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´╗┐Title: A Surgeon in Belgium
Author: Souttar, Henry Sessions, 1875-1964
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Surgeon in Belgium" ***

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A SURGEON IN BELGIUM

by H. S. Souttar, F.R.C.S.
Assistant Surgeon, West London Hospital
Late Surgeon-in-Chief, Belgian Field Hospital



Preface

To write the true story of three months' work in a hospital is a task
before which the boldest man might quail. Let my very dear friends of
the Belgian Field Hospital breathe again, for I have attempted nothing
of the sort. I would sooner throw aside my last claim to self-respect,
and write my autobiography. It would at least be safer. But there were
events which happened around us, there was an atmosphere in which
we lived, so different from those of our lives at home that one felt
compelled to try to picture them before they merged into the shadowy
memories of the past. And this is all that I have attempted. To all who
worked with me through those months I owe a deep debt of gratitude.
That they would do everything in their power to make the hospital a
success went without saying, but it was quite another matter that they
should all have conspired to make the time for me one of the happiest
upon which I shall ever look back. Where all have been so kind, it is
almost invidious to mention names, and yet there are two which must
stand by themselves. To the genius and the invincible resource of
Madame Sindici the hospital owes an incalculable debt. Her
friendship is one of my most delightful memories. The sterling powers
of Dr. Beavis brought us safely many a time through deep water, and
but for his enterprise the hospital would have come to an abrupt
conclusion with Antwerp. There could have been no more delightful
colleague, and without his aid much of this book would never have
been written.

For the Belgian Field Hospital I can wish nothing better than that its
star may continue to shine in the future as it has always done in the
past, and that a sensible British public may generously support the
most enterprising hospital in the war.

H. S. S.



Contents

To Antwerp
The Hospital
The Day's Work
Antwerp
Termonde
The Chateau
Malines
Lierre
A Pause
The Siege
Contich
The Bombardment--Night
The Bombardment--Day
The Night Journey
Furnes
Poperinghe
Furnes Again
Work At Furnes
Furnes--The Town
A Journey
The Ambulance Corps
Pervyse--The Trenches
Ypres
Some Conclusions



A SURGEON IN BELGIUM


I. To Antwerp



When, one Saturday afternoon in September, we stepped on board
the boat for Ostend, it was with a thrill of expectation. For weeks we
had read and spoken of one thing only--the War--and now we
were to see it for ourselves, we were even in some way to be a part of
it. The curtain was rising for us upon the greatest drama in all the
lurid history of strife. We should see the armies as they went out to
fight, and we should care for the wounded when their work was done.
We might hear the roar of the guns and the scream of the shells. To
us, that was War.

And, indeed, we have seen more of war in these few weeks than has
fallen to the lot of many an old campaigner. We have been through
the siege of Antwerp, we have lived and worked always close to the
firing-line, and I have seen a great cruiser roll over and sink, the
victim of a submarine. But these are not the things which will live in
our minds. These things are the mere framing of the grim picture. The
cruiser has been blotted out by the weary faces of an endless stream
of fugitives, and the scream of the shells has been drowned by the cry
of a child. For, though the soldiers may fight, it is the people who
suffer, and the toll of war is not the life which it takes, but the life
which it destroys.

I suppose, and I hope, that there is not a man amongst us who has
not in his heart wished to go to the front, and to do what he could.
The thought may have been only transitory, and may soon have been
blotted out by self-interest; and there is many a strong man who has
thrust it from him because he knew that his duty lay at home. But to
everyone the wish must have come, though only to a few can come
the opportunity. We all want to do our share, but it is only human that
we should at the same time long to be there in the great business of
the hour, to see war as it really is, to feel the thrill of its supreme
moments, perhaps in our heart of hearts to make quite certain that we
are not cowards. And when we return, what do we bring with us? We
all bring a few bits of shell, pictures of ruined churches, perhaps a
German helmet--and our friends are full of envy. And some of us
return with scenes burnt into our brain of horror and of pathos such as
no human pen can describe. Yet it is only when we sit down in the
quiet of our homes that we realize the deeper meaning of all that we
have seen, that we grasp the secret of the strange aspects of
humanity which have passed before us. What we have seen is a
world in which the social conventions under which we live, and which
form a great part or the whole of most of our lives, have been torn
down. Men and women are no longer limited by the close barriers of
convention. They must think and act for themselves, and for once it is
the men and women that we see, and not the mere symbols which
pass as coin in a world at peace. To the student of men and women,
the field of war is the greatest opportunity in the world. It is a
veritable dissecting-room, where all the queer machinery that
goes to the making of us lies open to our view. On the whole,
I am very glad that I am a mere surgeon, and that I can limit my
dissections to men's bodies. Human Anatomy is bad enough,
but after the last three months the mere thought of an analysis
of Human Motives fills me with terror.

Our boat was one of the older paddle steamers. We were so fortunate
as to have a friend at Court, and the best cabins on the ship were
placed at our disposal. I was very grateful to that friend, for it was
very rough, and our paddle-boxes were often under water. We
consoled ourselves by the thought that at least in a rough sea we
were safe from submarines, but the consolation became somewhat
threadbare as time went on. Gradually the tall white cliffs of Dover
sank behind us, splendid symbols of the quiet power which guards
them. But for those great white cliffs, and the waves which wash their
base, how different the history of England would have been! They
broke the power of Spain in her proudest days, Napoleon gazed at
them in vain as at the walls of a fortress beyond his grasp, and
against them Germany will fling herself to her own destruction.
Germany has yet to learn the strength which lies concealed behind
those cliffs, the energy and resource which have earned for England
the command of the sea. It was a bad day for Germany when she
ventured to question that command. She will receive a convincing
answer to her question.

We reached Ostend, and put up for the night at the Hotel Terminus.
Ostend was empty, and many of the hotels were closed. A few bombs
had been dropped upon the town some days before, and caused
considerable excitement--about all that most bombs ever succeed
in doing, as we afterwards discovered. But it had been enough to
cause an exodus. No one dreamt that in less than three weeks' time
the town would be packed with refugees, and that to get either a bed
or a meal would be for many of them almost impossible. Everywhere
we found an absolute confidence as to the course of the war, and the
general opinion was that the Germans would be driven out of Belgium
in less than six weeks.

Two of our friends in Antwerp had come down to meet us by motor,
and we decided to go back with them by road, as trains, though still
running, were slow and uncertain. It was a terrible day, pouring in
torrents and blowing a hurricane. Our route lay through Bruges and
Ghent, but the direct road to Bruges was in a bad condition, and we
chose the indirect road through Blankenberghe. We left Ostend by
the magnificent bridge, with its four tall columns, which opens the way
towards the north-east, and as we crossed it I met the first symbol of
war. A soldier stepped forward, and held his rifle across our path. My
companion leaned forward and murmured, "Namur," the soldier
saluted, and we passed on. It was all very simple, and, but for the one
word, silent; but it was the first time I had heard a password, and it
made an immense impression on my mind. We had crossed the
threshold of War. I very soon had other things to think about. The
road from Ostend to Blankenberghe is about the one good motor road
in Belgium, and my companion evidently intended to demonstrate the
fact to me beyond all possibility of doubt. We were driving into the
teeth of a squall, but there seemed to be no limits to the power of his
engine. I watched the hand of his speedometer rise till it touched sixty
miles per hour. On the splendid asphalt surface of the road there was
no vibration, but a north-east wind across the sand-dunes is no trifle,
and I was grateful when we turned south-eastwards at Blankenberghe,
and I could breathe again.

As I said, that road by the dunes is unique. The roads of Belgium, for
the most part, conform to one regular pattern. In the centre is a paved
causeway, set with small stone blocks, whilst on each side is a couple
of yards of loose sand, or in wet weather of deep mud. The causeway
is usually only just wide enough for the passing of two motors, and on
the smaller roads it is not sufficient even for this. As there is no speed
limit, and everyone drives at the top power of his engine, the skill
required to drive without mishap is considerable. After a little rain the
stone is covered with a layer of greasy mud, and to keep a car upon it
at a high speed is positively a gymnastic feat. In spite of every
precaution, an occasional descent into the mud at the roadside is
inevitable, and from that only a very powerful car can extricate itself
with any ease. A small car will often have to slowly push its way out
backwards. In dry weather the conditions are almost as bad, for often
the roadside is merely loose sand, which gives no hold for a wheel.
For a country so damp and low-lying as Belgium, there is probably
nothing to equal a paved road, but it is a pity that the paving was not
made a little wider. Every now and then we met one of the huge,
unwieldy carts which seem to be relics of a prehistoric age--rough
plank affairs of enormous strength and a design so primitive as to be
a constant source of wonder. They could only be pulled along at a
slow walk and with vast effort by a couple of huge horses, and the
load the cart was carrying never seemed to bear any proportion to the
mechanism of its transport. The roads are bad, but they will not
account for those carts. The little front wheels are a stroke of
mechanical ineptitude positively amounting to genius, and when they
are replaced by a single wheel, and the whole affair resembles a
huge tricycle, one instinctively looks round for a Dinosaur. Time after
time we met them stuck in the mud or partially overturned, but the
drivers seemed in no way disconcerted; it was evidently all part of the
regular business of the day. When one thinks of the Brussels
coachwork which adorns our most expensive motors, and of the great
engineering works of Liege, those carts are a really wonderful
example of persistence of type.

We passed through Bruges at a pace positively disrespectful to that
fine old town. There is no town in Belgium so uniform in the
magnificence of its antiquity, and it is good to think that--so far, at
any rate--it has escaped destruction. As we crossed the square, the
clock in the belfry struck the hour, and began to play its chimes. It is a
wonderful old clock, and every quarter of an hour it plays a tune--a
very attractive performance, unless you happen to live opposite. I
remember once thinking very hard things about the maker of that
clock, but perhaps it was not his fault that one of the bells was a
quarter of a tone flat. At the gates our passports were examined, and
we travelled on to Ghent by the Ecloo Road, one of the main
thoroughfares of Belgium. Beyond an occasional sentry, there was
nothing to indicate that we were passing through a country at war,
except that we rarely saw a man of military age. All were women, old
men, or children. Certainly the men of Belgium had risen to the
occasion. The women were doing everything--working in the fields,
tending the cattle, driving the market-carts and the milk-carts with
their polished brass cans. After leaving Ghent, the men came into
view, for at Lokeren and St. Nicholas were important military stations,
whilst nearer to Antwerp very extensive entrenchments and wire
entanglements were being constructed. The trenches were most
elaborate, carefully constructed and covered in; and I believe that all
the main approaches to the city were defended in the same way.
Antwerp could never have been taken by assault, but with modern
artillery it would have been quite easy to destroy it over the heads of
its defenders. The Germans have probably by now rendered it
impregnable, for though in modern war it is impossible to defend
one's own cities, the same does not apply to the enemy. In future,
forts will presumably be placed at points of strategic importance only,
and as far as possible from towns.

Passing through the western fortifications, we came upon the long
bridge of boats which had been thrown across the Scheldt. The river
is here more than a quarter of a mile wide, and the long row of sailing
barges was most picturesque. The roadway was of wooden planks,
and only just wide enough to allow one vehicle to pass at a time, the
tall spars of the barges rising on each side. It is strange that a city of
such wealth as Antwerp should not have bridged a river which, after
all, is not wider than the Thames. We were told that a tunnel was in
contemplation. The bridge of boats was only a tribute to the
necessities of war. We did not dream that a fortnight later it would be
our one hope of escape.



II. The Hospital



Antwerp is one of the richest cities in Europe, and our hospital was
placed in its wealthiest quarter. The Boulevard Leopold is a
magnificent avenue, with a wide roadway in the centre flanked by
broad paths planted with trees. Beyond these, again, on each side is
a paved road with a tram-line, whilst a wide pavement runs along the
houses. There are many such boulevards in Antwerp, and they give
to the city an air of spaciousness and opulence in striking contrast to
the more utilitarian plan of London or of most of our large towns. We
talk a great deal about fresh air, but we are not always ready to pay
for it.

Our hospital occupied one of the largest houses on the south-east
side. A huge doorway led into an outer hall through which the garden
was directly reached behind the house. On the right-hand side of this
outer hall a wide flight of steps led to inner glass doors and the great
central hall of the building. As a private house it must have been
magnificent; as a hospital it was as spacious and airy as one could
desire. The hall was paved with marble, and on either side opened
lofty reception rooms, whilst in front wide marble staircases led to the
first floor. This first floor and another above it were occupied entirely
by wards, each containing from six to twelve beds. On the ground
floor on the right-hand side were two large wards, really magnificent
rooms, and one smaller, all these overlooking the Boulevard. On the
left were the office, the common room, and the operating theatre.
Behind the house was a large paved courtyard, flanked on the right
by a garden border and on the left by a wide glass-roofed corridor.
The house had previously been used as a school, and on the
opposite side of the courtyard was the gymnasium, with dormitories
above. The gymnasium furnished our dining-hall, whilst several of the
staff slept in the rooms above.

It will be seen that the building was in many ways well adapted to the
needs of a hospital and to the accommodation of the large staff
required. We had in all 150 beds, and a staff of about 50. The latter
included 8 doctors, 20 nurses, 5 dressers, lay assistants, and motor
drivers. In addition to these there was a kitchen staff of Belgians, so
that the management of the whole was quite a large undertaking,
especially in a town where ordinary provisions were becoming more
and more difficult to obtain. In the later days of the siege, when milk
was not to be had and the only available water was salt, the lot of our
housekeeper was anything but happy. Providing meals for over 200
people in a besieged town is no small matter. But it was managed
somehow, and our cuisine was positively astonishing, to which I think
we largely owe the fact that none of the staff was ever ill. Soldiers are
not the only people who fight on their stomachs.

The management of the hospital centred in the office, and it was so
typical of Belgium as to be really worth a few words of description. It
was quite a small room, and it was always crowded. Four of us had
seats round a table in the centre, and at another table in the window
sat our Belgian secretary, Monsieur Herman, and his two clerks. But
that was only the beginning of it. All day long there was a constant
stream of men, women, and children pouring into that room, bringing
letters, asking questions, always talking volubly to us and amongst
themselves. At first we thought that this extraordinary turmoil was due
to our want of space, but we soon found that it was one of the
institutions of the country. In England an official's room is the very
home of silence, and is by no means easy of access. If he is a high
official, a series of ante-rooms is interposed between his sacred
person and an inquisitive world. But in Belgium everyone walks
straight in without removing his cigar. The great man sits at his desk
surrounded by a perfect Babel, but he is always polite, always ready
to hear what you have to say and to do what he can to help. He
appears to be able to deal with half a dozen different problems at the
same time without ever being ruffled or confused. There is an
immense amount of talking and shaking of hands, and at first the
brain of a mere Englishman is apt to whirl; but the business is done
rapidly and completely. Belgium is above all things democratic, and
our office was a good introduction to it.

The common room was large and airy, overlooking the courtyard, and
a few rugs and armchairs made it a very comfortable place when the
work of the day was done. Anyone who has worked in a hospital will
know what a difference such a room makes to the work--work that
must be carried on at all hours of the day or night; nor will he need to
be told of the constant supply of tea and coffee that will be found
there. We go about telling our patients of the evils of excessive tea-
drinking, and we set them an example they would find it hard to
follow. We do not mention how often tea and a hot bath have been
our substitute for a night's sleep.' A good common room and an
unlimited supply of tea will do much to oil the wheels of hospital life.

But to myself the all-important room was the operating theatre, for
upon its resources depended entirely our opportunities for surgical
work. It was in every way admirable, and I know plenty of hospitals in
London whose theatres would not bear comparison with ours. Three
long windows faced the courtyard; there was a great bunch of electric
lights in the ceiling, and there was a constant supply of boiling water.
What more could the heart of surgeon desire? There were two
operating tables and an equipment of instruments to vie with any in a
London hospital. Somebody must have been very extravagant over
those instruments, I thought as I looked at them; but he was right and
I was wrong, for there were very few of those instruments for which I
was not grateful before long. The surgery of war is a very different
thing from the surgery of home.

The wards were full when we arrived, and I had a wonderful
opportunity of studying the effects of rifle and shell fire. Most of the
wounds were fortunately slight, but some of them were terrible, and,
indeed, in some cases it seemed little short of miraculous that the
men had survived. But on every side one saw nothing but cheerful
faces, and one would never have dreamt what some of those men
had gone through. They were all smoking cigarettes, laughing, and
chatting, as cheery a set of fellows as one could meet. You would
never have suspected that a few days before those same men had
been carried into the hospital in most cases at their last gasp from
loss of blood and exposure, for none but serious cases were
admitted. The cheeriest man in the place was called Rasquinet, a
wounded officer who had been christened "Ragtime" for short, and for
affection. A week before he had been struck by a shell in the left side,
and a large piece of the shell had gone clean through, wounding the
kidney behind and the bowel in front. That man crawled across
several fields, a distance of nearly a mile, on his hands and knees,
dragging with him to a place of safety a wounded companion. When
from loss of blood he could drag him along no longer, he left him
under a hedge, and dragged himself another half-mile till he could get
help. When he was brought into the hospital, he was so exhausted
from pain and loss of blood that no one thought that he could live for
more than a few hours, but by sheer pluck he had pulled through.
Even now he was desperately ill with as horrible a wound as a man
could have, but nothing was going to depress him. I am glad to say
that what is known in surgery as a short circuit was an immediate
success, and when we left him three weeks later in Ghent he was to
all intents perfectly well.

There were plenty of other serious cases, some of them with ghastly
injuries, and many of them must have suffered agonizing pain; but
they were all doing their best to make light of their troubles, whilst
their gratitude for what was done for them was extraordinary. The
Belgians are by nature a cheerful race, but these were brave men,
and we felt glad that we had come out to do what we could for them.

But if we give them credit for their courage and cheerfulness, we must
not forget how largely they owed it to the devoted attention--yes,
and to the courage and cheerfulness--of the nurses. I wonder how
many of us realize what Britain owes to her nurses. We take them as
a matter of course, we regard nursing as a very suitable profession
for a woman to take up--if she can find nothing better to do; perhaps
we may have been ill, and we were grateful for a nurse's kindness.
But how many of us realize all the long years of drudgery that have
given the skill we appreciated, the devotion to her work that has made
the British nurse what she is? And how many of us realize that we
English-speaking nations alone in the world have such nurses?
Except in small groups, they are unknown in France, Belgium,
Germany, Russia, or any other country in the world. In no other land
will women leave homes of ease and often of luxury to do work that
no servant would touch, for wages that no servant would take--work
for which there will be very little reward but the unmeasured gratitude
of the very few. They stand to-day as an unanswerable proof that as
nations we have risen higher in the level of civilization than any of our
neighbours. To their influence on medicine and surgery I shall refer
again. Here I only wish to acknowledge our debt. As a mere patient I
would rather have a good nurse than a good physician, if I were so
unfortunate as to have to make the choice. A surgeon is a dangerous
fellow, and must be treated with respect. But as a rule the physician
gives his blessing, the surgeon does his operation, but it is the nurse
who does the work.



III. The Day's Work



In any hospital at home or abroad there is a large amount of routine
work, which must be carried on in an orderly and systematic manner,
and upon the thoroughness with which this is done will largely depend
the effectiveness of the hospital. Patients must be fed and washed,
beds must be made and the wards swept and tidied, wounds must be
dressed and splints adjusted. In an English hospital everything is
arranged to facilitate this routine work. Close to every ward is a sink-
room with an adequate supply of hot and cold water, dinner arrives in
hot tins from the kitchens as if by magic, whilst each ward has its own
arrangements for preparing the smaller meals. The beds are of a
convenient height, and there is an ample supply of sheets and pillow-
cases, and of dressing materials of all kinds arranged on tables which
run noiselessly up and down the wards. At home all these things are
a matter of course; abroad they simply did not exist. Four or five gas-
rings represented our hot-water supply and our ward-kitchens for our
150 patients, and the dinners had to be carried up from the large
kitchens in the basement. The beds were so low as to break one's
back, and had iron sides which were always in the way; and when we
came to the end of our sheets--well, we came to the end of them,
and that was all. In every way the work was heavier and more difficult
than at home, for all our patients were heavy men, and every wound
was septic, and had, in many cases, to be dressed several times a
day. Everyone had to work hard, sometimes very hard; but as a rule
we got through the drudgery in the morning, and in the afternoon
everything was in order, and we should, I think, have compared very
favourably in appearance with most hospitals at home.

But we had to meet one set of conditions which would, I think, baffle
many hospitals at home. Every now and then, without any warning,
from 50 to 100, even in one case 150, wounded would be brought to
our door. There was no use in putting up a notice "House Full"; the
men were wounded and they must be attended to. In such a case our
arrangement was a simple one: all who could walk went straight
upstairs, the gravest cases went straight to the theatre or waited their
turn in the great hall, the others were accommodated on the ground
floor. We had a number of folding beds for emergency, and we had
no rules as to overcrowding. In the morning the authorities would
clear out as many patients as we wished. Sometimes we were hard
put to it to find room for them all, but we always managed somehow,
and we never refused admission to a single patient on the score of
want of room. The authorities soon discovered the capacity of the
hospital for dealing with really serious cases, and as a result our beds
were crowded with injuries of the gravest kind. What appealed to us
far more was the appreciation of the men themselves. We felt that we
had not worked in vain when we heard that the soldiers in the
trenches begged to be taken "a l'Hopital Anglais."

The condition of the men when they reached us was often pitiable in
the extreme. Most of them had been living in the trenches for weeks
exposed to all kinds of weather, their clothes were often sodden and
caked with dirt, and the men themselves showed clear traces of
exposure and insecure sleep. In most cases they had lain in the
trenches for hours after being wounded, for as a rule it is impossible
to remove the wounded at once with any degree of safety. Indeed,
when the fighting is at all severe they must lie till dark before it is
safe for the stretcher-bearers to go for them. This was so at Furnes,
but at Antwerp we were usually able to get them in within a few hours.
Even a few hours' delay with a bad wound may be a serious matter,
and in every serious case our attention was first directed to the
condition of the patient himself and not to his wound. Probably
he had lost blood, his injury had produced more or less shock,
he had certainly been lying for hours in pain. He had to be got
warm, his circulation had to be restored, he had to be saved
from pain and protected from further shock. Hot bottles, blankets,
brandy, and morphia worked wonders in a very short time, and
one could then proceed to deal with wounds. Our patients
were young and vigorous, and their rate of recovery was extraordinary.

When a rush came we all had to work our hardest, and the scenes in
any part of the hospital required steady nerves; but perhaps the
centre of interest was the theatre. Here all the worst cases were
brought--men with ghastly injuries from which the most hardened
might well turn away in horror; men almost dead from loss of blood,
or, worst of all, with a tiny puncture in the wall of the abdomen which
looks so innocent, but which, in this war at least, means, apart from a
difficult and dangerous operation, a terrible death. With all these we
had to deal as rapidly and completely as possible, reducing each
case to a form which it would be practicable to nurse, where the
patient would be free from unnecessary pain, and where he would
have the greatest possible chance of ultimate recovery. Of course, all
this was done under anaesthesia. What a field hospital must have
been before the days of anaesthesia is too horrible to contemplate.
Even in civil hospitals the surgeons must have reached a degree of
"Kultur" beside which its present exponents are mere children. It is
not so many years since a famous surgeon, who was fond of walking
back from his work at the London Hospital along the Whitechapel
Road, used to be pointed to with horror by the Aldgate butchers,
whose opinion on such a subject was probably worth consideration.
But now all that is changed. The surgeon can be a human being
again, and indeed, except when he goes round his wards, his patients
may never know, of his existence. They go to sleep in a quiet
anteroom, and they waken up in the ward. Of the operation and all its
difficulties they know no more than their friends at home. Perhaps
even more wonderful is the newer method of spinal anaesthesia,
which we used largely for the difficult abdominal cases. With the
injection of a minute quantity of fluid into the spine all sensation
disappears up to the level of the arms, and, provided he cannot see
what is going on, any operation below that level can be carried out
without the patient knowing anything about it at all. It is rather
uncanny at first to see a patient lying smoking a cigarette and reading
the paper whilst on the other side of a screen a big operation is in
progress. But for many cases this method is unsuitable, and without
chloroform we should indeed have been at a loss. The Belgians are
an abstemious race, and they took it beautifully. I am afraid they were
a striking contrast to their brothers on this side of the water.
Chloroform does not mix well with alcohol in the human body, and the
British working man is rather fond of demonstrating the fact.

With surgery on rather bold lines it was extraordinary how much could
be done, especially in the way of saving limbs. During the whole of
our stay in Antwerp we never once had to resort to an amputation.
We were dealing with healthy and vigorous men, and once they had
got over the shock of injury they had wonderful powers of recovery.
We very soon found that we were dealing with cases to which the
ordinary rules of surgery did not apply. The fundamental principles of
the art must always be the same, but here the conditions of their
application were essentially different from those of civil practice. Two
of these conditions were of general interest: the great destruction of
the tissues in most wounds, and the infection of the wounds, which
was almost universal.

Where a wound has been produced by a large fragment of shell, one
expects to see considerable damage; in fact, a whole limb may be
torn off, or death may be instant from some terrible injury to the body.
But where the object of the enemy is the injury of individuals, and not
the destruction of buildings, they often use shrapnel, and the resulting
wounds resemble those from the old smooth-bore guns of our
ancestors. Shrapnel consists of a large number of bullets about half
an inch in diameter packed together in a case, which carries also a
charge of explosive timed to burst at the moment when it reaches its
object. The balls are small and round, and if they go straight through
soft tissues they do not do much damage. If, however, they strike a
bone, they are so soft that their shape becomes irregular, and the
injury they can produce in their further course is almost without limit.
On the whole, they do not as a rule produce great damage, for in
many cases they are nearly spent when they reach their mark. Pieces
of the case will, of course, have much the same effect as an ordinary
shell.

