Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Eighteen Months in the War Zone - The Record of a Woman's Work on the Western Front
Author: Finze, Kate John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Eighteen Months in the War Zone - The Record of a Woman's Work on the Western Front" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN THE WAR ZONE

 [Illustration: GOING ON DUTY AFTER A REST]

 Eighteen Months in
 the War Zone

 THE RECORD OF A WOMAN'S WORK ON
 THE WESTERN FRONT


 BY
 KATE JOHN FINZI

 With an Introduction by
 MAJOR-GENERAL SIR ALFRED TURNER, K.C.B.


 _With Sixteen Plates_


 CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD
 London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
 1916



 Dedicated
 TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE
 WHOM I HAVE LOST



FOREWORD


When the great history of this almost untellable War comes to be told,
historians will find themselves faced with a collection of evidence so
devious, so at variance, that their task will be well-nigh stupendous.
Whether, when they come to sift their data, they will have time to cast
more than a passing glance at the great military bases that sprung up
in an allied country, where once an invading army had stood, remains to
be seen. That these bases, and in especial the largest and nearest to
the firing line, Boulogne, have played a large rôle in the scheme of
things cannot be denied.

Yet, of all the many thousands who lived and passed through Boulogne,
there remains not one who can tell of the gradual development of that
once insignificant fishing town into one of the greatest bases in the
War Zone.

Surely, therefore, it behoves those of us who love every inch of her
harassing cobblestones; to whom her picturesque squalor is a thing
of everlasting joy; those of us who see in the sun-bathed masts,
half-hidden in grey mists, pictures whose Turneresqueness vies with
Turner; who can clasp fisherfolk, peasants and townsmen by the hand
and be proud to claim them friends--it behoves us to recapture what
can never be recaptured again, because there is none left to tell the
tale--a picture of Anglicised Boulogne in war-time.

True, our Boulognese coast is not riddled with fortifications like the
approaches to an English naval port, nor are our fields honeycombed
with trenches (though go past Calais, northward, towards Dunkirk, and
you shall see what you shall see!). Yet there were days in 1914 when
Boulogne promised to play a larger rôle in the history of England than
she had ever played before--days when hospitals stood empty and all
were prepared to evacuate the town at a moment's notice, in reply to
the mayor's already printed mandates--days when, had the enemy but
known how efficiently he had pierced the British lines, he might have
realised his dream of devastating our island home and sweeping the
coast with his long-range guns from Calais to Boulogne.

Those days will never return. Between us at the base and our enemies
are a myriad valiant lives and countless guns of every size and device,
a force, in fact, which no German strategy in the world, scrupulous
or unscrupulous, can overcome; and still the little temporary British
city grows and grows, a city of tents and red crosses and corrugated
iron huts; and still stalwart British forms, marching along the winding
white roads, cast longing glances at the dim coast of distant Albion.

But it is not for those who heard the call in the later months so much
as in memory of those early heroes of Mons, who knew the bitterness of
a valiant retreat, the horror of forced marches along parched roads,
with only the prod of the next man's bayonet to keep him awake, and
only a flap cut from the tail of his shirt between the pitiless sun
and the dreaded delirium that would leave him a prey to the Huns'
barbarities; in memory of these it is that I take up the pen to run the
gauntlet of a thousand critical eyes on a way fraught with difficulties.

My acknowledgments are due to Mr. A. M. James for permission to use his
photograph of the cemetery, and to my brother Edgar, whose patience in
putting together what is of necessity a piecy document has made the
publication of this diary possible.

    "_No easy hopes or lies
    Shall bring us to our goal,
    But iron sacrifice
    Of body, will, and soul.
    There is but one task for all--
    For each one life to give;
    Who stands if freedom fall?
    Who dies if England live?_"

              --RUDYARD KIPLING.



 CONTENTS

                       PAGE

  INTRODUCTION BY
  MAJOR-GENERAL SIR
  ALFRED TURNER, K.C.B.  XV


     BOOK I

     1914--As It Was in the Beginning

  CHAPTER

  1. OCTOBER, 1914        3

  2. NOVEMBER, 1914      40

  3. DECEMBER, 1914      68


     BOOK II

     1915--Order Out of Chaos

  4. JANUARY, 1915       89

  5. FEBRUARY, 1915     103

  6. MARCH, 1915        112

  7. APRIL, 1915        124

  8. MAY, 1915          136

  9. JUNE, 1915         146

 10. JULY, 1915         160

 11. AUGUST, 1915       171

 12. SEPTEMBER, 1915    179

 13. OCTOBER, 1915      188

 14. NOVEMBER, 1915     202

 15. DECEMBER, 1915     211


     BOOK III

     1916--Scrapped

 16. JANUARY, 1916     225

 17. FEBRUARY, 1916    240

     EPILOGUE          259



 LIST OF PLATES


 GOING ON DUTY AFTER A REST         _Frontispiece_

                                       FACING PAGE

 A HOSPITAL SHIP                                16

 AT AN IMPROVISED CASUALTY CLEARING STATION     28

 A WARD IN THE SUGAR-SHED CLEARING STATION      32

 EXTEMPORISED OPERATING THEATRE AT A CLEARING
 STATION                                        42

 "THE REVERED CALVARY TO WHICH ALL WISE
 FISHERMEN PRAY"                                56

 LORD ROBERTS'S FUNERAL: THE SCENE ON THE QUAY  64

 AMBULANCES HELD UP BY THE HIGH TIDE            66

 A MEAL AT THE INDIAN CAMP                      80

 INDIAN ENCAMPMENT IN THE SNOW                  88

 THE FIRST HUT AT THE BASE                      96

 "THE BRIDGE, THROUGH THE ARCHES OF WHICH IS A
 GLIMPSE OF LANDSCAPE AS PEACEFUL AS ANY
 TUSCAN VILLAGE"                               110

 HOSPITAL SHIPS IN THE HARBOUR                 138

 OUR NEW HUT                                   160

 INTERIOR OF A HUT                             160

 EXTEMPORISED HOSPITAL IN A HUT                184

 THE MARQUEE DEVOTED TO THE STORAGE OF TABLES,
 ETC.                                          208

 THE BUSY DINNER-HOUR IN A HUT                 208

 "THE CITY OF LITTLE WHITE CROSSES"            250



INTRODUCTION

By MAJOR-GEN. SIR ALFRED TURNER, K.C.B.


In the following pages Miss Kate Finzi gives in a plain, unvarnished
style a terrible and graphic picture of the horrors of war, which have
been intensified, as never before, owing to the ferocious savagery of
the German troops, as systematically ordered by their officers and
commanded by the Kaiser himself, the greatest criminal in the world's
record; for this war, planned and prepared deliberately by him, is the
greatest crime ever committed against civilisation and humanity. It is
charitable to designate him a criminal lunatic, or, as his prototype
Caligula was described, an epileptic, with highly developed criminal
instincts.

When one reads of such sufferings as those described by Miss Finzi,
one wonders for what end Providence can have allowed such an inhuman
monster to exist and cause such sorrow, such suffering, such death and
destruction to be inflicted on mankind.

The books written upon the vast conflict are already legion, but
I think this is the first record--a most pathetic and interesting
record--of what happened at the base hospitals at Boulogne, where tens
of thousands of wounded, maimed and mutilated incessantly arrived, to
be passed on to England, or to linger there till death came as a happy
release from their sufferings.

How many officers and men of those glorious "first seven divisions"
which left these shores in August, 1914--a tiny but, for its size, an
incomparable army, which stemmed the seemingly irresistibly flowing
tide of von Kluck's legions against Paris--the "contemptible little
army of General French," as it was described by the imperial braggart
of Germany, lie buried near the spot where stands the memorial pillar
in honour of Napoleon's army of invasion in 1804. After the war it
will be incumbent on us, with the approval of our firm and faithful
Allies, whose spirit, bravery and skill in fighting has astounded the
world, to raise another monument especially to the memory of our heroic
countrymen who withstood the hordes of the Hun and thwarted his advance
both on Paris and Calais.

Miss Finzi's book is quite unpretentious, and is a simple record of
facts which brings home vividly to our minds the sickening horrors
of war and the awful sufferings that our gallant defenders have had
to undergo in doing their duty, in the service of their King and
country, for the honour and integrity of the Empire, and for the safety
and protection of the people in this country in this great war of
liberation. What they have been protected from can well be gathered
from the openly expressed threats of the Germans--soldiers, military
writers, professors and ministers of German religion--that the crimes
and outrages which they committed in Belgium and France, Poland and
Serbia, should be as nothing to those which they would make our people
suffer. It is well that these things should be brought home to our
people, who, owing to our insular position, have experienced nothing of
the horrors of war and are apt to make too light of them from want of
power to realise them.

Naturally there was great confusion at the base, owing to the
suddenness with which war broke out upon nations entirely unprepared
for it and taken by surprise, for, although dark suspicions of the
evil designs of Germany lurked in many men's minds, the extent of the
infamy of the Kaiser and his pan-German parasites did not enter into
the minds of many people, not even in the case of those who, like
myself, thought they knew Germans well. The latter veiled their innate
brutality, their blood lust, and their intention to acquire world
domination through brute force, with consummate craftiness.

Miss Finzi gives a graphic account of the troubles that had to be
surmounted, owing to insufficiency of hospital requisites, beds,
medicines, doctors and nurses; but this was inseparable from the nature
of things, and has long since been righted. We may indeed be proud of
our services of mercy; nothing can exceed their value and efficiency,
namely the R.A.M.C and our nurses. If our gallant soldiers and sailors
engaged, through political blunder, in the "Gallipoli gamble" and Kut
disaster had been as well tended and supplied as those in France, how
many lives, thrown away through political ineptitude, would now have
been spared to us!

Miss Finzi writes most modestly of her own work, but we know that she
and all the genuine nurses and helpers worked devotedly and well, and
that the deepest debt of gratitude is due from the nation to them, who
softened the horrors of war to our soldiers, who ministered aid to
them when they were sore stricken by wounds or diseases, and mitigated
their tortures. It must not be forgotten that for many months the
capture of Calais seemed not improbable; the Huns had no doubts upon
the subject, and time after time, as in the case of Paris and Verdun,
the bloodthirsty Kaiser gave his vain and arrogant orders: "_To be
taken at all cost, no matter at what sacrifice!_" A truly beneficent
ruler and father of his people! The R.A.M.C. and nurses, therefore,
were working at terrible disadvantage, with no certainty that the
bestial and brutish enemy would not shortly appear, to wreak upon
them his savage instincts of murder and lust, signs of which were
constantly brought in to them: terrible wounds caused by expanding
bullets, and, worst of all, accounts by eye-witnesses and victims of
the perpetual and designed firing upon hospitals, dressing stations,
stretcher-bearers, it being, apparently, a craze of the Germans to
kill and ill-treat what is helpless and cannot resist them. Tales
also were related of civil population--men, women and children--being
butchered, and Red Cross nurses outraged in the most fiendish manner,
and then mutilated and murdered. With such possible prospects and fate
at the hands of men compared to whom the Huns of Attila, the Goths of
Alaric, the Tartars of Timur and the Mongols of Genghis Khan deserved
a crown of mercy. Imagine what our nurses are and what blessings they
have brought to our soldiers and sailors. At the commencement of the
Crimean War there were no Army nurses and no civil nurses, except
those dreadful creatures described by Charles Dickens in "Martin
Chuzzlewit," such as Sairey Gamp and Betsy Prig--fat, waddling, coarse,
ignorant, unclean and unkempt, and usually smelling of gin; they
attended births, sick-beds, and laying out of corpses, in which they
took great pride, as it brought them in touch with the undertaker, to
their mutual advantage. Contrast such so-called nurses, in their poke
bonnets, smelly robes and clogs, with their huge, bulging umbrellas,
their noisiness and heavy hands, with those of to-day, with their neat
and serviceable uniform, their gentleness, their light hands, their
kindness and sympathy with their suffering patients. As the late Dean
Hole wrote in his "Now and Then," they might be compared to a beautiful
yacht scudding along in a light breeze, under a blue sky and shining
sun, while the ancient apologies for nurses rolled along, a water- (or
gin and water) logged barge in the Thames in a thick, yellow November
fog. (Dean Hole.)

It was to Florence Nightingale, of ever-blessed memory, that we owe
the foundation of our Army nursing system in 1854. When the news of
the battle of the Alma came, and of many thousands of wounded men
with no nurses and a totally insufficient medical staff, and _not a
single ambulance_, she volunteered to take out a number of nurses.
For a wonder her offer was accepted, for in those days every sort of
change in Army matters was considered a pernicious innovation. She
took out thirty-four nurses to the Crimea, and before long had 10,000
wounded in her charge. The work which she and her nurses did was
marvellous, and they stuck to it till their health broke down, as our
present nurses have done. After the war £50,000 was subscribed for
the purpose of founding an institution for the training of nurses in
connection with St. Thomas's and King's College Hospitals. From that
time the Army nursing system has steadily developed under the practical
and ever-ready patronage of Royalty, till it reached its present
perfection. In the Soudan and South African Wars the services of the
nurses were invaluable. When the present war showed itself to be one
of such gigantic dimensions, and when our Army, due to the genius of
Lord Kitchener, swelled to the size of millions, it was feared that a
sufficient number of Army nurses could not be forthcoming; but then
the women of England showed what they were made of. Hundreds and
thousands devoted themselves at once to training as nurses, others to
the less-skilled work required in hospitals for the victims of war; and
now, owing to them and the admirable chiefs and subordinate officers of
the R.A.M.C, and to the patriotic and self-sacrificing manner in which
private medical practitioners have come forward with their services,
little or nothing is wanted, considering the gigantic nature and scope
of this terrible war.

Miss Finzi is to be congratulated upon having written a most
interesting and readable book, full of facts and personal experiences,
such experiences as, please God, no one will again have to relate; and
this will be so when once the Hohenzollerns, the cause of all trouble
in Europe and elsewhere for many decades, are exterminated or driven
into obscurity.

The work shows forth in bright colours the universal devotion of our
nurses--heroic women who face all dangers and hardships for the sake
of doing good to others. Among these must ever stand forth the name
of Edith Cavell, who spent her whole life in mitigating the sufferings
of others, who nursed even German officers in her hospital who had
probably committed unspeakable crimes and atrocities in Belgium. This
weighed as nothing, as might have been expected, in the eyes of the
barbarous Teutons, to whom mercy, justice and gratitude are unknown.
She was done to death vilely and brutally, but her martyrdom will
never be forgotten or forgiven; it will be one of the foulest of the
many foul stains on the fame of the Kaiser and his accomplices, while
it will ever shed a ray of glory upon the noble record of our British
Nurses.

                         ALFRED E. TURNER.



BOOK I

1914

As It Was in the Beginning



CHAPTER I

October, 1914


_October 21st, London._ It was not without a sense of relief that we
watched the hands of the station clock move on to the stroke of six,
heard the train doors slam, and cast a last look at the anxious little
group of friends who clustered round the carriage doors to bid us
farewell and God-speed.

To be quite frank, their cheering savoured somewhat of mourning and
much of admonition.

Were we not the tattered remnants of a once-flourishing Red Cross
detachment, whose energies and equipment alike had been left behind at
the enforced evacuation of Ostend? Were we not about to face all kinds
of undreamed-of perils?

So they whispered to us; but as we relapsed into our seats, to the
accompaniment of a cheery chorus of rag-times from the extensive
répertoire of the recruits in a neighbouring carriage, our hearts beat
hard with trepidation and anticipation of the Great Unknown. After all,
who were we amongst the countless thousands clamouring to "get out" to
the scene of action?

Merely two Englishwomen, of none too much experience and no too great
age, whom it might please Fate to carry into the scene of action, there
to play the smallest of parts and to be vouchsafed an insight into the
vagaries of war.


_Southampton._ It was a clear, still, moonlight night when we reached
Southampton, the docks silent and darkened. Outside many ambulance
wagons awaited their turn to be loaded. The hotel to which we had been
recommended had been commandeered as an embarkation office. Moreover,
Mr. N----, the clergyman who was to have met us and finished the
journey with us, failed to turn up. So, after passport formalities, we
went straight on board.

All we carried by way of luggage was one small hand-valise apiece,
containing, besides changes of underwear, the regulation Red Cross
caps, aprons, dresses--that uniform so effective _en masse_, so
unbecoming to the individual.


_October 22nd, s.s. ----, 8 a.m._ The cabins were nearly all taken for
the officers of the Irish regiment crossing on the boat, so we passed a
more or less restless night in the saloon. As the stewardess said: "We
like to give the men the best of everything. Who knows when they will
next sleep in a bed?" It makes one choke to see these fine strapping
fellows going out so cheerfully to meet their fate. It is only then
that one ceases to think of war as a great game, and sees it as a great
slaughter!

When we set sail the mysterious blue, herald of dawn, was over all, but
we are entering Havre harbour in a sea that is black and dreary and
full of forebodings.


_Le Hâvre._ The post office here might be in Finsbury, the cablegram
window in Leadenhall Street, for Havre is full of British Tommies in
their smart new khaki and gilt numerals and badges, and they walk
up and down the streets in twos and threes--very much at home, or
separately--equally lost.

When we landed at Havre the Rev. E---- N----, our khaki-clad parson,
joined us; and, having deposited our luggage at the station and
lunched, we wended our way to the British Consulate, and British and
French Red Cross offices, in the hope of gleaning some news of the rest
of our party, who seemed to have vanished off the face of the globe.

Our Red Cross uniform carries with it a strange mixture of respect
and suspicion--respect for the noble symbol we bear, suspicion on
account of the many unlicensed people of somewhat doubtful repute who
have flooded the country since the outbreak of war, perpetrating many
indiscretions, opening many uncalled-for charities--all under the
name of the Red Cross, with which, ten chances to one, they have no
connection at all.

To us, however, everybody is so kind and courteous, and our parson,
being a tall, white-haired man of military bearing, and in appearance
much more like a general than a sky-pilot, commands universal respect
and salutes.

We decided to spend a night at Havre and call early for news at the
Consulate, and it was then that my modicum of French and _savoir-faire_
in the ways of hotels and hotel proprietors stood us in good stead,
for the rest of the party knew no word of French and appeared never
before to have travelled abroad.

At the Consulate we came across Lady ----, one of the women we were
seeking and who was supposed to be seeking us. As we entered the room a
familiar voice rang out: "In the name of the Belgian Government you can
do anything"--and we found ourselves face to face with the chic little
woman who, charming though she may be at a London "at-home," is, we
fear, liable to give our Allies a false impression of English women in
war-time.

She has already courted notoriety quite successfully in Belgium, where
she would appear at the most busy moment in the wards with a smile
and a "_May_ I see round your hospital?" only to be followed by her
press-man with a camera. Seeing she has never, to our knowledge, done a
day's work in the wards, we are growing tired of her portraits in the
daily papers and weekly journals:

"Lady ---- rendering valuable aid to a severely wounded Belgian," or:

"A war heroine who is giving her services at the front."

We retired early, but the incessant sounds of coming and going made
sleep impossible to me. As the moon peeped through the open window on
to the restless form of my companion, I crept out of bed and knelt by
the embrasure. She looked very young with her halo of fair hair, and
for the first time I realised how utterly alone we were. It is odd how
quickly people come into one's life nowadays, become the most important
factor of existence, and, meteor-like, pass out of one's ken, leaving
nothing but a fast-dimming memory to prove how large they once loomed
on the horizon. After all--war or no war--we are absolute strangers, of
different interests, different education, different social standing.
Yet for weal or woe our lot is cast together. Only for a moment these
thoughts assailed me; then the bigness of the Great Game in which we
are to play our parts drove all little personal feelings away.


_October 24th, Rouen._ We arrived yesterday in the wild-goose chase
after the Mrs. C---- who wired for us and was to have given us
employment, and are installed at a little hotel perched on the top
of the hill, from the windows of which we can enjoy the old garden,
gorgeous in its autumn tints of brown, gold and green.

There being an over-sufficient number of well-equipped hospitals here,
as in Havre, we have not bothered to inquire after work, but the Rev.
E---- N---- has gone on to Paris, and so we spent the day enjoying the
sights of Rouen. Of the beauties of the Gothic Cathedral of St. Ouen,
of the smartness of our Tommies, of the less solid but strikingly
lithe and businesslike-looking French soldiers, in their historic and
treasured red trousers and blue coats, there is much to be said. Yet it
is the incongruity of the cosmopolitan crowd that is most noteworthy.

Dusky Zouaves, in wide pantaloons and brilliant coatees, are to be seen
on all sides--mostly with bandaged limbs, be it noted--and alongside
swarthy Indian Mussulmans, clad in khaki and topped with turbans.
Side by side with them go interpreters in mufti, Scottish soldiers in
tartans and covered kilts. Little French girls walk past with R.A.M.C.
badges and numerals pinned across their shawls; Army nurses, in grey
and red; the usual crowd of dark Frenchwomen in their sombre weeds.

Watching the seething mass of humanity on the quay, the marching
soldiers, the footsore, homeless refugees, the motley crowd culled
from every conceivable race and every quarter of the globe, it seems
as if the Powers Above had decided to abolish the distinction between
east and west, black and white, and weld together one race to combat
the oncoming Germans. For surely we are pitted against a foe so strong
in physique, and so brave and cunning, that many years of strenuous
training and thrift will be required to fit the united races to
withstand his onslaught.


_October 25th._ Mr. N---- returned last night from Paris armed with
introductions to Lord ---- at Boulogne headquarters, where we are to
go, and the information that the Paris hospitals are being steadily
cleared.

All this time we have had very little news. Since the fall of Antwerp
on October 9th, and the beginning of the Ypres-Armentières battle two
days later, we have had nothing but rumours to subsist on, and these
alternately wildly optimistic and disquieting.

It seems so strange to think, while wandering through the churches
here, glorying in the leisure to enjoy the exquisite contour of the
Gothic arches, the rich mediæval windows, the Renaissance chapels,
that to those enemies, who are proving themselves such utter Vandals,
we really owe so much of our knowledge of Art and Architecture. Can
any cultured being who has at some time or another associated with his
art-loving foe, studied his literature, perused Burckhardt, delved
into the depths of Faust's philosophy and the heights of Zarathustra's
madness; sat on Brunhilde's rock or felt the Valkyrie riding past in
the furious sweep of the snowstorm; gazed from the heights of the Black
Forest into the unknown stretch of sky beyond the blue hills with that
yearning for beautiful things engendered by a land endowed by Nature
with every gift; and, descending into the darkening forests, realised
the milieu which inspired Grimm's "Fairy Tales" and Morgenstern, and
even the translators of Ibsen and Jacobsen--can such a being fail to be
nonplussed at this huge upheaval?


_October 26th, Train militaire._ We are passing through the lovely
Norman country at a snail's pace in a military train bearing French
soldiers to the front. Their distant "Marseillaise" sounds less hearty
than our Tommies' "It's a long way to Tipperary," but then they
already know the devastation War has wrought in their homes; they are
the defenders of an invaded country.

The cost of our ticket to Abancour (military rate, for our uniform
amongst the French receives the utmost consideration) is 1 franc 50
centimes. After Abancour, it appears, there are no trains to Boulogne,
so how we are to get across the sixty intervening miles no man knows!


_Abancour, 7.30 p.m._ We reached the neat little model village of
Abancour at dusk. It stands on a wind-swept plain, over which the
lowering clouds are scurrying menacingly this evening. Just as at Havre
market women offered us flowers "for the blessed Croix Rouge," so here
the proprietor of the post-card shop insists on giving us _pastilles de
menthe_ to take on our journey.

_Eu._ This is the nearest point we can get to Boulogne, and having
knocked up the sleepy hotel-keeper at 10 p.m. to obtain a night's
lodging, having made bovril for us all out of the tablets some good
friend had thrust into my travelling kit, and served out rations of
horse-flesh sandwiches and nuts to make them savoury, I have at last
tumbled into my damp bed, wrapped in a travelling rug.

