The Casino Lechin, one of six sections of No. 2 General Hospital at Le Havre. Image: Imperial War Museum Q 10561
September 1st - September 30th 1914 (No. 2 General Hospital)
September 1st: Holbech & I went to Mme Dennis house & had a hot bath this mng. It was the best thing we’ve had since we put foot on French soil! I positively wallowed in the water, & it was with the greatest sorrow I got out. The plage is almost deserted now, hardly a bathing tent to be seen, & just a few children playing about. Miss Richards has just been & told us 4 more spies (G) caught at Sanvic today. Sent Julia a p.c. today. Received one fr. Van. The No 8 people who are with us are not to go out today, as it looks as if their departure might be any minute. We saw a war-cruiser come into harbour this mng. One notices how much work the dogs do here. Nearly every small hand-cart has one harnessed underneath helping to pull it along. Received 3rd paper fr. home. D.Mir. The orderlies spend their time nailing up the stores again wh. we had re-opened for the last 50 we expected. I spent all the evng tabulating the list of wounded for Mr Somerville that were admitted on Thurs.
September 2nd: 7th letter fr. home this mng. Went up to the camp & got some money for some of the others fr. Miss Richards. The pay office has left & she says it may be months before we get any pay. Luckily I have still plenty? in hand. I took a snap of the camp. The American Fleet arrived this afternoon to escort their people home. The port fired them a salute. This evng 18 of the Australian Voluntary hosp. ladies arrived here. They are sleeping with us here & messing out. Their uniform is the nearest possible approach to ours but bonnets different, grey full veils. They say war news is better today. No further German advance. We hear also that a Russian force has landed at Leith to cross quicker over to Ostend. Sent a p.c. to Cole & home. We hear we are to take 3 days’ rations with us when we go.
September 3rd: Here I am on board the Asturia1 (Royal Mail steam packet). It’s No 2 hospital ship. It’s just heaven after the way we have been living. The ambulance came for us at the Casino just as we were going to get what we call lunch. We seized our belongings & were rattled down here. 7 more of No 2 Gen. are here & we hear to be about 200 or more sisters in all. This is a beautiful boat. Holbech & I are sharing a cabin. Just to see a snowy white bunk again! Well, it’s worth roughing things to appreciate the ordinary comforts of life wh. we take for granted. We had a hurried wash & then all went to have lunch. I hardly knew how to eat like a civilised being after the way we’ve been pigging it. Most delicious food, just like 1st class passenger boat. I am writing this now lazily stretched in a deck chair. Moored opposite us is the France, the biggest Fr. passenger boat they have, the one that beat the record of the Lusitania. It’s a 4 funnel. I wish I cd take a snap of it, but we are too near for me to get it all on my lens. The wards here are beautiful, an operating theatre & all complete. Just seen Victoria, a big boat, go off crowded with troops. I took a snap of it. The American warship left about 10pm crowded with Americans. It’s taking them all to Eng. We gave them a rousing cheer, & they gave us back as good. The No 1 hosp. ship St David is alongside of us. Seen Dickinson on it. We had a chat, or rather we had to scream the conversation, as we cdn’t get v. near. We had a ripping 7 course dinner. After a newspaper (& a daily one at that) for a tablecloth, a tin mug & plate, it’s an indescribable joy to be eating off china, having clean linen etc. again. We steamed up about 9pm to the Gare Maritime to take off the others, but for some reason or other, tho’ sitting waiting on their quay, they did not come on board until 11.30. I waited up on deck until 18.15 to see Davis, but it was getting so chilly I turned in then. Had a lovely hot bath before going to bed.
September 4th: I learnt a lot of nautical information yesterday fr. the diff. officers I chatted with. I understand the time by “bells”, also the stripes of rank of the officers of the Merchant Service. I did not sleep v. well, woke about 5pm. We had left our bunk door open for more air (we have an electric fan with fog!) & about 5 I opened my eyes & saw a man just outside swabbing the floor (deck I ought to call it). I had 1 sheet over me, so I didn’t worry, & he certainly wasn’t at all upset! I got up about 6.15, & went on deck, so gloriously fresh, & got an appetite for b’fast. Had a delicious one at 8pam. I arranged with our waiter to keep same table for my little coterie, it’s much nicer. I can’t think why the others don’t do the same. I foresee I shall eat too much here! We expect to sail midday today. Just read the mng’s Marconigram2. Germans only 40 miles fr. Paris. Eng. have captured 10 of their guns. Capital is moved fr. Paris to Bordeaux. Wrote 5th letter home.