The effects of rifle-fire, particularly at short ranges, have led to a
great deal of discussion, and each side has accused the other of
using dum-dum bullets. The ordinary bullet consists of a lead core
with a casing of nickel, since the soft lead would soon choke rifling.
Such a bullet under ordinary circumstances makes a clean
perforation, piercing the soft tissues, and sometimes the bones, with
very little damage. In a dum-dum bullet the casing at the tip is cut or
removed, with the result that, on striking, the casing spreads out and
forms a rough, irregular missile, which does terrific damage. Such
bullets were forbidden by the Geneva Convention. But the German
bullet is much more subtle than this. It is short and pointed, and when
it strikes it turns completely over and goes through backwards. The
base of the bullet has no cover, and consequently spreads in a
manner precisely similar to that in a dum-dum, with equally deadly
results. There could be no greater contrast than that between the
wounds with which we had to deal in South Africa, produced by
ordinary bullets, and those which our soldiers are now receiving from
German rifles. The former were often so slight that it was quite a
common occurrence for a soldier to discover accidentally that he had
been wounded some time previously. In the present war rifle wounds
have been amongst the most deadly with which we have had to deal.

It will thus be seen that in most cases the wounds were anything but
clean-cut; with very few exceptions, they were never surgically clean.
By surgically clean we mean that no bacteria are present which can
interfere with the healing of the tissues, and only those who are
familiar with surgical work can realize the importance of this condition.
Its maintenance is implied in the term "aseptic surgery," and upon this
depends the whole distinction between the surgery of the present and
the surgery of the past. Without it the great advances of modern
surgery would be entirely impossible. When we say, then, that every
wound with which we had to deal was infected with bacteria, it will be
realized how different were the problems which we had to face
compared with those of work at home. But the difference was even
more striking, for the bacteria which had infected the wounds were
not those commonly met with in England. These wounds were for the
most part received in the open country, and they were soiled by earth,
manure, fragments of cloth covered with mud. They were therefore
infected by the organisms which flourish on such soil, and not by the
far more deadly denizens of our great cities. It is true that in soil one
may meet with tetanus and other virulent bacteria, but in our
experience these were rare. Now, there is one way in which all such
infections may be defeated--by plenty of fresh air, or, better still, by
oxygen. We had some very striking proofs of this, for in several cases
the wounds were so horribly foul that it was impossible to tolerate
their presence in the wards; and in these cases we made it a practice
to put the patient in the open air, of course suitably protected, and to
leave the wound exposed to the winds of heaven, with only a thin
piece of gauze to protect it. The results were almost magical, for in
two or three days the wounds lost their odour and began to look
clean, whilst the patients lost all signs of the poisoning which had
been so marked before. It may be partly to this that we owe the fact
that we never had a case of tetanus. In all cases we treated our
wounds with solutions of oxygen, and we avoided covering them up
with heavy dressings; and we found that this plan was successful as
well as economical.

Though any detailed description of surgical treatment would be out of
place, there was one which in these surroundings was novel, and
which was perhaps of general interest. Amongst all the cases which
came to us, certainly the most awkward were the fractured thighs. It
was not a question of a broken leg in the ordinary sense of the term.
In every case there was a large infected wound to deal with, and as a
rule several inches of the bone had been blown clean away. At first
we regarded these cases with horror, for anything more hopeless
than a thigh with 6 inches missing it is difficult to imagine. Splints
presented almost insuperable difficulties, for the wounds had to be
dressed two or three times, and however skilfully the splint was
arranged, the least movement meant for the patient unendurable
agony. After some hesitation we attempted the method of fixation by
means of steel plates, which was introduced with such success by Sir
Arbuthnot Lane in the case of simple fractures. The missing portion of
the bone is replaced by a long steel plate, screwed by means of small
steel screws to the portions which remain, "demonstrating," as a
colleague put it, "the triumph of mind over the absence of matter."
The result was a brilliant success, for not only could the limb now be
handled as if there were no fracture at all, to the infinite comfort of
the patient, but the wounds themselves cleared up with great rapidity.
We were told that the plates would break loose, that the screws would
come out, that the patient would come to a bad end through the
violent sepsis induced by the presence of a "foreign body" in the
shape of the steel plate. But none of these disasters happened, the
cases did extremely well, and one of our most indignant critics
returned to his own hospital after seeing them with his pockets full of
plates. The only difficulty with some of them was to induce them to
stop in bed, and it is a fact that on the night of our bombardment I met
one of them walking downstairs, leaning on a dresser's arm, ten days
after the operation.

And this brings me to a subject on which I feel very strongly, the folly
of removing bullets. If a bullet is doing any harm, pressing on some
nerve, interfering with a joint, or in any way causing pain or
inconvenience, by all means let it be removed, though even then it
should in most cases never be touched until the wound is completely
healed. But the mere presence of a bullet inside the body will of itself
do no harm at all. The old idea that it will cause infection died long
ago. It may have brought infection with it; but the removal of the bullet
will not remove the infection, but rather in most cases make it fire up.
We now know that, provided they are clean, we can introduce steel
plates, silver wires, silver nets, into the body without causing any
trouble at all, and a bullet is no worse than any of these. It is a matter
in which the public are very largely to blame, for they consider that
unless the bullet has been removed the surgeon has not done his job.
Unless he has some specific reason for it, I know that the surgeon
who removes a bullet does not know his work. It may be the mark of a
Scotch ancestry, but if I ever get a bullet in my own anatomy, I shall
keep it.



IV. Antwerp



There is no port in Europe which holds such a dominant position as
Antwerp, and there is none whose history has involved such amazing
changes of fortune. In the middle of the sixteenth century she was the
foremost city in Europe, at its close she was ruined. For two hundred
years she lay prostrate under the blighting influence of Spain and
Austria, and throttled by the commercial jealousy of England and
Holland. A few weeks ago she was the foremost port on the
Continent, the third in the world; now her wharves stand idle, and she
herself is a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. Who can tell what the
next turn of the wheel will bring?

Placed centrally between north and south, on a deep and wide river,
Antwerp is the natural outlet of Central Europe towards the West, and
it is no wonder that four hundred years ago she gathered to herself
the commerce of the Netherlands, in which Ypres, Bruges, and Ghent
had been her forerunners. For fifty years she was the Queen of the
North, and the centre of a vast ocean trade with England, France,
Spain, Portugal, and Italy, till the religious bigotry of Philip II of
Spain and the awful scenes of the Spanish Fury reduced her to
ruin. For two hundred years the Scheldt was blocked by Holland,
and the ocean trade of Antwerp obliterated. Her population disappeared,
her wharves rotted, and her canals were choked with mud. It is
hard to apportion the share of wickedness between a monarch
who destroys men and women to satisfy his own religious lust,
and a nation which drains the life-blood of another to satisfy its
lust for gold. One wonders  in what category the instigator of the
present war should appear.

At the very beginning of last century Napoleon visited Antwerp, and
asserted that it was "little better than a heap of ruins." He recognized
its incomparable position as a port and as a fortress, and he
determined to raise it to its former prosperity, and to make it the
strongest fortress in Europe. He spent large sums of money upon it,
and his refusal to part with Antwerp is said to have broken off the
negotiations of Chatillon, and to have been the chief cause of his
exile to St. Helena. Alas his enemies did not profit by his genius. We
are the allies of his armies now, but we have lost Antwerp. Germany
will be utterly and completely crushed before she parts with that
incomparable prize. A mere glance at the map of Europe is sufficient
to convince anyone that in a war between England and Germany it is
a point of the first strategical importance. That our access to it should
be hampered by the control of Holland over the Scheldt is one of the
eccentricities of diplomacy which are unintelligible to the plain man.
The blame for its loss must rest equally between Britain and Belgium,
for Belgium, the richest country in Europe for her size, attempted to
defend her greatest stronghold with obsolete guns; whilst we, who
claim the mastery of the seas, sacrificed the greatest seaport in
Europe to the arrangements of an obsolete diplomacy. If we are to
retain our great position on the seas, Antwerp must be regained. She
is the European outpost of Britain, and, as has so often been pointed
out, the mouth of the Scheldt is opposite to the mouth of the Thames.

In Antwerp, as we saw her, it was almost impossible to realize the
vicissitudes through which she had passed, or to remember that her
present prosperity was of little more than fifty years' growth. On all
sides we were surrounded by wide boulevards, lined by magnificent
houses and public buildings. There are few streets in Europe to
eclipse the great Avenue des Arts, which, with its continuations,
extends the whole length of the city from north to south. The theatres,
the Central Station, the banks, would adorn any city, and the shops
everywhere spoke of a wealth not restricted to the few. The wide
streets, the trees, the roomy white houses, many of them great
palaces, made a deep impression upon us after the darkness and dirt
of London. Even in the poorer quarters there was plenty of light and
air, and on no occasion did we find the slums which surround the
wealthiest streets all over London. In the older parts of the city the
streets were, of course, narrower; but even here one had the
compensation of wonderful bits of architecture at unexpected corners,
splendid relics of an illustrious past. They are only remnants, but they
speak of a time when men worked for love rather than for wages, and
when an artisan took a pride in the labour of his hands. If it had not
been for the hand of the destroyer, what a marvellous city Antwerp
would have been! One likes to think that the great creations of the
past are not all lost, and that in the land to which the souls of the
Masters have passed we may find still living the mighty thoughts to
which their love gave birth. Are our cathedrals only stones and
mortar, and are our paintings only dust and oil?

The inhabitants of Antwerp were as delightful as their city. On all
sides we were welcomed with a kindness and a consideration not
always accorded to those who are so bold as to wish to help their
fellow-men. Everywhere we met with a courtesy and a generosity by
which, in the tragedy of their country, we were deeply touched. They
all seemed genuinely delighted to see us, from the Queen herself to
the children in the streets. Our medical confreres treated us royally,
and the mere thought of professional jealousy with such men is simply
ludicrous. They constantly visited our hospital, and they always
showed the keenest interest in our work and in any novelties in
treatment we were able to show them; and when we went to see
them, we were shown all the best that they had, and we brought away
many an ingenious idea which it was worth while going far to obtain.
Wherever we moved amongst the Belgians, we always found the
same simplicity of purpose, the same generosity of impulse.
Everywhere we met the same gratitude for what England was doing
for Belgium; no one ever referred to the sacrifices which Belgium has
made for England.

The one thing which so impressed us in the character of the Belgians
whom we met was its simplicity, and the men who had risen to high
rank did not seem to have lost it in their climb to fame. But it was just
this, the most delightful of their characteristics, which must have
made war for them supremely difficult. For strict discipline and
simplicity are almost incompatible. None of us tower so far above our
fellows that we can command instant obedience for our own sakes.
We have to cover ourselves with gold lace, to entrench ourselves in
rank, and to provide ourselves with all sorts of artificial aids before we
can rely on being obeyed. These things are foreign to the Belgian
mind, and as a result one noticed in their soldiers a certain lack of the
stern discipline which war demands. Individually they are brave men
and magnificent fighters. They only lacked the organization which has
made the little British Army the envy of the world. The fact is that they
are in no sense a warlike nation, in spite of their turbulent history of
the past, and, indeed, few things could be more incompatible than
turbulence and modern warfare. It demands on the part of the masses
of combatants an obedience and a disregard of life which are
repellent to human nature, and the Belgians are above all things
human. Germany is governed by soldiers, and France by officials.
Unlike the frogs in the fable, the Belgians are content to govern
themselves.

It was our great regret that we had so little time in which to see the
work of the Antwerp hospitals, but we made use of what opportunities
we had. There are many of them, and those we saw were magnificent
buildings, equipped in a way which filled us with envy. The great city
hospital, the Stuivenberg, was a model of what a modern hospital
ought to be. The wards were large and airy and spotlessly clean, and
the nurses seemed to be extremely competent. The kitchens were
equipped with all the latest appliances, steam boilers, and gas and
electric cookers. But the show part of the hospital was the suite of
operating theatres. I have always felt the pardonable pride of a son in
the theatres of the London Hospital, but they were certainly eclipsed
here. Each theatre was equipped with its own anaesthetizing room, its
own surgeon's room, and its own sterilizing rooms and stores, all
furnished with a lavishness beyond the financial capacity of any
hospital in London. Perhaps some of the equipment was unnecessary,
but it was abundantly evident that the State appreciated
the value of first-class surgery, and that it was prepared to pay for it.
I have never heard the same accusation levelled at Great Britain.

At St. Camille we had the good fortune to see M. Xambotte at work.
His reputation as a surgeon is worldwide, and it was pleasant to find
that his dexterity as an operator was equal to his reputation. It is not
always the case. He is an expert mechanic, and himself makes most
of the very ingenious instruments which he uses. He was fixing a
fractured femur with silver wires, and one could see the skilled
workman in all that he did. There is no training-ground for one's
hands like a carpenter's bench, and the embryo surgeon might do
much worse with his time than spend six months of it in a workshop.
When medical training emerges from its medieval traditions, manual
training will certainly form a part, and no one will be allowed to
attempt to mend a bone till he has shown his capacity to mend a
chair-leg. Here, again, the surgeon was surrounded by all the
appliances, and even the luxuries, that he could desire. The lot of the
great surgeon abroad is indeed a happy one.

But there is one thing in which we in England are far better off--in
our nursing staffs. In most of the hospitals we visited the nursing was
carried on by Sisterhoods, and though some of them were evidently
good nurses, most of them had no idea whatever of nursing as it is
practised in our country. Fresh air, for example, is to them full of
dangers. One would almost think that it savoured of the powers of
evil. We went into one huge hospital of the most modern type, and
equipped lavishly, and such wag the atmosphere that in ten minutes I
had to make a rush for the door. One large ward was full of wounded
soldiers, many of them with terrible wounds, gangrenous and horrible,
and every window was tightly shut. How they could live in such an
atmosphere is beyond my comprehension, but the Sisters did not
seem to notice it at all.

Some of the surgeons have their specially trained nurses, but nursing
as a profession for the classes who are alone competent to undertake
it is a conception which has yet to dawn upon the Continent, for only
a woman of education and refinement can really be a nurse.

The absence on the Continent of a nursing profession such as ours is
not without its influence on medicine and surgery abroad. The
individual patient meets with far less consideration than would be the
case in this country, and is apt to be regarded as so much raw
material. In Belgium this tendency is counteracted by the natural
kindliness of the Belgian, but in other countries patients are often
treated with a callousness which is amazing. There is in many of the
great clinics a disregard of the patient's feelings, of his sufferings,
and even of his life, which would be impossible in an English hospital.
The contact of a surgeon with his hospital patients as individuals is
largely through the nursing staff, and his point of view will be largely
influenced by them. There is no one in our profession, from the
youngest dresser to the oldest physician, who does not owe a great
part of his education to Sister.



V. Termonde



Anyone who has worked in hospitals will realize how important it is for
the health of the staff, nurses and doctors, that they should get out
into the fresh air for at least some part of every day. It is still more
necessary in a war hospital, for not only is the work more exacting,
but the cases themselves involve certain risks which can only be
safely taken in perfect health. Practically every one is septic, and to
anyone in the least run down the danger of infection is considerable;
and infection with some of the organisms with which one meets in war
is a very serious thing indeed. We had four large motors in Antwerp
belonging to the members of our hospital, and always at its service,
and every afternoon parties were made up to drive out into the
country. As a rule calls were made at various Croix Rouge posts on
the way, and in that way we kept in contact with the medical service of
the army in the field, and gave them what help we could. We were
always provided with the password, and the whole country was open
to us--a privilege we very greatly appreciated; for after a hard
morning's work in the wards there are few things more delightful than
a motor drive. And it gave us an opportunity of seeing war as very few
but staff officers ever can see it. We learnt more about the condition
of the country and of the results of German methods in one afternoon
than all the literature in the world could ever teach. If only it were
possible to bring home to the people of Britain one-hundredth part of
what we saw with our own eyes, stringent laws would have to be
passed to stop men and women from enlisting. No man who deserved
the name of man, and no woman who deserved to be the mother of a
child, would rest day or night till the earth had been freed from the
fiends who have ravaged Belgium and made the name of German
vile.

One afternoon towards the end of September we visited Termonde.
We heard that the Germans, having burnt the town, had retired,
leaving it in the hands of the Belgian troops. It was a rare opportunity
to see the handiwork of the enemy at close quarters, and we did not
wish to miss it. Termonde is about twenty-two miles from Antwerp,
and a powerful car made short work of the distance. Starting directly
southwards through Boom, we reached Willebroeck and the road
which runs east and west from Malines through Termonde to Ghent,
and along it we turned to the right. We were now running parallel to
the German lines, which at some points were only a couple of miles
away on the other side of the Termonde-Malines railway. We passed
numerous Belgian outposts along the road, and for a few miles
between Lippeloo and Baesrode they begged us to travel as fast as
possible, as at this point we came within a mile of the railway. We did
travel, and it would have taken a smart marksman to hit us at fifty
miles an hour; but we felt much happier when we passed under the
railway bridge of a loop line at Briel and placed it between ourselves
and the enemy. The entrance to Termonde was blocked by a rough
barricade of bricks and branches guarded by a squad of soldiers.
They told us that no one was allowed to pass, and we were about to
return disappointed, when one of us happened to mention the
password. As without it we could not possibly have got so far, it had
never occurred to us that they might think we had not got it; and as
we had no possible business in the town, we had no arguments to
oppose to their refusal to let us in. However, all was now open to us,
and the cheery fellows ran forward to remove the barrier they had put
up.

Termonde is, or rather was, a well-to-do town of 10,000 inhabitants
lying on the Scheldt at the point where the Dendre, coming up from
the south, runs into it. A river in Belgium means a route for traffic, and
the town must have derived some advantage from its position as a
trade junction. But it possesses an even greater one in the bridge
which here crosses the Scheldt, the first road bridge above the mouth
of the river, for there is none at Antwerp. At least six main roads
converge upon this bridge, and they must have brought a great deal
of traffic through the town. When we mention that a corresponding
number of railways meet at the same spot, it will be seen Termonde
was an important centre, and that it must have been a wealthy town.
The Dendre runs right through the centre of the town to the point
where it joins the Scheldt, and on each side runs a long stone quay
planted with trees, with old-fashioned houses facing the river. With
the little wooden bridges and the barges on the river it must have
been a very pretty picture. Now it was little better than a heap of
ruins.

The destruction of the town was extraordinarily complete, and
evidently carefully organized. The whole thing had been arranged
beforehand at headquarters, and these particular troops supplied with
special incendiary apparatus. There is strong evidence to show that
the destruction of Louvain, Termonde, and of several smaller towns,
was all part of a definite plan of "frightfulness," the real object
being to terrorize Holland and Denmark, and to prevent any
possibility of their joining with the Allies. It is strictly scientific
warfare, it produces a strictly scientific hell upon this world,
and I think that one may have every reasonable hope that it
leads to a strictly scientific hell in the next. After a town has
been shelled, its occupants driven out, and its buildings to a
large extent broken down, the soldiers enter, each provided
with a number of incendiary bombs, filled with a very inflammable
 compound. They set light to these and throw them into
the houses, and in a very few minutes each house is blazing. In half
an hour the town is a roaring furnace, and by the next day nothing is
left but the bare walls. And that is almost all that there was left of
Termonde. We walked along the quay beside a row of charred and
blackened ruins, a twisted iron bedstead or a battered lamp being all
there was to tell of the homes which these had been. A few houses
were still standing untouched, and on the door of each of these was
scrawled in chalk the inscription:


   "GUTE LEUTE,
    NICHT ANZUNDEN,
    BREITFUSS, Lt."


One wondered at what cost the approval of Lieutenant Breitfuss had
been obtained. His request to the soldiers not to set fire to the houses
of these "good people" had been respected, but I think that if the
Belgians ever return to Termonde those houses are likely to be
empty. There are things worse than having your house burnt down,
and one would be to win the approval of Lieutenant Breitfuss.

We crossed the Dendre and wandered up the town towards the
Square. For a few moments I stood alone in a long curving street with
not a soul in sight, and the utter desolation of the whole thing made
me shiver. Houses, shops, banks, churches, all gutted by the flames
and destroyed. The smell of burning from the smouldering ruins was
sickening. Every now and then the silence was broken by the fall of
bricks or plaster. Except a very few houses with that ominous
inscription on their doors, there was nothing left; everything was
destroyed. A little farther on I went into the remains of a large factory
equipped with elaborate machinery, but so complete was the
destruction that I could not discover what had been made there.
There was a large gas engine and extensive shafting, all hanging in
dismal chaos, and I recognized the remains of machines for making
tin boxes, in which the products of the factory had, I suppose, been
packed. A large pile of glass stoppers in one corner was fused up into
a solid mass, and I chipped a bit off as a memento.

In the Square in front of the church of Notre Dame the German
soldiers had evidently celebrated their achievement by a revel. In the
centre were the remains of a bonfire, and all around were broken
bottles and packs of cheap cards in confusion. Think of the scene. A
blazing town around them, and every now and then the crash of
falling buildings; behind them Notre Dame in flames towering up to
heaven; the ancient Town Hall and the Guard House burning across
the Square; and in the centre a crowd of drunken soldiers round a
bonfire, playing cards. And miles away across the fields ten thousand
homeless wanderers watching the destruction of all for which they
had spent their lives in toil.

Of the ancient church of Notre Dame only the walls remained. The
roof had fallen, all the woodwork had perished in the flames, and the
stonework was calcined by the heat. Above the arch of a door was a
little row of angels' heads carved in stone, but when we touched them
they fell to powder. The heat inside must have been terrific, for all the
features of the church had disappeared, and we were surrounded by
merely a mass of debris. In the apse a few fragments of old gold
brocade buried beneath masses of brick and mortar were all that
remained to show where the altar had been.

The Town Hall was once a beautiful gabled building with a tall square
tower ending in four little turrets. I have a drawing of it, and it must
have formed quite a pleasing picture, the entrance reached by the
double flight of steps of which Belgium is so fond, and from which
public proclamations were read. It had been only recently restored,
and it was now to all intents and purposes a heap of smoking bricks.
The upper part of the tower had fallen into the roof, and the whole
place was burnt out.

But no words can ever convey any idea of the utter destruction of the
whole town, or of the awful loneliness by which one was surrounded.
One felt that one was in the presence of wickedness such as the
world has rarely seen, that the powers of darkness were very near,
and that behind those blackened walls there lurked evil forms.
Twilight was coming on as we turned back to our car, and a cold mist
was slowly rising from the river. I am not superstitious, and in broad
daylight I will scoff at ghosts with anyone, but I should not care to
spend a night alone in Termonde. One could almost hear the Devil
laughing at the handiwork of his children.



VI. The Chateau



One of the most astounding features of the war is the way in which
the Germans, from the highest to the lowest, have given themselves
up to loot. In all previous wars between civilized countries anything in
the nature of loot has been checked with a stern hand, and there are
cases on record when a soldier has been shot for stealing a pair of
boots. But now the Crown Prince of the German Empire sends back
to his palaces all the loot that he can collect, on innumerable
transport waggons, amid the applause of his proud father's subjects.
He is of course carrying out the new gospel of the Fatherland that
everyone has a perfect right to whatever he is strong enough to take.
But some day that doctrine may spread from the exalted and sacred
circle in which it is now the guiding star to the "cannon fodder." Some
day the common people will have learnt the lesson which is being so
sedulously taught to them both by example and by precept, and then
the day of reckoning will have come.

Loot and destruction have always gone hand in hand. The private
soldier cannot carry loot, and it is one of the most primitive
instincts of animal nature to destroy rather than to leave that by
which others may profit. Even the pavement artist will destroy
his work rather than allow some poor wretch to sit beside his
pictures and collect an alms. And there is great joy in destroying
that which men are too coarse to appreciate, in feeling that
they have in their power that which, something tells them,
belongs to a refinement they cannot attain. That was the keynote
 of the excesses of the French Revolution, for nothing
arouses the fury of the unclean so much as cleanliness, and a man
has been killed before now for daring to wash his hands. And it is this
elemental love of destroying that has raged through Belgium in the
last few months, for though destruction has been the policy of their
commanders, the German soldier has done it for love. No order could
ever comprehend the ingenious detail of much that we saw, for it bore
at every turn the marks of individuality. It is interesting to ponder on a
future Germany of which these men, or rather these wild beasts, will
be the sons. Germany has destroyed more than the cities of Belgium;
she has destroyed her own soul.

It is not in the ruined towns or the battered cathedrals of Belgium that
one sees most clearly the wholehearted way in which the German
soldiers have carried out the commands of their lord and made his
desires their own. Louvain, Termonde, Dinant, and a hundred other
towns have been uprooted by order. If you wish to see what the
German soldier can do for love, you have to visit the chateaux which
are dotted so thickly all over the Belgian countryside. Here he has
had a free hand, and the destruction he1 wrought had no political
object and served no mere utilitarian purpose. It was the work of pure
affection, and it showed Germany at her best. One would like to have
brought one of those chateaux over to England, to be kept for all time
as an example of German culture, that our children might turn from it
in horror, and that our country might be saved from the hypocrisy and
the selfishness of which this is the fruit.

Among our many good friends in Antwerp there were few whom we
valued more than the Baron d'O. He was always ready to undertake
any service for us, from the most difficult to the most trivial. A man of
birth and of fortune, he stood high in the service of the Belgian
Government, and he was often able to do much to facilitate our
arrangements with them. So when he asked us to take him out in one
of our cars to see the chateau of one of his greatest friends, we were
glad to be in a position to repay him in a small way for his kindness.
The chateau had been occupied by the Germans, who had now
retired--though only temporarily, alas!--and he was anxious to see
what damage had been done and to make arrangements for putting it
in order again if it should be possible.

A perfect autumn afternoon found us tearing southwards on the road
to Boom in Mrs. W.'s powerful Minerva. We were going to a point
rather close to the German lines, and our safety might depend on a
fast car and a cool hand on the wheel. We had both, for though the
hand was a lady's, its owner had earned the reputation of being the
most dangerous and the safest driver in Antwerp, and that is no mean
achievement. We called, as was our custom, at the Croix Rouge
stations we passed, and at one of them we were told that there were
some wounded in Termonde, and that, as the Germans were
attacking it, they were in great danger. So we turned off to the right,
and jolted for the next twenty minutes over a deplorable paved road.

