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Title: Fanny Goes to War
Author: Beauchamp, Pat
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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FANNY GOES TO WAR

BY PAT BEAUCHAMP
(FIRST AID NURSING YEOMANRY)

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
MAJOR-GENERAL H.N. THOMPSON,
K.C.M.G, C.B., D.S.O


LONDON
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
1919

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To T.H.



INTRODUCTION


I eagerly avail myself of the Author's invitation to write a foreword to
her book, as it gives me an opportunity of expressing something of the
admiration, of the wonder, of the intense brotherly sympathy and
affection--almost adoration--which has from time to time overwhelmed me
when witnessing the work of our women during the Great War.

They have been in situations where, five short years ago, no one would
ever have thought of finding them. They have witnessed and taken active
part in scenes nerve-racking and heart-rending beyond the power of
description. Often it has been my duty to watch car-load after car-load
of severely wounded being dumped into the reception marquees of a
Casualty Clearing Station. There they would be placed in long rows
awaiting their turn, and there, amid the groans of the wounded and the
loud gaspings of the gassed, at the mere approach of a sister there
would be a perceptible change and every conscious eye would brighten as
with a ray of fresh hope. In the resuscitation and moribund marquees,
nothing was more pathetic than to see "Sister," with her notebook,
stooping over some dying lad, catching his last messages to his loved
ones.

Women worked amid such scenes for long hours day after day, amid scenes
as no mere man could long endure, and yet their nerves held out; it may
be because they were inspired by the nature of their work. I have seen
them, too, continue that work under intermittent shelling and bombing,
repeated day after day and night after night, and it was the rarest
thing to find one whose nerves gave way. I have seen others rescue
wounded from falling houses, and drive their cars boldly into streets
with bricks and debris flying.

I have also, alas! seen them grievously wounded; and on one occasion,
killed, and found their comrades continuing their work in the actual
presence of their dead.

The free homes of Britain little realise what our war women have been
through, or what an undischarged debt is owing to them.

How few now realise to what a large extent they were responsible for the
fighting spirit, for the _morale_, for the tenacity which won the war!
The feeling, the knowledge that their women were at hand to succour and
to tend them when they fell raised the fighting spirit of the men and
made them brave and confident.

The above qualities are well exemplified by the conduct and bearing of
our Authoress herself, who, when grievously injured, never lost her head
or her consciousness, but through half an hour sat quietly on the
road-side beside the wreck of her car and the mangled remains of her
late companion. Rumour has it that she asked for and smoked a
cigarette.

Such heroism in a young girl strongly appealed to the imagination of our
French and Belgian Allies, and two rows of medals bedeck her khaki
jacket.

Other natural qualities of our race, which largely helped to win the
war, are brought out very vividly, although unconsciously, in this book,
_e.g._ the spirit of cheerfulness; the power to forget danger and
hardship; the faculty of seeing the humorous side of things; of making
the best of things; the spirit of comradeship which sweetened life.

These qualities were nowhere more evident than among the F.A.N.Y. Their
_esprit-de-corps_, their gaiety, their discipline, their smartness and
devotion when duty called were infectious, almost an inspiration to
those who witnessed them.

Throughout the war the "Fannys" were renowned for their resourcefulness.
They were always ready to take on any and every job, from starting up a
frozen car to nursing a bad typhoid case, and they rose to the occasion
every time.

     H.N. THOMPSON, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O.,
                     _Major-General_.

     _Director of Medical Services, British Army of the Rhine._

     _Assistant Director Medical Services, 2nd Division, 1914;
     ditto 48th Division, 1915; Deputy-Director Medical Services,
     VI Corps, May 1915 to July 1917; Director Medical Services,
     First Army, July 1917 to April 1919._

CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

    I. IN CAMP BEFORE THE WAR                                          1

   II. FIRST IMPRESSIONS                                              11

  III. THE JOURNEY UP TO THE FRONT                                    19

   IV. BEHIND THE TRENCHES                                            27

    V. IN THE TRENCHES                                                35

   VI. THE TYPHOID WARDS                                              41

  VII. THE ZEPPELIN RAID                                              49

 VIII. CONCERNING BATHS, "JOLIE-ANNETTE," "MARIE-MARGOT" AND ST.
       INGLEVERT                                                      59

   IX. TYPHOIDS AGAIN, AND PARIS IN 1915.                             70

    X. CONCERNING A CONCERT, CANTEEN WORK, HOUSEKEEPING, THE ENGLISH
       CONVOY, AND GOOD-BYE, LAMARCK.                                 88

   XI. THE ENGLISH CONVOY                                            111

  XII. THE PASSING OF THE LITTLE LORRY, "OLD BILL" AND "'ERB" AT
       AUDRICQ                                                       129

 XIII. CONVOY LIFE                                                   152

  XIV. CHRISTMAS, 1916                                               176

   XV. CONVOY PETS, COMMANDEERING, AND THE "FANTASTIKS"              197

  XVI. THE LAST RIDE                                                 216

 XVII. HOSPITALS: FRANCE AND ENGLAND                                 240

XVIII. ROEHAMPTON: "BOB" THE GREY, AND THE ARMISTICE                 267

  XIX. AFTER TWO YEARS                                               283



FANNY GOES TO WAR



CHAPTER I

IN CAMP BEFORE THE WAR


The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was founded in 1910 and now numbers
roughly about four hundred voluntary members.

It was originally intended to supplement the R.A.M.C. in field work,
stretcher bearing, ambulance driving, etc.--its duties being more or
less embodied in the title.

An essential point was that each member should be able to ride bareback
or otherwise, as much difficulty had been found in transporting nurses
from one place to another on the veldt in the South African War. Men had
often died through lack of attention, as the country was too rough to
permit of anything but a saddle horse to pass.

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was on active service soon after War was
declared and, though it is not universally known, they were the pioneers
of all the women's corps subsequently working in France.

Before they had been out very long they were affectionately known as
the F.A.N.Y.'s, to all and sundry, and in an incredibly short space of
time had units working with the British, French, and Belgian Armies in
the field.

It was in the Autumn of 1913 that, picking up the _Mirror_ one day, I
saw a snapshot of a girl astride on horseback leaping a fence in a khaki
uniform and topee. Underneath was merely the line "Women Yeomanry in
Camp," and nothing more. "That," said I, pointing out the photo to a
friend, "is the sort of show I'd like to belong to: I'm sick of ambling
round the Row on a Park hack. It would be a rag to go into camp with a
lot of other girls. I'm going to write to the _Mirror_ for particulars
straight away."

I did so; but got no satisfaction at all, as the note accompanying the
photo had been mislaid. However, they did inform me there was such a
Corps in existence, but beyond that they could give me no particulars.

I spent weeks making enquiries on all sides. "Oh, yes, certainly there
was a Girls' Yeomanry Corps." "Where can I join it?" I would ask
breathlessly. "Ah, that I can't say," would be the invariable reply.

The more obstacles I met with only made me the more determined to
persevere. I went out of my way to ask all sorts of possible and
impossible people on the off-chance that they might know; but it was a
long time before I could run it to earth. "Deeds not words" seemed to be
their motto.

One night at a small dance my partner told me he had just joined the
Surrey Yeomanry; that brought the subject up once more and I confided
all my troubles to him. Joy of joys! He had actually _seen_ some of the
Corps riding in Hounslow Barracks. It was plain sailing from that
moment, and I hastened to write to the Adjutant of the said Barracks to
obtain full particulars.

Within a few days I received a reply and a week later met the C.O. of
the F.A.N.Y.'s, for an interview.

To my delight I heard the Corps was shortly going into camp, and I was
invited to go down for a week-end to see how I liked it before I
officially became a member. When the day arrived my excitement, as I
stepped into the train at Waterloo, knew no bounds. Here I was at last
_en route_ for the elusive Yeomanry Camp!

Arrived at Brookwood, I chartered an ancient fly and in about twenty
minutes or so espied the camp in a field some distance from the road
along which we were driving. "'Ard up for a job _I_ should say!" said my
cabby, nodding jocosely towards the khaki figures working busily in the
distance. I ignored this sally as I dismissed him and set off across the
fields with my suit case.

There was a large mess tent, a store tent, some half dozen or more bell
tents, a smoky, but serviceable-looking, field kitchen, and at the end
of the field were tethered the horses! As I drew nearer, I felt horribly
shy and was glad I had selected my very plainest suit and hat, as
several pairs of eyes looked up from polishing bits and bridles to scan
me from top to toe.

I was shown into the mess tent, where I was told to wait for the C.O.,
and in the meantime made friends with "Castor," the Corps' bull-dog and
mascot, who was lying in a clothes-basket with a bandaged paw as the
result of an argument with a regimental pal at Bisley.

A sudden diversion was caused by a severe thunderstorm which literally
broke right over the camp. I heard the order ring out "To the
horse-lines!" and watched (through a convenient hole in the canvas)
several "troopers" flying helter-skelter down the field.

To everyone's disappointment, however, those old skins never turned a
hair; there was not even the suggestion of a stampede. I cautiously
pushed my suit-case under the mess table in the hope of keeping it dry,
for the rain was coming down in torrents, and in places poured through
the canvas roof in small rivulets. (Even in peace-time comfort in the
F.A.N.Y. Camp was at a minimum!)

They all trooped in presently, very wet and jolly, and Lieutenant Ashley
Smith (McDougal) introduced me as a probable recruit. When the storm was
over she kindly lent me an old uniform, and I was made to feel quite at
home by being handed about thirty knives and asked to rub them in the
earth to get them clean. The cooks loved new recruits!

Feeling just then was running very high over the Irish question. I
learnt a contingent had been offered and accepted, in case of
hostilities, and that the C.O. had even been over to Belfast to arrange
about stables and housing!

One enthusiast asked me breathlessly (it was Cole-Hamilton) "Which side
are you on?" I'm afraid I knew nothing much about either and shamelessly
countered it by asking, "Which are you?" "Ulster, of course," she
replied. "I'm with you," said I, "it's all the same to me so long as I'm
there for the show."

I thoroughly enjoyed that week-end and, of course, joined the Corps. In
July of that year we had great fun in the long summer camp at Pirbright.

Work was varied, sometimes we rode out with the regiments stationed at
Bisley on their field days and looked after any casualties. (We had a
horse ambulance in those days which followed on these occasions and was
regarded as rather a dud job.) Other days some were detailed for work at
the camp hospital near by to help the R.A.M.C. men, others to exercise
the horses, clean the officers' boots and belts, etc., and, added to
these duties, was all the everyday work of the camp, the grooming and
watering of the horses, etc. Each one groomed her own mount, but in some
cases one was shared between two girls. "Grooming time is the only time
when I appreciate having half a horse," one of these remarked cheerily
to me. That hissing noise so beloved of grooms is extraordinarily hard
to acquire--personally, I needed all the breath I had to cope at all!

The afternoons were spent doing stretcher drill: having lectures on
First Aid and Nursing from a R.A.M.C. Sergeant-Major, and, when it was
very hot, enjoying a splash in the tarpaulin-lined swimming bath the
soldiers had kindly made for us. Rides usually took place in the
evenings, and when bedtime came the weary troopers were only too ready
to turn in! Our beds were on the floor and of the "biscuit" variety,
being three square _paillasse_ arrangements looking like giant
reproductions of the now too well known army "tooth breakers." We had
brown army blankets, and it was no uncommon thing to find black earth
beetles and earwigs crawling among them! After months of active service
these details appear small, but in the summer of 1914 they were real
terrors. Before leaving the tents in the morning each "biscuit" had to
be neatly piled on the other and all the blankets folded, and then we
had to sally forth to learn the orders of the day, who was to be orderly
to our two officers, who was to water the horses, etc., etc., and by the
time it was eight a.m. we had already done a hard day's work.

One particular day stands out in my memory as being a specially
strenuous one. The morning's work was over, and the afternoon was set
aside for practising for the yearly sports. The rescue race was by far
the most thrilling, its object being to save anyone from the enemy who
had been left on the field without means of transport. There was a good
deal of discussion as to who were to be the rescued and who the
rescuers. Sergeant Wicks explained to all and sundry that her horse
objected strongly to anyone sitting on its tail and that it always
bucked on these occasions. No one seemed particularly anxious to be
saved on that steed, and my heart sank as her eye alighted on me. Being
a new member I felt it was probably a test, and when the inevitable
question was asked I murmured faintly I'd be delighted. I made my way to
the far end of the field with the others fervently hoping I shouldn't
land on my head.

At a given command the rescuers galloped up, wheeled round, and,
slipping the near foot from the stirrup, left it for the rescued to jump
up by. I was soon up and sitting directly behind the saddle with one
foot in the stirrup and a hand in Sergeant Wicks' belt. (Those of you
who know how slight she is can imagine my feeling of security!) Off we
set with every hope of reaching the post first, and I was just settling
down to enjoy myself when going over a little dip in the field two
terrific bucks landed us high in the air! Luckily I fell "soft," but as
I picked myself up I couldn't help wondering whether in some cases
falling into the enemy's hand might not be the lesser evil! I spent the
next ten minutes catching the "Bronco!" After that, we retired to our
mess for tea, on the old Union Jack, very ready for it after our
efforts.

We had just turned in that night and drawn up the army blankets,
excessively scratchy they were too, when the bugle sounded for everyone
to turn out. (This was rather a favourite stunt of the C.O.'s.) Luckily
it was a bright moonlight night, and we learnt we were to make for a
certain hill, beyond Bisley, carrying with us stretchers and a tent for
an advanced dressing station. Subdued groans greeted this piece of news,
but we were soon lined up in groups of four--two in front, two behind,
and with two stretchers between the four. These were carried on our
shoulders for a certain distance, and at the command "Change
stretchers!" they were slipped down by our sides. This stunt had to be
executed very neatly and with precision, and woe betide anyone who
bungled it. It was ten o'clock when we reached Bisley Camp, and I
remember to this day the surprised look on the sentry's face, in the
moonlight, as we marched through. It was always a continual source of
wonderment to them that girls should do anything so much like hard work
for so-called amusement. That march seemed interminable--but singing and
whistling as we went along helped us tremendously. Little did we think
how this training would stand us in good stead during the long days on
active service that followed. At last a halt was called, and luckily at
this point there was a nice dry ditch into which we quickly flopped with
our backs to the hedge and our feet on the road. It made an ideal
armchair!

We resumed the march, and striking off the road came to a rough clearing
where the tent was already being erected by an advance party. We were
lined up and divided into groups, some as stretcher bearers, some as
"wounded," some as nurses to help the "doctor," etc. The wounded were
given slips of paper, on which their particular "wound" was described,
and told to go off and make themselves scarce, till they were found and
carried in (a coveted job). When they had selected nice soft dry spots
they lay down and had a quiet well-earned nap until the stretcher
bearers discovered them. Occasionally they were hard to find, and a
panting bearer would call out "I say, wounded, _give_ a groan!" and they
were located. First Aid bandages were applied to the "wound" and, if
necessary, impromptu splints made from the trees near by. The patient
was then placed on the stretcher and taken back to the "dressing
station." "I'm slipping off the stretcher at this angle," she would
occasionally complain. "Shut up," the panting stretcher bearers would
reply, "you're unconscious!"

When all were brought in, places were changed, and the stretcher bearers
became the wounded and vice versa. We got rather tired of this pastime
about 12.30 but there was still another wounded to be brought in. She
had chosen the bottom of a heathery slope and took some finding. It was
the C.O. She feigned delirium and threw her arms about in a wild manner.
The poor bearers were feeling too exhausted to appreciate this piece of
acting, and heather is extremely slippery stuff. When we had struggled
back with her the soi-disant doctor asked for the diagnosis. "Drunk and
disorderly," replied one of them, stepping smartly forward and saluting!
This somewhat broke up the proceedings, and _lèse majesté_ was excused
on the grounds that it was too dark to recognise it was the C.O. The
tent pegs were pulled up and the tent pulled down and we all thankfully
tramped back to camp to sleep the sleep of the just till the reveille
sounded to herald another day.



CHAPTER II

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


The last Chapter was devoted to the F.A.N.Y.'s in camp before the War,
but from now onwards will be chronicled facts that befell them on active
service.

When war broke out in August 1914 Lieutenant Ashley Smith lost no time
in offering the Corps' services to the War Office. To our intense
disappointment these were refused. However, F.A.N.Y.'s are not easily
daunted. The Belgian Army, at that time, had no organised medical corps
in the field, and informed us they would be extremely grateful if we
would take over a Hospital for them. Lieutenant Smith left for Antwerp
in September 1914, and had arranged to take a house there for a Hospital
when the town fell; her flight to Ghent where she stayed to the last
with a dying English officer, until the Germans arrived, and her
subsequent escape to Holland have been told elsewhere. (_A F.A.N.Y. in
France--Nursing Adventures._) Suffice it to say we were delighted to see
her safely back among us again in October; and on the last day of that
month the first contingent of F.A.N.Y.'s left for active service, hardly
any of them over twenty-one.

I was unfortunately not able to join them until January 1915; and never
did time drag so slowly as in those intervening months. I spent the time
in attending lectures and hospital, driving a car and generally picking
up every bit of useful information I could. The day arrived at last and
Coley and I were, with the exception of the Queen of the Belgians
(travelling incognito) and her lady-in-waiting, the only women on board.

The Hospital we had given us was for Belgian Tommies, and called
Lamarck, and had been a Convent school before the War. There were fifty
beds for "_blessés_" and fifty for typhoid patients, which at that
period no other Hospital in the place would take. It was an extremely
virulent type of pneumonic typhoid. These cases were in a building apart
from the main Hospital and across the yard. Dominating both buildings
was the cathedral of Notre Dame, with its beautiful East window facing
our yard.

The top floor of the main building was a priceless room and reserved for
us. Curtained off at the far end were the beds of the chauffeurs who had
to sleep on the premises while the rest were billeted in the town; the
other end resolved itself into a big untidy, but oh so jolly, sitting
room. Packing cases were made into seats and piles of extra blankets
were covered and made into "tumpties," while round the stove stood the
interminable clothes horses airing the shirts and sheets, etc., which
Lieutenant Franklin brooded over with a watchful eye! It was in this
room we all congregated at ten o'clock every morning for twenty precious
minutes during which we had tea and biscuits, read our letters, swanked
to other wards about the bad cases we had got in, and generally talked
shop and gossiped. There was an advanced dressing station at Oostkerke
where three of the girls worked in turn, and we also took turns to go up
to the trenches on the Yser at night, with fresh clothes for the men and
bandages and dressings for those who had been wounded.

At one time we were billeted in a fresh house every three nights which,
as the reader may imagine in those "moving" times, had its
disadvantages. After a time, as a great favour, an empty shop was
allowed us as a permanency. It rejoiced in the name of "Le Bon Génie"
and was at the corner of a street, the shop window extending along the
two sides. It was this "shop window" we used as a dormitory, after
pasting the lower panes with brown paper. When they first heard at home
that we "slept in a shop window" they were mildly startled. We were so
short of beds that the night nurses tumbled into ours as soon as they
were vacated in the morning, so there was never much fear of suffering
from a damp one.

Our patients were soldiers of the Belgian line and cavalry regiments and
at first I was put in a _blessé_ ward. I had originally gone out with
the idea of being one of the chauffeurs; but we were so short of nurses
that I willingly went into the wards instead, where we worked under
trained sisters. The men were so jolly and patient and full of gratitude
to the English "Miskes" (which was an affectionate diminutive of
"Miss"). It was a sad day when we had to clear the beds to make ready
for fresh cases. I remember going down to the Gare Maritime one day
before the Hospital ship left for Cherbourg, where they were all taken.
Never shall I forget the sight. In those days passenger ships had been
hastily converted into Hospital ships and the accommodation was very
different from that of to-day. All the cases from my ward were
"stretchers" and indeed hardly fit to be moved. I went down the
companion way, and what a scene met my eyes. The floor of the saloon was
packed with stretchers all as close together as possible. It seemed
terrible to believe that every one[1] of those men was seriously wounded.
The stretchers were so close together it was impossible to try and move
among them, so I stayed on the bottom rung of the ladder and threw the
cigarettes to the different men who were well enough to smoke them. The
discomfort they endured must have been terrible, for from a letter I
subsequently received I learnt they were three days on the journey. In
those days when the Germans were marching on Calais, it was up to the
medical authorities to pass the wounded through as quickly as possible.

Often the men could only speak Flemish, but I did not find much
difficulty in understanding it. If you speak German with a broad
Cumberland accent I assure you you can make yourself understood quite
easily! It was worth while trying anyway, and it did one's heart good to
see how their faces lighted up.

There were some famous characters in the Hospital, one of them being
Jefké, the orderly in Ward I, who at times could be tender as a woman,
at others a veritable clown keeping the men in fits of laughter, then as
suddenly lapsing into a profound melancholy and reading a horrible
little greasy prayer book assuring us most solemnly that his one idea in
life was to enter the Church. Though he stole jam right and left his
heart was in the right place, for the object of his depredations was
always some extra tasty dish for a specially bad _blessé_. He had the
longest of eyelashes, and his expression when caught would be so comical
it was impossible to be angry with him.

Another famous "impayable" was the coffin-cart man who came on occasions
to drive the men to their last resting place. The Coffin cart was a
melancholy looking vehicle resembling in appearance a dilapidated old
crow, as much as anything, or a large bird of prey with its torn black
canvas sides that flapped mournfully like huge wings in the wind as
Pierre drove it along the streets. I could never repress a shiver when I
saw it flapping along. The driver was far from being a sorry individual
with his crisp black moustaches _bien frisés_ and his merry eye. He
explained to me in a burst of confidence that his _métier_ in peace
times was that of a trick cyclist on the Halls. What a contrast from
his present job. He promised to borrow a bicycle on the morrow and give
an exhibition for our benefit in the yard. He did so, and was certainly
no mean performer. The only day I ever saw him really downcast was when
he came to bid good-bye. "What, Pierre," said I, "you don't mean to say
you are leaving us?" "Yes, Miske, for punishment--I will explain how it
arrived. Look you, to give pleasure to my young lady I took her for a
joy-ride, a very little one, on the coffin cart, and on returning behold
we were caught, _voilà_, and now I go to the trenches!" I could not help
laughing, he looked so downcast, and the idea of his best girl enjoying
a ride in that lugubrious car struck me as being the funniest thing I
had heard for some time.

We were a never-failing source of wonderment to the French inhabitants
of the town. Our manly Yeomanry uniform filled them with awe and
admiration. I overheard a chemist saying to one of his clients as we
were passing out of his shop, "Truly, until one hears their voices, one
would say they were men."

"There's a compliment for us," said I, to Struttie. "I didn't know we
had manly faces until this moment."

After some time when work was not at such a high pressure, two of us
went out riding in turns on the sands with one of the Commandants.
Belgian military saddles took some getting used to with the peak in
front and the still higher one behind, not to mention the excessive
slipperiness of the surface. His favourite pastime on the return ride
was to play follow my leader up and down the sand dunes, and it was his
great delight to go streaking up the very highest, with the sand
crumbling and slipping behind him, and we perforce had to follow and lie
almost flat on the horse's backs as we descended the "precipice" the
other side. We felt English honour was at stake and with our hearts in
our mouths (at least mine was!) followed at all costs.

If we were off duty in the evening we hurried back to the "shop window"
buying eggs _en route_ and anything else we fancied for supper; then we
undressed hastily and thoroughly enjoyed our picnic meal instead of
having it in the hospital kitchen, with the sanded floor and the medley
of Belgian cooks in the background and the banging of saucepans as an
accompaniment. Two of the girls kept their billet off the Grand Place as
a permanency. It was in a funny old-fashioned house in a dark street
known universally as "the dug-out"--Madame was fat and capable, with a
large heart. The French people at first were rather at a loss to place
the English "Mees" socially and one day two of us looked in to ask
Madame's advice on how to cook something. She turned to us in
astonishment. "How now, you know not how to cook a thing simple as that?
Who then makes the 'cuisine' for you at home? Surely not Madame your
mother when there are young girls such as you in the house?" We gazed
at her dumbly while she sniffed in disgust. "Such a thing is unheard of
in my country," she continued wrathfully. "I wonder you have not shame
at your age to confess such ignorance"--"What _would_ she say," said my
friend to me when she had gone, "if I told her we have _two_ cooks at
home?"

This house of Madame's was built in such a way that some of the bedrooms
jutted out over the shops in the narrow little streets. Thompson and
Struttie who had a room there were over a Café Chantant known as the
"Bijou"--a high class place of entertainment! Sunday night was a gala
performance and I was often asked to a "scrambled-egg" supper during
which, with forks suspended in mid air, we listened breathlessly to the
sounds of revelry beneath. Some of the performers had extremely good
voices and we could almost, but not quite, hear the words (perhaps it
was just as well). What ripping tunes they had! I can remember one
especially when, during the chorus, all the audience beat time with
their feet and joined in. We were evolving wild schemes of disguising
ourselves as _poilus_ and going in a body to witness the show, but
unfortunately it was one of those things that is "not done" in the best
circles!



CHAPTER III

THE JOURNEY UP TO THE FRONT


Soon my turn came to go up to the trenches. The day had at last arrived!
We were not due to go actually _into_ the trenches till after dark in
case of drawing fire, but we set off early, as we had some distance to
go and stores to deliver at dressing stations. Two of the trained
nurses, Sister Lampen and Joynson, were of the party, and two
F.A.N.Y.'s; the rest of the good old "Mors" ambulance was filled with
sacks of shirts, mufflers, and socks, together with the indispensable
first-aid chests and packets of extra dressings in case of need.

Our first visit was made to the Belgian Headquarters in the town for our
_laisser passers_, without which we would not be allowed to pass the
sentries at the barriers. We were also given the _mots du jour_ or
pass-words for the day, the latter of which came into operation only
when we were in the zone of fire. I will describe what happened in
detail, as it was a very fair sample of the average day up at the front.
The road along which we travelled was, of course, lined with the
ubiquitous poplar tree, placed at regular intervals as far as the eye
could see. The country was flat to a degree, with cleverly hidden
entrenchments at intervals, for this was the famous main road to Calais
along which the Kaiser so ardently longed to march.

Barriers occurred frequently placed slantwise across the roads, where
sentries stood with fixed bayonets, and through which no one could pass
unless the _laisser passer_ was produced. Some of those barriers were
quite tricky affairs to drive through in a big ambulance, and reminded
me of a gymkhana! It was quite usual in those days to be stopped by a
soldier waiting on the road, who, with a gallant bow and salute, asked
your permission to "mount behind" and have a lift to so and so. In fact,
if you were on foot and wanted to get anywhere quickly it was always
safe to rely on a military car or ambulance coming along, and then
simply wave frantically and ask for a lift. Very much a case of share
and share alike.

We passed many regiments riding along, and very gay they looked with
their small cocked caps and tassels that dangled jauntily over one eye
(this was before they got into khaki). The regiments were either French
or Belgian, for no British were in that sector at this time. Soon we
arrived at the picturesque entry into Dunkirk, with its drawbridge and
mediæval towers and grey city wall; here our passes were again examined,
and there was a long queue of cars waiting to get through as we drew
up. Once "across the Rubicon" we sped through the town and in time came
to Furnes with its quaint old market place. Already the place was
showing signs of wear and tear. Shell holes in some of the roofs and a
good many broken panes, together with the general air of desertion, all
combined to make us feel we were near the actual fighting line. We
learnt that bombs had been dropped there only that morning. (This was
early in 1915, and since then the place has been reduced to almost
complete ruin.) We sped on, and could see one of the famous coastal
forts on the horizon. So different from what one had always imagined a
fort would look like. "A green hill far away," seems best to describe
it, I think. It wasn't till one looked hard that one could see small
dark splotches that indicated where the cannon were.

A Belgian whom we were "lifting" ("lorry jumping" is now the correct
term!) pointed out to us a huge factory, now in English hands, which had
been owned before the war by a German. Under cover of the so-called
"factory" he had built a secret gun emplacement for a large gun, to
train on this same fort and demolish it when the occasion arose. At this
point we saw the first English soldiers that day in motor boats on the
canal, and what a smile of welcome they gave us!

Presently we came to lines of Belgian Motor transport drawn up at the
sides of the road, car after car, waiting patiently to get on. Without
exaggeration this line was a mile in length, and we simply had to crawl
past, as there was barely room for a large ambulance on that narrow and
excessively muddy road. The drivers were all in excellent spirits, and
nodded and smiled as we passed--occasionally there was an officer's car
sandwiched in between, and those within gravely saluted.

About this time a very cheery Belgian artillery-man who was exchanging
to another regiment, came on board and kept us highly amused. Souvenirs
were the aim and end of existence just then, and he promised us shell
heads galore when he came down the line. On leaving the car, as a token
of his extreme gratitude, he pressed his artillery cap into our hands
saying he would have no further need of it in his new regiment, and
would we accept it as a souvenir!

The roads in Belgium need some explaining for those who have not had the
opportunity to see them. Firstly there is the _pavé_, and a very popular
picture with us after that day was one which came out in the _Sketch_ of
a Tommy in a lorry asking a haughty French dragoon to "Alley off the
bloomin' pavee--vite." Well, this famous _pavé_ consists of cobbles
about six inches square, and these extend across the road to about the
width of a large cart--On either side there is mud--with a capital M,
such as one doesn't often see--thick and clayey and of a peculiarly
gluey substance, and in some places quite a foot deep. You can imagine
the feeling at the back of your spine as you are squeezing past another
car. If you aren't extremely careful plop go the side wheels off the
"bloomin' pavee" into the mud beyond and it takes half the Belgian Army
to help to heave you on to the "straight and narrow" path once more.

It was just about this time we heard our first really heavy firing and
it gave us a queer thrill to hear the constant boom-boom of the guns
like a continuous thunderstorm. We began to feel fearfully hungry, and
stopped beside a high bank flanking a canal and not far from a small
café. Bunny and I went to get some hot water. It was a tumble-down place
enough, and as we pushed the door open (on which, by the way, was the
notice in French, "During the bombardment one enters by the side door")
we found the room full of men drinking coffee and smoking. I bashfully
made my way towards one of the oldest women I have ever seen and asked
her in a low voice for some hot water. As luck would have it she was
deaf as a post, and the whole room listened in interested silence as
with scarlet face I yelled out my demands in my best French. We returned
triumphantly to the waiting ambulance and had a very jolly lunch to the
now louder accompaniment of the guns. The passing soldiers took a great
interest in us and called out whatever English words they knew, the most
popular being "Good night."

We soon started on our way again, and at this point there was actually a
bend in the road. Just before we came to it there was a whistling,
sobbing sound in the air and then an explosion somewhere ahead of us. We
all shrank instinctively, and I glanced sideways at my companion, hoping
she hadn't noticed, to find that she was looking at me, and we both
laughed without explaining.

As we turned the corner, the usual flat expanse of country greeted our
eyes, and a solitary red tiled farmhouse on the right attracted our
attention, in front of which was a group of soldiers. On drawing near we
saw that this was the spot where the shell had landed and that there
were casualties. We drew up and got down hastily, taking dressings with
us. The sight that met my eyes is one I shall never forget, and, in
fact, cannot describe. Four men had just been blown to pieces--I leave
the details to your imagination, but it gave me a sudden shock to
realize that a few minutes earlier those remains had been living men
walking along the road laughing and talking.

The soldiers, French, standing looking on, seemed more or less dazed.
While they assured us we could do nothing, the body of a fifth soldier
who had been hit on the head by a piece of the same shell, and
instantaneously killed, was being borne on a stretcher into the farm. It
all seemed curiously unreal.

One of the men silently handed me a bit of the shell, which was still
warm. It was just a chance that we had not stopped opposite that farm
for lunch, as we assuredly would have done had it not been hidden
beyond the bend in the road. The noise of firing was now very loud, and
though the sun was shining brightly on the farm, the road we were
destined to follow was sombre looking with a lowering sky overhead.
Another shell came over and burst in front of us to the right. For an
instant I felt in an awful funk, and my one idea was to flee from that
sinister spot as fast as I could. We seemed to be going right for it,
"looking for trouble," in fact, as the Tommies would say, and it gave
one rather a funny sinking feeling in one's tummy! A shell might come
whizzing along so easily just as the last one had done.[2] Someone at that
moment said "Let's go back," and with that all my fears vanished in a
moment as if by magic. "Rather not, this is what we've come for," said a
F.A.N.Y., "hurry up and get in, it's no use staying here," and soon we
were whizzing along that road again and making straight for the steady
boom-boom, and from then onwards a spirit of subdued excitement filled
us all. Stray shells burst at intervals, and it seemed not unlikely they
were potting at us from Dixmude.

We passed houses looking more and more dilapidated and the road got
muddier and muddier. Finally we arrived at the village of Ramscapelle.
It was like passing through a village of the dead--not a house left
whole, few walls standing, and furniture lying about haphazard. We
proceeded along the one main street of the village until we came to a
house with green shutters which had been previously described to us as
the Belgian headquarters. It was in a better state than the others, and
a small flag indicated we had arrived at our destination.



CHAPTER IV

BEHIND THE TRENCHES


We got out and leaped the mud from the _pavé_ to the doorstep, and an
orderly came forward and conducted us to a sitting room at the rear
where Major R. welcomed us, and immediately ordered coffee. We were
greatly impressed by the calm way in which he looked at things. He
pointed with pride to a gaily coloured print from the one and only "Vie"
(what would the dug-outs at the front have done without "La Vie" and
Kirchner?), which covered a newly made shell hole in the wall. He also
showed us places where shrapnel was embedded; and from the window we saw
a huge hole in the back garden made by a "Black Maria." Beside it was a
grave headed by a little rough wooden cross and surmounted by one of
those gay tasselled caps we had seen early that morning, though it
seemed more like last week, so much had happened since then.

As it was only possible to go into the trenches at dusk we still had
some time to spare, and after drinking everybody's health in some
excellent benedictine, Major R. suggested we should make a tour of
inspection of the village. "The bombardment is over for the day," he
added, "so you need have no fear." I went out wondering at his certainty
that the Boche would _not_ bombard again that afternoon. It transpired
later that they did so regularly at the same time every afternoon as
part of the day's work! There did come a time, however, when they
changed the programme, but that was later, on another visit.

We made for the church which had according to custom been shelled more
than the houses. The large crucifix was lying with arms outstretched on
a pile of wreckage, the body pitted with shrapnel. The curé accompanied
us, and it was all the poor old man could do to keep from breaking down
as he led us mournfully through that devastated cemetery. Some of the
graves, even those with large slabs over them, had been shelled to such
an extent that the stone coffins beneath could clearly be seen, half
opened, with rotting grave-clothes, and in others even the skeletons had
been disinterred. New graves, roughly fashioned like the one we had seen
in the back garden at headquarters, were dotted all over the place.
Somehow they were not so sinister as those old heavily slabbed ones
disturbed after years of peace. The curé took me into the church, the
walls of which were still standing, and begged me to take a photo of a
special statue (this was before cameras were tabooed), which I did. I
had to take a "time" as the light was so bad, and quite by luck it came
out splendidly and I was able to send him a copy.

It was all most depressing and I was jolly glad to get away from the
place. On the way back we saw a battery of _sept-cinqs_ (French
seventy-fives) cleverly hidden by branches. They had just been moved up
into these new positions. Of course the booming of the guns went on all
the time and we were told Nieuport was having its daily "ration." We had
several other places to go to to deliver Hospital stores; also two
advanced dressing stations to visit, so we pushed off, promising Major
R. to be back at 6.30.

We had to go in the direction of Dixmude, then in German occupation, and
the mud at this point was too awful for words, while at intervals there
were huge shell holes full of water looking like small circular ponds.
Luckily for us they were never right in the middle of the road, but
always a little to one side or the other, and just left us enough _pavé_
to squeeze past on, which was really very thoughtful of the Boche!

The country looked indescribably desolate; but funnily enough there were
a lot of birds flying about, mostly in flocks. Two little partridges
quietly strutted across the road and seemed quite unperturbed!

Further on we came across a dead horse, the first of many. It had been
hit in the flank by a shell. It was a sad sight; the poor creature was
just left lying by the side of the road, and I shall never forget it.
The crows had already taken out its eyes. I must say that that sight
affected me much more than the men I had seen earlier in the day. There
was no one then to bury horses.

We came to the little _poste de secours_ and the officer told us they
had been heavily shelled that morning and he sent out an orderly to dig
up some of the fuse-tops that had fallen in the field beyond. He gave us
as souvenirs three lovely shell heads that had fused at the wrong time.
Everything seemed strangely unreal, and I wondered at times if I was
awake. He was delighted with the Hospital stores we had brought and
showed us his small dressing station, from which all the wounded had
been removed after the bombardment was over. We then went on to another
at Caeskerke within sight of Dixmude, the ruins of which could plainly
be seen. I found it hard to realize that this was really the much talked
of "front." One half expected to see rows and rows of regiments instead
of everything being hidden away. Except for the extreme desolation and
continual sound of firing we might have been anywhere.

We were held up by a sentry further on, and he demanded the _mot de
jour_. I leant out of the car (it always has to be whispered) and
murmured "Gustave" in a low voice into his ear. "_Non, Mademoiselle_,"
he said sadly, "_pas ça_." "Does he mean it isn't his own Christian
name?" I asked myself. Still it was the name we had been given at the
État Major as the pass word. I repeated it again with the same result.
"I assure you the Colonel himself at C---- gave it to me," I added
desperately. He still shook his head, and then I remembered that some
days they had names of people and others the names of places, and
perhaps I had been given the wrong one. "Paris" I hazarded. He again
shook his head, and I decided to be firm and in a voice of conviction
said, "Allons, c'est 'Arras,' alors." He looked doubtful, and said,
"Perhaps with the English it is that to-day." He was giving me a
loophole and I responded with fervour, "Yes, yes, assuredly it is
'Arras' with the English," and he waved us past. I thought regretfully
how easily a German spy might bluff the sentry in a similar manner.

Time being precious I salved my conscience about it as we drew up in
Pervyse and decided to make tea. I saw a movement among the ruins and
there, peeping round one of the walls, was a ragged hungry looking
infant about eight years of age. We made towards him, but he fled, and
picking our way over the ruins we actually found a family in residence
in a miserable hovel behind the onetime Hôtel de Ville. There was an old
couple, man and wife, and a flock of ragged children, the remnants of
different families which had been wiped out. They only spoke Flemish and
I brought out the few sentences I knew, whereupon the old dame seized my
arm and poured out such a flow of words that I was quite at a loss to
know what she meant. I did gather, however, that she had a niece of
sixteen in the inner room, who spoke French, and that she would go and
fetch her. The niece appeared at this moment and was dragged forward;
all she would say, however, was "_Tiens, tiens!_" to whatever we asked
her, so we came to the conclusion that was the limit to her knowledge of
French, very non-committal and not frightfully encouraging. So with much
bowing and smiling we departed on our way, after distributing the
remainder of our buns among the group of wide-eyed hungry looking
children who watched us off. The old man had stayed in his corner the
whole time muttering to himself. His brain seemed to be affected, which
was not much wonder considering what he had been through, poor old
thing!

On our way back to Ramscapelle we had the bad luck to slip off the
"bloomin' pavee" while passing an ammunition wagon; a thing I had been
dreading all along. I got out on the foot board and stepped, in the
panic of the moment, into the mud. I thought I was never going to "touch
bottom." I did finally, and the mud was well above my knees. The passing
soldiers were greatly amused and pulled me to shore, and then, stepping
into the slough with a grand indifference, soon got the car up again.
The evening was drawing in, and the land all round had been flooded. As
the sun set, the most glorious lights appeared, casting purple shadows
over the water: It seemed hard to believe we were so near the trenches,
but there on the road were the men filing silently along on their way to
enter them as soon as dusk fell. They had large packs of straw on their
backs which we learnt was to ensure their having a dry place to sit in;
and when I saw the trenches later on I was not surprised at the
precaution.

Mysterious "Star-lights" presently made their appearance over the German
trenches, gleamed for a moment, and then went out leaving the landscape
very dark and drear. We hurried on back to Ramscapelle, sentries popping
up at intervals to enquire our business. Floods stretched on either side
of the road as far as the eye could see. We were obliged to crawl at a
snail's pace as it grew darker. Of course no lights of any sort were
allowed, and the lines of soldiers passing along silently to their posts
in the trenches seemed unending; we were glad when we drew up once again
at the Headquarters in Ramscapelle.

Major R. hastened out and told us that his own men who had been in the
trenches for four days were just coming out for a rest, and he wished we
could spare some of our woollies for them. We of course gladly assented,
so he lined them up in the street littered with débris in front of the
Headquarters. We each had a sack of things and started at different ends
of the line, giving every man a pair of socks, a muffler or scarf,
whichever he most wanted. In nearly every case it was socks; and how
glad and grateful they were to get them! It struck me as rather funny
when I noticed cards in the half-light affixed to the latter, texts
(sometimes appropriate, but more often not) and verses of poetry. I
thought of the kind hands that had knitted them in far away England and
wondered if the knitters had ever imagined their things would be given
out like this, to rows of mud-stained men standing amid shell-riddled
houses on a dark and muddy road, their words of thanks half-drowned in
the thunder of war.



CHAPTER V

IN THE TRENCHES


Major R., who is a great admirer of things English, suddenly gave the
command to his men, and out of compliment to us "It's a long way to
Tipararee" rang out. The pronunciation of the words was most odd and we
listened in wonder; the Major's chest however positively swelled with
pride, for he had taught them himself! We assured him, tactfully, the
result was most successful.

We returned to the Headquarters and sorted out stores for the trenches.
The Major at that moment received a telephone message to say a farm in
the Nieuport direction was being attacked. We looked up from our work
and saw the shells bursting like fireworks, the noise of course was
deafening. We soon got accustomed to it and besides had too much to do
to bother. When all was ready, we were given our instructions--we were
to keep together till we had passed through the village when the doctor
would be there to meet us and, with a guide, conduct us to the trenches;
we were all to proceed twenty paces one after the other, no word was to
be spoken, and if a Verey light showed up we were to drop down flat. I
hoped fervently it might not be in a foot of mud!

Off we set, and I must say my heart was pounding pretty hard. It was
rather nervy work once we were beyond the town, straining our eyes
through the darkness to follow the figure ahead. Occasionally a sentry
popped up from apparently nowhere. A whispered word and then on we went
again. I really can't say how far we walked like this; it seemed
positively miles. Suddenly a light flared in the sky, illuminating the
surrounding country in an eerie glare. It didn't take me many minutes,
needless to say, to drop flat! Luckily it was _pavé_, but I would have
welcomed mud rather than be left standing silhouetted within sight of
the German trenches on that shell-riddled road. Finally we saw a long
black line running at right angles, and the guide in front motioned me
to stop while he went on ahead.

