternoon we think. Just nearing Rouen 10.30pm. By the way at Gretôt I put my head out of the window & as the only person I cd see on the platform was a Fr. officer I yelled out to him, “Monsieur nous n’avons pas du pain”. He ran in to the buffet & brought out a piece of a loaf & brought it to me. Of course it wasn’t nearly enough for 5 starving people. I wanted to pay him for it, but he wouldn’t let me. A minute or two later the woman fr. the buffet came out so I got her to sell me a whole loaf, & on we went rejoicing. When we got to Rouen we went straight to transport officer to see what our orders were, & he informed us he could not get us to Boulogne until tomorrow, & we must stay night in train. Then by luck my dear old friend Major Moore (fr. A’shot) turned up. He is in charge of arrangements for the ambulance trains, & he took us all off to the little Red X depot & about 11 o’c the sisters there (2 on night duty) made us tea & gave us biscuits & we all had such a jolly scratch meal together. About 11.30pm we all returned to train & turned out. I spent a most uncomfortable night. We are in 2nd class coaches only (by the way our coaches were taken off the train & got shunted about, so that we needn’t change) & the seats are so narrow there wasn’t room to lie up on them with feet up, unless you did not move a hair. If you attempted a turn you rolled off. Then Medforth had her feet up the other end of my side (we were 4 in a compartment) & she is very tall, & as I’m not short we had constant collisions thro’ the night. Of course it wd happen then also my tooth began its old games (the 2nd one that Mr Fry was just beginning to stop when he went up to the front) & even if all our conditions had been comfortable, I don’t think we could have got much sleep thanks to the awful noise going on all night. It seemed to me, one long babel of shrieking Frenchmen, whistles blowing, vans being shunted, & yelling at people. The others got some sleep but I don’t think they did much better than me.
About 8.30am we decided we would get up, so we put our bonnets on, tidied our hair & sallied forth for a wash. One of the R.A.M.C. officers with us (about 10 in our party) told us of a place about 5 mins fr. the station where we cd get baths so we armed ourselves with our washing gear & went & had a most lovely hot bath. I did my hair again & felt clean for the first time for the last 5 weeks. It is that time since I last had a real bath, not a camp canvas affair. By this time it was 10.30 & we hadn’t had a bite of anything so we sallied off to a patisserie & had chocolate & rolls. That finished we decided we would go straight off to the cathedral. The outside is most beautiful. One long candle extinguisher spire with its delicate dog-tooth architecture seems to reach right into the sky, enormously high, & then its beautiful more central spire, round & crown shaped. The inside reminded me a little of Christ Church on a much larger scale. The tall graceful Gothic arches are like poplars waving their delicate branches together to form a ceiling. The glass was most beautiful too, old & exquisite colourings. There was a side chapel with a most beautiful marble altarpiece of Jeanne d’Arc. Just a very simple figure of a girl clasping her sword in the left hand, & with the right hand pointing heavenwards & head a little uplifted, as if looking at something unseen. It gripped me v. much, that statue. We also saw the market place, where she was burnt. Mr Marshall, (the R.A.M.C. officer told off to look after the sisters, & v. nobly he carried out his formidable task!) came round with us & took us to another lovely church of Saint Maclon. A most beautiful entrance. I took a snap of it, but the day was rather dull, & that film got spoilt through my camera getting damp, & I’m afraid it will be a failure. We went to a hotel at 12.00 & had déjeuner, omelette & cheese, & then Lyons & I proceeded to explore another church we had heard of, St Ouen. Words fail to describe this church. To my mind it was much more beautiful in design than the cathedral. The nave was the most beautiful & grand piece of architecture I have ever seen, built on the same design as the cathedral, clusters of long slender arches, grouped together. The nave was a good deal higher & a little narrower. The simple but exquisite moulding of the shafts, the soft violet & blue lights from the interspaced lancet windows, made up an effect of the most restful & perfect harmony. The glass of most of the windows was older & of a more quaint colouring than the cathedral glass, beautiful as that was. Here again the dog tooth architecture was the principal feature, & the designs over the doorways & round the windows were most strikingly beautiful. We explored another church, St Goddard, but did not care for it. It was old, but had been restored in too garish a manner for my taste. We bought some food to carry us on with on our train journey tonight (we were told when we returned to our compartments that we should be leaving at 9.30pm, & arrive at Boulogne about 9am tomorrow mng, with any luck!) & got back. Then Major Moore took Lyons & me all over what he called “his palace”. He showed the train he was fitting up into an ambulance train, & I had no idea how much work it entailed. I had quite a shock when I saw Major M. last night. He has got so thin & careworn, & looks frightfully ill. He has evidently learnt the meaning of “active service” if we haven’t. Then he & the lieut. helping him invited us over having tea with them in their base, & such a jolly tea we had. We talked over all times in England, which did us all good. A Major Dill R.A.M.C. joined us for tea. We left about 5.30pm to find no signs of our trucks anywhere. At last by questioning we found they had run them about 100 yds away in the opposite direction. Lyons & I got in & attempted to write this diary up, but every few mins they shunt us up & down, up & down with such violent jerks at every stop that ½ our baggage is thrown off the seats & the Tommies on the line sing out, “Look out Miss!” so dangerous is the impact if you are not expecting it. Their plan is to shunt us eventually to the end of a long goods train of provisions which is to take us up to the Front. A cpl I spoke to said our train would be such an enormous length we should take about 2 days to get to Boulogne as we shld have to go so slowly. I really can’t give an idea of the length of it. I should think we must be at least 60 coaches. Some of the Indian troops are waiting at the station here. I have just been speaking to an Indian lieut. of the 34th Sikhs. He told me France was not colder than it was in Cashmere where he comes from. He could not speak very much English, but one of the sisters fr. No 1 speaks Hindustanee & they were just pleased to find someone who could speak in their own tongue to them. They have charming faces, quite intellectual & honest & all smiles & flashing teeth. They wear turbans & trousers & tunics of light Holland linen it looked like, but might have been cloth. The one I talked to wore a kharki cloth coat, with badge as our English lieuts wear. I sent a p.c. home this mng, stopping letters etc. until I have an address to give them again. Oh! how I hope we do form a little field or station hospital on our own. Well, even if we don’t, but simply swell the staff of No 13 wh. we hear is at Boulogne, we shall have the honour of being in the hosp. that is nearest the firing line. In fact you might truly say at the firing line. We have to pass quite close to Arras en route for Boulogne, where all the fighting is going on. I may have very interesting matters to chronicle in you little diary before long. 9.30pm. We are off! Lyons & I have secured thro’ the assistance of the officer commanding this train a 1st class to ourselves so we hope to get some sleep tonight. Major Moore came to see us off. Such a hand-grip as he wished us good luck!