The roar of artillery fire gradually grew louder and louder, and we
were soon watching an interesting little duel between the forts of
Termonde, under whose shelter we were creeping along, on the one
side, and the Germans on the other. The latter were endeavouring to
destroy one of the bridges which span the Scheldt at this point, one
for the railway and one for the road; but so far they had not
succeeded in hitting either. It was a week since our last visit to
Termonde, and it seemed even more desolate and forsaken than
before. The Germans had shelled it again, and most of the remaining
walls had been knocked down, so that the streets were blocked at
many points and the whole town was little more than a heap of bricks
and mortar. There was not a living creature to be seen, and even the
birds had gone. The only sound that broke the utter silence was the
shriek of the shells and the crash of their explosion. We were
constantly checked by piles of fallen debris, and from one street we
had to back the car out and go round by another way. At the end of a
long street of ruined houses, many bearing the inscription of some
braggart, "I did this," we found our wounded men. They were in a
monastery near the bridge at which the Germans were directing their
shells, several of which had already fallen into the building. There
had been four wounded men there, but two of them, badly hurt, were
so terrified at the bombardment that they had crawled away in the
night. The priest thought that they were probably dead. Think of the
poor wounded wretches, unable to stand, crawling away in the
darkness to find some spot where they could die in peace. Two
remained, and these we took with us on the car. The priest and the
two nuns, the sole occupants of the monastery, absolutely refused to
leave. They wished to protect the monastery from sacrilege, and in
that cause they held their lives of small account. I have often thought
of those gentle nuns and the fearless priest standing in the doorway
as our car moved away. I hope that it went well with them, and that
they did not stay at their post in vain.

By the bridge stood a company of Belgian soldiers, on guard in case,
under cover of the fire of their artillery, the Germans might attempt to
capture it. There was very little shelter for them, and it was positively
raining shells; but they had been told to hold the bridge, and they did
so until there was no longer a bridge to hold. It was as fine a piece of
quiet heroism as I shall ever see, and it was typical of the Belgian
soldier wherever we saw him. They never made any fuss about it,
they were always quiet and self-contained, and always cheerful. But if
they were given a position to hold, they held it. And that is the secret
of the wonderful losing battle they have fought across Belgium. Some
day they will advance and not retreat, and then I think that the Belgian
Army will astonish their opponents, and perhaps their friends too.

We were soon out of Termonde and on the open road again, to our
very great relief, and at the nearest dressing-station we handed over
our patients, who were not badly wounded, to the surgeon, who was
hard at work in a little cottage about a mile back along the road. We
drove on due east, and forty minutes later found ourselves at the
entrance of the lodge of our friend's house. It lay on the very edge of
the Belgian front, and would have been unapproachable had there
been any activity in this section of the line. Fortunately for us, the
Germans were concentrating their energies around Termonde, and
the mitrailleuse standing on the path amongst the trees at the end of
the garden seemed to have gone asleep. We turned the car in the
drive, and, in case things should happen, pointed its nose
homewards. That is always a wise precaution, for turning a car under
fire in a narrow road is one of the most trying experiences imaginable.
The coolest hand may fumble with the gears at such a moment, and it
is surprising how difficult it is to work them neatly when every second
may be a matter of life or death, when a stopped engine may settle
the fate of everyone in the car. It is foolish to take unnecessary risks,
and we left the car pointing the right way, with its engine running,
ready to start on the instant, while we went to have a look at the
house.

It was a large country-house standing in well-timbered grounds,
evidently the home of a man of wealth and taste. The front-door stood
wide open, as if inviting us to enter, and as we passed into the large
hall I could not help glancing at our friend's face to see what he was
thinking as the obvious destruction met us on the very threshold. So
thorough was it that it was impossible to believe that it had not been
carried out under definite orders. Chairs, sofas, settees lay scattered
about in every conceivable attitude, and in every case as far as I can
recollect minus legs and backs. In a small room at the end of the hall
a table had been overturned, and on the floor and around lay broken
glass, crockery, knives and forks, mixed up in utter confusion, while
the wall was freely splashed with ink. One fact was very striking and
very suggestive: none of the pictures had been defaced, and there
were many fine oil-paintings and engravings hanging on the walls of
the reception-rooms. After the destruction of the treasures of Louvain,
it is absurd to imagine that the controlling motive could have been any
reverence for works of art. The explanation was obvious enough. The
pictures were of value, and were the loot of some superior officer. A
large cabinet had evidently been smashed with the butt-end of a
musket, but the beautiful china it contained was intact. The grand
piano stood uninjured, presumably because it afforded entertainment.
The floor was thick with playing cards.

But it was upstairs that real chaos reigned. Every wardrobe and
receptacle had been burst open and the contents dragged out. Piles
of dresses and clothing of every kind lay heaped upon the floor, many
of them torn, as though the harsh note produced by the mere act of
tearing appealed to the passion for destruction which seemed to
animate these fighting men. In the housekeeper's room a sewing-
machine stood on the table, its needle threaded, and a strip of cloth in
position, waiting for the stitch it was destined never to receive. There
were many other things to which one cannot refer, but it would have
been better to have had one's house occupied by a crowd of wild
beasts than by these apostles of culture.

Our friend had said very little while we walked through the deserted
rooms in this splendid country-house in which he had so often stayed.
Inside the house he could not speak, and it was not until we got out
into the sunshine that he could relieve his overwrought feelings. Deep
and bitter were the curses which he poured upon those vandals; but I
stood beside him, and I did not hear half that he said, for my eyes
were fixed on the mitrailleuse standing on the garden path under the
trees. My fingers itched to pull the lever and to scatter withering death
among them. It slowly came into my mind how good it would be to kill
these defilers. I suppose that somewhere deep down in us there
remains an elemental lust for blood, and though in the protected lives
we live it rarely sees the light, when the bonds of civilization are
broken it rises up and dominates. And who shall say that it is not right?
There are things in Belgium for which blood alone can atone. Woe
to us if when our interests are satisfied we sheath the sword, and
forget the ruined homes, the murdered children of Belgium, the
desecrated altars of the God in whose name we fight! He has placed
the sword in our hands for vengeance, and not for peace.

I no longer wonder at the dogged courage of the Belgian soldiers, at
their steady disregard of their lives, when I think of the many such
pictures of wanton outrage which are burned into their memories, and
which can never be effaced so long as a single German remains in
their beloved land. I no longer wonder, but I do not cease to admire.
Let anyone who from the depths of an armchair at home thinks that I
have spoken too strongly, stimulate his imagination to the pitch of
visualizing the town in which he lives destroyed, his own house a
smoking heap, his wife profaned, his children murdered, and himself
ruined, for these are the things of which we know. Then, and then
only, will he be able to judge the bravery of the nation which,
preferring death to dishonour, has in all likelihood saved both France
and ourselves from sharing its terrible but glorious fate.



VII. Malines



We were frequently requested by the Belgian doctors to assist them
in the various Red Cross dressing-stations around Antwerp, and it
was our custom to visit several of these stations each day to give
what assistance we could. One of the most important of the stations
was at Malines, and one of our cars called there every day. I went out
there myself on an afternoon late in September. It was a glorious day,
and after a heavy morning in the wards the fresh breeze and the
brilliant sunshine were delightful. Our road led almost straight south
through Vieux Dieu and Contich, crossing the little River Nethe at
Waelhem. The Nethe encircles Antwerp on the south and south-east,
and it was here that the Belgians, and in the end the British, made
their chief stand against the Germans. We crossed the bridge, and
passed on to Malines under the guns of Fort Waelhem, with the great
fortress of Wavre St. Catharine standing away to the left, impregnable
to anything but the huge guns of to-day.

Malines is a large town of 60,000 inhabitants, and is the cathedral city
of the Archbishop of Belgium, the brave Cardinal Mercier. To-day it is
important as a railway centre, and for its extensive railway workshops,
but the interest of the town lies in the past. It was of importance as
early as the eighth century, and since then it has changed hands on
an amazing number of occasions. Yet it is said that few of the cities of
Europe contain so many fine old houses in such good preservation.
The cathedral church of St. Rombold dates back to the thirteenth
century, and in the fifteenth century was begun the huge tower which
can be seen for many miles around. It was intended that it should be
550 feet high--the highest in the world--and though it has reached
little more than half that height, it is a very conspicuous landmark.
The Germans evidently found it a very tempting mark, for they began
shelling it at an early stage. When we were there the tower had not
been damaged, but a large hole in the roof of the church showed
where a shell had entered. Inside everything was in chaos. Every
window was broken, and of the fine stained glass hardly a fragment
was left. A large portion of the roof was destroyed, and the floor was a
confusion of chairs and debris. The wonderful carved wooden pulpit,
with its almost life-size figures, was damaged. When the shell
entered, the preacher's notes from the previous Sunday lay on the
desk, and they were perforated by a fragment.

The Croix Rouge was established in a large school on the south side
of the town. We drove into the large courtyard, and went in to see if
there was anything for us to do. The doctor in charge, a distinguished
oculist, was an old friend and was very cordial, but he said there was
no fighting near, and that no cases had come in. We stood talking for
a few minutes, and were just going, when one of our other cars came
in with a man very badly wounded. He was a cyclist scout, and had
been shot while crossing a field a few miles away. He had been
picked up at considerable risk by our people:--for the Germans
rarely respected a Red Cross--and brought in on the ambulance.
He was wounded in the abdomen, and his right arm was shattered.
He was in a desperate state, but the doctor begged me to do what I
could for him, and, indeed, the power of recovery of these fellows was
so remarkable that it was always worth a trial. As rapidly as possible
we got ready stimulants and hot saline solution to inject into his veins.
We had not come prepared for actual operating, and the local
equipment was meagre, but we succeeded in improvising a
transfusion apparatus out of various odds and ends. It did not take
long to get it to work, and in a few minutes he began to respond to the
hot salt and water running into his vessels. Alas it was only for a
moment. He was bleeding internally, and nothing could be done. I
went over to the priest, who had just come, and said: "C'est a vous,
monsieur." He bowed, and came forward holding in his hands the holy
oil. A few murmured words were spoken, the priest's finger traced the
sign of the Cross, a few moments of silence, and all was over. Death
is always impressive, but I shall never forget that scene. The large
schoolroom, with its improvised equipment, ourselves, a crowd of
nurses and doctors standing round, in the centre the sandalled priest
bending downwards in his brown mantle, and the dying man, his lips
moving to frame the last words he would speak on earth. It was in
silence that we stole out into the sunlight of the courtyard.

We went on to Sempst, a small village at the extreme limit of the
Belgian lines. A little stream ran under the road beside a farm, and a
rough breastwork had been thrown across the road to defend the
bridge. German soldiers could be seen a mile down the road moving
behind the trees. It was only a small Belgian outpost, but it was a
good enough position to hold, so long as the enemy did not bring up
artillery. A machine gun was hidden beside the bridge, and would
have made short work of anyone advancing up the road. My friends
were talking to the men, whom we knew quite well; and for a moment I
was standing alone, when one of the soldiers came up and asked
about the man whom we had just left, and who had come from near
by. I told him what had happened, and for a moment he did not speak.
At last he looked up at me with tears in his eyes, and said simply: "He
was my brother, and this morning we were laughing together." I held
his hand for a moment, and then he turned away and went back to his
post.

Our way home led past a villa where an encounter had taken place
three days before between the Belgians and an advanced detachment
of German troops, and we stopped to see the scene of the fighting.
It was a large country-house standing back in its own grounds,
and during the night a party of Germans had succeeded in concealing
themselves inside. In the morning, by a ruse, they induced a
Belgian detachment to come up the drive towards the house, never
suspecting that it was not empty. Suddenly the Germans opened fire,
and I believe that scarcely a single Belgian escaped. Next day,
however, having surrounded the villa, the Belgians opened fire upon
it with their 3-inch guns. The Germans made a bolt for it, and the
whole of them were killed. As we walked up the drive we saw on the
left-hand side a little row of graves with fresh flowers laid on them.
They were the graves of the Belgian soldiers who had been
entrapped. An officer was standing by them with bared head, and,
seeing us, he came over and walked on with us to the house, which
he was then occupying with his soldiers. It was a fine house, with
polished parquet floors and wide staircases. The dining-room was
ornamented with delicate frescoes in gilt frames. In the drawing-room
stood a new grand pianoforte, and light gilt chairs and sofas, looking
strangely out of place on the field of war. By the front-door, sticking in
the wall, was a shell which had failed to burst. I wonder if it is still
there, or if anyone has ventured to shift it. It was half inside and half
outside, and if it had exploded there would not have been much of the
entrance of the house left. Upstairs the rooms were in glorious
confusion. Apparently the Germans had opened all the drawers, and
flung their contents on the floor, with the idea, I suppose, of taking
anything they wanted. One room was plainly the nursery, for the floor
was covered with children's toys of all descriptions, all broken. It may
be very unreasonable, but that room made me more angry than all the
rest of the house. There is something so utterly wanton in trampling
on a child's toys. They may be of no value, but I have a small opinion
of a man who does not treat them with respect. They are the symbols
of an innocence that once was ours, the tokens of a contact with the
unseen world for which we in our blindness grope longingly in vain.



VIII. Lierre



When, years hence, some historian looks back upon the present war,
and from the confusion of its battles tries to frame before his mind a
picture of the whole, one grim conclusion will be forced upon his
mind. He will note, perhaps, vast alterations in the map of Europe; he
will lament a loss of life such as only the hand of Heaven has dealt
before; he will point to the folly of the wealth destroyed. But beneath
all these he will hear one insistent note from which he cannot escape,
the deep keynote of the whole, the note on which the war was based,
the secret of its ghastly chords, and the foundation of its dark
conclusion. And he will write that in the year 1914 one of the great
nations of civilized Europe relapsed into barbarism.

In the large sense a nation becomes civilized as its members
recognize the advantages of sinking their personal desires and gain
in the general good of the State. The fact that an individual can read
and write and play the piano has nothing at all to do with the degree
of his civilization, an elementary axiom of which some of our rulers
seem strangely ignorant. To be of use to the State, and to train others
to be of use to the State (and not only of use to themselves), should
be, and indeed is, the aim of every truly civilized man. Unless it be so,
his civilization is a mere veneer, ready to wear off at the first rub, and
he himself a parasite upon the civilized world.

As time has gone on, the State has laid down certain rules by means
of which the men who formed it could serve it better, and these are
our laws which we obey not for our own good directly, but for the
good of the State. From the point of view of the plain man in the
street, it is all utterly illogical, for it would be logical to go and take
from your neighbour whatever you wished, so long as you were
strong enough to hold it. But, let us thank Heaven, no sane man is
logical, and only a Professor would dare to make the claim. It is one
of the prerogatives of his office, and should be treated with tolerance.

And as our views of life are small and limited by our surroundings,
when States grew large they took from the shoulders of the individual
his responsibilities in the great State which the world has now
become; and the States of which the world was composed agreed
together on certain rules which should control their relations to one
another, not for the good of each, but for the good of the greater State
of which they were members. They are not so accurately laid down as
the laws of our separate States, but they are broad, general principles
for the use of statesmen and not of legalists. They are the Charter of
Civilization among the nations of the world, and the nation which
disregards them does so at her peril, and has handed in the
abnegation of her position as a civilized State. Like the laws of each
State, they are utterly illogical--at least, to those who have made up
their minds that they are strong enough to hold what they can take
from their neighbours.

I am often told, in half-defence of what they have done, that the
Germans are conducting the war in a strictly logical manner. At first, I
must admit, I was rather taken with the idea, and, indeed, one felt
almost sorry for a noble nation sacrificing its feelings on the
uncompromising altar of Logic. For the object of war is obviously to
defeat your enemy, and it may be argued that anything which will
accelerate that result is not only justifiable, but almost humane, for it
will shorten the unavoidable horrors of war. I should like to mention a
few of the features of logical warfare, all of which have at one time or
another been adopted by our opponents, and I shall then describe as
far as I can an example which I myself saw.

When an army wishes to pass through a country, the civil population
is in the way. To get rid of them, the best plan, and the quickest, is to
annihilate the first town of a suitable size to which the army comes. If
the town is wiped out, and men, women, and children slaughtered
indiscriminately, it will make such an impression in the rest of the
country that the whole population will clear out and there will be no
further trouble. The country will then be free for the passage of
troops, and there will be no troublesome civil population to feed or
govern. The conduct of the war will be greatly facilitated. Of course, it
will be necessary at intervals to repeat the process, but this presents
the further advantage that it advertises to other nations what they may
expect if war enters their borders. This, one of the most elementary
rules of logical warfare, has been strictly observed by Germany. The
sack of Louvain and the slaughter of its inhabitants met with an
immediate success. Wherever the German army arrived, they entered
with few exceptions empty towns. Termonde, Malines, Antwerp, had
everything swept and garnished for their reception. It would, of
course, be absurdly illogical to confine one's attack to persons
capable of defence. To kill a hundred women and children makes far
more impression than to kill a thousand men, and it is far safer,
unless, of course, it is preferred to use them as a screen to protect
your own advancing troops from the enemy's fire.

It is a mistake to burden your transport with the enemy's wounded, or,
indeed--low be it spoken--with your own. The former should
always be killed, and the latter so far as the degree of culture of your
country will allow. It is one of the regrettable points, logically, of
Germany's warfare that she appears to pay some attention to her
wounded, but our information on this point is deficient, and it is
possible that she limits it to those who may again be useful.

To kill the Medical Staff of the enemy is obviously most desirable.
Without them a large number of the wounded would die. If, therefore,
it is possible to kill both the doctors and the wounded together, it is a
great advantage, and of all possible objectives for artillery a hospital
is the most valuable. So complete was our confidence in the German
observance of this rule that when we heard that they were likely to
bombard Antwerp, we were strongly advised to remove our Red
Cross from the sight of prying aeroplanes, and we took the advice.
Several other hospitals were hit, but we escaped.

There are many other rules of logical warfare, such as ignoring
treaties, engagements, and, indeed, the truth in any form. But these
are those with which I myself came in contact, and which therefore
interested me the most. There is only one unfortunate objection to
logical warfare, and that is that it is the duty of the whole civilized
world, as it values its eternal salvation, to blot out from the face of the
earth they have defiled the nation which practises it.

I do not wish to be unfair to those with whom we are fighting, or to
arouse against them an unjust resentment. I am merely attempting to
express succinctly the doctrines which have been proclaimed
throughout Germany for years, of which this war is the logical
outcome, and in the light of which alone its incidents can be
understood. She is the home of logic, the temple where material
progress is worshipped as a god. For her there is no meaning in
those dim yearnings of the human mind, in which logic has no part,
since their foundations are hidden in depths beneath our ken, but
which alone separate us from the beasts that perish. And, above all
things, I would not be thought to include in such a sweeping
statement all those who call themselves German. There are many in
Germany who are not of this Germany, and in the end it may be for
them as much as for ourselves that we shall have fought this war.

It is only when viewed in this setting that a scene such as that we saw
at Lierre can be understood. By itself it would stand naked,
meaningless, and merely horrible. Clothed in these thoughts, it is
pregnant with meaning, and forms a real epitome of the whole
German conception of war; for horror is their dearest ally, and that
scene has left on my mind a feeling of horror which I do not think that
time will ever eradicate.

Lierre is an old-world town on the River Nethe, nine miles south of
Antwerp, prosperous, and thoroughly Flemish. Its 20,000 inhabitants
weave silk and brew beer, as they did when London was a village.
Without the physical advantages of Antwerp, and without the
turbulence of Ghent, Lierre has escaped their strange vicissitudes,
and for hundreds of years has enjoyed the prosperity of a quiet and
industrious town. Its church of St. Gommarius is renowned for its
magnificent proportions, its superb window tracery, and its wonderful
rood-loft--features in which it has eclipsed in glory even the great
cathedrals of Belgium, and which place it alone as a unique
achievement of the art of the fifteenth century. It is in no sense a
military town, and has no defences, though there is a fort of the same
name at no great distance from it.

Into this town, without warning of any kind, the Germans one morning
dropped two of their largest shells. One fell near the church, but
fortunately did no harm. One fell in the Hospital of St. Elizabeth. We
heard in Antwerp that several people had been wounded, and in the
afternoon two of us went out in one of our cars to see if we could be
of any service. We found the town in the greatest excitement, and the
streets crowded with families preparing to leave, for they rightly
regarded these shells as the prelude of others. In the square was
drawn up a large body of recruits just called up--rather late in the
day, it seemed to us. We slowly made our way through the crowds,
and, turning to the right along the Malines road, we drew up in front of
the hospital on our right-hand side. The shell had fallen almost
vertically on to a large wing, and as we walked across the garden we
could see that all the windows had been broken, and that most of the
roof had been blown off. The nuns met us, and took us down into the
cellars to see the patients. It was an infirmary, and crowded together
in those cellars lay a strange medley of people. There were bedridden
old women huddled up on mattresses, almost dead with terror.
Wounded soldiers lay propped up against the walls; and women and
little children, wounded in the fighting around, lay on straw and
sacking. Apparently it is not enough to wound women and children; it
is even necessary to destroy the harbour of refuge into which they
have crept. The nuns were doing for them everything that was
possible, under conditions of indescribable difficulty. They may not be
trained nurses, but in the records of this war the names of the nuns of
Belgium ought to be written in gold. Utterly careless of their own lives,
absolutely without fear, they have cared for the sick, the wounded,
and the dying, and they have faced any hardship and any danger
rather than abandon those who turned to them for help.

The nuns led us upstairs to the wards where the shell had burst. The
dead had been removed, but the scene that morning must have been
horrible beyond description. In the upper ward six wounded soldiers
had been killed, and in the lower two old women. As we stood in the
upper ward, it was difficult to believe that so much damage could
have been caused by a single shell. It had struck almost vertically on
the tiled roof, and, exploding in the attic, had blown in the ceiling into
the upper ward. I had not realized before the explosion of a large
shell is not absolutely instantaneous, but, in consequence of the
speed of the shell, is spread over a certain distance. Here the shell
had continued to explode as it passed down through the building,
blowing the floor of the upper ward down into the ward below. A great
oak beam, a foot square, was cut clean in two, the walls of both wards
were pitted and pierced by fragments, and the tiled floor of the lower
ward was broken up. The beds lay as they were when the dead were
taken from them, the mattresses riddled with fragments and soaked
with blood. Obviously no living thing could have survived in that awful
hail. When the shell came the soldiers were eating walnuts, and on
the bed of one lay a walnut half opened and the little penknife he was
using, and both were stained. We turned away sickened at the sight,
and retraced the passage with the nuns. As we walked along, they
pointed out to us marks we had not noticed before--red finger-marks
and splashes of blood on the pale blue distemper of the wall. All down
the passage and the staircase we could trace them, and even in the
hall below. Four men had been standing in the doorway of the upper
ward. Two were killed; the others, bleeding and blinded by the
explosion, had groped their way along that wall and down the stair. I
have seen many terrible sights, but for utter and concentrated horror I
have never seen anything to equal those finger-marks, the very sign-
manual of Death. When I think of them, I see, in the dim light of the
early autumn morning, the four men talking; I hear the wild shriek of
the shell and the deafening crash of its explosion; and then silence,
and two bleeding men groping in darkness and terror for the air.



IX. A Pause



The life of a hospital at the front is a curious mixture of excitement
and dullness. One week cases will be pouring in, the operating theatre
will be working day and night, and everyone will have to do their
utmost to keep abreast of the rush; next week there will be nothing to
do, and everyone will mope about the building, and wonder why they
were ever so foolish as to embark on such a futile undertaking. For it
is all emergency work, and there is none of the dull routine of the
ordinary hospital waiting list, which we are always trying to clear off,
but which is in reality the backbone of the hospital's work.

When we first started in Antwerp, the rush of cases was so great as to
be positively overwhelming. For more than twenty-four hours the
surgeons in the theatre were doing double work, two tables being
kept going at the same time. During that time a hundred and fifty
wounded were admitted, all of them serious cases, and the hospital
was full to overflowing. For the next ten days we were kept busy, but
then our patients began to recover, and many of them had to go away
to military convalescent hospitals. The wards began to look deserted,
and yet no more patients arrived. We began to think that it was all a
mistake that we had come, that there would be no more fighting round
Antwerp, and that we were not wanted. Indeed, we canvassed the
possibilities of work in other directions, and in the meantime we drew
up elaborate arrangements to occupy our time. There were to be
courses of lectures and demonstrations in the wards, and supplies of
books and papers were to be obtained. Alas for the vanity of human
schemes, the wounded began to pour in again, and not a lecture was
given.

During that slack week we took the opportunity to see a certain
amount of Antwerp, and to call on many officials and the many friends
who did so much to make our work there a success and our stay a
pleasure. To one lady we can never be sufficiently grateful. She
placed at our disposal her magnificent house, a perfect palace in the
finest quarter of the city. Several of our nurses lived there, we had a
standing invitation to dinner, and, what we valued still more, there
were five bathrooms ready for our use at any hour of the day. Their
drawing-room had been converted into a ward for wounded officers,
and held about twenty beds. One of the daughters had trained as a
nurse, and under her charge it was being run in thoroughly up-to-date
style. The superb tapestries with which the walls were decorated had
been covered with linen, and but for the gilded panelling it might have
been a ward in a particularly finished hospital. I often wonder what
has happened to that house. The family had to fly to England, and
unless it was destroyed by the shells, it is occupied by the Germans.

Calling in Antwerp on our professional brethren was very delightful for
one's mind, but not a little trying for one's body. Their ideas of
entertainment were so lavish, and it was so difficult to refuse their
generosity, that it was a decided mistake to attempt two calls in the
same afternoon. To be greeted at one house with claret of a rare
vintage, and at the next with sweet champagne, especially when it is
plain that your host will be deeply pained if a drop is left, is rather
trying to a tea-drinking Briton. They were very good to us, and we
owed a great deal to their help. Most of all we owed to Dr. Morlet, for
he had taken radiographs of all our fractures, and of many others of
our cases. We went to see him one Sunday afternoon at his beautiful
house in the Avenue Plantin. He also had partly converted his house
into a hospital for the wounded, and we saw twenty or thirty of them in
a large drawing-room. The rest of the house was given up to the most
magnificent electro-therapeutical equipment I have ever seen or
heard of. We wandered through room after room filled with superb
apparatus for X-ray examinations, X-ray treatment, diathermy, and
electrical treatment of every known kind. It was not merely that
apparatus for all these methods was there. Whole rooms full of
apparatus were given up to each subject. It was the home of a genius
and an enthusiast, who thought no sum too great if it were to advance
his science. Little did we think that ten days later we should pick its
owner up upon the road from Antwerp, a homeless wanderer,
struggling along with his wife and his family, leaving behind
everything he possessed in the world, in the hope that he might save
them from the Germans. We heard from him not long ago that they
had carried off to Germany all the wonderful machinery on which he
had spent his life.