I had time to look round and examine the place as well as I could and
also to put down my bundle of woollies that had become extremely heavy.
These trenches were built against a railway bank (the railway lines had
long since been destroyed or torn up), and just beyond ran the famous
Yser and the inundations which had helped to stem the German advance. I
was touched on the shoulder at this point, and clambered down into the
trench along a very slippery plank. The men looked very surprised to see
us, and their little dug-outs were like large rabbit hutches. I crawled
into one on my hands and knees as the door was very low. The two
occupants had a small brazier burning. Straw was on the floor--the straw
we had previously seen on the men's backs--and you should have seen
their faces brighten at the sight of a new pair of socks. We pushed on,
as it was getting late. I shall never forget that trench--it was the
second line--the first line consisting of "listening posts" somewhere in
that watery waste beyond, where the men wore waders reaching well above
their knees. We squelched along a narrow strip of plank with the
trenches on one side and a sort of cesspool on the other--no wonder they
got typhoid, and I prayed I mightn't slip.

We could walk upright further on without our heads showing, which was a
comfort, as it is extremely tiring to walk for long in a stooping
position. Through an observation hole in the parapet we looked right out
across the inundations to where the famous "Ferme Violette," which had
changed hands so often and was at present German, could plainly be seen.
Dark objects were pointed out to us sticking up in the water which the
sergeant cheerfully observed, holding his nose the meanwhile, were
_sales Boches_! We hurried on to a bigger dug-out and helped the doctor
with several _blessés_ injured that afternoon, and later we helped to
remove them back to the village and thence to a field hospital. Just
then we began bombarding with the 75's. which we had seen earlier on.
The row was deafening--first a terrific bang, then a swizzing through
the air with a sound like a sob, and then a plop at the other end where
it had exploded--somewhere. At first, as with all newcomers in the
firing line, we ducked our heads as the shells went over, to a roar of
delight from the men, but in time we gave that up. During this
bombardment we went on distributing our woollies all along the line, and
I thought my head would split at any moment, the noise was so great. I
asked one of the officers, during a pause, why the Germans weren't
replying, and he said we had just got the range of one of their
positions by 'phone, and as these guns we were employing had just been
brought up, the Boche would not waste any shells until they thought they
had our range.

Presently we came to the officer's dug-out, and, would you believe it,
he had small windows with lace curtains! They were the size of pocket
handkerchiefs; still the fact remains, they _were_ curtains. He showed
us two bits of a shell that had burst above the day before and made the
roof collapse, but since then the damage had been remedied by a stout
beam. He was a merry little man with twinkling eyes and very proud of
his little house.

Our things began to give out at this point and we were not at the end of
the line by any means. It was heart breaking to hear one man say, "Une
paire de chaussettes, Mees, je vous en prie; il y a trois mois depuis
que j'en ai eu." (A pair of socks, miss, I beseech you, it's three
months since I had any). I gave him my scarf, which was all I had left,
and could only turn sorrowfully away. He put it on immediately,
cheerfully accepting the substitute.

We were forced to make our adieux at this point, as there was no reason
for us to continue along the line. We promised to bring more things the
next night and start at the point where we had left off. I thought
regretfully it would be some days before my turn came round again.

The same care had to be observed on the return journey, and we could
only speak in the softest of whispers. The bombardment had now died away
as suddenly as it had begun. The men turned from their posts to whisper
"_Bon soir, bonne chance_," or else "_Dieu vous bénisse_." The silence
after that ear-splitting din was positively uncanny: it made one feel
one wanted to shout or whistle, or do something wild; anything to break
it. One almost wished the Germans would retaliate! That silent monster
only such a little way from us seemed just waiting to spring. We crawled
one by one out of the trenches on to the road, and began the perilous
journey homewards with the _blessés_, knowing that at any moment the
Germans might begin bombarding. As we were resting the Captain of the
battery joined us, and in the semi-darkness I saw he was offering me a
bunch of snowdrops! It certainly was an odd moment to receive a bouquet,
but somehow at the time it did not seem to be particularly out of place,
and I tucked them into the belt of my tunic and treasured them for days
afterwards--snowdrops that had flowered regardless of war in the garden
of some cottage long since destroyed.

Arrived once more at Headquarters we were pressed to a _petit verre_ of
some very hot and raw liqueur, but nevertheless very warming, and very
good. I felt I agreed with the Irish coachman who at his first taste
declared "The shtuff was made in Hiven but the Divil himself invinted
the glasses!" We had got terribly cold in the trenches. After taking
leave of our kind hosts we set off for the Hospital.

It was now about 1.30 a.m., and we were stopped no less than seventeen
times on our way back. As it was my job to lean out and whisper into the
sentry's "pearly," I got rather exasperated. By the time I'd passed the
seventeenth "Gustave," I felt I'd risk even a bayonet to be allowed to
snooze without interruption. The _blessés_ were deposited in Hospital
and the car, once rid of its wounded load, sped through the night back
to Lamarck, and I wondered sleepily if my first visit to the trenches
was a reality or only a dream.



CHAPTER VI

THE TYPHOID WARDS


When I first came to Hospital I had been put as V.A.D. in Ward I, on the
surgical side, and at ten o'clock had heard "shop" (which by the way was
strictly debarred, but nevertheless formed the one and only topic of
conversation), from nurses and sisters in the Typhoid Wards, but had
never actually been there myself. As previously explained the three
Typhoid Wards--rooms leading one out of the other on the ground
floor--were in a separate building joined only by some outhouses to the
main portion, thus forming three sides of the paved yard.

The east end of the Cathedral with its beautiful windows completed the
square, and in the evenings it was very restful to hear the muffled
sounds of the old organ floating up through the darkness.

Sister Wicks asked me one day to go through these wards with her. It
must be remembered that at this early period there were no regular
typhoid hospitals; and in fact ours was the only hospital in the place
that would take them in, the others having refused. Our beds were
therefore always full, and the typhoid staff was looked on as the
hardest worked in the Hospital, and always tried to make us feel that
they were the only ones who did any real work!

It was difficult to imagine these hollow-cheeked men with glittering
eyes and claw-like hands were the men who had stemmed the German rush at
Liége. Some were delirious, others merely plucking at the sheets with
their wasted fingers, and everywhere the sisters and nurses were
hurrying to and fro to alleviate their sufferings as much as possible. I
shall always see the man in bed sixteen to this day. He was extremely
fair, with blue eyes and a light beard. I started when I first saw him,
he looked so like some of the pictures of Christ one sees; and there was
an unearthly light in his eyes. He was delirious and seemed very ill.
The sister told me he had come down with a splendid fighting record, and
was one of the worst cases of pneumonic typhoid in the ward. My heart
ached for him, and instinctively I shivered, for somehow he did not seem
to belong to this world any longer. We passed on to Ward III, where I
was presented to "Le Petit Sergent," a little bit of a man, so cheery
and bright, who had made a marvellous recovery, but was not yet well
enough to be moved. Everywhere was that peculiar smell which seems
inseparable from typhoid wards in spite, or perhaps because of, the many
disinfectants. We left by the door at the end of Salle III and once in
the sunlight again, I heaved a sigh of relief; for frankly I thought the
three typhoid Salles the most depressing places on earth. They were
dark, haunting, and altogether horrible. "Well," said Sergeant Wicks
cheerfully, "what do you think of the typhoid Wards? Splendid aren't
they? You should have seen them at first." As I made no reply, she
rattled gaily on, "Well, I hope you will find the work interesting when
you come to us as a pro. to-morrow." I gasped. "Am I to leave the
_blessés_, then?" was all I could feebly ask--"Why, yes, didn't they
tell you?"--and she was off before I could say anything more.

       *        *        *        *       *

When one goes to work in France one can't pick and choose, and the next
morning saw me in the typhoid wards which soon I learnt to love, and
which I found so interesting that I hardly left them from that time
onwards, except for "trench duty."

I was in Salle I at first--the less serious cases--and life seemed one
eternal rush of getting "feeds" for the different patients, "doing
mouths," and making "Bengers." All the boiling and heating was done in
one big stove in Salle II. Each time I passed No. 16 I tried not to look
at him, but I always ended in doing so, and each time he seemed to be
thinner and more ethereal looking. He literally went to skin and bone.
He must have been such a splendid man, I longed for him to get better,
but one morning when I passed, the bed was empty and a nurse was
disinfecting the iron bedstead. For one moment I thought he had been
moved. "Where--What?" I asked, disjointedly of the nurse. "Died in the
night," she said briefly. "Don't look like that," and she went on with
her work. No. 16 had somehow got on my mind, I suppose because it was
the first bad typhoid case I had seen, and from the first I had taken
such an interest in him. One gets accustomed to these things in time,
but I never forgot that first shock. In the afternoons the men's
temperatures rose alarmingly, and most of the time was spent in
"blanket-bathing" which is about the most back-aching pastime there is;
but how the patients loved to feel the cool sponges passing over their
feverish limbs. They were so grateful and, though often too ill to
speak, would smile their thanks, and one felt it was worth all the
backaches in the world.

It was such a virulent type of typhoid. Although we had been inoculated,
we were obliged to gargle several times during the day, and even then we
always had more or less of a "typy" throat.

Our gallant sergeant, sister Wicks, who had organised and run the whole
of the three Salles since November '14, suddenly developed para-typhoid,
and with great difficulty was persuaded to go to bed. Fortunately she
did not have it badly, and in her convalescent stage I was sent to look
after her up at the "shop window." I was anxious to get her something
really appetising for lunch, and presently heard one of the famous fish
wives calling out in the street. I ran out and bargained with her, for
of course she would have been vastly disappointed if I had given her the
original price she asked. At last I returned triumphant with two nice
looking little "Merlans," too small to cut their heads off, I decided. I
had never coped with fish before, so after holding them for some time
under the tap till they seemed clean enough, put them on to fry in
butter. I duly took them in on a tray to Wicks, and I'm sure they looked
very tasty. "Have you cleaned them?" she asked suspiciously. "Yes, of
course I have," I replied. She examined them. "May I ask what you
_did_?" she said. "I held them under the tap," I told her, "there didn't
seem anything more to be done," I added lamely.

How she laughed--I thought she was never going to stop--and I stood
there patiently waiting to hear the joke. She explained at length and
said, "No, take them away; you've made me feel ever so much better, but
I'll have eggs instead, thank you." I went off grumbling, "How on earth
was I to know anyway they kept their tummies behind their ears!"

That fish story went all over the hospital.

Nursing in the typhoids was relieved by turns up to the trenches behind
Dixmude, which we looked forward to tremendously, but as they were
practically--with slight variations in the matter of shelling and
bombardments--a repetition of my first experience, there is no object in
recounting them here.

The typhoid doctor--"Scrubby," by name; so called because of the
inability of his chin to make up its mind if it would have a beard or
not--was very amusing, without of course meaning to be. He liked to
write the reports of the patients in the Sister's book himself, and was
very proud of his English, and this is what occasionally appeared:

Patient No. 12. "If the man sleep, let him sleep."

Patient No. 13. "To have red win (wine) in the spoonful."

Patient No. 14. "If the man have a temper (i.e. temperature) reduce him
with the sponges." And he was once heard to remark with reference to a
flat tyre: "That tube is contrary to the swelling state!"

So far, I have made no mention of the men orderlies, who I must say were
absolute bricks. There was Pierre, an alert little Bruxellois, who was
in a bank before the war and kept his widowed mother. He was in constant
fear as to her safety, for she had been left in their little house and
had no time to escape. He was well-educated and most interesting, and
oh, so gentle with the men. Then there was Louis, Ziské, and Charlké, a
big hefty Walloon who had been the butcher on a White Star liner before
the war, all excellent workers.

About this time I went on night duty and liked it very much. One was
much freer for one thing, and the sisters immediately became more human
(especially when they relied on the pros. to cook the midnight supper!),
and further there were no remarks or reflections about the defects of
the "untrained unit" who "imagined they knew everything after four
months of war." (With reference to cooking, I might here mention that
since the fish episode Mrs. Betton and I were on more than speaking
terms!)[3]

There were several very bad cases in Salle II. One especially Sister
feared would not pull through. I prayed he might live, but it was not to
be. She was right--one night about 2 a.m. he became rapidly worse and
perforation set in. The dreadful part was that he was so horribly
conscious all the time. "Miske," he asked, "think you that I shall see
my wife and five children again?" Before I could reply, he continued,
"They were there _là bas_ in the little house so happy when I left them
in 1914--My God," and he became agitated. "If it were not permitted that
I return? Do you think I am going to die, Miske?" "You must try and keep
the patient from getting excited," said the calm voice of the Sister,
who did not speak French. He died about an hour later. It was terrible.
"Why must they go through so much suffering?" I wondered miserably. If
they _are_ to die, why can't it happen at once?"

This was the first typhoid death I had actually witnessed. In the
morning the sinister coffin cart flapped into the yard and bore him off
to his last resting place. What, I wondered, happened to his wife and
five children?

When I became more experienced I could tell if patients were going to
recover or not; and how often in the latter case I prayed that it might
be over quickly; but no, the fell disease had to take its course; and
even the sisters said they had never seen such awful cases.



CHAPTER VII

THE ZEPPELIN RAID


Once while on night duty I got up to go to a concert in the town at the
theatre in aid of the _Orphelins de la Guerre_. I must say when the
Frenchman makes up his mind to have a charity concern he does it
properly, and with any luck it begins at 2.30 and goes on till about 9
or possibly 10 p.m.

This was the first we had attended and they subsequently became quite a
feature of the place. It was held on a Sunday, and the entire population
turned out _colimenté_ and _endimanché_ to a degree. The French and
Belgian uniforms were extraordinarily smart, and the Belgian guides in
their tasselled caps, cheery breeches, and hunting-green tunics added
colour to the scene.

The Mayor of the town opened the performance with a long speech, the
purport of which I forget, but it lasted one hour and ten minutes, and
then the performance began. There were several intervals during which
the entire audience left the salle and perambulated along the wide
corridors round the building to greet their friends, and drink champagne
out of large flat glasses, served at fabulous prices by fair ladies of
the town clad in smart muslin dresses. The French Governor-General,
covered with stars and orders, was there in state with his
aides-de-camp, and the Belgian General ditto, and everyone shook hands
and talked at once. Heasy and I stood and watched the scene fascinated.
Tea seemed to be an unheard of beverage. Presently we espied an
Englishman, very large and very tall, talking to a group of French
people. I remark on the fact because in those days there were no English
anywhere near us, and to see a staff car passing through the town was
quite an event. We were glad, as he was the only Englishman there, that
our people had chosen the largest and tallest representative they could
find. Presently he turned, and looked as surprised to see two khaki-clad
English girls in solar topees (the pre-war F.A.N.Y. headgear), as I
think we were to see him.

The intervals lasted for half an hour, and I came to the conclusion they
were as much, if not more, part of the entertainment as the concert
itself.

It was still going strong when we left at 7 p.m. to go on duty, and the
faithful "Flossie" (our Ford) bore us swiftly back to hospital and
typhoids.

On the night of March 18th, 1915, we had our second Zeppelin raid, when
the Hospital had a narrow escape. (The first one occurred on 23rd
February, wiping out an entire family near the "Shop-window.") I was
still on night duty and, crossing over to Typhoids with some dressings,
noticed how velvety the sky looked, with not a star to be seen.

We always had two orderlies on at night, and at 12 o'clock one of them
was supposed to go over to the kitchen and have his supper, and when he
came back at 12.30 the other went. On this particular occasion they had
both gone together. Sister had also gone over at 12 to supper, so I was
left absolutely alone with the fifty patients.[4]

None of the men at that time were particularly bad, except No. 23, who
was delirious and showed a marked inclination to try and get out of bed.
I had just tucked him in safely for the twentieth time when at 12.30 I
heard the throb of an engine. Aeroplanes were always flying about all
day, so I did not think much of it. I half fancied it might be Sidney
Pickles, the airman, who had been to the Hospital several times and was
keen on stunt flying. This throbbing sounded much louder though than any
aeroplane, and hastily lowering what lights we had, with a final tuck to
No. 23, I ran to the door to ascertain if there was cause for alarm. The
noise was terrific and sounded like no engine I had ever heard in my
life. I gazed into the purple darkness and felt sure that I must see the
thing, it seemed actually over my head. The expanse of sky to be seen
from the yard was not very great, but suddenly in the space between the
surgical side and the Cathedral I could just discern an inky shadow,
whale-like in shape, with one small twinkling light like a wicked eye.
The machine was travelling pretty fast and fairly low down, and by its
bulk I knew it to be a Zeppelin. I tore back into the ward where most of
the men were awake, and found myself saying, "_Ce n'est rien, ce n'est
qu'un Zeppelin_" ("It's nothing--only a Zeppelin"), which on second
thoughts I came to the conclusion was not as reassuring as I meant it to
be. By this time the others were on their way back across the yard, and
I turned to give 23 another tuck up.

Such a long time elapsed before any firing occurred; it seemed to me
when I first looked out into the yard I must be the only person who had
heard the Zepp. What were the sentinels doing, I wondered? The
explanation I heard later from a French gunnery lieutenant. The man who
had the key to the ammunitions for the anti-aircraft guns was not at his
post, and was subsequently discovered in a drunken sleep--probably the
work of German spies--at all events he was shot at dawn the following
day. In such manner does France deal with her sons who fail her. As soon
as the Zepp. had passed over, the firing burst forth in full vigour to
die away presently. So far, apparently, no bombs had been dropped. I
suggested to Pierre we should relight one or two lamps, as it was
awkward stumbling about in complete darkness. "_Non, non, Miske_, he
will return," he said with conviction. Apparently, though, all seemed
quiet; and Sister suggested that after all the excitement, I should make
my way across the yard to get some supper. Pierre came with me, and at
that moment a dull explosion occurred. It was a bomb. The Zeppelin was
still there. The guns again blazed away, the row was terrific. Star
shells were thrown up to try and locate the Zepp., and the sky was full
of showering lights, blue, green, and pink. Four searchlights were
playing, shrapnel was bursting, and a motor machine gun let off volleys
from sheer excitement, the sharp tut-tut-tut adding to the general
confusion. In the pauses the elusive Zepp. could be heard buzzing like
some gigantic angry bee. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. It
looked like a fireworks display, and the row was increasing each minute.
Every Frenchman in the neighbourhood let off his rifle with gusto.

Just then we heard an extraordinary rushing noise in the air, like steam
being let off from a railway engine. A terrific bang ensued, and then a
flare. It was an incendiary bomb and was just outside the Hospital
radius. I was glad to be in the open, one felt it would be better to be
killed outside than indoors. If the noise was bad before, it now became
deafening. Pierre suggested the _cave_, a murky cellar by the gate, but
it seemed safer to stay where we were, leaning in the shadow against the
walls of Notre Dame. Very foolish, I grant you, but early in 1915 the
dangers of falling shrapnel, etc., were not so well known. These events
happened in a few seconds. Suddenly Pierre pointed skywards. "He is
there, up high," he cried excitedly. I looked, but a blinding light
seemed to fill all space, the yard was lit up and I remember wondering
if the people in the Zepp. would see us in our white overalls. The
rushing sound was directly over our heads; there was a crash, the very
walls against which we were leaning rocked, and to show what one's mind
does at those moments, I remember thinking that when the Cathedral
toppled over it would just fit nicely into the Hospital square.
Instinctively I put my head down sheltering it as best I could with my
arms, while bricks, mortar, and slates rained on, and all around, us.
There was a heavy thud just in front of us, and when the dust had
cleared away I saw it was a coping from the Cathedral, 2 feet by 4!
Notre Dame had remained standing, but the bomb had completely smashed in
the roof of the chapel, against the walls of which we were leaning! It
was only due to their extreme thickness that we were saved, and also to
the fact that we were under the protection of the wall. Had we been
further out the coping would assuredly have landed on us or else we
should have been hit by the shrapnel contained in the bombs, for the
wall opposite was pitted with it. The dust was suffocating, and I heard
Pierre saying, "Come away, Mademoiselle." Though it takes so long to
describe, only a few minutes had elapsed since leaving to cross the
yard. The beautiful East window of the Cathedral was shivered to atoms,
and likewise every window in the Hospital. All our watches had stopped.

Crashing over broken glass to the surgical side, we pantingly asked if
everyone was safe. We met Porter coming down the stairs, a stream of
blood flowing from a cut on her forehead. I hastily got some dressings
for it. Luckily it was only a flesh wound, and not serious. Besides the
night nurses at the Hospital, the chauffeurs and housekeeper slept in
the far end of the big room at the top of the building. They had not
been awakened (so accustomed were they to din and noise), until the
crash of the bomb on the Cathedral, and it was by the glass being blown
in on to their stretcher beds that Porter had been cut; otherwise no one
else was hurt.

I plunged through the débris back to the typhoids, wondering how 23 had
got on, or rather got out, and, would you believe it, his delirium had
gone and he was sleeping quietly like a child! The only bit of good the
Boche ever did I fancy, for the shock seemed to cure him and he got well
from that moment.

The others were in an awful mess, and practically every man's bed was
full of broken glass. You can imagine what it meant getting this out
when the patients were suffering from typhoid, and had to be moved as
little as possible! One boy in Salle V had a flower pot from the
window-sill above fixed on his head! Beyond being slightly dazed, and of
course covered with mould, he was none the worse; and those who were
well enough enjoyed his discomfiture immensely. Going into Salle III
where there were shouts of laughter (the convalescents were sent to that
room) I saw a funny sight. One little man, who was particularly fussy
and grumpy (and very unpopular with the other men in consequence), slept
near the stove, which was an old-fashioned coal one with a pipe leading
up to the ceiling. The concussion had shaken this to such an extent that
accumulations of soot had come down and covered him from head to foot,
and he was as[5] black as a nigger! His expression of disgust was beyond
description, and he was led through the other two wards on exhibition,
where he was greeted with yells of delight. It was just as well, as it
relieved the tension. It can't be pleasant to be ill in bed and covered
with bits of broken glass and mortar, not to mention the uncertainty of
whether the walls are going to fall in or not. "Ah," said the little
Sergeant to me, "I have never had fear as I had last night." "One is
better in the trenches than in your Hospital, Miske," chimed in another.
"At least one can defend oneself."

One orderly--a new one whom I strongly suspected of being an
_embusqué_--was unearthed in our rounds from under one of the beds, and
came in for a lot of sarcasm, to the great joy of the patients who had
all behaved splendidly.[6] With the exception of Pierre and the porter on
the surgical side, every man jack of them, including the Adjutant, had
fled to the _cave_. A subsequent order came out soon after which amused
us very much:--In the event of future air raids the _infirmiers_
(orderlies) were to fly to the _cave_ with the convalescents while the
_très malades_ were to be left to the care of the _Mees anglaises_![7]

It took us till exactly 7 a.m. to get those three wards in anything like
order, working without stopping. "Uncle," who had dressed hurriedly and
come up to the Hospital from his Hotel to see if he could be of any use,
brought a very welcome bowl of Ivelcon about 2.30, which just made all
the difference, as I had had nothing since 7 the night before. It's
surprising how hungry Zeppelin raids make one!

An extract from the account which appeared in _The Daily Chronicle_ the
following morning was as follows:--

"One bomb fell on Notre Dame Cathedral piercing the vault of one of the
Chapels on the right transept and wreaking irreparable damage to the
beautiful old glass of its gothic windows. This same bomb, which must
have been of considerable size, sent débris flying into the courtyard of
the Lamarcq Hospital full of Belgian wounded being tended by English
Nurses.

"Altogether these Yeomanry nurses behaved admirably, for all the menfolk
with the exception of the doorkeeper" (and Pierre, please), "fled for
refuge to the cellars, and the women were left. In the neighbourhood one
hears nothing but praise of these courageous Englishwomen. Another bomb
fell on a railway carriage in which a number of mechanics--refugees from
Lille--were sleeping, as they had no homes of their own. The effect of
the bomb on these unfortunate men was terrible. They were all more or
less mutilated; and heads, hands, and feet were torn off. Then flames
broke out on top of this carriage and in a moment the whole was one huge
conflagration.

"As the Zeppelin drew off, its occupants had the sinister satisfaction
of leaving behind them a great glare which reddened the sky for a full
hour in contrast with the total blackness of the town."

Chris took out "Flossie," and was on the scene of this last disaster as
soon as she could get into her clothes after being so roughly awakened
by the splinters of glass.

When the day staff arrived from the "Shop-window," what a sight met
their eyes! The poor old place looked as if it had had a night of it,
and as we sat down to breakfast in the kitchen we shivered in the icy
blasts that blew in gusts across the room, for of course the weather had
made up its mind to be decidedly wintry just to improve matters. It took
weeks to get those windows repaired, as there was a run on what glaziers
the town possessed. The next night our plight in typhoids was not one to
be envied--Army blankets had been stretched inadequately across the
windows and the beds pulled out of the way of draughts as much as
possible, but do what we could the place was like an icehouse; the snow
filtered softly through the flapping blankets, and how we cursed the
Hun! At 3 a.m. one of the patients had a relapse and died.



CHAPTER VIII

CONCERNING BATHS, "JOLIE ANNETTE," "MARIE-MARGOT" AND "ST. INGLEVERT."


After this event I was sent back for a time to the _blessés graves_ on
the surgical side on day duty. All who had been on duty that memorable
night had had a pretty considerable shock. It was like leaving one world
and stepping into another, so complete was the change from typhoids.

The faithful Jefké was still there stealing jam for the patients,
spending a riotous Saturday night _au cinéma_, going to Mass next
morning, and then presenting himself in the Ward again looking as if
butter would not melt in his mouth!

A new assistant orderly was there as well. A pious looking individual in
specs. He worked as if manual labour pained him, and was always studying
out of a musty little book. He was desperately keen to learn English and
spoke it on every possible occasion; was intensely stupid as an orderly
and obstinate as a mule. He was trying in the extreme. One day he told
me he was intended for higher things and would soon be a priest in the
Church. Sister Lampen, who was so quick and thorough herself, found him
particularly tiresome, and used to refer to him as her "cross" in life!
One day she called him to account, and, in an exasperated voice said,
"What are you supposed to be doing here, Louis, anyway? Are you an
orderly or aren't you?" "_Mees_," he replied piously, rolling his eyes
upwards, "I am learning to be a father!" I gave a shriek of delight and
hastened up to tea in the top room with the news.

We were continually having what was known as _alertes_, that the Germans
were advancing on the town. We had boxes ready in all the Wards with a
list on the lid indicating what particular dressings, etc., went in
each. None of the _alertes_, however, materialized. We heard later it
was only due to a Company of the gallant Buffs throwing themselves into
the breach that the road to Calais had been saved.

There were several exciting days spent up at our Dressing Station at
Hoogstadt, and one day to our delight we heard that three of the
F.A.N.Y.'s, who had been in the trenches during a particularly bad
bombardment, were to be presented with the Order of Leopold II. A daily
paper giving an account of this dressing station headed it, in their
enthusiasm, "Ten days without a change of clothes. Brave Yeomanry
Nurses!"

It was a coveted job to post the letters and then go down to the Quay to
watch the packet come in from England. The letters, by the way, were
posted in the guard's van of a stationary train where Belgian soldiers
sorted and despatched them. I used to wonder vaguely if the train rushed
off in the night delivering them.

There was a charm and fascination about meeting that incoming boat; the
rattle of chains, the clang as the gangway was fixed, the strange cries
of the French sailors, the clicking of the bayonets as the cordon formed
round the fussy passport officer, and lastly the excitement of watching
to see if there was a spy on board. The _Walmer Castle_ and the
_Canterbury_ were the two little packets employed, and they have
certainly seen life since the war began. Great was our excitement if we
caught sight of Field Marshal French on his way to G.H.Q., or King
Albert, his tall form stooping slightly under the cares of State, as he
stepped into his waiting car to be whirled northwards to _La Panne_.

The big Englishman (accompanied by a little man disguised in very plain
clothes as a private Detective) also scanned every passenger closely as
he stepped on French soil, and we turned away disgustedly as each was
able to furnish the necessary proof that he was on lawful business.
"Come, Struttie, we must fly," and back we hurried over the bridge, past
the lighthouse, across the Place d'Armes, up the Rue de la Rivière and
so to Hospital once more.

When things became more settled, definite off times were arranged. Up to
then sisters and nurses had worked practically all day and every day, so
great was the rush. We experienced some difficulty in having baths, as
there were none up at the "Shop." Dr. Cools from the Gare Centrale told
us some had been fitted in a train down there, and permission was
obtained for us to use them. But first we were obliged to present
ourselves to the Commandant (for the Railway shed there had been turned
into an _Hôpital de Passage_, where the men waited on stretchers till
they were collected each morning by ambulances for the different
Hospitals), and ask him to be kind enough to furnish a _Bon pour un
bain_ (a bath pass)! When I first went to the Bureau at the gare and saw
this Commandant in his elegant tight-fitting navy blue uniform, with
pointed grey beard and general air of importance, I felt that to ask him
for a "bath ticket" was quite the last thing on earth! He saw my
hesitation, and in the most natural manner in the world said with a bow,
"Mademoiselle has probably come for _un bon_?" I assented gratefully,
was handed the pass and fled. It requires some courage to face four
officials in order to have a bath.

Arrived at the said train, one climbed up a step-ladder in to a truck
divided into four partitions, and Ziské, a deaf old Flamand, carried
buckets of boiling water from the engine and we added what cold we
wanted ourselves. You will therefore see that when anyone asked you what
you were doing in your free time that day and you said you were "going
to have a bath," it was understood that it meant the whole afternoon
would be taken up.

At first we noticed the French people seemed a little stiff in their
manner and rather on the defensive. We wondered for some time what could
be the reason, and chatting one day with Madame at the dug-out I
mentioned the fact to her.

"See you, Mademoiselle, it is like this," she explained, "you others,
the English, had this town many years ago, and these unlettered ones,
who read never the papers and know nothing, think you will take
possession of the town once again." Needless to say in time this
impression wore off and they became most friendly.

The Place d'Armes was a typical French marketplace and very picturesque.
At one corner of the square stood the town hall with a turret and a very
pretty Carillon called "Jolie Annette," since smashed by a shell. I
asked an old shopkeeper why the Carillon should be called by that name
and he told me that in 1600 a well-to-do _commerçant_ of the town had
built the turret and promised a Carillon only on the condition that it
should be a line from a song sung by a fair lady called "Jolie Annette,"
performing at a music hall or Café Chantant in the town at that time.
The inhabitants protested, but he refused to give the Carillon unless he
could have his own way, which he ultimately did. Can't you imagine the
outraged feelings of the good burghers? "_Que voulez-vous,
Mademoiselle_," the old man continued, shrugging his shoulders, "_Jolie
Annette ne chante pas mal, hein?_" and I agreed with him.

I thought it was rather a nice story, and I often wondered, when I
heard that little song tinkling out, exactly what "Jolie Annette" really
looked like, and I quite made up my mind on the subject. Of course she
had long side curls, a slim waist, lots of ribbons, a very full skirt,
white stockings, and a pair of little black shoes, and last but not
least, a very bewitching smile. It is sad to think that a shell has
silenced her after all these years, and I hope so much that someone will
restore the Carillon so that she can sing her little song once again.

In one corner of the square was a house (now turned into a furniture
shop) where one of the F.A.N.Y.'s great-grandmothers had stayed when
fleeing with the Huguenots to England. They had finally set off across
the Channel in rowing boats. Some sportsmen!

Market days on Saturdays were great events, and little booths filled up
the whole _place_, and what bargains one could make! We bought all the
available flowers to make the wards as bright as possible. In the
afternoons when there was not much to do except cut dressings, I often
sat quietly at my table and listened to the discussions which went on in
the ward. The Belgian soldier loves an argument.

One day half in French, and half in Flemish, they were discussing what
course they would pursue if they found a wounded German on the
battlefield. "_Tuez-le comme un lapin_," cried one. "_Faut les
zigouiller tous_," cried another (almost untranslatable slang, but
meaning more or less "choke the lot"). "_Ba, non, sauvez-le p'is qu'il
est blessé_," cried a third to which several agreed. This discussion
waxed furious till finally I was called on to arbitrate. One boy was
rapidly working himself into a fever over the question. He was out to
kill any Boche under any conditions, and I don't blame him. This was his
story:

In the little village where he came from, the Germans on entering had
treated the inhabitants most brutally. He was with his old father and
mother and young brother of eight--(It was August 1914 and his class had
not yet been called up). Some Germans marched into the little cottage
and shaking the old woman roughly by the arm demanded something to
drink. His mother was very deaf and slow in her movements and took some
time to understand. "Ha," cried one brute, "we will teach you to walk
more quickly," and without more ado he ran his sword through her poor
old body. The old man sprang forward, too late to save her, and met with
the same fate. The little brother had been hastily hidden in an empty
cistern as they came in. "Thus, Mademoiselle," the boy ended, "I have
seen killed before my eyes my own father and mother; my little brother
for all I know is also dead. I have yet to find out. I myself was taken
prisoner, but luckily three days later managed to escape and join our
army; do you therefore blame me, _Miske_, if I wish to kill as many of
the swine as possible?" He sank back literally purple in the face with
rage, and a murmur of sympathy went round the Ward. His wound was not a
serious one, for which I was thankful, or he might have done some harm.
One evening I was wandering through the "Place d'Armes" when some
violins in a music shop caught my eye. I went in and thus became
acquainted with the family Tétar, consisting of an old father and his
two daughters. They were exceedingly friendly and allowed me to try all
the violins they had. At last I chose a little "Mirecourt" with a very
nice tone, which I hired and subsequently bought.

In time Monsieur Tétar became very talkative, and even offered to play
accompaniments for me. He had an organ in a large room above the shop
cram full of old instruments, but in the end he seemed to think it might
show a want of respect to Madame his late wife (now dead two years), so
the accompanying never came off. For the same reason his daughter, who
he said "in the times" had played the violin well, had never touched her
instrument since the funeral.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was one special song we heard very often rising up from the Café
Chantant, in the room at the dug-out. When I went round there to have
supper with them we listened to it entranced. It was a priceless tune,
very catching and with lots of go; I can hear it now. I was determined
to try and get a copy, and went to see Monsieur Tétar about it one day.
I told him we did not know the name, but this was the tune and hummed it
accordingly. A French Officer looking over some music in a corner
became convulsed and hurriedly ducked his head into the pages, and I
began to wonder if it was quite the thing to ask for.

Monsieur Tétar appeared to be somewhat scandalized, and exclaimed, "I
know it, Mademoiselle, that song calls itself _Marie-Margot la
Cantinière_, but it is, let me assure you, of a certainty not for the
young girls!" No persuasion on my part could produce it, so our
acquaintance with the fair _Marie-Margot_ went no further than the tune.

The extreme gratitude of the patients was very touching. When they left
for Convalescent homes, other Hospitals, or to return to the trenches,
we received shoals of post cards and letters of thanks. When they came
on leave they never failed to come back and look up the particular
_Miske_ who had tended them, and as often as not brought a souvenir of
some sort from _là bas_.

One man to whom I had sent a parcel wrote me the following letter. I
might add that in Hospital he knew no English at all and had taught
himself in the trenches from a dictionary. This was his letter:

     "My lady" (Madame), "The beautiful package is safely
     arrived. I thank you profoundly from all my heart. The shawl
     (muffler) is at my neck and the good socks are at my feet as
     I write. Like that one has well warmth.

     "We go to make some café also out of the package, this
     evening in our house in the trenches, for which I thank you
     again one thousand times.

     "Receive, my lady, the most distinguished sentiments on the
     part of your devoted

                       "JEAN PROMPLER,
                                "1st Batt. Infanterie,
                                         "12th line Regiment."


I remember my first joy-ride so well. "Uncle" took Porter and myself up
to St. Inglevert with some stores for our small convalescent home, of
which more anon.

Before proceeding further, I must here explain who "Uncle" was. He
joined the Corps in 1914 in response to an advertisement from us in the
_Times_ for a driver and ambulance, and was accepted immediately. He was
over military age, and had had his Mors car converted into an ambulance
for work at the front, and went up to Headquarters one day to make final
arrangements. There, to his intense surprise, he discovered that the
"First Aid Nursing Yeomanry" was a woman's, and not a man's show as he
had at first supposed.

He was so amused he laughed all the way down the Earls Court Road!

He bought his own petrol from the Belgian _Parc d'Automobiles_, and,
when he was not driving wounded, took as many of the staff for joy-rides
as he could.

The blow in the fresh air was appreciated by us perhaps more than he
knew, especially after a hard morning in the typhoid wards.

The day in question was bright and fine and the air, when once we had
left the town and passed the inevitable barriers, was clear and
invigorating, like champagne. We soon arrived at St. Inglevert, which
consisted of a little Church, an _Estaminet_, one or two cottages, the
_curé's_ house, and a little farm with parish room attached. The latter
was now used as a convalescent home for our typhoid patients until they
were strong enough to take the long journey to the big camp in the South
of France. The home was run by two of the F.A.N.Y.s for a fortnight at a
time. It was no uncommon sight to see them on the roads taking the
patients out "in crocodile" for their daily walk! Many were the curious
glances cast from the occupants of passing cars at the two khaki-clad
English girls, walking behind a string of sick-looking men in uniform.
Probably they drove on feeling it was another of the unsolved mysteries
of the war!

We found Bunny struggling with the stove in the tiny kitchen, where she
soon coaxed the kettle to boil and gave us a cup of tea. Before our
return journey to Hospital we were introduced to the Curé of St.
Inglevert, who was half Irish and half French. He spoke English well and
gave a great deal of assistance in running the home, besides being both
witty and amusing.

We visited the men who were having tea in their "refectory" under
Cicely's supervision, and once more returned to work at Lamarck.



CHAPTER IX

TYPHOIDS AGAIN, AND PARIS IN 1915


I was on night duty once more in the typhoid wards with Sister Moring
when we had our third bad Zeppelin raid, which was described in the
papers as "the biggest attempted since the beginning of the war." It
certainly was a wonderful sight.

The tocsin was rung in the _Place d'Armes_ about 11.30 p.m. followed by
heavy gunfire from our now more numerous defences. Almost simultaneously
bomb explosions could be heard. We hastily wrapped up what patients were
well enough to move, and the orderlies carried them to the "cave."
Returning across the yard one of them called out that there were three
Zeppelins this time, but though the searchlights were playing, we saw no
sign of them, and presently the "all clear" was sounded.

We had just got the patients from the _cave_ back into bed again when
half an hour later a second alarm was heard. Our feelings on hearing
this could only be described as "terse," a favourite F.A.N.Y.
expression. If only the brutes would leave Hospitals alone instead of
upsetting the patients like this.

The sky presented a wonderful spectacle. Half a dozen searchlights were
playing, and shells were continually bursting in mid-air with a dull
roar. On our way back from the _cave_ where we had again deposited the
patients, the searchlights suddenly focussed all three Zeppelins. There
they were like huge silver cigars gleaming against the stars. They
looked so splendid I couldn't help wishing I was up in one. It seemed
impossible to connect death-dealing bombs with those floating silver
shapes. Shrapnel burst all round them, and then the Zepps. seemed
suddenly to become alive, and they answered with machine guns, and the
patter of bullets and shrapnel could be heard all around. The Commander
of one of the Zepps. apparently fearing his airship might be hit, must
have given the order for all the bombs to be heaved overboard at once,
for suddenly twenty-one fell simultaneously! You can imagine what a
sight it was to see those golden balls of fire falling through the air
from the silver airship. They fell in a field just outside the town near
a little village called _Les Barraques_, the total bag being five cows!

In spite of the three Zeppelins the Huns only succeeded in killing a
baby and an old lady. At last they were successfully driven off, and we
settled down hoping our excitements were over for the night, but no, at
3.30 a.m. the tocsin again rang out a third alarm! This was getting
beyond a joke. The air duel recommenced, bombs were dropped, but
fortunately no serious casualties occurred. Luckily at that time none of
the patients were in a serious condition, so we felt that for once the
Hun had been fairly considerate. It was surprising to find the
comparatively little damage the town had suffered. We had several others
after this, but they are not worth recording here.

One patient we had at that time was a Dutchman who had joined the
Belgian Army in 1914. He was a very droll fellow, and told me he was the
clown at one of the Antwerp Theatres and kept the people amused while
the scenes were being changed. I can quite believe this, for shouts of
laughter could always be heard in his vicinity. He was very good at
imitating animals, and I discovered later that among other
accomplishments he was also a ventriloquist. Sister and I, when the
necessary feeds had been given, used to sit in two deck chairs with a
screen shading the light, near the stove in the middle ward, until the
next were due. One night I heard a cat mewing. It seemed to be almost
under my chair, I got up and looked everywhere. Yes, there it was again,
but this time coming from under one of the men's beds. It was a piteous
mew, and I was determined to find it. I spent a quarter of an hour on
tiptoe looking everywhere. It was not till I heard a stifled chuckle
from the bed next the Dutchman's that I suspected anything, and then,
determined they should get no rise out of me, sat down quietly in my
chair again. Though that cat mewed for the next ten minutes I never
turned an eyelash!

I liked night duty very much, there was something exhilarating about it,
probably because I was new to it, and probably also because I slept like
a top in the daytime (when I didn't get up, breathe it quietly, to steal
out for rides on the sands!). I liked the walk across the yard with the
gaunt old Cathedral showing black against the purple sky, its poor East
window now tied up with sacking.

One night about 1 a.m. I came in from supper in my flat soft felt
slippers, and from sheer joy of living executed, quite noiselessly, a
few steps for Sister's benefit down the middle of the Ward! It was a
great temptation, and needless to say not appreciated by Sister as much
as I had hoped. I heard subdued clapping from the clown's bed, and there
was the wretch wide awake (he was not unlike Morton to look at), sitting
up in bed and grinning with joy!

The next morning as I was going off duty he called me over to him. "_He,
Miske Kinike_," he said, in his funny half Dutch, half Flemish, "if
after the war you desire something to do I will arrange that you appear
with me before the curtain goes up, at the Antwerp Theatre!" He made the
offer in all seriousness, and realizing this, I replied I would
certainly think the proposition over, and fled across to have breakfast
and tell them my future had been arranged for most suitably.

The rolls, the long French kind, were brought each morning in "Flossie,"
by the day staff on their way up from the "shop" referred to in a
F.A.N.Y. alphabet as

     "R's for the 'Roll-call'"--a terrible fag--
     "Fetching six yards of bread, done up in a bag!"

The other meals were provided by the Belgians and supplemented to a
great extent by us. I am quite convinced we often ate good old horse.
One day, when prowling round the shops to get something fresh for the
night staff's supper, I went into a butcher's. The good lady came
forward to ask me what I wished. I told her; and she smiled agreeably,
saying, "Impossible, Mademoiselle, since long time we have only horse
here for sale!" I got out of that shop with speed.