September 5th: Alfred’s b’day. Many happy returns of the day to him. 9am. I’m writing tucked up most cosily in rugs on a deck chair, on the boat deck. We shall be soon getting into the Bay of Biscay. I hope it will be kind to us! I haven’t felt the slightest inclination for “mal de mer” so far. This is a v. steady boat, but a good deal of vibration fr. the engines. I stayed on deck last night till 11pm enjoying the moonlight on the sea. It was hazy & the sea a bit fresh last nigh. When I woke this mng 6.30, I saw we were in pretty dense fog & the ship going almost dead slow. I got up on deck about 7.20. The Capt. must have been on bridge all night I think, he looks awfully tired this mng. The one thing they hate at sea is fog. 9.50am. Fog is lifting, only hazy now, we’ve got up speed. Yesterday the chief Marconi operator took me over the wireless department. It was so interesting. They can read & take messages for 300 miles on this boat. He tried to let me listen to a wireless, but unfortunately there was none going for me to pick up. They take 6 hrs on & 6 off. (Just seen a porpoise in the water.) I do long for a letter fr. home. I expect they will be very delayed getting to us now, until the new base is established. We are apparently going to St Nazaire (at mouth of Loire) fr. what an officer told me yesterday, & he said 300 sisters were there already. We are supposed to get there about 5pm today. I can see land on our left & what looks like a lighthouse. We have just left the Channel Islands on our left. 11.30. Just had boat drill. I go to lifeboat I2 in event of accidents. This afternoon 2 of the officers took me & Flower all over the inside of the boat. The engines are enormous. It’s many men’s work to go round & oil them every ½ hr. We saw the watertight doors, refrigerating machinery, stokers at work, dynamos, steerage, kitchens, bakery (its splendid bread & rolls) in fact the whole of the inside; the floors & rails all so sticky & slippery. They gave waste wadding down there to rub our hands clean as we went along. We took a pilot aboard at bells 1 o/c, & reached St Nazaire at 11pm. They signalled for another pilot, but afterwards we dropped anchor just outside harbour for the night as it was low tide. I stayed on deck until 11.30. It was such a glorious star & moonlight night. Colonel Holt came up & we had a nice chat. He told me we had just passed a Fr. warship with all lights out.
September 6th: Awoke to find we had gone into harbour early this mng. I did not get up till 7.15am. It looks (St Nazaire) such a quaint town fr. this end, little tumbledown houses. I hear we have miles further to go up. We had lunch on board again, & proceeded a little further up the river-way. The bridges don’t lift up in ½ as in Eng. but slide back into the street on grooves. We came off “Asturia” at 1.15pm & laden heavily with our bags & holdalls staggered to the station, wh. was not far away. Train did not go till 2.5. At least we sat in it fr. then! We heard then we were going (this was about 200 of us) to Pournechet. After being shunted backwards & forwards for about six times up & down about 300 yds of the track our train eventually left at 3.30, with all of us dog-tired fr. the heat, shunting, & carrying luggage. When we got to P. the British Chaplain came & told us hosp. 1 & 2 were to go on to “La Baule” as not room for all at P. We arrived at “La B.” about 4.15 o’c. Left bags etc. to come up & all walked to the “Hotel Royal” where the 100 of us were to put up. It’s a palatial hotel, looking onto sea, & standing in midst of pines. This place seems to be a fashionable Fr. watering place, most lovely, & all at hotel most comfie. I & Lyons have a nice double room looking onto the sea. Tea awfully dear here, 1 fr. 50. We all dined at 6pm, then took walk along plage & turned in about 9.30. Part of the hotel is being used as a hosp. for wounded Fr. officers. We saw most fashionable ladies in high heeled white shoes & stocks, tending their sick.