The very next morning, while we were still at breakfast, the wounded
began to arrive, and we never had another day in Antwerp that was
not crowded with incident. The wounded almost always came in large
batches, and the reason of this was the method of distribution
adopted by the authorities. All the injured out at the front were
collected as far as possible to one centre, where a train was waiting
to receive them. There they remained until the train was sufficiently
filled, when it brought them into the Central Station of Antwerp. At this
point was established the distributing station, with a staff of medical
officers, who arranged the destination of each man. Antwerp has a
very complete system of electric trams, scarcely a street being without
one, and of these full use was made for the transport of the wounded.
Those who could sit went in ordinary cars, but for the stretcher cases
there were cars specially fitted to take ordinary stretchers. A car was
filled up with cases for one hospital, and in most cases it could
deposit them at the door. It was an admirable method of dealing with
them, simple and expeditious, and it involved far less pain and injury
to the men than a long journey on an ambulance. In fact, we were
only allowed in exceptional circumstances to bring in wounded on our
cars, and it is obvious that it was a wise plan, for endless confusion
would have been the result if anyone could have picked up the
wounded and carried them off where they liked. Our cars were limited
for the most part to carrying the injured to the various dressing-
stations and to the train, and for these purposes they were always
welcomed. They were soon well known at the trenches, and wherever
the fighting was heaviest you might be sure to find one of them. Many
were the hairbreadth escapes of which they had to tell, for if there
were wounded they brought them out of danger, shells or no shells.
And it says as much for the coolness of the drivers as for their good
luck that no one was ever injured; for danger is halved by cool
judgment, and a bold driver will come safely through where timidity
would fail.



X. The Siege



It is difficult to say exactly when the Siege of Antwerp began. For
weeks we heard the distant boom of the guns steadily drawing nearer
day by day, and all night the sky was lit up by distant flashes. But so
peculiar was the position of Antwerp that it was not till the last ten
days that our life was seriously affected, and not till the very end that
communication with our friends and the getting of supplies became
difficult. Our first real domestic tragedy was the destruction of the
waterworks on the 30th of September. They lay just behind Waelhem,
some six miles south of Antwerp, and into them the Germans poured
from the other side of Malines a stream of 28-centimetre shells, with
the result that the great reservoir burst. Until one has had to do
without a water-supply in a large city it is impossible to realize to what
a degree we are dependent upon it. In Antwerp, fortunately, a water-
supply has been regarded as somewhat of an innovation, and almost
every house, in the better class quarters at least, has its own wells
and pumps. It was, however, the end of the summer, and the wells
were low; our own pumps would give us barely enough water for
drinking purposes. The authorities did all they could, and pumped up
water from the Scheldt for a few hours each day, enabling us, with
considerable difficulty, to keep the drainage system clear. But this
water was tidal and brackish, whilst as to the number of bacteria it
contained it was better not to inquire. We boiled and drank it when we
could get nothing else, but of all the nauseous draughts I have ever
consumed, not excluding certain hospital mixtures of high repute, tea
made with really salt water is the worst. Coffee was a little better,
though not much, and upon that we chiefly relied. But I really think
that that was one of the most unpleasant of our experiences. A more
serious matter from the point of view of our work was the absence of
water in the operating theatre. We stored it as well as we could in
jugs, but in a rush that was inadequate, and we began to realize what
the difficulties were with which surgeons had to contend in South
Africa.

We were really driven out of Antwerp at a very fortunate moment, and
I have often wondered what we should have done if we had stopped
there for another week. Such a very large proportion of the
inhabitants of Antwerp had already disappeared that there was never
any great shortage of supplies. Milk and butter were the first things to
go, and fresh vegetables followed soon after. It was always a mystery
to me that with the country in such a condition they went on for as
long as they did. The peasants must have worked their farms until
they were absolutely driven out, and indeed in our expeditions into
the country we often saw fields being ploughed and cattle being fed
when shells were falling only a few fields away. However, margarine
and condensed milk are not bad substitutes for the real articles, and
the supply of bread held out to the very end. A greater difficulty was
with our kitchen staff of Belgian women, for a good many of them took
fright and left us, and it was not at all easy to get their places filled.
As the week went on the pressure of the enemy became steadily
greater. On Tuesday, the 29th of September, the great fortress of
Wavre St. Catherine fell, blown up, it is believed, by the accidental
explosion of a shell inside the galleries. It had been seriously
battered by the big German howitzers, and it could not in any
case have held out for another day. But the results of the
explosion were terrible. Many of the wounded came to us,
and they were the worst cases we had so far seen.

On Thursday Fort Waelhem succumbed after a magnificent
resistance. The garrison held it until it was a mere heap of ruins, and,
indeed, they had the greatest difficulty in making their way out. I think
that there is very little doubt that the Germans were using against
these forts their largest guns, the great 42-centimetre howitzers. It is
known that two of these were brought northwards past Brussels after
the fall of Maubeuge, and a fragment which was given to us was
almost conclusive. It was brought to us one morning as an offering by
a grateful patient, and it came from the neighbourhood of Fort
Waelhem. It was a mass of polished steel two feet long, a foot wide,
and three inches thick, and it weighed about fifty pounds. It was very
irregular in shape, with edges sharp as razors, without a particle of
rust upon it. It had been picked up where it fell still hot, and it was by
far the finest fragment of shell I have ever seen. Alas we had to
leave it behind, and it lies buried in a back-garden beside our
hospital. Some day it will be dug up, and will be exhibited as
conclusive evidence that the Germans did use their big guns in
shelling the town.

The destruction produced by such a shell is almost past belief. I have
seen a large house struck by a single shell of a much smaller size
than this, and it simply crumpled up like a pack of cards. As a house it
disappeared, and all that was left was a heap of bricks and mortar.
When one considers that these guns have a range of some ten miles,
giving Mont Blanc considerable clearance on the way, and that one of
them out at Harrow could drop shells neatly into Charing Cross, some
idea of their power can be obtained.

Every day we had visits from the enemy's aeroplanes, dropping
bombs or literature, or merely giving the range of hospitals and other
suitable objectives to the German gunners. From the roof of the
hospital one could get a magnificent view of their evolutions, and a
few kindred spirits always made a rush for a door on to the roof, the
secret of which was carefully preserved, as the accommodation was
limited. It was a very pretty sight to watch the Taube soaring
overhead, followed by the puffs of smoke from the explosion of shells
fired from the forts. The puffs would come nearer and nearer as the
gunners found the range, until one felt that the next must bring the
Taube down. Then suddenly the airman would turn his machine off in
another direction, and the shells would fall wider than ever. One's
feelings were torn between admiration for the airman's daring and an
unholy desire to see him fall.

It was evident that Antwerp could not withstand much longer the
pressure of the enemy's guns, and we were not surprised when on
Friday we received an official notice from the British Consul-General,
Sir Cecil Herstlet, that the Government were about to leave for
Ostend, and advising all British subjects to leave by a boat which had
been provided for them on Saturday. On Saturday morning came an
order from the Belgian Army Medical Service instructing us to place
on tramcars all our wounded, and to send them to the railway station.
It appeared evident that Antwerp was to be evacuated, and we took
the order to clear out our wounded as an intimation that our services
would be no longer required. We got all our men ready for transport,
and proceeded to pack up the hospital. The tramcars arrived, and we
bade good-bye to our patients, and saw them off, some in ordinary
trams and some in specially equipped stretcher-cars. It was a dismal
scene.

The hall of the hospital was still covered with stretchers on which lay
patients waiting their turn for the cars to take them, and the whole
hospital was in process of being dismantled, when tramcars began to
arrive back from the station with the patients we had just packed off.
They told us that the whole of Antwerp was covered with tramloads of
wounded soldiers, that there were five thousand in the square in front
of the railway station, and that two trains had been provided to take
them away! It was evident that some extraordinary blunder had been
made; and while we were in doubt as to what to do, a second order
came to us cancelling entirely the evacuation order which we and all
the other hospitals in Antwerp had received a few hours before. It was
all so perplexing that we felt that the only satisfactory plan was to go
round to the British Consul and find out what it all meant. We came
back with the great news that British Marines were coming to hold
Antwerp. That was good enough for us. In less than an hour the
hospital was in working order again, and the patients were back in
their beds, and a more jubilant set of patients I have never seen. It
was the most joyful day in the history of the hospital, and if we had
had a case of champagne, it should have been opened. As it was, we
had to be content with salt coffee.

But there was one dreadful tragedy. Some of our patients had not
returned. In the confusion at the station one tramcar loaded with our
patients had been sent off to another hospital by mistake. And the
worst of it was that some of these were our favourite patients. There
was nothing for it but to start next morning and make a tour of the
hospitals in search of them. We were not long in finding them, for
most of them were in a large hospital close by. I do not think we shall
ever forget the reception we got when we found them. They had left
us on stretchers, but they tried to get out of bed to come away with
us, and one of them was a septic factured thigh with a hole in his leg
into which you could put your fist, and another had recently had a
serious abdominal operation.

They seized our hands and would scarcely let us go until we had
promised that as soon as we had arranged with the authorities they
should come back to our hospital. It was managed after a little
diplomacy, and they all came back next day, and we were again a
united family.



XI. Contich



Sunday, the 4th of October, dawned with an extraordinary feeling of
relief and expectancy in the air. The invincible British had arrived,
huge guns were on their way, a vast body of French and British
troops was advancing by forced marches, and would attack our
besiegers in the rear, and beyond all possibility of doubt crush them
utterly. But perhaps the most convincing proof of all was the round
head of the First Lord of the Admiralty calmly having his lunch in the
Hotel St. Antoine. Surely nothing can inspire such confidence as the
sight of an Englishman eating. It is one of the most substantial
phenomena in nature, and certainly on this occasion I found the sight
more convincing than a political speech. Obviously we were saved,
and one felt a momentary pang of pity for the misguided Germans
who had taken on such an impossible task. The sight of British troops
in the streets and of three armoured cars carrying machine guns
settled the question, and we went home to spread the good news and
to follow the noble example of the First Lord.

In the afternoon three of us went off in one of the motors for a short
run, partly to see if we could be of any use at the front with the
wounded, and partly to see, if possible, the British troops. We took a
stretcher with us, in case there should be any wounded to bring in
from outlying posts. Everywhere we found signs of the confidence
which the British had brought. It was visible in the face of every
Belgian soldier, and even the children cheered our khaki uniforms as
we passed. Everywhere there were signs of a new activity and of a
new hope. The trenches and wire entanglements around the town,
already very extensive, were being perfected, and to our eyes they
looked impregnable. We did not then realize how useless it is to
attempt to defend a town, and, unfortunately, our ignorance was not
limited to civilians. It is a curious freak of modern war that a ploughed
field should be stronger than any citadel. But, as I say, these things
were hidden from us, and our allies gave the finishing touches to their
trenches, to the high entertainment of the Angels, as Stevenson
would have told us. If only those miles of trench and acres of barbed
wire had been placed ten miles away, and backed by British guns, the
story of Antwerp might have been a very different one.

The road to Boom is like all the main roads of Belgium. The central
causeway was becoming worn by the constant passage of heavy
motor lorries tearing backwards and forwards at racing speed. The
sides were deep in dust, for there had been little rain. On each side
rose poplars in ordered succession, and the long, straight stretches of
the road were framed in the endless vista of their tall trunks. And in
that frame moved a picture too utterly piteous for any words to
describe--a whole country fleeing before the Huns. The huge
unwieldy carts of the Belgian farmer crept slowly along, drawn by
great Flemish horses. In front walked the men, plodding along beside
the splendid animals, with whose help they had ploughed their fields
--fields they would never see again. In the carts was piled up all that
they possessed in the world, all that they could carry of their homes
wrecked and blasted by the Vandals, a tawdry ornament or a child's
toy looking out pitifully from the heap of clothes and bedding. And
seated on the top of the heap were the woman and the children.

But these were the well-to-do. There were other little groups who had
no cart and no horse. The father and a son would walk in front
carrying all that a man could lift on their strong backs; then came the
children, boys and girls, each with a little white bundle over their
shoulder done up in a towel or a pillowslip, tiny mites of four or five
doing all they could to save the home; and last came the mother with
a baby at her breast, trudging wearily through the dust. They came in
an endless stream, over and over again, for mile after mile, always in
the same pathetic little groups, going away, only going away.

At last, with a sigh of relief, we reached Boom, and the end of the
lines of refugees, for the Germans themselves were not far beyond.
At the Croix Rouge we asked for instructions as to where we were
likely to be useful. Boom had been shelled in the morning, but it was
now quiet, and there was no fighting in the neighbourhood. We could
hear the roar of guns in the distance on the east, and we were told
that severe fighting was in progress in that direction. The British had
reinforced the Belgian troops in the trenches at Duffel, and the
Germans were attacking the position in force. Taking the road to the
left, we passed the great brick-fields which provide one of the chief
industries of Boom, and we drove through the poorer portion of the
town which lies amongst them. It was utterly deserted. It was in this
part of the town that the shelling had been most severe, but a large
number of the shells must have fallen harmlessly in the brickfields, as
only a house here and there was damaged. If, however, the object of
the Germans was to clear the town of inhabitants, they had certainly
succeeded, for there was not a man, woman, or child to be seen
anywhere. It is a strange and uncanny thing to drive through a
deserted town. Only a few days before we had driven the same way,
and we had to go quite slowly to avoid the crowd in the streets. This
time we crept along slowly, but for a very different reason. We
distrusted those empty houses. We never knew what might be hiding
round the next corner, but we did know that a false turning would take
us straight into the German lines. It was the only way by which we
could reach our destination, but we were beyond the main Belgian
lines, and our road was only held by a few isolated outposts. After a
mile or so we came upon a small outpost, and they told us that we
should be safe as far as Rumps, about three miles farther, where their
main outpost was placed. An occasional shell sailed over our heads
to reassure us, some from our own batteries, and some from the
enemy's. We only hoped that neither side would fire short.

At Rumps we found the headquarters of the regiment, and several
hundred troops. At the sight of our khaki uniforms they at once raised
a cheer, and we had quite an ovation as we passed down the street.
At the Etat Majeur the Colonel himself came out to see us, and his
officers crowded round as he asked us anxiously about the British
arrivals. He pulled out his orders for the day, and told us the general
disposition of the British and Belgian troops. He told us that the road
to Duffel was too dangerous, and that we must turn northwards to
Contich, but that there might be some wounded in the Croix Rouge
station there. He and his men were typical of the Belgian Army--
brave, simple men, defending their country as best they could, without
fuss or show. I hope they have come to no harm. If only that army had
been trained and equipped like ours, the Germans would have had a
hard struggle to get through Belgium.

We turned away from the German lines northwards towards Contich.
Our road lay across the open country, between the farms which mean
so much of Belgium's wealth. In one field a man was ploughing with
three big horses. He was too old to fight, but he could do this much
for his country. Surely that man deserves a place in his country's Roll
of Honour. Shells were falling not four fields away, but he never even
looked up. It must take more nerve to plough a straight furrow when
the shells are falling than to aim a gun. I like to think of that man, and
I hope that he will be left to reap his harvest in peace. A little farther
on we came upon the objective of the German shells--a battery so
skilfully concealed that it was only when we were close to it that we
realized where it was. The ammunition-carts were drawn up in a long
line behind a hedge, while the guns themselves were buried in piles
of brushwood. They must have been invisible from the captive balloon
which hung over the German lines in the distance. They were not
firing when we passed, and we were not sorry, as we had no desire to
be there when the replies came. An occasional shell gives a certain
spice to the situation, but in quantity they are better avoided.

As we approached Contich a soldier came running up and told us that
two people had just been injured by a shell, and begged us to come to
see them. He stood on the step of the car, and directed us to a little
row of cottages half a mile farther on. At the roadside was a large
hole in the ground where a shell had fallen some minutes before, and
beside it an unfortunate cow with its hind-quarters shattered. In the
garden of the first cottage a poor woman lay on her back. She was
dead, and her worn hands were already cold. As I rose from my knees
a young soldier flung himself down beside her, sobbing as though his
heart would break. She was his mother.

Behind the cottage we found a soldier with his left leg torn to
fragments. He had lost a great deal of blood, and he was still bleeding
from a large artery, in spite of the efforts of a number of soldiers
round who were applying tourniquets without much success. The
ordinary tourniquet is probably the most inefficient instrument that the
mind of man could devise--at least, for dealing with wounds of the
thigh out in the field. It might stop haemorrhage in an infant, but for a
burly soldier it is absurd. I tried two of the most approved patterns,
and both broke in my hands. In the end I managed to stop it with a
handkerchief and a stick. I would suggest the elimination of all
tourniquets, and the substitution of the humble pocket-handkerchief.
It, at least, does not pretend to be what it is not. Between shock and
loss of blood our soldier was pretty bad, and we did not lose much
time in transferring him to our car on a stretcher. The Croix Rouge
dressing-station was more than a mile farther on, established in a
large villa in its own grounds. We carried our man in, and laid him on
a table with the object of dressing his leg properly, and of getting the
man himself into such condition as would enable him to stand the
journey back to Antwerp.

Alas! the dressing-station was destitute of any of the most elementary
appliances for the treatment of a seriously wounded man. There was
not even a fire, and the room was icy cold. There was no hot water,
no brandy, no morphia, no splints, and only a minute quantity of
dressing material. A cupboard with some prehistoric instruments in it
was the only evidence of surgery that we could find. The Belgian
doctor in charge was doing the best he could, but what he could be
expected to do in such surroundings I do not know. He seemed
greatly relieved to hear that I was a surgeon, and he was most kind in
trying to find me everything for which I asked. From somewhere we
managed to raise some brandy and hot water, and a couple of
blankets, and with the dressings we had brought with us we made the
best of a bad job, and started for home with our patient. Antwerp was
eight miles away. It was a bitterly cold evening, and darkness was
coming on. It seemed improbable that we could get our patient home
alive, but it was perfectly certain that he would die if we left him where
he was. It seemed such a pity that a little more forethought and
common sense could not have been expended on that dressing-
station, and yet we found that with rare exceptions this was the
regular state of affairs, whether in. Belgium or France. It seems to be
impossible for our professional brethren on the Continent to imagine
any treatment apart from a completely equipped hospital. Their one
idea seems to be to get the wounded back to a base hospital, and if
they die on the way it cannot be helped. The dressing-stations are
mere offices for their redirection, where they are carefully ticketed, but
where little else is done. Of course, it is true that the combatant forces
are the first consideration, and that from their point of view the
wounded are simply in the way, and the sooner they are carried
beyond the region of the fighting the better; but if this argument were
carried to its logical conclusion, there should be no medical services
at the front at all, except what might be absolutely necessary for the
actual transport of the wounded. I am glad to say that our later
experiences showed that the British influence was beginning to make
itself felt, and that the idea of the wounded as a mere useless
encumbrance was being modified by more humanitarian considerations.
And in a long war it must be obvious to the most hardened militarist
that by the early treatment of a wound many of its more severe
consequences may be averted, and that many a man may thus
be saved for further service. In a war of exhaustion, the ultimate
result might well depend on how the wounded were treated in the field.

The road was crowded with traffic, and it was quite dark before we
reached Antwerp. Our patient did not seem much the worse for his
journey, though that is perhaps faint praise. We soon had him in our
theatre, which was always warm and ready for cases such as this.
With energetic treatment his condition rapidly improved, and when we
left him to go to dinner we felt that our afternoon had not been entirely
wasted.



XII. The Bombardment--Night



We had had plenty of notice that we might expect a bombardment. On
Saturday a boat had left with most of the English Colony. On Tuesday
morning the Germans sent in official notice that they intended to
bombard the city, and in the evening the Government and the
Legations left by boat with the remainder of our countrymen who lived
in Antwerp. We had faced the prospect and made every preparation
for it, and yet when it did come it came upon us as a surprise. It is
sometimes fortunate that our capacities for anticipation are so limited.

It was almost midnight on Wednesday, the 7th of October, and two of
us were sitting in the office writing despatches home. The whole
building was in absolute silence, and lit only by the subdued light of
an occasional candle. In the distance we could hear the dull booming
of the guns. Suddenly above our heads sounded a soft whistle, which
was not the wind, followed by a dull thud in the distance. We looked
at one another.

Again it came, this time a little louder. We ran up to the roof and
stood there for some moments, fascinated by the scene. From the dull
grey sky came just sufficient light to show the city laying in darkness
around us, its tall spires outlined as dim shadows against the clouds.
Not a sound arose from streets and houses around, but every few
seconds there came from the south-east a distant boom, followed by
the whistle of a shell overhead and the dull thud of its explosion. The
whole scene was eerie and uncanny in the extreme. The whistle
changed to a shriek and the dull thud to a crash close at hand,
followed by the clatter of falling bricks cutting sharply into the
stillness of the night. Plainly this was going to be a serious business,
and we must take instant measures for the safety of our patients.
At any moment a shell might enter one of the wards, and--well,
we had seen the hospital at Lierre. We ran downstairs and told
the night nurses to get the patients ready for removal, whilst
we went across to the gymnasium to arouse those of the staff
who slept there. We collected all our stretchers, and began
the methodical removal of all our patients to the basement.
In a few minutes there was a clang at the front-door bell, and our
nurses and assistants who lived outside began to arrive. Two of
the dressers had to come half a mile along the Malines road,
where the shells were falling thickest, and every few yards they
had had to shelter in doorways from the flying shrapnel. The
bombardment had begun in earnest now, and shells were fairly
pouring over our heads. We started with the top floor, helping
down those patients who could walk, and carrying the rest on
stretchers. When that was cleared we took the second, and I think we
all breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that the top floor was
empty. We were fortunate in having a basement large enough to
accommodate all our patients, and wide staircases down which the
stretchers could be carried without difficulty; but the patients were all
full-grown men, and as most of them had to be carried it was hard
work.


I shall never forget the scene on the great staircase, crowded with a
long train of nurses, doctors, and dressers carrying the wounded
down as gently and as carefully as if they were in a London hospital. I
saw no sign of fear in any face, only smiles and laughter. And yet
overhead was a large glass roof, and there was no one there who did
not realize that a shell might come through that roof at any moment,
and that it would not leave a single living person beneath it. It made
one proud to have English blood running in one's veins. We had 113
wounded, and within an hour they were all in places of safety;
mattresses and blankets were brought, and they were all made as
comfortable as possible for the night. Four were grave intestinal
cases. Seven had terrible fractures of the thigh, but fortunately five of
these had been already repaired with steel plates, and their transport
was easy; in fact, I met one of them on the staircase, walking with the
support of a dresser's arm, a week after the operation! Some of the
patients must have suffered excruciating pain in being moved, but
one never heard a murmur, and if a groan could not be kept back, it
was passed over with a jest for fear we should notice it. It was a
magnificent basement, with heavy arched roofs everywhere, and
practically shell-proof. The long passages and the large kitchens
were all tiled and painted white, and as the electric light was still
running and the whole building was well warmed, it would have been
difficult to find a more cheerful and comfortable place. Coffee was
provided for everyone, and when I took a last look round the night
nurses were taking charge as if nothing had happened, and the whole
place was in the regular routine of an ordinary everyday hospital.

Upstairs there was an improvised meal in progress in the office, and
after our two hours' hard work we were glad of it. It is really wonderful
how cheerful a thing a meal is in the middle of the night, with plenty of
hot coffee and a borrowed cake. It is one of the compensations of our
life in hospital, and even shells are powerless to disturb it. After that,
as we knew we should have a heavy day before us, we all settled
down in the safest corners we could find to get what rest we could.
The staircase leading up to the entrance hall was probably the safest
spot in the building, covered as it was by a heavy arch, and it was
soon packed with people in attitudes more or less restful. A ward with
a comfortable bed seemed to me quite safe enough, and I spent the
night with three equally hedonistic companions. At first we lay
listening to the shells as they passed overhead, sometimes with the
soft whistle of distance, and sometimes with the angry shriek of a
shell passing near. Occasionally the shriek would drop to a low howl,
the note of a steam siren as it stops, and then a deafening crash and
the clatter of falling bricks and glass would warn us that we had only
escaped by a few yards. But even listening to shells becomes
monotonous, and my eyes gradually glued together, and I fell asleep.

When I awoke it was early morning, and daylight had just come. The
shells were still arriving, but not so fast, and mostly at a much greater
distance. But another sound came at intervals, and we had much
discussion as to what it might mean. Every three and a half minutes
exactly there came two distant booms, but louder than usual, and
then two terrific shrieks one after the other, exactly like the tearing of
a giant sheet of calico, reminding us strongly of the famous scene in
"Peter Pan." Away they went in the distance, and if we ever heard the
explosion it was a long way off. They certainly sounded like shells
fired over our heads from quite close, and at a very low elevation, and
we soon evolved the comforting theory that they were from a pair of
big British guns planted up the river, and firing over the town at the
German trenches beyond. We even saw a British gunboat lying in the
Scheldt, and unlimited reinforcements pouring up the river. Alas! it
was only a couple of big German guns shelling the harbour and the
arsenal; at least, that is the conclusion at which we have since
arrived. But for some hours those shells were a source of great
satisfaction and comfort. One can lie in bed with great contentment, I
find, when it is the other people who are being shelled.



XIII. The Bombardment--Day



We were up early in the morning, and our first business was to go
round to the British Headquarters to find out what they intended to do,
and what they expected of us as a British base hospital. If they
intended to stay, and wished us to do likewise, we were quite
prepared to do so, but we did not feel equal to the responsibility of
keeping more than a hundred wounded in a position so obviously
perilous. From shrapnel they were fairly safe in the basement, but
from large shells or from incendiary bombs there is no protection. It is
not much use being in a cellar if the house is burnt down over your
head. So two of us started off in our motor to get news.