The orderlies on night duty, on the surgical side, were a lazy lot and
slept the whole night through, more often than not on the floor of the
kitchen. One night the incomparable "Jefké," who was worse than most,
was fast asleep in a dark spot near the big stove, when I went to get
some hot water. He was practically invisible, so I narrowly missed
stepping on his head, and, as it was, collapsed over him, breaking the
tea-pot. Cicely, the ever witty, quickly parodied one of the "Ruthless
Rhymes," and said:--

     "Pat who trod on Jefké's face
      (He was fast asleep, so let her,)
      Put the pieces back in place,
      Saying, 'Don't you think he looks _much_ better'?"

(I can't vouch for the truth of the last line.)

One day when up at the front we attended part of a concert given by the
Observation Balloon Section in a barn, candles stuck in bottles the only
illuminations; we were however obliged to leave early to go on to the
trenches. Outside in the moonlight, which was almost as light as day, we
found the men busy sharpening their bayonets.

Another day up at Bourbourg, where we had gone for a ride, on a precious
afternoon off, we saw the first camouflaged field hospital run by
Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, for the Belgians--the tents were weird
and wonderful to behold, and certainly defied detection from a distance.

Heasy and I were walking down the _Rue_ one afternoon, which was the
Bond Street of this town, when the private detective aforementioned came
up and asked to see our identification cards. These we were always
supposed to carry about with us wherever we went. Besides the hospital
stamp and several others, it contained a passport photo and signature.
Of course we had left them in another pocket, and in spite of
protestations on our part we were requested to proceed to the citadel or
return to hospital to be identified. To our mortification we were
followed at a few yards by the detective and a soldier! Never have I
felt such an inclination to take to my heels. As luck would have it, tea
was in progress in the top room, and they all came down _en masse_ to
see the two "spies." The only comfort we got, as they all talked and
laughed at our expense, was to hear one of the detectives softly
murmuring to himself, "Has anyone heard of the Suffragette movement
here?"

We learnt later that Boche spies disguised in our uniform had been seen
in the vicinity of the trenches. That the Boche took an interest in our
Corps we knew, for, in pre-war days, we had continually received
applications from German girls who wished to become members. Needless to
say they were never accepted.

The first English troops began to filter into the town about this time,
and important "red hats" with brassards bearing the device "L. of C."
walked about the place as if indeed they had bought every stone.

Great were our surmises as to what "L. of C." actually stood for, one
suggestion being "Lords of Creation," and another, "Lords of Calais"! It
was comparatively disappointing to find out it only stood for "Lines of
Communication."

English people have a strange manner of treating their compatriots when
they meet in a foreign country. You would imagine that under the
circumstances they would waive ceremony and greet one another in
passing, but no, such is not the case. If they happen to pass in the
same street they either look haughtily at each other, with apparently
the utmost dislike, or else they gaze ahead with unseeing eyes.

We rather resented this "invasion," as we called it, and felt we could
no longer flit freely across the Place d'Armes in caps and aprons as
heretofore.

In June of 1915, my first leave, after six months' work, was due.
Instead of going to England I went to friends in Paris. The journey was
an adventure in itself and took fourteen hours, a distance that in peace
time takes four or five. We stopped at every station and very often in
between. When this occurred, heads appeared at every window to find out
the reason. _"Qu' est ce qu'il y'a?"_ everyone cried at once. It was
invariably either that a troop train was passing up the line and we must
wait for it to go by, or else part of the engine had fallen off. In the
case of the former, the train was looked for with breathless interest
and handkerchiefs waved frantically, to be used later to wipe away a
furtive tear for those _brave poilus_ or "Tommees" who were going to
fight for _la belle France_ and might never return.

If it was the engine that collapsed, the passengers, with a resigned
expression, returned to their seats, saying placidly: "_C'est la
guerre, que voulez-vous_," and no one grumbled or made any other
comment. With a grunt and a snort we moved on again, only to stop a
little further up the line. I came to the conclusion that that rotten
engine must be tied together with string. No one seemed to mind or
worry. "He will arrive" they said optimistically, and talked of other
things. At every station fascinating-looking _infirmières_ from the
French Red Cross, clad in white from top to toe, stepped into the
carriage jingling little white tin boxes. "_Messieurs, Mesdames, pour
les blessés, s'il vous plaît_,"[8] they begged, and everyone fumbled
without a murmur in their pockets. I began with 5 francs, but by the
time I'd reached Paris I was giving ha' pennies.

At Amiens a dainty Parisienne stepped into the compartment. She was clad
in a navy blue _tailleur_ with a very smart pair of high navy blue kid
boots and small navy blue silk hat. The other occupants of the carriage
consisted of a well-to-do old gentleman in mufti, who, I decided, was a
_commerçant de vin_, and two French officers, very spick and span,
obviously going on leave. _La petite dame bien mise_, as I christened
her, sat in the opposite corner to me, and the following conversation
took place. I give it in English to save translation:

After a little general conversation between the officers and the old
_commerçant_ the latter suddenly burst out with:--"Ha, what I would like
well to know is, do the Scotch soldiers wear the _pantalons_ or do they
not?" Everyone became instantly alert. I could see _la petite dame bien
mise_ was dying to say something. The two French officers addressed
shrugged their shoulders expressive of ignorance in the matter. After
further discussion, unable to contain herself any longer, _la petite
dame_ leant forward and addressing herself to the _commerçant_, said,
"Monsieur, I assure you that they do _not_!"

The whole carriage "sat up and took notice," and the old _commerçant_,
shaking his finger at her said:

"Madame, if you will permit me to ask, that is, if it is not indiscreet,
how is it that you are in a position to know?"

The officers were enjoying themselves immensely. _La petite dame_
hastened to explain. "Monsieur, it is that my window at Amiens she
overlooks the ground where these Scotch ones play the football, and then
a good little puff of wind and one sees, but of course," she concluded
virtuously, "I have not regarded, Monsieur."

They all roared delightedly, and the old _commerçant_ said something to
the effect of not believing a word. "Be quiet, Monsieur, I pray of you,"
she entreated, "there is an English young girl in the corner and she
will of a certainty be shocked." "_Bah, non_," replied the old
_commerçant_, "the English never understand much of any language but
their own" (I hid discreetly behind my paper).

As we neared Paris there was another stop before the train went over the
temporary bridge that had been erected over the Oise. We could still see
the other that had been blown up by the French in order to stem the
German advance on Paris in August 1914. This shattered bridge brought it
home to me how very near to Paris the Boche had been.

As I stepped out of the Gare du Nord all the people were looking
skywards at two Taubes which had just dropped several bombs. Some
welcome, I thought to myself!

Paris in War time at that period (June, 1915) wore rather the
appearance of a deserted city. Every third shop had notices on the doors
to the effect that the owners were absent at the war. Others were being
run by the old fathers and mothers long since retired, who had come up
from the country to "carry on." My friend told me that when she had
returned to Paris in haste from the country, at the beginning of the
war, there was not a taxi available, as they were all being used to rush
the soldiers out to the battle of the Marne. Fancy taxi-ing to a
battlefield!

The Parisians were very interested to see a girl dressed in khaki, and
discussed each item of my uniform in the Métro quite loudly, evidently
under the same impression as the old _commerçant_! My field boots took
their fancy most. _"Mon Dieu!"_ they would exclaim. "Look then, she
wears the big boots like a man. It is _chic_ that, hein?"

In one place, an old curiosity shop in the Quartier St. Germain, the
woman was so thrilled to hear I was an _infirmière_ she insisted on me
keeping an old Roman lamp I was looking at as a souvenir, because her
mother had been one in 1870. War has its compensations.

I also discovered a Monsieur Jollivet at Neuilly, a job-master who had a
few horses left, among them a little English mare which I rode. We went
in the Bois nearly every morning and sometimes along the race course at
Longchamps, the latter very overgrown. "Ah, Mademoiselle," he would
exclaim, "if it was only in the ordinary times, how different would all
this look, and how Mademoiselle would amuse herself at the races!"

One day walking along near the "Observatoire" an old nun stopped me, and
in broken English asked how the war was progressing. (The people in the
shops did too, as if I had come straight from G.H.Q.!) She then went on
to tell me that she was Scotch, but had never been home for thirty-five
years! I could hardly believe it, as she talked English just as a
Frenchwoman might. She knew nothing at all as to the true position of
affairs, and asked me to come in to the Convent to tea one day, which I
did.

They all clustered round me when I went, asking if I had met their
relation so-and-so, who was fighting at the front. They were frightfully
disappointed when I said "No, I had not."

I went to their little chapel afterwards, and later on, the Reverend
Mother, who was so old she had to be supported on each side by two nuns,
came to a window and gave me her blessing. My Scotch friend before I
left pressed a little oxidized silver medal of the Virgin into my hand,
which she assured me would keep me in safety. I treasured it after that
as a sort of charm and always had it with me.

A few days later I was introduced to Warneford, V.C., the man who had
brought down the first Zeppelin. He had just come to Paris to receive
the _Légion d'Honneur_ and the _Croix de Guerre_, and was being fêted
and spoilt by everybody. He promised towards the end of the week, when
he had worked off some of his engagements, to take me up--strictly
against all rules of course--for a short flight. I met him on the
Monday, I think, and on the Wednesday he crashed while making a trial
flight, and died after from his injuries, in hospital. It seemed
impossible to believe when first I heard of it--he was so full of life
and high spirits.

We went to Versailles one day. The loneliness and general air of
desertion that overhang the place seemed more intensified by the war
than ever. The grass had grown very long, the air was sultry, and not a
ripple stirred the calm surface of the lake. It seemed somehow very like
the Palace of a Sleeping Beauty. I wondered if the ghost of Marie
Antoinette ever revisited the Trianon or flitted up and down the wooden
steps of the miniature farm where she had played at being a dairymaid?

As we wended our way back in the evening, the incessant croaking of the
frogs in the big lake was the only sound that broke the stillness. There
was something sinister about it as if they were croaking "We are the
only creatures who now live in this beautiful place, and it is we, with
our ugly voices and bodies, who have triumphed over the beautiful vain
ladies who threw pebbles at us long ago from the terraces."--We turned
away, and the croaking seemed to become more triumphant and echoed in
our ears long after we had left the vicinity.

At night, in Paris, aeroplanes flew round and round the city on scout
duty switching on lights at intervals that made them look like
travelling stars. They often woke one up, and the noise of the engines
was so loud it seemed sometimes as if they must fly straight through
one's window. I used to love to get up early and go down to "Les
Halles," the French Covent Garden, and come back with literally armfuls
of roses of all shades of delicate pink, white, and cream. Tante Rose
(the only name I ever knew her by) was a widow, and the aunt of my
friend. She was one of the _vieille noblesse_ and had a charming house
in Passy, and was as interesting to listen to as a book. She asked me
one day if I would care to go with her to a Memorial Service at the
_Sacré-Coeur_. Looking out of her windows we could see the church
dominating Paris from the heights of Montmartre, the mosque-like
appearance of its architecture gleaming white against the sky.

At that moment the dying rays of the sun lit up the golden cross
surmounting it, and presently the whole building became a delicate rose
pink and seemed almost to float above the city, all blue in the haze of
the evening below. It was wonderful, and a picture I shall always carry
in my mind. I replied I would love to go, and on the following day we
toiled up the dazzling white steps. The service was, I think, the most
impressive I have ever attended. Crowds flocked to it, all or nearly all
in that uniform of deep-mourning incomparably _chic_, incomparably
French, and gaining daily in popularity. Long before the service began
the place was packed to suffocation. Tante Rose looked proudly round and
whispered to me, "Ah, my little one, you see here those who have given
their all for France." Indeed it seemed so on looking round at those
white-faced women; and how I wished that _some_ of the people in
England, who had not been touched by the war, or who at that time (June,
1915) hardly realized there even was one, could have been present.

During another visit to Tante Rose's I heard the following story from an
_infirmière_. A wounded German was brought to one of the French
hospitals. In the bed adjoining lay a Zouave who had had his leg
amputated. The Boche asked for a drink of hot water, the hottest
obtainable. When the Nurse brought it to him he took the glass, and
without a word threw the scalding contents in her face! The Zouave who
had witnessed this brutal act, with a snarl of rage, leapt from his bed
on to the German's and throttled him to death there and then. The other
_blessés_ sat up in bed and cheered. "It is thus," she continued calmly,
"that our brave soldiers avenge us from these brutes." I looked at her
as she sat there so dainty in her white uniform, quite undismayed by
what had taken place. It was just another of those little incidents that
go to show the spirit of the French nation.

Some American friends of mine took me over their hospital for French
soldiers at Neuilly. It was most beautifully equipped from top to
bottom, and I was especially interested in the dental department where
they fitted men with false jaws, etc. Every comfort was provided, and
some of the patients were lying out on balconies under large umbrellas,
smiling happily at all who passed. I sighed when I thought of the
makeshifts we had _là bas_ at Lamarck.

I also went to a sort of review held in the Bois of an _Ambulance
Volant_ (ambulance unit to accompany a Battalion), given and driven by
Americans. They also had a field operating theatre. These drivers were
all voluntary workers, and were Yale and Harvard men who had come over
to see what the "show" was really like. Some of them later joined the
French Army, and one the famous "Foreign Legion," and others went back
to the U.S.A. to make shells.

It was very interesting to hear about the "Foreign Legion." In peace
time most of the people who join it are either fleeing from justice, or
they have no more interest in life and don't care what becomes of them.
It is composed of dare-devils of all nationalities, and the discipline
is of the severest. They are therefore among the most fearless fighters
in the world, and always put in a tight place on the French front. There
is one man at the enlisting dépôt[9] who is a wonderful being, and can size
up a new recruit at a glance. He is known as "Le Sphinx." You must give
him your real name and reason for joining the Legion, and in exchange he
gives you a number by which henceforth you are known. He knows the
secrets of all the Legion, and they are never divulged to a living soul;
he never forgets, nor do they ever pass his lips. One of the most
cherished souvenirs I have is a plain brass button with the inscription
"Légion Étrangère" printed round it in raised letters.

As early as June, 1915, the French were showing what relics they had
brought back from the battlefields. No better place than the
"Invalides," with Napoleon's tomb towering above, could have been chosen
for their display. Part of the courtyard was taken up by captured guns,
and in two separate corners a "Taube," and a German scout machine, with
black crosses on their wings, were tethered like captured birds. There
the widows, leading their little sons by the hand, came dry-eyed to show
young France what their fathers had died in capturing for the glory of
_La Patrie_.

"Dost thou know, Maman," I heard one mite saying, "I would like well to
mount astride that cannon there," indicating a huge 7.4, but the woman
only smiled the saddest smile I have ever seen, and drew him over to
gaze at the silvery remains of the Zeppelin that had been brought down
on the Marne.

The rooms leading off the corridors above were all filled with souvenirs
and helmets, and in another, the captured flags of some of the most
famous Prussian Regiments were spread out in all their glory of gold and
silver embroideries and tassels.

We went on to see Napoleon's tomb, which made an impression on me which
I shall never forget. The sun was just in the right quarter. As we
entered the building, the ante-room seemed purposely darkened to form
the most complete contrast with the inner; where the sun, streaming
through the wonderful glass windows, shone with a steady shaft of blue
light, almost ethereal in colouring, down into the tomb where the great
Emperor slept.



CHAPTER X

CONCERNING A CONCERT, CANTEEN WORK, HOUSEKEEPING, THE ENGLISH CONVOY,
AND GOOD-BYE LAMARCK


When I returned to the hospital the "English Invasion" of the town was
an accomplished fact, and the Casino had been taken over as a hospital
for our men. In the rush after Festubert, we were very proud to be
called upon to assist for the time-being in transporting wounded, as the
British Red Cross ambulances had more than they could cope with. This
was the first official driving we did and was to lead to greater things.

The heat that summer was terrific, so five of us clubbed together and
rented a Chalet on the beach, which was christened _The Filbert_. We
bathed in our off time (when the jelly fish permitted, for, whenever it
got extra warm, a whole plague of them infested the sea, and hot vinegar
was the only cure for their stinging bites; of course we only found this
out well on into the jelly-fish season!). We gave tea parties and supper
parties there, weather and work permitting, and it proved the greatest
boon to us after long hours in hospital.

As we were never free to use it in the morning we lent it to some
friends, and one day a fearful catastrophe happened. Fresh water was as
hard to get as in a desert, and the only way to procure any was to bribe
French urchins to carry it in large tin jugs from a spring near the
Casino. These people, one of whom was the big Englishman, after running
up from the sea used the water they saw in the jugs to wash the sand off
(after all, quite a natural proceeding) and then, in all ignorance of
their fearful crime, virtuously filled them up again, _but_ from the
sea!

That afternoon Lowson happened to be giving a rather swell and
diplomatic tea party. Gaily she filled the kettle and set it on the
stove and then made the tea. The Matron of the hospital took a sip and
the Colonel ditto, and then they both put their cups down--(I was not
present, but as _my_ friends committed the crime, you may be sure I
heard all about it, and feel as if I had been). Of course the generally
numerous French urchins were nowhere in sight, and everyone went home
from that salt-water tea party with a terrible thirst!

A Remount Camp was established at Fort Neuillay. It was an interesting
fact that the last time the fort had been used was by English troops
when that part of the coast was ours. One of the officers there
possessed a beagle called "Flanders." She was one of the survivors of
that famous pack taken over in 1914 that so staggered our allies. One
glorious "half-day" off duty, riding across some fields we started a
beautiful hare. Besides "Flanders" there was a terrier and a French dog
of uncertain breed, and in two seconds the "pack" was in full cry after
"puss," who gave us the run of our lives. Unfortunately the hunt did not
end there, as some French farmers, not accustomed to the rare sight of
half a couple and two mongrels hot after a hare scudding across their
fields, lodged a complaint! When the owner of the beagle was called up
by the Colonel for an explanation he explained himself in this wise.

"It was like this, Sir, the beagle got away after the hare, and we
thought it best to follow up to bring her back. You see, Sir, don't
you?"

"Yes, I _do_ see," said the Colonel, with a twinkle. "Well, don't let it
happen again, or she must be destroyed."

A Y.M.C.A. was also established, and Mr. Sitters, the organiser, begged
us to get up a concert party and amuse the men. In those days Lena
Ashwell's parties were quite unknown, and the men often had to rely on
themselves for entertainment. Our free time was very precious, and we
were often so tired it was a great undertaking to organise rehearsals,
but this Sergt. Wicks did, and very soon we had quite a good show going.

One day Mr. Sitters obtained passes for us to go far up into the English
lines, and for days beforehand rehearsals were held in the oddest
places.[10] Up to the last minute we were on duty in the wards, and all
those who could gave a helping hand to get us off--seven in all, as
more could not be spared. It was pouring with rain, but we did not mind.
We had had such a rush to get ready and collect such properties as we
needed that, as often happens on these occasions, we were all in the
highest spirits and the show was bound to go well.

We sped along in the ambulance, "Uncle" driving, and picking up Mr.
Sitters _en route_. Our only pauses were at the barriers of the town,
and on we went again. We had been doing a good 35 and had slowed up to
pass some vehicles going over a bridge, when the pin came out of the
steering rod. If we had not slowed up I can't imagine there would have
been much of the concert party left to perform!

We pulled up and began to look for it, hoping, as it had just happened,
we might see it lying on the road. Luckily for us at that moment an
English officer drove up and stopped to see if he could be of any help.
He heard where we were bound for, and, as time was getting on, instantly
suggested we should borrow his car and driver and he would wait until it
came back. Mr. Sitters was only too delighted to accept the offer as it
was getting so late.

He suggested that four of us should get into the officer's car and go
ahead with him and begin the show, leaving the others to follow. We were
a little dubious as our Lieutenant, Sister Lampen, and "Auntie" (the
Matron) were over the brow of the hill searching for the missing pin!
There seemed nothing else to be done, however, so in we all bundled.
The officer was very sporting and wished us "good luck" as we sped off
in his car.

Farther along, as we got nearer the front, all the sentries were English
which seemed very strange to us. Passing through a village where a lot
of our troops were billeted they gazed in wonder and amazement at the
sight of English girls in that district.

One incident we thought specially funny--It may not seem particularly so
now, but when you think that for months past we had only had dealings
with French and Belgian soldiers, you will understand how it amused us.
Outside an _Estaminet_ was a horse and cart partly across the road, and
just sufficiently blocking it. The driver called out to a Tommy lounging
outside the Inn to pull it over a little. He gave a truly British grunt,
and went to the horse's head. Nothing happened for some seconds, and we
waited impatiently. Presently he reappeared.

"Tied oop," he said laconically, in a broad north country accent, and
washed his hands of the matter. How we laughed. Of course a Frenchman
would have made the most elaborate apologies and explanations--a long
conversation would have ensued, and finally salutes and bows exchanged,
before we could have got on. "Tied oop" became quite a saying after
that.

A F.A.N.Y. eventually coped with the matter, and on we went again. At
last we espied some tents in the distance and struck off down a rutty
lane in their direction. Here we said "good-bye" to our driver
wondering if the other car did not turn up, just how we should get home.
We plunged through mud that came well over the tops of our boots and,
scrambling along some slippery duck boarding, arrived at the recreation
tent. No sign of the other car, so we were obliged to draft out a fresh
programme in the meantime.

We took off our heavy coats while two batmen used the back of their
clasp knives to scrape off the first layers of mud (hardly the most
attractive footlight wear) from our boots. We heard the M.C. announcing
that the "Concert party" had arrived, and through holes in the canvas we
could see the tent was full to overflowing. Cheers greeted the
announcement, and we shivered with fright. There were hundreds there,
and they had been patiently waiting for hours, singing choruses to pass
the time.

As we crawled through the canvas at the back of the stage they cheered
us to the echo. The platform was about the size of a dining table, which
rather cramped our style. We always began our shows with a topical song,
each taking a verse in turn, and then all singing the chorus. Towards
the end of our first song the Lieutenant and the others arrived. The
guns boomed so loudly at times the words were quite drowned. The
Programme consisted of Recitations, Songs at the Piano, Solo Songs,
Choruses, Violin, etc.; and to my horror I found they counted on me to
do charcoal drawings, described out of courtesy as "Lightning
sketches!" (an art only developed and cultivated at the insistence of
Sergt. Wicks, who had once discovered me doing some in the wards to
amuse the men). There was nothing else for it, rolls of white paper were
produced and pinned on a table placed on end, and off I started. I first
drew them a typical Belgian officer with lots of Medals which brought
forth the remark that he "must have been through the South African
Campaign!" When I got to his boots, which I did with a good high light
down the centre, someone called out "Don't forget the Cherry Blossom
boot polish, Miss." "What price, _Kiwi_?" etc. When he was finished they
yelled "Souvenir, souvenir," so I handed it over amid great applause,
and felt full of courage! The Crown Prince went down very well and I was
grateful to him for having such a long nose. "We don't want him as no
souvenir," they called--"Wish we drew our pay as fast as you draw little
Willie, Miss." The Kaiser of course had his share, and in his first
stages, to their great joy, evidently resembled one of their officers!
(There's nothing Tommy enjoys quite so much as that.)

After the "Nut" before the war (complete in Opera hat and monocle) and
"now" in khaki, I could think of nothing more, and boldly, but with some
trepidation, asked if any gentleman in the audience would care to be
drawn. You can imagine the scene. A tent packed with Tommies, every
available place taken up, and those who could not find seats sitting on
the floor right up to the edge of the stage. Yells of delight greeted
the invitation, and several made as if to come forward; finally, one
unfortunate was heaved up from the struggling mass on to the stage. I
always noticed after this that whenever I offered to draw anyone it was
always a man with absolutely _no_ particularly "salient" feature (I
think that is the term) who presented himself. This individual could
best be described as "sandy" in appearance, there was simply _nothing_
about him to caricature, I thought in despair! The remarks from the
audience, which had been amusing before, now fairly bristled with wit,
mostly of a personal nature. My subject became hotter and hotter as I
seized the charcoal pencil and set off. "Wot _would_ Liza say?" called
out one in a horrified voice. "Don't smile, mate, yer might 'urt yer
fice," called another. "Take 'is temperature, Miss," they called, as the
perspiration began to roll off him in positive rivulets, and "_Don't_
forget 'is auburn 'air," they implored. As the poor unfortunate had just
been shorn like a lamb, preparatory to going into the trenches, this was
particularly cutting. The remark, however, gave me an inspiration and
the audience yelled delightedly while I put a few black dots, very wide
apart, to indicate the shortage. When finished we shook hands to show
there was no ill feeling, and quite cheerfully, with the expression of a
hero, he bore his portrait off amid cheers from the men.

The show ended with a song, _Sergeant Michael Cassidy_, which was
extremely popular at that time. For those who have not heard this
classic, it might be as well to give one or two verses. We each had our
own particular one, and then all sang the chorus.

   "You've heard of Michael Cassidy, a strapping Irish bhoy.
    Who up and joined the Irish guards as Kitchener's pride and joy;
    When on the march you'll hear them shout, 'Who's going to win the war?'
    And this is what the khaki lads all answered with a roar:

_Chorus_

     "Cassidy, Sergeant Michael Cassidy,
      He's of Irish nationality.
      He's a lad of wonderful audacity,
      Sergeant Michael Cassidy (bang), V.C."

_Last Verse_

   "Who was it met a dainty little Belgian refugee
    And right behind the firing line, would take her on his knee?
    Who was it, when she doubted him, got on his knees and swore
    He'd love her for three years or the duration of the War?"

_Chorus_, etc.


This was encored loudly, and someone called out for _Who's your lady
friend?_ As there were not any within miles excepting ourselves, and
certainly none in the audience, it was rather amusing.

We plunged through the mud again after it was all over and were taken to
have coffee and sandwiches in the Mess. We were just in time to see some
of the men and wish them Good Luck, as they were being lined up
preparatory to going into the trenches. Poor souls, I felt glad we had
been able to do something to cheer them a little; and the guns, which we
had heard distinctly throughout the concert, now boomed away louder than
ever.

We had a fairly long walk back from the Mess to where the Mors car had
been left owing to the mud, and at last we set off along the dark and
rutty road.

One facetious French sentry insisted on talking English and flashing his
lantern into the back of the ambulance, saying, "But I _will_ see the
face of each Mees for fear of an espion." He did so, murmuring
"_jolie--pas mal--chic_," etc.! He finally left us, saying: "I am an
officer. Well, ladies, good-bye all!" We were convulsed, and off we slid
once more into the darkness and rain, without any lights, reaching home
about 12, after a very amusing evening.

Soon after this, we started our "Pleasant Sunday Evenings," as we called
them, in the top room of the hospital, and there from 8 to 9.30 every
Sunday gave coffee and held impromptu concerts. They were a tremendous
success, and chiefly attended by the English. They were so popular we
were often at a loss for seats. Of real furniture there was very little.
It consisted mostly of packing cases covered with army blankets and
enormous _tumpties_ in the middle of the floor--these latter contained
the reserve store of blankets for the hospital, and excellent "pouffs"
they made.

Our reputation of being able to turn our hands to anything resulted in
Mr. Sitters--rushing in during 10 o'clock tea one morning with the news
that two English divisions were going south from Ypres in a few days'
time, and the Y.M.C.A. had been asked by the Army to erect a temporary
canteen at a certain railhead during the six days they would take to
pass through. There were no lady helpers in those days, and he was at
his wits' end to know where to find the staff. Could any of us be
spared? None of us _could_, as we were understaffed already, but
Lieutenant Franklin put it to us and said if we were willing to
undertake the canteen, as well as our hospital work, which would mean an
average of only five hours sleep in the twenty-four--she had no
objection. There was no time to get fresh Y.M.C.A. workers from England
with the delay of passports, etc., and of course we decided to take it
on, only too pleased to have the chance to do something for our own men.
A shed was soon erected, the front part being left open facing the
railway lines, and counters were put up. The work, which went on night
and day, was planned out in shifts, and we were driven up to the siding
in Y.M.C.A. Fords or any of our own which could be spared. Trains came
through every hour averaging about 900 men on board. There was just time
in between the trains to wash the cups up and put out fresh buns and
chocolates. When one was in, there was naturally no time to wash the
cups up at all, and they were just used again as soon as they were
empty. Canteen work with a vengeance! The whole of the Highland
division passed through together with the 37th. They sat in cattle
trucks mostly, the few carriages there were being reserved for the
officers. It was amusing to notice that at first the men thought we were
French, so unaccustomed were they then to seeing any English girls out
there with the exception of army Sisters and V.A.D.s.

"_Do chocolat, si voos play_," they would ask, and were speechless with
surprise when we replied sweetly: "Certainly, which kind will you have?"

I asked one Scotchman during a pause, when the train was in for a longer
interval than usual, how he managed to make himself understood up the
line. "Och fine," he said, "it's not verra deefficult to _parley voo_. I
gang into one o' them Estaminays to ask for twa drinks, I say 'twa' and,
would you believe it, they always hand out three--good natured I call
that, but I hae to pay up all the same," he added!

Naturally the French people thought he said _trois_. This story
subsequently appeared in print, I believe.

One regiment had a goat, and Billy was let out for a walk and had
wandered rather far afield, when the train started to move on again.
Luckily those trains never went very fast, but it was a funny sight to
see two Tommies almost throttling the goat in their efforts to drag it
along, pursued by several F.A.N.Y.s (to make the pace), and give it a
final shove up into a truck!

Towards the end of that week the entire staff became exceedingly short
tempered. The loss of sleep combined with hospital work probably
accounted for it; we even slept in the jolting cars on the way back. We
were more than repaid though, by the smiles of the Tommies and the
gratitude of the Y.M.C.A., who would have been unable to run the canteen
at all but for our help.

It was at this period in our career we definitely became known as the
"F.A.N.N.Y.s"--"F.A.N.Y.," spelt the passing Tommy--"FANNY," "I wonder
what that stands for?"

"First anywhere," suggested one, which was not a bad effort, we thought!

The following is an extract from an account by Mr. Beach Thomas in a
leading daily:

"Our Yeomanry nurses who, among other work, drive, clean, and manage
their own ambulance cars, are dressed in khaki. Their skirts are short,
their hats (some say their feet), are large! (this we thought hardly
kind). They have done prodigies along the Belgian front. One of their
latest activities has been to devise and work a peripatetic bath. By
ingenious contrivances, tents, and ten collapsible baths, are packed
into a motor car which circulates behind the lines. The water is heated
by the engine in a cistern in the interior of the car and offers the
luxury of a hot bath to several score men."

This was our famous motor bath called "James," and belonging to "Jimmy"
Gamwell. She saw to the heating of the water and the putting up of the
baths, with their canvas screens sloping from the roof of the ambulance
and so forming at each side a bathroom annexe. A sergeant marshalled the
soldiers in at one end and in about ten minutes' time they emerged
clean, rosy, and smiling at the other!

The article continued: "These women have run a considerable hospital and
its ambulances entirely by themselves. The work has been voluntary. By
doing their own household work, by feeding themselves at their own
expense (except for a few supplementary Belgian Army rations), by
driving and cleaning their own cars, they have made such a success on
the economical side that the money laboriously collected in England has
all been spent on the direct service of the wounded, and not on
establishment charges."

A Soup Kitchen brought out by Betty also belonged to our hospital
equipment. It did excellent work down at the Gare Centrale, providing
the wounded with hot soup on their arrival. Great was our excitement
when it was commissioned by a battery up the line. Betty and Lewis set
off in high spirits, and had the most thrilling escapes and adventures
in the Ypres section that would alone fill a book. They were with the
Battery in the early summer when the first gas attack swept over, and
caught them at "Hell fire Corner" on the Ypres-Menin road. It was they
who improvised temporary masks for the men from wads of cotton wool and
lint soaked in carbolic. Luckily they were not near enough to be
seriously gassed, but for months after they both felt the after
effects. Even where we were, we noticed the funny sulphurous smell in
the air which seemed to catch one with a tight sensation in the throat,
and the taste of sulphur was also perceptible on one's lips. We were to
have taken turns with the kitchen, but owing to this episode the
authorities considered the work too dangerous, and after being
complimented on their behaviour they returned to Lamarck.

We had a lot of daylight Taube raids, Zeppelins for the moment confining
all their efforts to England. It was fascinating to watch the little
round white balls, like baby clouds, where the shrapnel burst in its
efforts to bring the marauders down.

Very few casualties resulted from these raids and we rather enjoyed
them. One that fell on the Quay killed an old white horse; and a French
sailor found the handle of the bomb among the shrapnel near by and
presented it to me. It seemed odd to think that such a short while
before it had been in the hands of a Boche.

Jan was a patient we had who had entirely lost his speech and memory. We
could get nothing out of him but an expressive shrug of the shoulders
and a smile. He was a good looking Belgian of about twenty-four; and it
was my duty to take him out by the arm for a short walk each morning to
try and reawaken his interest in life.

One day I saw the French Governor of the town coming along on horseback
followed by his _ordnance_ (groom). How could I make Jan salute, I
wondered? I knew the General was very particular about such things, and
to all appearance Jan was a normal looking individual. "_Faut saluer le
Général_, Jan," I said, while he was still some distance away, but Jan
only shrugged his shoulders as much as to say, "I might do it, but on
the other hand I might not!" What was I to do? As we drew nearer I again
implored Jan to salute. He shrugged his shoulders, so in desperation,
just as we came abreast I put my arm behind him and seizing his, brought
it up to the salute! The General, whom I knew, seemed fearfully amused
as he returned it, and the next time we met he asked me if I was in the
habit of going for a walk arm in arm with Belgian soldiers, who had to
be made to salute in such a fashion?

One day we saw an aeroplane falling. At first it was hard to believe it
was not doing some patent stunt. Instead of coming down plumb as one
would imagine, it fell first this way and then that, like a piece of
paper fluttering down from a window. As it got nearer the earth though
where the currents of air were not so powerful, it plunged straight
downwards. Crowds witnessed the descent, and ran to the spot where it
had fallen.

Greatly to their surprise the pilot was unhurt and the machine hardly
damaged at all. It had fallen just into the sea, and its wings were
keeping it afloat. The pilot was brought ashore in a boat, and when the
tide went down a cordon of guards was placed round the machine till it
was removed.

Bridget, our former housekeeper at the hospital, went home to England in
the autumn for a rest and I was asked to take on her job. I moved to the
hospital and slept in the top room, behind our sitting-room, together
with the chauffeurs and Lieutenant Franklin.

I had to see that breakfast was all right, and at 7.30 lay the table in
the big kitchen, get the jam out of our store cupboard, make the tea,
etc. Breakfast over, I had the top room to sweep and dust, the beds to
make, the linen to put out to air, and when that was done it was time to
get "10 o'clocks" ready. After that I sallied forth armed with a big
basket, a fat purse and a long list, and thoroughly enjoyed myself in
the market.

In the afternoons there were always stacks of hospital mending to do,
and then tea to get ready. Sometimes as many as twelve people--French,
Belgian, or English--used to drop in, and it was no easy task to keep
that teapot going; however it was always done somehow. Luckily we had a
gas-ring, as it would have been an impossibility to run up and down the
sixty-nine steps to the kitchen every time we wanted more hot water.

At six the housekeeper had to prepare the evening meal for 7.30, and the
Flemish cooks looked on with great amusement at my concoctions--a lot of
it was tinned stuff, so the cooking required was of the simplest. They
always cooked the potatoes for me out of the kindness of their hearts.
The reason they did not do the whole thing was that they were really
off duty at six, but one of them usually stayed behind and helped.

Work at that time began to slacken off considerably.--A large hut
hospital for typhoids was built and the casualties diminished, partly
because most of the Belgians had already been killed or wounded, and
partly because the remaining few had not much fighting to do except hold
the line behind the inundations. A faint murmur reached us that a
comb-out was going to take place among the British Red Cross Ambulance
drivers, and we wondered who would replace them if they were sent up the
line.

The anniversary of the opening of Lamarck hospital took place on the
31st October, 1915, and we had a tremendous gathering, French, English,
and Belgians, described in the local rag as "_une réception intime,
l'élite de tout ce que la ville renferme_!" The French Governor-General
of the town, accompanied by two aides-de-camp, came in state. All the
guests visited the wards, and then adjourned for tea to the top room
where the housekeeper had to perform miracles with the gas-ring. A
speech of thanks was made to the Corps, and "Scrubby" (the typhoid
doctor) got up and in _quelques paroles émues_ added his tribute as
well. It was a most successful show and we thought the French Governor
would never depart, he seemed to enjoy himself so much!

Our next excitement was a big Allied concert given at the Theatre.
Several performances had taken place there since the one I described,
but this was the first time Belgians, French, and English had
collaborated.

Betty, who had been at Tree's School, was asked to recite, and I was
asked to play the violin. She also got up a one-act farce with
Lieutenant Raby. It is extremely hard to be a housekeeper for a hospital
and work up for a concert at the same time. The only place I could
practise in was the storeroom and there, surrounded by tins of McVitie's
biscuits and Crosse & Blackwell's jam, I resorted when I could snatch a
few minutes!

At last the day of the concert arrived and we rattled up to the Theatre
in "Flossie." A fairly big programme had been arranged, and the three
Allies were well represented. There was an opera singer from Paris
resplendent in a long red velvet dress, who interested me very much, she
behaved in such an extraordinary way behind the scenes. Before she was
due to go on, she walked up and down literally snorting like a
war-horse, occasionally bursting into a short scale, and then beating
her breast and saying, "_Mon Dieu, que j'ai le trac_," which, being
interpreted, means, approximately, "My God, but I have got the wind up!"
I sat in a corner with my violin and gazed at her in wonder. Everything
went off very well, and we received many be-ribboned bouquets and
baskets of flowers, which transformed the top room for days.

All lesser excitements were eclipsed when we heard further rumours that
the English Red Cross might take us over to replace the men driving for
them at that time.

MacDougal and Franklin, our two Lieutenants, were constantly attending
conferences on the subject.

At last an official requisition came through for sixteen ambulance
drivers to replace the men by January 1, 1916. You can imagine our
excitement at the prospect. The very first women to drive British
wounded officially! It was an epoch in women's work in France and the
forerunner of all the subsequent convoys.

Simultaneously an article appeared the 2nd December, 1915, headed
"'Yeowomen,' a triumph of hospital organisation," which I may be
pardoned for quoting:

"A complete unit with sixteen to twenty motor ambulances, organised,
worked, and driven by women, will next month be added to the British
Army.

"The women will drive their own cars and look after them in every way.
One single male mechanic, and that is all, is to be attached to the
whole unit. These ambulances may of course be summoned from their camp
to hurry over any type of winter-worn road to the neighbourhood of the
firing line.

"What strength, endurance, and pluck such work demands from women can
easily be understood by anyone who has ever tried to swing a car in cold
weather or repair it by the roadside.

"It is a very notable fact that for the first time under official
recognition women have been allowed to share in what may be called a
male department of warfare.

"The Nursing Yeomanry have just extracted this recognition from the War
Office and deserve every compliment that can be paid them; and the
success is worth some emphasis as one of a series of victories for women
workers and organisations, at the top of which is, of course, the
Voluntary Aid Detachment.

"The actual work of these Yeomen nurses, who rode horseback to the
dressing stations when no other means of conveyance were available, has
been in progress in France and Belgium almost since war was declared.
Most of their work has been done in the face of every kind of
discouragement, but they were never dismayed. Their khaki uniforms on
more than one occasion in Ghent made German sentries jump." (Mrs.
MacDougal arranging for F.A.N.Y. work[11] with the Belgians in September,
1914).

"This feat of the 'Yeowomen'--who have struggled against a certain
amount of ridicule in England since they started a horse ambulance and
camp some six or seven years ago--is worth emphasis because it is only
one instance, striking but by no means unique, of the complete triumph
of women workers during the past few months!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The next question was to decide who would go to the new English Convoy,
and two or three left for England to become proficient in motor
mechanics and driving.

I was naturally anxious after a year with the Allies, to work for the
British, but as I could not be spared from housekeeping to go to England
I was dubious as to whether I could pass the test or not. Though I had
come out originally with the idea of being a chauffeur, I had only done
odd work from time to time at Lamarck. "Uncle," however, was very
hopeful and persuaded me to take the test in France before my leave was
due. Accordingly, I went round to the English Mechanical Transport in
the town for the exam., the same test as the men went through. I felt
distinctly like the opera lady at the concert. It was a very greasy day
and the road which we took was bordered on one side by a canal and on
the other by a deep and muddy ditch. As we came to a cross road the
A.S.C. Lieutenant who was testing me, said, "There you see the marks
where the last man I tested skidded with his car." "Yes, rather, how
jolly!" I replied in my agitation, wondering if my fate would be
likewise. We passed the spot more by luck than good management, and then
I reversed for some distance along that same road. At last I turned at
the cross roads, and after some traffic driving, luckily without any
mishap, drove back to hospital. I was questioned about mechanics on the
way, and at the end tactfully explained I was just going on leave and
meant to spend every second in a garage! I got out at the hospital gates
feeling quite sure I had failed, but to my intense relief and joy he
told me I had passed, and he would send up the marks to hospital later
on. I jumped at least a foot off the pavement!

I went in and told the joyful news to Lieutenant Franklin, who was to be
boss of the new Convoy, while Lieutenant MacDougal was to be head of the
Belgian hospital, and of the unit down at the big Convalescent dépôt in
the S. of France, at Camp de Ruchard, where Lady Baird and Sister Lovell
superintended the hospital, and Chris and Thompson did the driving.

It was sad to bid good-bye to Lamarck and the Belgians, but as the
English Convoy was to be in the same town it was not as if we should
never see them again.

"Camille," in Ward I, whose back had been broken when the dug-out
collapsed on him during a bombardment, hung on to my hand while the
tears filled his eyes. He had been my special case when he first
arrived, and his gratitude for anything we could do for him was
touching.

The Adjutant Heddebaud, who was the official Belgian head of the
hospital, wrote out with many flourishes a panegyric of sorts thanking
me for what I had done, which I duly pasted in my War Album; and so I
said Good-bye to Lamarck and the Belgians, and left for England,
December, 1915.



CHAPTER XI

THE ENGLISH CONVOY


My second leave was spent for the most part at a garage in the
neighbouring town near the village where we lived. I positively dreamt
of carburettors, magnetoes, and how to change tyres! The remaining three
of my precious fourteen days were spent in London enjoying life and
collecting kit and such like. We were to be entirely under canvas in our
new camp, and as it was mid-winter you can imagine we made what
preparations we could to avoid dying of pneumonia.

The presentation of a fox terrier, "Tuppence," by name, I hailed with
delight. When all else froze, he would keep me warm, I thought!