A dismal rain has set in, which brings to mind the words of the
secretary at the Rouen Consulate: "When winter sets in the fighting
must temporarily cease. I know every inch of Belgium; know, too, that
no attack can be made on country so sodden that every wheel sinks at
least a yard into the ground. Believe me, what the Germans have they
will hold--at least this winter. For Belgium will be impregnable!"


_October 27th._ We arose at 5 a.m. to catch a train bound towards
Abbeville, and, after a refreshing draught of black coffee in glasses,
found ourselves installed in the train, with the prospect of staying
there till 5 p.m. If we had wondered at finding Eu well guarded on all
sides, we no longer did so when we learned that only a few weeks back
it was in enemy hands, and formed, in fact, the German headquarters on
the march on Paris.

Shortly before reaching Abbeville a young Belgian soldier in the
carriage next door put his head in to inquire politely whether we were
some of the _infirmières anglaises_ who had tended the Belgian wounded
in Ostend.

It appeared he recognised Miss A----, as soon as she doffed her ugly
felt uniform hat, as the nurse who had dressed his wounded back
the day he was carried into the Casino hospital after the Battle of
Termonde.

His career, which he sketched delightedly for our edification, perched
on the arm of the window seat, had been eventful, to say the least of
it.

Aged 17, Fernand L----, of Brussels, together with fifteen others of
his school class of twenty, joined the ranks as _volontaires_ and
served through Namur. Captured by the Germans in a farmhouse where he
was scouting, he contrived to escape and reach his native town, where
the now famous burgomaster, the valiant M. Max, got his papers _viséd_.
By asserting that he was only fifteen years old, and therefore not
liable to military service, he finally reached Cherbourg, and is now on
his way back to the front, hoping to join some regiment at Calais.

A charming boy, full of enthusiasm for the war and the conviction that
we shall soon be marching into Berlin, his one regret, when he heard
how the hospital equipment had had to be abandoned to the enemy, was
that he had not helped himself to a much-needed blanket.

"Had I but known," he exclaimed, "I would have taken four!"

Fernand L---- was clad in a wonderful combination of garments that he
seemed to have gleaned on his journeyings; most remarkable amongst them
were the green knitted socks and pair of canvas shoes which some Good
Samaritan had given him at Ostend, in those days when even the supply
of anæsthetics was apt to run low. Proudest of all was he of the fact
that he had once spent a few days in Liverpool to play in a football
match, which fact, he felt, bound him to his allies more than any of
the forced ties of war. His companion, a few years his senior, who
spoke seven languages, was a good-looking youth with a radiant smile.
They had been together through various escapades, and were full of the
atrocities of the Germans, which, alas! seem authentic enough.

Once when they were fleeing they had come to a deserted village where a
farmer gave them shelter. His only daughter had been brutally mutilated
and murdered before her own parents because, in resisting the embraces
of an officer, she scratched out one of his eyes.

"They cut off her breasts and carried away a foot as a trophy," was the
tale they told.

As they got out, the Belgians, in token of gratitude, pressed into our
hands the little paper flags of the Allies that they were wearing and
buttons from their coats. Then, seizing a notebook from my pocket,
Fernand L---- inscribed their names and addresses at Bruges, exacting
at the same time promises that we would call and see them, or their
families, on our way "to the Rhine in a few months"!

The well-guarded lines, the ammunition trains, the big guns and horses
and other paraphernalia of war--how real it all begins to seem!

At Abbeville, where we explored the shops and camps and churches, a
nasty rumour came through, via two cavalry officers, that the Germans
are at Calais, and many of the townsfolk appeared at their doors to
bewail their fate.

On leaving every place of beauty one wonders how long it will remain
safe from the Vandals--one leaves it with a sentimental longing to
linger for "one last look."


_October 27th, Boulogne._ The sky was a lurid red as our train steamed
into Boulogne, and an evening mist hung over the town. On all sides
high masts rose into the sky; hospital ships, ambulance trains, little
fishing-smacks, one does not know to which to give most attention.
Everywhere the population of picturesque fisherfolk in their brown
blouses gives way admiringly to the Red Cross ambulances and officials
who carry on their work on such an enormous scale.

 [Illustration: HOSPITAL SHIP]

The journey had seemed long enough in spite of its many incidents, as
day by day we watched the pretty though uninteresting fields slip by,
or restlessly paced the stations during the interminable halts, with
little food for thought, save vague surmises as to the future, and
little to eat save the slightly bitter bread of the people and apples,
the only things obtainable at wayside stations already ransacked by
the hordes of hungry soldiers who had passed through earlier; and
oftentimes we had been glad enough to descend from the carriages
to refresh ourselves at the station pumps, marked "drinkable" or
"non-drinkable," as the case might be.

We had formed an odd trio. The tall, bent figure of the clergyman,
with his dreamy demeanour and utter obliviousness of all things
practical; my commandant, a young woman who, having spent most of her
life at hospital work, hailed every diversion from the same gleefully.
Everything to her was new, for she had never been out of England
before, and to a veteran traveller her joy at the ways of this new
country was extraordinarily interesting. Thirdly, there was myself,
fresh from the salutary discipline of the wards of a London hospital.

And now it is all over, that journey. The destination is reached. The
Unknown will soon be revealed.

The Commissioner to whom we were directed received us with open arms.

"Nurses--thank God!" was the exclamation as we were turned over
to the mercies of the billeting officer, who designated an airy
room overlooking the quayside, on the third floor of the Red Cross
headquarters, for our use.

Yet it appears that in spite of the dearth of nurses there are many
formalities to be gone through before we can begin work; and as only
nurses who have had three years' training in a big London hospital are
to be accepted (for is anything but the _best_ good enough for our
fighting men?), there may be some difficulty for probationers.

Thus, having deposited our bundles in our billets, we were sent to see
Lady ---- at the hotel, where she combines the duties of lady-in-waiting
to Queen Amélie of Portugal and organiser-in-chief of the Red Cross
nurses.

Here we learned for the first time of the confusion that arises out
of the fact that both qualified nurses and members of the Voluntary
Aid Detachment are wearing the same uniform; we heard, too, of the
difficulties experienced by the authorities to prevent unlicensed
people organising hospitals which they are unfitted to run.

As we wended our way back wearily through the lighted, crowded streets
teeming with life (Miss A---- having signed a year's contract as a
trained nurse), something told me that this is to be the scene of my
activities too; that so long as my betrothed is in France, Providence
will let me play my part.

On returning to headquarters we learned for the first time the
unpleasant function of the Censor. All letters have to be left open,
posted in the military box, and, if they are to pass the Censor, must
contain no mention or description of places, troops, ships, people we
have met on our journey, etc.

This is not merely a precaution against spies, we are told, but a
measure of prudence in regard to false rumours; for men who have never
got farther than Boulogne, and never been within gunshot, have been
known to write home long tirades about the bloody trenches in which
they stand all day, dodging fragments of shells and killing Germans by
the score!


_October 28th._ After breakfast this morning we set out to see whether
there were any letters from home at the Consulate. On our way up the
hill a funeral overtook us. There were four hearses and seven coffins,
each covered with a Union Jack, which contrasted strangely with the
weird-shaped French funeral carriages and the drivers in costumes like
beadles with large three-cornered hats.

We followed the cortège a quarter of an hour up the hill to the
cemetery, where the newly consecrated ground was full of freshly
covered graves.

The coffins were soon lowered, and as they lay there in a row not an
eye of the little group of onlookers was dry.

The R.A.M.C. pall-bearers, the chaplain who went through the service
with a rapidity that showed his familiarity with the job, a handful of
French peasants--that was all. And they laid them to rest at the top
of the hill, and only two English nurses who never saw them could bear
the message of their last resting-place to their homes. God! that such
wanton destruction should be.

Opposite our window, as I write, the ambulance men are deftly unloading
a train and carrying their sad, still burdens aboard the hospital ship
on which Miss A---- crossed from Ostend. All day long, all night long,
the wagons come and go. Funerals pass, not one, but three, four, five
at a time, followed by orderlies; turbaned Sikhs and Gurkhas, looking
quaintly odd with their unaccustomed shirts (gifts, no doubt, from
some willing helpers at home) hanging loose below their coats, like a
flounced skirt, and creating a perfect sensation whenever they pass the
simple peasant folk.

Later, we walked into Wimereux and took snapshots of the wounded
Tommies who thronged the beach. They were mostly arm and leg cases, and
a cheery, if rough-looking, lot too, in their bedraggled khaki, which,
from the distance, was scarcely distinguishable from the sands.

The Reverend E---- N---- has found plenty to do, and is already taking
work out of the overtaxed Bishop's hands. I, in the meantime, am making
the best of my leisure and enjoying every hour of the sunshine. "Father
N.," as we call the padre, got into conversation with an Army veteran
to-day at lunch, whose views were interesting.

"Do you think the Germans will get to Calais?" he asked.

"Probably not; but if they do, they'll make for here. This is the place
they're after--as a post for their submarines. And Heaven knows what
we shall do with our stores. It won't be possible to get them away in
time!"

About a mile along the quay we came upon the debris of a camp with the
fire still burning; piles of reaping machines, traction engines and
carts, all bearing the names of English firms from Manchester to Crouch
End, lay alongside; and, finally, in the distance there hove in sight
the French refugee ship which was blown up in the Channel yesterday
between here and Folkestone.

In the evening we joined a group of nurses round the fire. They are
pleasant girls just down from Paris, where they did relieving work at
some of the hotel hospitals.

The Astoria in particular they describe as a maze. "You go to get a
drink of milk for a patient, and when you've found the milk you've lost
your man and may hunt for hours, only to find in the end that his need
has already been supplied," they say. Their assistants were culled
from the French nobility, whose unflagging efforts to help are typical
of France's indomitable spirit. Amusing incidents often occur.

One doctor, on being much pressed, accepted an invitation to tea with
a well-known aristocratic family, who assured him they were inviting
people who would be of _especial_ interest to him. His amusement on
arriving may be pictured when he found that the other guests consisted
of a roomful of wounded Tommies.

Another doctor, overwhelmed by the amount of titles to whom he had been
introduced, meeting a nurse in the corridor, began wearily with:

"Look here, I say, now, are _you_ a blooming princess?" before he gave
his orders!

In spite of the wonderful dirt and bad drainage that reigns in the
nurses' quarters, we must be grateful, they say, for our accommodation.
Nurses aren't expected to require much, it seems. Someone quoted the
old chestnut from _Punch_ of the lady who, on being asked by the newly
arrived nurse in which room she was to sleep, exclaimed in blank
amazement:

"Oh, but I thought you were a trained hospital nurse!"


_October 29th._ Let me tell the tale of No. ---- Stationary Hospital.
It should go down to posterity as a memorial of what British
resourcefulness may achieve, even if its existence was the outcome of
the proverbial British state of unpreparedness. For what in the annals
of History has equalled the holocaust and chaos of modern warfare, of
which there was no precedent, of which everything has had to be learned
by the bitterest experience?

Three days before we left England, at the beginning of the fight for
Calais, which continues to grow more violent daily, a certain Major
N---- found himself in charge of the wounded who were being brought
down by the thousand in trains, and left helpless on their stretchers
by the quayside to await the arrival of the ever-busy hospital ships.

Already the C---- and I---- Hotels were _choc-à-bloc_ with wounded, who
lay so close together in the corridors that it was necessary to climb
over one stretcher to reach the next patient, and often stand astride
the pallets to dress the wounds.

The Casino was opened, but in less time than it takes to tell was as
crowded as the others.

A disused sugar shed, a vast wooden barn whose cracked cement floor is
piled high with dust, whose smashed glass roofing is besmirched with
dirt, is hardly an ideal site for a hospital, but it is the best thing
to hand, and the Major commandeered it, and here, before the lumber
had been cleared, before the glass had been repaired or the walls
whitewashed, the wounded began to tumble in. It wasn't much of a place,
but it was out of the torrential rain which had set in and bade fair to
continue, and it was less cold than the open air.

By day and night the orderlies worked, alternately preparing the place
and attending to the wounded. A solitary English girl who happened to
be on the spot had volunteered her services, and was doing her best
single-handed in the wards. One day the Major, walking on the quay, saw
some Red Cross nurses. They were the identical ones we had met on their
arrival from Paris. On hearing they were waiting for their orders, and
that they were all qualified women, he commandeered them, even as he
had commandeered his barn. Back they came to Headquarters to fetch more
assistance.

"Why don't you come too? It's a case of all hands aboard!" said one.
It was thus I came to work at the first clearing station at the base.
Such was the stationary hospital when, laden with all the loaves we
could carry to supplement the ration biscuits, we set to work in the
"casualty ward" this afternoon.

For the thousand wounded likely to come through daily there are six
fully-trained nurses and myself, besides the male staff of R.A.M.C.
doctors and orderlies, and two or three Red Cross surgeons and lady
doctors.

Ten beds and a number of sacks of straw form the main equipment.
Planks, supported by two packing-cases, are the dressing-table. At
one end men are engaged in putting in three extemporary baths, others
whitewashing the walls.


A boatload had just left for England as I came in, and we proceeded
to get a meal for those who remained. But it was a struggle to get
sufficient tea out of the orderlies, who had been working all night and
were dead beat. The men's delight at the bread and old newspapers we
had brought in was incredible.

Those who were able to, clustered round the solitary stove in the
centre. Great rough, bearded fellows, covered with mud from the
trenches in which they have lived for weeks, how different they look
from those who set out! The worst cases lay on their stretchers as they
had arrived. One said simply, as I took him his tea, "This is heaven,
Sister."

A tall, dark man entered--the C.O., someone said. "Take those two
Germans down to the boat," I heard him order. Then, turning to us,
"You'd better come to our mess-room and get some tea yourselves," he
said. "Four trainloads are expected in shortly."

We trooped into the small sanctum dignified by the name of "mess-room,"
where the Major's orderly was busy preparing tea on a Primus stove.
There was no milk, but the bitter black beverage out of the large tin
mugs was welcome none the less. Someone had secured a cake that we cut
with a sword as the cleanest thing present.

Next to the mess-room are the officers' quarters (into which we were
privileged to take one glance)--small whitewashed cubicles furnished
with a camp bed, a shaving-glass about three inches by six inches in
size, and an old sugar-box converted into a washstand.

Tea finished, we set to work to get "beds" ready for the next batch,
the first of the four trainloads expected. Ten bedsteads for a
thousand men! It sounds almost incredible, but it is nevertheless
true; and although we are told that more are expected at any moment, we
have only wooden pallets at present and a limited supply of blankets.
One to lie on, two for cover, a coat for a pillow was the order of the
day until a pile of mattresses came in.


_October 30th._ We worked till midnight and were on duty again by
7.30 this morning. From our billets to the hospital is nearly half an
hour's walk, which, over the rough cobblestones in the blinding rain,
is hardly attractive. At any rate, it has the advantage of clearing the
haunting smell of the gas-gangrene out of our nostrils. As we came on
duty this morning, laden with every old journal we could find, a huge,
burly Scotsman let himself down from the ambulance train. We gave him a
newspaper, but he was inclined to talk. He is the first man I've met so
far who has signified his longing to get back to the firing-line.

"While I've a limb left," he said, "I should like to have a pot at the
Germans. And I can fire my machine as well with two fingers as with
five--if they'll let me."

 [Illustration: AT AN IMPROVISED CASUALTY CLEARING STATION
 "This is Heaven, Sister!"]

The cause of his indignation was the mutilated corpse of a Red Cross
nurse they had found in a little village where the Germans had been.

"God knows how far they'd dragged her round with them, but she was
horribly mutilated," he said with a shiver. "I'm a big man, but our
major was bigger, yet neither of us could help choking. And can ye
wonder we want to get at 'em again?"

The worst part of the wounds is the fearful sepsis and the
impossibility of getting them anything like clean.

"First time I've had my boots off for seven weeks!" is the kind of
exclamation that recurs all day, as we literally cut them off. Hardly
any of the boots have been off for three weeks, with the result that
they seem glued on, whilst the feet are like iron, the nails like claws.

Some of the men have not had their wounds dressed since the first
field dressing was applied, for the simple reason that the rush on the
hospital trains makes it impossible to attend to any but the worst
cases, many of whom, as it is, are dying of hæmorrhage, accelerated by
the jolting on the journey.

There is no time to do anything but the dressings, and if we _did_ want
to wash the patients there is nothing but the red handkerchiefs we
hang round the lights for shades by night, for towels by day.

Water, especially boiling water, is at a premium, as it all has to be
fetched from outside where the veteran cook stokes hard all day in
the driving rain, ladling us out a modicum into each bowl from his
cauldrons.

"I never thought to see such sights," exclaimed a nurse of thirty
years' experience as a new trainload came in. But we have no time to
think of our own sensations.

Fingerless hands, lungs pierced, arms and legs pretty well gangrenous,
others already threatening tetanus (against which they are now
beginning to inoculate patients), mouths swollen beyond all recognition
with bullet shots, fractured femurs, shattered jaws, sightless eyes,
ugly scalp wounds; yet never a murmur, never a groan except in sleep.
As the men come in they fall on their pallets and doze until roused for
food.

A few are enraged to madness at the sight of a German.

"They fired on our Red Cross!" they cry. "Burnt every man alive! Why do
we treat them so well?"

Quite a number of prisoners who had been taken near Lille were brought
into the clearing station this morning. Being the only linguist
present, I was installed as interpreter. They were in a horrible state
of nerves, and asked when they were likely to be killed.

One of them was nastily peppered about the heart with shrapnel and
asked: "When shall we be shot?" I explained whilst dressing his wounds
that Britain is a civilised country, and, in contrast to the Huns, does
not hit a man when he is down. Never shall I forget the look of relief
on the man's face.

"They told us we'd be tortured if you got us!" he exclaimed.

Later on I was asked to send a card to his mother. It was difficult
to know what to say, but "Your son, though a prisoner and wounded, is
safe and being well cared for," seemed to meet the occasion. Suddenly
without a word he seized the scissors from my belt. Recalling tales of
vindictive prisoners, I stepped back. The precaution was unnecessary,
for the little Hun was only cutting a button off his coat pocket.

"Hier, Sie haben ja nichts genommen" ("Here, you have not taken
anything"), he exclaimed, Teuton boorishness veiling the kindliness as
he handed me the "souvenir."

A strangely human incident occurred a little later.

A group of Tommies were watching a Boche having a bayoneted hand
dressed. He spoke quite good English, but was apparently too frightened
to answer any of their sallies. Presently, however, he turned to me
with a request that he might be allowed to send a line to his wife to
say he was alive.

"'E's young to 'ave a wife, Sister," suggested a lame man, the
maintenance of whose large family apparently proved a burden to him.

"'Ow old are yer? _You?_" he added, addressing the prisoner.

The Hun pulled out an old letter-case and abstracted the portrait of a
pretty English-looking girl in a garden arbour.

"My vife," he exclaimed. "She has seventeen years, I nineteen. Ve was
married two days when I come away!"

In a moment the hostile crowd round him was turned to one of
sympathisers. "Poor beggar! After all, he probably doesn't want to
fight any more than we do," said the lame man.

 [Illustration: A WARD IN THE SUGAR-SHED CLEARING STATION]

"No," replied the prisoner, and all the racial antagonism of Saxon
versus Prussian showed itself in his words, "Ve Saxons not want war--ve
want peace--but they not ask us!"


_October 31st._ Who could believe, had they not seen for themselves,
the manifold horrors of war? The vermin, against which there is no
coping, vermin that in ordinary times one never saw. The men are alive
with them, so are we, a fact which necessitates a tremendous "search"
at every available opportunity. Even amputated limbs are found to be
crawling.

The girl who was working single-handed in this barn until we arrived
was walking along the quay yesterday when a feeble voice called her
from a stretcher. It was her brother. He died in the night, but she is
on duty all the same.

All day long the rush continues. The question "Shrapnel or bullet?"
rings incessantly in our ears as each man comes up to get his dressing
done.

One boy of nineteen had no fewer than six bullet wounds in one arm and
two in each leg. It took two of us an hour to dress his wounds, and
afterwards, as I washed his beardless face in response to a gentle
request, I could scarce refrain from sending up a prayer of gratitude
that my own brothers are dead and not mutilated like these boys.

Towards sunset I was called to the side of a youthful Saxon already
rigid with tetanus.

Through his clenched teeth he could still groan to the orderly's
command to lie still: "Ich kann nicht still liegen" ("I can't lie
still").

At seven o'clock (after nearly twelve hours' work) we went home to
dinner, and, it being our turn to take night shift, were back again
at our posts, with clean aprons and a satisfied inner man, two hours
later. The orderly officer called for any who had not yet had their
second anti-typhoid injection, and I, being one of them, was injected
on the spot.

During the long night, as we hurried from patient to patient in the
darkened cry-haunted ward, covering the restless sleeping figures,
moving them into more comfortable positions, with a prayer for each
one's mother, I could screw up no feeling of resentment towards the
dying Saxon boy, in spite of the cries of our men, but only against
that vile Prussianism that brought up its children to regard rapine
and slaughter as a divine necessity. By midnight things were quiet
enough to allow us to cut up dressings as best we might. By this time,
owing to there not being a chair in the place, I confess my legs were
almost giving way. Moreover, the injection took speedy effect, and a
stiffening arm and rising temperature do not facilitate work of this
kind. Frankly, I do not think any of us will ever be as busy again, and
our one prayer was for strength to "carry on." Many of the men were
tormented by coughs that kept the others awake. All we had to give
them was lukewarm water and the rinsings of a condensed milk tin. (For
euphony we called it "milk.")

Those who could not sleep for vermin lit cigarette after cigarette
until their supply ran out. At 2 A.M. we retired to the nurses'
"bunk"--a whitewashed, rat-ridden, ill-smelling partitioned
compartment, whose sole furniture consisted of two shelves--until
someone was inspired to fetch the "dressing-table" (two empty
boxes--oh, joy of joys! upon which we took it in turns to sit)--and
a coke fire, on which we boiled eggs for our midnight meal. Half-way
through my egg the orderly called me: "The prisoner can't last much
longer. Will you come and speak to him, Sister?" It seemed as if the
ward were one huge battlefield, for cries greeted me on all sides.
"Get at 'em, lads!" shouted the burly Scot in the corner as he urged
forward his comrades in his sleep. "Christ help us!" groaned an armless
dragoon, coming round from the anæsthetic.

I soothed the dying German as best I could when the awful spasms came,
and through his clenched teeth he signified the pain in the "kreuz"
(small of the back). What could I say but "Guter Junge--bleib still. Es
dauert nicht mehr lange!" ("Good boy--lie still. It will not last long
now!") With his remaining hand he pressed mine as I wiped the pouring
sweat from his brow. After all, suffering is a great leveller.

The orderly, an old South African campaigner, looked at the light that
began to flood the sky.

"They usually go West at this hour," he remarked grimly, with a
shudder. I shuddered too; the place was alive with spirits.

For a moment we seemed to hear the sigh of the departing, feel the
rushing of many wings as they brushed past. Then a gaunt, muffled
figure appeared at the door bearing a lantern, for all the world like a
hoary figure of "Time," and we awoke to reality.

"I've brought down a trainload," he said. "A round dozen of them are
urgent cases and must have beds."

Perforce we had to shift the sleeping forms on to the concrete floor,
all bruised and torn and bleeding though they were, cutting shorter
their all too short rest.

An officer was brought in wounded in the abdomen, but cheerfully
talking of getting home. He, too, passed away before eight o'clock.


From the nursing point of view the work is most unsatisfactory, as
disinfectants, to say nothing of dressings, are continually at low ebb.
To-day the iodine ran out. One of the surgeons came round and signified
his intention to dress a bad femur case. I had got together what things
I could when he called for iodine. There being none to be had, he
sighed resignedly, and with "Then we will leave the dressings for the
present," walked off, only to return an hour later with a quantity he
had found in the town.

Of course there can be no attempt at asepsis in a place so ill
ventilated, or, rather, not ventilated at all, for there are no side
windows, and, although the skylight is sufficient for lighting
purposes, the ventilation is effected by means of the excessively
draughty entrances.