September 7th: Many happy returns to Cy & dear Ivan. I wonder if they think of me ever, as I remember them. We all had déjeuner at 8am, tea & rolls, or rather bread. It isn’t nice bread here but I shld think v. wholesome, a sort of sour rye kind. I slept fairly well, not fault of bed wh. tho’ shared will miss. Lyons was most comfie. After b’fast we went out & explored the shops. They were quite nice & so quaint, so many like booths at a fair, evidently new up for the visitors’ season. I bought some v. pretty little boxes typical of Breton work, & also took my watch to be mended wh. cost me 3 fr. 50. Then we had a v. nice lunch with strawberries! at 12 o’c, & at dinner tonight again with other fruit we had strawberries. They don’t taste quite so nice as our Eng. June ones. This afternoon Hopton, Lyons, Holbech & I took our tea out to the pine woods, wh. are all around us here, & just slept under the pines until about 4 o’c when we all went & bathed in the sea. It was glorious, my 1st dip in France. Just got back in time for 6 o’c dinner, then had a short walk on the plage & bed. A most glorious storm out at sea started tonight, forked & sheet lightning. The whole sea was lit up. It came near & then reached us. Quite suddenly all the electric lights went out. It was so sudden we hardly realised what had happened. I stayed a long time outside on the balcony watching the storm. The blue, mauve & gold lights were perfect. I took a snapshot of the 72 patients sitting under the pines this afternoon. Apparently the officers are being nursed in the hotel here, & the privates at the Casino close to us. The pts wear such pretty pale blue coats, & white linen trousers. We have heard no war news whatever, in fact no news of any kind as to what is to happen to us. 2 Q.As. are helping in this hotel to nurse the sick Fr. officers. I wish they wd let some more of us help.
September 8th: We had communion service at 7.30am. The Eng. Chaplain came over & we used the hotel conservatory. About 30 at it. It is there each mng. Explored this mng over ferry into another little Breton town, & bought 2 pencils & some sweets! This afternoon I & Holbech walked over the sands to Pornichet (about 3 miles) & saw Cole, Hale, Slaney, Smith & many others. Had tea with Cole & got back at 6. Heard we were to pack to take only kit bags with us, & leave trunks behind & be ready any moment to go. I do hope it means work again soon. I wonder where!
September 9th: Had to get up in the night & shut up the windows. Rain simply pouring in. The floor was wet right up to our bed. Lyons & I got towels & mopped up the floor & returned to bed about 4am! Very stormy & windy this mng. Afraid the Pornichet folk won’t come over. It looks as if it might clear tho’. Smith came over this afternoon & had tea with us. She is No 12. Heard this evng there had been an Eng. victory, but no particulars. We seem to get no war news here. Also heard there was a likelihood of our being sent back to Havre. I heard Col. Holt was already there. I hope we don’t go back. I shld have no heart to start again there but I shld welcome anywhere that meant work. I sat down on Hopton’s trunk that she had painted last night, & got up with “No 2 Gen. Hosp.” in brilliant red letters on the back of my best grey skirt. I was in despair, but I had my skirt off in the twinkling of an eye, & scrubbed it with soap & water. I got it practically all out. I think a little turpentine will finish the matter. It only looks a bit crumpled now. Hopton’s heartless remark, “Well, if your luggage gets lost, you won’t now at any rate”!
September 10th: Nothing of interest to chronicle today. Went out this mng with Flowers & bought more biscuits. They are dearer here, also sweets, than in Eng. We are told to keep close at hand again as may go off ? any time. I hear this hotel (Royal) is only 12 & 15 francs ordinarily. I bought some cotton & hooks & am learning to crotchet! We heard our letters had gone to Nantes today. How I long for them. Sent a p.c. home today, also to Van. Went to early service this a.m.
September 11th: Bathed in mng. Sea v. rough, impossible to swim. I was twice knocked over by the waves. Sent 6th letter home. It came on to rain, simply poured, & we 4 arrived home like drowned rats! We washed our hair in the afternoon & spent the rest of the time repairing the damage the rain had done. Miss R. told us after dinner, that she as next senior was transf. to Pornichet, & S. Tunly in charge of No 2 for present. She told us No 7 was going tomorrow to Le Mans & 8 had gone to Versailles. She said she thought we shld be broken up, or might go to Havre or Paris. How I wish it might be the latter. In the evng. “our six” fore-gathered & told ghost stories etc. Hoppie’s repertoire is too amusing.