It may be interesting to members of the Corps to know the names of those
who formed that pioneer Convoy. They are: Lieutenant Franklin, M.
Thompson (Section Leader), B. Ellis, W. Mordaunt, C. Nicholson, D.
Heasman, D. Reynolds, G. Quin, M. Gamwell, H. Gamwell, B. Hutchinson,
N.F. Lowson, P.B. Waddell, M. Richardson, M. Laidley, O. Mudie-Cooke, P.
Mudie-Cooke and M. Lean (the last three were new members).

I met Lowson and Lean at Victoria on January 3, 1916, and between us we
smuggled "Tuppence" into the boat train without anyone seeing him;
likewise through the customs at Folkestone. Arrived there we found that
mines were loose owing to the recent storms, and the boat was not
sailing till the next day. Then followed a hunt for rooms, which we duly
found but in doing so lost "Tuppence." The rest of the time was spent
looking for him; and when we finally arrived breathless at the police
station, there was the intelligent dog sitting on the steps! I must here
confess this was one of the few occasions he ever exhibited his talents
in that direction, and as such it must be recorded. He was so well bred
that sometimes he was positively stupid, however, he was beautiful to
look at, and one can't have everything in this world.

The next morning the sea was still fairly rough; and I went in to the
adjoining room to find that the gallant Lowson was already up and
stirring, and had gone forth into the town in search of "Mother-sill." I
looked out at the sea and hoped fervently she would find some.

We went on board at nine, after a good breakfast, and decided to stay on
deck. A sailor went round with a megaphone, shouting, "All lifebelts
on," and we were under way.

I confided "Tuppence" to the care of the ship's carpenter and begged him
to find a spare lifebelt for him, so that if the worst came to the worst
he could use it as a little raft!

We watched the two destroyers pitching black against the dashing spray
as they sped along on either side convoying us across.

We arrived at Boulogne in time for lunch, and then set off for our
convoy camp thirty kilometres away, in a British Red Cross touring car
borrowed from the "Christol Hotel."

We arrived there amid a deluge of rain, and the camp looked indeed a
sorry spectacle with the tents all awry in the hurricane that was
blowing.

Bell tents flanked one side of the large open space where the ambulances
stood. A big store tent occupied another and the cook-house was in a
shed at the extreme corner, with the Mess tent placed about as far from
it as possible! I fully appreciated this piece of staff work later.
There were also a lot of bathing machines, which made me vaguely wonder
if a Snark had once inhabited the place.

    "The fourth (viz. sign of a Snark) is its fondness for bathing machines
       Which it constantly carries about,
     And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes--
       A sentiment open to doubt."

My surmises were brought to an abrupt end.

"Pat, dear old Pat. I say, old bird, you won't mind going into the
cook-house for a bit, will you, till the real cook comes? You're so
good-natured (?) I know you will, old thing."

Before I could reply, someone else said:

"That's settled then; it's perfectly ripping of you."

"Splendid," said someone else. Being the chief person concerned, I
hadn't had a chance to utter word of protest one way or the other!

When I _could_ gasp out something, I murmured feebly that I _had_
thought I was going to drive a car, and had spent most of my leave
sitting in a garage with that end in view.

"Oh, yes, of course you are, old thing, but the other cook hasn't turned
up yet. Bridget (Laidlay) is worked off her feet, so we decided you'd be
a splendid help to her in the meantime!"

There was nothing else for it.

I discovered I was to share a tent with Quin, and dragged my kit over to
the one indicated. I found her wringing out some blankets and was
greeted with the cheery "Hello, had a good leave? I say, old thing, your
bed's a pool of water."

I looked into the tent and there it was sagging down in the middle with
quite a decent sized pond filling the hollow! "What about keeping some
gold fish?" I suggested, somewhat peevishly.

Whatever happened I decided I couldn't sleep there that night, and with
Quin's help tipped it up and spread it on some boxes outside, as the sun
had come out.

That night I spent at Lamarck on a stretcher--it at least had the virtue
of being dry if somewhat hard.

When I appeared at the cook-house next morning with the words, "Please
mum, I've come!" Bridget literally fell on my neck. She poured out the
difficulties of trying to feed seventeen hungry people, when they all
came in to meals at different hours, especially as the big stove
wouldn't "draw." It had no draught or something (I didn't know very much
about them then). In the meantime all the cooking was done on a huge
Primus stove and the field kitchen outside. I took a dislike to that
field kitchen the moment I saw it, and I think it was mutual. It never
lost an opportunity of "going out on me" the minute my back was turned.
We were rather at a loss to know how to cope with our army rations at
first. We all worked voluntarily, but the army undertook to feed and
house (or rather tent) us. We could either draw money or rations, and at
first we decided on the former. When, however, we realised the enormous
price of the meat in the French shops we decided to try rations instead,
and this latter plan we found was much the best. Unfortunately, as we
had first drawn allowances it took some days before the change could be
effected, and Bridget and I had the time of our lives trying to make
both ends meet in the meantime. That first day she went out shopping it
was my duty to peel the potatoes and put them on to boil, etc. Before
she left she explained how I was to light the Primus stove. Now, if
you've never lit a Primus before, and in between the time you were told
how to do it you had peeled twenty or thirty potatoes, got two scratch
breakfasts, swept the Mess tent and kept that field kitchen from going
out, it's quite possible your mind would be a little blurred. Mine was.
When the time came, I put the methylated in the little cup at the top,
lit it, and then pumped with a will. The result was a terrific roar and
a sheet of flame reaching almost to the roof! Never having seen one in
action before, I thought it was possible they always behaved like that
at first and that the conflagration would subside in a few moments. I
watched it doubtfully, arms akimbo. Bridget entered just then and,
determined not to appear flustered, in as cool a voice as possible I
said: "Is that all right, old thing?" She put down her parcels and,
without a word, seized the stove by one of its legs and threw it on a
sand heap outside! Of course the field kitchen had gone out--(I can't
think who invented that rotten inadequate grating underneath, anyway),
and I felt I was not the bright jewel I might have been.

Our Mess was a huge Indian tent rather out of repair, and, though it had
a bright yellow lining, dusk always reigned within. The mugs, tin
plates, and the oddest knives and forks constituted the "service." It
was windy and chilly to a degree, and one of the few advantages of being
in the cook-house was that one had meals in comparative warmth.

My real troubles began at night when, armed with a heavy tray, I set off
on the perilous journey across the camp to the Mess tent to lay the
table. There were no lights, and it was generally raining. The chief
things to avoid were the tent ropes. As I left the cook-house I decided
exactly in my own mind where the bell-tent ropes extended, ditto those
of the store tent and the Mess, but invariably, just as I thought I was
clear, something caught my ankle as securely as any snake, and down I
crashed on top of the tray, the plates, mugs, and knives scattering all
around. Luckily it was months since the latter had been sharp, or a
steel proof overall would have been my only hope. Distances and the
supposititious length of tent ropes are inclined to be deceptive in the
dark. Nothing will make me believe those ropes were inanimate--they
literally lay in wait for me each night! When any loud crash was heard
in camp it was always taken for granted it was "only Pat taking another
toss."

The wind, too, seemed to take a special delight in doing his bit. Our
camp was situated on the top of a small hill quite near the sea, and
some of the only trees in the neighbourhood flourished there, protected
by a deep thorn hedge. This, however, ended abruptly where the drive led
down to the road. It was when I got opposite the opening where the wind
swept straight up from the sea my real tussle began. As often as not the
tin plates were blown off the tray high into the air! It was then I
realized the value of a chin. Obviously it was meant to keep the lid on
the soup tureen and in this acrobatic attitude, my feet dodging the tent
ropes, I arrived breathless and panting at the door of the Mess tent.
The oil lamp swinging on a bit of wire over the table was as welcome a
sight as an oasis in the desert.

We had no telephone in those days, and orderlies came up from the Casino
hospital and A.D.M.S. with buff slips when ambulances were wanted. At
that time the cars, Argylls, Napiers, Siddeley-Deaseys, and a Crossley,
inscribed "Frank Crossley, the Pet of Poperinghe," were just parked
haphazard in the open square, some with their bonnets one way and some
another--it just depended which of the two drives up to camp had been
chosen. It will make some of the F.A.N.Y.s smile to hear this, when they
think of the neat rows of cars precisely parked up to the dead straight,
white-washed line that ultimately became the order of things!

The bathing machines had their uses, one near the cook-house acting as
our larder, another as a store for spare parts, while several others
were adopted by F.A.N.Y.s as their permanent abodes. One bore the
inscription, "The Savoy--Every Modern Inconvenience!"

Some R.E.'s came to look at the big cook-house stove and decided it must
be put on a raised asphalt sort of platform. Of course this took some
time, and we had to do all the cooking on the Primus. The field kitchen
(when it went) was only good for hot water. We were relieved to see tins
of bully beef and large hunks of cheese arriving in one of the cars the
first day we drew rations, "Thank heaven that at least required no
cooking." It was our first taste of British bully, and we thought it
"really quite decent," and so it was, but familiarity breeds contempt,
and finally loathing. It was the monotony that did it. You would weary
of the tenderest chicken if you had it every other day for months. As
luck would have it, Bridget was again out shopping when, the day
following, a huge round of raw beef arrived. How to cope, that was the
question? (The verb "to cope" was very much in use at that period.)
Obviously it would not fit into the frying pan. But something had to be
done, and done soon, as it was getting late. "They must just have
chops," I said aloud, in desperation, and bravely seizing that round of
beef I cut seventeen squares out of it (slices would have taken too
long; besides, our knife wasn't sharp enough).

They fried beautifully, and no one in the Mess was heard to murmur. When
you've been out driving from 7.30 a.m. hunger covers a multitude of
sins, and Bridget agreed I'd saved the situation.

The beef when I'd finished with it looked exactly as if it had been in a
worry. No _wonder_ cooks never eat what they've cooked, I thought.

To our great disappointment an order came up to the Convoy that all
cameras were to be sent back to England, and everyone rushed round
frantically finishing off their rolls of films. Lowson appeared and took
one of the cook-house "staff" armed with kettles and more or less
covered with smuts. It was rightly entitled, "The abomination of
desolation"--when it came to be gummed into my War Album!

Quin was a great nut with our tent ropes at night, and though she had
not been in camp before the war, assured me she knew all about them.
Needless to say, I was only too pleased to let her carry on.

When I rolled in at night after washing up in the cook-house she would
say: "You must come out and tighten the tent ropes with this gale
blowing, it won't be funny if the whole thing blows over in the night."
But none of the horrors she depicted ever persuaded me to turn out once
I was safely tucked up in my "flea bag" with "Tuppence" acting as a
weight to keep the top blankets in place. In the morning when I awoke
after a sound night's sleep, I would exclaim triumphantly: "There you
are, 'Squig,' what price the tent blowing down? It's as safe as a rock
and hasn't moved an inch!"

"No?" the long-suffering "Squig" would reply bitterly, "it may interest
you to hear I've only been up _twice_ in the night hammering in the pegs
and fixing the ropes!"

The only time I didn't bless her manipulation of these things was when I
rose at 6.30 a.m., by which time they had been frozen stiff and shrunk
to boot. The ones lacing the flap leading out of the tent were as hard
to undo as if they had been made of iron. On these occasions "Tuppence,"
who had hardly realized the seriousness of war, would wake up and want
me instantly to go out, half dressed as I was, and throw stones for his
benefit! That dog had no sense of the fitness of things. If I did not
comply immediately he sat down, threw his head in the air, and "howled
to the moon!" The rest of the camp did not appreciate this pastime; but
if they had known my frenzied efforts with the stiffened ropes "Squig"
had so securely fixed over-night, their sympathies would have been with,
rather than against, me.

One night we had a fearful storm (at least "Squig" told me of it in the
morning and I had no reason to doubt her word), and just as I was
rolling out of bed we heard yells of anguish proceeding from one of the
other tents.

That one had collapsed we felt no doubt, and, rushing out in pyjamas
just as we were, in the wind and rain, we capered delightedly to the
scene of the disaster. The Sisters Mudie-Cooke (of course it would be
their tent that had gone) were now hidden from sight under the heavy
mass of wet canvas on top of them. The F.A.N.Y.s, their hair flying in
the wind, looking more like Red Indians on a scalping expedition than a
salvage party, soon extricated them, and they were taken, with what
clothes could be rescued, to another tent. Their fate, "Squig" assured
me, would have assuredly been ours had it not been for her!

Madame came into existence about this time. She was a poor Frenchwoman
whom we hired to come and wash the dishes for us. She had no teeth,
wispy hair, and looked very underfed and starved. Her "man" had been
killed in the early days of the war. Though she looked hardly strong
enough to do anything, Bridget and I, who interviewed her jointly, had
not the heart to turn her away, and she remained with us ever after and
became so strong and well in time she looked a different woman.

The Mess tent was at last moved nearer the cook-house (I had fallen over
the ropes so often that, quite apart from any feelings I had left, it
was a preventive measure to save what little crockery we possessed).

The cars were all left in a pretty rotten condition, and the petrol was
none too good. How Kirkby, the one mechanic, coped at that time, always
with a cheery smile, will never be known. As Winnie aptly remarked, "In
these days there are only two kinds of beings in the Convoy--a "Bird"
and a "Blighter"!"[12] Kirkby was decidedly in the "Bird" class.

"Be a bird, and do such and such a thing," was a common opening to a
request. Of course if you refused you were a "blighter" of the worst
description.

As you will remember, I was only in the cook-house as a "temporary
help," and great was my joy when Logan (fresh from the Serbian campaign)
loomed up on the horizon as the pukka cook. I retired gracefully--my
only regret being Bridget's companionship. Two beings could hardly have
laughed as much as we had done when impossible situations had arisen,
and when the verb "to cope" seemed ineffective and life just one
"gentle" thing after the other.

I was given the little Mors lorry to drive. To say I adored that car
would not be exaggerating my feelings about it at all. The seat was my
chief joy, it was of the racing variety, some former sportsman having
done away with the tool box that had served as one! "Tuppy" also
appreciated that lorry, and when we set off to draw rations, lying
almost flat, the tips of his ears could just be seen from the front on a
line with the top of my cap.

One of my jobs was to take Sergeant McLaughlan to fetch the hospital
washing from a laundry some distance out of the town. He was an old
"pug," but had grown too heavy to enter the ring, and kept his hand in
coaching the promising young boxers stationed in the vicinity. In
consequence, what I did not know about all their different merits was
not worth knowing, and after a match had taken place every round was
described in full. I grew quite an enthusiast.

He could never bear to see another car in front without trying to pass
it. "Let her rip, Miss," he would implore--"Don't be beat by them
Frenchies." Needless to say I did not need much encouragement, and
nothing ever passed us. (There are no speed limits in France.) There was
a special hen at one place we always tried to catch, but it was a wily
bird and knew a thing or two. McLaughlan was dying to take it home to
the Sergeants' Mess, but we never got her.

One day, as we were rattling down the main street, one of the tyres went
off like a "4.2." We drew to the side, and there it was, as flat as a
pancake.

There are always a lot of people in the streets of a town who seem to
have nothing particular to do, and very soon quite a decent-sized crowd
had collected.

"We must do this in record time," I said to McLaughlan, who knew nothing
about cars, and kept handing me the wrong spanners in his anxiety to
help. "See," exclaimed one, "it makes her nothing to dirty her hands in
such a manner."

"They work like men, these English young girls, is it not so?" said
another. "_Sapristi, c'est merveilleux._"

"One would truly say from the distance that they _were_ men, but this
one, when one sees her close, is not too bad!" said a third.

"Passing remarks about _you_, they are, I should say," said McLaughlan
to me as I fixed the spare wheel in place.

"You wait," I panted, "I'll pay them out."

"See you her strong boots?" they continued. "Believe you that she can
understand what we say?" asked one. "Never on your life," was the
answer, and the wheel in place, they watched every movement as I wiped
my hands on a rag and drew on my gloves. "Eight minutes exactly,"
whispered McLaughlan triumphantly, as he seated himself beside me on the
lorry preparatory to starting.

The crowd still watched expectantly, and, leaning out a little, I said
sweetly, in my best Parisian accent: "_Mesdames et Messieurs, la séance
est terminée_." And off we drove! Their expressions defied description;
I never saw people look so astounded. McLaughlan was unfeignedly
delighted. "Wot was that you 'anded out to them, Miss?" he asked. "Fair
gave it 'em proper anyway, straight from the shoulder," and he chuckled
with glee.

I frequently met an old A.S.C. driver at one of the hospitals where I
had a long wait while the rations were unloaded. He was fat, rosy, and
smiling, and we became great friends. He was at least sixty; and told me
that when War broke out, and his son enlisted, he could not bear to feel
he was out of it, and joined up to do his bit as well. He was a taxi
owner-driver in peace times, and had three of them; the one he drove
being fitted with "real silver vauses!" I heard all about the "missus,"
of whom he was very proud, and could imagine how anxiously she watched
the posts for letters from her only son and her old man.

Some months later when I was driving an ambulance a message was brought
to me that Stone was in hospital suffering from bronchitis. I went off
to visit him.

"I'm for home this time," he said sadly, "but won't the old missus be
pleased?" I looked at his smiling old face and thought indeed she would.

He asked particularly if I would drive him to the boat when he was sent
to England. "It'll seem odd to be going off on a stretcher, Miss," he
said sadly, "just like one of the boys, and not even so much as a
scratch to boast of." I pointed out that there were many men in England
half his age who had done nothing but secure cushy jobs for themselves.

"Well, Miss," he said, as I rose to leave, "it'll give me great pleasure
to drive you about London for three days when the war's over, and in my
best taxi, too, with the silver vauses!"

(N.B. I'm still looking for him.)

Life in the Convoy Camp was very different from Lamarck, and I missed
the cheery companionship of the others most awfully. At meal times only
half the drivers would be in, and for days at a time you hardly saw your
friends.

There were no "10 o'clocks" either. Of course, if you happened to be in
camp at that time you probably got a cup of tea in the cook-house, but
it's not much of a pastime with no one else to drink it with you.
"Pleasant Sunday Evenings" were also out of the question for, with all
the best intentions in the world, no one could have spent an evening in
our Mess tent (even to the accompaniment of soft music) and called it
"pleasant!" They were still carried on at Lamarck, however, and whenever
possible we went down in force.


A BLACK DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CONVOY F.A.N.Y.

     (_By kind permission of Winifred Mordaunt,
                          From "Barrack Room Ballads
                                  of the F.A.N.Y. Corps."_)

     Gentle reader, when you've seen this,
     Do not think, please, that I mean this
     As a common or garden convoy day,
     For the Fany, as a habit
     Is as jolly as a rabbit--
                      Or a jay.

     But the're days in one's existence,
     When the ominous persistence
     Of bad luck goes thundering heavy on your track,
     Though you shake him off with laughter,
     He will leap the moment after--
                       On your back.

     'Tis the day that when on waking,
     You will find that you are taking,
     Twenty minutes when you haven't two to spare,
     And the bloomin' whistle's starting,
     When you've hardly thought of parting--
                     Your front hair!

     You acquire the cheerful knowledge,
     Ere you rush to swallow porridge,
     That "fatigue" has just been added to your bliss,
     "If the weather's no objection,
     There will be a car inspection--
                        Troop--dismiss!"

     With profane ejaculation,
     You will see "evacuation"
     Has been altered to an earlier hour than nine,
     So your 'bus you start on winding,
     Till you hear the muscles grinding--
                       In your spine.

     Let's pass over nasty places,
     Where you jolt your stretcher cases
     And do everything that's wrong upon the quay,
     Then it's time to clean the boiler,
     And the sweat drops from the toiler,
                      Oh--dear me!

     When you've finished rubbing eye-wash,
     On your engine, comes a "Kibosch."
     As the Section-leader never looks at it,
     But a grease-cap gently twisting,
     She remarks that it's consisting,--
                       "Half of grit."

     Then as seated on a trestle,
     With the toughest beef you wrestle,
     That in texture would out-rival stone or rock,
     You are told you must proceed,
     To Boulogne, with care and speed
                      At two o'clock.

     As you're whisking through Marquise
     (While the patients sit at ease)
     Comes the awful sinking sizzle of a tyre,
     It is usual in such cases,
     That your jack at all such places,
                       Won't go higher.

     A wet, cold rain starts soaking,
     And the old car keeps on choking,
     Your hands and face are frozen raw and red,
     Three sparking-plugs are missing,
     There's another tyre a-hissing,
                       Well--! 'nuff said!

     You reach camp as night's descending,
     To the bath with haste you're wending,
     A hot tub's the only thing to save a cough,
     Cries the F.A.N.Y. who's still in it,
     "Ah! poor soul, why just this minute,
                      Water's off!"

_N.B._--It was a popular pastime of the powers that be to turn the water
off at intervals, without any warning, rhyme or reason--one of the
tragedies of the War.



CHAPTER XII

THE PASSING OF THE LITTLE LORRY, "OLD BILL" AND "'ERB" AT AUDRICQ


A mild sensation was caused one day by a collision on the Boulogne road
when a French car skidded into one of ours (luckily empty at the time)
and pushed it over into the gutter.

"Heasy" and Lowson were both requested to appear at the subsequent Court
of Enquiry, and Sergeant Lawrence, R.A.M.C. (who had been on the
ambulance at the time) was bursting with importance and joy at the
anticipation of the proceedings. He was one of the chief witnesses, and
apart from anything else it meant an extra day's pay for him, though why
it should I could never quite fathom.

As they drove off, with Boss as chaperone, a perfect salvo of old shoes
was thrown after them!

They returned with colours flying, for had not Lowson saved the
situation by producing a tape measure three minutes after the accident,
measuring the space the Frenchman swore was wide enough for his car to
pass, and proving thereby it was a physical impossibility?

"How," asked the Colonel, who was conducting the Enquiry, "can you
declare with so much certainty the space was 3 feet 8 inches?"

"I measured it," replied Lowson promptly.

"May I ask with what?" he rasped.

"A tape-measure I had in my pocket," replied she, smiling affably the
while (sensation).

The Court of Enquiry went down like a pack of cards before that tape
measure. Such a thing had never been heard of before; and from then
onwards the reputation of the "lady drivers" being prepared for all
"immersions" was established finally and irrevocably.

It was a marvel how fit we all kept throughout those cold months. It was
no common thing to wake up in the mornings and find icicles on the top
blanket of the "flea bag" where one's breath had frozen, and of course
one's sponge was a solid block of ice. It was duly placed in a tin basin
on the top of the stove and melted by degrees. Luckily we had those
round oil stoves; and with flaps securely fastened at night we achieved
what was known as a "perfectly glorious fug."

Engineers began to make frequent trips to camp to choose a suitable site
for the huts we were to have to replace our tents.

My jobs on the little lorry were many and varied; getting the weekly
beer for the Sergeants' Mess being one of the least important. I drew
rations for several hospitals as well as bringing up the petrol and
tyres for the Convoy, rationing the Officers' Mess, etc.; and regularly
at one o'clock just as we were sitting at Mess, Sergeant Brown would
appear (though we never saw more of him than his legs) at the aperture
that served as our door, and would call out diffidently in his high
squeaky voice: "Isolation, when you're ready, Miss," and as regularly
the whole Mess would go off into fits! This formula when translated
meant that he was ready for me to take the rations to the Isolation
hospital up the canal. Hastily grabbing some cheese I would crank up the
little lorry and depart.

The little lorry did really score when an early evacuation took place,
at any hour from 4 a.m. onwards, when the men had to be taken from the
hospitals to the ships bound for England. How lovely to lie in bed and
hear other people cranking up their cars!

Barges came regularly down the canals with cases too seriously wounded
to stand the jolting in ambulance trains. One day we were all having
tea, and some friends had dropped in, when a voice was heard calling
"Barges, Barges." Without more ado the whole Mess rose, a form was
overturned, and off they scampered as fast as they could to get their
cars and go off immediately. The men left sitting there gazed blankly at
each other and finally turned to me for an explanation--(being a lorry,
I was not required). "Barges," I said; "they all have to hurry off as
quickly as possible to unload the cases." They thought it rather a
humorous way of speeding the parting guest, but I assured them work
always came before (or generally during) tea in our Convoy! Major S.P.
never forgot that episode, and the next time he came, heralded his
arrival by calling out at the top of his voice, "Barges, Barges!" with
the result that half the Convoy turned out _en masse_. He assured his
friends it was the one method of getting a royal welcome.

I shall never forget with what fear and trepidation I drove my first lot
of wounded. I was on evening duty when the message came up about seven
that there were eight bad cases, too bad to stay on the barge till next
morning, which were to be removed to hospital immediately. Renny and I
set off, each driving a Napier ambulance. We backed into position on the
sloping shingly ground near the side of the canal, and waited for the
barge to come in.

Presently we espied it slipping silently along under the bridge. The
cases were placed on lifts and slung gently up from the inside of the
barge, which was beautifully fitted up like a hospital ward.

It is not an easy matter when you are on a slope to start off smoothly
without jerking the patients within; and I held my breath as I
declutched and took off the brake, accelerating gently the meanwhile.
Thank heaven! We were moving slowly forward and there had been no jerk.
They were all bad cases and an occasional groan would escape their lips
in spite of themselves. I dreaded a certain dip in the road--a sort of
open drain known in France as a _canivet_--but fortunately I had
practised crossing it when out one day trying a Napier, and we
manoeuvred it pretty fairly. My relief on getting to hospital was
tremendous. My back was aching, so was my knee (from constant
clutch-slipping over the bumps and cobbles), and my eyes felt as if they
were popping out of my head. In fact I had a pretty complete "stretcher
face!" I had often ragged the others about their "stretcher faces,"
which was a special sort of strained expression I had noticed as I
skimmed past them in the little lorry, but now I knew just what it felt
like.

The new huts were going apace, and were finished about the end of April,
just as the weather was getting warmer. We were each to have one to
ourselves, and they led off on each side of a long corridor running down
the centre. These huts were built almost in a horse-shoe shape and--joy
of joys! there were to be two bathrooms at the end! We also had a
telephone fixed up--a great boon. The furniture in the huts consisted of
a bed and two shelves, and that was all. There was an immediate slump in
car cleaning. The rush on carpentering was tremendous. It was by no
means safe for a workman to leave his tools and bag anywhere in the
vicinity; his saw the next morning was a thing to weep over if he did.
(It's jolly hard to saw properly, anyway, and it really looks such an
easy pastime.)

The wooden cases that the petrol was sent over in from England, large
enough to hold two tins, were in great demand. These we made into
settees and stools, etc., and when stained and polished they looked
quite imposing. The contractor kindly offered to paint the interiors of
the huts for us as a present, but we were a little startled to see the
brilliant green that appeared. Someone unkindly suggested that he could
get rid of it in no other way.

When at last they were finished we received orders to take up our new
quarters, but, funnily enough, we had become so attached to our tents by
that time that we were very loath to do so. A fatigue party however
arrived one day to take the tents down, so there was nothing for it.
Many of the workmen were most obliging and did a lot of odd jobs for us.
I rescued one of the Red Cross beds instead of the camp one I had had
heretofore--the advantage was that it had springs--but there was only
the mattress part, and so it had to be supported on two petrol cases for
legs! The disadvantage of this was that as often as not one end slipped
off in the night and you were propelled on to the floor, or else two
opposite corners held and the other two see-sawed in mid-air. Both great
aids to nightmares.

"Tuppence" did not take at all kindly to the new order of things; he
missed chasing the mice that used to live under the tent boards and
other minor attractions of the sort.

The draughtiness and civilization of the new huts compared with the
"fug" of the tents all combined to give us chills! I had a specially bad
one, and managed with great skill to wangle a fortnight's sick leave in
Paris.

The journey had not increased much in speed since my last visit, but
everything in Paris itself had assumed a much more normal aspect. The
bridge over the Oise had long since been repaired, and hardly a shop
remained closed. I went to see my old friend M. Jollivet at Neuilly, and
had the same little English mare to ride in the Bois, and also visited
many of the friends I had made during my first leave there.

I got some wonderful French grey Ripolin sort of stuff from a little
shop in the "Boul' Mich" with which to tone down the violent green in my
hut, that had almost driven me mad while I lay ill in bed.

The Convoy was gradually being enlarged, and a great many new drivers
came out from England just after I got back. McLaughlan gave me a great
welcome when I went for the washing that afternoon. "It's good to see
you back, Miss," he said, "the driver they put on the lorry was very
slow and cautious--you know the 'en we always try to catch? Would you
believe it we slowed down to walking pace so as to _miss_ 'er!" and he
sniffed disgustedly.

The news of the battle of Jutland fell like a bombshell in the camp
owing to the pessimistic reports first given of it in the papers. A
witty Frenchman once remarked that in all our campaigns we had only won
one battle, but that was the last, and we felt that however black things
appeared at the moment we would come out on top in the end. The news of
Kitchener's death five days later plunged the whole of the B.E.F. into
mourning, and the French showed their sympathy in many touching ways.

One day to my sorrow I heard that the little Mors lorry was to be done
away with, owing to the shortage of petrol that began to be felt about
this time, and that horses and G.S. wagons were to draw rations, etc.,
instead. It had just been newly painted and was the joy of my
heart--however mine was not to reason why, and in due course Red Cross
drivers appeared with two more ambulances from the Boulogne _dépôt_, and
they made the journey back in the little Mors.

It was then that "Susan" came into being.

The two fresh ambulances were both Napiers, and I hastily consulted
Brown (the second mechanic who had come to assist Kirkby as the work
increased) which he thought was the best one. (It was generally felt I
should have first choice to console me for the loss of the little Mors.)

I chose the speediest, naturally. She was a four cylinder Napier, given
by a Mrs. Herbert Davies to the Red Cross at the beginning of the war
(_vide_ small brass plate affixed), and converted from her private car
into an ambulance. She had been in the famous old Dunkirk Convoy in
1914, and was battle-scarred, as her canvas testified, where the bullets
and shrapnel had pierced it. She had a fat comfortable look about her,
and after I had had her for some time I felt "Susan" was the only name
for her; and Susan she remained from that day onwards. She always came
up to the scratch, that car, and saved my life more than once.

We snatched what minutes we could from work to do our "cues," as we
called our small huts. It was a great pastime to voyage from hut to hut
and see what particular line the "furnishing" was taking. Mine was
closed to all intruders on the score that I had the "painters in." It
was to be _art nouveau_. I found it no easy matter to get the stuff on
evenly, especially as I had rather advanced ideas as to mural
decoration! With great difficulty I stencilled long lean-looking
panthers stalking round the top as a sort of fresco. I cut one pattern
out in cardboard and fixing it with drawing pins painted the Ripolin
over it, with the result that I had a row of green panthers prowling
round against a background of French grey! I found them very restful,
but of course opinions differ on these subjects. Curtains and cushions
were of bright Reckitt's blue material, bought in the market, relieved
by scrolls of dull pink wool embroidered (almost a stitch at a time) in
between jobs. The dark stained "genuine antiques" or _veritables
imitations_ (as I once saw them described in a French shop) looked
rather well against this background; and a tremendous house-warming took
place to celebrate the occasion.

No. 30 Field hospital arrived one day straight from Sicily, where it had
apparently been sitting ever since the war, awaiting casualties.

As there seemed no prospect of any being sent, they were ordered to
France, and took up their quarters on a sandy waste near the French
coastal forts. The orderlies had picked up quite a lot of Italian during
their sojourn and were never tired of describing the wonderful sights
they had seen.

While waiting for patients there one day, a corporal informed me that on
the return journey they had "passed the volcano Etna, in rupture!"

A great many troops came to a rest camp near us, and I always feel that
"Tuppence's" disappearance was due to them. He _would_ be friendly with
complete strangers, and several times had come in minus his collar
(stolen by French urchins, I supposed). I had just bought his fourth,
and rather lost heart when he turned up the same evening without it once
more. Work was pouring in just then, and I would sometimes be out all
day. When last I saw him he was playing happily with Nellie, another
terrier belonging to a man at the Casino, and that night I missed him
from my hut. I advertised in the local rag (he was well known to all the
French people as he was about the only pure bred dog they'd ever seen),
but to no avail. I also made visits to the _Abattoir_, the French
slaughter house where strays were taken, but he was not there, and I
could only hope he had been taken by some Tommies, in which case I knew
he would be well looked after. I missed him terribly.

Work came in spasms, in accordance with the fighting of course, and when
there was no special push on we had tremendous car inspections. Boss
walked round trying to spot empty grease caps and otherwise making
herself thoroughly objectionable in the way of gear boxes and
universals. On these occasions "eye-wash" was extensively applied to the
brass, the idea being to keep her attention fixed well to the front by
the glare.

One day, when all manner of fatigues and other means of torture had been
exhausted, Dicky and Freeth discovered they had a simultaneous birthday.
Prospects of wounded arriving seemed nil, and permission was given for a
fancy-dress tea party to celebrate the double event. It must be here
understood that whether work came in or not we all had to remain on duty
in camp till five every day, in case of the sudden arrival of ambulance
trains, etc. After that hour, two of us were detailed to be on evening
duty till nine, while all night duty was similarly taken in turns.
Usually, after hanging about all day till five, a train or barges would
be announced, and we were lucky if we got into bed this side of 12.
Hardly what you might call a "six-hour day," and yet nobody went on
strike.

The one in question was fine and cloudless, and birthday wishes in the
shape of a Taube raid were expressed by the Boche, who apparently keeps
himself informed on all topics.

The fancy dresses (considering what little scope we had and that no one
even left camp to buy extras in the town) were many and varied. "Squig"
and de Wend were excellent as bookies, in perfectly good toppers made
out of stiff white paper with deep black ribbon bands and "THE OLD
FIRM" painted in large type on cards. Jockeys, squaws, yokels, etc., all
appeared mysteriously from nothing. I was principally draped in my
Reckitts blue upholsterings and a brilliant Scherezade kimono, bought in
a moment of extravagance in Paris.

The proceedings after tea, when the cooks excelled themselves making an
enormous birthday cake, consisted of progressive games of sorts. You
know the kind of thing, trying to pick up ten needles with a pin (or is
it two?) and doing a Pelman memory stunt after seeing fifty objects on a
tray, and other intellectual pursuits of that description. Another stunt
was putting a name to different liquids which you smelt blindfold. This
was the only class in which I got placed. I was the only one apparently
who knew the difference between whisky and brandy! Funnily enough, would
you believe it, it was the petrol that floored me. Considering we
wallowed in it from morning till night it was rather strange. I was
nearly spun altogether when it came to the game of Bridge in the
telephone room. "I've never played it in my life," I said desperately.
"Never mind," said someone jokingly, "just take a hand." I took the tip
seriously and did so, looking at my cards as gravely as a judge--finally
I selected one and threw it down. To my relief no one screamed or
denounced me and I breathed again. (It requires some skill to play a
game of Bridge when you know absolutely nothing about it.)

"Pity you lost that last trick," said my partner to me as we left the
room; "it was absolutely in your hand."

"Was it?" I asked innocently.

We had a rush of work after this, and wounded again began to pour in
from the Third Battle of Ypres.

Early evacuations came regularly with the tides. They would begin at 4
a.m. and get half an hour later each day. When we took "sitters" (i.e.
sitting patients with "Blighty" wounds), one generally came in front and
sat beside the driver, and on the way to the Hospital Ships we sometimes
learnt a lot about them. I had a boy of sixteen one day, a bright cheery
soul. "How did you get in?" (meaning into the army), I asked. "Oh, well,
Miss, it was like this, I was afraid it would be over before I was old
enough, so I said I was eighteen. The recruiting bloke winked and so did
I, and I was through." Another, when asked about his wound, said, "It's
going on fine now, Sister (they always called us Sister), but I lost me
conscience for two days up the line with it."

We had a bunch of Canadians to take one day. "D'you come from Sussex?"
asked one, of me. "No," I replied, "from Cumberland." "That's funny," he
said, "the V.A.D. who looked after me came from Sussex, and she had the
same accent as you, I guess!" Another man had not been home for five
years, but had joined up in Canada and come straight over. A Scotsman
had not been home for twenty, and he intended to see his "folks" and
come out again as soon as he was passed fit by the doctors.

One fine morning at 5 a.m. we were awakened by a fearful din, much worse
than the usual thing. The huts trembled and our beds shook beneath us,
not to mention the very nails falling out of the walls! We wondered at
first if it was a fleet of Zepps. dropping super-bombs, but decided it
was too light for them to appear at that hour.

There it was again, as if the very earth was being cleft in two, and our
windows rattled in their sockets. It is not a pleasant sensation to have
steady old Mother Earth rocking like an "ashpan" leaf beneath your feet.

We dressed hurriedly, knowing that the cars might be called on to go out
at any moment.

What the disaster was we could not fathom, but that it was some distance
away we had no doubt.

At 7 a.m. the telephone rang furiously, and we all waited breathless for
the news.

Ten cars were ordered immediately to Audricq, where a large ammunition
dump had been set on fire by a Boche airman.

Heavy explosions continued at intervals all the morning as one shed
after another became affected.

When our cars got there the whole dump was one seething mass of smoke
and flames, and shells of every description were hurtling through the
air at short intervals. Several of these narrowly missed the cars. It
was a new experience to be under fire from our own shells. The roads
were littered with live ones, and with great difficulty the wheels of
the cars were steered clear of them!

Many shells were subsequently found at a distance of five miles, and one
buried itself in a peaceful garden ten miles off!

A thousand 9.2's had gone off simultaneously and made a crater big
enough to bury a village in. It was this explosion that had shaken our
huts miles away. The neighbouring village fell flat like a pack of cards
at the concussion, the inhabitants having luckily taken to the open
fields at the first intimation that the dump was on fire.

The total casualties were only five in number, which was almost
incredible in view of the many thousands of men employed. It was due to
the presence of mind of the Camp Commandant that there were not more;
for, once he realized the hopeless task of getting the fire under
control, he gave orders to the men to clear as fast as they could. They
needed no second bidding and made for the nearest _Estaminets_ with
speed! The F.A.N.Y.s found that instead of carrying wounded, their task
was to search the countryside (with Sergeants on the box) and bring the
men to a camp near ours. "Dead?" asked someone, eyeing the four
motionless figures inside one of the ambulances. "Yes," replied the
F.A.N.Y. cheerfully--"drunk!"

The Boche had flown over at 3 a.m. but so low down the Archies were
powerless to get him. As one of the men said to me, "If we'd had rifles,
Miss, we could have potted him easy."

He flew from shed to shed dropping incendiary bombs on the roofs as he
passed, and up they went like fireworks. The only satisfaction we had
was to hear that he had been brought down on his way back over our
lines, so the Boche never heard of the disaster he had caused.

Some splendid work was done after the place had caught fire. One
officer, in spite of the great risk he ran from bursting shells, got the
ammunition train off safely to the 4th army. Thanks to him, the men up
the line were able to carry on as if nothing had happened, till further
supplies could be sent from other dumps. It was estimated that four
days' worth of shells from all the factories in England had been
destroyed.

An M.T. officer got all the cars and lorries out of the sheds and
instructed the drivers to take them as far from the danger zone as
possible, while the Captain in charge of the "Archie" Battery stuck to
his guns; and he and his men remained in the middle of that inferno
hidden in holes in their dug-out, from which it was impossible to rescue
them for two days.

Five days after the explosion Gutsie and I were detailed to go to
Audricq for some measles cases, and we reported first to the Camp
Commandant, who was sitting in the remains of his office, a shell
sticking up in the floor and half his roof blown away.

He gave us permission to see the famous crater, and instructed one of
the subalterns to show us round. There were still fires burning and
shells popping in some parts and the scenes of wreckage were almost
indescribable.

The young officer was not particularly keen to take us at all and said
warningly, "You come at your own risk--there are nothing but live shells
lying about, liable to go off at any moment. Be careful," he said to me,
"you're just stepping on one now." I hopped off with speed, but all the
same we were not a whit discouraged, which seemed to disappoint him.

As Gutsie and I stumbled and rolled over 4.2's and hand grenades I
quoted to her from the "Fuse-top collectors"--"You can generally 'ear
'em fizzin' a bit if they're going to go 'orf, 'Erb!" by way of
encouragement. Trucks had been lifted bodily by the concussion, and
could be seen in adjacent fields; many of the sheds had been half blown
away, leaving rows of live shells lying snugly in neat piles, but as
there was no knowing when they might explode it was decided to scrap the
whole dump when the fires had subsided.

We walked up a small hill literally covered with shells and empty hand
grenades of the round cricket ball type, two of which were given to us
to make into match boxes. Every description of shell was there as far as
the eye could see, and some were empty and others were not. We reached
the summit, walking gingerly over 9.2's (which formed convenient steps)
to find ourselves at the edge of the enormous crater already half filled
with water. It was incredible to believe a place of that size had been
formed in the short space of one second, and yet on the other hand,
when I remembered how the earth had trembled, the wonder was it was not
even larger.

It took weeks for that dump to be cleared up. Little by little the live
shells were collected and taken out to sea in barges, and dropped in
mid-ocean.

Not long after that the "Zulu," a British destroyer, came into port half
blown away by a mine. Luckily the engine was intact and still working,
but the men, who had had marvellous escapes, lost all their kit and
rations. We were not able to supply the former, unfortunately, but we
remedied the latter with speed, and also took down cigarettes, which
they welcomed more than anything.

We were shown all over the remains, and hearing that the "Nubia" had
just had her engine room blown away, we suggested that the two ends
should be joined together and called the "Nuzu," but whether the
Admiralty thought anything of the idea I have yet to learn!

Before the Captain left he had napkin rings made for each of us out of
the copper piping from the ship, in token of his appreciation of the
help we had given.

The Colonials were even more surprised to see girls driving in France
than our own men had been.

One man, a dear old Australian, was being invalided out altogether and
going home to his wife. He told me how during the time he had been away
she had become totally blind owing to some special German stuff, that
had been formerly injected to keep her sight, being now unprocurable.
"Guess she's done her bit," he ended; "and I'm off home to take care of
her. She'll be interested to hear how the lassies work over here," and
we parted with a handshake.

Important conferences were always taking place at the Hôtel Maritime,
and one day as I was down on the quay the French Premier and several
other notabilities arrived. "There's Mr. Asquith," said an R.T.O. to me.
"That!" said I, in an unintentionally loud voice, eyeing his long hair,
"I thought he was a 'cellist belonging to a Lena Ashwell Concert party!"
He looked round, and I faded into space.

Taking some patients to hospital that afternoon we passed some
Australians marching along. "Fine chaps," said the one sitting on the
box to me, "they're a good emetic of their country, aren't they?" (N.B.
I fancy he meant to say emblem.)