It is distinctly unhealthy, and the odours in the place are
indescribable and never to be forgotten. There is no lavatory
accommodation--although latrines are situated along the quay, whither
the blind are led by the armless, the lame carried on orderlies' backs.

Refuse of all sorts that cannot be burned in the incinerator is
disposed of in the sea, and it is good to note that the sacks of straw
are being gradually replaced by _real_ beds and the supply of blankets
is greatly augmented.

Unsatisfactory, too, from the nursing point of view is the fact that
the men pass through the clearing station so rapidly that we seldom do
the same dressing twice; and though there _are_ days when, owing to
rough seas or overladen boats, we are able to watch the progress of the
patients, for the most part it is only the immovable cases that remain,
and the rest are hurried through, leaving one wondering how they will
get on.

Did I say _hurried_ through? There is no need to hurry the men who are
to go home, for no sooner is a boat announced than a general scramble
ensues, and they will leave their breakfast, clothing, even their
treasured trophies behind, in order not to be late.

"Just a bit of 'ome, and we'll be twice as strong for the next bit o'
fightin'," they say.

There follows the inspection of labels (for each man is labelled for
his destination: blue for England, yellow for Havre, white for a
convalescent depot), and sad indeed are the faces of those to whom the
medical officer has not vouchsafed the coveted blue ticket.


Just as day dawned, with a last spasm, more awful than the others, the
little Saxon prisoner died. As his close-clenched jaws relaxed the
orderly remarked: "Not bad-looking for a corpse, Sister; must have been
a pretty child!"

I asked for his corpse number, but it was not to be found. In my heart
I wished the boy's mother could have known he died well cared for.

It is all very primitive; we have no screens to hide what once was
mortal from the others.

We came off duty at 10 A.M., just as another batch of 1,100 men began
to arrive, and on our way home caught a glimpse of K. of K., who is
paying an incognito visit, as he stepped from a destroyer.



CHAPTER II

November, 1914


_November 1st._ It is impossible to keep note of the daily occurrences.
Things move too quickly out here--besides, if the spirit is willing the
flesh is very exhausted. Nevertheless, not for a moment do our spirits
flag; on the contrary, the worse things grow the more cheerful do we
become, the more determined to make the best of things. It is strange
that all the years we worked hard to amuse ourselves at home not one
brought an eighth of the satisfaction of _this_.

There is a wonderful dearth of utensils, though the store grows larger
daily. It is no infrequent occurrence to have to sally out to the
nearest chemist to buy air cushions, eye baths, etc., as they are
required.

Night, and the wards are full. Another train disgorges its burden. The
stretcher cases have to remain on stretchers. The walking cases are
huddled round the stove, extended on the concrete, their blood-stained,
bug-ridden greatcoats for coverings.

Without, for a moment the rain has ceased, and in the clear night the
moon smiles peacefully over the silver, gleaming sea.

What a contrast to the scene within! The restless figures of the
wounded--the busy nurses.

Everyone is exhausted, for it is an almost superhuman task for seven
women to tackle by day and by night; but they say the Army Nursing
Service will be here in sufficient numbers soon. The lady doctors have
been invaluable, their zeal unflagging. They are splendid operators,
and in the midst of the worst rushes never careless. Besides their work
here they spend much time at the "Women's Hospital" at a château some
three miles out of Boulogne, where everything is run by volunteer women
workers, who act as doctors, nurses, orderlies and quartermasters.

The theatre looks quite smart, with the large sterilisers that have
been installed and the operating table. What tales those whitewashed
walls could tell!

Will those who are knitting away at home ever realise the value of
their own handiwork, I wonder?

If they could but see the eager faces of the men as the meagre stores
are issued, and they receive those ill-fitting coats, and socks, and
card-board-footed shoes (the nightingales they one and all disdain);
could they for a single moment glance at the contented expression of
the "movable cases" as they wriggle out of their creeping shirts, so
torn, so stiff with congealed blood and stained with Flanders mud,
into garments that are both soft and warm, all those hours of patient
knitting would be well rewarded; they would know they are not labouring
in vain.

In spite of the so-called "Red Cross Store Room" that is being
replenished daily by stock drawn from all sources, of course there
aren't enough things to go round, and although we grouse at the wise
quartermaster's inquiries as to whether each article we need is an
imperative necessity or not, in our heart of hearts we know him to be
in the right.

 [Illustration: EXTEMPORISED OPERATING THEATRE AT A CLEARING STATION
 "The theatre looks quite smart with the huge sterilisers that have been
 installed and the operating table"]

A strange thing happened to-day. A man came in with a badly shattered
forearm. I dressed it myself, and can vouch for the fact that in
other respects he seemed fit enough.

Not long afterwards one of his companions disengaged himself from the
group by the stove and came to me, saying: "Sister, that man has gone
blind suddenly."

I remarked it must be nonsense, and told him to go to sleep.
Nevertheless, on passing a light before the other man's eyes there
was never a flicker. He was blind, as the medical officer can vouch;
whether it is temporary or not we shall never know, for the cases pass
through so quickly.


_November 2nd._ Someone has been asked to volunteer to run the military
baths. I, being the one whose work in hospital must be of least value,
naturally did so, and was accepted.


_November 3rd._ Most of the men are very subdued, and either loath to
talk of what they have been through or ultra-full of reminiscences,
many of which have to be taken with a grain of salt.

A large percentage of them stammer or have developed a nervous
impediment in their speech, owing, no doubt, to the strain of the past
months; and this is very often the case in Territorial regiments, whose
members were accustomed to a more or less easy life in peace time.

Quite a number of the London Scottish--whose "charge" has been so
boomed by the daily papers as a proof of the efficiency of the
Territorial Army--are coming down now. They are very annoyed and very
ashamed of the fuss that has been made of them.

"We only did what is done by one regiment or another every day," they
said, "and now we hardly like to show our faces for the ridicule that
must be cast upon us by the Regulars, who have seen ten times as much
fighting and never been mentioned at all."

The "dum-dum" lie is no lie at all. Anyone who has seen the strangely
mutilated limbs can vouch for that. In one case the bullet passed clean
through one leg and exploded in the other. Bah! the smell of the gas
gangrene--shall we ever forget it?

We hear many tales about the Germans from the men. Devoid of honour,
they train machine-guns on ambulances, and accredit us with the same
devilish tricks. One French civilian ambulance unit was totally
destroyed a few days back, and wounded, surgeons, stretcher-bearers and
nurses alike were blown to atoms.


_November 7th._ I am now installed as "Lady Superintendent of Military
Baths," an entirely new post!

The scene of my activities is the public baths in the Rue des
Vieillards, that have been rented from the old proprietress. With six
orderlies to do the rough work--the washing of towels, the cleaning of
the twenty baths, and my own spacious office in which to do the men's
dressings--things are cheerful enough.

About 100 men come through each day--the convalescents in the morning,
so that the whole forenoon is taken up with dressings.

The difficulties at first were many, a fact which considerably enhanced
the joy of the work.

1. To get the place clean was a veritable _chef-d'oeuvre_.

2. Drawing things from the Ordnance is no easy matter. One must not buy
what may be drawn; and as I have no notion of what can be drawn there
is often considerable delay.

3. Persuading the orderlies that water for dressings must be boiled,
and not lukewarm, is likewise far from easy.

The days are no longer so strenuous. I arrive at eight to see that the
men are getting on with their work, cut up dressings, leave out and
mark towels until ten o'clock, when the convalescents begin to arrive.

By 3.30 I am able to go down to the clearing station to write letters
for the helpless.

To-day a man who was brought in with a badly fractured pelvis dictated
one to his brother. It ran:

 "DEAR GEORGE,--After going through all the big battles of Mons, the
 Marne and the Aisne, I am sad to say I've got hit at last, but hope
 soon to be home with you all. I'm glad to know you've joined to be a
 soldier, and hope soon to hear you're helping in the fight."

"It isn't true, Sister," he added; "but perhaps it will help him
through, poor fellow--if I die!"

Needless to say, none of the hospital personnel have time to sandwich
letter-writing for the men in between their medical work, and civilian
help is welcome in this matter.

No one who has not seen the intricacies of the office work of a large
military hospital can have the least conception what an amount of
forethought, what a number of clerks are involved. The distribution
of the wounded into the different wards, the notification and
specification of each case--each is an art in itself. Whilst in the
quartermaster's domain the drawing of rations for an elastic number of
patients, ranging each meal from 50 to 400, is wellnigh stupendous.

And although we who know nothing of these matters have often laughed
at the theoretical red tape of the Army, there is no denying that, in
working order, it is a thing to be venerated rather than scoffed at.


_November 8th, On the Ramparts of Boulogne._ After the hush of the
unornamental cathedral the soft autumn breezes out here are refreshing.
Even in the well ventilated baths the pungent smell of segregated
humanity permeates. What a strange place is Boulogne now, the city of
hospitals, every hotel a hospital, every road thronged with troops and
nurses!

Yesterday I had a slight fracas with my corporal, a nice but utterly
untrained boy, who has a way of wandering into the office, cigarette
in mouth.

Now, there is no law in the Army, so far as I can make out, that
compels an orderly to pay the slightest respect toward a nurse. He must
stand at attention when addressed by a junior subaltern, but may loll
and smoke at his ease whilst taking a nursing sister's orders. Thus
it seems that from time immemorial a slight antagonism has reigned,
for the men are apt to take advantage of a woman, who, unless she have
infinite tact, often enough finds things hard.

However, after two cups of black coffee to give me the requisite
courage, I faced the little difficulty boldly. "Corporal," I suggested,
"it doesn't matter what you do outside, but I would rather you didn't
smoke in the office. You set the example to the others, who are
beginning to turn the office into a sort of smoking-room. Besides, it
isn't usual in the Service, is it?"

There was an awkward silence, as the poor boy blushed and grunted. Then
I changed the subject, and think all will be well, for though surly in
manner he is most anxious to please.

One afternoon I was asked to go and speak to some prisoners at the
Imperial (No. ---- General Hospital), where Miss A---- is now working. A
young "Freiwillige" of 19 immediately inquired: "What about Paris?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, astonished.

"When did we take it?" was the somewhat surprising reply.

On the whole, in spite of the rigorous discipline that makes it
necessary for German officers to go behind their men to save their
own skins and goad on their victims; in spite of the fact that they
seem to be treated like cattle and have been found chained to their
machine-guns, as a whole (and probably as the outcome of the patriotism
that is inculcated into every German from his earliest days) they seem
loyal to their superiors; and, relieved though they appear at being
captured, are not garrulous on the score of the reign of terrorism
from which they have escaped. For not the most warlike can covet the
privilege of being driven in massed formation, over heaped-up corpses,
into the face of the enemy's fire that literally mows them down like
hay. It turns even our own machine-gun men sick.

As we were about to turn in, ten funerals went up without even an
escort, as the R.A.M.C. orderlies are too engrossed with their duties
towards the living to be spared.

So die the flower of English manhood! Buried in their deal boards in
French clay, with only a French grave-digger or two and a cluster of
children playing round the massive gates to see them to their last
resting-place.

Well might the bells of Shoreditch peal, muffled, on All Saints' Day!


_November 9th._ The autumn leaves are falling. Before me sit a group
of convalescents in the courtyard, basking in what there is of mellow
sunlight--awaiting their turn for baths. To say they look dejected
is too mild. There is a look of weariness in their eyes that appals
one. There is no mistaking a man from the front. They all have it--the
trench-haunted look.

"Any man who says he _wants_ to go back is a liar," say most. "It isn't
fighting; it's murder, you see." And one is left all the more astounded
at the heroism with which they face the inevitable when it comes to
returning to the front, the unanimity of their: "Are we down-hearted?
_Never!_" as they march off.

On the whole there is wonderfully little "swinging the lead" or
"dodging the column," as the men themselves call malingering; and
though some of the medical officers were apt to look upon the early
cases of trench feet as much ado about nothing, it has since been found
that the acutest pain is often present when all swelling has subsided.

It is a relief to get back in the evenings to the society of the
nurses. Many of them already look knocked up. "Fifty patients on my
floor, and only two orderlies," says one. And at home thousands of
trained workers are waiting for work.

We often wonder that no use is made of the members of the Voluntary Aid
Detachments as probationers under the trained nurses. True, in their
present stage of efficiency (or inefficiency, for what are a number
of first-aid lectures or stretcher drills as compared with the real
hospital training?) many of them might prove more of a hindrance than
a help in an emergency. Nevertheless, they could be of as much use as
probationers out here--where, everything having been improvised, the
inconveniences necessitate much extra labour--as they could be at home.

It is ridiculous to imagine that V.A.D.'s, with their theoretical
experience, are competent to run hospitals by themselves; it is
equally ridiculous to allow the valuable qualified nurses to run
themselves to death, doing jobs an untrained woman can do, instead
of utilising the many eager workers willing to take over the menial
work.[A]

It will not be hard to sift the wheat from the chaff, the seekers after
sensation from the genuine workers. For there is no romance in the work
of a hospital, no jaunts to battlefields bearing cups of water to the
dying, no soothing of pillows and holding the hands of patients; but
ten to twelve hours each day occupied in the accomplishment of tasks so
menial that one would hesitate to ask a servant to perform them.

[A] This has since been done, and members of Voluntary Aid Detachments
are now used extensively in France as probationers in military
hospitals where they come under direct War Office control.


_November 10th._ We awaken to bugle calls, we fall asleep to the sound
of tramping feet. Oh, that long weary high road into the jaws of death!
The sudden evacuation of Boulogne seems less imminent now than it did,
though the German advance on Calais continues. Now that England has
declared war on Turkey, we realise how little of the big scheme of
things we see in our niche. Sometimes, between waking and sleeping,
a vision of home comes back to me, of soft carpets and steaming hot
baths, and everywhere clean linen and creature comforts and ease. After
all, I should like to end my days as I began them--in luxury.


_November 11th._ No wonder Boulogne is full to overflowing. No wonder
the little out-of-the-way cafés have taken on something of the glamour
and _éclat_ of Rumpelmayer or the Ritz. No wonder everyone who can
afford to be is in France. One feels it in the air, it is the Real
Thing; one is no longer a looker-on, but a moving factor of things who
can afford to pity those at home whose activities have not yet had
occasion to be called into play.

The town itself consists of the Haute Ville enclosed by massive
thirteenth century ramparts flanked by round towers, whose history for
years centred round Godfrey de Bouillon, and the four celebrated gates
(Porte Gayole, Porte des Dunes, Porte de Calais and Porte des Degrés).
Crowning all stands the Cathédrale de Notre Dame, whose dome from the
distance, whether viewed from the town or the environing country,
brings back faint remembrances of St. Peter's in the Holy City.

There is nothing of great artistic interest or value to be found
within (unless it be the seventh century antiquities in the crypt), but
the spirit of earnest devotion that characterises all Catholic places
of worship, uniting every worshipper and raising the lowliest edifice
to equality with the most ambitious building, is more marked here than
in any church I have yet visited. The reverence of the bare-headed
peasants, holding up their woollen shawls as coverings for their heads,
of the shambling wounded, of the smart _mondaines_, is alike worthy
of those Russian allies who recognise no sin greater than lack of
veneration to their God.

The legend of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Boulogne, as
depicted in a picture over the altar of the chapel in the cathedral,
dates back to the year 636. In that year a strange boat, radiating with
light, was seen to enter the harbour, propelled by some miraculous
power and devoid of sailors or pilot. When the excited population
reached the shore it was to find on the bridge of the barque a
beautifully carved image of the Holy Virgin carrying the infant Jesus,
beside which lay a silver-bound copy of the Scriptures.

Over the spot that marked the miraculous image's first resting-place in
the Haute Ville the oft-destroyed cathedral has grown, and although,
after many vicissitudes, the Holy Statue was finally destroyed during
the eighteenth century Reign of Terror, many are the pilgrimages still
made to the solitary relic of the holy image--a hand that was cut off
prior to the burning, which is preserved in a gilt heart, suspended
from the new statue.

The fame of its miracles spread abroad so widely that not only did
kings and princes hasten to pay homage, but some unscrupulous priests
at St. Cloud attracted large numbers of pilgrims by trafficking in the
public faith and maintaining that _they_ were in possession of the
miraculous statue. Hence the name of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, and
the fact that the image is known as Our Lady of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Beyond Notre Dame runs the Calais--St. Omer road which has seen so much
bloody traffic in the past and may see so much more in a few days.

Guns, ammunition convoys and ambulances rumble along it ceaselessly by
day and night, pausing only to answer the challenge of the sentries
posted at intervals at every cross-road of importance. The ruined
Jesuit monastery lies along this road, alive with wounded Indians, who,
when convalescent, are shifted into the outlying tents that form the
Convalescent Depot.

Only about one mile away on the same road stands the Colonne de la
Grande Armée, that huge Doric column surmounted by the figure of
Napoleon, erected to commemorate the expedition against England and
commenced 110 years ago, when Marshal Soult (as the inscription on the
base tells us) laid the first stone in the presence of the whole army.

Walking townwards one comes across the fisher village built in
tier upon tier of squalid, unsanitated streets, as odorous as the
Naples of ten years ago--and as picturesque; and pinnacled by St.
Pierre-des-Marins, whose lofty fourteenth century Gothic spire is one
of the few architectural beauties to be found here, and whose interior,
so full of votive offerings, witnesses the toll of _matelot_ lives
exacted yearly by the sea from those who would snatch their living from
her.

Crowning all stands the revered Calvary to which all wise fishermen
pray as they sail in and out of the harbour.

 [Illustration: "THE REVERED CALVARY TO WHICH ALL WISE FISHERMEN PRAY"]

From here the panorama of the whole place is laid bare, the _jetées_,
the coast, the Gare Maritime, the Bassin Loubet, the River Liane
winding in and out of the valley and losing itself finally in the
mists; and nearer, the gay flower-market and the Halle des Poissons,
where the vendors, almost as soon as the nets of herrings are unladen,
are rid of what fish they can get in these troublous times, when every
man who is not fighting is trawling for mines.


_November 12th._ As I sit beside the dying embers of my office fire, in
which great valleys and gorges are discernible in the glowing coal and
a mountainous summit capped by a fairy castle, I wonder what happiness
there is to equal the fireside that one has earned oneself.

It might almost be home (after all, all fires, like all winds and
sunshine, or thunder and rain, are consolingly the same!), only instead
of soft pile carpets and arm-chairs I have a packing-case for seat
and an inverted saucepan on my knee for table. Instead of flowers,
the trestled table is adorned with bandages and bottles of lotion and
packets of dressings.

Instead of a gong to announce "dressing time," and soft _décolletée_
frocks donned before long mirrors, and well-appointed dining-tables
and the announcement that "Dinner is served," there are only the
promptings of my hungry inside to tell me mealtime is due, and it would
be as well to scrub up, remove the mackintosh apron, and smooth my hair
under the unbecoming white cap before the dinner is gobbled up!

Yet, until one has worked five hours to earn five minutes' rest, one
does not know the meaning of leisure.

Until one has felt the clinging of the helpless hand, or run to the
call of a feeble voice, one does not know the greatest of all joys--the
joy of service.

The rapidity with which the Gare Maritime Hospital is developing
is marvellous. Instead of wallowing to our ankles in a slush of
disinfectant and rain-water, the wards are well swept, with two strips
of cheery red carpet on either side. Instead of boards and blankets,
some 200 real beds have been installed, with sheets of coarse calico
and pillows. Instead of empty crates (and those at a premium) there are
chairs, whilst towels supplant the red handkerchiefs which now hang
desolately from the lamps by night _and_ day.

Just at present the casualty ward, in which an emergency operation
theatre has been opened, is lying empty, so are the other wards. One
wonders why? The truth is, things are looking fairly bad. The enemy
is only forty-five miles from Calais and still presses on to the goal.
There is a rumour that the Germans are through the lines everywhere,
that we have no men to send (though the French are supposed to be
reinforcing) until the 8th Division of "K's" untrained army comes out,
and the evacuation of Boulogne is imminent. We are told to be prepared
to leave at a minute's notice, for once through the lines the enemy can
march here unmolested. Despite the violent storm, all the wounded whom
it is possible to move have been sent home (an ominous fact, for their
removal should betoken an advance on our part), and still the ambulance
trains come back from the front empty. A pestilential battle rages at
Arras; Dixmude has fallen (yes, several of the Censor's censors have
been dismissed for letting us know this!) A hundred questions assail
us. Will the hopeless cases have to be left behind? What will be done
to the many millions' worth of stores in this spy-ridden place?

Heaven knows! We can but "wait and see."

We are lost in amazement at the lukewarmness of the masses at home who
do not seem to realise the significance of this move.

But let me return to No. ---- Stationary Hospital, where the staff is
greatly augmented and Army nurses work side by side with those of the
Red Cross.

If there is some slight friction between the two it is easily
understood, for how can the newly arrived Army sisters be expected to
find in a dirty, evil-smelling barn anything but the violation of all
the laws of hygiene? Whereas to those Red Cross sisters, who have built
it up with their life's blood, so to speak, who have watched it evolve
under their weary fingers, it is a place of supreme beauty and first
importance.

If there is some slight friction amongst the authorities, too, it is
soon explained. For it is as much the duty of the Red Cross to cherish
its own rights as it is for the Army to centralise and control, at a
time like this, every existing institution to prevent the misuse of
public funds.

Both are in the right.

At home no one seemed quite to realise the exact position of the Red
Cross and the various Army medical services. Out here, except that
a distinct antagonism between the two organisations prevails, the
position is equally vague.

The British Red Cross Society and the St. John Ambulance Association
were originally formed to supplement the requirements of the military
and naval medical services in war time, thus obviating the expense
of keeping up an exceptionally large staff in days of peace. On this
understanding the War Office took nominal control of the various
B.R.C.S. enterprises, supervising the First Aid examinations and
keeping a register of all its members. The value of that registration
of B.R.C.S. members by the War Office is not quite obvious at present,
for the War Office appears to disclaim all responsibility for the Red
Cross. There are even rumours that a large portion of its personnel is
to be greatly reduced and eventually sent from the base. In fact, no
one's work or position is clearly defined.

The work of the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Nursing Service,
"Q.A.I.M.N.S.," Reserve, Indian and Territorial, was well defined
enough. Field ambulances, clearing stations, stationary hospitals
(so-called because they are movable!) and base hospitals were
their sphere, and vaguely it was understood that the Voluntary Aid
Detachments were destined for use with the Territorial Forces.

Then, when at the outbreak of hostilities there came the call for more
workers, many doctors and fully-trained nurses, anxious to get to that
mysterious and alluring unknown, the Front, threw up their good posts
and sold their patiently built-up practices in order to join the Red
Cross.

Many of them are already regretting their impetuousness. Not only the
members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments, who have hitherto played at
work under War Office supervision and with War Office sanction, but the
much-needed trained nurses and doctors (many of them specialists of
the first order) find themselves somewhat shelved, oftentimes deprived
of the best surgical work by those of their juniors who had had the
foresight or good luck to join the Reserve or Territorials instead of
a volunteer concern whose position is, as yet, indefinite and whose
scope, so far, limited. Many even find themselves on the Reserve Staff
and waiting for work. A certain restlessness that prevails amongst
these is easily explained, for it is not always possible to console
oneself with the idea that inaction is merely a respite and preparation
for the next call upon one's energies, when that call is lying all
around in understaffed hospitals.


_November 13th._ Perhaps it was the unconquerable instinct to help lame
dogs over stiles that prompted the Matron to ask after some German
literature for a prisoner whose two legs had been amputated. I, as
linguist and jack-of-all-trades, was deputed to forage for Hun books,
and, for the first time, found my conversance with the language a
matter of embarrassment rather than of pride.

As I entered the French bookseller's, and asked for what I wanted, the
girl eyed me with suspicion. Then, "We are not pro-German," she said
with _hauteur_.

Fearful to return, my mission unaccomplished, I tried shop after shop.