The Headquarters were in the Hotel St. Antoine, at the corner of the
Place Verte opposite to the Cathedral, so we had to go right across
the town. We went by the Rue d'Argile and the Rue Leopold, and we
had a fair opportunity of estimating the results of the night's
bombardment. In the streets through which we passed it was really
astonishingly small. Cornices had been knocked off, and the
fragments lay in the streets; a good many windows were broken, and
in a few cases a shell had entered an attic and blown up the roof.
Plainly only small shells had been used. We did not realize that many
of the houses we passed were just beginning to get comfortably
alight, and that there was no one to put out the fires that had only
begun so far to smoulder. A few people were about, evidently on their
way out of Antwerp, but the vast bulk of the population had already
gone. It is said that the population of half a million numbered by the
evening only a few hundreds. We passed a small fox terrier lying on
the pavement dead, and somehow it has remained in my mind as a
most pathetic sight. He had evidently been killed by a piece of
shrapnel, and it seemed very unfair. But probably his people had left
him, and he was better out of it.

We turned into the Marche aux Souliers, and drew up at the Hotel St.
Antoine, and as we stepped down from the car a shell passed close to
us with a shriek, and exploded with a terrific crash in the house
opposite across the narrow street. We dived into the door of the hotel
to escape the falling debris. So far the shells had been whistling
comfortably over our heads, but it was evident that the Germans were
aiming at the British Headquarters, and that we had put our heads
into the thick of it, for it was now positively raining shells all round
us. But we scarcely noticed them in our consternation at what we
found, for the British Staff had disappeared. We wandered through
the deserted rooms which had been so crowded a few days before,
but there was not a soul to be seen. They had gone, and left
no address. At last an elderly man appeared, whom I took to be
the proprietor, and all he could tell us was that there was no one
but himself in the building. Of all the desolate spots in the world
I think that an empty hotel is the most desolate, and when you have
very fair reason to believe that a considerable number of guns are
having a competition as to which can drop a shell into it first, it
becomes positively depressing. We got into our car and drove
down the Place de Meir to the Belgian Croix Rouge, where we
hoped to get news of our countrymen, and there we were told
that they had gone to the Belgian Etat Majeur near by. We had
a few minutes' conversation with the President of the Croix Rouge,
a very good friend of ours, tall and of striking appearance, with
a heavy grey moustache. We asked him what the Croix Rouge
would do. "Ah," he said, "we will stay to the last!" At that very
moment a shell exploded with a deafening crash just outside
in the Place de Meir. I looked at the President, and he threw
up his hands in despair and led the way out of the building. The
Belgian Red Cross had finished its work.

At last at the Etat Majeur we found our Headquarters, and I sincerely
hope that wherever General Paris, Colonel Bridges, and Colonel
Seely go, they will always find people as pleased to see them as we
were. They very kindly told us something of the situation, and said
that, though they had every intention of holding Antwerp, they advised
us to clear out, and they placed at our disposal four motor omnibuses
for the transport of the wounded. So off we drove back to the hospital
to make arrangements for evacuating. It was a lively drive, for I
suppose that the Germans had had breakfast and had got to work
again; at any rate, shells were coming in pretty freely, and we were
happier when we could run along under the lee of the houses.
However, we got back to the hospital safely enough, and there we
held a council of war.

It was in the office, of course--the most risky room we could have
chosen, I suppose--but somehow that did not seem to occur to
anyone. It is curious how soon one grows accustomed to shells. At
that moment a barrel-organ would have caused us far more
annoyance. We sat round the table and discussed the situation. It
was by no means straightforward. In the first place several members
of the community did not wish to leave at all; in the second, we could
not leave any of our wounded behind unattended; and in the third, it
seemed unlikely that we could get them all on to four buses. After a
long discussion we decided to go again and see General Paris, to ask
for absolute instructions as a hospital under his control, and if he told
us to go, to get sufficient transport. And then arose a scene which will
always live in my mind. We had impressed into consultation a retired
officer of distinction to whose help we owed much, and now owe far
more, and whom I shall call our Friend. Perhaps he wished to give us
confidence--I have always suspected that he had an ulterior motive
--but he concluded the discussion by saying that he felt hungry and
would have something to eat before he started, and from his
haversack he produced an enormous German sausage and a large
loaf of bread, which he offered to us all round, and he said he would
like a cup of tea! The shells could do what they liked outside, and if
one of them was rude enough to intrude, it could not be helped. We
must show them that we could pay no attention to anything so vulgar
and noisy. At any rate, the effect on us was electrical. The contrast
between the German shells and the German sausage was too much
for us, and the meeting broke up in positive confusion. Alas that
sausage, the unparalleled trophy of an incomparable moment, was
left behind on the table, and I fear the Germans got it.

General Paris had been obliged to shift his headquarters to the
Pilotage, on the docks and at the farthest end of the city from us. He
was very considerate, and after some discussion said that we had
better leave Antwerp, and sent Colonel Farquharson with us to get six
buses. The Pilotage is at the extreme north end of the Avenue des
Arts, which extends the whole length of Antwerp, and the buses were
on the quay by the Arsenal at the extreme south end, so that we had
to drive the whole length of this, the most magnificent street of
Antwerp, and a distance of about three miles. It was an extraordinary
drive. In the whole length of that Avenue I do not think that we passed
a single individual. It was utterly deserted. All around were signs of
the bombardment--tops of houses blown off, and scattered about
the street, trees knocked down, holes in the roadway where shells
had struck. On the left stood the great Palais de Justice, with most of
its windows broken and part of the roof blown away, and just beyond
this three houses in a row blazing from cellar to chimney, the front
wall gone, and all that remained of the rooms exposed. As I said, only
small shells had been used, and the damage was nothing at all to that
which we afterwards saw at Ypres; but it gave one an impression of
dreariness and utter desolation that could scarcely be surpassed.
Think of driving from Hyde Park Corner down the Strand to the Bank,
not meeting a soul on the way, passing a few clubs in Piccadilly
burning comfortably, the Cecil a blazing furnace, and the Law Courts
lying in little bits about the street, and you will get some idea of
what it looked like. The scream of the shells and the crash when
they fell near by formed quite a suitable if somewhat Futurist
accompaniment.

But the climax of the entertainment, the bonne bouche of the
afternoon, was reserved for the end of our drive, when we reached
the wharf by the Arsenal, where the British stores and transport were
collected. Here was a long row of motor-buses, about sixty of them,
all drawn up in line along the river. Beside them was a long row of
heavily loaded ammunition lorries, and on the other side of the road
was the Arsenal, on our left, blazing away, with a vast column of
smoke towering up to the sky. "It may blow up any minute," said
Colonel Farquharson cheerily, "I had better move that ammunition." I
have never seen an arsenal blow up, and I imagine it is a
phenomenon requiring distance to get it into proper perspective; but I
have some recollection of an arsenal blowing up in Antwerp a few
years ago and taking a considerable part of the town with it. However,
it was not our arsenal, so we waited and enjoyed the view till the
ammunition had been moved, and the Colonel had done his best to
get us the motor-buses. He could only get us four, so we had to make
the best of a bad job. But. meanwhile the Germans had evidently
determined to give us a really good show while they were about it, for
while we waited a Taube came overhead and hovered for a moment,
apparently uncertain as to whether a bomb or a shell would look
better just there. A flash of tinsel falling in the sunlight showed us that
she had made up her mind and was giving the range. But we could
not stay, and were a quarter of a mile away when we looked back and
saw the first shells falling close to where we had been two minutes
before. They had come six miles.

The bombardment was increasing in violence, and large numbers of
incendiary shells were being used, whilst in addition the houses set
on fire during the night were now beginning to blaze. As we drove
back we passed several houses in flames, and the passage of the
narrow streets we traversed was by no means free from risk. At last
we turned into our own street, the Boulevard Leopold, and there we
met a sight which our eyes could scarcely credit. Three motor-buses
stood before our door and patients were being crowded into them.
Those buses and our own lives we owe to the kindness of Major
Gordon. Without them some at least must have remained behind. The
three were already well filled, for our friends thought that we had
certainly been killed and that they must act for themselves. We sent
them off under the escort of one of our cars, as it seemed foolish to
keep them waiting in a position of danger. On our own four we packed
all our remaining patients and all the hospital equipment we could
remove. One does not waste time when one packs under shell fire,
and at the end of three-quarters of an hour there was not a patient
and very little of value in the hospital. I took charge of the theatre as I
knew where the things went, and I think the British working man
would have been rather astonished to see how fast the big sterilizers
fell apart and the operating-tables slid into their cases. The windows
faced shellwards, and I must confess that once or twice when one of
them seemed to be coming unpleasantly near I took the opportunity to
remove my parcels outside. How the patients were got ready and
carried out and into the buses in that time is beyond my
comprehension. But somehow it was managed. I took a last look
round and drove out the last nurse who was trying to rescue some
last "hospital comfort" for a patient, and in the end I was myself driven
out by two indignant dressers who caught me trying to save the
instrument sterilizer. The buses were a wonderful sight. Inside were
some sixty patients, our share of the whole hundred and thirteen, and
on top about thirty of our staff, and the strangest collection of
equipment imaginable. The largest steam sterilizer mounted guard in
front, hoisted there by two sailormen of huge strength, who turned up
from somewhere. Great bundles of blankets, crockery, and
instruments were wedged in everywhere, with the luggage of the staff.
At the door of each bus was seated a nurse, like a conductor, to give
what little attention was possible to the patients. It was a marvellous
sight, but no cheerier crowd of medical students ever left the doors of
a hospital for a Cup-tie.



XIV. The Night Journey



There was only one way out--by the bridge of boats across the
Scheldt. It was a narrow plank road, and as vehicles had to go across
in single file at some distance apart, the pressure can be imagined.
For an hour and a half we stood in the densely packed Cathedral
square watching the hands of the great clock go round and wondering
when a shell would drop among us. We had seen enough of churches
to know what an irresistible attraction they have for German artillery,
and we knew that, whatever may be the state of affairs in Scotland,
here at any rate the nearer the church the nearer was heaven. But no
shells fell near, we only heard them whistling overhead.

The scene around us was extraordinary, and indeed these were the
remains of the entire population of Antwerp. The whole city had
emptied itself either by this road or by the road northwards into
Holland. Crowds of people of every class--the poor in their working-
clothes, the well-to-do in their Sunday best--all carrying in bundles
all they could carry away of their property, and wedged in amongst
them every kind of vehicle imaginable, from a luxurious limousine to
coster's carts and wheelbarrows. In front of us lay the Scheldt, and
pouring down towards it was on the left an endless stream of
fugitives, crossing by the ferry-boats, and on the right an interminable
train of artillery and troops, crossing by the only bridge. At last there
was a movement forwards; we crept down the slope and on to the
bridge, and slowly moved over to the other side. Perhaps we should
not have felt quite so happy about it had we known that two men had
just been caught on the point of blowing up the boats in the centre,
and that very shortly after the Germans were to get the range and
drop a shell on to the bridge. At five o'clock we were across the
bridge and on the road to Ghent.

Of all the pitiful sights I have ever seen, that road was the most utterly
pitiful. We moved on slowly through a dense throng of fugitives--
men, women, and little children--all with bundles over their
shoulders, in which was all that they possessed. A woman with three
babies clinging to her skirts, a small boy wheeling his grandmother in
a wheelbarrow, family after family, all moving away from the horror
that lay behind to the misery that lay in front. We had heard of
Louvain, and we had seen Termonde, and we understood. As
darkness came down we lit our lamps, and there along the roadside
sat rows of fugitives, resting before recommencing their long journey
through the night. There was one row of little children which will live
for ever in my memory, tiny mites sitting together on a bank by the
roadside. We only saw them for an instant as our lights fell on them,
and they disappeared in the darkness. Germany will have to pay for
Louvain and Termonde. It is not with man that she will have to settle
for that row of little children.

We had a few vacant seats when we left Antwerp, but they were soon
filled by fugitives whom we picked up on the road. Strangely enough,
we picked up two of our friends in Antwerp with their families. One
was the doctor who had taken all our radiographs for us, and to whom
we owed a great deal in many ways. He had left his beautiful house,
with X-ray apparatus on which he had spent his fortune, incomparably
superior to any other that I have ever seen, and here he was trudging
along the road, with his wife, his two children, and their nurse. They
were going to St. Nicholas, on their way to Holland, and were
delighted to get a lift. Unfortunately, by some mistake, the nurse and
children left the bus at Zwyndrecht, a few miles from Antwerp, the
doctor came on to St. Nicholas, and his wife went right through with
us to Ghent. It took him three days to find the children, and when we
last heard from him he was in Holland, having lost everything he had
in the world, and after two months he had not yet found his wife. And
this is only an instance of what has happened all over Belgium.

We reached St. Nicholas about eight o'clock, having covered thirteen
miles in three hours. It was quite dark, and as we had a long night
before us we decided to stop and get some food for ourselves and
our patients. There was not much to be had, but, considering the
stream of fugitives, it was wonderful that there was anything. We
hoped now to be able to push on faster, and to reach Ghent before
midnight, for it is only a little over twenty miles by the direct road. To
our dismay, we found that Lokeren, half-way to Ghent, was in the
hands of the Germans, and that we must make a detour, taking us
close to the Dutch border, and nearly doubling the distance. Without
a guide, and in the dark, we could never have reached our
destination; but we were fortunate enough to get a guide, and we set
out on our long drive through the night. Twenty minutes later a
German scouting party entered St. Nicholas. It was a narrow margin,
but it was sufficient.

We were rather a downhearted party when we set out northwards
towards the Dutch frontier, for we had been told that the three buses
we had sent on in advance had gone straight on to Lokeren, and had
undoubtedly fallen into the hands of the Germans, who had made
certain of holding the road by destroying the bridge. We hoped that
they might have discovered this in time, and turned back, but we
could not wait to find out. We knew that the enemy were quite close.
At first we used our lights, but a shrapnel whistling overhead warned
us that we were seen, and for the remainder of the night we travelled
in darkness. These were minor roads, with a narrow paved causeway
in the centre, and loose sand on each side. Long avenues of trees
kept us in inky darkness, and how the drivers succeeded in keeping
on the causeway I really do not know. Every now and then one of the
buses would get into the sand; then all the men would collect, dig the
wheels clear, and by sheer brute force drag the bus back to safety.
Twice it seemed absolutely hopeless. The wheels were in the loose
sand within a foot of a deep ditch, and the least thing would have sent
the bus flying over on to its side into the field beyond; and on both
occasions, while we looked at one another in despair, a team of huge
Flemish horses appeared from nowhere in the darkness and dragged
us clear. Think of an inky night, the Germans close at hand, and
every half-hour or so a desperate struggle to shoulder a heavily
loaded London bus out of a ditch, and you may have some faint idea
of the nightmare we passed through.

As we crept along the dark avenues, the sky behind us was lit by an
ever-increasing glare. Away to the south-east, at no great distance, a
village was blazing, but behind us was a vast column of flame and
smoke towering up to heaven. It was in the direction of Antwerp, and
at first we thought that the vandals had fired the town; but though the
sky was lit by many blazing houses, that tall pillar came from the great
oil-tanks, set on fire by the Belgians lest they should fall into German
hands. A more awful and terrifying spectacle it is hard to conceive.
The sky was lit up as if by the sunrise of the day of doom, and thirty
miles away our road was lighted by the lurid glare. Our way led
through woods, and amongst the trees we could hear the crack and
see the flash of rifle-fire. More than once the whiz of a bullet urged us
to hurry on.

At Selsaete, only a mile from the Dutch frontier, we turned southwards
towards Ghent, and for an interminable distance we followed the bank
of a large canal. A few miles from Ghent we met Commander
Samson, of the Flying Corps, and three of his armoured cars. The
blaze of their headlights quite blinded us after the darkness in which
we had travelled, but the sight of the British uniforms and the machine
guns was a great encouragement. The road was so narrow that they
had to turn their cars into a field to let us pass. We had just come up
with a number of farm waggons, and the clumsy Flemish carts, with
their huge horses, the grey armoured cars, with their blazing
headlights, and our four red motor-buses, made a strange scene in
the darkness of the night. At last we reached Ghent utterly tired out,
though personally I had slept a sort of nightmare sleep on the top
step of a bus which boldly announced its destination as Hendon. It
was five o'clock, and day was breaking as we got our patients out of
the buses and deposited them in the various hospitals as we could
find room for them. To our unspeakable relief, we found that the rest
of our party had come through by much the same road as we had
taken ourselves, but they had reached Ghent quite early the night
before. Their earlier start had given them the advantage of clearer
roads and daylight. With good fortune little short of miraculous, we
had all come so far in safety, and we hoped that our troubles were
over. Alas, we were told that though Germans were expected to enter
Ghent that very day, and that all British wounded must be removed
from the hospitals before ten o'clock. There was nothing for it but to
collect them again, and to take them on to Ostend. One had died in
the night, and two were too ill to be moved. We left them behind in
skilled hands, and the others we re-embarked on our buses en route
for Bruges and Ostend.

The First Act in the story of the British Field Hospital for Belgium was
drawing to an end. Our hospital, to which we had given so much
labour, was gone, and the patients, for whom we had grown to care,
were scattered. Yet there was in our hearts only a deep gratitude that
we had come unharmed, almost by a miracle, through so many
dangers, and a firm confidence that in some other place we should
find a home for our hospital, where we could again help the brave
soldiers whose cause had become so much our own.



XV. Furnes



A week after we had reached London, we were off again to the
front. This time our objective was Furnes, a little town fifteen
miles east of Dunkirk, and about five miles from the fighting-line.
The line of the Belgian trenches ran in a circle, following the
course of the River Yser, the little stream which has proved
such an insuperable barrier to the German advance. Furnes
lies at the centre of the circle, and is thus an ideal position for
an advanced base, such as we intended to establish. It is easy
of access from Dunkirk by a fine main road which runs alongside
an important canal, and as Dunkirk was our port, and the only
source of our supplies, this was a great consideration. From
Furnes a number of roads lead in various directions to Ypres,
Dixmude, Nieuport, and the coast, making it a convenient
centre for an organization such as ours, requiring, as we
did, ready means of reaching the front in any direction, and
open communication with our base of supplies.

We crossed from Dover in the Government transport, and
arrived at Dunkirk about ten o'clock on Tuesday morning. There
we met Dr. Munro's party, the famous Flying Ambulance Corps,
with whom we were to enter on our new venture. They had not
come over to England at all, but had come down the coast in
their cars, and had spent the last few days in Malo, the seaside
suburb of Dunkirk. The Belgian Government very kindly lent us
a couple of big motor-lorries in which to take out our stores, and
with our own motors we made quite a procession as we started
off from the wharf of Dunkirk on our fifteen-mile drive to Furnes.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached our new home. It
was a large school, partly occupied by the priests connected
with it, partly by officers quartered there, and one of the larger
classrooms had been used as a dressing-station by some Belgian
doctors in Furnes. For ourselves, the only accommodation
consisted of a few empty classrooms and a huge dormitory
divided into cubicles, but otherwise destitute of the necessaries
for sleep. Several hours' hard work made some change in the
scene, mattresses and blankets being hauled up to the dormitory,
where the nursing staff was accommodated, while straw laid
down in one of the classrooms made comfortable if somewhat
primitive beds for the male members. Meanwhile, in the kitchen
department miracles had been accomplished, and we all sat down
to dinner with an appetite such as one rarely feels at home, and for
which many of our patients over in England would be willing to pay
quite large sums. The large room was lit by two candles and a
melancholy lamp, there was no tablecloth, the spoons were of
pewter, with the bowls half gone, and the knives were in their
dotage. But the scales had fallen from our eyes, and we realized
what trifles these things are. Madame, the genius who presided
over our domestic affairs, and many other affairs as well, and
her assistants, had produced from somewhere food, good food,
and plenty of it; and what in the world can a hungry man want more?
Truly there are many people who require a moral operation
for cataract, that they might see how good is the world in which they live.

Next day we proceeded to unpack our stores, and to try to
make a hospital out of these empty rooms, and then only did
we discover that an overwhelming misfortune had overtaken
us. By some extraordinary circumstance which has never been
explained, we had lost practically the whole of the surgical
instruments which we had brought out of Antwerp with such
trouble and risk. They were tied up in sheets, and my own
impression is that they were stolen. However that may be, here
we were in as ludicrous a position as it is possible for even a
hospital to occupy, for not only had we none of the ordinary
instruments, but, as if Fate meant to have a good laugh at us,
we had a whole series of rare and expensive tools. We had no
knives, and no artery forceps, and not a stitch of catgut; but we
had an oesophagoscope, and the very latest possible pattern of
cystoscope, and a marvellous set of tools for plating fractures. It
reminded one of the costume of an African savage--a silk hat,
and nothing else. Some Belgian doctors who had been working
there lent us a little case of elementary instruments, and that
was absolutely all we had.

Scarcely had we made this terrible discovery, when an
ambulance arrived with two wounded officers, and asked if we
were ready to admit patients. We said, "No," and I almost think
that we were justified. The men in charge of the ambulance
seemed very disappointed, and said that in that case there was
nothing for it but to leave the wounded men on their stretchers
till an ambulance train should come to take them to Calais,
which they might ultimately reach in two or three days' time.
They were badly wounded, and we thought that at least we
could do better than that; so we made up a couple of beds in
one of the empty rooms, and took them in. Little did we dream
of what we were in for. An hour later another ambulance
arrived, and as we had started, we thought that we might as
well fill up the ward we had begun. That did it. The sluice-gates
were opened, and the wounded poured in. In four days we
admitted three hundred and fifty patients, all of them with
injuries of the most terrible nature. The cases we had seen at
Antwerp were nothing to these. Arms and legs were torn right
off or hanging by the merest shreds, ghastly wounds of the
head left the brain exposed. Many of the poor fellows were
taken from the ambulances dead, and of the others at least half
must have died.

For four days and four nights the operating theatre was at work
continuously, till one sickened at the sight of blood and at the
thought of an operation. Three operating tables were in almost
continuous use, and often three major operations were going
on at the same time; and all the instruments we had were two
scalpels, six artery forceps, two dissecting forceps, and a finger-
saw. Think of doing amputations through the thigh with that
equipment! There was nothing else for it. Either the work had to
be done or the patients had to die. And there was certainly no
one else to do it. The rapid advance of the Germans had swept
away all the admirable arrangements which the Belgian Army
had made for dealing with its wounded. The splendid hospitals
of Ghent and Ostend were now in German hands, and there
had not yet been time to get new ones established. The cases
could be sent to Calais, it was true, but there the accommodation
was so far totally inadequate, and skilled surgical assistance
was not to be obtained. For the moment our hospital, with its
ludicrous equipment, was the only hope of the badly wounded.
By the mercy of Heaven, we had plenty of chloroform and
morphia, and a fair supply of dressings, and we knew by
experience that at this stage it is safer to be content with the
minimum of actual operative work, so that I think it was we,
rather than our patients, who suffered from the want of the
ordinary aids of surgery. In the wards there was a shortage,
almost as serious, of all the ordinary equipment of nursing, for
much of this had been too cumbrous to bring from Antwerp;
and though we had brought out a fair supply of ordinary
requirements, we had never dreamt of having to deal with such
a rush as this. Ward equipment cannot be got at a moment's
notice, and the bulk of it had not yet arrived. We only
possessed a dozen folding beds, in which some of the worst
cases were placed. The others had to lie on straw on the floor,
and so closely were they packed that it was only with the
greatest care that one could thread one's way across the ward.
How the nurses ever managed to look after their patients is
beyond my comprehension, but they were magnificent. They
rose to the emergency as only Englishwomen can, and there is
not one of those unfortunate men who will not remember with
gratitude their sympathy and their skill.

During these first days a terrific fight was going on around
Dixmude and Nieuport, and it was a very doubtful question how
long it would be possible for the Belgian and French troops to
withstand the tremendous attacks to which they were being
subjected. The matter was so doubtful that we had to hold
ourselves in readiness to clear out from the hospital at two
hours' notice, whilst our wounded were taken away as fast as
we could get them into what one can only describe as a portable
condition. It was a physical impossibility for our wards to hold
more than a hundred and fifty patients, even when packed
close together side by side on the floor, and as I have said,
three hundred and fifty were dealt with in the first four days.
This meant that most of them spent only twenty-four hours
in the hospital, and as we were only sent cases which could
not, as they stood, survive the long train journey to Calais,
this meant that they were often taken on almost immediately
after serious operations. Several amputations of the thigh,
for example, were taken away next day, and many of them
must have spent the next twenty-four hours in the train, for
the trains were very tardy in reaching their destination. It is not
good treatment, but good surgery is not the primary object of
war. The fighting troops are the first consideration, and the
surgeon has to manage the best way he can.

One of the most extraordinary cases we took in was that of the
editor of a well-known sporting journal in England. He had
shown his appreciation of the true sporting instinct by going out
to Belgium and joining the army as a mitrailleuse man. If there
is one place where one may hope for excitement, it is in an
armoured car with a mitrailleuse. The mitrailleuse men are
picked dare-devils, and their work takes them constantly into
situations which require a trained taste for their enjoyment. Our
friend the editor was out with his car, and had got out to
reconnoitre, when suddenly some Germans in hiding opened
fire. Their first shot went through both his legs, fracturing both
tibiae, and he fell down, of course absolutely incapable of
standing, just behind the armoured car. Owing to some mistake,
an officer in the car gave the order to start, and away went the
car. He would have been left to his fate, but suddenly realizing
how desperate his position was, he threw up his hand and caught
hold of one of the rear springs. Lying on his back and holding
on to the spring, he was dragged along the ground, with both
his legs broken, for a distance of about half a mile.

The car was going at about twenty-five miles an hour, and how
he ever maintained his hold Heaven only knows. At last they
pulled up, and there they found him, practically unconscious,
his clothes torn to ribbons, his back a mass of bruises, but still
holding on. It was one of the most splendid examples of real
British grit of which I have ever heard. They brought him to the
hospital, and we fixed him up as well as we could. One would
have thought that he might have been a little downhearted, but
not a bit of it. He arrived in the operating theatre smiling and
smoking a cigar, and gave us a vivid account of his experiences.
We sent him over to England, and I heard that he was doing well.
There is one sporting paper in England which is edited by a
real sportsman. May he long live to inspire in others the courage
of which he has given such a splendid example!