Our concert party still flourished, though the conditions for practising
were more difficult than ever. Our Mess tent had been moved again on to
a plot of grass behind the cook-house to leave more space for the cars
to be parked, and though we had a piano there it was somehow not
particularly inspiring, nor had we the time to practise. The Guards'
Brigade were down resting at Beau Marais, and we were asked to give them
a show. We now called ourselves the "FANTASTIKS," and wore a black
pierrette kit with yellow bobbles. The rehearsals were mostly conducted
in the back of the ambulance on the way there, and the rest of the time
was spent feverishly muttering one's lines to oneself and imploring
other people not to muddle one. The show was held in a draughty tent,
and when it was over the Padre made a short prayer and they all sang a
hymn. (Life is one continual paradox out in France.) I shall never
forget the way those Guardsmen sang either. It was perfectly splendid.
There they stood, rows of men, the best physique England could produce,
and how they sang!

Betty drove us back to camp in the "Crystal Palace," so-called from its
many windows--a six cylinder Delauney-Belville car used to take the army
sisters to and from their billets. We narrowly missed nose-diving into a
chalk pit on the way, the so-called road being nothing but a rutty
track.

The Fontinettes ambulance train was a special one that was usually
reported to arrive at 8 p.m., but never put in an appearance till 10,
or, on some occasions, one o'clock. The battle of the Somme was now in
progress; and, besides barges and day trains, three of these arrived
each week. The whole Convoy turned out for this; and one by one the
twenty-five odd cars would set off, keeping an equal distance apart,
forming an imposing looking column down from the camp, across the bridge
and through the town to the railway siding. The odd makes had been
weeded out and the whole lot were now Napiers. The French inhabitants
would turn out _en masse_ to see us pass, and were rather proud of us on
the whole, I think. Arrived at the big railway siding, we all formed up
into a straight line to await the train. After many false alarms, and
answering groans from the waiting F.A.N.Y.s, it would come slowly
creaking along and draw up. The ambulances were then reversed right up
to the doors, and the stretcher bearers soon filled them up with four
lying cases. At the exit stood Boss and the E.M.O., directing each
ambulance which hospital the cases were to go to. Those journeys back
were perfect nightmares. Try as one would, it was impossible not to bump
a certain amount over those appalling roads full of holes and cobbles.
It was pathetic when a voice from the interior could be heard asking,
"Is it much farther, Sister?" and knowing how far it was, my heart ached
for them. After all they had been through, one felt they should be
spared every extra bit of pain that was possible. When I in my turn was
in an ambulance, I knew just what it felt like. Sometimes the cases were
so bad we feared they would not even last the journey, and there we were
all alone, and not able to hurry to hospital owing to the other three on
board.

The journey which in the ordinary way, when empty, took fifteen minutes,
under these circumstances lasted anything from three-quarters of an hour
to an hour. "Susan" luckily was an extremely steady 'bus, and in 3rd.
gear on a smooth road there was practically no movement at all. I
remember once on getting to the Casino I called out, "I hope you weren't
bumped too much in there?" and was very cheered when a voice replied,
"It was splendid, Sister, you should have seen us up the line, jolting
all over the place." "Sister," another one called, "will you drive us
when we leave for Blighty?" I said it was a matter of chance, but
whoever did so would be just as careful. "No," said the voice decidedly,
"there couldn't be two like you." (I think he must have been in an Irish
Regiment.)

The relief after the strain of this journey was tremendous; and the joy
of dashing back through the evening air made one feel as if weights had
been taken off and one were flying. It was rather a temptation to test
the speed of one's 'bus against another on these occasions; and "Susan"
seemed positively to take a human interest in the impromptu race, all
the more so as it was forbidden. The return journey was by a different
route from that taken by the laden ambulances so that there was no
danger of a collision.

We usually had about three journeys with wounded; twelve stretcher cases
in all, so that, say the train came in at nine and giving an hour to
each journey there and back, it meant (not counting loading and
unloading) roughly 1 o'clock a.m. or later before we had finished. Then
there were usually the sitting cases to be taken off and the stretcher
bearers to be driven back to their camp. Half of one head light only was
allowed to be shown; and the impression I always had when I came in was
that my eyes had popped right out of my head and were on bits of
elastic. A most extraordinary sensation, due to the terrible strain of
trying to see in the darkness just a little further than one really
could. It was the irony of fate to learn, when we did come in, that an
early evacuation had been telephoned through for 5 a.m. I often spent
the whole night dreaming I was driving wounded and had given them the
most awful bump. The horror of it woke me up, only to find that my bed
had slipped off one of the petrol boxes and was see-sawing in mid-air!


THE RED CROSS CARS

     "They are bringing them back who went forth so bravely.
      Grey, ghostlike cars down the long white road
      Come gliding, each with its cross of scarlet
      On canvas hood, and its heavy load
      Of human sheaves from the crimson harvest
      That greed and falsehood and hatred sowed.

     "Maimed and blinded and torn and shattered,
      Yet with hardly a groan or a cry
      From lips as white as the linen bandage;
      Though a stifled prayer 'God let me die,'
      Is wrung, maybe, from a soul in torment
      As the car with the blood-red cross goes by.

     "Oh, Red Cross car! What a world of anguish
      On noiseless wheels you bear night and day.
      Each one that comes from the field of slaughter
      Is a moving Calvary, painted grey.
      And over the water, at home in England
      'Let's play at soldiers,' the children say."

                                             Anon.



CHAPTER XIII

CONVOY LIFE


The Prince of Wales was with the Grenadiers at Beau Marais when they
came in to rest for a time. One day, while having tea at the Sauvage,
Mademoiselle Léonie, sister of the proprietor, came up to me in a
perfect flutter of excitement to say that that very evening the Prince
had ordered the large room to be prepared for a dinner he was giving to
his brother officers.

I was rather a favourite of hers, and she assured me if I wished to
watch him arriving it would give her great pleasure to hide me in her
paying-desk place where I could see everything clearly. She was quite
hurt when I refused the invitation.

He was tremendously popular with the French people; and the next time I
saw her she rushed up to me and said: "How your Prince is beautiful,
Mees; what spirit, what fire! Believe me, they broke every glass they
used at that dinner, and then the Prince demanded of me the bill and
paid for everything." (Some lad!) "He also wrote his name in my
autograph book," she added proudly. "Oh he is _chic_, that one there, I
tell you!"

One warm summer day Gutsie and I were sitting on a grassy knoll, just
beyond our camp overlooking the sea (well within earshot of the
summoning whistle), watching a specially large merchant ship come in.
Except for the distant booming of the guns (that had now become such a
background to existence we never noticed it till it stopped), an
atmosphere of peace and drowsiness reigned over everything. The ship was
just nearing the jetty preparatory to entering the harbour when a dull
reverberating roar broke the summer stillness, the banks we were on
fairly shook, and there before our eyes, out of the sea, rose a dense
black cloud of smoke 50 feet high that totally obscured the ship from
sight for a moment. When the black fumes sank down, there, where a whole
vessel had been a moment before, was only half a ship! We rubbed our
eyes incredulously. It had all happened so suddenly it might have taken
place on a Cinema. She had, of course, struck a German mine, and quick
as lightning two long, lithe, grey bodies (French destroyers) shot out
from the port and took off what survivors were left. Contrary to
expectation she did not sink, but settled down, and remained afloat till
she was towed in later in the day.

A "Y.M.C.A." article on "Women's work in France," that appeared in a
Magazine at home, was sent out to one of the girls. The paragraph
relating to us ran:--

"Then there are the 'F.A.N.N.I.E.S.,' the dear mud-besplashing
F.A.N.Y.s. (to judge from the language of the sometime bespattered, the
adjective was not always 'dear'), with them cheeriness is almost a cult;
at 6 a.m. in the morning you may always be sure of a smile, even when
their sleep for the week has only averaged five hours per night."

There were not many parties at Filbert during that summer. Off-time was
such an uncertain quantity. We managed to put in several though,
likewise some gallops on the glorious sands stretching for miles along
the coast. (It was hardly safe to call at the Convoy on your favourite
charger. When you came out from tea it was more than probable you found
him in a most unaccountable lather!) Bathing during the daytime was also
a rare event, so we went down in an ambulance after dark, macks covering
our bathing dresses, and scampered over the sands in the moonlight to
the warm waves shining and glistening with phosphorus.

Zeppelin raids seemed to go out of fashion, but Gothas replaced them
with pretty considerable success. As we had a French Archie battery near
us it was no uncommon thing, when a raid was in progress, for our
souvenirs and plates, etc., to rattle off the walls and bomb us (more or
less gently) awake!

There was a stretch of asphalt just at the bottom of our camp that had
been begun by an enterprising burgher as a tennis club before the war,
though others _did_ say it was really intended as a secret German gun
emplacement. It did not matter much to us for which purpose it had been
made, for, as it was near, we could play tennis and still be within
call. There was just room for two courts, and many a good game we
enjoyed there, especially after an early evacuation, in the long empty
pause till "brekker" at eight o'clock.

"Wuzzy," or to give him his proper name, "Gerald," came into existence
about this time. He arrived from Peuplinghe a fat fluffy puppy covered
with silky grey curls. He was of nondescript breed, with a distinct
leaning towards an old English sheep dog. He had enormous fawn-coloured
silky paws, and was so soft and floppy he seemed as if he had hardly a
bone in his body. We used to pick him up and drop him gently in the
grass to watch him go out flat like a tortoise. He belonged to Lean, and
grew up a rather irresponsible creature with long legs and a lovable
disposition. He adored coming down to the ambulance trains or sitting
importantly on a car, jeering and barking at his low French friends in
the road, on the "I'm the king of the castle" principle. Another of his
favourite tricks was to rush after a car (usually selecting Lean's), and
keep with it the whole time, never swerving to another, which was rather
clever considering they were so much alike. On the way back to Camp he
had a special game he played on the French children playing in the
_Petit Courgain_. He would rush up as if he were going to fly at them.
They would scream and fall over in terror while he positively laughed at
them over his shoulder as he cantered off to try it on somewhere else.
The camp was divided in its opinion of Wuzzy, or rather I should say
quartered--viz.--one quarter saw his points and the other three-quarters
decidedly did not!

A priceless article appeared in one of the leading dailies entitled,
"Women Motor Drivers.--Is it a suitable occupation?" and was cut out by
anxious parents and forwarded with speed to the Convoy.

The headlines ran: "The lure of the Wheel." "Is it necessary?" "The
after effects." We lapped it up with joy. Phrases such as "Women's
outlook on life will be distorted by the adoption of such a profession,
her finer instincts crushed," pleased us specially. It continued "All
the delicate things that mean, must mean, life to the feminine mind,
will lose their significance"--(cries of "What about the frillies you
bought in Paris, Pat?") "The uncongenial atmosphere"--I continued,
reading further--"of the garage, yard, and workshops, the alien
companionship of mechanics and chauffeurs will isolate her mental
standing" (shrieks of joy), "the ceaseless days and dull monotony of
labour will not only rob her of much feminine charm but will instil into
her mind bitterness that will eat from her heart all capacity for joy,
steal away her youth, and deprive her of the colour and sunlight of
life" (loud sobs from the listening F.A.N.Y.s, who still, strangely
enough, seemed to be suffering from no loss of _joie de vivre_!) When
the noise had subsided I continued: "There is of course the possibility
that she will become conscious of her condition and change of mind, and
realize her level in time to counteract the ultimate effects(!). The
realization however may come too late. The aptitude for happiness will
have gone by for the transitory joys of driving, the questionable
intricacies of the magneto--" but further details were suspended owing
to small bales of cotton waste hurtling through the air, and in self
defence I had to leave the "intricacies of the magneto" and pursue the
offenders round the camp! The only reply Boss could get as a reason for
the tumult was that the F.A.N.Y.s were endeavouring to "realize the
level of their minds." "Humph," was Boss's comment, "First I've heard
that some of them even had any," and retired into her hut.

We often had to take wounded German prisoners to No. 14 hospital, about
30 kilometres away. On these occasions we always had three armed guards
to prevent them from escaping. The prisoners looked like convicts with
their shorn heads and shoddy grey uniforms, and I always found it very
difficult to imagine these men capable of fighting at all. They seemed
pretty content with their lot and often tried to smile ingratiatingly at
the drivers. One day going along the sea road one of them poked me in
the back through the canvas against which we leant when driving and
said, "Ni--eece Englessh Mees!" I was furious and used the most forcible
German I could think of at a moment's notice. "Cheek!" I said to the
guard sitting beside me on the box, "I'd run them over the cliff for
tuppence."

He got the wind up entirely: "Oh, Miss," he said, in an anxious voice,
"for Gawd's sake don't. Remember we're on board as well."

The Rifle brigade came in to rest after the Guards had gone, and before
they left again for the line, gave a big race meeting on the sands.
Luckily for us there was no push on just then, and work was in
consequence very slack. A ladies' race was included in the Programme for
our benefit. It was one of the last events, and until it came off we
amused ourselves riding available mules, much to the delight of the
Tommies, who cheered and yelled and did their best to get them to "take
off!" They were hard and bony and had mouths like old sea boots, but it
was better than toiling in the deep sand.

There were about fourteen entries for our race, several of them from
Lamarck, and we all drew for polo ponies lent from the Brigade. Their
owners were full of instructions as to the best method to get them
along. We cantered up to the starting post, and there was some delay
while Renny got her stirrups right. This was unfortunate, as our ponies
got a bit "cold." At last the flag fell, and we were off! It was
ripping; and the excitement of that race beat anything I've ever known.
As we thundered over the sands I began to experience the joys of seeing
the horses in front "coming back" to me, as our old jockey stable-boy
used to describe. Heasy came in first, MacDougal second, and Winnie and
I tied third. It was a great race entirely, and all too short by a long
way.

One day I was detailed to drive the Matron and our section leader to a
fête of sorts for Belgian refugee orphans. On the way back, crossing the
swing bridge, we met Betty driving the sisters to their billets. I
thought Matron wanted to speak to them and luckily, as it turned out, I
slowed down. She changed her mind, however, and I was just picking up
again as we came abreast, when from behind Betty's car sprang a woman
right in front of mine (after her hat it appeared later, which the wind
had just blown across the road). The apparition was so utterly
unforeseen and unexpected that she was bowled over like a rabbit in two
shakes. I jammed on the brakes and we sprang out, and saw she was under
the car in between the wheel and the chassis. Luckily she was a small
thin woman, and as Gaspard has so eloquently expressed it on another
occasion, _platte comme une punaise_ (flat as a drawing-pin). I was
horrified, the whole thing had happened so suddenly. A crowd of French
and Belgian soldiers collected, and I rapidly directed them to lift the
front of the car up by the springs, as it seemed the only way of getting
her out without further injury. I turned away, not daring to look, and
as I did so my eye caught sight of some hair near one of the back
wheels! That finished me up! I did not stop to reason that of course the
back wheels had not touched her, and thought, "My God, I've scalped
her!" and I leant over the railings feeling exceedingly sick. A friendly
M.P. who had seen the whole thing, patted me on the arm and said, "Now,
then, Miss, don't you take on, that's only her false 'air," as indeed
it proved to be! The woman was yelling and groaning, "_Mon Dieu, je suis
tuée_," but according to the "red hat" she was as "right as rain,
nothing but 'ysteria." I blessed that M.P. and hoped we would meet
again. We helped her on to the front seat, where Thompson supported her,
while I drove to hospital to see if any damage had been done. Singularly
enough, she was only suffering from bruises and a torn skirt, and of
course the loss of her "false 'air" (which I had refused to touch, it
had given me such a turn). I can only hope her husband, who was with her
at the time, picked it up. He followed to hospital and gave her a most
frightful scolding, adding that of course the "Mees" could not do
otherwise than knock her down if she so foolishly sprang in front of
cars without warning; and she might think herself lucky that the "Mees"
would not run her in for being in the way! It has always struck me as
being so humorous that in England if you knock a pedestrian over they
can have you up, while in France the law is just the reverse. She sobbed
violently, and I had to tell him that what she wanted was sympathy and
not scolding.

It took me a day or two to get over that scalping expedition (of course
the story was all round the camp within the hour!) and for some time
after I slowed down crossing the bridge. This was the one and only time
anything of the sort ever happened to me, thank goodness!

Our camp began to look very smart, and the seeds we had sown in the
spring came up and covered the huts with creepers. We had as many
flowers inside our huts as we could possibly get into the shell cases
and other souvenirs which perforce were turned into flower vases--a
change they must have thought rather singular. The steady boom of the
guns used to annoy me intensely, for it shook the petals off the roses
long before they would otherwise have fallen, and I used to call out,
crossly, "_Do_ stop that row, you're simply ruining my flowers." But
that made no difference to the distant gunners, who carried on night and
day causing considerably more damage than the falling petals from my
roses!

We began to classify the new girls as they came out, jokingly calling
them "Kitchener's" Army, "Derby's Scheme," and finally, "Conscripts."
The old "regulars" of course put on most fearful side. It was amusing
when an air-raid warning (a siren known as "mournful Mary") went at Mess
and the shrapnel began to fly, to see the new girls all rush out to
watch the little white balls bursting in the sky, and the old hands not
turning a hair but going on steadily with the bully beef or Maconochie,
whichever it happened to be. Then one by one the new ones would slink
back rather ashamed of their enthusiasm and take their seats, and in
time they in turn would smile indulgently as the still newer ones dashed
out to watch.

We had no dug-out to go to, even if we had wanted to. Our new mess tent
was built in the summer; and we said good-bye for ever to the murky
gloom of the old Indian flapper.

One day I had gone out to tea with Logan and Chris to an "Archie"
station at Pont le Beurre. During a pause I heard the following
conversation take place.

Host to Logan: "I suppose, being in a Convoy Camp, you hear nothing but
motor shop the whole time, and get to know quite a lot about them?"

"Rather," replied Logan, who between you and me hardly knew one end of a
car from the other, "I'm becoming quite conversant with the different
parts. One hears people exclaiming constantly: 'I've mislaid my big end
and can't think where I've put the carburettor!'" The host, who appeared
to know as much as she did, nodded sympathetically.

Chris and I happened to catch the Captain's eye, and we laughed for
about five minutes. That big-end story went the round of the camp too,
you may be quite sure.

Besides the regular work of barges, evacuation, and trains we had to do
all the ambulance work for the outlying camps, and cars were regularly
detailed for special _dépôts_ the whole day long. Barges arrived mostly
in the mornings, and I think the patients in them were more surprised
than anyone to see girls driving out there, and were often not a little
fearful as to how we would cope! It was comforting to overhear them say
to each other on the journey: "This is fine, mate, ain't it?"

When we drove the cases to the hospital ships the long quay along which
we took them barely allowed two cars to pass abreast. Turning when the
car was empty was therefore a ticklish business, and there was only one
place where it could be done. If you made a slip, there was nothing
between you and the sea 50 feet below. There was a dip in the platform
at one point, and by backing carefully on to this, it was just possible
to turn, but to do so necessitated running forward in the direction of
the quay, where there was barely the space of a foot left between the
front wheel and the edge. I know, sitting in the car, I never could see
any edge at all. If by any chance you misjudged this dip and backed
against the edge of the platform by mistake the car, unable to mount it,
rebounded and slid forward! It was always rather a breathless
performance at first; and beginners, rather than risk it, backed the
whole length of the quay. I did so myself the first time, but it was
such a necktwisting performance I felt I'd rather risk a ducking. With
practice we were able to judge to a fraction just how near the edge we
could risk going, and the men on the hospital ships would hold their
breath at the (I hope pardonable) swank of some of the more daring
spirits who went just as near as they could and then looked up and
laughed as they drove down the quay. After I was in hospital in England,
I heard that a new hand lost her head completely, and in Eva's newly
painted 'bus executed a spinning nose-dive right over the quay. A sight
I wouldn't have missed for worlds. As she "touched water," however, the
F.A.N.Y. spirit predominated. She was washed through the back of the
ambulance (luckily the front canvas was up), and as it sank she
gallantly kicked off from the roof of the fast disappearing car. She was
an excellent swimmer, but two R.A.M.C. men sprang overboard to her
rescue, and I believe almost succeeded in drowning her in their efforts!
This serves to show what an extremely touchy job it was, and one we had
to perform in fogs or the early hours of a winter's morning when it was
almost too dark to see anything. Some Red Cross men drivers from Havre
watched us once, and declared their quay down there was wider by several
feet, but no one ever turned on it. It seemed odd at home to see two
girls on army ambulances. We went distances of sixty miles or more
alone, only taking an orderly when the cases were of a very serious
nature and likely to require attention _en route_.

Once I remember I was returning from taking a new medical officer (a
cheerful individual, whose only remark during the whole of that
fifteen-mile run was, "I'm perished!") to an outlying camp. I wondered
at first if that was his name and he was introducing himself, but one
glance was sufficient to prove otherwise! On the way back alone, I
paused to ask the way, as I had to return by another route. The man I
had stopped (whom at first I had taken to be a Frenchman) was a German
prisoner, so I started on again; but wherever I looked there were
nothing but Germans, busily working at these quarries. No guards were
in sight, as far as I could see, and I wondered idly if they would take
it into their heads to hold up the car, brain me, and escape. It was
only a momentary idea though, for looking at these men, they seemed to
be quite incapable of thinking of anything so original.

Coming back from B. one day I started a huge hare, and with the utmost
difficulty prevented the good Susan from turning off the road, lepping
the ditch, and pursuing 'puss' across the flat pastures. Some sporting
'bus, I tell you!

The Tanks made their first appearance in September, and weird and
wonderful were the descriptions given by the different men I asked whom
I carried on my ambulance. They appeared to be anything in size from a
hippopotamus to Buckingham Palace. It was one of the best kept secrets
of the war. When anyone asked what was being made in the large foundries
employed they received the non-committal reply "Tanks," and so the name
stuck.

My last leave came off in the autumn, and while I was at home Lamarck
Hospital closed on its second anniversary--October 31, 1916. The
Belgians now had a big hut hospital at the Porte de Gravelines, and
wished to concentrate what sick and wounded they had there, instead of
having so many small hospitals. A great celebration took place, and
there was much bouquet handing and speechifying, etc.

Our work for the Belgians did not cease with the closing of Lamarck, and
a convoy was formed with the Gare Centrale as its headquarters, and so
released the men drivers for the line. The hospital staff and equipment
moved to Epernay, where a hospital was opened for the French in an old
Monastery and also a convoy of F.A.N.Y. ambulances and cars was
attached, so that now we had units working for the British, French, and
Belgians. Another unit was the one down at Camp de Ruchard, where
Crockett so ably ran a canteen for 700 convalescent Belgian soldiers,
while Lady Baird, with a trained nurse, looked after the consumptives,
of whom there were several hundreds. It will thus be seen that the
F.A.N.Y. was essentially an "active service" Corps with no units in
England at all.

I had a splendid leave, which passed all too quickly, and oddly enough
before I left home I had a sort of premonition that something was going
to happen; so much so that I even left an envelope with instructions of
what I wanted done with such worldly goods as I possessed. I felt that
in making such arrangements I might possibly avert any impending
catastrophe!

Heasy was on leave as well, and the day we were due to go back was a
Sunday. The train was to leave Charing Cross at four, which meant that
we would not embark till seven or thereabouts. It was wet and blustery,
and I did not relish the idea of crossing in the dark at all, and could
not help laughing at myself for being so funky. I had somehow quite made
up my mind we were going to be torpedoed. The people I was staying with
ragged me hard about it. It was the 5th of November, too! As I stepped
out of the taxi at Charing Cross and handed my kit to the porter, he
asked: "Boat train, Miss?" I nodded. "Been cancelled owin' to storm," he
said cheerfully. I leapt out, and I think I shook him by the hand in my
joy. France is all right when you get there; but the day you return is
like going back to school. The next minute I saw Heasy's beaming face,
and we were all over each other at the prospect of an extra day. My old
godfather, who had come to see me off, was the funniest of all--a
peppery Indian edition. "Not going?" he exclaimed, "I never heard of
such a thing! In my day there was not all this chopping and changing." I
pointed out that he might at least express his joy that I was to be at
home another day, and fuming and spluttering we returned to the D's.
It's rather an anti-climax, after saying good-bye and receiving
everyone's blessing, to turn up suddenly once more!

Heasy and I duly met at Charing Cross next morning, to hear that once
more the leave boat had been cancelled owing to loosened mines floating
about. Again I returned to my friends who by this time seemed to think I
had "come to stay." On the Wednesday (we were now getting to know all
the porters quite well by sight) we really did get off; but when we
arrived at Folkestone it was to find the platform crammed with returning
leave-men and officers, and to hear the same tale--the boat had _again_
been cancelled. None of the officers were being allowed to return to
town, but by dint of good luck and a little palm oil, we dashed into a
cab and reached the other station just in time to catch the up-going
train. "We stay at an hotel to-night," I said to Heasy, "I positively
won't turn up at the D's _again_." We got to town in time for lunch, and
then went to see the _Happy Day_, at Daly's (very well named we
thought), where Heasy's brother was entertaining a party. He had seen us
off, "positively for the last time," at 7.30 that morning. We saw him in
the distance, and in the interval we instructed the programme girl to
take round a slip of paper on which we printed:--"If you will come round
to Stalls 21 and 22 you will hear of something to your advantage."
George Heasman came round utterly mystified, and when he saw us once
more, words quite failed him!

On the Thursday down we went again, and this time we actually _did_ get
on board, though they kept us hanging about on the Folkestone platform
for hours before they decided, and the rain dripped down our necks from
that inadequate wooden roofing that had obviously been put up by some
war profiteer on the cheap. The congestion was something frightful, and
there were twelve hundred on board instead of the usual seven or eight.
"We can't blow _over_ at any rate," I said cheerfully to Heasy, in a
momentary lull in the gale. There were so many people on board that
there was just standing room and that was all. We hastily swallowed some
more Mother-sill and hoped for the best (we had consumed almost a whole
boxful owing to our many false starts). We were in the highest spirits.
The only other woman on board was an army sister, who came and stood
near us. Lifebelts were ordered to be put on, and as I tied Heasy's the
aforementioned Sister turned to me and said: "You ought to tie that
tighter; it will come undone very easily in the waves!" Heasy and I were
convulsed, and so were all the people within earshot. "You mustn't be so
cheerful," I said, as soon as I could speak.

It was the roughest crossing I've ever experienced, and there was no
time to indulge in "that periscope feeling," so aptly described by
Bairnsfather; we were too busy exercising Christian Science on our
"innards" and trying not to think of all the indigestible things we'd
eaten the night before! We rose on mountains of waves one moment and
then descended into positive valleys the next. I swear I would have been
perfectly all right if I had not heard an officer say "I hope it will
not be too rough to get into Boulogne harbour. The last time I crossed
we had to return to Folkestone!" * * * * Luckily his fears were
incorrect, and at last we arrived in the harbour, and I never was so
glad to see France in all my life! The F.A.N.Y.s had almost given us up
for good, and were all very envious when they heard of our adventures.

Towards the end of that month the "Britannic," a hospital ship, was
torpedoed. As a preventive measure against future outrages of the kind
(not that it would have made the Germans hesitate for a moment) twenty
prisoners were detailed to accompany each hospital ship on the voyage to
England. These men, under one of their own Sergeant-Majors, sat on the
edge of the platform until all the wounded were on board, and then were
marched on into a little wooden shelter specially erected. As they sat
on the edge, their feet rested on the narrow quay along which we drove,
and I loved to go as near as possible and pretend I was going over them,
just for the fun of watching the Boches roll on their backs in terror
with their feet high in the air. A new method of saying _Kamerad_! Those
prisoners did not care for me very much, I don't think, and I always
hope I shan't meet any of them _après la guerre_. Unfortunately this
pastime was stopped by the vigilant E.M.O.

My hut was closed for "winter decorations," and the crême de menthe
coloured panthers were covered up by a hunting frieze. It was a
priceless show, one of the field appearing in a _chic_ pair of red
gloves! I suppose they had some extra paint over from the pink coats.
Scene I. was the meet, with the fox lurking well within sight behind a
small gorse bush, but funnily enough not a hound got wind of him. Scene
III. was a good water-jump where one of the field had taken a toss right
into the middle of a stream. Considering the sandy spot he had chosen as
a take-off, he had no one to thank but himself. A lady further up on a
grey, obviously suffering from spavin, was sailing over like a two-year
old. The last scene was of course a kill, the gentleman in the pink
gloves on the black horse being well to the fore. Altogether it was most
pleasing. Silk hunting "hankies" in yellow and other vivid colours,
ditto with full field, took the place of the now chilly looking
Reckitt's blue, and a Turkey rug on the floor completed the
transformation.

When an early evacuation was not in progress, breakfast was at eight
o'clock, and at 10 minutes to, the whistles went for parade, which was
held in the square just in front of the cars. Those who were late were
put on fatigues without more ado, but in the ordinary way if there were
no delinquents we took it in turns, two every day.

Often when that first whistle went, it found a good many of us still
"complete in flea-bag," and that scramble to get into things and appear
"fully dressed" was an art in itself. An overcoat, muffler, and a pair
of field boots went a long way to complete this illusion. Once however,
Boss, to everyone's pained surprise, said, "Will the troopers kindly
take off their overcoats!" With great reluctance this was done amid
shouts of laughter as three of us stood divested of coats in gaudy
pyjamas.

Fatigue consisted of two things: One--"Tidying up the Camp," which was a
comprehensive term and meant folding up everyone's bonnet covers and
putting them in neat piles near the mess hut, collecting cotton waste
and grease tins, etc., and weeding the garden (a rotten job). The second
was called "Doing the stoke-hole," i.e. cleaning out the ashes from the
huge boiler that heated the bath water, chopping sticks, laying the
fire, and brushing the "hole" up generally.

Opinions were divided as to the merits of those two jobs. Neither was
popular of course, but we could choose. The latter certainly had its
points, because once done it was done for the day, while the former
might be tidy at nine, and yet by 10 o'clock lumps of cotton waste might
be blowing all over the place, tins and bonnet covers once more in
untidy heaps. I often "did the boiler," but I simply hated chopping the
sticks. One day the axe was firmly fixed in a piece of hard wood and I
was vainly hitting it against the block, with eyes tight shut, when I
heard a chuckle from the top of the steps. I looked up and there was a
Tommy looking down into the hole, watching the proceedings. Where he'd
come from I don't know. "Call those 'ands?" he asked. "'Ere, give it to
me"--indicating the axe. "I guess y'aint chopped many sticks, 'ave yer?"
"No," I said; "and I'm terrified of the thing!" I sat on the steps and
watched him deftly slicing the wood into thin slips. "This is a
fatigue," I said, by way of an explanation. That tickled him! He stopped
and chuckled, "You do fatigues just the same as we do?" he asked. "I
never heard anything to beat that. Well I never, wot's the crime, I
wonder? Look 'ere," he added, "I'll chop you enough to last fatigues for
a month, and you put 'em somewhere in the meantime," and in ten
minutes, mark you, there was a pile that rejoiced my heart. He was a
"Bird," that man, and no mistake.

After brekker was over the first thing that had to be done before
anything else was to get one's 'bus running and in order for the day.
Once that was done we could do our huts, provided no jobs had come in;
and when that was done the engine had to be thoroughly cleaned, and then
the car. I might add that this is an ideal account of the proceedings
for, as often as not, we went out the minute the cars were started.
Three days elapsed sometimes before the hut could have a "turn out." On
these occasions one just rolled into one's bed at night unmade and
unturned, too tired to care one way or the other.

Some of the girls got a Frenchwoman, "Alice" by name, to do their "cues"
for them. She used to bring her small baby with her and dump him down
anywhere in the corridor, sometimes in a waste paper basket, till she
was done. One morning he howled bitterly for about an hour, and at last
I went out to see what could be the matter. "Oh, Mees, it is that he has
burnt himself against the stove, the careless one" (he couldn't walk, so
it must have been her own fault). "I took him to a _Pharmacie_ but he
has done nothing but cry ever since."

Now I had fixed up a small _Pharmacie_ in one of the empty "cues,"
complete with sterilised dressings and rows of bottles, and bandaged up
whatever cuts and hurts there were, in fact my only sorrow was there
were not more "cases." Considering the many men we had had at Lamarck
burnt practically all over from fire-bombs, I suggested that she should
bring the baby into the _Pharmacie_ and see if I could do anything for
it. She was quite willing, and carried it in, when I undid the little
arm (only about six inches long) burnt from the elbow to the wrist! The
chemist had simply planked on some zinc ointment and lint. I got some
warm boracic and soaked it off gently, though the little thing redoubled
its yells, and a small crowd of F.A.N.Y.s dashed down the passage to see
what was up. "It's only Pat killing a baby" was one of the cheerful
explanations I heard. So encouraging for me. I dressed it with Carron
oil and to my relief the wails ceased. She brought it every morning
after that, and I referred proudly to my "out-patient" who made great
progress. Within ten days the arm had healed up, and Alice was my
devoted follower from that time on.

We had a lot of work that autumn, and barges came down regularly as
clockwork. Many of these cases were taken to the Duchess of Sutherland's
Hospital. She had given up the Bourbourg Belgian one some time before
and now had one for the British, where the famous Carroll-Dakin
treatment was given. One night, taking some cases to the Casino
hospital, there was a boy on board with his eyes bandaged. He had
evidently endeared himself to the Sister on the train, for she came
along with the stretcher bearers and saw him safely into my car.
"Good-bye, Sister," I heard him say, in a cheery voice, "thank you a
thousand times for your kindness--you wait till my old eyes are better
and I'll come back and see you. I know you must look nice," he
continued, with a laugh, "you've got such a kind voice."

Tears were in her eyes as she came round to speak to me and whisper that
it was a hopeless case; he had been so severely injured he would never
see again.

I raged inwardly against the powers that cared not a jot who suffered so
long as their own selfish ends were achieved.

That journey was one of the worst I've ever done. If the boy had not
been so cheerful it would have been easier, but there he lay chatting
breezily to me through the canvas, wanting to know all about our work
and asking hundreds of questions. "You wait till I get home," he said,
"I'll have the best eye chap there is, you bet your life. By Jove, it
will be splendid to get these bandages off, and see again."

Was the war worth even one boy's eyesight? No, I thought not.



CHAPTER XIV

CHRISTMAS, 1916


Taking some wounded Germans to No. 14 hospital one afternoon we were
stopped on the way by a road patrol, a new invention to prevent
joy-riding. Two Tommies rushed out from the hedges, like highwaymen of
old, waving little red flags (one of the lighter efforts of the War
Office). Perforce we had to draw up while one of them went into the
_Estaminet_ (I noticed they always chose their quarters well) to bring
out the officer. His job was to examine papers and passes, and sort the
sheep from the goats, allowing the former to proceed and turning the
latter away!

The man in question was evidently new to the work and was exceedingly
fussy and officious. He scanned my pink pass for some time and then
asked, "Where are you going?" "Wimereux," I replied promptly. He looked
at the pass again--"It's got "_W_imer_oo_," here, and not what _you_
said," he answered suspiciously. "Some people pronounce it 'Vimerer,'
nevertheless," I could not refrain from replying, rather tartly.

Again he turned to the pass, and as it started to snow in stinging
gusts (and I was so obviously one of the "sheep"), I began to chafe at
the delay.

As if anyone would joy-ride in such weather without a wind screen, I
thought disgustedly. (None of the cars had them.)

"Whom have you got in behind?" was the next query.

I leant forward as if imparting a secret of great importance, and said,
in a stage whisper: "Germans!"

He jumped visibly, and the two flag-wagging Tommies grinned delightedly.
After going to the back to find out if this was so, he at last very
reluctantly returned my pass.

"Thinks we're all bloomin' spies," said one of the guards, as at last we
set off to face the blinding snow, that literally was blinding, it was
so hard to see. The only method was to shut first one eye and then the
other, so that they could rest in turns!

On the way back we passed a motor hearse stuck on the Wimereux hill with
four coffins in behind, stretcher-wise.

The guard gave a grunt. "Humph," said he, "They makes yer form fours
right up to the ruddy grave, they do!"

We were not so far from civilization in our Convoy as one might have
supposed, for among the men in the M.T. yard was a hairdresser from the
Savoy Hotel!

He made a diffident call on Boss one day and said it would give him
great pleasure to shampoo and do up the "young ladies' hair" for them in
his spare time "to keep his hand in." He was afraid if the war lasted
much longer he might forget the gentle art!

We rose to the occasion and were only too delighted, and from then
onwards he became a regular institution up at the Convoy.

News was brought to us of the torpedoing of the "Sussex," and the
terrible suffering the crew and passengers endured. It was thought after
she was struck she would surely sink, and many deaths by drowning
occurred owing to overcrowding the lifeboats. Like the "Zulu," however,
when day dawned it was found she was able to come into Boulogne under
her own steam. After driving some cases over there, I went to see the
remains in dry dock. It was a ghastly sight, made all the more poignant
as one could see trunks and clothes lying about in many of the cabins,
which were open to the day as if a transverse section had been made. The
only humorous incident that occurred was that King Albert was arrested
while taking a photo of it! I don't think for a moment they recognized
who he was, for, with glasses, and a slight stoop, he does not look
exactly like the photos one sees, and they probably imagined he was
bluffing. He was marched off looking intensely amused! One of the French
guards, when I expressed my disappointment at not being able to get a
photo, gave me the address of a friend of his who had taken some
official ones for France, so I hurried off, and was lucky to get them.

The weather became atrocious as the winter advanced and our none too
water-tight huts showed distinct signs of warping. We only had one
thickness of matchboarding in between us and the elements, and, without
looking out of the windows, I could generally ascertain through the
slits what was going on in the way of weather. I had chosen my "cue"
looking sea-ward because of the view and the sunsets, but then that was
in far away Spring. Eva's was next door, and even more exposed than
mine. When we happened to mention this state of affairs to Colonel C.,
he promised us some asbestos to line the outer wall if we could find
someone to put it up.

Another obliging friend lent us his carpenter to do the job--a burly
Scot. The fact that we cleaned our own cars and went about the camp in
riding breeches and overalls, not unlike land-girls' kit, left him
almost speechless.

The first day all he could say was, "Weel, weel, I never did"--at
intervals.

The second day he had recovered himself sufficiently to look round and
take a little notice.

"Ye're one o' them artists, I'm thinkin'," he said, eyeing my panthers
disparagingly. (The hunting frieze had been taken down temporarily till
the asbestos was fixed.)

"No, you mustn't think that," I said apologetically.

"Ha ye no men to do yon dirty worrk for ye?" and he nodded in direction
of the cars. "Scandalizing, and no less," was his comment when he heard
there were not. In two days' time he reported to his C.O. that the job
was finished, and the latter overheard him saying to a pal, "Aye mon,
but A've had ma outlook on life broadened these last two days." B.
'phoned up hastily to the Convoy to know what exactly we had done with
his carpenter.

Work was slack in the Autumn owing to the fearful floods of rain, and
several of the F.A.N.Y.s took up fencing and went once a week at eight
o'clock to a big "Salle d'Escrime" off the Rue Royale. A famous Belgian
fencer, I forget his name, and a Frenchman, both stationed in the
vicinity, instructed, and "Squig" kindly let me take her lessons when
she was on leave. Fencing is one of the best tests I know for teaching
you to keep your temper. When my foil had been hit up into the air about
three times in succession to the triumphant _Riposte!_ of the little
Frenchman, I would determine to keep "Quite cool." In spite of all,
however, when I lunged forward it was with rather a savage stamp, which
he would copy delightedly and exclaim triumphantly--"Mademoiselle se
fâche!" I could have killed that Frenchman cheerfully! His quick orders
"_Paré, paré--quatre, paré--contre--Riposté!_" etc. left me
completely bewildered at first. Hope was a great nut with the foils and
she and the Frenchman had veritable battles, during which the little
man, on his mettle and very excited, would squeal exactly like a
rabbit. The big Belgian was more phlegmatic and not so easily moved.

One night I espied a pair of boxing gloves and pulled them on while
waiting for my turn. "Mademoiselle knows _la boxe_?" he asked
interestedly.

"A little, a very little, Monsieur," I replied. "Only what my brother
showed me long ago."

"Montrez," said he, drawing on a pair as well, and much to the amusement
of the others we began preliminary sparring. "Mademoiselle knows
_ze-k_-nock-oot?" he hazarded.

I did not reply, for at that moment he lifted his left arm, leaving his
heart exposed. Quick as lightning I got in a topper that completely
winded him and sent him reeling against the wall. When he got his breath
back he laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks, and whenever I
met him in the street he flew up a side alley in mock terror. I was
always designated after that as _Mademoiselle qui sait la boxe--oh, la
la_!

In spite of repeated efforts on the part of R.E.s. there was a spot in
the roof through which the rain persistently dripped on to my face in
the night. They never could find it, so the only solution was to sleep
the other way up! _C'est la guerre_, and that's all there was to it.

One cold blustery day I had left "Susan" at the works in Boulogne and
was walking along by the fish market when I saw a young fair-haired
staff officer coming along the pavement toward me. "His face is very
familiar," I thought to myself, and then, quick as a flash--"Why, it's
the Prince of Wales, of course!" He seemed to be quite alone, and except
for ourselves the street was deserted. How to cope? To bob or not to
bob, that was the question? Then I suddenly realized that in a stiff
pair of Cording's boots and a man's sheepskin-lined mackintosh, sticking
out to goodness knows where, it would be a sheer impossibility. I
hastily reviewed the situation. If I salute, I thought, he may think I'm
taking a liberty! I decided miserably to do neither and hoped he would
think I had not recognized him at all.[13] As we came abreast I looked
straight ahead, getting rather pink the while. Once past and calling
myself all manner of fools, I thought "I'm going to turn round, and
stare. One doesn't meet a Prince every day, and in any case 'a cat may
look at a king!'" I did so--the Prince was turning round too! He smiled
delightfully, giving me a wonderful salute, which I returned and went on
my way joyfully, feeling that it had been left to him to save the
situation, and very proud to think I had had a salute all to myself.

Christmas came round before we knew where we were, and Boss gave the
order it was to be celebrated in our own mess. Work was slack just then
and Mrs. Williams gave a tea and dance in the afternoon at her canteen
up at Fontinettes. It was a picturesque-looking place with red brick
floor, artistic-looking tables with rough logs for legs and a large open
fireplace, typically English, which must have rejoiced the hearts of men
so far from Blighty.

It was a very jolly show, in spite of my partner bumping his head
against the beam every time we went round, and people came from far and
near. It was over about five, and we hastened back to prepare for our
Christmas dinner in Mess.

Fancy dress had been decided on, and as it was to be only among
ourselves we were given carte blanche as to ideas. They were of course
all kept secret until the last moment. Baby went as a Magpie and looked
very striking, the black and white effect being obtained by draping a
white towel straight down one side over the black nether garments
belonging to our concert party kit.

I decided to go as a _Vie Parisienne_ cover. A study in black and
daffodil--a ravishing confection--and also used part of our "FANTASTIK"
kit, but made the bodice out of crinkly yellow paper. A chrysanthemum of
the same shade in my hair, which was skinned back in the latest
door-knob fashion, completed the get-up.