"You can climb on that ladder and see for yourself," said a young girl,
pointing to a high ladder and daring me up it with her scornful eyes. I
unearthed and returned with an old paper-backed novel for the prisoner,
with a heavy heart, wondering if I was unpatriotic to have carried out
my orders--but the legless man had died in the meantime.

Such is the spirit of France--vengeance on a ruthless, untrustworthy
enemy.

Such the spirit of England, maybe hyper-quixotic--never to hit a man
when he is down.


_November 15th._ Last night Lord Roberts died. The little wrinkled old
man, who only a week ago was in our midst, walking round our wards,
cheering on the wounded, encouraging the Indians, has finished as he
began, in the sphere of action.


_November 17th._ This morning the mail boat is accompanied by six
French destroyers. In the town all flags are flying half-mast; in the
station are massed guards, French, English, Indian. The Sikhs are
fine-looking specimens of humanity, and objects of great interest to
the peasants who crowd round exchanging souvenirs. The smaller hillmen
look as if they would be very formidable foes, though at present many
of them lie curled up asleep on sacks, and covered with sacks, as
peacefully as children.


_Later._ After the coffin of the great little man, who has, alas! lived
to see his worst fears for his country realised, had been borne on
board, we went to look at the armoured train that is in hospital. A
strange, formidable-looking thing, too, is this vehicle of destruction,
daubed with many-hued, very futuristic patches, and guarded by
sentries.

 [Illustration: LORD ROBERTS'S FUNERAL: THE SCENE ON THE QUAY]

A large legend announced the train's destination as "Berlin," whilst
great guns, daubed with their appropriate names, "Homeless Hector" and
"Weary Willie," pointed their inquiring noses innocuously at the sky.

This, we were told, was the armoured train which, under Commander
Samson's guidance, played such havoc with the enemy and caused the
Kaiser to put a price worth having on that gallant officer's head.


_November 23rd._ The baths closed most suddenly and unexpectedly last
night. The owners' exorbitant demands for money--damages for towels
which we have not even used, walls, ceilings, windows, etc., that are
in the same good repair as when we came--have made it imperative to
commandeer the place or, to avoid friction and expense, erect new ones.

After the Major and his interpreter driver (a dentist who volunteered
his services) had spent nearly two hours haranguing Madame and her
_homme d'affaires_, we cleared the place out.

Snow fell for the first time during the night, and it is freezing so
hard this morning that the hot water thrown over the stones outside
for cleansing purposes becomes ice at once.

Having a free day, I explored the place from Le Portel, the quaint
little fishing village where fishwives, with their wide, hooped skirts,
their quaint poke bonnets or characteristic snowy white headgear and
clogs, predominate, to the St. Pierre quarter, cobbled like the new
town itself, but built in tier after tier of terraces, characterised by
an indescribable, if picturesque, squalor and dirt.

Everywhere we are followed by children begging for "souvenirs." I
wonder what the state of our clothes would be had we cut off a uniform
button for each one who asked!

The tide is high up over the front to-day. Ambulances and cars are held
up on the Wimereux road. It is a wonderful sight, the big waves rolling
over the main road, whilst venturesome drivers who run the gauntlet
find their cars immovable in three feet of water and subject to the
ungentle washing of the sea.

 [Illustration: AMBULANCES HELD UP BY THE HIGH TIDE]


_November 24th._ Being on night duty with a private patient who is
so restless that neither of us gets a minute's peace, I am having an
excellent opportunity of observing things as they are; and, after
all, there is plenty to be noted that will never be brought to light.


_November 29th._ In the morning when one comes off duty, full of
anticipation of the exhilarating morning walk, the joy of the clear,
cold sea air, there are usually plenty of odd jobs to be done. At
present we are engaged in making sandbags for those hospitals which are
destitute of them. In this we have the assistance of two small French
Boy Scouts who, having noticed us staggering under the load of our
baskets, volunteered to find a wheelbarrow and bring us up a certain
quantity of sand every morning.



CHAPTER III

December, 1914


_December 2nd_. They say that the Germans have been finally driven
back, that our men are enjoying a rest from the trenches, that many
officers have gone home on forty-eight hours' leave.

Converted motor-buses with boarded windows, all of steel-grey hue, come
down with loads of cheery though exhausted men on their way home.

Most of the cases in hospital are now medical, rheumatism and the
newest disease, "trench feet," which was at first identified as
frost-bite. Each medical officer has a different method for treating
it. Most wrap the limbs in cotton-wool, but the agony the men go
through whilst "thawing" is awful. Many feet are already gangrenous and
have to be amputated.

They are again clearing out, which leads us to expect a big battle.

Rumour has it that Belgrade has fallen to the Austrians.


_December 6th._ Yesterday morning, having for some weeks back collected
with great avidity all kinds of comforts for the men, I took my goods
up to the convalescent camp that stands on the hill by the Calais road.
We obtained a lift in an ambulance and wallowed in the indescribable
mud at the camp. It had been a frightful night. Hail, wind, thunder,
lightning, blinding rain--the elements let loose! Several of the tents
were down, and the men shivered as they ambled about their light
fatigue work. The condition of the convalescents is pitiable. They
grabbed things like so many wild beasts; indeed, they had the look of
weary wild beasts in their eyes.

I don't know which were the more acceptable--cigarettes or old papers.
The former to soothe their racked nerves and warm them up in the
tempestuous weather, the latter to divert their attention, momentarily
at least, from their own sufferings. Undoubtedly the illustrated
journals are most useful. The men seem unable to concentrate their
attention on anything not pictorial.

We took them knitted things too--and even our own body belts and gloves
were requisitioned in the vain effort to make our gifts go round,
and we came home with hands stiff with cold.


_December 8th._ In the afternoon we were allowed a glimpse at the
Indian camp, where, after seeing the wards, conspicuous for their
neatness and order and the lack of nurses (all Indian hospitals are
staffed, needless to say, by orderlies), we were entertained for tea in
the officers' mess.

It was a picturesque sight, that tent lighted by two smoky oil-lamps,
by the light of which four doctors were playing cards as we entered.

As we sat over the camp fire of glowing coals in a perforated bucket
such as night watchmen warm their hands by in the raw London mornings,
a sudden squall arose, threatening to bring the tent down. One felt
like part of an Arctic expedition at the overhead crash, the icy blast,
and could not help surmising as to the thoughts of the Indians at the
caprices of the European climate as their great, wistful eyes rested on
the barren fields.

The tales of their pluck, recuperative powers, and apparent
imperviousness to pain are astounding. The medical officers told us
that it is almost impossible to keep them in bed. No sooner are they
round from an anæsthetic than they are up and smoking, quite oblivious
of an amputated limb!


_December 12th, 2 a.m._ A dark, starless morning, and we have just
arrived back from Dunkirk. The road to Calais, when we left twelve
hours ago, was fairly plain sailing.

There were the barriers to pass (some fifteen between Boulogne and
Dunkirk) where the "laissez-passer," describing car, occupants,
destination and object of visit, etc., has to be shown; and in between
we scorched along at top speed, thankful for the fact that there is no
speed limit in France, and getting frozen through and through despite
our furs and rugs.

After Calais things grew more interesting. For the first time
entrenchments, barbed-wire defences and guns hove in sight, whilst here
and there the desolate stretches of country were relieved by figures
against the skyline--old women working in the fields, or a solitary
picket of soldiers.

We drew into Dunkirk about four o'clock; each of us had different
business to transact; the four men on Red Cross work, I on a visit to
Lady S----, in charge of a Belgian hospital.

Incidentally, there were the streets and houses to visit, destroyed
only yesterday by German bombs. A miserable spectacle they were, the
skeleton ruins in the pouring rain; no less miserable-looking than we,
covered in the thick Flanders mud that defied all efforts to keep it
out of the car.

It was almost dinner-time when we found ourselves at the C---- Hotel,
and, whilst the men were sipping their vermouth, we noticed a man
busily engaged in what _seemed_ to be letter- but what _proved_ to
be leader-writing. He introduced himself as C----, the _Daily Mail_
correspondent whose articles adorn the central pages of that paper.

Truly the path of the war correspondents of to-day lies along no bed of
roses! Eyed with suspicion by the authorities, forced to change their
abode daily, they lead the life of veritable refugees.

The dining-room was a fine sight, as by degrees it filled up, each
table resplendent with Belgian, French or British uniforms; and we were
loath to leave the warm hotel for the blinding rain without. Whilst
waiting for the car Mr. C---- entertained us at the piano; anything we
asked for he played--rag-time, opera, comedy, classical music. And the
last sound, rendered more beautiful by means of his exquisite touch,
that greeted us as we passed into the night was the haunting Barcarolle
from the _Tales of Hoffmann_.

It was at Gravelines that we lost our way, at about ten o'clock. It
was pitch dark. Nowhere a light visible, only the powerful acetylene
headlamps of the car. We tried to find the main road and instead found
ourselves back in the town. We made another effort, but failed. We
aroused the inhabitants of a house where there seemed to be a red glow
behind the closed shutters.

"Tout droit," they told us.

We went "tout droit," and found ourselves back again. We fetched out
the proprietor of a hopeful-looking bar.

"Tout droit," he said. This time we ran into a barrier, and only just
escaped being shot by the Belgian sentry.

"Back into the town--and tout droit," were his directions. We got
back. There seemed no difficulty about _that_. We hammered in vain
at a door. Judging by the noise, we succeeded in arousing every dog
in the neighbourhood, but not a human being came to our rescue. More
wild spurts! Yet it was not until some two hours later that we found
ourselves on a broad road, which proved to be the right one. But our
troubles were not at an end even then, for the driver, by this time,
was in such a state of exasperation that he vowed nothing in the world
would persuade him to go farther than Calais. "It's like driving in
the sea!" he grumbled, as in truth it was, for the mud was literally
flowing over the floor of the car, and our condition was indescribable.

Eventually, by means of much persuasion, not untinged by bribery,
he was prevailed upon to finish the journey, throughout which he
maintained for the most part a surly silence, interpolated only by
semi-audible remarks about the folly of English people who _would_
travel in all weathers.


_December 13th._ It is now necessary for every worker in the hospitals
to have a permit. It is time, too, for many are the rumours of spies
who have crept in and gleaned valuable information from the wounded.

A word about the position of volunteer workers. There is no denying
that in the early days, before the staff of the Army hospitals was up
to the full strength required by the extraordinary demands of modern
warfare, they did an immense amount of good. But a plea must be put in
for the central organisation, which has been effected so wonderfully by
those in charge.

One by one the hospitals run by well-meaning but little experienced
women are vanishing or coming under War Office control. One by one
free-lance workers brought to the scene of action by motives of
patriotism or curiosity are being banished to their proper sphere or
sent home.

It is very hard on them, one realises, after they have given so much,
yet, hard though it may be, it is but one of the lesser evils of war.

The position of those members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments still
here is precarious to the last degree.

They have been relegated to rest station and canteen work where, in
the disused railway trucks they have rigged out so well as kitchens
and emergency dressing-rooms, they administer to the wounded on the
trains by day and night, veritable angels of mercy, as the men say. Yet
none of them is allowed to do hospital work. One cannot help wondering
that the authorities do not utilise them as probationers under trained
nurses instead of using up the strength of the qualified workers in
menial jobs. But apparently the law out here is "scrap and discard,"
which may be a good motto for Ford cars, but seems somewhat hard on
human beings.


_December 17th._ The news of the bombardment of Scarborough, the
wholesale slaughter of women and children, which has just come through,
must be greatly gratifying to the Germans!

We wonder if it will bring the reality of war home to the people of
England.


_December 18th._ The craving for music, for something to relieve the
tension, is almost unbearable. Fortunately, the French attitude towards
piano playing has slightly relaxed lately; they no longer stand agape
at the idea of overwrought nurses enjoying a few simple songs, and
we have been able to hire some well-worn copies of popular tunes to
strum on the exceedingly out-of-tune piano. What we lack in music we
are repaid for by the picturesqueness of Boulogne. Here stand a batch
of khaki Tommies surrounded by an admiring group of French children.
"Eengleesh soldyer," they cry gleefully, clinging to the men's arms and
not to be moved until some souvenir has been obtained, a button, a hat
badge, a cigarette-end. Along the front, the incessant tramp of feet by
day and night, recruits, young conscripts full of life and enthusiasm,
squads of more sombre men who have already received their baptism of
fire, trams laden with Army and Red Cross nurses, the former in their
ugly red capes so successfully devised by Florence Nightingale to hide
the human form divine.

The stormy nights, too, are very beautiful, when one may watch the
searchlights catching the crested waves, until the sea seems alight
with a myriad lightships.

The papers tell us of the appointment of Prince Hussein Kamel Pasha as
Sultan of Egypt. It seems such a wonderfully clever diplomatic coup
that it drives all thoughts of our surroundings from our minds.


_December 19th._ _Such_ a pretty kettle of fish! and one which nothing
but a miracle can remedy. No doubt in every big enterprise there are
to be found unscrupulous men who, in default of a supervising and
restraining hand, will omit to administer public funds with the same
thrift that they would their own. Thus, in reply to accusations of
extravagance levelled at the Society, the British Red Cross in Boulogne
have decided to retrench. Alas! that the originators of the scheme have
no sense of humour or justice.

In spite of the fact that the nurses are the only people who are
working at anything like full pressure out here, they have received
a notice that calmly brushes aside the very one-sided six months'
contract under which they came out (for, unlike the Army Nursing
Sisters who, besides their pay, receive allowances and war gratuities
after active service, sick pay if their health is impaired, and a
pension if disabled, the British Red Cross nurses agreed to demand no
redress if disabled on active service), to the effect that on January
1st the Joint War Committee has decided to lower their fees from £2 2s.
to the unprofessional sum of £1, and those who are not agreeable to
this breach of contract may consider themselves dismissed.

Thus, at the New Year, 300 fully trained women, most of whom have
relinquished highly responsible positions in order to come out, are
faced with the alternative of accepting barely a living wage (for £1
minus 7-1/2 per cent. and 10 per cent. co-operating percentage and
minor weekly expenses is little enough for those who have the future to
consider), or returning home, only to find their posts filled.

The arguments for this breach of contract are specious though
unconvincing, the reasons given being:

1. "A desire to have as much as possible available for the sick and
wounded."

2. "To remove the 'injustice' from the St. John nurses, who have in the
past been receiving less than one-half the salary paid to other nurses."

But then, why did the authorities draw up a contract by which the Red
Cross refused voluntary workers, whilst the Order of St. John accepted
gratuitous services from those who could afford to render them? Yes,
both the arguments are excellent; but one cannot help asking why the
small body of nurses who have spent years in training, and who are
dependent on their earnings, are the only body to suffer by the new
economies, whilst a number of orderlies continue to draw salaries
higher than those of the qualified nurses. What, too, of the high
salaried officials, of the untrained dressers, until recently earning
£2 per week and gaining experience in the wards (this experience being
counted in their studies)? Above all, what of the principle of this
breach of contract, the signing of invalid documents?

But these, after all, are minor details, and one must survey the work
of the British Red Cross Society _in toto_. The true tale of these
mistakes will never be told, for the blunders of a few individuals
will no doubt be wiped away by the memory of the great achievements of
the institution in equipping hospitals, making good deficiencies in the
regular supplies, and supplementing those supplies by little luxuries
whose absence on a bed of pain is a real privation.

There is no denying that what the Red Cross lacks in organisation
it makes up for in generosity, as many a patient could tell, many a
hospital testify; and, all things considered, is it in any way less
well organised than other institutions in this chaotic zone, in these
chaotic times, where only the unforeseen seems to occur, and where
the duplication of authority is so bewildering that it is almost an
impossibility to lay one's finger on the man responsible for any
particular department?

 [Illustration: A MEAL AT THE INDIAN CAMP]

 [Illustration: INDIAN ENCAMPMENT IN THE SNOW]

_December 24th._ If no one else has benefited by the war, certainly
the Boulogne shopkeepers cannot complain! Never in the annals of their
existence have they flourished so well. Prices have been forced up,
not only in accordance with the laws of supply and demand, but for
the benefit of the influx of the rich and influential foreigners,
who consider it beneath their dignity to bargain. One so often
hears officers complaining of how they are "rooked" out here instead
of receiving the consideration of war prices. It is a pity that, in
a country where bargaining is the order of the day, and successful
bargaining is regarded as an art to be envied and emulated, we do
not view the matter more broadmindedly, for this ignorance of racial
differences is apt to lead to misunderstanding.

On another score the French have the upper hand. Why don't we have
conscription? they ask. _We_ wonder too, but the people at home don't
seem to take things seriously.

I had occasion to take down some casks of oranges to the ---- Barracks,
a kind of auxiliary convalescent camp, where the "BX," or unfit men,
live in a large concrete island swimming in the mud. The ambulance
man who drove me groaned and swore vociferously at the number of
whole-skinned youths "swanking" about the base.

"Why aren't they in the trenches?" he asked. "On our convoy we've
nothing but men who have been refused for the Army. I've only been in
Boulogne six hours (he was going on leave), and I'm disgusted with it
all!"


_December 26th._ Christmas Day dawned the coldest, whitest Christmas
anyone could wish for. The little church was packed for morning
service, in spite of the fact that most of us had been to midnight mass
at St. Nicholas, a service more noteworthy for the crowded congregation
who surge unceasingly in their efforts to get to the fore than for any
particular beauty or fervour.

All the afternoon we worked hard at concerts in the hospital and
soldiers' institute, where I acted as accompanist. No doubt one day we
shall grow accustomed to war, but I own that the crowded wards of the
vast barn of men (whose hearty applause and cheery choruses covered the
deficiencies of the performance), the uniforms, the white caps, the
cheerfulness born of the determination to make the best of the abnormal
circumstances, struck me as a never-to-be-forgotten thing. And in every
hospital it is the same.

The men are all hung like Christmas trees with their presents, which
they treasure as mementoes of this memorable year. Nor have the nurses
been forgotten, and the little fur-lined cape sent to each one by
H.M. Queen Alexandra is a gift that could not be bettered; for it is
bitterly cold, with the damp cold that is a far greater tax upon one's
powers of endurance than a crisp frost, and furs are a great luxury, as
all the men glorying in their new sheepskin coats can testify.

It was not till nearly nine that our work ceased and we got any dinner
at all, the midday meal having been cut out for a rehearsal.


_December 29th._ It was very impressive, the Seymour Hicks concert, to
which some twenty of us were bidden. It took place in a large shed on
the Quai du Bassin, which a pile of empty baskets and an occasional
turnip prove to have been a vegetable market in other days.

The stage, built up of a stack of trestle tables, was ornamented with
flags.

Looking round from our front seats at the 2,000 eager faces behind,
there was a feeling of awe in our hearts as we realised how much
devolved on us as representatives of our countrywomen out here.

Rain and hail beat down. The performance began. To our unaccustomed
ears it was like a dream.

Of a sudden, an extra gust brought down the light wire and we were in
blackness. The C.O. shouted that no men were to leave their seats, and
the pianist played some of their own songs, to which they sang. Oh, how
they sang, their deep voices threatening to bring the roof off!

In after years it will be interesting to note the music of 1914, the
rise and wane of "Tipperary" and "Sister Susie" and a hundred other
popular songs that have made life cheery for our warriors.

By the light of two carriage lamps the performance was finished, and,
as we filed out, the men pressed forward to shake hands with nurses and
artists indiscriminately, with a "Thank 'ee kindly----"

What a night! Hail and wind, thunder and rain, rockets and guns, the
beat, beat, beat on the panes, the howling, the whistling of the wind,
the clouds scurrying across the sky, the incessant noise without, the
awful cold within. Above my bed the ceiling has nearly fallen in,
whilst buckets act as receptacles for the rain in no fewer than three
places. And dare we complain, whilst our men are in the trenches? Never!

The success of the concert makes one realise the tension at which we
are living, makes one wish that something could be done to relieve
it--a cinema opened, weekly concerts, etc., organised for the benefit
of those who are working, as well as for the wounded, in order to make
life more normal.

After all, it is as injurious to live at this highly strung pitch as
it is to exist on a grey level, and "Eat, drink, and be merry, for
to-morrow we die" is not the spirit that makes for endurance in war or
peace.


_December 31st._ A miracle _has_ occurred, for the protest lodged by
the Red Cross nurses has been heard, a compromise arrived at by which
the original contract is to be fulfilled. Let their stand, which was
not effected without much determination and hard work on the part of
the leaders, be recorded as one of the first women's trade unions.

So ends 1914. God grant that the New Year may bring us Peace, or, if
not Peace, the strength to play our parts in the great game worthily of
our men!



BOOK II

1915

Order Out of Chaos



CHAPTER IV

January, 1915


_January 8th._ If Art be Selection, then surely is that of keeping a
War Diary, that shall be true, unbiased and yet not dull, the hardest
of all Arts!

For our eyes are so focused on the smaller things out here that we are
apt to ignore the larger issues altogether.

Yet--even as, looking back at bygone years, it is the little things
that count--the branch that taps against the study window, the sickly
scent of lime trees, the odd pattern on the nursery cup, the wind
across the fields, the broken doll, so is it by little things alone
that we can draw true pictures of our own times.

The days have been too busy collecting "woollies" for those who need
them, getting together a library for the "BX" men, writing letters for
the wounded, to keep my diary.

There is much humour as well as pathos in the letters that are
dictated, and hackneyed phrases, such as "Hoping this finds you as it
leaves me" and "I take up the pen to tell you," recur frequently, often
with ambiguous meanings.

"Dear Wife,--You will be glad to hear that I have lost an arm, but am
still alive and hope to be home with you soon. Hoping this finds you as
it leaves me, Yours Truly, A. S.," ran one I took down to-day.

One is reminded of the anecdote of the man who, when asked if he had
ever been in love, replied: "In love? Of course, my dear sir, on many
occasions, and each time with the same unswerving devotion," when,
as is not infrequently the case, one man contrives to keep up an
apparently parallel correspondence with that portion of the community
whom he designates as his "Lidy friends," and, equally oblivious of
amanuensis and censor, dispatches missives, identical in expressions
of passionate devotion, to each of the respective recipients. Romance,
too, ripens quickly out here, and each of the aforementioned five
happy damsels who was "My dear Miss X" a week ago becomes "My darling
sweetheart" to-day. One wonders what will happen to the remaining four
when, in due course, the returning hero decides upon which of the
unsuspecting maidens to bestow his comprehensive heart!

One day I went over to see some friends at Calais, where they are
leading the same gendarme-hunted life as the Dunkirk journalist, in
order to be near their Belgian fiancés. Every three days they have to
change their quarters, and though it is only a fortnight ago that I
received their invitation, it was only after inquiring at four hotels
that I ran them to earth.

Calais is feeling very thrilled at her own importance, for the enemy
are bombing her with a vigour that marks her as a foe worthy of
attention.

The attitude of the French towards the Belgians, whose headquarters lie
here, is less enthusiastic than ours; indeed, one might safely say it
is one of mistrust. England opened her arms not to the true Belgians
alone, that little gallant army to whose valour we owe so much, but,
for their sake, indiscriminately to the hordes of German spies who came
over with the first influx of refugees, to the dregs of humanity who
were let loose when the cosmopolitan prison doors were thrown open.

France was wiser. Hospitality, she said, is all very well, but _first_
of all we will sift our guests and discover which of them are
deserving. And sifting them she is, allotting them freedom in their own
sphere, but not freedom to circulate in the zone of other armies. Not
that France for a moment belittles or undervalues the achievement of
that valiant little country or its heroic King, but she realises--as do
most Belgians themselves--the danger attendant upon this promiscuous
harbouring of unregistered adults whose political leanings may be
entirely alien.

In due course, no doubt, when our paroxysm of Belgian mania dies, we
too shall come to see the wisdom of this measure.


_January 9th._ We are now beginning to receive Christmas packages sent
out from home some six weeks back, which, owing to lack of sorters
to attend to them, have been held up at Havre. Hitherto, the postal
arrangements have been most primitive and as surprising as they were
vague. Some letters and packages would arrive by the French post, some
via the Red Cross service, and yet others by the military mail from
Havre. A missive might take anything from three days to four weeks on
its way from home.