XVI. Poperinghe



For a long week the roar of guns had echoed incessantly in our
corridors and wards, and a continuous stream of motor-lorries,
guns, and ammunition waggons had rumbled past our doors;
whilst at night the flash of the guns lit up the horizon with an
angry glare. The flood of wounded had abated, and we were
just beginning to get the hospital into some sort of shape when
the order came to evacuate.

It had been no easy task transforming bare rooms into
comfortable wards, arranging for supplies of food and stores,
and fitting a large staff into a cubic space totally inadequate to
hold them. But wonderful things can be accomplished when
everyone is anxious to do their share, and the most hopeless
sybarite will welcome shelter however humble, and roll himself
up in a blanket in any corner, when he is dead tired. For the first
few days the rush of wounded had been so tremendous that all
we could do was to try to keep our heads above water and not
be drowned by the flood.

But towards the end of the week the numbers diminished, not
because there were not as many wounded, but because the
situation was so critical that the Belgian authorities did not dare
to leave any large number of wounded in Furnes. Supplies
were coming out from England in response to urgent telegrams,
and, through the kind offices of the Queen of the Belgians, we
had been able to obtain a number of beds from the town, in
addition to twenty which she had generously given to us herself.
So that we were gradually beginning to take on the appearance
of an ordinary hospital, and work was settling down into a
regular routine. The sleepy little town of Furnes had been for
some weeks in a state of feverish activity. After the evacuation
of Antwerp and the retirement of the Belgian Army from Ostend,
it had become the advanced base of the Belgian troops, and it
was very gay with Staff officers, and of course packed with
soldiers. The immense Grand Place lined with buildings, in
many cases bearing unmistakable signs of a birth in Spanish
times, was a permanent garage of gigantic dimensions, and the
streets were thronged day and night with hurrying cars. We in
the hospital hoped that the passage of the Yser would prove
too much for the Germans, and that we should be left in peace,
for we could not bear to think that all our labour could be thrown
to the winds, and that we might have to start afresh in some
other place. But one of the massed attacks which have formed
such a prominent feature of this terrible war had temporarily
rolled back the defence in the Dixmude district, and it was
deemed unwise to submit the hospital to the risk of possible
disaster.

We were fortunate in having Dr. Munro's ambulance at our
disposal, and in rather over two hours more than a hundred
wounded had been transferred to the Red Cross train which lay
at the station waiting to take them to Calais. An evacuation is
always a sad business, for the relations between a hospital and
its patients are far more than professional. But with us it was
tragic, for we knew that for many of our patients the long
journey could have only one conclusion. Only the worst cases
were ever brought to us, in fact only those whose condition
rendered the long journey to Calais a dangerous proceeding,
and we felt that for many of them the evacuation order was a
death warrant, and that we should never see them again. They
were brave fellows, and made the best of it as they shook
hands with smiling faces and wished us "Au revoir," for though
they might die on the way they preferred that to the danger of
falling into the hands of the Germans. And they were right. They
knew as well as we did that we are not fighting against a
civilized nation, but against a gang of organized savages.

Three hours later we were mingling with the crowds who
thronged the road, wondering with them where our heads would
rest that night, and filled with pity at the terrible tragedy which
surrounded us. Carts, wheelbarrows, perambulators, and in fact
any vehicle which could be rolled along, were piled to overflowing
with household goods. Little children and old men and women
struggled along under loads almost beyond their powers, none
of them knowing whither they went or what the curtain of fate
would reveal when next it was drawn aside. It was a blind flight
into the darkness of the unknown.

Our orders were to make for Poperinghe, a little town lying
about fifteen miles due south of Furnes, in the direction of
Ypres. For the first ten miles we travelled along the main road to
Ypres, a fine avenue running between glorious trees, and one
of the chief thoroughfares of Belgium. Here we made our first
acquaintance with the African troops, who added a touch of
colour in their bright robes to the otherwise grey surroundings.
They were encamped in the fields by the side of the road, and
seemed to be lazily enjoying themselves seated round their
camp-fires. At Oostvleteren we parted company with the main
road and its fine surface, and for the next six miles we bumped
and jolted along on a bad cross-road till our very bones rattled
and groaned.

There was no suggestion now of the horrors of war. Peaceful
villages as sleepy as any in our own country districts appeared
at frequent intervals, and easy prosperity was the obvious
keynote of the well-wooded and undulating countryside. We
were in one of the great hop districts, and the contrast with the
flat and unprotected country round Furnes was striking. One
might Almost have been in the sheltered hopfields of Kent. Little
children looked up from their games in astonishment as we
rolled by, and our response to their greetings was mingled with
a silent prayer that they might be spared the terrible fate which
had befallen their brothers and sisters in far-off Lou vain. The
contrasts of war are amazing. Here were the children playing by
the roadside, and the cattle slowly wending their way home, and
ten miles away we could hear the roar of the guns, and knew
that on those wasted fields men were struggling with savage
fury in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

In the great square of Poperinghe the scene was brilliant in the
extreme. Uniforms of every conceivable cut and colour rubbed
shoulder to shoulder; ambulance waggons, guns, ammunition
trains, and picketed horses all seemed to be mixed in inextricable
confusion; while a squadron of French cavalry in their bright
blue and silver uniforms was drawn up on one side of the
square, waiting patiently for the orders which would permit
them to go to the help of their hard-pressed comrades. It seemed
impossible that we could find shelter here, for obviously every
corner must have been filled by the throng of soldiers who
crowded in the square. But we were quite happy, for had we
not got Madame with us, and had her genius ever been known
to fail, especially in the face of the impossible? Others might
go without a roof, but not we, and others might go to bed
supperless, but in some miraculous way we knew that we should
sit down to a hot dinner. We were not deceived. The whole nursing
staff was soon comfortably housed in a girls' school, while the men
were allotted the outhouse of a convent, and there, rolled up in our
blankets and with our bags for pillows, we slept that night as soundly
as we should have done in our own comfortable beds in England.

There was ample room in the courtyard for our heavily laden
ambulances, for we had brought all our stores with us; and a
big pump was a welcome sight, for grime had accumulated
during the preceding twelve hours. By the side of the friendly
pump, in a railed-off recess, a life-size image of Our Lady of
Lourdes, resplendent in blue and gold, looked down with a
pitying smile on a group of pilgrims, one of whom bore a little
child in her arms; whilst a well-worn stone step spoke of the
number of suppliants who had sought her aid.

We had fasted for many hours, and while we were doing our
part in unpacking the small store of food which we had brought
with us, Madame, with her usual genius, had discovered on the
outskirts of Poperinghe an obscure cafe, where for a small sum
the proprietor allowed us to use his kitchen. There we were
presently all seated round three tables, drinking coffee such as
we had rarely tasted, and eating a curiously nondescript, but
altogether delightful, meal. There were two little rooms, one
containing a bar and a stove, the other only a table. Over the
stove presided a lady whose novels we have all read, cooking
bacon, and when I say that she writes novels as well as she
cooks bacon it is very high praise indeed--at least we thought
so at the time. Some genius had discovered a naval store in the
town, and had persuaded the officer in charge to give us
cheese and jam and a whole side of bacon, so that we fed like
the gods. There was one cloud over the scene, for the terrible
discovery was made that we had left behind in Furnes a large
box of sausages, over the fate of which it is well to draw a veil;
but Madame was not to be defeated even by that, and a wonderful
salad made of biscuits and vinegar and oil went far to console
us. And that reminds me of a curious episode in Furnes. For
several days the huge store bottle of castor oil was lost. It was
ultimately discovered in the kitchen, where, as the label was
in English, it had done duty for days as salad oil! What is
there in a name after all?

We had not been able to bring with us all our stores, and as
some of these were wanted two of us started back to Furnes
late at night to fetch them. It was a glorious night, and one had
the advantage of a clear road. We were driving northwards, and
the sky was lit up by the flashes of the guns at Nieuport and
Dixmude, whilst we could hear their dull roar in the distance. All
along the road were encamped the Turcos, and their camp-
fires, with the dark forms huddled around them, gave a picturesque
touch to the scene. Half-way to Furnes the road was lit up
by a motor-car which had caught fire, and which stood blazing
in the middle of the road. We had some little difficulty in passing
it, but when we returned it was only a mass of twisted iron by
the roadside. There was no moon, but the stars shone out
all the more brilliantly as we spun along on the great Ypres
road. It was long after midnight when we reached the hospital,
and it was not a little uncanny groping through its wards in the
darkness. There is some influence which seems to haunt the
empty places where men once lived, but it broods in redoubled
force over the places where men have died. In those wards,
now so dark and silent, we had worked for all the past days amid
sights which human eyes should never have seen, and the
groans of suffering we had heard seemed to echo through the
darkness. We were glad when we had collected the stores
we required and were again in the car on our way back to Poperinghe.

Next morning we called at the Hotel de Ville in Poperinghe, and
there we learnt that the Queen, with her usual thoughtfulness,
was interesting herself on our behalf to find us a building in
which we could make a fresh start. She had sent the Viscomtesse
de S. to tell us that she hoped to shortly place at our disposal
either a school or a convent. On the following day, however,
we heard that the situation had somewhat settled, and an order
came from General Mellis, the Chief of the Medical Staff,
instructing us to return to Furnes. A few hours later found
us hard at work again, putting in order our old home.

There was one rather pathetic incident of our expedition to
Poperinghe. Five nuns who had fled from Eastern Belgium--
they had come, I think, from a convent near Louvain--had
taken refuge in the school in Furnes in which we were established.
When we were ordered to go to Poperinghe, they begged to
be allowed to accompany us, and we took them with us in the
ambulances. On our return they were so grateful that they asked
to be allowed to show their gratitude by working for us in the
kitchen, and for all the time we were at Furnes they were our
devoted helpers. They only made one request, that if we left
Furnes we would take them with us, and we promised that we
would never desert them.



XVII. Furnes Again



The position of the hospital at Furnes was very different from
that which it had held at Antwerp. There we were in a modern
city, with a water-supply and modern sanitary arrangements.
Here we were in an old Continental country town, or, in other
words, in medieval times, as far as water and sanitation were
concerned. For it is only where the English tourist has
penetrated that one can possibly expect such luxuries. One
does not usually regard him as an apostle of civilization, but he
ought certainly to be canonized as the patron saint of continental
sanitary engineering. As a matter of fact, in a country as flat as
Belgium the science must be fraught with extraordinary difficulties,
and they certainly seem to thrive very well without it. We were
established in the Episcopal College of St. Joseph, a large
boys' school, and not badly adapted to the needs of a hospital
but for the exceptions I have mentioned. Our water-supply
came, on a truly hygienic plan, from wells beneath the building,
whilst we were entirely free from any worry about drains. There
were none. However, it did not seem to affect either ourselves
or our patients, and we all had the best of health, though we took
the precaution of sterilizing our water.

We were now the official advanced base hospital of the Belgian
Army, and not merely, as in Antwerp, a free organization
working by itself. The advantage of this arrangement was that
we had a constant supply of wounded sent to us whenever
there was any fighting going on, and that the evacuation of our
patients was greatly facilitated. Every morning at ten o'clock
Colonel Maestrio made the tour of our wards, and arranged for
the removal to the base hospital at Dunkirk of all whom we
wished to send away. It gave us the further advantage of
special privileges for our cars and ambulances, which were
allowed to go practically anywhere in search of the wounded
with absolute freedom. Formerly we had owed a great deal to
the assistance of the Belgian Croix Rouge, who had been very
good in supplementing our supply of dressings, as well as in
getting us army rations for the patients. This, of course, had all
come to an end, and we now had to rely on our own resources.

Our personnel had undergone considerable alteration, for while
several of our original members had dropped out, we had
joined forces with Dr. Hector Munro's Ambulance Corps, and
four of their doctors had joined our medical staff. Dr. Munro and
his party had worked in connection with the hospitals of Ghent
till the German advance forced both them and ourselves to
retreat to Ostend. There we met and arranged to carry on our
work together at Furnes. The arrangement was of the greatest
possible advantage to both of us, for it gave us the service of
their splendid fleet of ambulances, and it gave them a base to
which to bring their wounded. We were thus able to get the
wounded into hospital in an unusually short space of time, and
to deal effectively with many cases which would otherwise have
been hopeless. Smooth coordination with an ambulance party
is, in fact, the first essential for the satisfactory working of an
advanced hospital. If full use is to be made of its advantages,
the wounded must be collected and brought in with the minimum
of delay, whilst it must be possible to evacuate at once all who
are fit to be moved back to the base. In both respects we were
at Furnes exceptionally well placed.

We were established in a large straggling building of no
attraction whatever except its cubic capacity. It was fairly new,
and devoid of any of the interest of antiquity, but it presented
none of the advantages of modern architecture. In fact, it was
extremely ugly and extremely inconvenient, but it was large.
Two of the largest classrooms and the refectory were converted
into wards. At first the question of beds was a serious difficulty,
but by the kind intervention of the Queen we were able to
collect a number from houses in the town, whilst Her Majesty
herself gave us twenty first-class beds with box-spring
mattresses. Later on we got our supplies from England, and we
could then find beds for a hundred patients. Even then we were
not at the end of our capacity, for we had two empty classrooms,
the floors of which we covered with straw, on which another fifty
patients could lie in comfort until we could find better accommodation
for them. We could not, of course, have fires in these rooms,
as it would have been dangerous, but we warmed them by the
simple plan of filling them with patients and shutting all the windows and
doors. For the first few nights, as a matter of fact, we had to sleep
in these rooms on straw ourselves, and in the greatest luxury. No
one who has slept all his life in a bed would ever realize how
comfortable straw is, and for picturesqueness has it an equal?

I went into the Straw Ward on my round one wild and stormy
night. Outside the wind was raging and the rain fell in torrents,
and it was so dark that one had to feel for the door. Inside a
dozen men lay covered up with blankets on a thick bed of
straw, most of them fast asleep, while beside one knelt a nurse
with a stable lantern, holding a cup to his lips. It was a picture
that an artist might have come far to see--the wounded soldiers
in their heavy coats, covered by the brown blankets; the nurse
in her blue uniform and her white cap, the stable lantern throwing
flickering shadows on the walls. It was something more than
art, and as I glanced up at the crucifix hanging on the wall
I felt that the picture was complete.

Above the two larger wards was a huge dormitory, divided up
by wooden partitions into some sixty cubicles, which provided
sleeping accommodation for the bulk of our staff. They were
arranged in four ranks, with passages between and washing
arrangements in the passages, and the cubicles themselves
were large and comfortable. It was really quite well planned,
and was most useful to us, though ventilation had evidently not
appealed to its architect. Two rows were reserved for the
nurses, and in the others slept our chauffeurs and stretcher-bearers,
with a few of the priests. Our friends were at first much shocked
at the idea of this mixed crowd, but as a matter of fact it worked
very well, and there was very little to grumble at. The only real
disadvantage was the noise made by early risers in the morning,
convincing us more than ever of the essential selfishness of
the early bird. A few of us occupied separate rooms over in
the wing which the priests had for the most part reserved for
themselves, and these we used in the daytime as our offices.

But the real sights of our establishment were our kitchen and
our chef; we might almost have been an Oxford college. Maurice
had come to us in quite a romantic way. One night we took in a soldier
with a bullet wound of the throat. For some days he was pretty
bad, but he won all our hearts by his cheerfulness and pluck.
When at last he improved sufficiently to be able to speak, he
told us that he was the assistant chef at the Hotel Metropole
in Brussels. We decided that he ought to be kept in a warm,
moist atmosphere for a long time, and he was installed in the
kitchen. He was a genius at making miracles out of nothing,
and his soups made out of bacon rind and old bones, followed
by entrees constructed from bully beef, were a dream. He was
assisted by the nuns from Louvain who had accompanied us
to Poperinghe, and who now worked for us on the sole condition
that we should not desert them. They were very picturesque
working in the kitchen in their black cloaks and coifs. At meal-times
the scene was a most animated one, for, as we had no one
to wait on us, we all came in one after the other, plate in hand,
while Maurice stood with his ladle and presided over the
ceremonies, with a cheery word for everyone, assisted by the silent nuns.

The getting of supplies became at times a very serious
question. Needless to say, Furnes was destitute of anything to
eat, drink, burn, or wear, and Dunkirk was soon in a similar
case. We had to get most of our provisions over from England,
and our milk came every morning on the Government transport,
from Aylesbury. For some weeks we were very hard up, but the
officer in charge of the naval stores at Dunkirk was very good to
us, and supplied us with bully beef, condensed milk, cheese,
soap, and many other luxuries till we could get further supplies
from home. We used a considerable quantity of coal, and on
one occasion we were faced by the prospect of an early famine,
for Furnes and Dunkirk were empty. But nothing was ever too
great a strain for the resources of our housekeeper. She
discovered that there was a coal-heap at Ramscapelle, five
miles away, and in a few hours an order had been obtained
from the Juge d'Instruction empowering us to take the coal if we
could get it, and the loan of a Government lorry had been
coaxed out of the War Lords. The only difficulty was that for the
moment the Germans were shelling the place, and it was too
dangerous to go near even for coal; so the expedition had to be
postponed until they desisted. It seemed to me the most
original method of filling one's coal-cellar of which I had ever
heard. And it was typical of a large number of our arrangements.
There is something of the Oriental about the Belgians and the
French. If we wanted any special favour, the very last thing we
thought of doing was to go and ask for it. It was not that they
were not willing to give us what we asked for, but they did
not understand that method of approach. What we did was
to go to breakfast with the Juge, or to lunch with the Minister,
or to invite the Colonel to dinner. In the course of conversation
the subject would be brought up in some indirect way till the
interest of the great man had been gained; then everything
was easy. And surely there is something very attractive about
a system where everything is done as an act of friendship, and
not as the soulless reflex of some official machine. It is easier
to drink red wine than to eat red tape, and not nearly so wearing
to one's digestion.

As we were fifteen miles from Dunkirk, and as everything had to
be brought out from there, transport was a serious problem.
Every morning one of our lorries started for our seaport soon
after nine, carrying the hospital mailbag and as many messages
as a village carrier. The life of the driver was far more exciting
than his occupation would suggest, and it was always a moot
point whether or not he would succeed in getting back the
same night. The road was of the usual Belgian type, with a
paved causeway in the middle just capable of allowing two
motors to pass, and on each side was a morass, flanked on
the right by a canal and on the left by a field. The slightest
deviation from the greasy cobbles landed the car in the mud,
with quite a chance of a plunge into the canal. A constant
stream of heavy army lorries tore along the road at thirty or
more miles an hour, and as a rule absolutely refused to give
way. It took a steady nerve to face them, encouraged as one
was by numbers of derelicts in the field on the one side and half
in the canal on the other. On one bridge a car hung for some
days between heaven and earth, its front wheels caught over
the parapet, and the car hanging from them over the canal--a
heartening sight for a nervous driver. It was rarely that our lorry
returned without some tale of adventure. The daily round, the
common task, gave quite enough occupation to one member of
the community.



XVIII. Work At Furnes



Our work at Furnes differed in many ways from that at Antwerp.
All its conditions were rougher, and, as we had to deal with a
number of patients out of all proportion to our size, it was
impossible to keep any but a few special cases for any length of
time. We admitted none but the most serious cases, such as
would be instantly admitted to any London hospital, and when I
mention that in five weeks we had just a thousand cases in our
hundred beds, the pressure at which the work was carried on
will be realized. There is no hospital in England, with ten times
the number of beds, that has ever admitted to its wards
anything like this number of serious surgical cases. We were
essentially a clearing hospital, with this important proviso, that
we could, when it was required, carry out at once the heaviest
operative work, and retain special cases as long as we thought
fit. Our object was always to get each patient into such a
condition that he could be transferred back to the base without
injury to his chances of recovery, and without undue pain, and I
believe we saved the life of many a patient by giving him a
night's rest in the Straw Ward, and sending him on next day
with his wound properly dressed and supported. The cases
themselves were of a far more severe type than those we had
at Antwerp. There, indeed, I was astonished at the small
amount of injury that had in many cases resulted from both
shrapnel and bullet wounds, and it was certainly worthy of note
that we had never once in our work there had to perform an
amputation. At Furnes, we drew our patients from the line
between Nieuport and Dixmude, where the fighting was for the
most part at close range and of a most murderous nature.
There were no forts, and the soldiers had little or no protection
from the hail of high-explosive shells which the enemy poured
upon them. In Nieuport and Dixmude themselves the fighting
was frequently from house to house, the most deadly form of
fighting known. The wounds we had to treat were correspondingly
severe--limbs sometimes almost completely torn off, terrible
wounds of the skull, and bullet wounds where large masses of
the tissues had been completely torn away. It was difficult to
see how human beings could survive such awful injuries, and,
indeed, our death-roll was a long one. Added to this, the men
had been working in the wet and the mud for weeks past. Their
clothes were stiff with it, and such a thing as a clean wound was
not to be thought of. Simple cases at Antwerp were here tedious
and dangerous, and they required all the resources of nursing
and of surgery that we could bring to bear upon them. Still,
it was extraordinary what good results followed on common-sense
lines of treatment, and we soon learnt to give up no case as
hopeless. But each involved a great amount of work, first in
operating and trying to reduce chaos to reason, and then in
dressing and nursing. For everyone all round--surgeons,
dressers, and nurses--it was real hard physical labour.

Our rapid turnover of patients involved a large amount of
manual labour in stretcher work, clearing up wards, and so on,
but all this was done for us by our brancardiers, or stretcher-bearers.
These were Belgians who for one reason or another could not
serve with the army, and who were therefore utilized by the
Government for purposes such as these. We had some eight
of them attached to our hospital, and they were of the greatest
use to us, acting as hospital orderlies. They were mostly
educated men--schoolmasters and University teachers--but
they were quite ready to do any work we might require at
any hour of the day or night. They carried the patients to the
theatre and to the wards, they cleaned the stretchers--a very
difficult and unpleasant job--they tidied up the wards and scrubbed
the floors, and they carried away all the soiled dressings and
burned them. They were a fine set of men, and I do not know
what we should have done without them.

Work began at an early hour, for every case in the hospital
required dressing, and, as we never knew what we should have
to deal with at night, we always tried to get through the routine
before lunch. At ten o'clock Colonel Maestrio arrived, with two of
his medical officers, and made a complete round of the hospital
with the surgeons in charge of the various cases. They took the
greatest interest in the patients, and in our attempts to cure
them. They would constantly spend an hour with me in the
operating theatre, and after any exceptional operation they
would follow the progress of the patient with the keenest
interest. Many of the cases with which we had to deal required
a certain amount of ingenuity in the reconstruction of what had
been destroyed, so that surgery had often to be on rather
original lines. What interested them most was the fixation of
fractures by means of steel plates, which we adopted in all our
serious cases. Apparently the method is very little used abroad,
and as an operation it is distinctly spectacular, for in a few
minutes a shapeless mass which the patient cannot bear to be
touched is transformed into a limb almost as strong as the
other, which can be moved about in any direction without fear of
breaking, and, when the patient recovers consciousness,
almost without discomfort. We almost always had an interested
audience, professional, clerical, or lay, for the chauffeurs found
much amusement in these feats of engineering.

In the afternoon we almost always had some distinguished
visitor to entertain, and it is one of my chief regrets that we
never kept a visitors' book. Its pages would one day have been
of the greatest interest. Twice every week the Queen of the
Belgians came round our wards. She came quite simply, with
one of her ladies and one of the Belgian medical officers, and
no one could possibly have taken a deeper interest in the
patients. Her father studied medicine as a hobby, and had,
indeed, become a very distinguished physician, and she herself
has had considerable training in medicine, so that her interest
was a great deal more than that of an ordinary lay visitor. She
was quite able to criticize and to appreciate details of nursing
and of treatment. She always spoke to every patient, and she
had a kind word for every one of them, Belgian, French, or even
German, for we had a few Germans. There was something deeply
touching in the scene. The dimly lit ward, with its crude furniture,
the slim figure in black, bending in compassion over the rough
fellows who would gladly have given their lives for her, and
who now lay wounded in the cause in which she herself had
suffered. The Germans may destroy Belgium, but they will never
destroy the kingdom of its Queen. Sometimes the King came
to see his soldiers--a tall, silent man, with the face of one who
has suffered much, and as simple, as gentle, and as kindly as
his Queen. It was good to see the faces light up as he entered
a ward, to see heads painfully raised to gaze after no splendid
uniform, but a man.

One of our most distinguished and most welcome visitors was
Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium. She brought her large
X-ray equipment to Furnes for work amongst the wounded, and
we persuaded her to stay with us for a week. One of our
storerooms was rapidly fitted up as an impromptu radiographic
department, the windows painted over and covered with thick
paper, a stove introduced, and a dark-room contrived with the
aid of a cupboard and two curtains. Electric current was
obtained from a dynamo bolted on to the step of a twenty-horse-power
car, and driven by a belt from the flywheel of the engine. The
car stood out in the courtyard and snorted away, whilst we
worked in the storeroom alongside. The coil and mercury
break were combined in one piece, and the whole apparatus
was skilfully contrived with a view to portability. Madame Curie
was an indefatigable worker, and in a very short time had taken
radiographs of all the cases which we could place at her
disposal, and, indeed, we ransacked all the hospitals in Furnes,
for when they heard of her arrival, they were only too glad to
make use of the opportunity. Mademoiselle Curie developed
the plates, and between them they produced photographs of
the greatest utility to us.

Considering its obvious utility, whether in war or in civil practice,
it has always been a source of wonder to me that there is no
such thing as a car designed and built with a view to radiography.
Perhaps it exists, but if so, I have never met It only means the
building into the frame of suitable dynamo, and the provision of
means for storing the rest of the equipment. It would place an
X-ray equipment at the disposal of ever cottage hospital, or
even of a country-house, and it would place the cottage hospital,
not to mention the country-house, at the disposal of the
enterprising radiographer.