Baby and I met on our way across the camp and drifted into mess
together, and as we slowly divested ourselves of our grey wolf-coats we
were hailed with yells of delight.

Dicky went as Charlie's Aunt, and Winnie as the irresistible nephew. Eva
was an art student from the Quartier Latin, and Bridget a charming
two-year old. The others came in many and various disguises.

We all helped to clear away in order to dance afterwards, and as I ran
into the cook-house with some plates I met the mechanic laden with the
tray from his hut.

The momentary glimpse of the _Vie Parisienne_ was almost too much for
the good Brown. I heard a startled "Gor blimee! Miss" and saw his eyes
popping out of his head as he just prevented the tray from eluding his
grasp!

Soon after Christmas a grain-ship, while entering Boulogne harbour in a
storm, got blown across and firmly fixed between the two jetties, which
are not very wide apart. To make matters worse its back broke and so
formed an effectual barrier to the harbour and took from a fortnight to
three weeks to clear away.

Traffic was diverted to the other ports, and for the time being Boulogne
became almost like a city of the dead.

One port had been used solely for hospital ships up till then, and the
scenes of bustle and confusion that replaced the comparative calm were
almost indescribable. We saw many friends returning from Christmas
leave, who for the most part had not the faintest idea where they had
arrived. There were not enough military cars to transport the men to
Fontinettes, so besides our barge and hospital work we were temporarily
commissioned by the Local Transport Office.

I was detailed to take two officers inspecting the Archic stations north
of St. Omer one wet snowy afternoon, and many were the adventures we
had. It was a great thing to get up right behind our lines to places
where we had never been before, and Susan ploughed through the mud like
a two-year old, and never even so much as punctured. We were on our way
back at a little place called Pont l'Abbesse, about 6.30, when the snow
came down in blinding gusts. With only two side lamps, and a pitch dark
night, the prospect of ever finding our way home seemed nil, and every
road we took was bordered by a deep canal, with nothing in the way of a
fence as protection. It was bitterly cold, and once we got completely
lost; three-quarters of an hour later finding ourselves at the same
cottage where we had previously asked the way!

At last we found a staff car that promised to give us a lead, and in
time we reached the main St. Omer road, finally getting back to
Pont-le-Beurre about 10 p.m. I 'phoned up to the Convoy to tell them I
was still in the land of the living, and after a bowl of hot soup sped
back to camp.

My hands were so cold I had to sit on them in turns, and as for feet, I
didn't seem to have any. Still it was "some run," and the next day I
spent a long time hosing off the thick clay which almost completely hid
the good Susan from sight.

Another temporary job we had was to drive an army sister (a sort of
female Military Landing Officer) to the boat every day, where she met
the sisters coming back from leave and directed them to the different
units and hospitals.

One of the results of the closing of Boulogne harbour was that instead
of the patients being evacuated straight to England we had to drive
them into Boulogne, where they were entrained for Havre! A terrible
journey, poor things. Twenty to twenty-four ambulances would set off to
do the thirty kilometres in convoy, led at a steady pace by the Section
Leader. These journeys took place three times a week, and often the men
would get bitterly cold inside the cars. If there was one puncture in
the Convoy we all had to stop till a spare wheel was put on. We eagerly
took the opportunity to get down and do stamping exercises and "cabby"
arms to try and get warm. To my utmost surprise, on one of these
occasions my four stretcher patients got up and danced in the road with
me. Why they were "liers" instead of "sitters" I can't think, as there
was not much wrong with them. _À propos_ I remember asking one night
when an ambulance train came in in the dark, "Are you liers or sitters
in here?" and one humorist scratched his head and replied, "I don't
rightly know, Sister, I've told a few in my time!" To return to our long
convoy journeys: once we had deposited our patients it was not
unnaturally the desire of this "dismounted cavalry" unit to try the
speed of its respective 'buses one against the other on the return
journey; to our immense disappointment this idea was completely nipped
in the bud, for Boss rode on the first car.

Permission however was given to pass on hills, as it was considered a
pity to overheat a car going down to second gear when it could easily
have done the hill on third! That Boulogne road is one of the hilliest
in France, and Susan was a nailer on hills. I remember arriving in camp
second one day. "How have _you_ got here?" asked Boss in surprise, "I
purposely put you nineteenth!"

Heasy, Betty, and I in celebration of two years' active service had
permission to give a small dance in the mess at the beginning of the new
year. We trembled lest at the last moment an ambulance train might
arrive, but there was nothing worse than an early evacuation next
morning and all went off excellently. I was entrusted to make the "cup,"
and bought the ingredients in the town (some cup), and gravely assured
everyone there was absolutely "nothing in it." The boracic powder was
lifted in my absence from the _Pharmacie_ to try and get the first
glimmerings of a slide on that sticky creosoted floor. The ambulances,
fitted with paper Chinese lanterns, were temporarily converted into
sitting out places. It was a great show.

There was one job in the Convoy we all loathed like poison; it was known
as "corpses." There was no chance of dodging unpopular jobs, for they
worked out on an absolutely fair system. For instance, the first time
the telephone bell went after 8 a.m. (anything before that was counted
night duty) it was taken by a girl whose name came first in alphabetical
order. She rushed out to her car, but before going "warned" B. that when
the bell next went it would be _her_ job, and so on throughout the day.
If you were "warned," it was an understood thing that you did not begin
any long job on the car but stayed more or less in readiness. If the
jobs got half through the alphabet by nightfall the last girl warned
knew she was first for it the next morning.

To return to the corpses. What happened was that men were frequently
falling into the canals and docks and were not discovered till perhaps
three weeks later. An ambulance was then rung up, and the corpse, or
what remained of it, was taken to the mortuary.

One day Bobs was called on to give evidence at a Court of Enquiry with
regard to a corpse she had driven, as there was some mystification with
regard to the day and hour at which it was found. As she stepped smartly
up to the table the Colonel asked her how, when it occurred some ten
days ago, she could be sure it was 4.30 when she arrived on the scene.

"It was like this," said she. "When I heard it was a corpse, I thought
I'd have my tea first!" (This was almost as bad as the tape measure
episode and was of course conclusive. I might add, corpses were the only
jobs that were not allowed to interfere with meals.)

"Foreign bodies," in the shape of former Belgian patients, often drifted
up to camp in search of the particular "Mees" who had tended them at
Lamarck, as often as not bringing souvenirs made at great pains in the
trenches as tokens of their gratitude. It touched us very much to know
that they had not forgotten.

One night when my evening duty was nearing its close and I was just
preparing to go to my hut the telephone bell rang, and I was told to go
down to the hospital ship we had just loaded that afternoon for a man
reported to be in a dying condition, and not likely to stand the journey
across to England--I never could understand why those cases should have
been evacuated at all if there was any possibility of them becoming
suddenly worse; but I suppose a certain number of beds had to be cleared
for new arrivals, and individuals could not be considered. It seemed
very hard.

I drove down to the Quay in the inky blackness, it was a specially dark
night, turned successfully, and reported I had come for the case.

An orderly, I am thankful to say, came with him in the car and sat
behind holding his hand.

The boy called incessantly for his mother and seemed hardly to realize
where he was. I sat forward, straining my eyes in the darkness along
that narrow quay, on the look-out for the many holes I knew were only
too surely there.

The journey seemed to take hours, and I answered a query of the
orderly's as to the distance.

The boy heard my voice and mistook me for one of the Sisters, and then
followed one of the most trying half-hours I have ever been through.

He seemed to regain consciousness to a certain extent and asked me from
time to time,

"Sister, am I dying?"

"Will I see me old mother again, Sister?"

"Why have you taken me off the Blighty ship, Sister?"

Then there would be silence for a space, broken only by groans and an
occasional "Christ, but me back 'urts crool," and all the comfort I
could give was that we would be there soon, and the doctor would do
something to ease the pain.

Thank God, at last we arrived at the Casino. One of the most trying
things about ambulance driving is that while you long to get the patient
to hospital as quickly as possible you are forced to drive slowly. I
jumped out and cautioned the orderlies to lift him as gently as they
could, and he clung on to my hand as I walked beside the stretcher into
the ward.

"You're telling me the truth, Sister? I don't want to die, I tell you
that straight," he said. "Goodbye and God bless you; I'll come and see
you in the morning," I said, and left him to the nurses' tender care. I
went down early next day but he had died at 3 a.m. Somebody's son and
only nineteen. That sort of job takes the heart out of you for some
days, though Heaven knows we ought to have got used to anything by that
time.

To make up for the wet autumn a hard frost set in early in the year.

The M.T. provided us with anti-freezing mixture for the radiators, but
the antifreezing cheerfully froze! We tried emptying them at night,
turning off the petrol and running the engine till the carburettor was
dry (for even the petrol was not above freezing), and wrapping up the
engines as carefully as if they were babies, but even that failed.

Starting the cars up in the morning (a detail I see I have not mentioned
so far), even in ordinary times quite a hard job, now became doubly so.

It was no uncommon sight to see F.A.N.Y.s lying supine across the
bonnets of their cars, completely winded by their efforts. The morning
air was full of sobbing breaths and groans as they swung in vain! This
process was known as "getting her loose"--(I'm referring to the car not
the F.A.N.Y., though, from personal experience, it's quite applicable to
both.)

Brown or Johnson (the latter had replaced Kirkby) was secured to come if
possible and give the final fillip that set the engine going. It's a
well-known thing that you may turn at a car for ten minutes and not get
her going, and a fresh hand will come and do so the first time.

This swinging left one feeling like nothing on earth, and sometimes was
a day's work in itself.

In spite of all the precautions we took, whatever water was left in the
water pipes and drainings at the bottom of the radiators froze solidly,
and sure enough, when we had got them going, clouds of steam rose into
the air. The frost had come to stay and moreover it was a black one.

Something had to be done to solve the problem for it was imperative for
every car to be ready for the road first thing in the morning.

Camp fires were suggested, but were impracticable, and then it was that
"Night Guards" were instituted.

Four girls sat up all night, and once every hour turned out to crank up
the cars, run them with bonnet covers on till they were thoroughly warm,
and then tuck them up again till the next time. We had from four to five
cars each, and it will give some idea of the extreme cold to say that
when we came to crank them again, in roughly three-quarters of an hour's
time, they were _almost_ cold. The noise must have been heard for some
distance when the whole Convoy was roaring and racing at once like a
small inferno. But in spite of this, I know that when it was not our
turn to sit up we others never woke.

As soon as the cars were tucked up and silent again we raced back to the
cook-house, where we threw ourselves into deck chairs, played the
gramophone, made coffee to keep us awake, or read frightening books--I
remember I read "Bella Donna" on one of these occasions and wouldn't
have gone across the camp alone if you'd paid me. A grand midnight
supper also took up a certain amount of time.

That three-quarters of an hour positively flew, and seemed more like ten
minutes, but punctually at the second we had to turn out again,
willy-nilly--into that biting cold with the moon shining frostily over
everything apparently turning it into steel.

The trouble was that as the frost continued water became scarce--baths
had stopped long ago--and it began to be a question of getting even a
basinful to wash in. Face creams were extensively applied as the only
means of saving what little complexions we had left! The streets of the
town were in a terrible condition owing principally to the hygienic
customs of the inhabitants who _would_ throw everything out of their
front doors or windows. The consequence was that, without exaggeration,
the ice in some places was two feet thick, and every day fresh layers
were formed as the French housewives threw out more water. No one
remained standing in a perpendicular position for long, and the
difficulty was, once down, how to get up again.

Finally water became so scarce we had to bring huge cans in a lorry from
the M.T., one of the few places not frozen out, and there was usually
ice on them when they arrived in camp. Then the water even began to
freeze as we filled up our radiators; and, finally, we were reduced to
chopping up the ice in our tank and melting it for breakfast! One
morning, however, Bridget came to me in great distress. "What on earth
shall I do," said she, "I've finished all the ice, and there's not a bit
left to make the tea for breakfast? I know you'll think of something,"
she added hopefully.

I had been on night guard and the idea of no hot tea was a positive
calamity.

I thought for some minutes. "Here, give me the jug," I said, and out I
went. After looking carefully round to see that I was not observed, I
quietly tapped one of the radiators.

"I'll tell you after breakfast where it came from," I said, as I
returned with the full jug. Bridget seized it joyfully and must have
been a bit suspicious as it was still warm, but she was much too wise to
ask any questions.

We had a cheery breakfast, and when it was over I called out, "I hope
you all feel very much better and otherwise radiating? You ought to at
all events!"

"Why?" they asked curiously. "Well, you've just drunk tea made out of
'radium,'" I replied. "Absolutely priceless stuff, known to a few of the
first families by its original name of 'radiator water,'" and I escaped
with speed to the fastnesses of my hut.


THE STORY OF A PERFECT DAY

     (_From "Barrack Room Ballads of the F.A.N.Y. Corps,"
     By kind permission of Winifred Mordaunt, F.A.N.Y._)

     We were smoking and absently humming
     To anyone there who could play--
     (We'd finished our tea in the Mess hut
     Awaiting an ambulance train--)
     Roasting chestnuts some were, while the rest,
     Cut up toffee or sang a refrain.
     Outside was a bitter wind shrieking--
     (Thank God for a fug in the Mess!)
     Never mind if the old stove is reeking
     If only the cold's a bit less--
     But one of them starts and then shivers
     (A goose walking over her tomb)
     Gazes out at the rain running rivers
     And says to the group in the room:
     "Just supposing the 'God of Surprises'
     Appeared in the glow of a coal,
     With a promise before he demises
     To take us away from this hole
     And do just whatever we long to do.
     Tell me your perfect day."
     Said one, "Why, to fly to an island
     Far away in a deep blue lagoon;
     One would never be tired in my land
     Nor ever get up too soon."
     "Every time," cried the girl darning stockings,
     "We'd surf-ride and bathe in the sea,
     We'd wear nothing but little blue smockings
     And eat mangoes and crabs for our tea."
     "Oh no!" said a third, "that's a rotten
     Idea of a perfect day;
     I long to see mountains forgotten,
     Once more hear the bells of a sleigh.
     I'd give all I have in hard money
     For one day of ski-ing again,
     And to see those white mountains all sunny
     Would pretty well drive me insane."
     Then a girl, as she flicked cigarette ash
     Most carelessly on to the floor,
     Had a feeling just then that her pet "pash"
     Would be a nice car at the door,
     To motor all day without fagging--
     Not to drive nor to start up the thing.
     Oh! the joy to see someone else dragging
     A tow-rope or greasing a spring!
     Then a fifth murmured, "What about fishing?
     Fern and heather right up to your knees
     And a big salmon rushing and swishing
     'Mid the smell of the red rowan trees."
     So the train of opinions drifted
     And thicker the atmosphere grew,
     Till piercing the voices uplifted
     Rang a sound I was sure I once knew.
     A sound that set all my nerves singing
     And ran down the length of my spine,
     A great pack of hounds as they're flinging
     Themselves on a new red-hot line!
     A bit of God's country is stretching
     As far as the hawk's eye can see,
     The bushes are leafless, like etching,
     As all good dream fences should be.
     There isn't a bitter wind blowing
     But a soft little southerly breeze,
     And instead of the grey channel flowing
     A covert of scrub and young trees.
     The field of course is just dozens
     Of people I want to meet so--
     Old friends, to say nothing of cousins
     Who've been killed in the war months ago.
     Three F.A.N.Y.s are riding like fairies
     Having drifted right into my dreams,
     And they're riding their favourite "hairies"
     That have been dead for years, so it seems.
     A ditch that I've funked with precision
     For seasons, and passed by in fear,
     I now leap with a perfect decision
     That never has marked my career.
     For a dream-horse has never yet stumbled;
     Far away hounds don't know how to flag.
     A dream-fence would melt ere it crumbled,
     And the dream-scent's as strong as a drag.
     Of course the whole field I have pounded
     Lepping high five-barred gates by the score,
     And I don't seem the least bit astounded,
     Though I never have done it before!
     At last a glad chorus of yelling,
     Proclaims my dream-fox has been viewed--
     But somewhere some stove smoke is smelling
     Which accounts for my feeling half stewed--
     And somewhere the F.A.N.Y.s are talking
     And somebody shouts through the din:
     "What a horrible habit of snoring--
     Hit her hard--wake her up--the train's in."



CHAPTER XV

CONVOY PETS, COMMANDEERING, AND THE "FANTASTIKS"


We took turns to go out on "all-night duty"; a different thing from
night guards, and meant taking any calls that came through after 9 p.m.
and before 8 a.m. next morning.

They were usually from outlying camps for men who had been taken ill or
else for stranded Army Sisters arriving at the Gare about 3 a.m. waiting
to be taken to their billets.

It was comparatively cheery to be on this job when night guards were in
progress, as there were four hefty F.A.N.Y.s sitting up in the
cook-house, your car warm and easy to crank, and, joy of joys, a hot
drink for you when you came back!

In the ordinary way as one scrambled into warm sweaters and top coats
the dominant thought was, would the car start all right out there, with
not a hand to give a final fillip once the "getting loose" process was
accomplished?

Luckily my turns came round twice during night guards, and the last time
I had to go for a pneumonia case to Beau Marais. It was a bright
moonlight night, almost as light as day, with everything glittering in
the frozen snow. Susan fairly hopped it! After having found the case,
which took some doing, and deposited him in No. 30 hospital, I sped back
to camp.

As I crossed the Place d'Armes and drove up the narrow Rue de la Mer,
Susan seemed to take a sudden header and almost threw a somersault! I
had gone into an invisible hole in the ice, two feet deep, extending
half across the street. For some reason it had melted (due probably to
an underground bakery in the vicinity). I reversed anxiously and then
hopped out to feel Susan's springs as one might a horse's knees. Thank
goodness they had not snapped, so backing all the way down the street
again, relying on the moon for light, I proceeded cautiously by another
route and got back without further mishap.

Our menagerie was gradually increasing. There were now three dogs and
two cats in camp, not to mention a magpie and two canaries, more of
which anon. There was Wuzzy, of course, and Archie (a naughty looking
little Sealyham belonging to Heasy) and a mongrel known as G.K.W. (God
knows what) that ran in front of a visiting Red Cross touring car one
day and found itself in the position of the young lady of Norway, who
sat herself down in the doorway! I did not witness the untimely end, but
I believe it was all over in a minute.

One cat belonged to Eva, a plain-looking animal, black with a half-white
face, christened "Miss Dip" (an inspiration on my part suggested by the
donor's name, on the "Happy Family" principle). She was the apple of her
eye, nevertheless, and nightly Eva could be heard calling "Dip, Dip,
Dip," all over the camp to fetch her to bed. Incidentally it became
quite an Angelus for us.

Considering the way she hunted all the meat shops for tit bits, that cat
ought to have been a show animal--but it wasn't. One day as our fairy
Lowson was lightly jumping from a window-sill she inadvertently "came in
contact" with Dip's tail, the extreme tip of which was severed in
consequence! In wrathful indignation Eva rushed Dip down to the Casino
in an ambulance, where one of the foremost surgeons of the day operated
with skill and speed and made a neat job of it, to the entire
satisfaction of all concerned. If her tail still remains square at the
end she can tell her children she was _blessée dans la guerre_. The
other cat was a tortoiseshell and appropriately called "Melisande in the
Wood," justified by the extraordinary circumstances in which she was
discovered. One day at No. 35 hut hospital I saw three of the men
hunting in a bank opposite, covered with undergrowth and small shrubs.
They told me that for the past three days a kitten had been heard
mewing, but in spite of all their efforts to find it, they had failed to
do so. I listened, and sure enough heard a plaintive mew. The place was
a network of clinging roots, but presently I crawled in and found it was
just possible to get along on hands and knees. It was most
mysterious--the kitten could be heard quite loud one minute, and when
we got to the exact spot it would be some distance away again. (It
reminded me of the Dutch ventriloquist's trick in Lamarck). It was such
a plaintive mew I was determined to find that kitten if I stayed there
all night. At last it dawned on me, it must be in a rabbit hole; and
sure enough after pushing and pulling my way along to the top of the
bank, I found one over which a fall of earth had successfully pushed
some wire netting from the fence above. I waited patiently, and in due
time caught sight of a little black, yellow, and white kitten; but the
minute I made a grab for it, it bolted. I pulled the netting away, but
the hole was much too deep for so small a creature to get out by itself,
and it was much too frightened to let me catch it. With great difficulty
I extricated myself and ran to the cookhouse, where I soon enlisted
Bridget's aid. We got some small pieces of soft raw meat and crawled to
the top of the bank again. After long and tedious coaxing I at last
grabbed the little thing spitting furiously while Bridget gave it some
food, and in return for my trouble it bit and scratched like a young
devil! It was terribly hungry and bolted all we had brought. When we got
her to the cook-house she ran round the place like a mad thing, and
turned out to be rather a fast cat altogether when she grew up. We
tossed for her, Bridget won, and she was duly christened with a drop of
tinned milk on her forehead, "Melisande in the Wood."

The magpie belonged to Russell, and came from Peuplinghe. Magpies are
supposed to be unlucky birds. This one certainly brought no luck to its
different owners. Shortly after its arrival Russell was obliged to
return to England for good. Before going, however, she presented Jacques
to Captain White at Val de Lièvre. Sure enough after some time he was
posted to the Boche prisoner camp at Marquise--a job he did not relish
at all. I don't know if he took Jacques with him, but the place was
bombed shortly after and the Huns killed many of their own men, and
presumably Jacques as well. So he did his bit for France.

The canaries belonged to Renny--at least at first she had only one. It
happened in this wise. The man at the disinfector (where we took our
cars and blankets to be syringed after an infectious case), had had a
canary given him by his "best girl" (French). He did not want a canary
and had nowhere to keep it, but, as he explained, he did not know enough
of the language to say so, and thought the easiest way out of the
difficulty was to accept it. "Give me the bird, proper, she 'as," he
added.

The trouble was he did not reckon on her asking after it, which she most
surely did. He could hardly confess to her that he had passed the
present on so instead he conveyed the news to her, somehow, that the
"pore little bird had gone and died on 'im." She expressed her horror
and forthwith produced a second!

"Soon 'ave a bloomin' aviary at this rate," he remarked as he handed
the second one over! No more appeared, however, and the two little
birds, both presumably dead, twittered and sang merrily the length of
the "cues."

As the better weather arrived so our work increased again, and in March
the Germans began a retreat in the west along a front of 100 miles. We
worked early and late and reached the point of being able to drive
almost asleep. An extraordinary sensation--you avoid holes, you slip the
clutch over bumps, you stop when necessary, and go on ditto, and at the
same time you can be having dreams! More a state of coma than actual
sleep, perhaps. I think what happened was one probably slept for a
minute and then woke up again to go off once more.

I became "Wuzzy's" adopted mother about now and, whenever I had time,
combed and brushed his silver curls till they stood out like fluff. He
could spot Susan miles away, and though it was against rules I sometimes
took him on board. As we neared camp I told him he must get down, but he
would put on an obstinate expression and deliberately push himself
behind my back, in between me and the canvas, so that I was almost on
the steering wheel. At other times he would listen to me for awhile,
take it all in, and then put his head on my shoulder with such an
appealing gesture that I used to risk being spotted, and let him remain.
He simply adored coming out if I was going riding, but I disliked having
him intensely, for he ran about under the horses, nibbling at them and
making himself a general nuisance. He would watch me through half shut
eyes the minute I began polishing my riding boots; and try as I would to
evade him he nearly always came in the end.

He got so crafty in time he would wait for me at the bottom of the drive
and dash out from among the shrubs just as I was vanishing. One day we
had trotted some distance along the Sangatte road, and I was just
congratulating myself I had given him the slip, when looking up, there
he was sitting on a grassy knoll just ahead, positively laughing and
licking his chops with self-satisfied glee. I gave it up after that, I
felt I couldn't cope with him, and yet there were those who called him
stupid! I grant you he had his bad days when he was referred to as my
"idiot son," but even then he was only just "peculiar"--a world of
difference.

One job we had was termed "lodgers" and consisted of meeting the
"sitting" cases from an ambulance train, taking them to the different
hospitals for the night, and then back to the quay early next morning in
time to catch the hospital ship to England. The stretcher cases had been
put on board the night before, but there was no sleeping accommodation
for so many "sitters." An ordinary evacuation often took place as well,
so that before breakfast we had sometimes carried as many as thirty-five
sitting cases, and done journeys with twelve stretchers. One day at No.
30 hospital I saw several of the girls beside a stretcher, and there was
the "Bovril king" lying swathed in blankets, chatting affably! He was
the cook at No. 30, a genial soul, who always rushed out in the early
hours of the morning when one was feeling emptiest, with a cup of hot
soup. He called it doing his bit, and always referred to himself proudly
as the "Bovril king." Alas, he was now being invalided home with
bronchitis!

Hope came back from leave and told me she had been pursued half way down
Regent Street by a fat old taxi driver who asked after me. It was dear
old Stone, of course, now returned to civil life and his smart taxi with
the silver "vauses!" I have hunted the stands in vain for his smiling
rosy face, but hope to spot him some day and have my three days' joy
ride.

One precious whole afternoon off, a very rare event, I went out for a
ride with Captain D. He rode "Baby," a little bay mare, and I rode a
grey, a darling, with perfect manners and the "sweetest" mouth in the
world. He was devoted to "Baby," and wherever she went he went too, as
surely as Mary's little lamb.

We struck off the road on to some grass and after cantering along for
some distance found we were in a network of small canals--the ground was
very spongy and the canal ahead of us fortunately not as wide as the
rest. We got over safely, landing in deep mud on the other side, and
decided our best plan was to make for the road again. We espied a house
at the end of the strip we were in with a road beyond, and agreed that
there must be a bridge or something leading to it. Captain D. went off
at a canter and I saw Baby break into a startled gallop as a train
steamed up on the line beyond the road. They disappeared behind the
house and I followed on at a canter. I turned the corner just in time to
see them almost wholly immersed in a wide canal and the gallant Captain
crawling over Baby's head on to the bank! It was one of those deceptive
spots where half the water was overgrown with thick weeds and cress,
making the place appear as narrow again.

The grey was of course hot on Baby's track. Seeing her plight I
naturally pulled up, but he resented this strongly and rose straight on
his hind legs. Fearing he would over-balance, I quickly slacked the
reins and leant forward on his neck. But it was too late; that slippery
mud was no place to try and regain a foothold, and over he came. I just
had time to slip off sideways, promptly lost my foothold and collapsed
as well. How I laughed! There was Captain D. on one side of the canal
vainly trying to capture his "wee red tourie" floating down stream, and
Baby standing by with the mud dripping from her once glossy flanks; and
on the other was I, sitting laughing helplessly in the mud, and the grey
(now almost brown) softly nosing my cap and eyeing his beloved on the
further bank with pained surprise!

To crown all, the train, which had come to a standstill, was by the
irony of fate full of Scottish soldiers on their way up the line. Such a
bit of luck in the shape of a free cinema show had rarely come their
way and they were bent on enjoying it to the fullest extent. The fact
that the officer now standing ruefully on the bank was in Tartan riding
"troos" of course added to the piquancy of the situation.

The woman had come out of her cottage by this time and kept exclaiming
at intervals, "Oh, la-la, Oh, la-la," probably imagining that this
mudbath was only a new pastime of the mad English. She at last was kind
enough to open the gate; and thither I led the grey and then across a
plank bridge beyond, previously hidden from sight.

We scraped the mud off the saddles under a running fire of witty
comments from the train. I knew the whole thing had given them so much
enjoyment that I bore them no illwill. I could see their point of view
so well, it must have been such fun to watch! "Hoots, mon," they called
to the now thoroughly embarrassed D., as we mounted, "are ye no going to
lift the lassie oop?" I was glad we were "oop" and away before the train
started again, and as we trotted along the road, cries of "Guid luck to
ye!" "May ye have a happy death!" (which is a regular north-country
wish, and a very nice one when you come to think of it), followed us.
The batman eyed us suspiciously as we reached Fontinettes where he was
waiting for the horses, and remarked that they seemed to have had a "bit
roll." My topcoat I'm glad to say covered all traces of the "bit roll" I
had indulged in on my own. It was a great ride entirely.

One night for some reason I was unable to sleep--a rare occurrence--and
bethought me of an exciting spy book, called the _German Submarine
Base_, I had begun weeks before but had had no time to finish. All was
dead quiet with the exception of the distant steady boom of the guns,
which one of course hardly noticed. I had just got to the most thrilling
part and was holding my breath from sheer excitement when whiz! sob!
bang! and a shell went spinning over the huts. For a moment I thought I
must be dreaming or that the book was bewitched. Next minute I was out
of bed like a rabbit, and turning off the light, dashed outside just as
the second went over. I naturally looked skyward, but there was not a
sign of anything and, stranger still, not even the throb of an engine. A
third went over with a loud screech, and my hair was blown into the air
by the rushing wind it caused. I saw a flash from the sea and Thompson
said she was wakened by my voice calling, "I say, come out and see this
new stunt." Soon everyone was up and the shells came on steadily,
blowing our hair about, and making the very pebbles rush rattling along
the ground, hitting against our feet with such force we thought at first
it must be spent shrapnel. Some of those shells screeched and some
miauled like huge cats hurtling through the air to spring on their prey.
These latter made a cold shiver run down my spine; the noise they made
was so blood-curdling. One could cope with the ordinary ones, but
frankly, these were beastly. Luckily they only went over about every
tenth. It was something quite new getting shells of this calibre from
such a short range, and "side-ways," too, as someone expressed it; quite
a different sensation from on top. The noise was deafening; and then one
struck the bank our camp was built on. We had no dug-out and seemingly
were just waiting to be potted at. We got the cars ready in case we were
called up, and the shells whizzed over all the time. There was another
explosion--one had landed in our incinerator! Good business! Another hit
the bank again! Once more the fact of being so near the danger proved
our safety, for with these three exceptions, they all passed over into
the town beyond. The smell of powder in the air was so strong it made us
sneeze. It was estimated roughly that 300 shells were lobbed into the
town, and all passing over us on the way.

It was a German destroyer that had somehow got down the coast
unchallenged, and was--we heard afterwards--only at a distance of 100
yards! What a chance for good shooting on our part; but it was a pitch
black night and somehow she got away in the velvet darkness. Sounds of
firing at sea--easily distinguishable from those on land because of the
"plop" after them--continued throughout the night and we thought a naval
battle was in progress somewhere; however, it proved to be one of the
bombardments of England, according to the papers next day. To our great
disappointment, our little "drop in the bucket" of 300 odd shells was
not even mentioned.

There was much eager scratching in the bank for bits of shells the next
day. One big piece was made into a paper-weight by the old Scotch
carpenter, and another was put on the "narrow escape" shelf among the
other bits that had "nearly, but not quite!"

Wild rumours had got round the camps and town that the "lady drivers had
got it proper," been "completely wiped out," in fact not one left alive
to tell the lurid tale. So that wherever we drove the next morning we
were greeted with cheery nods and smiles by everyone. The damage to the
town was considerable, but the loss of life singularly small. The Detail
Issue Stores had gone so far as to exchange bets as to whether we would
appear to draw rations that morning, and as I drove up with Bridget on
the box we were greeted right royally. One often found large oranges in
one's tool box, or a bag of nuts, or something of the kind, popped in by
a kindly Tommy who would pass the car and merely say: "Don't forget to
look in your tool-box when you get to camp, Miss," and be gone before
you could even thank him! All the choicest "cuts" were also reserved for
us by the butcher and we were altogether spoilt pretty generally.

Tommy is certainly a nailer at what he terms "commandeering." I was down
at the M.T. yard one day and as I left, was told casually to look in the
box when I got to camp. I did so, and to my horror saw a wonderful foot
pump--the pneumatic sort. I had visions of being hauled up before a
Court of Enquiry to produce the said pump, which was a brand new one and
painted bright red. On my next job I made a point of going round by the
M.T. yard to return the "present." I found my obliging friend, who was
pained in the extreme at the mere mention of a pump. "Never 'eard of
one," he affirmed stoutly. "Leastways," he said reminiscently, looking
at me out of the corner of his eye, "I do seem to remember something
about a stawf car bein' in 'ere this morning when yours was"--and he
smiled disarmingly. "Look 'ere," he continued, "you forget all about it,
Miss. I 'ates to see yer puffing at the tyres with them old-fashioned
ones, and anyway," with a grin, "that car's in Abbeville now!"

Another little example of similar "commandeering" was when my friend of
the chopped sticks turned up one day with a small Primus stove: "I 'eard
you was askin' for one, and 'ere it is," and with that he put it down
and fled. After the pump episode I was full of suspicions about little
things that "turned up" from nowhere, but for a long time I had no
opportunity of asking him exactly where the gift had come from. One
night, however, one of the doctors from the adjacent hut hospital was up
in camp, and Primus stoves suddenly cropped up in the conversation.
"Most extraordinary thing," said he, "my batman is as honest as the day,
and can't account for the disappearance of my stove at all. No one went
into my hut, he declares, and yet the stove is gone, and not so much as
a sign of it. One thing is I'd know it if I saw it again." I started
guiltily at this, and got rather pink--"Look here," I said, "come into
my hut a moment." He did so. "By Jove! that's my stove right enough," he
cried, "I know the scratches on it. How on earth did you get it?" "That
I can't tell you," I replied, "but you can have it back" (graciously),
"and look here, it wasn't _your_ batman, so rest easy." He was too wise
to ask unnecessary questions (one didn't in France), and only too
thankful to get his Primus, which he joyfully carried back in state. It
was a pity about it, because they were impossible to get at that time,
and our huts had already been raided for electric kettles.

Gothas came frequently to visit us at night and terrible scenes took
place, during which we were ordered out amid the dropping bombs to carry
the injured to hospital, but more often than not to collect the dead, or
what was left of them.

One morning I was in great distress, for I lost my purse through the
lining of my wolf-coat. It was not the loss of the purse that worried
me, but the fact that I always kept the little medal of the Virgin and
Child in there, given me by the old Scotch nun in Paris "for
protection." "Eva," I called, "I've lost my luck--that little charm I
had given me in 1915--I do wish I hadn't. I'm not superstitious in the
ordinary way, but I kind of believe in that thing;" she only laughed
however. But I took the trouble to advertise for it in the local
paper--unfortunately with no result. I was very distressed.

Our concert party got really quite a slap-up show going about this time.
We also had a drop scene behind--a huge white linen sheet on which we
_appliquéd_ big black butterflies fluttering down to a large sunflower
in the corner, the petals of which were the same yellow as the bobbles
on our dresses. We came to the conclusion that something of the sort was
necessary, for as often as not we had to perform in front of
puce-coloured curtains that hardly showed us up to the best advantage.

One of the best shows we ever gave I think was for the M.T. _dépôt_.
They did so much for us one way and another repairing cars (not to
mention details like the foot pump episode), that we were only too glad
to do something for them in return. The _pièce de résistance_ (at least,
Dicky and I thought so) was a skit we got up on one of "Lena's" concert
party stars--a ventriloquist stunt. We thought of it quite suddenly and
only had time for one rehearsal before the actual performance. I paid a
visit to Corporal Coy of the mortuary (one of the local low comedians,
who, like the coffin-cart man at Lamarck, "had a merry eye!" and was a
recognized past-master in the art of make-up), and borrowed his little
bowler hat for the occasion. He listened solemnly to the scheme, and
insisted on making me a fascinating little Charlie Chaplin moustache
(the requisites for which he kept somewhere in the mortuary with the
rest of his disguises!) and he then taught me to waggle it with great
skill!

Dicky was the "doll" with round shiny patches of red on her cheeks and a
Tommy's cap and hospital blue coat. She supplied the glassy stare
herself most successfully. For these character stunts we simply put on
caps and coats over our "Fantastik" kit and left the rest to the
imagination of the audience who was quick (none quicker) to grasp the
implied suggestion. I was "Mr. Lenard Ashwell" in aforementioned bowler,
moustache, and coat. We made up the dialogue partly on the basis of the
original performance, and added a lot of local colour. I asked the
questions, and was of course supposed to ventriloquize the answers, and,
thanks to the glassy stare of my doll, her replies almost convinced the
audience I was doing so.

They had all seen the real thing a fortnight before, so that we were
greeted with shouts of laughter as the curtain went up.

The trouble was, as we had only written the book of words that day it
was rather hard for me to remember them, so I had taken the precaution
of safety-pinning them on my doll's back. It was all right for her as
she got the cue from me. It was not difficult, half supporting her as I
appeared to be, to squint behind occasionally for the next jest! On one
of these occasions my incorrigible doll horrified me by winking at the
audience and exclaiming, to their delight, "The bloke's got all the
words on my back!" She then revolved out of my grasp, and spun slowly
round on her stool. This unrehearsed effect quite brought the house
down, and not to be outdone, I raised my small bowler repeatedly in
acknowledgment!

I was a little taken aback the next morning when the man at the petrol
stores said, "My, but you wos a fair treat as Charlie Chaplin last
night, Miss." (It must have been Corporal Coy's moustache that did it,
not to mention lifting my bowler from the rear!)

The more local colour you get in a show of that sort the better the men
like it, and we parodied all the latest songs as fast as they came out.
Winnie and "Squig" in Unity More's "_Clock strikes Thirteen_" were
extremely popular, especially when they sang with reference to cranking
up in the mornings:

     Wind, wind. _Oh_ what a grind!
       I could weep, I could swear, I could scream,
     Both my arms ache, and my back seems to break
       But she'll go when the clock strikes thirteen.


     Oh, oh (with joy), at last she will go!
     There's a spark from the bloomin' machine,
     She's going like fire, when bang goes a tyre
     And we'll start when the clock strikes thirteen!

The whole programme was as follows:--

   1. The FANTASTIKS announce their shortcomings in
   chorus of original words to the opening music of the Bing
   Boys--"We're the FANTASTIKS, and we rise at six and
   don't get much time to rehearse, so if songs don't go, and
   the show is slow, well, we hope you'll say it might have
   been worse," etc., etc.

   2. _Violin_  1. "Andantino" (Kreisler) }
                                          } P.B. WADDELL
                2. "Capriccioso" (Drdla)  }
   3. _Recitation_      Humorous            N.F. LOWSON
   4. _Chorus Song_   "Piccadilly"                 FANTASTIKS (in monocles)
   5. _Stories_                                    M. RICHARDSON
   6. _China Town_                                 FANTASTIKS
      (Sung in the dark with lighted Chinese lanterns, quite
        professional in effect--at least we hoped so!)
   7. _Recitation_        Serious                  B. HUTCHINSON
   8. Mr. Lenard Ashwell and his }                    { M. RICHARDSON
        Ventriloquist Doll       }                    { P.B. WADDELL
   9. _Duet_   "When the Clock strikes Thirteen"   G. QUIN AND
                                                        W. MORDAUNT
   10. _Violin Solo_  "Zigeunerweisen" (Sarasate)  P.B. WADDELL
   11. _Song_         "Au Revoir"                  W. MORDAUNT
   12. _The Kangaroo Hop_                          FANTASTIKS

The chorus wore their goat-coats for this last item, and with animal
masks fixed by elastic, bears, wolves, elephants, etc., it was
distinctly realistic.

When "God save the King" had been sung, and the usual thanks and cheers
given, and received, the Sergeant-Major from the Canteen (with the
beautiful waxed moustache) rushed forward to say that light refreshments
had been provided. The "grizzly bears" were only too thankful, as they
had had no time to snatch even a bun before they left camp.



CHAPTER XVI

THE LAST RIDE


The hardest job in the Convoy was admittedly that of the big lorry, for,
early and late, it was first and last on the field.

It took all the stretchers and blankets to the different hospitals,
cleared up the quay after an early evacuation, brought stretchers and
blankets up to the Convoy, took the officers' kits to hospital and
boats, and rationed the ambulance trains and barges. "Jimmy" took to the
Vulcan instinctively when the Convoy was first started and jealously
kept to the job, but after a time she was forcibly removed therefrom in
order to take a rest. I could sympathize--I knew how I had felt about
the little lorry.

The job was to be taken in fortnightly turns, and while the old Vulcan
lorry was being overhauled a Wyllis-Overland was sent in its place.

The disadvantage of the lorry was that you never saw any of your
friends, for you were always on duty when they were off, and vice versa;
also you hardly ever had meals when they did. Eva's fortnight was almost
up, and I was hoping to see something of her before I went on leave when
one night in she came with the news that I was the next one for
it--hardly a welcome surprise; and down at barges that evening--it was a
Sunday--Gamwell, the Sergeant, told me officially I was to take on the
job next morning at 5 a.m.

When I got back to Camp I went for a preliminary run on it, as I had
never driven that make before. The tyres were solid, all vestige of
springs had long since departed from the seat and the roof was covered
with tin that bent and rattled like stage thunder. The gears were in the
middle and very worn, and the lever never lost an opportunity of
slipping into first as you got out, and consequently the lorry tried to
run over you when you cranked up! Altogether a charming car. You drove
along like a travelling thunder-clap, and coming up the slope into Camp
the earth fairly shook beneath you. I used to feel like the whole of
Valhalla arriving in a Wagner Opera! It was also quite impossible to
hear what anyone said sitting on the seat beside you.

The third day, as I got out, I felt all my bones over carefully. "When I
come off this job," I called to Johnson, "I shall certainly swallow a
bottle of gum as a wise precaution." He grinned appreciatively.

Lowson, who had had her turn before Eva, appropriately christened it
"Little Willie," and I can affirm that that car had a Hun soul.

You were up and dressed at 5 a.m. and waited about camp till the
telephone bell rang to say the train had arrived. Schofield, the
incinerator man who was usually in the camp at that hour, never failed
to make a cup of tea--a most welcome thing, for one never got back to
camp to have breakfast till 11 or 11.30 a.m. I used to spend the
interval, after "Little Willie" was all prepared for the road, combing
out Wuzzy's silver curls. He always accompanied the lorry and was
allowed to sit, or rather jolt, on the seat beside me, unrebuked. After
breakfast there was the quay to clear up and all the many other details
to attend to, getting back to camp about 3 to go off in an hour's time
to barges. When a Fontinettes ambulance train came down, the lorry
driver was lucky if she got to bed this side of 2 a.m.

All social engagements in the way of rides, etc., had to be cancelled in
consequence, but the Monday before I went into hospital the grey and
Baby appeared up in camp about 5.30. I was hanging about waiting for the
telephone to say the barge had arrived, but as there was a high wind
blowing it was considered very unlikely it would come down the canal
that evening. I 'phoned to a station several miles up to enquire if it
was in sight, and the reply came back "Not a sign," and I accordingly
got permission to go out for half an hour. I was so afraid Captain D.
might not consider it worth while and could have almost wept, but
fortunately he agreed half an hour was better than nothing, and off we
went up the sands, leaving the bob-tailed Wuzzy well in the rear. What a
glorious gallop that was--my last ride! The sands appeared almost
golden in the sun and the wind was whipping the deep blue waves into
little crests of foam against the paler turquoise of the sky. Already
the flowers on the dunes had burst into leaf, for it was the "merrie
month of May," and there, away on the horizon, the white cliffs of
England could just be discerned. Altogether it was good to be alive.
"Hurrah," I cried, as we slowed down to a walk, "five more days and then
on leave to England!" and I rubbed the grey's neck with joy. Alas! that
half hour flew like ten minutes and we turned all too soon and raced
back, thudding along over the glorious sands as we went.