But now we are less cut off from civilisation, and not only letters
but papers as well arrive regularly; and perhaps the most welcome sound
of the day is the newsboys' cry as they run along the quay or dart into
hotels and hospitals with lightning-like rapidity, heralding their
arrival with shouts of "_Dailee Mai-il! Mirreure! Times!_"

To-day Major X---- asked me to run a canteen for his men, whose lot,
too far from the town to be able to enjoy the shops, is far from
enviable. True to the principle of doing _anything_ that is needed, I
am off home to get the stores together.


_January 14th._ The five days' "furlough" have passed as a dream, and
it was with a sigh of infinite relief that I stepped once more on to
French soil.

The extraordinary "let's-muddle-along-it-can't-last-for-ever" attitude
at home is distinctly depressing, and the fact that half of the people
are quite content to let others do their job whilst they look on with
an amused smile and reap the benefit of the shortage of men makes one
long to see them well "strafed."

As I sat in the theatre beside an old friend, now an enthusiastic
captain in K.'s Army, and thought how soon the brave fellow would be
facing the Reality of what he enjoys now so thoroughly as a Theory, and
listened to the cheap patriotism of the show, it seemed the cheaper for
the lack of action.

Why, after all, should our beautiful island be left with the unfit,
the loafers, the "funks" as fathers for the future generations? In
every other country the army is representative, not of the pick of the
land, but of the average male population. We, however, seem bent on
committing race suicide.

But as the old familiar quay hove in sight my spirits rose. Here, after
all, lies work that must be done. It is the Real Thing.

If my leave has been short it has been pregnant with interest. The
personal side centred itself on the lost trunk, containing all my
worldly possessions in the way of wearing apparel, which was sent out
in November and has failed to arrive. Scotland Yard have traced it as
far as Boulogne, they say. I drew their attention to the wonderful No
Man's Land that reigns where all luggage is dumped on the quay.

Once off the boat the English liability ceases, and so, as the French
will take no responsibility, the goods lie there until someone, usually
_not_ the rightful owner, helps himself.

Thus when a box addressed: "Captain Y----, Xth Regiment--Fur Coat--to
be delivered immediately," that has lain for three weeks in the rain,
disappears at _last_, one may be quite safe in assuming that the same
fur coat will be fetching a good price on the Paris market a few days
hence.

The second and more important interest is the canteen.

Just as the control of all cars and hospitals has been now taken over
definitely by the War Office, surely even so small a thing as canteen
work should all be under one organisation. The Y.M.C.A., it appears,
have a recreation hut for the men at the convalescent camp and a big
hut on the quay.

To the Y.M.C.A., then, let our energies be dedicated! For they are
a coming factor in the scheme of things, and individual enterprise,
gratifying and profitable though it may be to the individual, is hardly
_pro bono publico_.


_January 15th._ There are hours when one would love a little
solitude--the solitude that is, after all, as necessary for well-being
as food and rest; hours when the time to digest and sift the manifold
occurrences of the day, the presence of a congenial friend to replace
the many acquaintances with whom circumstances have herded us together,
and a browse over a favourite poet, would be very welcome. Yet, in
truth, poetry no longer matters, art no longer matters, music no longer
matters to most of us; nothing _really_ matters save life and death
and the end of this carnage. Nor will the old régime, the old art, the
old literature ever again satisfy those who have seen red and faced
life shorn of its trappings of superficiality and conventions. Yet in
spite of the fact that all around us we see butchery and the degrading
results of Germany's peculiar _kultur_, in spite of the fact that the
spiritual side of life has been--is still--so utterly dormant as to be
almost a thing of another existence, on the whole an attitude of great
enthusiasm and gratitude prevails for the privilege of being able to
work.


_January 18th._ My first glimpse at a canteen!

 [Illustration: THE FIRST HUT AT THE BASE]

Let me describe the scene as we entered to find a long queue of
shivering Tommies waiting. The long "hut," at the end of which, on a
platform, the piano tinkles incessantly, seemed smaller by reason of
the many chairs and forms.

The counter, on the clearing of which our attention was turned first,
like the tables, is covered with red-and-white check oilcloth, which
facilitates the swabbing up of the ever crowded place.

Behind the counter are tables, on which, in between serving the men, we
busy ourselves with the preparation of cocoa, the cutting up of cakes
and bread, an occupation which I discover to be as much a science as an
art.

In the little kitchen the great struggle is to get water boiling in
time, and to keep it boiling, in response to the demand. The difficulty
at the counter is to keep tea and coffee hot without letting them stew.
At one end we take it in turns to take money and to dole out tickets,
which are exchanged for goods at the counter. The advantages of the
ticket system are mostly noticeable during a "rush," when it diverts
the stream of men and obviates the necessity of serving food with
coin-soiled hands.

One must, it seems, keep as little as possible on the counter, for fear
of tempting Providence and the impecunious! But a wonderful medley of
tobacco, soap, bootlaces, chocolate, etc., is displayed on shelves at
the back.

Here the men can write home on paper supplied free by the Y.M.C.A. (A
big notice on the wall reminds them to "Write home now.") They can read
(a small library, which my fingers are itching to catalogue, lies at
the end of the building); they can bank here, and play games, and get
advice on all problems, mental and moral.

The value of the work can best be estimated by the men's appreciation
of it in their letters home, their continual inquiries after similar
institutions "up the line," their sorrow when they hear: "No, we're not
up there yet--but shall be soon."

The workers consist of Y.M.C.A. secretaries, mostly Nonconformist
ministers, and volunteer ladies who wander on duty when the spirit
moves them, which sometimes necessitates one shift going without its
meals.

A pleasant little music teacher, who is spending her holiday out here,
and is useful for organising concerts, accompanying the men, etc.,
initiated me into the work. The rest of the "staff" consists of a
French girl, to cook the secretaries' meals, and a half-witted man,
supposed to tend the fires, help with the washing up, etc., but who is
invariably inspired to play hymns just when most needed.


_January 25th._ A naval battle off the Dogger Bank is reported,
which reminds me of the letters I receive from a naval friend, whose
life on board the ---- is spent patrolling the North Sea and longing
for action. How different from the fighting friends one runs into
occasionally! The other day I came across one who was down with a
touch of tonsilitis, having passed through Mons and every big battle
that succeeded it unscathed. "I shouldn't at all mind going home with
a smashed arm!" he remarked with an almost involuntary sigh, gazing
wistfully at the hospital ship as she sailed majestically out of
harbour, her gleaming red cross casting weird lights on the dark water.


_January 28th._ There are times when one is unkind enough to wish one's
co-workers the discipline of three months as junior probationer in a
large hospital. Last night I arrived to find myself the only worker,
and although I enjoyed the rush right enough, it was impossible to get
things done to time, and many of the men had to go away unserved.

The methylated spirit ran out, and so demobilised the services of the
Primus stoves. The secretary had a bad headache, and was therefore only
able to sit at the till, and the odd man was inspired to make night
hideous with his discordant hymns, and, having had a tiff with one of
the ladies earlier in the day, refused to do a stroke of work. It was
a particularly busy night, never less than a hundred men in the hut, I
should say, and ten o'clock found me still washing up cups with the aid
of a little chauffeur whose vehicle had gone wrong! _Faute de mieux_ he
accompanied me along the roughest part of the quay, where one is apt to
be molested by the drunken navvies who reel about at night.


_January 30th._ Wish hard enough and it shall be given unto you!
Yesterday was a day of joy, for in it I found a real girl friend of my
own age and kind.

She appeared on the scene one morning like a breath of fresh air, this
young American.

"What are _you_ doing over here?" I asked. "Come to see the war?"

"Guess you're about right," she replied, with an accent you could cut
with a knife. "Nothing else would have dragged me away from God's own
country!"


_January 31st._ The old order changeth--even in Boulogne! In less than
a week the Red Cross will be installed at the C----, where once was the
Allied Forces Base Hospital. In less than a week all Red Cross cars
come under direct supervision of the A.S.C.

To-day the Red Cross sisters at the Gare Maritime (No. ---- Stationary
Hospital) have received their _congé_, even those "original six" who
built it up, being superseded by Army nurses.

Most of the nurses I know have dispersed, many to St. Omer, where in
a big monastery hospital they are stamping out enteric amongst the
civilian population in order to safeguard our men. Miss A---- has gone
to L----, where, from Dr. Le Page's hospital, she writes of wonderful
surgical work.

I too would be glad of a new sphere of action, for I am lost in
amazement at the sea of petty jealousies. Where is the unity of purpose
that bound us all together in the beginning? Is disunion the outcome
of overwrought nerves? Even at the hut discord reigns.

The lady in charge dislikes both the music teacher and the American
girl, who in turn live at daggers drawn with the respective people of
their respective parties and are envious of each other. And yet they
one and all are extremely nice folk. One must attribute it to some
especially puissant sprite and to Pandora's carelessness!



CHAPTER V

February, 1915


_February 2nd._ This morning, in company with our chief, Mr. H----,
I went over to prospect in the new sphere of action. The lower part
of the hotel that the Association has taken is devoted to a canteen,
whilst on the first floor there is a library and writing-room, and
above, seven spacious rooms lie empty until such a time as the hostel
is started. The hostel is a grand scheme for billeting gratis the
relatives of badly wounded men, who could otherwise not afford the
journey.

My heart sank at sight of the minute kitchen, the range of which seemed
literally hidden by pots and pans; but no doubt one day we shall get it
in order.

The secretary--a Scottish padre--is full of enthusiasm for football,
with which he hopes to keep the men at the base well amused.

In the afternoon, on exploring for myself, I discovered that the most
interesting feature of the place is the isolation compound that
lies alongside the enteric hospital. Here all infectious illnesses
are treated in bathing-boxes rigged out as wards; here are patients
indulging in every conceivable disease, from mumps and measles to
diphtheria, typhoid and the dreaded spinal meningitis.

Farther along, attached to the Casino, whose spacious gaming rooms make
wonderfully cheerful wards, is a smaller hotel, where the men suffering
from skin diseases are treated. One's heart goes out to these men,
especially the wounded ones, who through no fault of their own are
afflicted with the foul diseases that follow in the train of war.

The main road is lined with hospitals--the "British," the
"Anglo-American," the "Rawal Pindi" (so called because the unit was
mobilised in that far-away Indian station), and others.

The great objection to the converted hotels is the smallness of
the well-appointed rooms, which gives one the desire to knock down
intervening walls and form them into one spacious room to save the
sisters' feet and the patients' voices!

One is lost in admiration now at the organisation of things, just as
two months ago one was appalled by the state of unreadiness. Nothing
that can be done for our men is omitted.


_February 3rd._ For the last time I watch the moon wane, the sun rise
over the mist-bathed harbour. Will the picture I have learned to love
so well ever fade? The countless masts rising to the sky, the water
dashing over the distant breakwater, the clock at the Gare Maritime,
now visible, now obscured by smoke from the packet-boat's funnel.

The incoming destroyers, the sister hospital ships lying abreast,
the distant windmill on the hill, round which many corrugated iron
buildings are springing up (bakeries, they say), the weather-beaten
tars, the women, their backs bent with the weight of their sacks of
mussels and cockles, tramping along barefooted or in sabots, the
ceaseless stream of ambulances.


_February 8th._ Laden with parting gifts and consoled by parting
regrets (strangest among them those of our padre, who will miss having
someone to darn his socks!), we found ourselves at our new domain--the
American girl and I.

Certainly the circumstances of our arrival were far from favourable,
for my colleague fell very ill the day we arrived, and after a night
spent on the floor of her ten-by-eight-feet-long room (oh, those
boards!--my bones still ache, my head swims in memory of them), we
installed her in a military hospital, and set to work to "carry on."

Two other workers have arrived from England; neither of them having
done hard manual labour before, they are apt to find this somewhat
strenuous, though to our more veteran hands it is child's play.
Footsoreness, too, that bane of all amateur workers, is their portion.

There are times when one wonders if all new things are horrid!

This morning, at Mattins in the little tin church, for instance, when
the convalescent soldier organist, with the angelic face and absolute
lack of any musical instinct, crashed out his last discordant notes,
when the congregation, consisting of three nurses, the old, old man who
took round the plate, and two maiden ladies who acted as choir, trooped
into the sunshine, I could not but cast a longing thought at St.
John's, with its dim religious glow and mellow organ and congregation
of muddy soldiers.


_February 12th._ Besides getting the place in order, we are busily
employed in thinking out new dishes for the men. To the ordinary store
of cakes and drinks we have already added custard, stewed fruits, and
bread puddings.

In spare moments I catalogue the library, and have evolved a good
system by which the men fill in the register themselves on taking out a
book, thus dispensing with a librarian. The library book is like this:

 Rank  Name        Number  Regt.    No. of   Name of     Date
                                    Book     Book        taken

 Pte.  J. Smith    30496   R.F.        4    "She"        Feb. 1
 Cpl.  J. Philips   5328   R.A.M.C.  299    "Last Days   Feb. 10
                                            of Pompeii"


_February 16th._ Yesterday, a train being derailed close by here on
its way up to the front, and the men left stranded, we took them up a
supply of cigarettes and chocolates that good friends at home had sent
out.

The canteen is growing like wildfire, and we are heart and soul in
our work, which we estimate by the material return in the till each
evening. We have trebled the receipts in two weeks, which shows how the
men are flocking to it.


_February 18th._ _The day_--the great day of the German blockade. We
are wondering how far the enemy will really carry out his scheme.
Certainly no mail boat has come in to-day, and we are without letters
or newspapers. The suspension of communication with England is nothing
new, but we are speculating if this time it will be a matter of weeks
instead of days.

Being _hors de combat_ with a sore throat--the toll exacted apparently
by this germ-filled place from every worker who comes to stay--I have
leisure to note our surroundings. The walls of the large, airy room,
which though devoid of all save the necessities of life is luxury
embodied by reason of its cleanliness, are bare except for a few unpaid
bills held together by a file, a few hastily scrawled quotations from
favourite authors to remind us that we once had time to indulge in
beautiful pictures, to roam into the realms of beautiful books.

By the window, acting as a couch, are two large wooden cases in which
gramophones for the men had been sent out, and which prove a great
attraction to the friendly little mice who come out and hold long
confabulations, not only under cover of night, but frequently, when
things are quiet, by day. They are welcome enough to the wooden boxes,
but when they take to running over our beds, our clothing as it lies
on the chairs, and finally even over our _faces_, they can hardly
expect to be well received!

The view from the window is superb. Before us, in front of the
little grey church, the river runs down to the sea, now gently, now
turbulently. To the right a peep of the ocean. To the left the bridge,
through the arches of which is a glimpse of landscape as peaceful as
any Tuscan village, and over which the trains pass intermittently up to
the front by day and by night. They rush past with a whistle that is
more of a shriek and a groan, as if they themselves realised the value
of their burden--the guns, the ammunition wagons, the trainloads of men
in khaki or in blue clustered along the edge of the overcrowded trucks
designed to carry "eighteen horses or thirty-six men."

In contrast with the rushing up-trains the loaded ambulances crawl
creakingly down at a snail's pace.

God! That such things should be! If the heart of the world were big
enough, surely it would break at so much misery, so much destruction.
For what have all previous generations laboured, legislating, studying
to salve human ills? For this! Wanton destruction, rapine, murder.


_February 21st._ These are exciting times. Last night there was the
sound of guns at sea. An engagement off Dover is recounted, but papers
no longer get through to us. A sudden explosion about five o'clock
the same day, and the subsequent report of a sunken hospital ship,
afterwards said to have been a neutral (Dutch?) liner, leaves us with
but the vaguest idea of what really happened.

Just as the doctor, a kindly little man, who was invalided down some
weeks ago from his field ambulance at B----, had appeared, stethoscope
in hand, all attention was riveted on a funeral that passed by--that
of a nursing sister who has just died of the fatal spotted fever. The
flower-bedecked coffin, the whole available hospital unit marching
slowly with arms reversed, made an impressive sight. One wondered if
she had ever received so much attention in her lifetime as at her
death. The doctor told me that in India, where the intense heat is
sometimes conducive to suicide, the fear of _not_ having a military
funeral often acts as a deterrent.

 [Illustration: "THE BRIDGE, THROUGH THE ARCHES OF WHICH IS A GLIMPSE OF
LANDSCAPE AS PEACEFUL AS ANY TUSCAN VILLAGE"]

No sooner was the cortège past than a broken aeroplane rolled by on a
heavy trolley, and left us wondering if that was the crash we heard
yesterday.

An air raid on Calais, packet-boat nearly sunk, torpedoes off
Boulogne--it almost seems as if we are going to see the real thing.

Martial law here has become very strict. The roads are guarded so that
one cannot move an inch without showing passports. Lights have to be
out by 9 P.M., and even my diary has to be penned behind a screen of
bedclothes with the aid of a candle stump. Seeing that we only finish
work at 9 P.M., have to get home, eat our supper, and go to bed in
the dark, it is rather tiresome, and we are now engaged in rigging up
light-proof curtains.

On returning to work after my first committee meeting--the very
existence of which proves the method that is creeping into the
erstwhile chaos--I was greeted by the news of our Dardanelles
Expedition which is now occupying all our attention.



CHAPTER VI

March, 1915


_March 5th._ March was inaugurated by an amusing incident. At about
midnight the alarm was given--a Taube or Zeppelin signalled from
Calais--bells rang, guns boomed, the whole of the French population
turned out, and the police raided a nurse's room because a light was
visible--and, after all, nothing happened.

That the Germans still have hopes of getting to Calais is obvious from
their Press comments on the range of their coast guns.

"The chief point of which lies in the suggestion that from Calais the
harbour defences of Dover can be bombarded over a front of five and a
half miles!" (See extract from _Daily Mail_.) Their preparations for
billeting a number of troops in Belgium are large: "At Liége 20,000 men
are expected." The order has been given for the Wimereux hospitals to
be cleared.

"It is our duty to keep the men here and feed the front," said one of
the C.O.s to-day. "And when we are told to clear it means a big move."


_March 10th._ In spite of the fact that a great battle is raging at
Neuve Chapelle, where the British have made a great push, the "all
star" concert party, sent over by the Y.M.C.A. in London, gave a
performance in the large gaming room of the Casino (once the haunt of
so much frivolity). The worst cases lay in beds in the centre, whilst
the blue-jacketed lesser cases clustered behind, and the sisters
flitted to and fro in their grey dresses and red capes attending to the
more serious.

"Messieurs, faites vos jeux, le jeu est fait!" Over and over again the
suave voice of the croupier seemed to ring in my ears--as it had so
often rung in this very room in peace time. "Faites vos jeux." What an
awful thing this new game of War is, only those who have seen can grasp.

"Le jeu est fait!"--and here in this gilded hall, that once witnessed
such a different game, we see the results.

Stretchers were brought in all through the performance. As I glanced up
during the cheerful chorus of "Here we are--here we are--here we are
again!" a man was borne in with his eyes blown out. He lay very still,
as if the unaccustomedness of it was yet upon him. The tears blinded
me. Then he too began to sing.

The spirits of the men are wonderful. "It's worth losing a limb to live
through a victory!" they say.

When our work was over we left the close, smoke-choked room (and it
is wonderful how soldiers who have had a sufficiency of open-air life
seem to revel in closed doors and windows!) for a short stroll. It was
a still, foreboding night. The barriers were well guarded, darkness
reigned over the town, and as we strolled along the rough road our path
was lighted only by the passing ambulances, whilst across the lowering
heavy heavens played the searchlights.

Ambulance after ambulance passed, a few going fast, most, alas! at the
slow, cautious speed that betokens the worst.

What untold misery these crushed bits of humanity mean, borne swiftly
to the silent city of suffering! How gladly we would suffer for them!
Yet not a moan, not a groan, in those great wards whilst mind and will
have power to cope with the agonies of the flesh.


_March 12th._ We heard interesting anecdotes of our fighters at
Christmas-time from an important man on the court martial. One private,
under cover of festivities, slipped down to the base, where for some
months he has lived in style on French bounty as an officer of the
Guards! Another man, an N.C.O. employed in office work, was told off
to write out notices forbidding the men overburdened with Christmas
gifts to return things home, as they have been doing. He handed in the
documents, and with them a big parcel to be censored, which when opened
was found to contain a quantity of socks, bearing the legend: "These
may come in useful."


_March 13th._ Soup is the latest addition to our bill of fare for the
men, who greatly appreciate it as being more nourishing than tea.

Our battle with Primus stoves is never-ending. The roar of these little
indispensable instruments of torture haunts us, and an effigy of one
will assuredly be engraven on some of our tombstones! Apropos of food,
we have grown almost into vegetarians, the meat we get being mostly
horse--which, dressed in the delightfully piquant French style, is
tasty but not nourishing--or the eternal pork that occurs and recurs
with clockwork regularity alternately disguised as veal, lamb or mutton.

There are days when we envy the men--whose rations of good bully beef
they affect to scorn--with all our hearts.

The spring push continues. The rapidity with which the Neuve Chapelle
men were brought down to the base, often finding themselves in hospital
twelve hours after they fell, is incredible.

Last night a Red Cross ambulance driver, who had passed through before,
came in for some coffee. As he counted his change I noted his eyes
were dim with unshed tears. When he confessed that the strain of many
sleepless nights is beginning to tell on him, I could find few words of
comfort.

The awful groans, the prayers for release as he drives along the
jolting roads, petrify him. And these last days have been pregnant with
work for the ambulances. The culminating point was reached to-night,
when, the car breaking down on a lonely road, he stepped round to find
out how his men were, and discovered that of four only one still lived.


_March 18th._ To-day the news came that the hostel is to be officially
opened. From the batch of War Office correspondence with which I am now
inundated I glean:

1. "Arrangements have now been made to send to France at the public
expense a limited number of relatives of soldiers reported to be in a
very serious condition in the Base Hospitals."

2. "The number will be limited to six persons at each of the Bases and
to one relative in the case of each soldier, the accommodation being
provided by the Y.M.C.A., and visits will only be allowed in cases in
which the Medical Officer considers that the patient would benefit by
the presence of a relation."

The rest of the documents relate to the laws that govern the free
passage, and the certificates to the effect that the relative is unable
to pay necessary expenses required before passage is granted, every
emergency being admirably prepared for.

Walking out after some necessary shopping, I noticed how the Wimereux
road has changed--is changing. Often during the winter months we
tramped along in the blinding rain wondering at the loneliness of it
all, meeting none but pickets at the barricades, the storm-swept roads
lighted every twenty minutes by a passing tram!

And now? Spring is beginning to show in every cranny. The few trees
are bursting with buds. The road is one incessant rush of cars. The
once sleepy-looking fort, with its visible guns facing the sea, booms
an occasional shot across the bows of a defaulting vessel, and French
soldiers manoeuvre on the cliffs.

It seems as if spring had put life into everything. To the left a camp
hospital is springing up, and khaki figures toil away with ropes and
canvas. To the right, by the sea, walls of earth are being thrown up
that look like trenches, but are in reality drains.

Even the men from the trenches are full of the dramatic contrasts of
warfare in spring--the song of the lark or nightingale interrupted by
the bursting of the "Jack Johnsons"; the burned trees and sprouting
buds. They tell us, too, most extraordinary tales of women being found
in the German trenches we have recently gained: some maintain they
were French civilian prisoners; others that they were the wives of
some of the front-trench Huns. At any rate, the extraordinary fact
remains that they really _were_ there.


_March 19th._ With the aid of a fatigue party of R.A.M.C. men I
succeeded in getting the upstairs rooms of our place into a semblance
of order. The French staff, too, were invaluable, nothing being too
much trouble for the _pauvres blessés_. Anxieties never come singly,
and to-day proved our heaviest day owing to an influx of Canadians and
an army of navvies in Government employment. No sooner were things
straight than in came our first two "wounded relatives"--as we have
decided to dub our guests. Weary, dazed, helpless as children, there
was nothing to do but find them some hot supper and get them to bed,
with promises of conducting them to the hospital the first thing in the
morning.