September 12th: “Hoppie”, “Pim” & I walked this afternoon to a little Bretagne village about 3 miles away. We went across the salt marshes. The pathways were far worse than Hampton Court maze, a labyrinth of them running round & intersecting each other over the dykes, but we got the other side at last. The blackberries are simply wonderful here. I’ve never seen them grow in such profusion. We eat lots of them. We went over the church, quite a nice one, v. gay inside with gilt & paper flowers & garish ornamentation. Two old peasant women praying in it. I was most struck with the exquisitely human face of the natives of our Lord. I went to the early service this mng. No news for us. Just having a bath tonight 5.30am when Davis brought up letters for us. I wrapped a bath towel round me, I couldn’t wait for more attire! & got my letters, one fr. Grimes, Mr Phillips, Van. 9 & 18th letters fr. home, also Mirror (3rd). Mercy & Truth, & bathing dress etc. We all fell upon the pepp. creams & devoured them (a good many eaten evidently en route!) 8th letter missing so far. Such excitement here at arrival of mail. We have all pooled our papers for public benefit. Col. Holt said when over this afternoon, if our equipment hadn’t gone to Eng. we had been chosen to go to Versailles! Think what we’ve missed. It’s too rotten.
September 13th: Went to early service at 7am, bathed after b’fast, & just got back by skin of my teeth for 10am service. Had a most beautiful & helpful address fr. Father Benton. Wrote 7th letter home & 2nd letter to Van & p.cs. to Grimes & Mr Phillips. Orders come tonight for us to hold ourselves in readiness to start any moment to go back to Havre! I’m too sick to say more. And by train too. I’ve packed & we four had perhaps the last tea-drinking, nearly 12 o’c. I had better go to bed. I went to service again after dinner tonight, but the other Chaplain, a conceited fool!
September 14th: Received 8th letter fr. home & 4th Mirror. Still waiting for orders. Walked along plage this mng & bought our rolls for tea. Heard tonight we are to stand by for 24hrs.
September 15th: Orders came at 8.15am we were to go to St Nazaire by 9.30 train. Of course we might have guessed this cos we had been told to stand by for 24hrs! A beastly wet mng. Luggage went in bus, & we walked to station. Arrived at St Nre about 11 o’c & went to Hotel des Colonies & got some déjeuner. Then told we shldn’t be leaving before evng. Saw Mr Grellier in the town. He is attached to a station hosp. The ambulance came & took us along about 6pm fr. the gare to the docks station, & we were ensconced in train. Twitchin, I & “Julia” in our carriage, & others next door. We got the post brought round, received the 2 overseas Weekly Mirrors & 11th letter fr. home. Col. Holt came round for a chat before train started & took me to see transport stores. Enormous shed with a dim light fr. lanterns at intervals of about 50 yds, most weird effect, with Tommies sitting down eating etc. We tumbled over lots of things but eventually made a safe exit. Wrote 8th letter home at station & gave Chaplain. We started at 7.00. Eat some grub about 10pm & then settled off to sleep. Julia strongly objected to the window our end being opened, & attempted to close it while she thought we slept but Twitchin firmly forbad. I heard a v. strong passage-of-arms being enacted & pretended sleep, but for hrs Julia protested at the “dames Anglaises qui aiment l’hiver”.
September 16th: We reached Sablé at 5am & stayed an hr there. We had just decided to try for a wash there when the train proceeded. However, we hopped out directly we got to Le Mans & got a wash at a Red X place called La Hulte. A Red X nun & padré came round with a big basket of grapes & pears & feed us all. The Tommies were hugely pleased. We ran across Mr Allen at Le Mans. Passed thro’ Alençon, & had lunch 11am. At Surdon they gave us milk & I took a snap of the sentries at station. Some pears arrived too late for us to stretch out & get them. Passed beautiful cathedral at Argenton. One passes many wayside crosses & crucifixes en route & about France. At Lisieux we got out & saw a train of German prisoners (162) come in. The platform was lined up with Fr. soldiers. The prisoners looking v. defeated were confined in trucks, & they said an officer was in the completely shut up one. Lisieux most charming town. Beautiful old cathedral. We have most enthusiastic receptions at every station we stop at.* Arrive Rouen at 8.30pm. Left again 11pm. Another train of German prisoners passed us.
*We saw a great many Belgian refugees at one station. We talked to them & they seemed fairly cheerful.