As soon as our patients could be moved, we had to send them
on to their base hospitals--the Belgians to Calais and the
French to Dunkirk.

From Calais the Belgians were brought over the Channel, and
distributed all over England and Scotland. I had a postcard from
one of them from Perth. The French were taken on in hospital
ships to Cherbourg and other seaports along the coast. From
Furnes they were all carried in hospital trains, and the scene at
the station when a large batch of wounded was going off was
most interesting. Only the worst cases were ever brought to our
hospital; all the others were taken straight to the station, and
waited there until a train was ready to take them on. Often they
would be there for twelve hours, or even twenty-four, before
they could be got on, and the train itself would be constantly
shunted to let troops and ammunition go by, and might take
twelve hours to reach its destination. There were no proper
arrangements for the feeding of these men, all of whom were
more or less badly wounded; and at first, when we heard at the
hospital that a train was about to be made up, we took down all
the soup and coffee we could manage to spare in big pails and
jugs. But this was a mere makeshift, and was superseded very
soon by a more up-to-date arrangement. A proper soup-kitchen
was established at the station, with huge boilers full of soup and
coffee always ready, and after that it was never necessary for a
wounded soldier to leave Furnes hungry. All this was due to the
energy and resource of Miss Macnaughtan, the authoress, who
took it up as her special charge. She had a little passage
screened off, and in this were fitted up boilers for coffee and
soup, tables for cutting up meat and vegetables, and even a
machine for cutting up the bread. It was all most beautifully
arranged, and here she worked all day long, preparing for the
inevitable crowd of wounded which the night would bring. How it
was all managed was a mystery to me, for there was not enough
food in Furnes to feed a tame cat, let alone a trainload of famished
soldiers, and I am looking anxiously for her next book in the
hopes of finding the solution.

The trains themselves were well equipped, though nothing to
the hospital trains of England. The more severe cases were
carried in long cars on a double row of stretchers, and they
looked very comfortable on a cold night, with their oil-lamps and
a coke stove in the centre of each car. A stretcher is, perhaps,
not exactly a bed of roses for a wounded man, but when one
considers what pain is involved in moving a man who is badly
wounded, there is obviously a great advantage in placing him
on a stretcher once for all on the battle-field, and never moving
him again until he can be actually placed in bed in a hospital.
On the train the men were looked after by the priests, splendid
fellows who never seemed tired of doing all they could for the
soldiers. One found the Belgian priest everywhere--in the
trenches, in the hospitals, and in the trains--unobtrusive,
always cheerful, always ready to help. From the brave Archbishop
Mercier to the humblest village cure, regardless of their comfort
and careless of their lives, they have stood by their people in
the hour of their trial. May their honour be great in the hour of
Belgium's triumph!



XIX. Furnes--The Town



Like so many of the cities of Belgium, Furnes is a town of the
past. To stand in the great square, surrounded by buildings
which would delight the heart of any artist, is to travel back
through three centuries of time. Spain and the Renaissance
surround us, and we look instinctively towards the Pavilion for
the soldiers of Philip, or glance with apprehension at the door of
the Palais de Justice for the sinister form of Peter Titelmann the
Inquisitor. Around this very square marched the procession of
the Holy Office, in all the insolent blasphemy of its power, and
on these very stones were kindled the flames that were to
destroy its victims. But all these have gone; the priest and his
victim, the swaggering bravo and the King he served, have
gone to their account, and Furnes is left, the record of a time
when men built temples like angels and worshipped in them like
devils.

The immense square, with the beautiful public buildings which
surround it, speaks of a time when Fumes was an important
town. As early as the year 850 it is said that Baldwin of the Iron
Arm, the first of the great Counts of Flanders, had established a
fortress here to withstand the invasion of the Normans. After
that Furnes appears repeatedly with varying fortunes in the
turbulent history of the Middle Ages, until in the thirteenth
century it was razed to the ground by Robert of Artois. In the
next three hundred years, however, it must have entirely
recovered its position, for in the days of the Spanish Fury it was
one of the headquarters of the Inquisition and of the Spanish
Army, and there is no town in Belgium upon which the Spanish
occupation has left a greater mark. Since then, of no commercial
or political importance, it has lived the life of a dull country town,
and tradition says that there is plenty of solid wealth stored by
its thrifty inhabitants behind the plain house-fronts which line
its quiet streets.

From the centre of the square one can see all that there is to be
seen of Furnes. The four sides are lined by beautiful old houses
whose decorated fronts and elaborate gables tell of the
Renaissance and of Spanish days. Behind the low red roofs
tower the churches of St. Walburga and St. Nicholas, dwarfing
the houses which nestle at their base. In the corners of the
square are public buildings, small when compared with those of
Bruges and Ypres, but unsurpassed in exquisite detail of
design. Behind one corner rises the tall belfry without which no
Flemish town would be complete. On an autumn evening when
the sun is setting, when the red roofs glow with a deeper
crimson, and the tall churches catch the sun's last rays on their
old brick walls, there can be few more perfect pictures than the
square of Furnes.

The two oldest buildings in the square stand at the ends of the
eastern side. At the north end is the Pavilion des Officiers
espagnols, once the Town Hall, and, in the days of the Spanish
occupation, the headquarters of the army for the district. It is an
old Flemish building, solidly built, with high-pitched roof, and
windows framed in ornamental stonework, ending in a big
square tower with battlements and little turrets at its corners. A
short outside staircase leads up to the entrance. The whole
building gives the impression that in the days when it was built
the Town Hall was also the Fortress, and that the mayor had
duties more strenuous than the eating of dinners. At the other
end of the eastern side stands the old Halle aux Vins, where the
night-watchmen had their quarters, a fine old gabled house with
a loggia reached by a flight of steps in the centre, a row of plain
stone columns supporting the floors above.

Directly opposite is the north-west corner of the square, with the
Palais de Justice on the right and the Hotel de Ville on the left.
Both date from the Spanish occupation, but they are very
different in their style of architecture. The first is classical and
severe, the second has all the warmth of the Renaissance. The
Hotel de Ville is an elaborately decorated building, with two
exquisite gables and a steep roof surmounted by a little
octagonal tower. The loggia below, standing out from the
building and supporting a balcony above, is perhaps its most
charming feature, both for the beauty of its proportions and the
delicacy of its carved stone balustrades. Inside, the rooms are
as they were three hundred years ago, and the wonderful
hangings of Cordova leather in the council chamber are still
intact. Beside the Hotel de Ville the straight lines of the Palais
de Justice, with its pillars and its high narrow windows, form a
striking contrast. It was here, in the large room on the first floor,
that the Inquisition held its awful court, and here were the
instruments of torture with which it sought to enforce its will.
Behind the Palais rises the tall belfry, a big square tower from
which springs an octagonal turret carrying an elaborate
campanile. There is a quaint survival on this belfry, for upon it
the town crier has a little hut. He is a cobbler, and from below
one can hear the tap-tap of his hammer as he plies his trade.
But at night he calls out the hours to the town below, together
with any information of interest, concluding with the assurance
that he and his wife are in good health. The office has
descended from father to son from the earliest days of the
history of Furnes, and its holder has always been a cobbler. Till
early in last November the record was unbroken, but, alas the
fear of German shells was too much for the cobbler, and he is
gone.

Furnes is a town of contrasts, and though both its churches
were built by the wonderful architects of the fourteenth century,
there could hardly be two buildings more diverse. Behind the
line of red roofs on the east of the square rises the rugged
tower of St. Nicholas, a great square mass of old and weather-
beaten brick, unfinished like so many of the Belgian towers, but
rough, massive, and grand, like some rude giant. On the north,
behind the Palais de Justice and the belfry, stands St.
Walburga, with the delicate tracery of her flying buttresses and
her spire fine as a needle. There is something fitting in the
rugged simplicity which commemorates the grand old Bishop,
and in the exquisite fragility of the shrine of the virgin saint. The
double flying buttresses of St. Walburga, intersecting in mid-air,
and apparently defying the laws of gravity, are as delicate a
dream as the mind of architect could conceive, and they give to
the whole an airy grace which cannot be described. The church
was planned six hundred years ago on a gigantic scale, in the
days when men built for the worship of God and not for the
accommodation of an audience, and for six hundred years the
choir stood alone as a challenge to future generations to
complete what had been so gloriously begun. Only seven years
ago the transept was added, and to the credit of its builders it is
worthy to stand beside the choir. One wonders how many hundred
years may have passed before the vision of the first great architect
is complete. It is built for the most part of red brick, the rich
red brick of Belgium, which grows only more mellow with age.
Inside, the tall pillars of a dark grey stone support at a great
height a finely groined roof of the same red brick, lit by a
clerestory so open that one wonders how it can carry the weight
of the roof above. The tall windows of the transept, reaching
almost from the floor to the roof, with their delicate tracery,
carry on the same effect of airiness, while their light is softened
by the really beautiful stained glass which they frame. The richly
carved choir-stalls of dark mahogany and the fine organ furnish
an interior of which any town in England might well be proud.
And all this magnificence is in a little Flemish town of some
six thousand inhabitants.

One is brought suddenly face to face with the tremendous
difference which exists between the Protestant and the Catholic
conception of what a church is and what it is for. To the one it is
a place where men meet for mutual support and instruction, for
united worship; to the other it is a place where men meet God.
To the one some organized service is necessary; the other only
requires the stones on which to kneel. The one will only go to
church--in fact, he will only find his church open at certain
appointed times; for the other it is only closed with darkness. Of
course, I am using the words Protestant and Catholic to indicate
broad conceptions of religion, and not as defining definite
bodies of men; but even of those who call themselves by these
names what I have said is largely true. And this difference in
conception is reflected in the churches which they build. For the
one a simple building will suffice which will seat in comfort those
who may come; the other, though he alone should ever enter it,
will raise to heaven the mightiest temple which mortal hands
can frame.

Fumes still carries on a tradition of medieval times--the
strange procession which passes through its streets and across
the great square on the last Sunday in July. Its origin, in the
twelfth century, is unknown, though many legends are woven
around it. It is a long procession, in which are represented
many of the episodes in the story of the Christ, some in
sculptured groups of figures, some by living actors. Before each
group walks a penitent, barefoot and heavily veiled in black
gown and hood, carrying an inscription to explain the group
which follows. Abraham appears with Isaac, Moses with the
serpent, Joseph and Mary, the Magi, and the flight into Egypt.
Then come incidents from the life of Jesus, and the great
tragedy of its close. The Host and its attendant priests conclude
the procession. It is all very primitive and bizarre, but behind it
there is a note of reality by which one cannot but be moved. For
the figures concealed beneath the black hoods and dragging
along the heavy wooden crosses are not actors; they are men
and women who have come, many of them, long distances to
Furnes, in the hope that by this penance they may obtain the
forgiveness they desire.



XX. A Journey



The hospital had already been established in Furnes for ten
days, and even in that time we had once had to escape to
Poperinghe before the German advance, when, after a short
visit to England, I left London to rejoin my friends on the last
Friday in October. Crossing to the Continent is not at any time
pleasant, and the addition of submarines and mines scarcely
adds to its charms. But Government had certainly done their
best to make it attractive, for when we arrived at Dover on
Friday night we found a comfortable boat waiting to take us
over in the morning. We spent the night soundly asleep in her
cabins, without the anxiety of feeling that we might miss her if
we did not get up in time, and after an excellent breakfast we
felt ready for anything. We were late in starting, for the Anglo-
Belgian Ambulance Corps was going over, and their ambulances
had to be got on board. We watched them being neatly picked
up in the slings and planted side by side on deck. At half-past
eight they were all on board, and we started off.

There was a moderate sea running, but our three screws made
light work of it, and in an hour we were half-way over to our
destination, Dunkirk. We were sitting in our cabin talking when
suddenly the engines stopped, and there was considerable
commotion on deck. We looked out to see what was the matter,
and there met our eyes a sight which we are likely to remember
--a huge man-of-war sinking. She was down by the stern, so
far that every now and then the waves broke over her, and it
was evident that she would soon go under. A submarine had
attacked her an hour before, and struck her with two torpedoes.
The first destroyed her screws, and she was then an easy prey;
the second entered her saloon in the stern. She was the
Hermes, an old vessel, and of no great value at the present
day, but it was tragic to see a great cruiser expiring, stabbed in
the dark. Thanks to her buoyancy, she was only sinking slowly,
and there was ample time for the whole of her crew to escape.
Very different would be the fate of an unarmed vessel, for the
explosion of a torpedo would probably blow such a large hole in
the thin steel plates that she would go to the bottom like a
stone. To torpedo a merchantman simply means the cold-blooded
murder of the crew, for their chances of escape would be almost
negligible, whilst it is impossible to find words to describe the
attempts which have been made to sink hospital ships. About
the last there is a degree of callous inhumanity remarkable even
for Germany, for how could doctors and nurses make any efforts
to save their own lives when it would be impossible for them to
do anything to all at save the lives of their patients? And yet
these things are not the unconsidered acts of a moment; they
are all part of the .campaign of frightfulness which has been
so carefully planned for years, the consummation of the
doctrines which learned professors have proclaimed for so
long and with such astonishing success.

The order was given for our boats to be lowered, and down they
went all six of them, manned partly by the crew and partly by
the Ambulance Corps. We were surrounded by torpedo-boats,
British and French, and most of the crew of the Hermes had
already been transferred to them. A few minutes later there was
a cheer, and we saw the Captain step down into one of the
boats, the last man to leave his ship. Our boats had picked up
twenty or so of the men, and the problem now was to get them
on board again. A moderate sea was running, but it required all
the skill of our sailors to haul them up without mishap. Standing
by as we were, the ship rolled considerably, and several times
one of the boats was within an ace of being broken up against
her side. To get a boat out from a big liner in a heavy sea must
be an almost miraculous feat, whilst to get her back again must
be a sheer impossibility. As it was, it took us at least an hour to
get those six boats on board. All this time four torpedo-boats
were racing in circles round and round us, on the lookout for the
submarine, and ready to cut it down if it should appear. Indeed,
a report went round that a torpedo was actually fired at us, but
passed underneath the ship on account of her shallow draught.
Standing at rest, we would have been an easy target, and but
for our friends the torpedo-boats we should very likely have
been attacked. It is not a good plan to hang about in the
Channel just now.

Meanwhile the Hermes was steadily sinking. By the time all her
crew were off her stern was awash, and in another half-hour
she had a very marked list to port. She slowly, almost imperceptibly,
listed more and more, and then the end came with startling
suddenness. With a slow and gentle roll she heeled over till
she was completely on her side and her great funnels under
water; she remained there for a moment, and then slowly turned
turtle and gradually sank stern first. For a long time about
twenty feet of her nose remained above water, then this slowly
sank and disappeared. It was all so quiet that it seemed like
some queer dream. The fires must have been drawn with great
promptness, for there was no explosion as her funnels went
under, though we were standing some way off to be clear of
flying fragments. She had been stabbed in the dark, and she
passed away without a murmur.

There is something very moving in the end of a great vessel. It
is so hard to believe that a thing of such vast bulk, and with
organs of such terrific power, should be so utterly helpless
because of a mere hole in her side. It is like watching the death
of a god. We make such a turmoil about the end of our puny
lives, and that great giant slides away into darkness without a
murmur. Ah, but you will say, a man is of far more value than a
ship. Is he? Is any single man in this world worth as much as
the Titanic? And if so, how? He can make wealth, but so could
she. He could bring happiness to others, and so could she. I
have yet to find any ground on which any man can be put up in
competition with that vessel in sheer worth to the world, and I
am not speaking in any low sense of values. For I suppose the
greatest man who ever lived might feel that his life was well
spent if he had brought two continents nearer together. It was
for that that she was created. The hard fact is that there are
very few indeed of us, in spite of all the noise we make, who are
worth to the world a thousand pounds, and if she could sell the
bulk of us for that she would be positively drunk with fortune.

But, you will say, a ship has no soul. Are you quite so sure
about that? Most people will maintain that their bodies contain a
soul, and then they proceed to build up these same bodies with
bread and bacon, and even beer, and in the end they possess
bodies constructed without any shadow of doubt out of these
ingredients. And if ten thousand men have toiled night and day,
in blazing furnace and in dark mine, to build a mighty vessel, at
the cost of years of labour, at the cost of pain and death, is not
that vessel a part of them as much as their poor bodies, and do
not their souls live in it as much as in their flesh and blood? We
speak of the resurrection of the Body, and superior people
smile at an idea so out-of-date and unscientific. To me the body
is not mere flesh and blood, it is the whole complex of all that a
man has thought and lived and done, and when it arises there
will arise with it all that he has toiled for on earth, all that he has
gained, and all that he has created by the sweat of his brow and
the hunger of his soul. The world is not the dust-heap of the
centuries, but only their storehouse.

It was late when we reached Furnes after a freezing drive in the
dark, but all our thoughts were overshadowed by the tragedy
we had seen. We felt that we had been present at the burial of
a god.



XXI. The Ambulance Corps



One of the most difficult problems for a medical service in war is
the recovery of the wounded from the field of battle and their
carriage back to hospital. In the old days men fought out a
battle in a few hours, and the field at the end of the day was left
to the conqueror. Then the doctors could go forward and attend
to the wounded on the spot without any special danger to
themselves. A man might lie out all night, but he would be
certain to be picked up next day. But in this war everything is
changed. It is one continuous siege, with the result that the
removal of the wounded is a matter of extraordinary difficulty
and danger. I have met with one officer who has been in a
trench out at the extreme front for two and a half months.
During the whole of that time he has never seen a German, and
the nearest German trench is just one hundred yards away!
Shell and shot have been pouring over his head all that time,
and to raise one's head above the ground would be to court
instant death.

Between the trenches the ground is a quagmire, and any
advance by either side is out of the question. But a time will
come when the ground is just solid enough for a man to stand,
there will be a desperate struggle for a few yards of ground,
again both sides will subside into new trenches; but now
between those trenches will lie perhaps some hundreds of
wounded, and how in the world are they to be got? This is the
problem with which an ambulance is everywhere faced--the
recovery of the wounded from disputed ground. It was to
grapple with difficulties like these that the rules of the Geneva
Convention were framed, so that men wearing a Red Cross on
their arms might be able to go where no combatant of either
side dare venture, and succour the wounded, whether they
were friend or foe, in safety both for themselves and for the
wounded. It is, after all, possible to fight as gentlemen.

Or at least it was until a few months ago. Since then we have
had a demonstration of "scientific" war such as has never
before been given to mankind. Now, to wear a Red Cross is
simply to offer a better mark for the enemy's fire, and we only
wore them in order that our own troops might know our business
and make use of our aid. A hospital is a favourite mark for the
German artillery, whilst the practice of painting Red Crosses on
the tops of ambulance cars is by many people considered unwise,
as it invites any passing aeroplane to drop a bomb. But the
Germans have carried their systematic contempt of the rules of war
so far that it is now almost impossible for our own men to
recognize their Red Crosses. Time after time their Red Cross
cars have been used to conceal machine-guns, their flags have
floated over batteries, and they have actually used stretchers to
bring up ammunition to the trenches. Whilst I was at Furnes two
German spies were working with an ambulance, in khaki uniforms,
bringing in the wounded. They were at it for nearly a week before
they were discovered, and then, by a ruse, they succeeded in
driving straight through the Belgian lines and back to their
own, Red Cross ambulance, khaki and all. The problems, then, that
have to be faced by an ambulance corps in the present war are
fairly perplexing, and they demand a degree of resource and
cool courage beyond the ordinary. That these qualities are
possessed by the members of the ambulance corps of which
Dr. Hector Munro and Lady Dorothie Feilding are the leading
members is merely a matter of history. They have been in as
many tight corners in the last few months as many an old and
seasoned veteran, and they have invariably come out triumphant.

They started in Ghent under the Belgian Red Cross with a party
of four surgeons, five women, and three men for the stretchers,
and two chauffeurs to drive the two ambulances. Now they have
grown into an organization which takes on a great part of the
ambulance work of the Belgian Army. At Ghent they were attached
to the big Red Cross hospital in the Flandria Palace Hotel,
and at first it was dull, for most of the fighting was around Antwerp,
and the wounded were taken there. We were in Antwerp just then,
and it was by no means dull. We shared Alost and Termonde
as a common hunting-ground, and we several times had a visit from
Dr. Munro in the Boulevard Leopold. In fact, we were discussing
the possibility of arranging to work together when the crash came and
Antwerp fell.

For the next few days the ambulance corps had enough work
and ran enough risks to satisfy even the members of that
notorious organization. The Germans were coming on with
great rapidity, and if there is one dangerous job, it is to pick up
the wounded of a retreating army. But here the interest for an
English ambulance was doubled, for the British Army was
covering the retreat of the Belgians and the French. On
Sunday, the 11th of October, they were asked to go out to
Melle, four miles south-east of Ghent, to help with some French
wounded, and, after spending some time there, they met the
British Staff, and were asked to help them in their retreat
through Zwynarde, a town on the Scheldt about four miles
south of Ghent and the same distance from Melle. It was a
dangerous undertaking, as the intention was to blow up the
bridge which crosses the Scheldt at Zwynarde and to fight a
retreating battle covering the retirement of our allies. The bridge
was to be blown up at ten o'clock that evening, and though it
was only four miles away, it was already dark and a mist was
rising from the river. The main roads were in the hands of the
Germans, and there was nothing for it but to get across by a
small side-road. They started off in the mist, and promptly lost
their way. It is a pleasing situation to be lost in the dark
somewhere very close to the enemy's lines when you know that
the only available bridge is just going to be blown up. A thick
mist had risen all around, and they were midway between two
batteries--British and German--engaged in an artillery duel.
The crash of the guns and the scream of the shells overhead
filled the darkness with terror. But there was nothing for it but to
go straight on, and though they must have gone right through
the German lines and out again, they reached the bridge just
ten minutes before it was blown into the air.

We all met at Ostend, and decided to join forces at Furnes, and
it worked out as a splendid arrangement for both parties.
Though our organizations remained entirely distinct, we worked
together, and they had the advantage of a hospital to which
they could always bring their patients, whilst we had the
services of the smartest ambulance corps on the Continent.
The qualities required for the satisfactory working of a hospital
and the successful running of an ambulance are so distinct that
I am sure that the ideal arrangement is to have two entirely
distinct organizations working in harmony.

The position of an ambulance up at the front is always a
delicate one, for as it moves about from place to place its
members have opportunities of picking up information about the
position and movements of the troops of a very confidential
nature. It was therefore a great advantage to Dr. Munro when
his party was joined by M. de Broqueville, the son of the
Minister for War; for it meant that they would have full
information as to where wounded were likely to require their
help, and that they possessed the full confidence of the Belgian
authorities. Their position and our own had been very greatly
affected by the fortunes of the war, for the Belgian Croix Rouge
and Army Medical Services were for the moment in abeyance,
and instead of obtaining from them the help which had hitherto
been so generously given, we had now to undertake their work
and to rely entirely on our own resources. We had not to wait
long for an opportunity to show what we could do. The Belgian
Army, supported by a certain number of French troops, made
its final stand on the line of the Yser, the little river which runs
from Ypres through Dixmude and Nieuport to the sea. From this
position they have never since been shaken, but they have
never had to withstand more desperate attacks than those
which took place in the end of October. The centre of these was
Dixmude, and here the Germans threw against the little remnant
of the Belgian Army forces which might have been expected to
shatter it at a blow. Their efforts culminated in one of the fiercest
and bloodiest engagements of the whole war, and at the height
of the engagement word came that there were wounded in Dixmude,
and that ambulances were urgently required to get them out.
Getting wounded out of a town which is being shelled is not
exactly a joke, and when the town is in rapid process of annihilation
it almost becomes serious. But this was what the Corps had
come out for, and two ambulances and an open car started
off at once. As far as Oudecappelle the road was crowded with
motor transport waggons carrying supplies of food and ammunition
to the troops, but beyond that it was empty, unless one counts
the shells which were falling on it in a steady hail.

Every now and then a Jack Johnson would fall and leave a hole
in which one could bury a motor, and, apart from the shells, the
holes made driving risky. There was over a mile of the road in
this unhealthy state, and entirely exposed to the enemy's guns,
before any shelter could be obtained; but the wounded must be
fetched, and the cars pushed on as fast as they dared to drive.
They were suddenly pulled up by an appalling obstacle. A
Belgian battery advancing along the road to the front only
twenty minutes before had been struck by a big shell. Several
of the gunners were horribly mangled; ten horses lay dead,
most of them in fragments; the gun was wrecked, and all its
equipment scattered about the road. It was some minutes
before the remaining soldiers could clear the road sufficiently for
the cars to pass.

Dixmude itself was a roaring furnace, and shells were pouring
into it in all directions. Practically every house had been
damaged, many were totally demolished, and many more were
on fire. The wounded were in the Town Hall on the square, and
shells were bursting all over it. The upper portion was
completely destroyed, and the church close by was blazing
furiously, and must have set fire to the Town Hall soon after. On
the steps lay a dead Marine, and beside him stood a French
surgeon, who greeted them warmly. The wounded were in a
cellar, and if they were not got out soon, it was obvious that
they would be burned alive. Inside the hall were piles of
bicycles, loaves of bread, and dead soldiers, all in gruesome
confusion. In the cellar dead and wounded were lying together.
The wounded had all to be carried on stretchers, for everyone
who could crawl had fled from that ghastly inferno, and only
those who have shifted wounded on stretchers can appreciate
the courage it requires to do it under shell fire. At last they were
all packed into the ambulances, and even as they left the
building with the last, a shell struck it overhead and demolished
one of the walls. How they ever got out of Dixmude alive is
beyond the ken of a mere mortal, but I suppose it was only
another manifestation of the Star which shines so brightly over
the fortunes of the Munro Ambulance.

How high is the appreciation of the Belgian Government for
their work is shown in the fact that three of the lady members of
the Corps have just been decorated with the Order of Leopold
--one of the highest honours which Belgium has to confer. It is
not every honour which is so well earned.