There being no cupboards in the hostel, we have set to work to make
them out of old packing-cases, and with the remnants of our curtains
and old tablecloths we find them to be, if not beautiful, quite as
serviceable as could be expected.

One difficulty we cannot overcome is the odour from the cesspool that
forms our drainage system, and makes one of the valuable rooms quite
untenantable and another hardly aromatic!


_March 21st._ On our way home last night we paused a moment to look at
the sky.

Gazing from the bridge into the water, it seemed a very Paradise. Every
little star was reflected in the river, and a yellow crescent moon rode
low in the heavens. No sound save the murmur of the sea. Suddenly there
fell upon our ears the strains of a mandoline in the distance that
transported us of a sudden to the sunny shores of the Adriatic.

Our delay might have cost us dear, for on our arrival home my attic was
on fire, some clothing that my companion had put on the stove pipes to
air having caught, smouldered, and set light to linoleum and woodwork.
Another ten minutes and nothing could have saved this jerry-built
wooden villa. It was dawn before we slept, and, needless to remark, I
feel like a kipper to-day, the smell of the smoke is so strong; or some
amphibious animal, for the floor is inundated with water.


_March 23rd._ The news of victories and losses in the outside world
affects us greatly, and the fall of Przemysl to the Russians has had a
very good effect on our spirits.

For ourselves, we are growing accustomed to alarms. We have so many
Zeppelin scares that they begin to be of no interest. A horn is
sounded. The French sentries on the bridge grow seemingly agitated; the
French guard turn out. Groups of people stand gazing Calais-wards into
the sky. An aeroplane comes over--scouting--and that is all.

Apparently, however, the biplane that passed so close that it seemed
almost on top of our balcony yesterday, was one of those which dropped
bombs on Dover! Our first conscious sight of hostile craft, this,
though we saw something strangely resembling a periscope on the glassy
waters.


_March 26th._ A strange little tragedy is being enacted in our kitchen.
Our landlady's husband was reported "missing," and whilst she was gone
in search of further information a neighbour, who had been fighting
by his side, came in to confirm the worst fears. He was killed by a
sniper, we were told, after only one month in the trenches; and but
yesterday the poor little woman was spending one franc fifty to send
him a fourpenny piece of sausage.

She came in happily content, having learned no particulars, talking
cheerfully of the now fashionable khaki uniforms the women are
adopting, and the weeping figures in the kitchen pulled themselves
together and pretended nothing had occurred.


_March 29th._ When the news was broken they feared for her reason. For
the last three days she has lain foodless and sleepless, hugging the
portrait of her husband to her heart, sorting out his old letters,
whilst groups of weeping, crêpe-swathed friends throng the stuffy,
unventilated room.

The Boulogne regiment, it seems, has had a bad cutting-up. Hardly
a woman who is not a widow now. "Mort pour la patrie!" they cry
sadly--"et après la guerre?"

To us any condition of "après la guerre" has become unthinkable.
Sometimes it seems it must be the end of the world.


_March 30th._ According to the local customs, Madame will not leave
the house until the news of her husband's death has been officially
announced by the Mayor. Thus any shopping expeditions in quest of
the mourning which engrosses her whole attention have to be made
surreptitiously.

The official news may be a long time in coming--weeks, perhaps
months--nevertheless, until she has, with the calm resignation demanded
by the occasion, received the official confirmation of the news, she
will not show her face out of doors. We all pray the ceremony may be
soon over, for surely nothing could be worse for a mourner than an
uninterrupted brooding over pots and pans in a hot or crowded kitchen.



CHAPTER VII

April, 1915


_April 1st._ In spite of the difficulties of getting teams together,
the football league has flourished, and to-day we had the great final
match between Australians and the A.S.C., for which, at a few hours'
notice, aided by a solitary car, we managed to give a fairly successful
tea.

Thanks to the football and the various other "tournaments," the canteen
is becoming quite an important factor of the little colony out here. We
find that draught, chess and billiard tournaments draw the men (who are
apt to be "cliquy" and shy of each other) together more than anything
else, whilst French lessons--held by a poor little Belgian soldier,
himself far from fluent in the language--prove a tremendous attraction,
and serve the additional purpose of adding a moiety to his minute
income.

We have moved on to the premises in order to be better able to attend
to our "relatives," as they have a way of turning up at ten at night,
quite exhausted with the novelty of their experience. To be honest,
the interest of their journey seems to a great extent to mitigate the
bitterness of their loss or the sadness of their visit.

"Law bless us, Miss, what a lot we shall 'ave to tell 'em at 'ome,
which we shouldn't 'ave 'ad if our dear Bill 'adn't died for 'is
country!" said a Manchester washerwoman to-day.

We are a strange party at meals, for most of them have never seen a
tablecloth nor slept between sheets before, and their wonderment can be
well gauged.

It is surprising how often one comes across Nature's gentlemen; one
is ashamed at not having had time to see them in ordinary life. A
cab-driver from "Edinbury" is here to-day, who, in spite of the fact
that he had never before been outside his native town, has manners that
would grace a king.


_April 8th._ One is not always fortunate in one's companions out here,
but, having no choice in the matter, is fain to make the best of them.

I don't think I have described our various workers. There is, for
instance, the short, drab-looking type of woman who gives one the
impression that she is capable only of practical things--a model
housewife and cook--but who, on further acquaintance, affords some food
for comment; for, alas! her distrait little brain is eternally going
off at a tangent; she has neither method nor common sense. If there is
a tactless thing to be said, she will say it. If there is a foolish
thing to be done, she will do it. To-day, to our horror, one of these,
for instance, turned to an old man from Derbyshire--who was out to see
a son dying of spotted fever--just as he was taking his departure.

"By the way," she said, "if you find anyone at home whose son is dying
out here, _do_ tell them that it is such a pretty cemetery and so well
cared for...."

I need say no more.

At every inconvenient moment she tells one anecdotes of her family
history--how her daughters have bought a white rabbit, how her second
husband committed suicide (we are not surprised!), how a third cousin
has been mentioned in dispatches.

She alternately adopts a _de haut en bas_ tone towards the men and
informs them that she is an officer's widow and has never done any
work before, or tries to claim kinship with the enlisted navvy because
he is John Smith and she has a connection of the same name.

Is it to be wondered that there is sometimes friction? We have had a
trying time recently, and have come to the conclusion that what one
does not learn of petty jealousy and feminine hate out here is not
worth learning! And the genus "official enemy"--unknown, hitherto, to
me--is quite common. It consists of people who want one's job, or one's
friends, or anything else one has; but, most of all, they want one out
of the country and out of the way.

To keep our judgment unbiased we have conned Kipling's wonderful "If"
and find some measure of comfort in murmuring, as we fall asleep:

    "_If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs
        and blaming it on you--
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, yet make
        allowance for their doubting, too--
    If you can wait--and not be tired by waiting or being lied
        about, don't deal in lies--
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating--and yet not look too
        good nor talk too wise._"

We have had quite a number of minor worries, too, which culminated this
evening, when, our last bucketful of coal, borrowed from a friendly
hospital, having been exhausted, it was found impossible to obtain
more than half a litre of methylated spirits (with which we had hoped
to carry on our work by means of Primus stoves) from anywhere. For the
first time not only hot dishes had to be abandoned, the pancakes and
fried fish which the men like so well, but even the hot drinks, which
we endeavoured to replace by lukewarm lemonade made from the remnants
of our boiled water. Heaven alone knows from where we shall get our
coal to-morrow, for the shortage seems to be getting worse. If only
the people at home would realise what it means out here, and cease
striking! When things had settled down and the place was closed, I felt
a blow of fresh air was imperative, for the vitiated atmosphere of the
rooms is choking and we have no time to walk by day.

As we slipped outside, Captain M---- passed. "What on earth are you
doing here?" he asked. I replied that we had been breathing Woodbine
fumes for twelve solid hours, and had come out to get some air.

"Take care not to be run in by the sentries," he said. "I will
accompany you if I may, for safety's sake." It is true we are bounded
by sentries north, south, east and west.

We walked briskly to the beach, where a full moon lit up the sea,
forming what looked like a broad path straight up to heaven.

We were laughing over the tale of the immortal Dr. Spooner who
concluded one of his sermons with the words: "And now, dear friends, I
must draw to a close, for I see I am already addressing beery wenches!"
when Captain M----, asking "May I smoke?" proceeded to light his pipe,
or _try_ to do so, for each time he lit a match the breeze put it out.
Whilst he retired to light it by the rocks someone quoted another
Spoonerism--when to a negligent student he said: "You have hissed all
my mystery lessons and tasted half a worm!"

Laughing and all but forgetting our weariness, we turned to go home.

In the distance we discerned figures coming towards us--steadily and
from all sides.

"Strange!" said someone. "The beach seemed deserted enough when we
came."

"Why, it's gendarmes!" I cried.

And sure enough it was, and they were advancing, rifles cocked and
loaded.

They came straight up to us and halted four paces away, just as we were
debating whether to run away or trust to luck that our escort could
protect us.

In a stentorian voice the leader exclaimed accusingly: "You lit three
matches."

No one denied it, and on Captain M---- parleying with them, it
transpired that under martial law the beach and cliffs are entirely
forbidden precincts after sundown.

On discovering who we were they owned that they had seriously debated
the advisability of shooting us from the cliffs, and would certainly
have done so had we turned tail and fled!

Insignificant though the incident is, it serves to show how efficiently
our Allies guard their coast, how thorough and quick they are in their
methods, and how little they leave to chance, even at a hospital base.


_April 22nd._ It has been impossible to write. We have been working
sixteen to eighteen, even twenty, hours per day. The rush of troops
that preceded and succeeded the British success at Hill 60 has broken
up most of the camp workers, so that we have taken to rising at 4 A.M.,
motoring to the camp in the car now devoted to the "relatives," and
turning our hands at other people's jobs before it is time to begin our
own.

Camp work is different from anything in the world. The crowd is
such that it is impossible (with our limited number of workers and
insufficient equipment) to keep supplies equal to demand.

After an hour spent in handing out field service post cards (which
is all the men may send home from here) one is dizzy from the crowd.
Twenty thousand cards disappear in less time than it takes to tell,
although each man is in reality only allowed one.

They will come up time after time pleading for a second. "I've a wife
_and_ a mother," says one; while the wilier will ask: "Can I have a
second for the company sergeant-major, who is outside the tent?"

"What, the _same_ company sergeant-major?" I inquired, after the
twentieth application of this kind.

If you are cutting up loaves or buttering bread you become breathless
in your haste as the many hungry eyes gaze eagerly at the food.

Many of the men have gone foodless since they embarked, ten hours
ago, and some, who have eaten, have been so sea-sick as to be quite
collapsed. They are alternately full of anticipation and trepidation
about the Great Unknown, and a quiet "It isn't nearly as bad as it was
at the beginning" sends many of them away more reassured.

The turf inside the tent is an odd mixture of slush where the rain
beats in, and almost concrete mud where the trampling is worst. It has
been found necessary to put up a barrier by the "counter," which is
made of empty packing-cases, but often, where the crowd is greatest, it
literally gets rooted up.

It is hard to say which is the more impressive sight: to arrive at
dawn and watch the shivering figures emerge from their tents, wrapped
in those fine new blankets of theirs, and cluster round our quarters,
held back by the stern arm of the military policeman until six o'clock
announces that we are prepared--or nominally so--for the rush; or to
watch them march off at night.

On Sunday there was a service. The men came running to the tents and
called for their favourite hymns. There were two oil lamps in the
centre, and someone secured a candle for my counter. Never can I
forget that scene--averted eyes, tense set mouths, and rugged faces
with the tears rolling down. Men who had never prayed before prayed
then, for they had the Unknown to face and they knew it. They lifted
the tent with their voices. Then, seeing I was the last English girl
many of them would ever set eyes on, a number came up to shake hands
and say good-bye and "Thank you." Heaven knows for what!

Then we watched them march off. The camp gleamed white in the
moonlight. A crescent moon was over the silver sea, across which the
lights of England were plainly discernible.

By the flare of one great lamp they came up out of the dark, and,
company after company, like a phantom army, passed into the night.

It seemed like a dream. The receding tramp, tramp, tramp, the distant
sound of drums, the deserted tents. And only the lazy flap of the
canvas in the breeze remained to remind us of those heroes who have
gone up to "carry on" the great game.


_April 24th, Sick Ward 21._ What a very beautiful place hospital can
be, viewed from the standpoint of a patient! What matter that legs
are too weak to walk or heads to think? What matter that one's old
vulcanite pen feels like cast iron and runs on by itself?

Here are ministering angels who were once mere nurses. Here are friends
armed with many good things, with irises and kingcups from the fields
and carnations from the south--and newspapers. Yet, alas! the news is
not good. In spite of the Allied landing in Gallipoli that raises our
expectation of a speedy termination of things, the situation on the
Western front is bad. We are now falling back, and the Germans have
started an effective offensive at Ypres. It is dreadful to be able to
do nothing but listen all night long to the tramp of the newly arrived
troops, the sickening sound of the creeping "stretcher cases," to
listen and to pray that all will be well.


_April 29th, Hardelot._ If one were asked to award the palm for good
work during the war, one would not hesitate to say that it was due to
those whose energies are devoted to the sick nurses.

There is none of the glory, none of the kudos, none of the
laurel-wreath interest that rewards those working amongst the men.

Just the steady, dullish daily duties of caring for and tending an
ever-changing stream of weary women! Yet what work can have more
far-reaching influence on the wounded and sick than the fact that the
nursing sisters are strong and fit to cope with their strenuous work?

Here, in the far-away forest of Hardelot, in the beautiful yet simple
house lent by the Duke of Argyll, that, with its distempered white
walls, old oak furniture and bright chintzes, seems a veritable bit of
England, the Red Cross have opened a home where worn-out nurses may
rest and recuperate.

It is like an oasis in this arid land. Lying in the woods on a bank of
luscious pine-needles and green moss, while the birds sing, it seems to
unaccustomed ears almost perfect; and the calm pines lift their stately
heads to the clear blue sky, swaying rhythmically, contentedly, in the
breeze. It is intoxicating.



CHAPTER VIII

May, 1915


_May 2nd._ This morning we attended Church Parade at the veterinary
camp hard by. The chaplain, who had brought out a recently formed brass
band, conducted the service in a large sand-pit from which most of the
horses had been removed to the sides. A few tents were dotted about, a
few sick animals still rolled in the sand as the men came on parade,
whilst a narrow path winding up to the dark pine woods above made us
feel for all the world like part of a Wild West Buffalo Bill show.

How the French peasants stared, open-mouthed, as the service proceeded,
wondering at our madness as we stood there in the sand-pit, with a
misty rain enveloping everything, singing at the top of our voices.
Many of the men recognised nurses who had been at clearing stations,
as we wended our way amongst the sick and wounded horses, the foals,
the "prisoner" animals, and glanced at the well-equipped but
insufficiently stocked dispensary.

The now famous Pré Catalan farm supplied us with tea, and I could not
help recalling how just a year ago we had been lounging in a punt
on the Ranelagh lake listening to a band--under somewhat different
circumstances! No doubt, somewhere at home, people are still punting
on the river, or enjoying a Sunday afternoon nap under the trees, or,
being energetically inclined, a round of golf or game of tennis, in
surroundings very similar to these. Only as we wandered home past the
famous Hill 243, through woods blue with hyacinths, fragrant with wild
orchids, primroses, kingcups, violets and every perfect flower one
could desire or dream of, and every perfect woodland perfume one could
experience, and every perfect colour the eye could imagine, the sound
of guns booming heavily and not very far away greeted us ominously.


_May 4th._ In an erstwhile hotel facing the sea the Secunderabad
General Hospital is situated. Not only are the wards often overcrowded,
but rows and rows of beds in the spacious hall, neighbouring villas and
auxiliary tents help to cope with the numbers. An all-pervading smell
of "ghi," or melted butter, makes one think that Little Black Sambo and
all the tigers must have been put in the melting-pot.

Odd black figures, with unfathomable eyes and strange turbans, move
about their business stealthily, whilst in the little duty-room two
kindly theatre sisters dispense tea to any visitors who call on an
uneventful day between the fashionable hours of four and five.

Such is Hardelot. For, apart from the hospital, the Claims Commission,
the one shop, hotel and post office, every building is shut up and
barred.

A convoy of some fifty ambulances on the road tells its own tale.
Sauntering into the one and only shop, I secured the last bottle of ink
(which proved to be red), and betaking myself to the sand-dunes, set to
work on my diary. Across the vast, untrodden expanse of sand the sun
cast long shadows; little fishing boats, bathed in the glow, glided
slowly homewards.

Hardelot is said to be an inspiring place. Was not the "Tale of Two
Cities" penned here? Was not many an historical drama enacted, verse
inspired, music created?

 [Illustration: HOSPITAL SHIPS IN THE HARBOUR]

Yet France in war-time to anyone incapacitated is wellnigh unbearable.

Again and again unpleasant scenes come up (and when humour flags is
life worth living?). The subaltern so unnerved by the sight of his
batman (only slightly hit) who was drowned in the mud, that he could
do nothing but reiterate, with staring eyes, "And, for all I know,
he is there still." Tales of healthy bits of land where, if you ask
your way to a certain reserve trench, the direction will be: "First on
the left, and past the dead Frenchman on the ant-heap," half-humorous
reminiscences of trench-digging where other things--no need to
specify--besides caps and boots are turned up, haunt one incessantly,
and Morpheus refuses to be wooed.

All day long one notes the veering wind with beating heart, conscious
that the prevailing west wind is all-propitious to the German's latest
invention of the Devil, the poison-gas; conscious of the long nights in
which one has lain awake as the sound of the receding sea was replaced
by the ghastly choking of the ward of gassed cases opposite (a sound
comparable only to a roomful of panting dogs), or the cough of the man
dying with a bullet through his lungs.


_May 14th._ At home there are strikes and rumours of strikes,
instigated, no doubt, by German emissaries, but none the less shameful
for that; and one and all, as the men come down from that "hell with
the lid off," where, inch by inch, the Germans are regaining that for
which so many lives were sacrificed, their cry is for ammunition.

"We could have held our lines but for the lack of ammunition of the
_right kind_," they say--for it seems that ordinary shells are useless
when pitted against high explosives and gas.

No one who has not heard that appeal direct from dying lips (for dying
men don't lie) can know how great is the longing to tell about it at
home--to let the slackers know that for each shell not forthcoming
ten valuable lives are lost, ten homes needlessly bereaved. It is
intolerably unjust that the man who refuses to do his duty out here is
promptly shot, whilst the man who strikes at home is merely bribed with
offers of higher wages.

After all, it is a war not only of men, but of arms and ammunition, and
it lies in the hands of those at home as much as those out here to see
the thing through.


_May 16th._ At a certain canteen recently a splendid, strapping fellow
has been much in evidence. A fine all-round sportsman of good breeding,
always ready to lend a hand where required, he made himself beloved by
men and canteen-workers alike. In particular he endeared himself to the
man in charge of the canteen, to whom he would talk of his wife and
children and sports prowess in days gone by.

Over his fighting experiences, however, a veil was drawn; and
seeing that even to hint a question about it was to bring a look of
unutterable terror, of trench-haunted madness into his eyes, the
subject was left in abeyance.

Being neither wounded nor sick, nor attached to the regiment at the
base, it was usually assumed that he was an officer's servant, which
assumption was corroborated by the amount of spare time on his hands,
for he seemed always at the canteen.

One day he came to the man in charge with the request that he should
find him some remunerative work. Amazed, the civilian asked, "Why?
Aren't you drawing your pay?" Then the truth leaked out. Months back,
during an infantry advance, in a fit of madness he had boarded a
passing ambulance and found himself at the base. In plain words, he
was a deserter. For weeks he had lived, evading the canny A.P.M.'s
minions by the skin of his teeth, sleeping one night in a barn, the
next in a railway truck, the third on the sands, and always feeding at
the canteen. A dozen times he had thought the game was up. The strain
was beginning to tell, and now that he was down to his last sou there
was nothing left for it but to give himself up or cut and run.

Well, for the sake of the wife he was going to risk it.

He did so. But the authorities who scrutinise those little seemingly
useless papers on the boat were too sharp for him, and he passed for
ever out of the life of the only civilian who knew his story--to be
exact, out of the lives of all his friends.

And is not slackness at home all the more reprehensible when one
realises the penalties to which men O.A.S. are liable? Is it to be
wondered at that we in France would gladly hear the death-sentence
passed on every one of those traitor strikers?


_May 17th._ Far, far out, the fisher-folk, their hair and faces white
with brine, are shrimping. So far out is the tide that they are mere
dark specks against the red glow. Farther along the coast a number
of A.V.C. officers from remount camps are enjoying a chukker of polo
on the firm sands. The sound of heavy firing that had been so audible
during the afternoon in the Dover-Calais direction has ceased. The
friends who had come out to visit the invalids have departed by the
last tram, on which a tall Sikh was busy teaching the French conductor
to talk English. The result may be better pictured than described. When
they set to work to do a little bartering, ransacking each other's
pockets for souvenirs, exchanging two pencils for a cigarette, a penny
for a halfpenny, it was interesting to note that the businesslike
Frenchman--the bargainer _par excellence_--had met his match at last.

And to-morrow a month's sick leave in Blighty! Baths unlimited! Beef
that is beef and not horse! Lamb that is lamb and not goat! Every fibre
aches for civilisation.


_May 23rd, London._ No doubt the waitress at the terminus was rather
amused by the arrival of three travel-stained creatures, one in mufti
and two in uniform, whose first demand was for glasses of clear, cold
water. But could she have known she would have been astonished to find
that, in spite of our bad crossing, our hunger, and the subsequent good
dishes she set before us, none of us remembered _anything_ half as good
as this first unboiled, unchlorinated, unsterilised draught.

It is impossible to blame anyone for failing to take war seriously at
home. Here, where "business as usual" is the motto, it is literally
inconceivable that anything extraordinary is going on in the world.
No wonder that a certain number of women were prating recently of
the forthcoming Peace Conference at The Hague. Even those who are
worst hit, who have lost their nearest and dearest, are so engrossed
in their little charities, their bandage-making and knitting and Red
Cross lectures, that they have little leisure to mope. London is as
gay or gayer than ever, not a bit purged, for every man home on leave
is busy making the best of time. How different from the Frenchman,
whose one idea on getting out of the trenches is to set his house in
order, to instruct the women who are doing his work how to manipulate
the latest agricultural implements, to help prepare for the harvest!
Aldershot and its vicinity, for all the many lives that have passed out
of it for ever, is the same. And here, in the big country houses one
visits, people have still leisure to indulge in nerve attacks at the
sight of their milliners' bills. Even the rise of that new species,
the very temporary gentleman officer, is less remarkable at home. The
only change one notices (bar a few dances and cricket matches that have
been skipped, maybe out of respect for those who will dance and play no
more) is the Continental atmosphere of the streets and theatres.

London is almost as Belgian as Boulogne is anglicised. Rotund Belgians
sit knitting in the stalls, their sombre day dresses contrasting
strangely with our erstwhile brilliant audiences.

"Evening dress optional but unfashionable," as one theatre announces.

A joy for ever is the element of free-and-easy good-humour brought over
by our Colonials. If the last ten months have done no other good, they
have at least knit together, in bonds that can never be riven, our
wonderful Empire.



CHAPTER IX

June, 1915


_June 11th--Cumberland._ Speaking to a gathering of village folk on
work in France, I invited debate. "If King George 'as got wot Kaiser
Bill wants, why don't they go and fight it out themselves?" asked one
man. "Wot difference would it make to us if the country is ruled by
Germans or Englishmen?" said another, a lazy fellow whose fields had
remained fallow for years, quite oblivious of the fact that under
German regime _he_ would have been in the firing-line months ago. The
rest of the audience shivered with the helpless indecision as to what
their right course should be: which shows the little faith felt in the
present Government, half hoping for, half fearing the conscription of
labour that seems imminent.