September 17th: Pulled up many times but arrived at Havre eventually 3.40 but did not run into Gare Maritime. 4.30. Set to work straight away to put up beds etc. & did not stop for any food until 8am. All Casino3 staff is to go back there. Col. Holt got orders last night 12pm to be moved in Col. Thompson’s place. We have now Major Ward. Went in Col’s taxi to Casino at 3.30pm. Each took our old rooms. Seized brooms & just swept & dusted them out. Mr Allen got tea & came for us. We had a v. jolly meal. Mr Donaldson here at present in Mr Somerville’s place. Did beds of 2 wards & then dined at our little café. Old lady most delighted to see us again. M. Josse nearly wept with joy when he saw me, seized my hand & said he was “enchanté”! They all seem pleased to see us again here. After dinner we did 60 more beds, finished about 10.15 & crept off to bed, at least to unpack & set up our own kit, v. tired indeed. 12.30 when I got to bed, & as we had been 2 nights & 3 days without sleep, I did not want rocking!
September 18th: Only awoke at 8.5am by S. Hyde’s voice. Wrote 9th letter home. Did more beds in mng. Went out with S. Johnstone in aft. Washed the pts’ crockery & spoons etc. in evng.
September 19th: Flower, Holbech, “Twitchy” & I had a lesson in revolver shooting fr. Mr Allen. I find it v. hard to keep wrist steady with weight of revolver (Colt bore .450). I think however I cd kill a German now alright. Heard at 6.30 we were to expect pts that evng. We all stayed up (playing bridge!) until 10pm, then lay down in our clothes.
September 20th: 120 wounded arrived 11am! A great many badly shot, one with his lips absolutely mangled into bits. He can’t speak, but is a brick. I helped to dress him. A great many Coldstreams in. All say directly they see a German aeroplane over them, “Now we’re for it”, & get it. We fed, washed & dressed them. I’ve got 3 wd with Twitchin to help me. All wanted to buy chocolate. M. Josse is running his legs off to the shops to buy for them. He is a brick, with his old rheumaticky legs & the perspiration pouring down his face. An Eng. & American lady bring them cigarettes & tobacco & some French ladies send them each a bun. They all quite happy. Tommie is so adaptable. I’ve had a German bullet given me, won at the battle of Aisne4. They see from last Sunday the biggest battle of all is raging. The Germans are making their best stand. If they lose their present position they have 40 miles of open ground behind them, & they know what that means. All again say Red X gets fired on, but not so many tales of cruelty. One man has a German helmet, & another a sword. All of these were wounded Sept. 14 & 15th it seems.
September 21st: Received a Sept 10 D.M. fr. home. Sent 9th letter home by Eng. visitor who was crossing to Eng. tonight. Many visitors Fr. & Eng. all day to see the Tommies. All most kind bringing cigarettes, biscuits, chocs, bananas & papers. Mr Foster, the Eng. man who is practically our “go between” for shops here, is most kind & useful. Runs out on errands all day long. We have 124 wounded at present. Did 6 operations this afternoon. One of my men, Pte Taylor, Scots Gds, very bad bullet wound of chest, T.105. Looks as if he is in for pneu! Had a bit of a shell given me. It’s getting colder here. We were v. busy all day. Some v. nasty shell wounds. Men are just bricks. Wrote letter to John B. Hear they have 8 officers in at present & German sick at the Gare.
September 22nd: We were called at 3.45am to get patients ready to go off to Eng. We fed them all well & then packed off all but 22. These being only slightly wounded to be kept here & then return to the Front when alright. All went off safely. I took 2 snaps of the remaining 22. Had 61 more wounded in trans. fr. the Gare at 4pm. Not badly wounded. The men tell me our artillery cannot get up the hill on which the Germans are making their stand near Braisne, & the R.Es. unable to build bridges across river as they are shelled down at once. The naval guns are going up. They tell me they have been standing knee-deep in water in the trenches. I have put up a war map for the men in my ward so they can see where they have been. Mr Somerville back, but going to officers & not us alas! Mr Foster improves on acquaintanceship. He is awfully shy, but I hear sings beautifully. He is awfully sick the govnt won’t take him for the Front. A Miss Cook sent about 120 delicious buns for the Tommies today.
September 23rd: Another red-letter day. Received 12, 13, 14 & 15 letters fr. home (last date 14th Sept.) p.c. fr. Van Sept. 13 & Evng News Sept 10 & D.M. 18th, D.M. fr. John of 9th. Heard a base (perhaps secondary) to be again at Havre. Still got our 84 patients. All seem v. happy. A great many old papers (some 1895!) & nice books brought by Fr. visitors for them. We put up more beds today. Have to bring this up to 250 beds. We are to give up our messing room for another ward. For 2 days now we have had no rations. I suppose if we happened to be where we cdn’t buy food we shld be on the road to starvation by now! Pts’ food awfully short, both yesterday & today. We have given them a part of ours. Hear we are to go on Fr. rations fr. today, as can’t get Eng. ones. That means, coffee, rice, meat & bread. No cheese, jam or bacon alas! Heard today rumour 3 Eng. cruisers destroyed by Germans5.