I got to the Convoy to find there was no news of the barge, but I had to
dismount all the same--duty is duty--and I kissed the grey's nose,
little thinking I should never see him again. The barge did not come
down till 9 o'clock the next morning. _C'est la guerre_--and a _very_
trying one to boot!

The weather was ideal just then: warm and sunny and not a cloud in the
sky except for those little round white puffs where the Archie shells
burst round the visiting Huns.

One afternoon about 5 o'clock, when breakfast had been at lunch time and
consequently that latter meal had been _n'apoo'd_ altogether, I went
into the E.M.O.'s for the chits before leaving for camp. (These initials
stood for "Embarkation Medical Officer" and always designated the office
and shed where the blankets and stretchers were kept; also,
incidentally, the place where the Corporal and two men slept.) As I
entered a most appetising odour greeted my nostrils and I suddenly
realized how very hungry I was. I sniffed the air and wondered what it
could be.

"Just goin' to have a cockle tea," explained the Corporal. "I suppose,
Miss, you wouldn't care to join us?" I knew the brew at the Convoy would
be long since cold, and accepted the invitation joyfully.

Their "dining-room" was but the shed where the stretchers were piled up,
many of them brown and discoloured by blood, and bundles of fusty army
blankets, used as coverings for the wounded, reached almost to the
ceiling. They were like the stretchers in some cases, and always sticky
to the touch. I could not repress a shudder as I turned away to the much
more welcome sight of tea. A newspaper was spread on the rough table in
my honour and Wheatley was despatched "at the double" to find the only
saucer! (Those who knew the good Wheatley will perhaps fail to imagine
he could attain such a speed--dear Wheatley, with his long spindle legs
and quaint serio-comic face. He was a man of few words and a heart of
gold.)

I look back on that "cockle tea" as one of my happiest memories. It was
so jolly and we were all so gay and full of hope, for things were going
well up the line.

I had never tasted cockles before and thought they were priceless. We
discussed all manner of things during tea and I learnt a lot about their
aspirations for _après la guerre_. It was singular to think that within
a short month, of that happy party Headley the Corporal alone remained
sound and whole. One was killed by a shell falling on the E.M.O. One was
in hospital crippled for life, and the third was brought in while I was
there and died shortly after from septic pneumonia. Little did we think
what was in store as we drank tea so merrily!

Wheatley insisted on putting a bass bag full of cockles into the lorry
before I left, and when I got to camp I ran to the cook-house thinking
how they would welcome a variation for supper.

"Cockles?" asked Bridget. "Humph, I suppose you know they grow on sewers
and people who eat them die of ptomaine poisoning?" "No," I said, not at
all crestfallen, "do they really, well I've just eaten a whole bag full!
If they give me a military funeral I do hope you'll come," and I
departed, feeling rather hurt, to issue further invitations.

I was drawing petrol at the Stores the next day and as I was signing for
it the man there (my Charlie Chaplin friend) kindly began to crank up.

As he did so I saw Little Willie move gently forward, and ran out to
slip the gear back into "neutral."

"It's a Hun and called 'Little Willie,'" I explained as I did so.

"Crikey, wot a car," he observed, "no wonder you calls it that. Don't
you let him put it acrosst you, Miss."

"He's only four more days to do it in," I thought joyfully, as I rattled
off to the Quay, and yet somehow a premonition of some evil thing about
to happen hung over me, and again I wished I hadn't lost my charm.

The next day was Wednesday, and I had been up since 5 and was taking a
lorry-full of stretchers and blankets past a French Battery to the
E.M.O.'s. It was about midday and there was not a cloud in the sky. Then
suddenly my heart stood still. Somehow, instinctively, I knew I was "for
it" at last. Whole eternities seemed to elapse before the crash. There
was no escape. Could I urge Little Willie on? I knew it was hopeless;
even as I did so he bucketed and failed to respond. He would! How I
longed for Susan, who could always be relied upon to sprint forward. At
last the crash came. I felt myself being hurled from the car into the
air, to fall and be swept along for some distance, my face being
literally rubbed in the ground. I remember my rage at this, and even in
that extreme moment managed to seize my nose in the hope that it at
least might not be broken! Presently I was left lying in a crumpled heap
on the ground. My first thought, oddly enough, was for the car, which I
saw standing sulkily and somewhat battered not far off. "There _will_ be
a row," I thought. The stretcher bearer in behind had been killed
instantaneously, but fortunately I did not know of this till some time
later, nor did I even know he had jumped in behind. The car rattled to
such an extent I had not heard the answer to my query, if anyone was
coming with me to unload the stretchers.

I tried to move and found it impossible. "What a mess I'm in," was my
next thought, "and how my legs ache!" I tried to move them too, but it
was no good. "They must both be broken," I concluded. I put my hand to
my head and brought it away all sticky. "That's funny," I thought,
"where can it have come from?" and then I caught sight of my hand. It
was all covered with blood. I began to have a panic that my back might
be injured and I would not be able to ride again. That was all that
really worried me. I had always dreaded anything happening to my back,
somehow.

The French soldiers were down from their Battery in a trice, all great
friends of mine to whom I had often thrown ration cigarettes.

Gaspard (that was not his name, I never knew it, but always called him
that in my own mind after Raymond's hero) gave a cry and was on the
ground beside me, calling me his "little cabbage," his "poor little
pigeon," and presently he half lifted me in his arms and cradled me as
he might a baby. I remained quite conscious the whole time. "Will I be
able to ride again?" kept hammering through my brain. The pain was
becoming rapidly worse and I began to wonder just where my legs were
broken. As I could move neither I could not discover at all, and
presently I gave a gasp as I felt something tighten and hurt terribly.
It was a boot lace they were fixing to stop the hæmorrhage (bootlaces
are used for everything in France). The men stood round, and I watched
them furtively wiping the tears away that rolled down their furrowed
cheeks. One even put his arm over his eyes as a child does. I wondered
vaguely why they were crying; it never dawned on me it had anything to
do with _me_. "Complètement coupée," I heard one say, and quick as a
shot, I asked, "Où est-ce que c'est qu'est coupé?" and those tactful
souls, just rough soldiers, replied without hesitation, "La jaquette,
Mademoiselle."

"Je m'en fiche de la jaquette," I answered, completely reassured.

I wished the ambulance would come soon. "I _am_ in a beastly mess," I
thought again. "Fancy broken legs hurting like this. What must the men
go through!"

It was singular I was so certain they were broken. But a month before I
had received a wire from the War Office stating one of my brothers had
crashed 1,000 feet and had two legs fractured, and without more ado I
took it for granted I was in a similar plight. "I won't sit up and
look," I decided, "or I shall think I'm worse than I am. There's sure to
be some blood about," and the sun beat down fiercely, drying what there
was on my face into hard cakes. My lower lip had also been cut inside
somehow. One man took off his coat and held it high up to form a shade.
I saw everything that happened with a terrible distinctness. They had
already bound up my head, which was cut and bleeding profusely.

The pain was becoming almost intolerable and I wondered if in time I
would cry, but luckily one does not cry on those occasions; it becomes
an impossibility somehow. I even began to wish I could. I asked to have
my legs lifted a little and the pain seemed to ease somewhat. I shall
never forget those Frenchmen. They were perfect. How often I had smiled
at them as I passed, and laughed to see them standing in a ring like
naughty schoolboys, peeling potatoes, their Sergeant walking round to
see that it was done properly!

The little French doctor from the Battery, who had once helped me change
a tyre, came running up and I covered the scratched side of my face lest
he should get too much of a shock. "Je suis joliment dans la soupe," I
said, and saw him go as white as a sheet. "These Frenchmen are very
sympathetic," I thought, for it had dawned on me what they were crying
about by that time.

Just then an ambulance train came down the line and the two English
doctors were fetched. A tourniquet which seemed like a knife, and hurt
terribly, was applied as well as the bootlace. I was also given some
morphia. "This will hurt a little," he said as he pushed in the needle,
which I thought distinctly humorous. As if a prick from a hypodermic
could be anything in comparison with what was going on "down there"
where I hadn't courage to look! His remark had one good effect though,
because I thought: "If he thinks _that_ will hurt there can't be much to
fuss over down there."

Would the ambulance never arrive? I wondered if we were always so
long--which F.A.N.Y. would come? "She's cranked up by now and on the
way, probably as far as the bridge," I thought. I drove all the way down
in my own mind and yet she did not arrive, but they had 'phoned to the
French hospital in the town and not the Convoy. I did not know this till
I saw the French car arrive.

It seemed an age. Gaspard never moved once from his cramped position and
kept saying soothingly from time to time: "Allons, p'tit chou, mon
pauvre petit pigeon, ça viendra tout à l'heure, hé la petite."

At last the ambulance came. I dreaded being lifted, but those soldiers
raised me so tenderly the wrench was not half as bad as I had
anticipated. I had been there just over forty minutes. Then began the
journey in the ambulance. The men gave me a fine salute as I was taken
off and I waved good-bye. One of the Sisters from the train came in the
car with me and also the little French doctor whose hand I hung on to
most of the way, and which incidentally must have been like pulp when we
arrived.

As luck would have it the driver was a new man, and neither the doctor
nor the sister knew the way, so I had to give the directions. The doctor
was all for taking me to the French military hospital, but I asked to
be taken to the Casino.

"So this is what the men go through every day," I thought, as we were
into a hole and out again with a bump and the pain became almost too
much to bear. The doctor swore at the driver, and I took another grip of
his hand. "Bien difficile de ne pas faire ça," I murmured, for I knew he
had really manoeuvred it well. The constant give of the springs
jiggling endlessly up and down, up and down, was as trying as anything.
The trouble was I knew every hole in that road and soon we had to cross
railway lines! The sister, who was a stranger too, began to worry how
she would find her way back to the train, but I assured her once arrived
at the Casino, she only had to walk up to our camp to get a F.A.N.Y.
car. "I hope there won't be many people there when I'm pulled out," I
thought, "I hate being stared at in such a beastly mess," above all I
hated a fuss.

Now we had come to the railway lines. "What would it have been like
without morphia?" I wondered. Of course the drawbridge was up and that
meant at least ten minutes wait till the ships went through. My luck
seemed dead out. At last I heard the familiar clang as it rattled into
place, and we were over.

I dared not close my eyes, as I had a sort of feeling I'd never be able
to open them again. "Only up the slope and then I'm there. If I can't
keep them open till then, I'm done." The pain was getting worse again,
and from what the sister said I gathered something down there had begun
to hæmorrhage once more. Still no thought of the truth ever dawned on
me.

At last we arrived and slowly backed into place. I could not help seeing
the grim humour of the situation; I had driven so many wounded men there
myself. The Colonel, who must have heard, for he was waiting, looked
very white and worried, and Leather, one of the Duchess' drivers,
started visibly as I was pulled out. I was told after that my
complexion, or what could be seen of it, was ashen grey in colour and if
my eyes had not been open they would have thought the worst. I was
carried into the big hall and there my beloved Wuzzy found me. I heard a
little whine and felt a warm tongue licking my face--luckily he had not
been with me that morning.

"Take that ---- dog away, someone," cried the Colonel, who was peevish
in the extreme. "He's not a ---- dog," I protested, and then up came a
Padre who asked gravely, "What are you, my child?" Thinking I was now
fairly unrecognisable by this time with the Frenchman's hanky round my
head, etc., I replied, "A F.A.N.Y., of course!" This completely
scandalized the good Padre. When he had recovered, he said, "No, you
mistake me, what religion I mean?"

"He wants to know what to bury me under," I thought, "what a thoroughly
cheerful soul!" "C. of E.," I replied as per identity disc. He then took
my home address, which seemed an unnecessary fuss, and I was left in
peace. Captain C. was there as well and came over to the stretcher.

"I've broken both legs," I announced, "will I be able to ride again?"

"Of course you will," he said.

"Sure?" I asked.

"Rather," he replied, and I felt comforted.

I was then carried straight through ward I. into the operating theatre.
The men in bed looked rather startled, and Barratt, a man I had driven
and been visiting since, was near the door. What he said is hardly
repeatable. When the British Tommy is much moved he usually becomes
thoroughly profane! I waved to him as I disappeared through the door
into the theatre.

I was speedily undressed. Dicky appeared mysteriously from somewhere and
was a brick. The room seemed to be full of nurses and orderlies and then
I went slipping off into oblivion as the chloroform took effect (my
first dose and at that time very welcome) and at last I was in a land
where pain becomes obliterated in one vast empty space.

       *       *       *       *       *

I woke that afternoon and of course wondered where I was. Everything
seemed to be aching and throbbing at once. I tried to move, but I felt
as if I was clamped to the bed. "This is terrible," I thought, "I must
be having a nightmare." Then I saw the cradle covering my legs. "What
could it be?" I wondered, and then in a flash the scenes of that morning
(or was it a week ago?) came back to me. I wondered if my back was all
right and felt carefully down the side. No, there was no bandage, and I
sighed with relief, though it ached like fury. I could feel the top of
the wooden splints on the one leg but nothing but bandages on the other.

My head had been sewn up, also my lip, and a nice tight bandage replaced
the hanky.

It was thumping wildly and presently an unseen figure gave me something
very cool to sip out of a feeding mug. Things straightened out a bit
after that, and I saw there were quantities of flowers in the room,
jugfuls in fact, which had been sent to cheer me along. Then something
in my leg, the one that was hurting most, gave a fearful tug and a jump
and I drew in my breath with a sobbing gasp. What could it be? It felt
just as if someone had tugged it on purpose, and it took ages to settle
down again. I looked mutely at my nurse for an explanation, and she put
a cool hand on mine.

It was the severed nerve, and I learnt to dread those involuntary jumps
that came so suddenly from nowhere and seized one like a deadly cramp.

Everything, including my back, was one vast ache punctuated by those
appalling nerve jumps that set every other one in my body tingling.

How I longed to turn on my side, but that was a luxury denied me for
weeks.

My friend Eva had heard the cheerful news when she returned from
Boulogne, where she had been all day, and she and Lowson were allowed to
come and see me for a few minutes.

"I've broken both legs," I stated. "Isn't it the limit? They don't half
hurt." They nodded sympathetically, not daring to give me a hint of the
real state of affairs.

"Captain C. says I'll be able to ride again though," I added, and once
more they nodded.

"I told you what would happen when I lost that charm," I said to Eva.

I asked after "Little Willie," and heard his remains had been towed to
camp, though being a Hun he would of course manage to escape somehow!

I had an adorable V.A.D. to look after me. The best I ever want to have.
She seemed to know exactly what I wanted without being told. I felt
almost too tired to speak, and in any case it's not easy with stitches
in your mouth.

The Padre, not my friend of the entrance hall I was glad to note, came
to see me and I had a Communion Service all to myself, as they thought I
might possibly die in the night.

I dreaded the nights as I'd dreaded nothing before in my life; with
darkness everything seemed to become intensified. Whenever I did manage
to snatch a few moments' sleep the dreadful demon that seemed to lurk
somewhere just out of sight would pop up and jerk my leg again. I would
think to myself "Now I will really catch him next time," and I would lie
waiting in readiness, but just as I thought I was safe, jerk! and my leg
would jump worse than ever. I clenched my fists in rage, and the V.A.D.
came from behind the screen to smooth the pillows for me. I used to lie
and think of all the thousands of men in hospital and perhaps even lying
untended in No-man's-land going through twice as much as I, and wondered
if the world would really be any the better for all this suffering or if
it would be forgotten as soon as the war was over. It seemed to be
rather a waste if it was to be so.

When morning came there were the dressings to be done. At 10 o'clock I
used to try and imagine it was really 11, and all over, but the rattle
of the trolley and terribly cheerful voice of Sister left room for no
illusions on that score. My hands were useful on these occasions, and at
the end of the half hour were excellent examples of the shape of my
teeth! They were practically the only parts completely uninjured, and I
knew that whatever happened I could still play the violin again.

I could not understand why one leg had jumping nerves and the other
apparently had none and argued that the one must be half-broken to
account for it. The B.E.F. specialist also paid frequent visits.

Then one evening, the third or fourth I think, Captain C. came in and
sat down in the shadow, looking very grave.

I think it must have been one of the worst half-hours he ever spent. It
is not a job any man would relish to tell someone who is particularly
fond of life that they have lost one leg and the other has only just
been saved! I was speechless for some minutes; in fact I refused to
believe it. It took a long time for the full horror of the situation to
dawn on me. It will seem odd that I did not feel I had lost my leg, but
one never has that sensation even when on crutches; the nerves are
unfortunately too much alive.

Captain C. stayed a long time and the evening drew on but still he sat
there and talked to me quietly in the darkness. I wondered why I
couldn't cry, but somehow it seemed to have nothing to do with me at
all. I was not the girl who had lost a leg. It was merely someone else I
was hearing about. "Jolly bad luck on them," I thought, "rotten not to
be able to run about any more."

Then my leg jumped and it began to dawn on me that I was the girl to
whom those things had happened. Still, I could not cry. Useless to urge
how lucky it was my knee had just been saved. What use was a knee, I
thought bitterly, if I could never fly round again! When was the very
soonest I could get about with one of these artificial legs, I asked,
and he swore to me that if all went well, in a year's time. A year! I
had fancied the autumn at latest. Little did I know it would be even
longer. That night was the worst I'd had. It is a useless occupation to
kick against the pricks anyway, and the hours dragged slowly on till
morning came at last. When it was light enough I looked round, as well
as I could at least, lying flat on my back, for something to distract my
thoughts. Seeing a _Pearson's Magazine_ with George Robey on the cover,
I drew it towards me and saw there was an article by him inside. Quite
sure that "George" would cheer me up if anyone could I turned the pages
and found it. It not only cheered me but gave me the first real ray of
hope. There in print was all Captain C. had told me the night before,
and somehow, to see a thing in print is doubly convincing. It was on
disabled soldiers and the pluck with which they bore their misfortunes.

There was one story of two of his friends who walked into his
dressing-room one day. After dancing about the place they told him they
were out of the army.

"I don't see much wrong with you," said G., eyeing them up and down.
They then whacked their legs soundly and never flinched once, for they
each had an artificial one! I blessed George from the bottom of my
heart. Someone told him this, and he promptly sat down and wrote to me,
enclosing several signed postcards and a drawing of himself at the end
of the letter--his own impression of what he looked like in the
pre-historic scene in _Zigzag_--and a promise of a box for the show as
soon as I got to Blighty. Some jolly good fellow!

The countless flowers I received were one of the chief joys. I simply
adored lying and looking at them.

Every single person I knew seemed to have remembered me, and boxes of
chocolates filled my shelf as well.

The Parc d'Automobiles Belges sent such a huge _gerbe_ that two men had
to carry it, and, emblazoned on a broad ribbon of the Belgian colours,
spanning the whole thing, was my name and an inscription in letters of
gold! Captain Saxon Davies, from the "Christol" in Boulogne, had fruit
sent over in the boat from Covent Garden delivered at the hospital every
morning by motor cycle. I felt quite overwhelmed; everyone seemed
determined to spoil me.

One day the Padre had come in to see me and was just concluding a prayer
when there was a tap, and the door opened on the instant. A large
bottle, the size of a magnum, was pushed in by an orderly, who, seeing
the Padre, departed in haste. (I was squinting up through my eyelashes
and saw it all and just pulled myself together in time to say "Amen.")

I knew who had sent it and hastened to explain: "It's not champagne,
Padre, it's Eau de Cologne!" That surprising sportsman replied: "Isn't
it? Bad luck. Have you a scent spray? No? Well, I'll get you one!" (Some
Padre!)

On the Sunday one of my people came over, thanks to the cheery telegrams
the War Office had been dispatching. It seemed an unnecessary fuss--the
Colonel, too, showed distinct signs of "needle"--but it was a dear
little Aunt who is never flustered by anything and who greeted me as if
we had parted only yesterday. The word "leg" was not included in her
dictionary at all. One is apt to be a bit touchy at first about these
little things, and though I had seen the most terrible wounds in our
hospital, amputations had always rattled me thoroughly.

The little Aunt subsequently entertained the austere A.P.M., while her
papers were being put in order, with most interesting details of my
childhood and how she had brought me up from a baby! The whole interview
was described to me as "utterly priceless," by the F.A.N.Y. who had
taken her there.

The French Battery sent daily to enquire and presently I was allowed
visitors. I began to realize after a while that in losing a leg you find
out exactly who your real friends are. There are those whom I shall
never forget who came day after day to read or talk to me--friends who
paid no attention when the leg gave one of its violent jerks, but went
on talking as if nothing had happened, a fact that helped me to bear it
more than all the expressed sympathy in the world. The type who says
"Whatever was that? How dreadful!" fortunately never came. It was only
due to those real friends that I was saved from slipping into a slough
of despond from which I might never have hoped to rise. Eva gave up
rides and tennis in order to come down every day, and considering the
little time there was to devote to these pastimes I appreciated it all
the more.

To say I was the best posted person in the place is no exaggeration. I
positively heard both sides of every question (top and bottom as well
sometimes) and did my best to make as little scandal as possible!

I was in a room off the "Grand Circle" of the one-time Casino, an
officers' ward. One night the Sister had left me for a moment and I
could have sworn I saw three Germans enter. I thought they said to me
that they had come to hide and if I gave them away they would hit my
leg. The mere suggestion left me dumb and I distinctly seemed to see
them getting under the two other empty beds in the room.

After a few minutes it dawned on me what a traitor I was, and bit by bit
I eased myself up on my elbows. "I must go and tell someone these
Germans are here," I thought, and turned back the clothes. After
throwing the small sand bags on the floor that kept my bad leg in
position, I next seized the cradle and pitched that overboard. I then
carefully lifted first one leg round and then the other and sat swaying
on the side of the bed. The splints naturally jutted out some distance
from the end of my one leg and this struck me as being very funny. I
wondered just how I could walk on them. Then I looked down at the other
and the proposition seemed funnier still; though I could feel as if the
leg was there, when I looked there was nothing. It was really extremely
odd! I sat there for some time cogitating these matters and was just
about to try how I could walk when very luckily in came an orderly.

"Germans!" I gasped, pointing to the two beds. I must have looked a
little odd sitting swaying there in a very inadequate "helpless" shirt
belonging to the hospital! With a muttered exclamation he rushed forward
just catching me in his arms, and I was back in bed in a twinkling. The
whole thing was so clear to me; even now I can fancy I really saw those
Germans, and the adorable V.A.D., after searching under the beds at my
request, sat with me for the rest of the night. My "good" leg was tied
securely down after that episode.

I was dead and buried (by report) several times that first week in
hospital and Sergeant Richardson from the Detail Issue Stores, who saw
we always had the best rations, came up to see me one afternoon. He was
so spick and span I hardly recognized him, and in his hand was a large
basket of strawberries. The very first basket that had appeared in the
fruiterers' that year. He sat down and told me how anxious "the boys"
were to hear how I really was. All sorts of exaggerated rumours had been
flying about.

He related how he had first heard the news on that fatal Wednesday and
how "a bloke" told him I had been killed outright. "I knocked 'im down,"
said the Sergeant with pride, "and when he comes to me the next morning
to tell to me you wos still alive, why, I was so pleased I knocked 'im
down again!"

Bad luck on the "bloke," what? I was convulsed, only the trouble was it
hurt me even to laugh, which was trying.

He had been out in Canada before the war as a cowboy and had always
promised to show me some day how to pick things off the ground when
galloping, a pastime we agreed I should now have to forgo. I assured him
if I couldn't do that, however, I had every intention of riding again.
Had I not heard that morning of someone who even hunted! I began to
appreciate the fact that I had my knee.



CHAPTER XVII

HOSPITALS: FRANCE AND ENGLAND


An old Frenchman came to the hospital every day with the English papers,
and looked in to leave me the _Mirror_, for which he would never accept
any payment. He had very few teeth and talked in an indistinct sort of
patois and insisted on holding long conversations in consequence! He
told me he would be _enchanté_ to bring me some novels _bien choisis par
ma femme_ (well chosen by my wife) one day, and in due course they
arrived--the 1 franc 25 edition.

The names in most cases were enough, and the pictures in some a little
more! If they were his wife's idea of suitable books for _jeunes filles_
I wondered vaguely with what exactly the grown-ups diverted themselves!
I had not the heart to tell him I never read them.

All the French people were extraordinarily kind and often came in to see
me. They never failed to bring a present of some sort either.
Mademoiselle Marguerite, the dear fat old lady who kept the flower shop
in the Rue, always brought some of her flowers, and looking round would
declare that I was trying to run an opposition to her! Madame from the
_Pharmacie_ came with a large bottle of scent, the little dressmaker
brought some lace. Monsieur and Madame from the "Omelette Shop" (a
popular resort of the F.A.N.Y.s) arrived very hot and smart one Sunday
afternoon. Monsieur, who was fat, with large rolls at the back of his
neck, was rather ill at ease and a little panting from the walk
upstairs. He had the air of a man trying to appear as if he were
somewhere else. He tiptoed carefully to the window and had a look at the
_plage_. "The bonhomme wished to come and assure himself which of the
_demoiselles anglaises_ it was, to whom had arrived so terrible a
thing," said Madame, "but me, I knew. Is it not so, Henri?" she cried to
her husband. "I said it was this one there," and she pointed
triumphantly to me. As they were going he produced a large bottle of
Burgundy from a voluminous pocket in his coat tails. "Ha! _le
bonhomme!_" cried the incorrigible wife, "he would first see which
demoiselle it was before he presented the bottle!" Hubby appeared to be
slightly discomfited at this and beat a hasty retreat.

And one day "Alice," whose baby I had doctored, arrived, and even she,
difficult as she found it to make both ends meet, had not come without
something. As she left she produced a little packet of lace wrapped in
newspaper, which she deposited on my bed with tears in her eyes.

I used to lie awake at nights and wonder about those artificial legs,
just what they were like, and how much one would be able to cope with
them. It was a great pastime! Now that I really know what they _are_
like it seems particularly humorous that I thought one would even sleep
in them. My great idea was to have the whole thing clamped on and keep
it there, and not tell anyone about it! Little did I know then what a
relief it is to get them off. One can only comfort oneself on these
occasions with the ancient jest that it is "the first seven years that
are the worst!"

It is surprising how the illusions about artificial legs get knocked on
the head one by one. I discussed it with someone at Roehampton later. I
thought at least I should have jointed toes! An enterprising French firm
sent me a booklet about them one day. That really did bring things home
to me and I cried for the first time.

My visitors varied in the social scale from French guttersnipes
(Jean-Marie, who had been wont to have my old boots, etc.), to
brigadier-generals. One afternoon Corporal Coy dropped in to enquire how
I was. As he remarked cheerfully, "It would have fair turned me up if
_you'd_ come round to the mortuary, miss!"

He then settled himself comfortably in the armchair and proceeded to
entertain me. I only wished it didn't hurt so much to laugh. I asked him
if he had any new songs, and he accordingly gave me a selection _sotto
voce_. He would stop occasionally and say, "Noa, I can't sing you that
verse, it's too bad, aye, but it's a pity!" and shaking his head
mournfully he would proceed with the next!

He was just in the middle of another when the door opened suddenly and
Sir A---- S---- (Inspector-General of Medical Services) was ushered in
by the Colonel. (The little corporal positively faded out of existence!)
I might add he was nearly if not quite as entertaining.

"Nobby" Clark, a scion of the Labour Battalion, was another visitor who
called one afternoon, and I got permission for him to come up. He was
one of the local comedians and quite as good as any professional. I
would have gone miles to hear him. His famous monologue with his
imaginary friend "Linchpin" invariably brought the house down. He was
broad Lancashire and I had had a great idea of taking him off at one of
the FANTASTIK Concerts some time, but unfortunately, it was not to be.
He came tiptoeing in. "I thought I might take the liberty of coming to
enquire after you," he said, twisting his cap at the bottom of my bed (I
had learnt by this time to keep both hands hidden from sight as a hearty
shake is a jarring event). I asked him to sit down. "Bein' as you might
say fellow artistes; 'aving appeared so often on the same platform, I
had to come," he said affably! "I promised 'the boys' (old labour men of
about fifty and sixty years) I'd try and get a glimpse of you," he
continued, and he sat there and told me all the funny things he could
think of, or rather, they merely bubbled forth naturally.

The weather--it was June then--got fearfully hot, and I found life
irksome to a degree, lying flat on my back unable to move, gazing at the
wonderful glass candelabra hanging from the middle of the ceiling. How I
wished each little crystal could tell me a story of what had happened in
this room where fortunes had been lost and won! It would have passed the
time at least.

A friend had a periscope made for me, a most ingenious affair, through
which I was able to see people walking on the sands, and above all
horses being taken out for exercise in the mornings.

The first W.A.A.C.s came out to France about this time, and I watched
them with interest through my periscope. I heard that a sand-bagged
dug-out had also been made for us in camp, and tin hats handed out; a
wise precaution in view of the bricks and shrapnel that rattled about
when we went out during air raids. I never saw the dug-out of course. We
had a mild air-raid one night, but no damage was done.

My faithful friends kept me well posted with all the news, and I often
wonder on looking back if it had not been for them how ever I could have
borne life. The leg still jumped when I least expected it, and of course
I was never out of actual pain for a minute.

One day, it was June then, the dressings were done at least an hour
earlier than usual, and the Colonel came in full of importance and
ordered the other two beds to be taken out of the ward. The Sister
could get nothing out of him for a long time. All he would say was that
the French Governor-General was going to give me the freedom of the
city! She knew he was only ragging and got slightly exasperated. At
last, as a great secret, he whispered to me that I was going to be
decorated with the French _Croix de Guerre_ and silver star. I was
dumbfounded for some minutes, and then concluded it was another joke and
paid no more attention. But the room was being rapidly cleared and I was
more and more puzzled. He arranged the vases of flowers where he thought
they showed to the best advantage, and seemed altogether in extremely
good form.

At last he became serious and assured us that what he had said was
perfectly true. The mere thought of such an event happening made me feel
quite sick and faint, it was so overwhelming.

The Colonel offered to bet me a box of chocolates the General would
embrace me, as is the custom in France on these occasions, and the
suggestion only added to my fright!

About 11 o'clock as he had said, General Ditte, the governor of the
town, was announced, and in he marched, followed by his two
aides-de-camp in full regalia, the English Base Commandant and Staff
Captain, the Colonel of the hospital, the Belgian General and his two
aides-de-camp, as well as some French naval officers and attachés. Boss,
Eva, and the Sister were the only women present. The little room seemed
full to overflowing, and I wondered if at the supreme moment I would
faint or weep or be sick, or do something similarly foolish. The General
himself was so moved, however, while he read the "citation," and so were
all the rest, that that fact alone seemed to lend me courage. He turned
half way through to one of the aides-de-camp, who fumbled about (like
the best man at a wedding for the ring!) and finally, from his last
pocket, produced the little green case containing the _Croix de Guerre_.

The supreme moment had arrived. The General's fingers trembled as he
lifted the medal from its case and walked forward to pin it on me.
Instead of wearing the usual "helpless" shirt, I had been put into some
of the afore-mentioned Paris frillies for the great occasion, and
suddenly I saw two long skewer-like prongs, like foreign medals always
have, bearing slowly down upon me! "Heavens," I thought, "I shall be
harpooned for a certainty!" Obviously the rest of the room thought so
too, and they all waited expectantly. It was a tense moment--something
had to be done and done quickly. An inspiration came to me. Just in the
nick of time I seized an unembroidered bit firmly between the finger and
thumb of both hands and held it a safe distance from me for the medal to
be fixed; the situation was saved. A sigh of relief (or was it
disappointment?) went up as the General returned to finish the citation,
and contrary to expectation he had not kissed me! He confided to someone
later I looked so white he was afraid I might faint. (It was a pity
about that box of chocolates, I felt!)

Two large tears rolled down his cheeks as he finished, and then came
forward to shake hands; after that they all followed suit and I held on
to the bed with the other, for in the fullness of their hearts they gave
a jolly good shake!

I was tremendously proud of my medal--a plain cross of bronze, with
crossed swords behind, made from captured enemy guns, with the silver
star glittering on the green and red ribbon above. It all seemed like a
dream, I could not imagine it really belonged to me.

I was at the Casino nearly two months before I was sent to England in a
hospital ship. It was a very sad day for me when I had to say goodbye to
my many friends. Johnson and Marshall, the two mechanics, came up the
day before to bid goodbye, the former bringing a wonderful paper knife
that he had been engaged in making for weeks past. A F.A.N.Y button was
at the end of the handle, and the blade and rivets were composed of
English, French, and Boche shells, and last, but by no means least, he
had "sweated" on a ring from one of Susan's plugs! That pleased me more
than anything else could have done, and I treasure that paper knife
among my choicest souvenirs. Nearly all the F.A.N.Y.s came down the
night before I left, and I felt I'd have given all I possessed to stay
with them, in spite of the hard work and discomfort, so aptly described
in a parody of one of Rudyard Kipling's poems:

THE F.A.N.Y.

     I wish my mother could see me now with a grease-gun under my car,
     Filling my differential, ere I start for the camp afar,
     Atop of a sheet of frozen iron, in cold that'd make you cry.
     "Why do we do it?" you ask. "Why? We're the F.A.N.Y."
        I used to be in Society--once;
        Danced, hunted, and flirted--once;
        Had white hands and complexion--once:
        Now I'm an F.A.N.Y.

     That is what we are known as, that is what you must call,
     If you want "Officers' Luggage," "Sisters," "Patients" an' all,
     "Details for Burial Duty," "Hospital Stores" or "Supply,"
     Ring up the ambulance convoy,
     "Turn out the F.A.N.Y."
        They used to say we were idling--once;
        Joy-riding round the battle-field--once;
        Wasting petrol and carbide--once:
        Now we're the F.A.N.Y.

     That is what we are known as; we are the children to blame,
     For begging the loan of a spare wheel, and fitting a car to the same;
     We don't even look at a workshop, but the Sergeant comes up with a sigh:
     "It's no use denyin' 'em _nothin_'!
     Give it the F.A.N.Y."
        We used to fancy an air raid--once;
        Called it a bit of excitement--once;
        Prided ourselves on our tin-hats once:
        Now we're the F.A.N.Y.

     That is what we are known as; we are the girls who have been
     Over three years at the business; felt it, smelt it and seen.
     Remarkably quick to the dug-out now, when the Archies rake the sky;
     Till they want to collect the wounded, then it's
     "Out with the F.A.N.Y."
        "Crank! crank! you Fannies;
        Stand to your 'buses again;
        Snatch up the stretchers and blankets,
        Down to the barge through the rain."
        Up go the 'planes in the dawning;
        'Phone up the cars to "Stand by."
        There's many a job with the wounded:
        "Forward, the F.A.N.Y."

I dreaded the journey over, and, though the sea for some time past had
been as smooth as glass, quite a storm got up that evening. All the
orderlies who had waited on me came in early next morning to bid
goodbye, and Captain C. carried me out of my room and downstairs to the
hall. I insisted on wearing my F.A.N.Y. cap and tunic to look as if
nothing was the matter, and once more I was on a stretcher. A bouquet of
red roses arrived from the French doctor just before I was carried out
of the hall, so that I left in style! It was an early start, for I was
to be on board at 7 a.m., before the ship was loaded up from the train.
Eva drove me down in her ambulance and absolutely crawled along, so
anxious was she to avoid all bumps. One of the sisters came with me and
was to cross to Dover as well (since the Boche had not even respected
hospital ships, sisters only went over with special cases).

It struck me as odd that all the trees were out; they were only in bud
when I last saw them.

Many of the French people we passed waved adieu, and I saw them
explaining to their friends in pantomime just what had happened. On the
way to the ship I lost my leg at least four times over!

The French Battery had been told I was leaving, and was out in full
force, and I stopped to say goodbye and thank them for all they had done
and once again wave farewell--so different from the last time! They were
deeply moved, and followed with the doctor to the quay where they stood
in a row wiping their eyes. I almost felt as if I was at my own
funeral!

The old stretcher-bearers were so anxious not to bump me that they were
clumsier in their nervousness than I had ever seen them! As I was pulled
out I saw that many of my friends, English, French, and Belgian, had
come down to give me a send off. They stood in absolute silence, and
again I felt as if I was at my own funeral. As I was borne down the
gangway into the ship I could bear it no longer, and pulled off my cap
and waved it in farewell. It seemed to break the spell, and they all
called out "Goodbye, good luck!" as I was borne round the corner out of
sight to the little cabin allotted me.

Several of them came on board after, which cheered me tremendously. I
was very keen to have Eva with me as far as Dover, but, unfortunately,
official permission had been refused. The captain of the ship, however,
was a tremendous sportsman and said: "Of course, if my ship starts and
you are carried off by mistake, Miss Money, you can't expect me to put
back into port again, and _I_ shan't have seen you," he added with a
twinkle in his eye as he left us. You may be sure Eva was just too late
to land! He came along when we were under way and feigned intense
surprise. As a matter of fact he was tremendously bucked and said since
his ship had been painted grey instead of white and he had been given a
gun he was no longer a "hospital," but a "wounded transport," and
therefore was within the letter of the law to take a passenger if he
wanted to. The cabin was on deck and had been decorated with flowers in
every available space. The crossing, as luck would have it, was fairly
rough, and one by one the vases were pitched out of their stands on to
the floor. It was a tremendous comfort to me to have old Eva there. Of
course it leaked out as these things will, and there was even the
question of quite a serious row over it, but as the captain and everyone
else responsible had "positively not seen her," there was no one to
swear she had not overstayed her time and been carried off by mistake!
At Dover I had to say goodbye to her, the sister, and the kindly
captain, and very lonely I felt as my stretcher was placed on a trolley
arrangement and I was pushed up to the platform along an asphalt
gangway. The orderlies kept calling me "Sir," which was amusing. "Your
kit is in the front van, sir," and catching sight of my face, "I
mean--er--Miss, Gor'blimee! well, that's the limit!" and words failed
them.

I was put into a ward on the train all by myself. I didn't care for that
train much, it stopped and started with such jolts, otherwise it was
quite comfy, and all the orderlies came in and out on fictitious errands
to have a look and try and get me anything I wanted. The consequence was
I had no less than three teas, two lots of strawberries, and a pile of
books and periodicals I could never hope to read! I had had lunch on
board when we arrived at one o'clock, before I was taken off. The
reason the journey took so long was that the loading and unloading of
stretchers from ship to train is a lengthy job and cannot be hustled. We
got to London about five. The E.M.O. was a cheery soul and came and
shook hands with me, and then, joy of joys, got four stretcher-bearers
to take me to an ambulance. With four to carry you there is not the
slightest movement, but with two there is the inevitable up and down
jog; only those who have been through it will know what I mean. I had
got Eva to wire to some friends, also to Thompson, the section leader
who was on leave, and by dint of Sherlock Holmes stunts they had
discovered at what station I was arriving. It was cheering to see some
familiar faces, but the ambulance only stopped for a moment, and there
was no time to say anything.

As I was driven out of the station--it was Charing Cross--the old flower
women were loud in their exclamations. "Why, it's a dear little girl!"
cried one, and she bombarded Thompson with questions. (I felt the
complete fool!) "Bin drivin' the boys, 'as she? Bless 'er," and they ran
after the car, throwing in whole bunches of roses galore! I could have
hugged them for it, dear fat old things! They did their bit as much as
any of them, and never failed to throw their choicest roses to "the
boys" in the ambulances as they were driven slowly past.

My troubles, I am sorry to say, began from then onwards. England seemed
quite unprepared for anything so unorthodox, and the general impression
borne in on me was that I was a complete nuisance. There was no
recognized hospital for "the likes of us" to go to, and I was taken to a
civilian one where war-work seemed entirely at a discount. I was carried
to a lift and jerked up to the top floor by a housemaid, when I was put
on a trolley and taken into a ward full of people. A sister came
forward, but there was no smile on her face and not one word of welcome,
and I began to feel rather chilled. "Put the case there," she said,
indicating an empty bed, and the "case," feeling utterly miserable and
dejected, was deposited! The rattle and noise of that ward was such a
contrast to my quiet little room in France (rather humorous this) that I
woke with a jump whenever I closed my eyes.

Presently the matron made her rounds, and very luckily found there was a
vacant room, and I was taken into it forthwith. There was a notice
painted on the wall opposite to the effect that the bed was "given in
remembrance" of the late so-and-so of so-and-so--with date and year of
death, etc. I can see it now. If only it had been on the door outside
for the benefit of the visitors! It had the result of driving "the case"
almost to the verge of insanity. I could say the whole thing backwards
when I'd been in the room half an hour, not to mention the number of
letters and the different words one could make out of it! There was no
other picture in the room, as the walls were of some concrete stuff, so,
try as one would, it was impossible not to look at it. "Did he die in
this bed?" I asked interestedly of the sister, nodding in the direction
of the "In Memoriam."--"I'm sure I don't know," said she, eyeing me
suspiciously. "We have enough to do without bothering about things like
that," and she left the room. I began to feel terribly lonely; how I
missed all my friends and the cheerful, jolly orderlies in France! The
frowsy housemaid who brought up my meals was anything but inspiring. My
dear little "helpless" shirt was taken away and when I was given a good
stuff nightdress in its place, I felt my last link with France had gone!

The weather--it was July then--got terribly hot, and I lay and
sweltered. It was some relief to have all bandages removed from my right
leg.

There were mews somewhere in the vicinity, and I could smell the horses
and even hear them champing in their stalls! I loved that, and would lie
with my eyes shut, drinking it in, imagining I was back in the stables
in far away Cumberland, sitting on the old corn bin listening to Jimmy
Jardine's wonderful tales of how the horses "came back" to him in the
long ago days of his youth. When they cleaned out the stables I had my
window pulled right up! "Fair sick it makes me," called my neighbour
from the next room, but I was quite happy. Obviously everyone can't be
satisfied in this world!

The doctor was of the "bluff and hearty" species and, on entering the
first morning, had exclaimed, in a hail-fellow-well-met tone, "So you're
the young lady who's had her leg chopped off, are you? ha, ha!" Hardly
what one might call tactful, what? I withdrew my hand and put it behind
my back. In time though we became fairly good friends, but how I longed
to be back in France again!

Being a civilian hospital they were short-staffed. "Everyone seems mad
on war work," said one sister to me peevishly, "they seem to forget
there are civilians to nurse," and she flounced out of the room.