That there should exist men who openly confess that from their point of
view the end of the war will be disastrous is almost incredible. Yet
I have come across a clergyman, working in a Midland manufacturing
centre, who has many instances of this indifference to recount.

Is it not useless to hope that this war will be the last? So long as
men are actuated by motives of commercial profit and agrarian gain,
the dream of Universal Peace must remain a chimæra; and the present
upheaval, essential to the checking and wiping out of Germany's
abnormal line of development, is destined to be only the first step
towards the Ideal of Progress which Europe (the Central Powers
included) had flattered herself to be following.

Most astounding of all is the utter obliviousness on the part of all
at home to the seriousness of the shell campaign, illustrated by the
ridicule hurled at those of us who uphold the Northcliffe Press.

As I settled into the corner of the railway carriage, after a
delightful week-end with a dear friend in Surrey, a batch of
illustrated journals and the _Morning Post_ were pressed upon me.

No one can be a more devout devotee of the _Morning Post_ Court
Circular than my humble self, knowing full well that to miss that
interesting document means a gradual drifting without the pale of
one's many acquaintances. Nevertheless, I asked meekly for "The _Daily
Mail_, please!"

"That you, with your love of literature, should read such stuff!" she
groaned.

Then, confidently:

"My dear, at any other time I should have _cut you dead_ for such a
thing."

There was no time to explain, as the train steamed out, that I go to my
newspaper for news and not for literature.

Yet I could not refrain from marvelling at the contumely showered on
the only organ strong enough to bring the truth before the public and
combat the weaknesses of a desultory Government.

The second astounding thing at home is the fact that no one seems to
realise the difference between the Front and the Base.

Anywhere in France--Paris excepted--seems to be "the Front," and no one
who has not been privileged to peep behind the scenes seems to realise
the gap that intervenes between the fighting line and the back of the
Front, as one might call the Base.

And one is introduced to a strange medley of people, all "going to the
Front."

Not only veteran soldiers and raw recruits and nurses, but charming
women of leisure who contemplate migrating with their retinue somewhere
abroad and earning fame "at a canteen or anything that is wanted--just
behind the lines!"

Now, although I can claim to have worked longer at our Base than
any other British woman (with one exception), to have withstood
the inclemency of its climate and its laws successfully for eight
consecutive months, and might therefore pretend to be an authority
as to where it really _is_, not a single friend have I succeeded in
convincing that I am not a true heroine--risking my life daily with
shells bursting all around and the Huns a few yards away. What they
want are descriptions of weeping gas victims and death-bed scenes (that
in reality are far better forgotten--if it is possible) and incidents
such as a youthful convalescent sapper confided to me recently--of the
man who, though his head was blown clean off at midday, was found to be
convulsively clawing the earth with fingers that seemed yet alive at
sundown!

For such yarns there seems to be a great demand, and if I told
them that heroism at the Base consisted of maintaining continual
cheerfulness in face of odds like bursting boilers which, for want
of men, cannot be repaired; if I hinted at the dullness of buttering
endless loaves, of wheedling Primus stoves into working order, of
changing French money for English at a varying rate of exchange, of
living amongst a strange, heterogeneous crowd of people, far away from
one's own friends, and stifling longings for one's _lares et penates_,
of the dreadful monotony and various other details of barmaiding,
amateur and otherwise, I should not be believed.

Therefore, with many a wiser, I seek shelter behind a discreet
silence, except when the insistence of the "Do-tell-me-all-about-it!
Have-you-seen-lots-of-horrors?" girl elicits an ironical reply to
the effect that most of our time is spent in champagne lunches and
moonlight picnics.


_June 12th._ I must not omit to note the very interesting meeting with
Mr. Henry James--the American author--who has so enthusiastically cast
in his lot with the Allies. It was at a tea at the American Embassy. On
being introduced, having heard of our work in France, he made no secret
of his views.

"You young people are wonderful. You are achieving what no other
generation could ever, will ever, achieve! After all, this is a young
people's war!"

I went home with a heart throbbing with pride at belonging to a
generation that, swept by the great driving spirit (maybe something
analogous to Maeterlinck's "Spirit of the Hive") from little ruts in
life into the great vortex of war, has already proved its metal.

Over and over again one is struck by the extraordinary altruism that is
displayed by those taking part in what, after all, is but a tremendous
life-and-death struggle.

Everywhere _esprit de corps_ prevails amongst the men. Take the
private. Maybe he reared poultry in some out-of-the-way farm in
Somerset. Maybe his pathetically wizened face tells of a childhood in
the slums. Whatever his life was before, he is Private Tommy Atkins
now, of the Blankshires--the finest regiment, the finest company, the
finest platoon in the British Army; a V.C. regiment he will announce
with pride, as he sits down by the dusty roadside to enjoy the ten
minutes' halt in what seems an interminable route march.

And the very Temporary Lieutenant whom one knew only a year ago as
the "knut," as, in the newest check trousers _à l'Américain_, he
lounged bemonocled in the Park, what of him? Was he not correct--very
correct and always correct, as he patronised every function of the
season--blasé, bored and boring, always ready to criticise every affair
with an amusing cynicism?

He, too, chameleon-like, has taken on the tone of his surroundings.
Behold him in khaki, a born leader of men! His boredom has become
sangfroid, his cynicism has blossomed into a brisk humour that keeps
the mess alive, his subservience to the law of the "correct thing" has
taught him to face every undreamt-of tight corner with a nonchalance
wonderful to behold.

Yes, Henry James is right. "It is a Young People's War." It may be an
ironical fate that designs the younger generation to lay down their
lives for the political blunders of the older--but the true tragedy
is not in the youths cut down in the flower of their manhood, nor the
girls broken in health by the magnitude of the task they have tackled;
the true tragedy is in the derelict "dug-outs" vainly hunting for jobs,
the aged women wringing their hands, with the cry, "We are too old to
help!"

And when our American friend, speaking of his countrymen's work and
schemes for ameliorating the lot of starving Belgium, remarked that
our work will not have finished with the cessation of hostilities,
for then alone will the full pinch and hardships of war be felt, the
destitution shorn of the gilding of excitement and uncertainty, I knew
he spoke truly.


The end of the last month all eyes were focused on Italy's rupture with
Austria (we note that diplomatic relations with Germany are not broken
off, no doubt for reasons commercial). To all who have travelled much
in that land of sunshine it was apparent that, whichever way politics
might trend, public feeling (barring that section of the proletariat
under strong Papal influence) would always be with the Allies; nor was
it possible to imagine any alliance between Italy and her hereditary
foe, the Hun, other than an alliance of convenience. The Italian's
contempt for Teuton boorishness is as ineradicable as the Italian's
confidence in the brilliant future awaiting his own kingdom.


_June 14th._ Two days later the Coalition Ministry, which we pray
fervently may remedy our shortage of war materials, was formed. Now,
attention is turned towards the East, the Cameroons, the Dardanelles.
Mr. Winston Churchill has raised our hopes to the tiptop of expectation
with his mysterious promises of some unparalleled and crushing success
in Gallipoli. So much so, that everyone speaks with confidence of the
termination of the war within a few months.

Yesterday some were only restrained from hoisting flags by the desire
to see the rumours confirmed. Alas! on opening the morning papers we
were but greeted with the news of fresh Austrian successes.


_June 20th._ With the receipt of "Marching Orders" this morning,
England and Home seemed suddenly very dear. Like a dream they come
back, those places I have visited--the peaceful Lakes; the cheerful
Felixstowe hotel, where one could revel in the soft, subdued lights and
pretty frocks; Bedford, which with all its khaki seems to be playing
at war more than any other city, and where one or two people are
still extant who saw the Russians come through from Archangel at the
beginning of operations, and even touched the snow on their caps! And
the different country houses, the different friends, how little touched
they seem by it all! True, in one or two once over-pretentious houses
the food is less lavish, the staff less numerous, the clothes less
exaggerated; which seemed a great improvement.

Only I seem changed, and all the things we once accepted as necessities
of life are become luxuries, from books and baths to the once despised
draught of clear cold water!

Yes, as to the sound of the soft-toned grand we sat by the fire
enjoying the ever sweet smell of burning logs, whilst, with the
inscrutable smile of one to whom the mysteries of Life and Death are
revealed, the death mask of the woman who was found in the Seine looked
down from her oak beam, and the hour-glass speeded its atoms along the
road to eternity, for the first time France and work seemed anything
but attractive.


_June 29th._ It is worth the journey to be amongst our men again, to be
welcomed as they alone welcome one, with hearty handshakes and hopes
that one has "come back to stay."

Things have progressed a good deal, too, in our small world. In
the beginning, were one only rich enough, or endowed with a title
sufficiently illustrious or notorious (it mattered not which), one
might rent an hotel or a château, turn it into a French or Belgian Red
Cross Hospital, and resort to a little harmless hospital work in France
whenever London became boring.

True, the authorities never encouraged these little pleasure trips, but
now that Boulogne has been definitely declared within the War Zone,
entrance and egress are a very different matter, and it requires quite
an amount of strategy for anyone not affiliated to some recognised
society, and armed to the teeth with permits, to get here at all.

There seems also to have been a systematic "rounding up" of
undesirables, and one by one the so-called "officers," who, in the
beginning, had made the nights hideous with their champagne suppers,
have disappeared.

Naturally, we too have progressed.

In place of skeleton buildings, well-planned camps lie along the
shore, complete even to their Imperial red letter-boxes. Once swampy
convalescent camps display smart flower gardens, whilst Thomas Atkins
moves about less molested by demands for souvenirs, and somewhat
solaced for his enforced absence from home by the welcome accorded to
him by his Allies. If the average man's vocabulary does not run much
beyond the five phrases, "_Bong jour!_" "_Compris?_" "_No bon!_" "_Nar
poo!_" ("_Je ne peux pas!_") "_Promenade ce soir?_" the few exceptions
have made remarkable progress.

One wonders what the residents of Brighton would say if a number
of friendly French workmen erected all along the Downs a miniature
village of asbestos and corrugated iron huts, interspersed with
tents and planted with trim little gardens of bright flowers and
evergreens; installed pillar-boxes bearing French arms, their electric
power-station, their orderly-and mess-rooms, surrounded the whole by
a mass of barbed wire, and having notified everywhere that this was
Hospital No. ----, to which there is "No Admittance," proceeded to
explain smilingly to the bewildered Brightonians that the huts are
stable enough to last for seven years.

If one could fathom the conflicting feelings of Brighton under these
conditions, one might have some small understanding of the astonishment
with which our Allies, already hard stricken by war, contemplate the
problem of this little Britain in France.

And there certainly _are_ problems. Take, for instance, the guarding of
the roads. Naturally enough, even in the British War Zone the French
are loath to give up command of the road. One cannot expect them to
forget completely that only one hundred years ago we were on a hostile
and not on a friendly mission! And so until recently they guarded the
barriers with fixed bayonets. Alas! the valiant men whose zealous watch
was apt to prove irksome have now been called up to the firing-line. We
shall no longer be tempted (those of us who are facetiously inclined)
to play pranks.

There was a certain art in producing, instead of one's military pass,
a card of membership of some long-forgotten club or any legal-looking
document, providing it bore a portrait affixed, and, brandishing it in
the watchful guard's face with a loud "_Laissez-passer militaire_,"
dash on to one's destination. An old Hippodrome ticket has been known
to act as well. Ten chances to one, being unable to read English, the
guard would let one through, and the delay would be amply repaid by the
good laugh.

But as I said, the many minor barriers have disappeared, and there is
no bluffing the men who guard the entrance and egress to the town.


_June 30th._ Since the German introduction of methods of warfare
that would shame a savage--the poison gas, the sinking of the
_Lusitania_--the whole attitude of our men towards the enemy has
changed, and one can safely predict that next Christmas there will be
no exchange of civilities and cigarettes with the Huns as there was
last.

Even at home the sluggards seem to be rousing; and the "Frightfulness"
whereby the Germans hope to scare Britain into a compromise is, on the
contrary, acting as a much-needed tonic.


One is struck out here by the psychology of the youthful subalterns.
The high anticipation of "getting out," the silent horror of which they
say so little when they are brought face to face with the "Real Thing,"
and which, once conquered, leads to a resigned fatalism.

It's the same with all of them. "_Che sarà, sarà_, and if we _are_ to
be hit, well, the sooner it's over the better, only it would be nice
to know if it's to be an arm, or sight or--the other thing. No matter,
anyhow. We shall know it soon enough, and in the meantime there is that
long-delayed ninety-six hours' leave in the future to dream of----"

Aye, that leave that many of them will never get!



CHAPTER X

July, 1915


_July 1st._ In place of the old hotel, where operations are still being
carried on, our new hut has sprung up. The dimensions, let me see,
are somewhere about 120 feet by 40 feet. Beside the platform at the
far end lies the library, to fill which our store of books is to be
greatly enlarged. Behind the counter are situated the ladies' room, the
store-room, the mess-room, to beautify which I am busy all day making
curtains, etc.

The kitchen is so small that it is not easy to get range and sink and
boilers fitted in, but a patent coal-shed adjoining, by means of which
one may shovel coal straight from the shed on to the fires through a
lifting door, is a convenience. We glory in a bath for the resident
secretaries, and if other sanitary accommodation is of the most
primitive, we console ourselves that, being under military inspection,
it is bound to be hygienic.

 [Illustration: OUR NEW HUT]

 [Illustration: INTERIOR OF A HUT
 Behind the counter are situated the store-room and the mess-room]

Our hut has the advantage of standing in its own field, which,
though none too even for cricket pitches, should make an excellent
football ground, to popularise which we have decided to have a formal
opening ceremony, preceded by sports.

In the interim of getting things ready for the hut I am lending a hand
at an Expeditionary Force canteen. The work, being in a camp where all
the men have been under fire, is intensely interesting. But, of course,
the social element is lacking.

Apart from the amusements and distractions offered, the men seem to
appreciate the Y.M.C.A. so much, because within the shelter of its
walls they can forget for the moment the stringent military discipline
under which they live.


_July 2nd._ In my hotel are quartered the latest "Lena Ashwell Concert
Party," whose good humour keeps the whole place alive. The place is so
noisy that it is impossible to sleep. Said the humorist of the party,
"That reminds one of the tale of the man in an hotel who was greatly
disturbed by someone walking about in the room above. The second night
things were no better; the third, the place shook as if he were jumping
the house down. Going upstairs he tapped at the door and said, 'I say,
old fellow, do you mind letting me get a little sleep? You've kept me
awake three nights with your noise.'

"'Am I disturbing you?' came the rejoinder. 'I'm so sorry. You see, I'm
under doctor's orders, and he's given me some medicine and told me to
take it two nights running and skip the third!'"


_July 3rd._ It is no easy matter now to get a photograph taken,
even of so harmless a thing as a grave. Nevertheless, in reply to a
request from a woman whose son is buried here, we resolved to leave
no stone unturned to obtain the necessary permits. And, as we waited
for the signing and countersigning of the valuable documents at the
Commandant's office, whilst outside the "Caterpillars" rumbled past,
taking their heavy guns up to the front, we wondered whether the
same stringent regulations apply to the many "neutral" seamen, whose
business, on cargo steamers, brings them into the port.


_July 9th._ By the evening the usual septic throat had claimed
me victim, and in spite of strenuous efforts to attribute it to
imagination, it is necessary to bow to the verdict that quarantines
one as a "Query Diphtheria" case.

Faced with the idea of being isolated in a bathing-box ward and nursed
by orderlies, there is nothing left for it but to take the landladies'
advice and pray. Really, their faith is wonderful. They pray for
everything; and seeing old Madame has a very short memory, and is
always losing things for which she proceeds to pray without making the
least effort to find them, St. Antony must be getting rather tired of
this house!

Blinding rain in a jerry-built summer villa is not exactly cheerful, in
spite of the Madonna lilies with which it is possible to adorn one's
attic.


_July 15th._ The finishing touches are being put to the new building.
My "Query Diphtheria" throat proved to be a false alarm, and now,
having toiled for nine hours, behold me taking a moment's rest on the
veranda, whilst thirty men--voluntary fatigue parties, who came in
response to a hint that their assistance would be appreciated--are at
work on different jobs.

Ten are darkening the table legs with permanganate of potash. Some are
cleaning windows and others pasting on our "Dutch" frieze, whilst a
little Scotty, who has been lent us as an orderly to help over these
first days, and whose dialect is so broad that even his own compatriots
sometimes fail to interpret, is watering and hanging geraniums we have
had out from England. Yes, there is a breath of home about our hut.
Bright English pottery adorns the shelves, bright curtains relieve the
Mediterranean blue of the walls, and, as I said before, our plants,
straight from Covent Garden, make the veranda as unwarlike as it is
possible to make it.


_July 16th._ Our hut certainly opened with _éclat_! In spite of the
fact that at midday the place was still full of French painters and
workmen, we managed to be superficially in order by four o'clock when
the D.D.M.S. declared the building open.

No sooner had the decorators laid down their tools at midday for lunch
than we bundled their ladders and paints outside and set to work to get
the hall straight.

In spite of the rain and biting wind, our campaign for opening with
sports in the afternoon was carried through; and after the many kindly
speeches and wishes for the welfare of the work, I distributed the
prizes from the platform, and we concluded with a concert.


_July 18th._ And now we are all suffering from a disease that might be
called "Hut fever"; its symptoms, a readiness to do anything to get the
place in order and (in spite of the still wet green paint that leaves
anyone who is careless enough to lean against the doors a souvenir not
easily eradicated) to make it into the finest centre at the Base.

The men themselves are equally enthusiastic, and one of them, the local
versifier, brought us a poem penned for the occasion, which I quote as
it stands:

    _"There's poets come and poets go,
      You've heard of that no doubt,
    But guess before you've heard much more--
      You'll want to throw me out.
    But still, here goes; I'll really try
      And get outside the rut,
    By putting into time and rhyme
      The tale of OUR NEW HUT._

    _"What sauce to call it 'ours' I hear
      A few outsiders say.
    But we don't mean we own the scheme--
      No, not a bit that way.
    We only mean its our new home
      It's the best way to put
    Our thoughts about this new turn out
      We've christened OUR NEW HUT._

    _"Now if perchance in Wimereux
      You're looking for a treat,
    Step off the road to our abode
      And kindly take a seat.
    You'll find it filled with khaki boys,
      From ploughman to the knut.
    But men of any mob, hob-nob
      Alright, in OUR NEW HUT._

    _"I haven't got their names off pat;
      These ladies and the gents,
    Whose active work they never shirk,
      No matter what events.
    But I feel sure we'll bless their help
      When peaceful lives we strut,
    And trust that in our lives, survives
      The good from OUR NEW HUT."_

Thus the American journalist who called on us to-day won our hearts
completely by designating the hut as the "Grosvenor Square of Boulogne."

The place is kept lively by the Canadians, who are stationed close by,
and who, with their music and overseas songs that carry one straight
out on to the prairies of "God's Own Country," never leave us a dull
moment.

Their ideas of justice, however, are rudimentary and original. To-day
the French girl whom, in default of an orderly, we keep to do the
rough work, was in trouble. She is an odd little creature of about
twenty-six, eternally brandishing imaginary knives at an imaginary
husband who ill-treats her. "The Little Savage" (thus we dubbed her
because of the way in which she holds her food in her mouth and tears
at it with both hands) had put her beautiful two-year-old boy out to
nurse when she came to work, and, on returning to see him, discovered
that he had been kidnapped by her parents-in-law.

After much ado with the police, and searching and wrangling at
relatives' houses, it transpired that, owing to her own peccadilloes,
the poor creature could not claim the custody of her child.

Crying like a wild thing, brandishing her helpless little fists,
calling down invectives against the laws whose aid, only a few hours
previously, she had been invoking, the girl returned; as I stood there,
trying to bring her to her senses with soothing words and a cup of
coffee, one of the Canadians came up and listened, open-mouthed, to her
story.

"Give me the child's address," he exclaimed, his great solemn eyes
fixed on the hysterical girl. "Law or no laws, it's hers. I'll steal
it back for her and brain that rotten husband when he comes out of the
trenches--and anyone else who gets in the way!"

Although there are so many tales illustrative of the Canadian lack of
class distinction being told on all sides, I cannot refrain from noting
down one told me by a Canadian to-day who fails utterly to see the
humour of it. A certain important general came along to a Canadian camp
to see his friend who was in command.

"Well, and what do _you_ want?" asked the private on guard at the
entrance.

"I want to see Colonel Birkdale," replied the General.

The private raised his voice. "Say, Birkdale," he shouted, "come right
here, there's a general wants to see you!"

"What else could he do?" asked the narrator of me. "He couldn't go off
and fetch the old man if he was on guard, could he?"


_July 23rd._ In spite of the conquest of German South-West Africa and
the advance of four hundred yards in Gallipoli, the situation seems
as indefinite as ever. Yet in the lull on the West is to be felt
the presaging of the advance, in anticipation of which we live on
the tip-top of expectation. This time there will be no shortage of
ammunition, they tell us; but, as Mr. Asquith says, we must "Wait and
see!" In the meantime we are less busy, and able to enjoy exhilarating
walks along the hospital-lined shore; or inland, to where that ruined
Jesuit monastery that has sheltered so many Indians and figured so
often in the papers as the "Ruins of Ypres," to rejoice the heart of an
unsuspecting public, rises an impressive pile against the sky.

Everywhere one notes the comparative opulence of our men, drawing from
1s. 2d. to 6s. per day, as compared with the French soldiers, who, less
well nurtured, only receive 1/2d.!

And if the tremendous wastage that went on during the early months has
now ceased; if loaves and meat are no longer buried in large quantities
daily, at least one could find quite a number of poverty-stricken
French families able to subsist happily on the "leavings" of the camps
hard by.


_July 29th._ I cannot help recalling how surprised everyone looked at
home if I spoke of "Blighty," or a friend who was now a T.C.O. (Train
Conducting Officer), and another who had been promoted to D.D.M.S.
(Deputy Director Medical Supplies). I believe they thought it "swank,"
though they themselves had added "strafing" and "hating" (in the
European-war sense) to their vocabulary.

Let us do ourselves justice! We at the Base are so accustomed to our
own "jargon" that it comes as second nature to us.

We are often asked for "a cup of you and me and a wad" (tea and bit
of bread and butter), or told that, although a man has spent all his
"toot" (money) on "pig's ear" (beer), he would be glad of a pinch of
"Lot's wife" (table salt) to eat with a sandwich, as the "shakles"
(stew) was so undercooked as to be uneatable; and I defy _anyone_ not
to lose reckoning of the rights and wrongs of their own language when
every other man states his wants in a terminology of his own. "Five
steps to heaven" is, perhaps, the favourite term for Woodbines; "Cape
of Good Hope" stands for soap; "jankers," confinement to barracks.

And is not every third office blazoned with hieroglyphics of some sort?
Does not every third man wear some kind of distinctive brassard with
its distinctive letters?



CHAPTER XI

August, 1915


_August 3rd._ Two Canadian A.M.C. orderlies were grousing that they
hadn't left God's Own Country to sit twiddling their thumbs in
Boulogne. "We volunteered for active service," says one. "Can't you
picture it years hence," says the second. "Your children around you
asking, like the little boy in the picture, 'And what did _you_ do in
the great war, Daddy?' 'Scrubbed floors, my son!'"

They did not grouse in vain. Two days later they were drafted to
Gallipoli, where no doubt they will see all the active service their
brave young souls demand--and a good deal more, perhaps. They must be
magnificent fighters, these Colonials, whose regime allows of their
initiative having full scope.


_August 12th._ Yesterday the mail boat came in accompanied by two
destroyers.

"Royalty is coming," clamoured the French. "Royalty is expected,"
echoed the men. And, having received an intimation three days back that
Royalty was expected, we awaited developments in our best workaday
frocks.

Presentation at their Majesties' Court is a simple matter compared with
the excitement of receiving a Princess in France. I do not wish to
infer that the Princess was anything but her charming Royal self!