September 24th: Rec'd 16th letter fr. home (16) & one fr. John (16). I believe there are many more mail bags waiting at the Gare for us. It came out in orders today that no one was to send letters privately home to England. I am just sick as I was getting one home on the quiet tomorrow & now I can’t ask Mrs L. to take it, as she will probably be searched at S’hampton they say. The reason is there are so many spies here getting news thro’. They say some are passing as Belgian refugees. If I hear anyone speaking German in the street I shall promptly track him until I find a soldier to hand him over to! I wonder if that presumably Eng. man 3 days ago was a spy. I said to the others at the time, “Perhaps this man is a spy & this is a trap”, but anyhow we all trusted him with our letters. Our boys got lots of cigarettes & sweets given them today, & as for papers & magazines we don’t know where to put them, & they date back to 1895. Really it’s quite interesting to read the news of 20 yrs ago! The food is a scandal here. It’s not the fault of our hospital but the base that controls us. We have only the supplies we happen to have with us & buying fresh meat & veg. The poor men don’t get enough to eat. At least they haven’t the last 2 or 3 days. It was alright while we had a good stock but now we’ve exhausted it, i.e. porridge, jam, bully. As for the meat while it’s ¼ of what I cd eat myself, & veg is just about 3 small potatoes each, they cd eat more bread, but that is not so bad. They are a splendid lot & not a grumble, but it simply hurts me not to be able to give them as much as they cd eat. Nearly every day, we sisters give them part of our rations as well as their own. Of course they don’t know it, I believe if they did they wdn’t take it, but we really don’t go short, as we just buy more. We are having to spend a good deal of money just at present on food. This afternoon we had a shirt parade! We got 22 of the cotton shirts the Fr. Red X gave us, I gave them to 22, & then they took off their flannel shirts & washed them out. It was a most funny sight to see them all tubbing away! I took a snap of it. It is confirmed in papers that we have lost 3 cruisers. Alas! We had Colonel Sir Anthony Bowlby6 round today & other bigwigs inspecting the hospital. He is a big London surgeon & was thro’ S.A. War. It’s getting really quite chilly at nights here. I dread what the winter will be. The town is much fuller here now. Quite a sprinkg of our Tommies about. (Not R.A.M.C.). The British P.O.opened again. I went this evng & interviewed the censor. He says it will be quicker now getting letters to Eng. I hope this isn’t only “talkee talkee” to get rid of me.
September 25th: Rec'd 17th letter fr. home & overseas Mirrors & D.M. This is too lovely, letters etc. on 3 successive days! Letters dated 18, only 1 week coming. I find it a bit difficult to get up in mngs now, at 6.30, I expect because I’ve been going to bed rather late (my own fault). Harry (our batman; we ought to call him Moore but we’ve all degenerated into the familiar Harry!) raps at our door, as if he were using a battering ram against Germans. He certainly does his best to wake us! We see to the pts’ breakfast as soon as we’ve had our own. It’s really best doing theirs after ours as it is gives them longer to sleep. The porridge was quite good this mng. It seems yesterday’s was a failure owing to the cook’s lack of knowledge of how to cook it. The proper cook is sick, & they cdn’t settle in the kitchen how to cook it. One man suggested putting the meal in the pan & pouring the boiling water over it & serving at once. (I believe this is what actually did happen to it!) Another man said no, he knew the right way to do it was to take enough cold water to make it all up into a paste & then add the boiling water. We couldn’t understand the mystery of yesterday’s “skilly”, but we do now. S. Hyde was informed last night the new cook had arrived, so she sent a message he was to report to her at 9am next mng. At 9am who appears but one of the pts! It seems he was a mess cook at one time & so now as only v. slightly wounded he has offered his services to fill the gap. Really it’s quite comical. He had had a clean shirt given him so we gratefully accepted. The food at dinner much better today. I asked Mr Donaldson yesterday to inspect the dinners himself. He did & there was quite a good stew & enough for all. We hear we shall only be on Fr. rations for a few days as the A.S.C. things are coming, I heard today. They say they cd not understand why we had been put on Fr. rations at all, as plenty of money allowed, & why didn’t we buy food in the town. Alas, there is the red tape for you. We do miss the bacon, cheese & jam. The rice we were looking forward to got burnt so that was a washout & the coffee as made by our batmen is undrinkable. Tea they make v. well. Miss Richards turned up this mng. She says our casualties are 30,000 at present. It is simply appalling. We shall win, but oh! the price for it. Mme Genista (one of the ladies some were billeted with) came to see hosp. & had tea with us today. Also many other visitors for the Tommies. They are getting plenty of cigarettes & we hear the shirts fr. Red X will be coming. So many have asked for a shirt. It is so sad to say we haven’t any to give them. I heard a rumour tonight that bombs had been dropped in London. I wonder if it is true. I must stop now & go to bed. 10.30pm. Sent p.c. home.