A splendid diversion was caused one day when the Huns came over in full
force (thirty to forty Gothas) in a daylight raid. I was delighted! This
was something I really _did_ understand. It was topping to hear the guns
blazing away once more. Everyone in the place seemed to be ringing their
electric bells, and, afraid I might miss something, I put my finger on
mine and held it there. Presently the matron appeared: "You can't be
taken to the cellar," she said, "it's no good being nervous, you're as
safe here as anywhere!" "It wasn't that," I said, "I wondered if I might
have a wheel chair and go along the corridor to see them." "Rubbish,"
said she, "I never heard of such a thing," and she hurried on to quiet
the patient in the next room. But by dint of screwing myself half on to
a chair near the window I did just get a glimpse of the sky and saw
about five of the Huns manoeuvring. Good business!

One of the things I suffered from most, was visitors whom I had never
seen in my life before. There would be a tap at the door; enter lady,
beautifully dressed and a large smile. The opening sentence was
invariably the same. "You won't know who I am, but I'm Lady L----, Miss
so-and-so's third cousin. She told me all about you, and I thought I
really _must_ come and have a peep." Enters and subsides into chair near
bed smiling sweetly, and in nine cases out of ten jiggles toes against
it, which jars one excessively. "You must have suffered _terribly_! I
hear your leg was absolutely _crushed_! And now tell me all about it!
Makes you rather sick to talk of it? Fancy that! Conscious all the time,
dear me! What you must have gone _through_! (Leg gives one of its
jumps.) Whatever was that? Only keeping your knee from getting stiff,
how funny! _Lovely_ having the _Croix de Guerre_. Quite makes up for it.
What? Rather have your _leg_. Dear me, how odd! Wonderful what they do
with those artificial limbs nowadays. Know a man and really you can't
tell _which_ is which. (Naturally not, any fool could make a leg the
shape of the other!) Well, I really _must_ be going. I shall be able to
tell all my friends I've _seen_ you now and been able to cheer you up a
little. _Poor_ girl! _So_ unfortunate! Terribly cheerful, aren't you?
Don't seem to mind a bit. Would you kindly ring for the lift? I find
these stairs _so trying_. I've enjoyed myself so much. Goodbye." Exit
(goodby-ee). In its way it was amusing at first, but one day I sent for
the small porter, Tommy, aged twelve (I had begun to sympathise with
the animals in the Zoo). "Tommy," I said, "if you _dare_ to let anyone
come up and see me unless they're _personal_ friends, you won't get that
shell head I promised you. Don't be put off, make them describe me.
You'll be sorry if you don't."

Tremendous excitement one day when I went out for my first drive in a
car sent from the Transport Department of the Red Cross. Two of the
nurses came with me, and I was lifted in by the stalwart driver. "A
quiet drive round the park, I suppose, Miss?" he asked. "No," I said
firmly, "down Bond Street and then round and round Piccadilly Circus
first, and then the Row to watch the people riding" (an extremely
entertaining pastime). He had been in the Argentine and "knew a horse if
he saw one," and no mistake.

The next day a huge gilded basket of blue hydrangeas arrived from the
"bird" flower shop in Bond Street, standing at least three feet high,
the sole inscription on the card being, "From the Red Cross driver." It
was lovely and I was extremely touched; my room for the time being was
transformed.

I was promised a drive once a week, but they were unfortunately
suspended as I had an operation on July 31st for the jumping sciatic
nerve and once more was reduced to lying flat on my back. There was a
man over the mews who beat his wife regularly twice per week, or else
_she_ beat him. I could never discover which, and used to lie staring
into the darkness listening to the "sounds of revelry by night," not to
mention the choicest flow of language floating up into the air. I was
measured for a pair of crutches some time later by a lugubrious
individual in a long black frock coat looking like an undertaker. I
objected to the way he treated me, as if I were already a "stiff,"
ignoring me completely, saying to the nurse: "Kindly put the case
absolutely flat and full length," whereupon he solemnly produced a tape
measure!

I was moved to a nursing home for the month of August, as the hospital
closed for cleaning, and there, quite forgetting to instruct the people
about strangers, I was beset by another one afternoon. A cousin who has
been gassed and shell-shocked had come in to read to me. There was a tap
on the door. "Mrs. Fierce," announced the porter, and in sailed a lady
whom I had never seen in my life before. (I want the readers of these
"glimpses" to know that the following conversation is absolutely as it
took place and has not been exaggerated or added to in the very least.)

She began with the old formula. "You won't know me, etc., but I'm
so-and-so." She did not pause for breath, but went straight ahead. "It's
the second time I've been to call on you," she said, in an aggrieved
voice. "I came three weeks ago when you were at ---- Hospital. You had
_just_ had an operation and were coming round, and would you believe it,
though I had come _all_ the way from West Kensington, they wouldn't let
me come up and see you--positively _rude_ the boy was at the door." (I
uttered a wordless prayer for Tommy!)

"It was very kind of you," I murmured, "but I hardly think you would
have liked to see me just then; I wasn't looking my best. Chloroform has
become one of my _bêtes noires_." "Oh, I shouldn't have minded," said
the lady; "I thought it was so inconsiderate of them not to let me up.
So sad for you, you lost your _foot_," she chattered on, eyeing the
cradle with interest. I winked at my cousin, a low habit but excusable
on occasions. We did not enlighten her it was more than the foot. Then I
was put through the usual inquisition, except that it was if possible a
little more realistic than usual. "Did it bleed?" she asked with gusto.
I began to enjoy myself (one gets hardened in time). "Fountains," I
replied, "the ground is still discoloured, and though they have dug it
over several times it's no good--it's like Rizzio's blood at Holyrood,
the stain simply won't go away!" My cousin hastily sneezed. "How very
curious," said the lady, "so interesting to hear all these details
_first_ hand! Young man," and she fixed Eric with her lorgnettes, "have
_you_ been wounded--I see _no_ stripe on your arm?" and she eyed him
severely. Now E. has always had a bit of a stammer, but at times it
becomes markedly worse. We were both enjoying ourselves tremendously:
"N-n-n-no," he replied, "s-s-s-shell s-s-s-shock!"

"Dear me, however did _that_ happen?" she asked. "I w-w-was b-b-b-blown
i-i-i-into t-t-t-the air," he replied, smiling sweetly.

"How high?" asked the lady, determined to get to the bottom of it, and
not at all sure in her own mind he wasn't a conscientious objector
masquerading in uniform. "As all t-t-the other m-m-men were k-k-killed
b-b-b-by t-t-t-the same s-s-shell, t-t-there was n-n-no one t-t-there
t-t-t-to c-c-c-count," he replied modestly. (I knew the whole story of
how he had been left for two whole days in No-man's-land, with Boche
shells dropping round the place where he was lying, and could have
killed her cheerfully if the whole thing had not been so funny.)

Having gleaned more lurid details with which we all too willingly
supplied her, she finally departed.

"Fierce by name and fierce by nature," I said, as the door closed. "I
wonder sometimes if those women spend all their time rushing from bed to
bed asking the men to describe all they've been through--I feel like
writing to _John Bull_ about it," I added, "but I don't believe the
average person would believe it. Tact seems to be a word unknown in some
vocabularies." The cream of the whole thing was that, not content with
the information she had gleaned, when she got downstairs, she asked to
see my nurse. The poor thing was having tea at the time, but went
running down in case it was something important.

"Will you tell me," said Mrs. F. confidentially, "if that young man is
engaged to Miss B.?" (The "young man," I might add, has a very charming
fiancée of his own), and how we all laughed when she came up with the
news!

The faithful "Wuzzy" had been confided to the care of a friend at the
Remount Camp, and I was delighted to get some snaps of him taken by a
Frenchman at Neuve-Chapelle--I felt my "idiot son" was certainly seeing
life! "In reply to your question" (said my friend in a letter), "as to
whether I have discovered Wuzzy's particular 'trait' yet, the answer as
far as I can make out appears to be 'chickens'!"

In time I began to get about on crutches, and the question next arose
where I was to go and convalesce, and the then strange, but now all too
familiar phrase was first heard. "If you were only a man, of course it
would be _so_ easy." As if it was _my_ fault I wasn't? It was no good
protesting I had always wished I had been one; it did not help matters
at all.

I came to the conclusion there were too many women in England. If I had
only been a Boche girl now I might at least have had several Donnington
Halls put at my disposal! I was finally sent to Brighton, and thanks to
Lady Dudley's kindness, became an out-patient of one of her officers'
hospitals, but even then it was a nuisance being a girl. Another
disadvantage was that all the people treated me as if I was a strange
animal from the Zoo; men on crutches had become unfortunately a too
familiar sight, but a F.A.N.Y. was something quite new, and therefore an
object to be stared at. Some days I felt quite brazen, but others I went
out for about five minutes and returned, refusing to move for the rest
of the day. It would have been quite different if several F.A.N.Y.s had
been in a similar plight, but alone, one gets tired of being gaped at as
a _rara avis_.

The race meetings were welcome events and great sport, to which we all
went with gusto. I fell down one day on the Parade, getting into my bath
chair. It gave me quite a jar, but it must be got over some time as a
lesson, for of course I put out the leg that wasn't there and went smack
on the asphalt! One learns in time to remember these details.

It was ripping to see friends from France who ran down for the day, and
when the F.A.N.Y.s came over, how eagerly I listened to all the news!
The lines from one of our songs often rang through my brain:

     "On the sandy shores of France
      Looking Blighty-wards to sea,
      There's a little camp a-sitting
      And it's all the world to me--
      For the cars are gently humming,
      And the 'phone bell's ringing yet,
      Come up, you British Convoy,
      Come ye up to Fontinettes--
      On the road to Fontinettes
      Where the trains have to be met;
      Can't you hear the cars a-chunking
      Through the Rue to Fontinettes?

     "On the road to Fontinettes
      Where the stretcher-bearers sweat,
      And the cars come up in convoy,
      From the camp to Fontinettes.

     "For 'er uniform is khaki,
      And 'er little car is green,
      And 'er name is only FANNY
      (And she's not exactly clean!)
      And I see'd 'er first a'smoking
      Of a ration cigarette.
      And a'wasting army petrol
      Cleaning clothes, 'cos she's in debt."
         On the road to Fontinettes, etc.

I longed to be back so much sometimes that it amounted almost to an
ache! This, and the fact of being the only one, I feel sure partly
accounted for it that I became ill. According to the doctor I ought to
have been in a proper hospital, and then once again the difficulty arose
of finding one to go to. Boards and committees sat on me figuratively
and almost literally, too, but could come to no conclusion. Though I
could be in a military hospital in France it was somehow not to be
thought of in England. Finally I heard a W.A.A.C.'s ward had been opened
in London at a military hospital run by women doctors for Tommies, and I
promptly sat down and applied for admittance. Yes, I could go there, and
so at the end of November, I found myself once more back in London. I
was in a little room--a W.A.A.C. officers' ward, on the same floor as
the medical ward for W.A.A.C. privates. I met them at the concerts that
were often given in the recreation room, and they were extremely kind
to me. I was amused to hear them discussing their length of active
service. One who could boast of six months was decidedly the nut of the
party! We had a great many air raids, and were made to go down to the
ground floor, which annoyed me intensely. I hated turning out, apart
from the cold; it seemed to be giving in to the Boche to a certain
extent.

I loved my charlady. She was the nearest approach to the cheery
orderlies of those far away days in France, I had struck since I came
over. Her smiling face, as she appeared at the door every morning with
broom and coalscuttle, was a tonic in itself. I used to keep her talking
just as long as I could--she was so exceedingly alive.

"Do I mind the air rides, Miss? Lor' bless you no--nothin' I like better
than to 'ear the guns bangin' awy. If it wasn't for the childer I'd fair
enjoy it--we lives up 'hIslington wy, and the first sounds of firing I
wrep them up, and we all goes to the church cryp and sings 'ims with the
parson's wife a'plying. Grand it is, almost as good as a revival
meeting!"

(One in the eye for Fritz what?)

I asked her, as it was getting near Christmas, if she would let me take
her two little girls (eight and twelve respectively) to see a children's
fairy play. She was delighted. They had never been to a theatre at all,
and were waiting for me one afternoon outside the hospital gates, very
clean and smiling, and absolutely dancing with excitement. I was of
course on crutches, and as it was a greasy, slippery day, looked about
for a taxi. It was hopeless, and without a word the elder child ran off
to get one. The way she nipped in and out of the traffic was positively
terrifying, but she returned triumphant in the short space of five
minutes, and we were soon at the door of the theatre.

I had to explain that the wicked fairies leaping so realistically from
Pandora's box weren't real at all, but I'm sure I did not convince the
smaller one, who was far too shy and excited to utter a word beyond a
startled whisper: "Yes, Miss," or "No, Miss." There were wails in the
audience when the witch appeared, and several small boys near us doubled
under their seats in terror, like little rabbits going to earth,
refusing to come out again, poor little pets!

In the interval the two children watched the orchestra with wide-eyed
interest. "I guess that guy wot's wyving 'is arms abaht like that
(indicating the conductor) must be getting pretty tired," said the elder
to me. I felt he would have been gratified to know there was someone who
sympathised!

Altogether it was a most entertaining afternoon, and when we came out in
the dark and rain the eldest again slipped off to get a taxi, dodging
cabs and horses with the dexterity of an acrobat.

Christmas came round, and there was tremendous competition between the
different wards, which vied with each other over the most original
decorations.

At midday I was asked into the W.A.A.C.'s ward, where we had roast beef
and plum pudding. The two women doctors who ran the hospital visited
every ward and drank a toast after lunch. I don't know what they toasted
in the men's wards, but in the W.A.A.C.'s it was roughly, "To the women
of England, and the W.A.A.C.s who would win the war, etc." It seemed too
bad to leave out the men who were in the trenches, so I drank one
privately to them on my own.

As I sat in my little ward that night I thought of the happy times we
had had last Christmas in the convoy, only a short year before.



CHAPTER XVIII

ROEHAMPTON: "BOB" THE GREY, AND THE ARMISTICE

After Christmas it was thought I was well enough to be fitted with an
artificial limb, and in due course I applied to the limbless hospital at
Roehampton. The reply came back in a few days.

     "DEAR SIR, (I groaned),

     "You must apply to so-and-so and we will then be able to
     give you a bed in a fortnight's time, etc.

     _Signed_:         "SISTER D."

My heart sank. I was up against the old question again, and in
desperation I wrote back:

     "DEAR MADAM,

     "My trouble is that I am a girl, etc."

and poured forth all my woes on the subject. Sister D., who proved to be
an absolute topper, was considerably amused and wrote back most
sympathetically. She promised to do all she could for me and told the
surgeon the whole story, and it was arranged for him to see me and
advise what type of leg I had better wear and then decide where I was to
be put up later. He was most kind, but I returned from the interview
considerably depressed for, before I could wear an artificial leg,
another operation had to be performed. It took place at the military
hospital in January and I felt I should have to hurry in order to be
"doing everything as usual" by the time the year was up, as Captain C.
had promised.

For some reason, when I came round I found myself in the big W.A.A.C.s'
ward, and never returned to my little room again. I did not mind the
change so much except for the noise and the way the whole room vibrated
whenever anyone walked or ran past my bed. They nearly always did the
latter, for they were none of them very ill. The building was an old
workhouse which had been condemned just before the war, and the floor
bent and shook at the least step. I found this particularly trying as
the incision a good six inches long had been made just behind my knee,
and naturally, as it rested on a pillow, I felt each vibration.

The sheets were hard to the touch and grey in colour even when clean,
and the rows of scarlet blankets were peculiarly blinding. I realised
the meaning of the saying: "A red rag to a bull," and had every sympathy
with the animal! (It was so humorous to look at things from a patient's
point of view.) It had always been our ambition at Lamarck to have red
top blankets on every bed in our wards. "They make the place look so
bright and cheerful!" I daresay these details would have passed
unnoticed in the ordinary way, but I had already had eight months of
hospitals, during which time I had hardly ever been out of pain, and all
I craved was quiet and rest. Some of the women doctors were terribly
sarcastic.

We were awakened at 5 a.m. as per hospital routine (how often I had been
loth to waken the patients at Lamarck), and most of the W.A.A.C.s got up
and dressed, the ones who were not well enough remaining in bed. At six
o'clock we had breakfast, and one of them pushed a trolly containing
slices of bread and mugs of tea from bed to bed. It rattled like a
pantechnicon and shook the whole place, and I hated it out of all
proportion. The ward was swept as soon as breakfast was over. How I
dreaded that performance! I lay clenching the sides of the bed in
expectation; for as surely as fate the sweeping W.A.A.C. caught her
brush firmly in one of the legs. "Sorry, miss, did it ketch you?" she
would exclaim, "there, I done it agin; drat this broom!"

There were two other patients in the room who relished the quiet in the
afternoons when most of the W.A.A.C.s went out on pass. One of them was
a sister from the hospital, and the other a girl suffering from cancer,
both curtained off in distant corners. "Now for a sleep, sister," I
would call, as the last one departed, but as often as not just as we
were dropping off a voice would rouse us, saying: "Good afternoon, I've
just come in to play the piano to you for a little," and without waiting
for a reply a cheerful lady would sit down forthwith and bang away
virtuously for an hour!

We had had a good many air raids before Christmas and I hoped Fritz
would reserve his efforts in that direction till I could go about on
crutches again. No such luck, however, for at 10 o'clock one night the
warnings rang out. I trusted, as I had had my operations so recently, I
should be allowed to remain; but some shrapnel had pierced the roof of
the ward in a former raid and everyone had to be taken down willy-nilly.
I hid under the sheets, making myself as flat as possible in the hopes
of escaping. I was discovered of course and lifted into a wheel chair
and taken down in the lift to the Padre's room, where all the W.A.A.C.s
were already assembled. Our guns were blazing away quite heartily, the
"London front" having recently been strengthened. Just as I got down,
the back wheel of my chair collapsed, which was cheering!

We sat there for some time listening to the din. Everyone was feeling
distinctly peevish, and not a few slightly "breezy," as it was quite a
bad raid. I wondered what could be done to liven up the proceedings, and
presently espied a pile of hymn-books which I solemnly handed out,
choosing "Onward Christian Soldiers" as the liveliest selection! I could
not help wondering what the distant F.A.N.Y.s would have thought of the
effort. In the middle of "Greenland's spicy mountains," one W.A.A.C.
varied the proceedings by throwing a fit, and later on another fainted;
beyond that nothing of any moment happened till the firing, punctuated
by the dropping bombs, became so loud that every other sound was
drowned. Some of the W.A.A.C.s were convinced we were all "for it" and
would be burnt to death, but I assured them as my chair had broken, and
I had no crutches even if I could use them, I should be burnt to a
cinder long before any of them! This seemed to comfort them to a certain
extent. I could tell by the sound of the bombs as they exploded that the
Gothas could not be far away; and then, suddenly, we heard the engines
quite plainly, and there was a terrific rushing sound I knew only too
well. The crash came, but, though the walls rocked and the windows
rattled in their sockets, they did not fall.

Above the din we heard a woman's piercing scream, "Oh God, I'm burning!"
as she ran down the street. Simultaneously the reflection of a red glare
played on the walls opposite. All was confusion outside, and the sound
of rushing feet pierced by screams from injured women and children
filled the air. It was terrible to sit there powerless, unable to do
anything to help. The hospital had just been missed by a miracle, but
some printing offices next door were in flames, and underneath was a
large concrete dug-out holding roughly 150 people. What the total
casualties were I never heard. Luckily a ward had just been evacuated
that evening and the wounded and dying were brought in immediately. It
was horrible to see little children, torn and maimed, being carried past
our door into the ward. The hum of the Gotha's engines could still be
heard quite distinctly.

Sparks flew past the windows, but thanks to the firemen who were on the
spot almost immediately, the fire was got under and did not spread to
the hospital.

It was a terrible night! How I longed to be able to give the Huns a
taste of their own medicine!

The "All clear" was not sounded till 3 a.m. Many of the injured died
before morning, after all that was humanly possible had been done for
them. I heard some days later that a discharged soldier, who had been in
the dug-out when the bomb fell, was nearly drowned by the floods of
water from the hoses, and was subsequently brought round by artificial
respiration. He was heard to exclaim: "Humph, first they wounds me aht
in France, then they tries to drown me in a bloomin' air raid!"

There was one W.A.A.C.--Smith we will call her--who could easily have
made her fortune on the stage, she was so clever at imitations. She
would "take you off" to your face and make you laugh in spite of
yourself. She was an East-ender and witty in the extreme, warm of heart
but exceedingly quick-tempered. I liked her tremendously, she was so
utterly alive and genuine.

One night I was awakened from a doze by a tremendous hubbub going on in
the ward. Raising myself on an elbow I saw Smith shaking one of the
W.A.A.C.s, who was hanging on to a bed for support, as a terrier might a
rat.

"You would, would you?" I heard her exclaim. "Sy it againe, yer
white-ficed son of a gun yer!" and she shook her till her teeth
chattered. I never found out what the "white-ficed" one had said, but
she showed no signs of repeating the offence. I felt as if I was in the
gallery at Drury Lane and wanted to shout, "Go on, 'it 'er," but just
restrained myself in time!

A girl orderly was despatched in haste for one of the head doctors, and
I awaited her arrival with interest, wondering just how she would deal
with the situation.

However, the "Colonel" apparently thought discretion the better part of
valour, and sent the Sergeant-Major--the only man on the staff--to cope
with the delinquent. I was fearfully disappointed. Smith checkmated him
splendidly by retiring into the bath where she sat soaking for two
hours. What was the poor man to do? It was getting late, and for all he
knew she might elect to stay there all night. He knew of no precedent
and ran in and out of the ward, flapping his arms in a helpless manner.
I felt Smith had decidedly won the day. Imagine an ordinary private
behaving thus!

There were sudden periodical evacuations of the ward, and one day I was
told my bed would be required for a more urgent case--a large convoy was
expected from France and so many beds had to be vacated. Three weeks
after my operation I left the hospital and arranged to stay with friends
in the country. As it was a long railway journey and I was hardly
accustomed to crutches again, I wanted to stay the night in town.
However, one comes up against some extraordinary types of people. For
example, the hotel where my aunt was staying refused to take me in, even
for one night, on the score that "_they_ didn't want any invalids!" I
could not help wondering a little bitterly where these same people would
have been but for the many who were now permanent invalids and for those
others, as Kipling reminds us, "whose death has set us free." I could
not help noticing that at home one either came up against extreme
sympathy and kindness or else utter callousness--there seemed to be no
half-measures.

In March I again hoped to go to Roehampton, but my luck was dead out. I
could still bear no pressure on the wretched nerve, and another
operation was performed almost immediately.

The W.A.A.C.s' ward was all very well as an experience, but the noise
and shaking, not to mention the thought of the broom catching my bed
regularly every morning, was too much to face again. The surgeon who was
operating tried to get me into his hospital for officers where there
were several single rooms vacant at the time.

Vain hope. Again the familiar phrase rang out, and once more I
apologised for being a female, and was obliged to make arrangements to
return to the private nursing home where I had been in August. The year
was up, and here I was still having operations. I was disgusted in the
extreme.

When I was at last fit to go to Roehampton the question of accommodation
again arose. I never felt so sick in all my life I wasn't a
man--committees and matrons sat and pondered the question. Obviously I
was a terrible nuisance and no one wanted to take any responsibility.
The mother superior of the Sacred Heart Convent at Roehampton heard of
it and asked me to stay there. Though I was not of their faith they
welcomed me as no one else had done since my return, and I was
exceedingly happy with them. It was a change to be really wanted
somewhere.

In time I got fairly hardened to the stares from passers-by, and it was
no uncommon thing for an absolute stranger to come up and ask, "Have you
lost your leg?" The fact seemed fairly obvious, but still some people
like verbal confirmation of everything. One day in Harrod's, just after
the 1918 push, one florid but obviously sympathetic lady exclaimed,
"Dear me, poor girl, did you lose your leg in the recent push?" It was
then the month of June (some good going to be up on crutches in that
time!) Several staff officers were buying things at the same counter and
turned at her question to hear my reply. "No, not in this _last_ push,"
I said, "but the one just before," and moved on. They appeared to be
considerably amused.

How I loathed crutches! One nightmare in which I often indulged was
that I found, in spite of having lost my leg, I could really walk in
some mysterious way quite well without them. I would set off joyfully,
and then to my horror suddenly discover my plight and fall smack. I woke
to find the nerve had been at its old trick again. Sometimes I was
seized with a panic that when I did get my leg I should not be able to
use it, and worse still, never ride again. That did not bear thinking
of.

I went to the hospital every day for fittings and at last the day
arrived when I walked along holding on to handrails on each side and
watching my "style" in a glass at the end of the room for the purpose.
My excitement knew no bounds! It was a tedious business at first getting
it to fit absolutely without paining and took some time. I could hear
the men practising walking in the adjoining room to the refrain of the
"Broken Doll," the words being:

     "I only lost my leg a year ago.
     I've got a 'Rowley,' now, I'd have you know.
     I soon learnt what pain was, I thought I knew,
     But now my poor old leg is black, and red, white and blue!
     The fitter said, 'You're walking very well,'
     I told him he could take his leg to ----,
     But they tell me that some day I'll walk right away,
     By George! and with my Rowley too!"

It was at least comforting to know that in time one would!

Half an hour's fitting was enough to make the leg too tender for
anything more that day, and I discovered to my joy that I was quite
well able to drive a small car with one foot. I was lent a sporting
Morgan tri-car which did more to keep up my spirits than anything else.
The side brake was broken and somehow never got repaired, so the one
foot had quite an exciting time. It was anything but safe, but it did
not matter. One day, driving down the Portsmouth Road with a
fellow-sufferer, a policeman waved his arms frantically in front of us.
"What's happened," I asked my friend, "are we supposed to stop?" "I'm
afraid so," he replied, "I should think we've been caught in a trap."
(One gets into bad habits in France!)

As we drew up and the policeman saw the crutches, he said: "I'm sorry,
sir, I didn't see your crutches, or I wouldn't have pulled you up." The
friend, who happened to be wearing his leg, said, "Oh, they aren't mine,
they belong to this lady." The good policeman was temporarily
speechless. When at last he got his wind he was full of concern. "You
don't say, sir? Well, I _never_ did. Don't you take on, _we_ won't run
you in, Miss," he added consolingly, turning to me. "I'll fix the
stop-watch man." I was beginning to enjoy myself immensely. He regarded
us for some minutes and made a round of the car. "Well," he said at
last, "_I_ call you a couple o' sports!" We were convulsed!

At that moment the stop-watch man hurried up, looking very serious, and
I watched the expression on his face change to one of concern as the
policeman told him the tale.

"We won't run you in, not us," he declared stoutly, in concert with the
policeman.

"What were we doing?" I asked, as he looked at his stop-watch.

"Thirty and a fraction over," he replied. "Only thirty!" I exclaimed, in
a disappointed voice, "I thought we were doing _at least_ forty!"

"First time anyone's ever said that to _me_, Miss," he said; "it's usual
for them to swear it wasn't a mile above twenty!"

"A couple o' sports," the policeman murmured again.

"I think _you're_ the couple of sports," I said laughing.

"Well," said the stop-watch man, lifting his cap, "we won't keep you any
longer, Miss, a pleasant afternoon to you, and (with a knowing look)
there's _nothing_ on the road from here to Cobham!"

Of course the Morgan broke all records after that!

Unfortunately, in July, I was obliged to undergo an operation on my
right foot, where it had been injured. By great good luck it was
arranged to be done in the sister's sick ward at the hospital. It was
not successful though, and at the end of August a second was performed,
bringing the total up to six, by which time I loathed chloroform more
than anything else on earth.

Before I returned to the convent again, the King and Queen with Princess
Mary came down to inspect the hospital.

It was an imposing picture. The sisters and nurses in their white caps
and aprons lined the steps of the old red-brick, Georgian House, while
on the lawn six to seven hundred limbless Tommies were grouped, forming
a wonderful picture in their hospital blue against the green.

I was placed with the officers under the beautiful cedar trees and had a
splendid view, while on the left the different limb makers had models of
their legs and arms. The King and Queen were immensely interested and
watched several demonstrations, after which they came and shook each one
of us by hand, speaking a few words. I was immensely struck by the
King's voice and its deep resonant qualities. It is wonderful, in view
of the many thousands he interviews, that to each individual he gives
the impression of a real personal interest.

I soon returned to the convent, and there in the beautiful gardens
diligently practised walking with the help of two sticks. The joy of
being able to get about again was such that I could have wept. The
Tommies at the hospital took a tremendous interest in my progress.
"Which one is it?" they would call as I went there each morning. "Pick
it up, Miss, pick it up!" (one trails it at first). The fitter was a man
of most wonderful patience and absolutely untiring in his efforts to do
any little thing to ease the fitting. I often wonder he did not brain
his more fussy patients with their wooden legs and have done with it!

"Got your knee, Miss?" the men would call sometimes. "You're lucky."
When I saw men who had lost an arm and sometimes both legs, from above
the knee too, I realised just how lucky I was. They were all so
splendidly cheerful. I knew too well from my own experience what they
must have gone through; and again I could only pray that something good
would come out of all this untold suffering, and that these men would
not be forgotten by a grateful country when peace reigned once more.

I often watched them playing bowls on the lawn with a marvellous
dexterity--a one-armed man holding the chair steady for a double
amputation while the latter took his aim.

I remember seeing a man struggling painfully along with an
above-the-knee leg, obviously his first day out. A group of men watched
his efforts. "Pick it up, Charlie!" they called, "we'll race you to the
cedars!" but Charlie only smiled, not a bit offended, and patiently
continued along the terrace.

At last I was officially "passed out" by the surgeon, and after eighteen
months was free from hospitals. What a relief! No longer anyone to
reproach me because I wasn't a man! It was my great wish to go out to
the F.A.N.Y.s again when I had got thoroughly accustomed to my leg. I
tried riding a bicycle, and after falling off once or twice "coped"
quite well, but it was not till November that I had the chance to try a
horse. I was down at Broadstairs and soon discovered a job-master and
arranged to go out the next day. I hardly slept at all that night I was
so excited at the prospect. The horse I had was a grey, rather a
coincidence, and not at all unlike my beloved grey in France. Oh the joy
of being in a saddle again! A lugubrious individual with a bottle nose
(whom I promptly christened "Dundreary" because of his long whiskers)
came out with me. He was by way of being a riding master, but for all
the attention he paid I might have been alone.

I suggested finding a place for a canter after we had trotted some
distance and things felt all right. I was so excited to find I could
ride again with comparatively little inconvenience I could hardly
restrain myself from whooping aloud. I presently infected "Dundreary,"
who, in his melancholy way, became quite jovial. I rode "Bob" every day
after that and felt that after all life was worth living again.

On November 11th came the news of the armistice. The flags and
rejoicings in the town seemed to jar somehow. I was glad to be out of
London. A drizzle set in about noon and the waves beat against the
cliffs in a steady boom not unlike the guns now silent across the water.
Through the mist I seemed to see the ghosts of all I knew who had been
sacrificed in the prime of their youth to the god of war. I saw the
faces of the men in the typhoid wards and heard again the groans as the
wounded and dying were lifted from the ambulance trains on to the
stretchers. It did not seem a time for loud rejoicings, but rather a
quiet thankfulness that we had ended on the right side and their lives
had not been lost in vain.

The words of Robert Nichols' "Fulfilment," from _Ardours and Endurances_
(Chatto & Windus), rang through my brain. He has kindly given me
permission to reproduce them:

     Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
     Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
     Other loves I have, men rough, but men who stir
     More grief, more joy, than love of thee and mine.

     Faces cheerful, full of whimsical mirth,
     Lined by the wind, burned by the sun;
     Bodies enraptured by the abounding earth,
     As whose children we are brethren: one.

     And any moment may descend hot death
     To shatter limbs! pulp, tear, blast
     Beloved soldiers, who love rough life and breath
     Not less for dying faithful to the last.

     O the fading eyes, the grimed face turned bony,
     Open mouth gushing, fallen head,
     Lessening pressure of a hand shrunk, clammed, and stony
     O sudden spasm, release of the dead!

     Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
     Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
     O loved, living, dying, heroic soldier
     All, all, my joy, my grief, my love are thine!



CHAPTER XIX

AFTER TWO YEARS


My dream of going out to work again with the F.A.N.Y.s was never
realised. Something always seemed to be going wrong with the leg; but I
was determined to try and pay them a visit before they were demobilised.
On these occasions the word "impossible" must be cut out of one's
vocabulary (_vide_ Napoleon), and off I set one fine morning. Everything
seemed strangely unaltered, the same old train down to Folkestone, the
same porters there, the same old ship and lifebelts; and when I got to
Boulogne nearly all the same old faces on the quay to meet the boat! I
rubbed my eyes. Had I really been away two years or was it only a sort
of lengthy nightmare? I walked down the gangway and there was the same
old rogue of a porter in his blue smocking. Yet the town seemed
strangely quiet without the incessant marching of feet as the troops
came and went. "We never thought to see _you_ out here again, Miss,"
said the same man in the transport department at the Hotel Christol!

I went straight up to the convoy at St. Omer, and had tea in the camp
from which they had been shelled only a year before. This convoy of
F.A.N.Y.s, to which many of my old friends had been transferred, was
attached to the 2nd army, and had as its divisional sign a red herring.
The explanation being that one day a certain general visited the camp,
and on leaving said: "Oh, by the way, are you people 'army'?"

"No," replied the F.A.N.Y., "not exactly."

"Red Cross then?"

"Well, not exactly. It's like this," she explained: "We work for the Red
Cross and the cars are theirs, but we are attached to the second army;
we draw our rations from the army and we're called F.A.N.Y.S."

"'Pon my soul," he cried, "you're neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but
you're thundering good red herrings!"

It was a foregone conclusion that a red herring should become their sign
after that!

The next day I was taken over the battlefields through Arcques, where
the famous "Belle" still manipulates the bridge, and along by the Nieppe
Forest. We could still see the trenches and dug-outs used in the fierce
fighting there last year. A cemetery in a little clearing by the side of
the road, the graves surmounted by plain wooden crosses, was the first
of many we were to pass. Vieux Berquin, a once pretty little village,
was reduced to ruins and the road we followed was pitted with shell
holes.

It was pathetic to see an old man and his wife, bent almost double with
age and rheumatism, poking about among the ruins of their one-time home,
in the hope of finding something undestroyed. They were living
temporarily in a miserable little shanty roofed in by pieces of
corrugated iron, the remains of former Nissen huts and dug-outs.

In Neuf Berquin several families were living in new wooden huts the size
of Armstrongs with cheerful red-tiled roofs, that seemed if possible to
intensify the utter desolation of the surroundings.

Lusty youths, still in the _bleu horizon_ of the French Army, were busy
tilling the ground, which they had cleared of bricks and mortar, to make
vegetable gardens.

My chief impression was that France, now that the war was over, had made
up her mind to set to and get going again just as fast as she possibly
could. There was not an idle person to be seen, even the children were
collecting bricks and slates.

I wondered how these families got supplies and, as if in answer to my
unspoken question, a baker's cart full of fresh brown loaves came
bumping and jolting down the uneven village street.

Silhouetted against the sky behind him was the gaunt wall of the
one-time church tower, its windows looking like the empty sockets of a
skull.

Estaires was in no better condition, but here the inhabitants had come
back in numbers and were busy at the work of reconstruction. We passed
"Grime Farm" and "Taffy Farm" on the way to Armentières, then through a
little place called Croix du Bac with notices printed on the walls of
the village in German. It had once been their second line.

In the distance Armentières gave me the impression of being almost
untouched, but on closer inspection the terrible part was that only the
mere shells of the houses were left standing. Bailleul was like a city
of the dead. I saw no returned inhabitants along its desolate streets.
The Mont des Cats was on our left with the famous monastery at its
summit where Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had been tended by the monks
when lying wounded. In return for their kindness he gave orders that the
monastery was to be spared, and so it was for some time. But whether he
repented of his generosity or not I can't say. It must certainly have
been badly shelled since, as its walls now testify. On our right was
Kemmel with its pill-boxes making irregular bumps against the sky-line.
One place was pointed out to me as being the site of a once famous
tea-garden where a telescope had been installed, for visitors to view
the surrounding country.

We passed through St. Jans Capelle, Berthen, Boschepe, and so to the
frontier into Belgium. The first sight that greeted our eyes was Remy
siding, a huge cemetery, one of the largest existing, where rows upon
rows of wooden crosses stretched as far as the eye could see.

We drove to Ypres via Poperinghe and Vlamertinge and saw the famous
"Goldfish" Château on our left, which escaped being shelled, and was
then gutted by an accidental fire!

I was surprised to see anything at all of the once beautiful Cloth Hall.
We took some snaps of the remains. A lot of discoloured bones were lying
about among the _débris_ disinterred from the cemetery by the
bombardments.

Heaps of powdered bricks were all that remained of many of the houses.
The town gasometer had evidently been blown completely into the air,
what was left of it was perched on its head in a drunken fashion.

Beyond the gate of the town on the Menin Road stood a large unpainted
wooden shanty. I wondered what it could be and thought it was possibly a
Y.M.C.A. hut. Imagine my surprise on closer inspection to see painted
over the door in large black letters "Ypriana Hotel"! It had been put up
by an enterprising _Belge_. Somehow it seemed a desecration to see this
cheap little building on that sacred spot.

The Ypres-Menin Road stretched in front of us as far as the eye could
see, disappearing into the horizon. On either hand was No-man's-land. I
had seen wrecked villages on the Belgian front in 1915 and was more or
less accustomed to the sight, but this was different. It was more
terrible than any ruins I had ever seen. For utter desolation I never
want to behold anything worse.

The ground was pock-marked with shell-holes and craters. Old tanks lay
embedded in the mud, their sides pierced by shot and shell, and worst of
all by far were the trees. Mere skeletons of trees standing gaunt and
jagged, stripped naked of their bark; mute testimony of the horrors they
had witnessed. Surely of all the lonely places of the earth this was by
far the worst? The ground looked lighter in some places than in others,
where the powdered bricks alone showed where a village had once stood.
There were those whose work it was to search for the scattered graves
and bring them in to one large cemetery. Just beyond "Hell-fire Corner"
a padre was conducting a burial service over some such of these where a
cemetery had been formed. We next passed Birr Cross Roads with
"Sanctuary Wood" on our left. Except that the lifeless trees seemed to
be more numerous, nothing was left to indicate a wood had ever been
there.

The more I saw the more I marvelled to think how the men could exist in
such a place and not go mad, yet we were seeing it under the most ideal
conditions with the fresh green grass shooting up to cover the ugly
rents and scars.

Many of the craters half-filled with water already had duckweed growing.
Words are inadequate to express the horror and loneliness of that place
which seemed peopled only by the ghosts of those "Beloved soldiers, who
love rough life and breath, not less for dying faithful to the last."

We drove on to Hooge and turned near Geluvelt, making our way back
silently along that historic road which had been kept in repair by gangs
of workmen whose job it was to fill in the shell holes as fast as they
were made.

As we wound our way up the steep hill to Cassel with its narrow streets
and high, Spanish-looking houses, the sun was setting and the country
lay below us in a wonderful panorama. The cherry-trees bordering the
steep hill down the other side stood out like miniature snowstorms
against the blue haze of the evening. We got back to find the Saturday
evening hop in progress (life still seemed to be formed of paradoxes).
It was held in the mess hut, where the bumpy line down the middle of the
floor was appropriately called "Vimy Ridge," and the place where the
shell hole had been further up "Kennedy Crater." The floor was
exceedingly springy just there, but it takes a good deal to "cramp the
style" of a F.A.N.Y., and details of this sort only add to the general
enjoyment.

The next day I went down to the old convoy and saw my beloved "Susan"
again, apparently not one whit the worse for the valiant war work she
had done. Everything looked exactly the same, and to complete the
picture, as I arrived, I saw two F.A.N.Y.s quietly snaffling some horses
for a ride round the camp while their owners remained blissfully
unconscious in the mess. I felt things were indeed unchanged!

That evening I hunted out all my French friends. The old flower lady in
the Rue uttered a shriek, dropped her flowers, and embraced me again and
again. Then there was the _Pharmacie_ to visit, the paper man, the
pretty flapper, Monsieur and Madame from the "Omelette" Shop, and a host
of others. I also saw the French general. For a moment he was
puzzled--obviously he "knew the face but couldn't put a name to it,"
then his eye fell on the ribbon. "_Mon enfant_," was all he said, and
without any warning he opened his arms and I received a smacking kiss on
both cheeks! _Quel émotion!_ Everyone was so delighted, I felt the
burden of the last two years slipping off my shoulders.

Quite by chance I was put in my old original "cue." I counted the doors
up the passage. Yes, it must be the one, there could be no doubt about
it, and on looking up at the walls I could just discern the shadowy
outlines of the panthers through a new coating of colour-wash.

The hospital where I had been was shut up and empty, and was shortly
going to become a Casino again. How good it was to be back with the
F.A.N.Y.s! I had just caught them in time, for they were to be
demobilised on the following Sunday and I began to realise, now that I
was with them again, just how terribly I had missed their gay
companionship.

It was a singular and happy coincidence that on the second anniversary
of the day I lost my leg, I should be cantering over the same fields at
Peuplinghe where "Flanders" had so gallantly pursued "puss" that day so
long ago, or was it really only yesterday?

     FRANCE,
          _May 9th, 1919._

       *       *       *       *       *

_Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury, England._


[Transcriber's Notes:
The original text had no footnotes. I put markers in where the text was
changed in any way.

Varied hyphenation retained. Obvious spelling and punctuation errors
repaired and noted.

[1] Space introduced in "everyone" to read "every one[1] of those men" Chapter II page 14

[2] Period added "one had done." Chapter III page 25

[3] Position of opening parenthesis on this sentence surmised. Chapter
VI page 47 "terms!)"

[4] Period added at end of paragraph Chapter VII on page 51 "patients."

[5] Word changed from "a" to "as" Chapter VII on page 55 "he was as[5]
black"

[6] Typo fixed "splendily" to "splendidly" Chapter VII page 56 "behaved
splendidly"

[7] Extraneous quotation mark removed from "_Mees anglaises_!" Chapter VII page 56

[8] Closing quote added Chapter IX page 78 "to vous plaît_,"[8] they"

[9] Typo fixed depôt changed to dépôt to match remainder of text Chapter
IX page 85 "enlisting dépôt[9] who"

[10] Comma changed to a period Chapter X page 90 "places.[10] Up"

[11] F.A.N.Y.work--space introduced to F.A.N.Y. work Chapter X page 108

[12] Ending quotation mark added. Chapter XI page 122. "Blighter"!"

[13] Period inserted "at all.[13] As we" Chapter XIV page 182





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