XXII. Pervyse--The Trenches



This is indeed the strangest of all wars, for it is fought in the
dark. Eyes are used, but they are the eyes of an aeroplane
overhead, or of a spy in the enemy's lines. The man who fights
lives underground, or under water, and rarely sees his foe.
There is something strangely terrible, something peculiarly
inhuman, in the silent stealth of this war of the blind. The
General sits in a quiet room far behind the lines, planning a
battle he will never see. The gunner aims by level and compass
with faultless precision, and hurls his awful engines of
destruction to destroy ten miles away a house which is to him
only a dot on a map. And the soldier sitting in his trench hears
the shells whistling overhead and waits, knowing well that if he
appeared for one instant above that rampart of earth he would
be pierced by a dozen bullets from rifles which are out of his
sight.

It is a war in the dark, and by far the most important of its
operations are carried on, its battles are fought, in the literal
sense of the word, underground. Perhaps the next war will be
fought not merely underground, but deep in the bowels of the
earth, and victory will rest, not with the finest shots or the expert
swordsmen, but with the men who can dig a tunnel most quickly.
The trenches may be cut by some herculean plough, deep tunnels
may be dug by great machines, and huge pumping engines may
keep them dry. Our engineers have conquered the air, the water,
and the land, but it is still with picks and spades that our soldiers
dig themselves into safety.

At Furnes the nearest point to us of the fighting line was
Pervyse, and as the Ambulance Corps had a dressing-station
there, we often went out to see them and the soldiers in the
trenches close by. But the Belgian line was most effectively
protected by an agency far more powerful than any trench, for
over miles and miles of land spread the floods with which the
Belgians, by breaking down the dykes, had themselves flooded
the country. The floods were a protection, but they were also a
difficulty, since they made actual trenches an impossibility. No
ordinary pumps could have kept them dry. So they had built
huts of earth behind a thick earth bank, and partly sunk in the
very low embankment, only two or three feet above the fields,
on which the railway ran. They were roofed with boards covered
again with earth and sods, and behind each was a little door by
which one could crawl in. Inside, the floor was covered with a
bed of straw, and a bucket with holes in its sides and full of red-hot
coke did duty as a stove, while narrow loopholes served for ventilation
and for light, and were to be used for firing from in the event of an
attack. Of course the huts were very cramped, but they were at
least warm, they gave protection from the weather, and above
all they were safe. The men only occupied them as a matter of
fact for short periods of one or two days at a time, a fresh guard
coming out from Fumes to take their places.

These huts, and all covered trenches, are only safe from
shrapnel exploding in the air or near by. No ordinary trench is
safe from a shell falling upon it; but this, as a matter of fact, has
scarcely ever happened. For shells are as a rule fired from
some considerable distance, and in most cases the opposing
lines of trenches are so close together that there would be great
danger of sending a shell into the back of your own trench, the
most deadly disaster that can happen. The trenches are often
so close together that their occupants can talk to one another,
and a considerable amount of camaraderie may spring up.

I know of one instance where a private arrangement was made
that they would not shoot on either side. One day a man on our
side was wounded, and there was great annoyance till a note
was thrown across apologizing profusely, and explaining that it
was done by a man in a trench behind who did not know of the
compact! A few days later a message came to say that an
important officer was coming to inspect the German trench, and
that they would be obliged to fire, but that they would give due
warning by three shots fired in quick succession. The shots
were fired, and our men lay low, under a storm of bullets, till
firing ceased, and another message arrived to say that the
danger was past. We really are queer animals!

Behind the trenches at Pervyse the fields were positively riddled
with shot-holes. In one space, not more than twenty yards
square, we counted the marks of over a hundred shells. The
railway station was like a sieve, and most of the houses in the
little town were absolutely destroyed. I do not believe that there
was a house in the place which had not been hit, and the
number of shells that must have rained on that small area
would have sufficed not so many years ago for the siege of a
large town. The church was destroyed beyond any possibility of
repair. The roof was gone entirely, and large portions of the
walls; a great piece of the tower had been blown clean out, and
the tower itself was leaning dangerously. The bombardment of
the church must have been terrific, for even the heavy pillars of
the aisle had been snapped across. Of the altar only the solid
stones remained, surrounded by fragments of what had once
been the stained glass of the apse, and the twisted remains of
the great brass candlesticks which had stood beside the altar.
Only a few weeks ago this was an old parish church of singular
beauty. Now even the graves in the churchyard have been torn
open by the shells. These few battered walls, these heaps of
stone and brick, are all that remain of a prosperous village and
its ancient church.

The dressing station of the Ambulance Corps was one of their
most daring and successful ventures. At first it was placed
close to the trenches and just behind the railway station, in the
house of the village chemist. At least there were evidences in
the existence of portions of walls, roof, and floors that it had
once been a house, and the chemist had left a few bottles
behind to indicate his trade. But I do not think that anyone but a
member of the Corps would have ever thought of living there.
There was plenty o ventilation, of course, since there were no
windows left, part of the roof had gone, and the walls were
riddled with holes through which shells had passed clean
across the building. It could hardly be described as a desirable
residence, but it had one incomparable advantage: it possessed
a cellar. A couple of mattresses and a few blankets converted it
into a palace, whilst the limits of luxury were reached when there
arrived a new full-sized enamelled bath which one of the
soldiers had discovered and hastened to present as a mark
of gratitude. There was no water-supply, of course, and I do
not think that there was a plug, but those were mere trifles.
How such a white elephant ever found its way to Pervyse none
of us will ever know. I do not believe that there was another for
twenty miles around.

In this strange residence--it could hardly be called a house--
lived two of the lady members of the Corps. They were relieved
from time to time, two others coming out to take their places,
and every day they had visits from the ambulances which came
out to pick up the wounded. A room on the ground floor was
used during the day, partly as a living-room, partly as a surgery,
and here were brought any soldiers wounded in this part of the
lines. At night they retired to the cellar, as the house itself was
far too dangerous. The Germans shelled Pervyse almost every
night, and sometimes in the day as well, and this particular
house was the most exposed of any in the town. But shells
were not the only trouble, and when a few weeks later the
cellars were filled with water, it was evident that other quarters
must be found.

Pervyse was of course entirely deserted by its inhabitants, but it
could scarcely be called dull. We went out one afternoon to see
what was going on, and found a party of the Corps at lunch.
They seemed to be in particularly good spirits, and they told us
that the house had just been struck by a shell, that the big
Daimler ambulance had been standing outside, and that its
bonnet had been riddled by the shrapnel bullets. We went
outside to see for ourselves, and there we found a large hole in
the side of the house, through which a shell had entered a room
across the passage from that occupied by the Corps, who had
fortunately chosen the lee-side. The big six-cylinder Daimler
had been moved into a shed, and there it stood with twenty or
more holes in its bonnet, but otherwise uninjured. By a stroke of
luck the driver had gone inside the house for a moment or he
would undoubtedly have been killed. It is fortunate that the
Corps is possessed of such a keen sense of humour.

Shells may be amusing in the daytime, but they are not a bit
amusing at night. Only two women with real solid courage could
have slept, night after night, in that empty house in a ruined and
deserted village, with no sounds to be heard but the rain and
the wind, the splutter of the mitrailleuse, and the shriek of shells.
Courage is as infectious as fear, and I think that the soldiers,
watching through the night in the trenches near by, must have
blessed the women who were waiting there to help them, and
must have felt braver men for their presence.

Pervyse was protected by a wide screen of flood, and across
this there was one way only--a slightly raised road going
straight across six miles of water. No advance by either side
was possible, for the road was swept by mitrailleuses, and to
advance down it would have meant certain death. Half a mile
down the road was a farmhouse held by a Belgian outpost, and
beyond this, and perhaps half a mile away from it, were two
other farms occupied by the Germans. We could see them moving
amongst the trees. That piece of road between Pervyse and the
Belgian farm was the scene of one of the very few lapses of the
Germans into humanity.

It was known one morning in the trenches at Pervyse that
several of their comrades in the farm had been injured in an
outpost engagement. It was, however, impossible to reach
them before nightfall as the road was swept by the German
guns. Two Belgian priests, taking their lives in their hands,
walked out to the farm, but they found that the wounded were
beyond their powers of carriage. Nothing daunted, they went on
to one of the German farms and asked for help, and a few
minutes later the astounded Belgians saw a little procession
coming up the road. In front walked the two priests, and behind
them came four wounded Belgians, lying on stretchers carried
by German soldiers. They came right into the lines, and they
had a royal welcome. They all shook hands, and the little party
of Germans walked back down the road amid the cheers of
their opponents.

The spirit of chivalry is not dead in Germany; it is only stifled by
her present rulers. Is it too much to hope that some day its
voice may be heard and may command?



XXIII. Ypres



One morning early in December I was asked by Dr. Munro to
run down with him in one of our motors to Ypres. A message
had arrived saying that the town had been heavily shelled
during the night, and that there were a number of children and
of wounded there, who ought if possible to be removed to some
less dangerous situation. So we started off to see what we
could do for them. It was a dismal morning, and the rain was
coming down in a steady drizzle which continued all day long,
but fortunately we had a closed car, and we were protected
from the elements. The road to Ypres is a broad avenue between
long lines of tall trees, and to-day it was crowded with soldiers and
transport motors. The French were moving up a large number of
men to relieve and to support their lines between Dixmude and
Ypres. Every little village seemed to be crowded with troops, for
in this weather "the poorest village is better than the best
bivouac," and the contrasts of the uniforms were very striking.
Every type was represented--the smart French officer, the
Zouave, the Turco, and the Arab, and one could not help
wondering what the Senegalese and the Algerians thought
of this soaking rain, or how they would fare in the rigours
of a Belgian winter.

Like so many of the towns of Belgium, Ypres is a town of the
past, and it is only in the light of its history that the meaning of
its wonderful buildings can be realized, or an estimate formed of
the vandalism of its destroyers. Its records date back to the
year 900, and in the twelfth century it was already famous for its
cloth. By the thirteenth century it was the richest and the most
powerful city in Flanders, and four thousand looms gave
occupation to its two hundred thousand inhabitants. These
great commercial cities were also great military organizations,
and there were few wars in the turbulence of the Middle Ages in
which Ypres did not have a share. In fact, it was almost always
engaged in fighting either England, or France, or one of the
other Flemish towns.

After a century of wars, to which Ypres once contributed no
fewer than five thousand troops, the town was besieged by the
English, led by Henry Spencer, Bishop of Norwich, with the help
of the burghers of Ghent and Bruges. The town was surrounded
by earthen ramparts planted with thick hedges of thorn, and by
wide ditches and wooden palisades, and these were held by
some ten thousand men. They were attacked, in 1383, by seventeen
thousand English and twenty thousand Flemish. For two months Ypres
was defended against almost daily attacks in one of the fiercest and
most bloody sieges in history. At last Spencer saw that it was
impossible to take the town by assault, and in view of the advance
of a large French army he withdrew. Ypres was saved, but its
prosperity was gone, for the bulk of its population had fled.
The suburbs, where large numbers of the weavers worked,
had been destroyed by the besiegers and the looms had been
burnt. The tide of trade turned to Bruges and Ghent, though they
did not enjoy for long the prosperity they had stolen.

The commercial madness of the fourteenth century gave way to
the religious madness of the sixteenth. Men's ideas were
changing, and it is a very dangerous thing to change the ideas
of men. For the momentum of the change is out of all proportion
to its importance, and the barriers of human reason may melt
before it. It is a mere matter of historical fact that no oppression
has half the dangers of an obvious reform. At Ypres the
Reformers were first in the field. They had swept through
Flanders, destroying all the beauty and wealth that the piety of
ages had accumulated, and here was rich plunder for these
apostles of the ugly. There is real tragedy in the thought that the
Reformer is sometimes sincere.

But at least the fanatics limited their fury to the symbols of
religion. Philip of Spain could only be sated by flesh and blood,
and for the next fifteen years Ypres was tossed to and fro in an
orgy of persecution and war such as have rarely been waged
even in the name of religion. At the end of that time only a
miserable five thousand inhabitants remained within its broken
ramparts.

With the seventeenth century commerce and religion made way
for politics, and the wars of Louis XIV. fell heavily on Ypres. On
four separate occasions the town was taken by the French, and
the dismantled fortifications which still surround it were once an
example of the genius of Vauban. Yet with all these wars--
commercial, religious, political--with all the violence of its
history, Ypres had kept intact the glorious monuments of the
days of her greatness, and it has been left for the armies of
Culture to destroy that which even the hand of Philip spared.

The centuries have handed down to us few buildings of such
massive grandeur as the great Cloth Hall, a monument of the
days when the Weavers of Ypres treated on equal terms with
the Powers of England and of France. This huge fortress of the
Guilds is about a hundred and fifty yards long. The ground floor
was once an open loggia, but the spaces between its fifty pillars
have been filled in. Above this are two rows of pointed windows,
each exactly above an opening below. In the upper row every
second window has been formed into a niche for the figure of
some celebrity in the history of the town. A delicate turret rises
at each end of the facade, and above it rose the high-pitched
roof which was one of the most beautiful features of the
building. In the centre is the great square tower, reaching to a
height of more than two hundred feet, and ending in an elegant
belfry, which rises between its four graceful turrets. The whole
of this pile was finished in 1304; but in the seventeenth century
there was added at its eastern end the Nieuwerck, an exquisite
Renaissance structure supported entirely on a row of slim
columns, with tiers of narrow oblong windows, and with elaborate
gables of carved stone. The contrast between the strength and
simplicity of the Gothic and the rich decoration of Spain is as
delightful as it is bold. The upper part of this vast building formed
one great hall, covered overhead by the towering roof. The walls
were decorated by painted panels representing the history of
the town, and so large were these that in one bay there was
erected the entire front of an old wooden house which had
been pulled down in the town, gable and all.

And all this is a heap of ruins. Whether any portion of it can
ever be repaired I do not know, but the cost would be fabulous.
The roof is entirely destroyed, and with it the whole of the great
gallery and its paintings, for fire consumed what the shells had
left. Only the bare stone walls remain, and as we stood among
the pillars which had supported the floors above, it was difficult
to realize that the heap of rubbish around us was all that was
left of what had once been the envy of Europe. The only
building which we have at all comparable to the Cloth Hall is the
Palace of Westminster. If it were blasted by shells and gutted
by fire, we might regret it, but what would be our feelings if it
were the legacy of Edward the First, and had been handed
down to us intact through six centuries?

Behind the Cloth Hall stands the Church of St. Martin, once for
two and a half centuries the Cathedral of Ypres. It was largely
built at the same time as the Cloth Hall, and it is a glorious
monument of the architecture of the thirteenth century. Perhaps
its most beautiful features are the great square tower, the lofty
and imposing nave, and the exquisite rose window in the south
wall of the transept, which is said to be the finest in Belgium.
The tower was surrounded with scaffolding, and around its base
were piles of stone, for the church was being repaired when the
war began. I wonder if it will ever be repaired now. The
Germans had expended on its destruction many of their largest
shells, and they had been very successful in their efforts. There
were three huge holes in the roof of the choir where shells had
entered, and in the centre of the transept was a pile of bricks
and stone six feet high. Part of the tower had been shot away,
and its stability was uncertain. The beautiful glass of the rose
window had been utterly destroyed, and part of the tracery was
broken. The old Parish Chapel on the south side of the nave
had nothing left but the altar and four bare walls. The fine old
roof and the great bronze screen which separated it from the
nave had perished in the flames. The screen was lying in small
fragments amongst the rubbish on the chapel floor, and at first I
thought they were bits of rusty iron.

As I stood in the ruins of the Parish Chapel looking round on
this amazing scene, there was a roar overhead, and one of the
big 14-inch shells passed, to explode with a terrific crash
amongst the houses a few hundred yards farther on. It was
plain that the bombardment was beginning again, and that we
must see to our business without any delay. Two more shells
passed overhead as I came out of the church, with a roar very
different from the soft whistle of a small shell. The destruction
produced by one of these large shells is astonishing. One large
house into which a shell had fallen in the previous night had
simply crumpled up. Portions of the walls and a heap of bricks
were all that was left, a bit of an iron bedstead and a fragment
of staircase sticking out from the debris. The roof, the floors,
and the greater part of the walls might never have existed. In
the Place in front of the Cathedral were two holes where shells
had fallen, and either of them would have comfortably held a
motor-car. The children were all together in a little street a
quarter of a mile west of the Cathedral, just where the last three
shells had fallen. Fortunately they had hurt no one, though one
had passed clean through the upper stories of a house where
there were several children being got ready by one of our party
for removal. By good luck through some defect it did not
explode, or the house would have been annihilated and everyone
in it killed. Quite a collection of people had  congregated in that
little street, though why they considered it safer than the rest
of the town I do not know. At first they were very unwilling to
let any of the children go at all. But at last about twenty children
were collected and were packed into ambulances. Some of them
were without parents, and were being looked after by the
neighbours, and the parents of some absolutely refused to
leave. More children and a few adults to look after them were
found later, and I think that in the end about a hundred were
taken up to Fumes, to be sent on to Calais as refugees.

The children were as merry as crickets, and regarded it all as a
huge joke; sitting in the ambulances, they looked for all the
world like a school treat. But I have often wondered whether we
were right to take them away or whether it would not have been
better to have left them to take their chance. War is a very
terrible thing, and the well-meant interference of the kind-
hearted may do far more harm than good. What is going to
happen to those children? I suppose that they are in some
refugee home, to remain there till the war is over. And then?
We did our best to identify them, but what are the chances that
many of them will ever see their parents again? From what I
have seen of these things I do not think that they are very large.
Perhaps you will say that the parents ought to have gone with
them. It is easy for the well-to-do to leave their homes and to
settle again elsewhere; but the poorer a man is the less can he
afford to leave what little he possesses. In their own town they
might be in danger, but at least they had not lost their homes,
and they possessed the surroundings without which their
individual lives would be merged in the common ocean of
misery. The problem of the civil population, and especially of
the children, in time of war is entirely beyond the scope of
individual effort. It is a matter with which only a Government or a
very powerful organization can deal, and it is a matter in which
Governments do not take a great deal of interest. Their hands
are quite full enough in trying to defeat the enemy.

In all previous wars between civilized nations a certain regard
has been paid to the safety of the civilian population, and
especially of the women and children. But from the very first the
German policy has been to utterly ignore the rights of non-
combatants, tearing up the conventions which they themselves
had signed for their protection. No Government could be
expected to be prepared for such a total apostasy from the
elementary principles of civilized society, or to anticipate
methods at which a Zulu might blush. If they had done so, it
should have been their first care to remove all non-combatants
from the area of fighting, and to make provision for them
elsewhere. It is unfair that a civilian should be left with the
hopeless choice of leaving a child in a house where it may at
any moment be killed by a shell or taking it away with a
considerable probability that it will be a homeless orphan. For
life is a matter of small moment; it is living that matters.

The problem of the children of Belgium will be one of the most
serious to be faced when the war is over. There will be a great
number of orphans, whilst many more will be simply lost. They
must not be adopted in England, for to them Belgium will look
for her future population. There could be few finer ways in which
we could show our gratitude to the people of Belgium than by
establishing colonies over there where they could be brought
up in their own country, to be its future citizens. It would form a
bond between the two countries such as no treaty could ever
establish, and Belgium would never forget the country which
had been the foster-mother of her children.

But Ypres gave us yet another example of German methods of
war. On the western side of the town, some distance from the
farthest houses, stood the Asylum. It was a fine building
arranged in several wings, and at present it was being used for
the accommodation of a few wounded, mostly women and children,
and several old people of the workhouse infirmary type. It made
a magnificent hospital, and as it was far away from the town and
was not used for any but the purposes of a hospital, we considered
that it was safe enough, and that it would be a pity to disturb the
poor old people collected there. We might have known better.
The very next night the Germans shelled it to pieces, and all
those unfortunate creatures had to be removed in a hurry.
There is a senseless barbarity about such an act which could
only appeal to a Prussian.



XXIV. Some Conclusions



To draw conclusions from a limited experience is a difficult
matter, and the attempt holds many pitfalls for the unwary. Yet
every experience must leave on the mind of any thinking man
certain impressions, and the sum of these only he himself can
give. To others he can give but blurred images of all he may
have seen, distorted in the curving mirrors of his mind, but from
these they can at least form some estimate of the truth of the
conclusions he ventures to draw. For myself, these conclusions
seem to fall naturally into three separate groups, for I have met
the experiences of the past three months in three separate
ways--as a surgeon, as a Briton, and as, I hope, a civilized
man. It is from these three aspects that I shall try to sum up
what I have seen.

As a surgeon it has been my good fortune to have charge of a
hospital whose position was almost ideal. Always close to the
front, we received our cases at the earliest possible moment,
and could deal with them practically first hand. Every day I
realized more strongly the advantages of such a hospital, and
the importance for the wounded of the first surgical treatment
they receive. Upon this may well depend the whole future
course of the case. No wounded man should be sent on a long
railway journey to the base until he has passed through the
hands of a skilled surgeon, and has been got into such a
condition that the journey does not involve undue risk. And no
rough routine treatment will suffice. A surgeon is required who
can deal with desperate emergencies and pull impossible cases
out of the fire--a young man who does not believe in the
impossible, and who can adapt himself to conditions of work
that would make an older man shudder, and a man who will
never believe what he is told until he has seen it for himself. For
the conditions of work at the front are utterly different from those
of civil practice, and it is impossible for any man after many
years of regular routine to adapt himself to such changed
environment. The long experience of the older man will be of far
more use at the base, and he will have plenty of difficulties to
contend with there.

I have often been told that there is no opening for skilled
surgery at the front. In my opinion there is room for the highest
skill that the profession can produce. It is absurd to say that the
abdominal cases should be left to die or to recover as best they
can, that one dare not touch a fractured femur because it is
septic. To take up such an attitude is simply to admit that these
cases are beyond the scope of present surgery. In a sense,
perhaps, they are, but that is all the more reason why the scope
of surgery should be enlarged, and not that these cases should
be left outside its pale. I am far from advising indiscriminate
operating. There are many things in surgery besides scalpels.
But I do urge the need for hospitals close to the front, with every
modern equipment, and with surgeons of resource and energy.

But for a surgeon this war between nations is only an incident in
the war to which he has devoted his life--the war against
disease. It is a curious reflection that whilst in the present war
the base hospital has been given, if anything, an undue
importance, in the other war it has been practically neglected.
Our great hospitals are almost entirely field hospitals, planted
right in the middle of the battle, and there we keep our patients
till such time as they are to all intents and purposes cured. A
very few convalescent homes will admit cases which still require
treatment, but only a very few. The bulk of them expect their
inmates to do the work of the establishment. Now, this is most
unreasonable, for a country hospital is cheaper to build and
should cost less to run than one in town, and in many cases the
patients will recover in half the time. Our hospitals in London are
always crowded, the waiting-lists mount up till it seems
hopeless to attack them, and all the time it is because we have
no base hospital down in the country to which our patients
might be sent to recover. I wonder how long it will be before
each of the great London hospitals has its own base down in
the country, with its own motor ambulances and its own ambulance
coaches to carry its patients in comfort by rail to surroundings
where they could recover as can never be possible in the
middle of the London slums? And as to getting the staff to
look after it, there would probably be a waiting-list for week-ends.

But there are more important considerations in this war than
surgery, and one would have to be very blind not to perceive
that this is a life-and-death struggle between Britain and
Germany. The involvement of other nations is merely accidental.
It is ourselves whom Germany is making this huge effort to crush,
and but for one small circumstance she would have come within
a measurable prospect of success. To swoop down on France
through Belgium, to crush her in three weeks, to seize her fleet,
and with the combined fleets of France and Germany to attack
ours--that was the proposition, and who can say that it might not
have succeeded? The small  circumstance which Germany overlooked
was Belgium, and it is to the heroic resistance of Belgium that we owe
the fact that the German advance has been stopped.

At the cost of the desolation of their own country, Belgium has
perhaps saved the flag of Britain, for where would it have flown
on the seas if Germany had won? And at the very least she has
saved us from a war beside which this is nothing--a war not
now, but a few years hence, when she might have controlled
half the Continent, and we should have stood alone. We owe
an incalculable debt to Belgium, and we can only repay it by
throwing into this war every resource that our country has to
offer. For the only end which can bring peace to Europe is the
total annihilation of Germany as a military and naval Power.
What other terms can be made with a nation which regards its
most solemn treaties as so much waste paper, which is bound
by no conventions, and which delights in showing a callous
disregard of all that forms the basis of a civilized society? The
only guarantees that we can take are that she has no ships of
war, and that her army is only sufficient to police her frontier.
The building of a war vessel or the boring of a gun must be
regarded as a casus belli. Then, and then only, shall Europe be
safe from the madness that is tearing her asunder.

But there is a wider view of this war than even that of Britain.
We are not merely fighting to preserve the pre-eminence of our
country; we are fighting for the civilization of the world. The
victory of Germany would mean the establishment over the
whole world of a military despotism such as the world has never
seen. For if once the navy of Britain is gone, who else can stop
her course? Canada, the United States, South America, would
soon be vassals of her power--a power which would be used
without scruple for her own material advantage. This is not a
war between Germany and certain other nations; it is a war
between Germany and civilization. The stake is not a few acres
of land, but the freedom for which our fathers gave their lives.

Is there such a thing as neutrality in this war? Germany herself
gave the answer when she invaded Belgium. It is the undoubted
duty of many great nations, and of one before all others, to stand
aside and not to enter the struggle; but to be neutral at heart, not
to care whether the battle is won or lost, is impossible for any
nation which values honour and truth above the passing advantages
of worldly power. We do not ask America to fight on our side.
This is our fight, and only Britain and her Allies can see it
through. But we do ask for a sympathy which, while obeying
the laws of neutrality to the last letter, will support us with a
spirit which is bound by no earthly law, which will bear with us
when in our difficult task we seem to neglect the interests of
our friends, and will rejoice with us when, out of toil and sorrow,
we have won a lasting peace.

This war is not of our choosing, and we shall never ask for
peace. The sword has been thrust into our hands by a power
beyond our own to defend from a relentless foe the flag which
has been handed down to us unsullied through the ages, and to
preserve for the world the freedom which is the proudest
birthright of our race. When it is sheathed, the freedom of the
world from the tyranny of man will have been secured.





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