September 26th: Main thing to chronicle is I had my 2nd bath (since I’ve been here!) today. My kit bath acts splendidly, & Harry brings me a tea-pail of hot water. Heard today Mr Donaldson got into great hot water at Hdqrts for writing in a letter home this was again the base. The censorship is to be stricter than ever (is that possible!), the idea being not to let the Germans know Havre is again a base. You bet they know it already, long before we did. There are certainly plenty of their spies here. I wish I cd discover one. I rec'd today the photos M. Viale took of Medforth & myself at La Baule. He enclosed a charming little note with them saying what a deep impression I had made on him, & wd I write & tell him where I was as he wanted to send me another little souvenir of the place. I shdn’t be a bit surprised if he were a spy. I will write & thank him but he won’t get much information fr. this child. I suspect all & respect the Gs for the cleverness & thoroughness of their espionage system. Twitchin & I called at Mme Clunies this afternoon but she was out. We have just 2 Tommies in the ward who are not nice men. They buy bread, & after most meals produce this loaf & just eat it together. Pigs. One of them showed me a beautiful little crucifix mounted in a shell. I know he looted it, tho’ he says he found it in an empty house the Gs had left. The Chaplain actually came to see us today. He doesn’t go among the men at all. I’m afraid he is not the right sort, but anyhow he is going to give them a service here tomorrow 3pm. I talked with some of the men about it, & most of them were most earnest in wishing for it. They told me they had seen no Chaplains so far at the front, & I explained that was thro’ Kitchener’s orders. It is hard our dying men shld have none to cheer them at that last moment before passing into eternity. The weather continues fine, hot in the sun but chilly in the evngs. The sunsets over the sea are glorious here. I have never seen any like them. Tonight’s was superb, a glorified Turner, every colour imaginable blended out of a flaming red, & the sea a soft deep pink from the glow of the sky, with pale grey rocks dotted here & there and the misty white sails of the fishing boats in the distance. I never imagined a sky cd look so beautiful. Medforth said she had seen them in Egypt as magnificent. Davis has been moved to the officers’ quarters, also who has rheumatism. My fingers are better but still have iodine & dry dressing on them.
September 27th: Twitchin & I went to the Eng. church this mng. Mr Buridge Chaplain. It’s the same we went to when we were in Havre before, but what a difference! Then, the church was packed with officers & Tommies all going to the Front. Today 1 Colonel, 1 Major, 1 Capt., 1 Tommie & ourselves were all the military. I cd not help the tears coming to my eyes (Twitchin wept thro’ nearly all the service, poor girl) when I thought of nearly all those fine brave men lying now in their still, last sleep in a foreign land, some even unburied, their last resting places unknown, with only the silent stars as sentinels over them & the night winds their last requiem. God rest their souls. I’m sure He will forgive the sins & blots on many of their lives for the heroic bravery of their deaths. Many who did not know how to live perhaps, have taught all of us how to die. We had a little chat with Mr B. & the Army Chaplain, Mr Lloyd, who preached, & we borrowed some hymn books for the service Mr L. was coming to give our Tommies in the afternoon. T. & I both stayed to communion after the service & so did 2 of the officers. We had a nice little service in the afternoon in No 1 Wd. The boys enjoyed singing their favourite hymns & the Chaplain gave them a fairly good address, a bit too much of himself & his doings I thought. Afterwards Lady Algernon Gordon Lennox7 & her daughter, Miss Ivy G. L., came round. They came to see what we really wanted for the soldiers, so we told them & we hope now things will come to us. We heard Ld Dundonald was coming in his fiacre to see what was wanted. It’s a sensible thing to do, if they follow it up by sending us what’s wanted. We heard a rumour tonight that either Rouen bridge or one nearby has been blown up & trains cannot get to us from the Front. There mgn’t be a word of truth to it, indeed we hope not. Another glorious sunset tonight. Livingstone & Locke had an amusing incident last night. They went up to see the Forts at St Addresse in the evng & were coming back about 7 when it was quite dark. A Fr. sentry challenged them & most stupidly they did not answer at once. A minute later they heard footsteps. Another sentry ran to the 1st one, & there he was with fixed bayonet pointed at them. Of course as soon as he cd see who it was it was alright, but they saw the risk of having been shot at once by not replying to the sentry. I must make a journey up there & see what happens to me, but I know I shall answer jolly quick when I’m challenged, as their duty is to fire at once, if no answer. I do wonder they weren’t both brought home on stretchers.
September 28th: Sent 10th letter home. We had another batch of 108 in this mng at 7.30am, a great many from close to La Fés. I have had a German cap badge given me (137th Infant.). Got a Life Gdsman in my wd, 6ft 2, & another in 2 wd, 6ft 4! Got a boy Underwood of 1st Queens v. ill indeed, probably double pneu. The Chaplain has been to see him. I’m so glad as this lad might die suddenly. They have a German at the Gare who lay wounded in the trenches for 8 days. When our men picked him up he was quite mad & covered with insects & sores all over. Oh! the horrors of war & the suffering! A Sgt told me of a man in his company whose feet got so sore he had to take his boots off & march barefooted & yet for 3 days that man carried a Maxim gun on his shoulder as no horses. Can we do enough for such heroes as these! About ½ were dispatched off this evng to a hosp. ship. Only 2 went fr. my ward. There are sisters on the hosp. trains running right up to Braisne. The men say if it wasn’t for the sisters they wdn’t get much food on the trains, but they get them milk & lots of things for them & look after them. How I wish cd have been on a train, but never mind, we are being useful here, where there is plenty of work at present. My feet feel as if I had worn the soles off them. I have only sat down today just for a hurried meal. We have turned half of the galley where we mess into a ward for them. It’s quaint they’re all going past us as we have our meal. One German taken prisoner had his back covered with pricks. When asked he said it was where their officers prod them with their bayonets when they can’t go on. Think of it! Rec'd 18th letter fr. home at 9.30pm (2 fr. Min & Al).
September 29th: Rec'd 4 papers today (2 Sund. papers & overseas D.M. & London Mail). Been v. busy day in ward. I’m running it alone & my orderly Brindley no use as he is only an untrained reservist. Never done a day’s nursing. My pneu. Pte Underwood is a little better if anything tonight. I gave the men the photos I took of them. They were awfully pleased with them. I had a piece of a German aeroplane given me (brought down near Mons by L. Batt. R.H.A.) by my Life G’dsman Naskell. It’s awfully strong stuff, untearable. We sent 15 men off today to rest camp. They are sorry to leave us. Chaplain Mr Buridge came round. He is splendid with the men. The Duchess of Westminster also came round, presumably to find out what we were wanting. Our new Colonel Morgan also visited us. The other sisters got their field pay today , £9.13. Four of us forgotten on list. I am one alas! I expect it will be months before we get it now. Heard a rumour tonight that some German Gen. & his staff have surrendered near Boulogne. It mgn’t be true tho’. The fighting is v. hard now. They say the Gs are going to make another determined dash for Paris.
September 30th: Spent a busy mng in the ward. This afternoon Twitchin, Flower & I were called for by 2 American Red X ladies & taken in Fr. deputy’s car to see the Red X hospital & also over the big Havre hospital that I had visited at our 1st visit here. It holds 2,000 pts. A most charming Eng. sister (of charity) in one wd. Her work must be appalling. The wards really looked v. nice & quite clean for what I’ve seen of Fr. nursing. A nurse to one wd. We were also allowed special permission to see the ward of German prisoners. They were looked after just as the Fr. & looked very happy. I spoke a little of my v. bad German to some of them. They most kindly offered us the use of their X ray room. The American ladies, the Misses Cox, were so kind & we all went back to their house & had tea. Mme Sigancy - M. Guillard (the party). Saw Seale & S. Wohlman today. Davis is back here, also Miss Kerr. Rec'd today War Budget & overseas D.M. Wrote to M. Viale. Wrote p.c. home.