It was the long retinue that preceded and succeeded her, the curiosity
of our French friends as to _who_ was coming (curiosity that we in the
know were not permitted to satisfy), the air of breathless expectancy,
that made the visit and inspection a thing to be remembered. And in due
course, the usual formalities being over, the presentations effected,
our handiwork admired, we were left with the King's cheering message to
rejoice the hearts of those of us who are already beginning to feel so
tired and war worn.

"His Majesty sent an especial message to you workers in France, and
desired me to tell you he considers the fine work you are carrying on
so efficiently, of importance second only to that of the men in the
trenches."

It was certainly a sufficient encouragement to "carry on."


_August 13th._ For a long time now we have hankered after some words
to express all the heroism, the practical heroism, manifested around
us. And when some Good Samaritan at home sent out a volume of Rupert
Brooke's poems, it may be imagined how we acclaimed him forerunner of
the poets who shall sing the greatest tragedy of history.

Almost simultaneously appeared the _Times_ supplement of war poems. For
a year now we have lived outside the charmed sphere of books, and these
documents came as a revelation of the depths to which the cataclysm has
moved our singers. We had thought them dumb by reason of its magnitude.

Kipling, we had been told, was "dead," so far as his influence over the
nation went; but _can_ the influence of the man who wrote "For all we
have and are" die whilst his nation endures?

It may not be great poetry, but it is great patriotism.

And then there is the new school of poets who have arisen--new to us,
that is to say--and who we are told may be heard reading their own
poems every week in London in the mystical precincts of the poetry
bookshops.


_August 17th._ We are working single-handed now. That is to say, whilst
one lady is on leave a second is _hors de combat_ with a bad leg, and,
owing to the I.G.O. authorities' stringent regulations by which free
lances (if there are any to be found) may not be pressed into service,
there are only two of us, which makes it hard work.

And at home we hear of huts where the workers are tumbling over each
other for numbers!

Perhaps one of the most interesting figures in this medley of men is a
certain South African veteran, a blind V.C., the value of whose work
amongst the wounded is immeasurable.

I last saw him being led down by a brother officer to the supper-room
after a diplomatic Court at Buckingham Palace. _Then_ all eyes were
turned on him in pity; _now_ one realises that the vast amount
of good that this one man has been able to achieve--cheering on
fellow-sufferers not yet accustomed to their affliction, showing men
how it is possible to build up a new though sightless life--must have
made his own suffering worth while.

The men worship him, and one word of good cheer from him is worth more
than the ministration of a dozen clergymen.

On the whole the visits of the clergy are not hailed with much
enthusiasm, their arrival being often looked upon as an omen of
approaching death at the Base, or, in the firing-line, of a big advance.


_August 23rd._ A French orchestra was playing yesterday afternoon, and
on the cliffs that form the lawns of No. ---- Stationary Hospital were
gathered together to greet the Royal guest the most fashionable crowd
that the Base could produce. The whole scene, but for the white tents
and blue-clad patients, might have been a smart seaside parade, for the
camp commands an exquisite view of Boulogne, Wimereux and the distant
coast of home. Suddenly, with a boom, a spurt of blackened debris, and
a jet of water house-high, a distant boat was seen slowly to heel over
and turn turtle.

Some attributed the cause to a floating mine, others to an ill-judged
practice gun; but as the mail boat has neither come in nor gone out,
as everyone is full of the sinking of the _Arabic_, we begin to believe
the worst rumours--that a German submarine has at last got through into
the Channel.

Later on, at an official dinner, the truth had not yet been fathomed.

That dinner is, perhaps, worthy of note, as for the first time we heard
our Indian colleagues' views on the European upheaval.

Having exhausted my conversational powers with my dinner partner--a
brawny Yorkshireman in a violent check suit and correspondingly odd
accent, whose conversation for the most part consisted in repeatedly
and dolefully asking if I knew what was the rate of exchange for the
day (for the edification of posterity, be it noted, it is 27 francs 50
centimes)--I turned my attention to the native Christian Indian on my
right. He was by no means lacking in topics of interest, chief amongst
them being the effects of war upon India of the future. He spoke with
the assurance of a man of education, being a barrister, and seemed to
think that the broadening effect of their sojourn in Europe will be
counteracted by the native adoption of Western vices.

An interesting fact to note is the total paralysation of all religious
propagandist movements amongst the Indians. The work of the Y.M.C.A.
amongst the natives at the moment is entirely non-religious. The
secretaries act as interpreters, letter-writers, entertainers; they
have evolved a wonderful system for keeping the men in touch with their
kinsfolk--but any proselytising is strictly barred by the Army.

Not by even so much as the use of Y.M.C.A. notepaper--that might lead
the natives at home to suspect their warriors of being influenced--is
this verdict waived.

Nevertheless, it seems that the Indians have come to look upon the
Association as "both father and mother," to use my informant's phrase,
and turn to it for assistance in most peculiar matters. Said a Sikh to
a local secretary to-day:

"Sahib, you go into town?"

"Yes."

"Sahib, I have one want."

"What is it?"

"Sahib, will you buy me two new teeth?"


_August 30th._ To counteract our little success at Hooge there is the
news of the fall of Warsaw, of Ivangorod, and Brest Litovsk; while in
Gallipoli a new landing at Suvla Bay and General Birdwood's advance at
Anzac brings us such a list of casualties that we can only hope the
venture is worth the cost.

Where, I wonder, is the crushing success Mr. Winston Churchill promised
us, for which people at home were preparing to hang out their flags?



CHAPTER XII

September, 1915


_September 3rd._ Time has passed so quickly that it is hard to
realise that beautiful autumn is already upon us. Yet as the days
draw in, lights go on earlier, and our hut grows fuller and work more
engrossing. Outside the laughing, gurgling wavelets, chasing each other
round the rocks, are replaced by white-crested breakers that rage along
the shore at high tide and cut us off from the town.

Boulogne is once more animated, as people transfer their attention
during leisure hours from country pursuits to the joys of the shops,
whose windows give forth an enticing glow.

Our hut being the most easily cleared and converted into a concert
hall, it was decided to hold a performance there entirely for nursing
sisters.

About four hundred of them turned up, and, in spite of the difficulties
of getting sufficient cars to convey them backwards and forwards, it
proved a great success.

The morning before we had spent in trying vainly to get the place into
hospital-like order, so that even their critical eyes might have no
fault to find. It is extraordinary how many obstacles stood in our way.
For in France women scrubbers never go on their knees to work, their
method of cleaning a floor being to flood it with water and chloride of
lime, and having vaguely played about with mops on the end of a long
broom, to leave it severely alone; and as, long before the place has
had a chance to dry, it is being tramped on by men in muddy boots, the
results are disastrous, to say the least of it.

Nor is it at all easy to get rid of the refuse of the place, which
has either to be consigned to the incinerator, buried in trenches, or
carted away; and although the mayor's cart _sometimes_ condescends to
call once a week, it usually takes a good deal of persuasion.


_September 12th._ A day off duty is best begun by a swim. To float
on the warm, pellucid waves, rejoicing in the sun and breeze, is to
be alive. The next item on the programme is to look up old friends.
This is not altogether without disappointment, for they are all, like
oneself, "war worn" and beginning to be pessimistic. Many are on the
verge of a nervous breakdown, owing to the isolation of their position
(it is quite a tragedy in itself to note the number of people who can't
afford to have friends); others, and quite a number, have found solace
in religion and have turned Catholic, being baptised in the Cathedral
that has watched so many changes these last months.

From home come letters full of Zeppelin raids. Squadrons of these must
have come, according to descriptions. Everyone claims to have had them
"just over our street."


_September 20th._ We are glad to see the pest of flies and wasps
abating at last. May that wonderfully efficient sanitary inspector--the
bane of so many people's lives!--whose unflagging zeal has rendered
this disease-ridden neighbourhood quite a passable health resort
be honoured and sung as he deserves. The construction of baths and
laundries are minute details compared with the difficulties of coping
with drainage and flies.

Owing to the prevalence of the cesspool system here, the French
authorities permit only of creolin as disinfector; and, in spite of
effluvia, none of the ordinary deodorants is allowed. Then, quite
recently and with no warning, to cope with the shortage of water, the
contaminated water of the Odre River was let in to supplement the
ordinary supply, and we were served with notices to the effect that all
water used (1) for drinking, (2) for washing up cups, plates, cooking
utensils, etc., (3) for cleaning teeth, must be either boiled or
chlorinated, with many other regulations calculated to counteract the
idiosyncrasies of contaminated water.

_Revenons à nos moutons_--and our flies! For was I not about to pen an
anthem on all the fly traps, papers, cemeteries and fly poisons that
are our daily consternation?

Each morning for months past every dish has been covered by fresh
muslin covers, whilst sandwiches are stored under wire safes, and
harmless-looking but efficacious baits of creolin, hidden in seemingly
innocuous saucers of milk and sugar, are set nightly, oblivious of
the indignant buzzing of their victims. Congested traps full of wasps
meet their fate in buckets of boiling water, whilst those dangling
fly-spangled creations, whose unpleasant habit it is to smite the
unwary when least expected, leaving an unwanted "souvenir" of sticky,
jam-like substance on his face or hair, are consigned in all their
odorous glory to the fire.

Oh yes! our sanitary inspector is as much a tartar on the score of
flies as he is on drainage and the boiling of milk.

Only the other day, whilst inspecting the kitchen of a neighbouring
hospital, a typical incident occurred. Grunting his approval of
everything, the Major was about to take his departure when his eye
lighted upon a solitary fly which, having evaded all efforts at
capture, was crawling upon the ceiling.

"Adjutant!" roared the Major, "what's that fly doing there?"

Completely taken aback, the Adjutant faltered in trepidation: "I don't
know, sir, to be sure. But I'll ask the Sergeant-Major!"


_September 25th._ Now are all things explained--the massed cavalry, the
convoys, the ammunition wagons we saw on a surreptitious journey we
made up the line; the "Something" in the air, the expectation of the
small and restless audience at a concert we had this afternoon. For the
great "Push" has begun, and fifteen thousand wounded are expected down
here alone, and to cope with the work every available nook and cranny
has been converted into hospital accommodation.

It was about 9.30 P.M., just as we were finishing our evening repast,
that there came a tap on the shutters. There stood a polite but hurried
C.O. asking courteously for the _loan_ of our building, which he has
every right to commandeer.


_September 26th._ A dreary "gun rain" has set in, but nothing can damp
the spirits of the men--for rumour has it we have advanced five miles
along the whole line, with a magnificent cavalry charge; and the 3,000
prisoners brought down to-day clearly point to a crushing victory.


_September 29th._ A complete change has been wrought, and as I sit in
the library gazing across the sea of beds where lie the weary bandaged
forms, towards the counter, upon which rise the pile of surgical
instruments and other paraphernalia of sickness, the old smell, so
familiar a year ago, of blood-covered beings, whose clothes have been
time and again drenched through and dried on them, comes to me.

 [Illustration: EXTEMPORISED HOSPITAL IN A HUT
 "Fifteen thousand wounded are expected down here alone, and to cope
 with the work every available nook and cranny has been converted into a
 hospital"]

The place has been scoured out, and makes an excellent ward, but for
the elements, whose fierceness baffles all efforts to heat the interior.

Apart from the wounded there is no denying that Thomas Atkins has a
strong penchant for stuffy rooms. Maybe it is the reaction after months
of enforced outdoor life, but the fact remains that if he _can_ shut
every door and window, and huddle round a fireplace instead of enjoying
the fresh air, he will, without fail, continue to do so.

Icy blasts penetrate the cracks of the unlined wooden wall, rain pours
through the ventilators--which the French workmen had unthinkingly
built inwards--quite oblivious of the fact that the sleeping figures
on the beds are deserving of more consideration. We have just put red
lampshades on to mellow the light, and even have dreams of varnishing
the floor one day, when things are slack.

Outside, in the marquee devoted to the storage of our tables and usual
equipment, we are carrying on our own work--at a disadvantage, to be
sure--but still carrying on, to facilitate which an extemporary boiler
has been erected near the door.

In the kitchen, where daily we are gleaning undreamt-of wisdom on the
scores of ration-drawing, diet sheets, order forms, chaos would reign
but for the continual presence of one of us. For the two French girls
and two orderlies are tumbling over each other in their anxiety to get
things done up to time. As it is, things work admirably, and we are all
growing adepts at brandishing heavy meat choppers and cooking in the
cauldrons and stewpots, so large that no two women can move them.

We stewed 30 kilos of meat, with vegetables, this morning, and served
it at 12.15. As we cut up their meat for the handless and armless, they
were as unanimous in their appreciation of the food as we had been
in our admiration of the excellent ration beef, of which each man is
entitled to ten ounces. We can only attribute the men's grousing to the
fact that it may sometimes be insufficiently cooked. Better meat and
vegetables were surely never served before a king.


_September 30th._ As far as possible only the slight cases are sent to
us, so that the work amongst the fit may go on as usual.

Amongst the lying-down cases is a man with a bullet through the
pelvis, a gaunt Irishman of a strange hue, who, whilst wounded, had
been gassed by one of our own explosive shells.

"Look at them raindrops," said he. "That's 'ow the bullets fell, thick
as that."

"The wonder ain't the number of casualties, it's that anyone could live
through it," rejoined another.

"But we were through the fifth line o' their trenches and fightin' in
the open when I come down," adds a third, his eyes gleaming with the
light of victory that betokens that it was all worth while.

The achievement of our men seems all the more wonderful when one hears
how they were not only outnumbered and outflanked, but, in many parts
of the line, lacking in ammunition, which they maintain had to be held
in reserve for the main attack.

As the dressings were being done by the solitary nurse and doctor
in charge, as one by one the wounds were attended to, and a silence
pregnant with unuttered groans reigned, one felt vividly that none but
Michelangelo himself could depict that scene--those fine, muscular
forms looming in the dim morning light.



CHAPTER XIII

October, 1915


_October 3rd._ All the morning we had been hard at work amongst our
_blessés_. It is odd how soon they endear themselves to everyone.
There is the little wizened bit of humanity who gazes all day long
into space with a horror-stricken look, or falls asleep, half on the
floor, half on the bed, until aroused. The unearthly green pallor of
his face is not accounted for by his slum upbringing alone, but by the
German gas and the fact that he has twice been blown heavenwards by
exploding mines. There is the finely built Canadian--one of the first
contingent who have all "seen hell with the lid off," to use their
own terminology--who, when the pain of his rheumatic limbs allows,
is so very precise in his toilet. He changes his shirt frequently,
gloating over the neatly folded bundles in which repose his requisites
with the air of a miser, never forgetting to clean his boots and call
for a glass by which to shave. He is "some" smart, and, judging by
the crested seal and gold watch-chain dangling from his waistcoat
pocket, must be a sahib at home. To us he is most remarkable for his
expression--the grimmest I have ever seen.

Then there is the "buffoon" of the place, who yarns lengthily about the
four times he has been hit (though his record only points to once), and
invariably sets out to sing comic songs when the rest of the community
is preparing to sleep.

The men are full of their glimpses of enemy trenches and methods;
of how they found quite a number of Germans chained to their own
machine-guns, which reminds me of the most dramatic side of warfare.

Very little is told of courts martial, very little is known of courts
martial, except to those whose duties bring them in contact with the
relentlessness of discipline. To realise one must see.

Until quite recently a blue-eyed, fair-haired boy lay in the end bed of
an airy ward in B---- Hospital. In spite of his extreme reticence he
won the affection of both nurses and patients. His wound was healing
quickly, but he only shook his head when they spoke of getting home.

One day as dinner was being taken round he asked for a second helping
of meat and pudding.

"Why, whatever is the matter?" exclaimed the kindly nurse. "Are you
very hungry?"

"Not very, Sister; but it's my last dinner!" came the quiet answer.

Not understanding, the Sister repeated the remark to the Medical
Officer.

It was quite true. The boy's wounds were self-inflicted. It was a case
for court martial. Next day he was gone.


_October 10th._ It was in the midst of serving out the dinners that two
friends turned up on their way home to England.

Hungry and travel-stained though they were, we were too busy to do more
than hurl a frying-pan and eggs into their hands, with injunctions
to help themselves until the rush was over and we could attend to
them. How they admired our ward and its now stained, polished floors,
for which we found a solution of brunswick black and turpentine so
efficacious! The afternoon being slack, we hied into the town to pay
a long promised visit to a naval friend, and were entertained right
royally, enjoying to the full the childish pleasure of having to scale
ungainly ladders from boat to boat, and listening to the conversation
between our host and the ship's captain in a jargon edifying but
utterly incomprehensible to the mere landlubber.

We wandered round the quay, along the roads on which stand
well-guarded, but by no means hidden, 5-inch guns, their attendant
"caterpillars," and, in the trains, loads of ammunition. As we
watched cranes lifting great weapons of destruction off the boats the
significance of this war of cold steel against quivering human flesh
was borne upon us. We sauntered round, marvelling at the wonderful
method by which, in less than a year, the British have created a whole
small city out of nothing.

Gangs of khaki-clad workmen dwell here, utterly oblivious, no doubt, of
the wonderful sunsets and Turneresque light effects as they work amidst
the stores of rations destined daily for the trenches, or the picric
acid, petrol and other explosives that lie by the sea.

My friends' enthusiastic anticipation of home was infectious, and it
needed much will-power to withstand their pleadings to get leave too.
And as the boat that carried them home grew into a faint speck on the
horizon, involuntarily our thoughts went with them, past the brightly
coloured villas, for all the world like the sugar-candy edifices of
fairy-tales, to the land where nothing is changed. Yes! There are hours
when one would gladly relinquish the necessities of life for a few of
its luxuries. Chief and foremost of these, needless to say, would be
an unlimited supply of those hot baths we were wont to accept as our
birthright, and are only just beginning to value at their true worth.
I wonder if anyone who has not spent a bleak winter in the jerry-built
summer residences of a French watering-place, whose eyes have not been
continually offended by the salmon-pink walls and hideous rococo cupids
on low ceilings, can realise the true joy of living once more in a
house, no matter how modest, but a house built to withstand the weather?


_October 13th._ The British advance on the outskirts of Hulluch--the
village of Loos, the progress near Hooge, the French capture of
that ghastly Souchez cemetery, their valiant fighting in Champagne,
are things of the past. It is the Hohenzollern Redoubt that is on
everyone's lips now, and Vermelles. Our own men--the hospital
orderlies, that is to say--who spend all their spare moments at the
hut, are quite worn out by this rush of work, which nevertheless seems
to have put new life into them.

Many grouse at the R.A.M.C. Few people realise the deference due
to those devoted men who, day and night, are working to alleviate
suffering. They number amongst their ranks many well-born men, who
joined that corps at the first call in the hopes of "getting out
soon," and many who gave up excellent posts to enlist are undergoing
undreamt-of hardships with a stoicism that is admirable.

After all, which lot is preferable? That of the man who, after running
risks in the trenches for six days, finds himself in billets the
succeeding week, able to enjoy his liberty with the consciousness of
having earned it--or the man who has had steadily to perform the same
menial jobs for fifteen unrelieved months, running no risk, it is
true, save that of infection, but subject to the obloquy of those he
is serving because he has never been in the trenches? As an R.A.M.C.
orderly, who has made three unsuccessful attempts to transfer into a
combatant unit, remarked to-day, the Base has well been described as
"the place where they keep you until you are so fed up that the Front
is a treat!"

A hundred temptations assail them, and men who had never before felt
the least inclination towards drink find themselves drifting by degrees
into those enticing-looking little French cafés not yet closed by the
authorities.

And it is to detract from the attractions of these dens that we work to
keep the men amused.

Said one onlooker to-day pityingly: "I hear you have such a bad set of
men--drunkards and all sorts of undesirables!"

With truth I could rejoin: "Not nearly bad enough. It's the worst we
want, for they need helping most."


_October 19th._ There is no end to the gamut of emotions one traverses
during the space of an ordinary day. To close one's eyes and look back
over the kaleidoscopic events of the week is almost bewildering.

The picture of Second Lieutenant Jones, lately junior clerk at Messrs.
Morells, steamship owners, being brought face to face with his former
employer, Sir Cuthbert Morell, private, A.S.C., is inexpressibly funny.

Private Morell accords the Tommy's salute to his officer, who seems to
have lost all his customary swagger and starch for the moment.

Lieutenant Jones stops. "I--I hope you're getting on all right--sir,"
he stammers.

The grey-haired private, master of millions, with shooting-boxes,
country seats, town houses that a prince might envy, replies to his
£100 per annum clerk and superior officer that all is well. For a
moment they gaze at each other speechless. Then the topsy-turvydom
of it all grows too much for them, and, to the astonishment of the
onlooker, the adjutant of Jones's regiment, they burst into a roar of
laughter that, contrary to all military etiquette, ends in a hearty
handshake.


_October 20th._ Whilst we were still a hospital, and our work
temporarily paralysed, a new hut was opened. In a state of great
indignation some of the men clustered round to reassure us as to their
patriotism to the old place.

"_You_ needn't fear no rivalry," exclaimed one; "they've got the wrong
class o' person doon there."

"This is _our_ hut, and you make us feel as if we belonged to the
place and it to us," said another.

If their loyalty warmed our hearts, it did not in the least facilitate
the task of explanation that our Association fears no rivalry, that it
is not attempting to run a cheap café, and rather than be thought to
outbid anyone else would pack up its traps and depart.

Such is the spirit of the institution for which we are working. And
perhaps I may whisper it in my diary that in one place, when some
unscrupulous folk were bribing unwary men with free drinks to spread
abroad that the Association tea was of an inferior quality to theirs,
with their truly magnanimous spirit the Y.M.C.A. _did_ walk out of the
camp, and yet continued to supply the said unscrupulous folk with all
the stores they required.

Oh, yes, we're all inordinately proud to be working under the sign of
the Red Triangle!

Many, no doubt, have used the institution for the purpose of gratifying
their curiosity, more as a means of playing their rôle in the Great
Game, and most, maybe, will sever their connection with the Association
to which they owe so much with the cessation of hostilities; but
those who have been vouchsafed an insight into the methods of the
Y.M.C.A., the dominating spirit that has driven it into the position
of responsibility it now holds--in face of the derision with which its
rise was first greeted--will not forget that the Y.M.C.A. has never yet
failed where it was most needed, never shown anything but the greatest
magnanimity of spirit. Entirely undenominational, it throws its doors
open to every sect under the sun, its buildings have been lent to Jews
and Catholics, Mohammedans and others alike; and just _because_ of its
broadness and the largeness of its vision it is having an evangelising
power undreamt of by any religious inquisition of the Middle Ages.
There will be many, after this war, who will be able to say:

"I grew religious because I saw what a wonderful thing active religion
can be"; and though the members of this Association--which has a way of
giving the humbler born leaders of men an opportunity of leading--may
never hear of all this, it will be inscribed to their favour on the Day
of Reckoning! And surely the very silence of its workings is sufficient
testimony of its strength, as its growth is of its utility.

Does the world know, I wonder, how daily improvised centres are
springing up nearer and nearer the Front, to the men's delight, until
the old familiar sign of the Red Triangle--not Bass's Pale Ale, be it
noted--but the Red Triangle, that symbolises "Body, Mind and Spirit,"
is to be found even in dug-outs?

Nor is the institution behindhand in Egypt or the Near East or
Gallipoli.

Only to-day we heard of a secretary (originally here with the Indian
force) who, on landing at Gallipoli, was greeted by the C.O. with a
cheerful:

"And what are you looking for?"

"A place with no shells flying about, sir, to start a Y.M. centre!"

"Why, that's what everyone on the Peninsula is looking for!" exclaimed
the Colonel. "If you can find it, by all means keep it!"


_October 28th._ All things considered, the resignation of the French
Ministry is causing far less comment here than such a move in England
would make, though in Paris we hear there is quite an upheaval.
Internal politics in France are so entirely subservient to the
international issues at stake.

One would not want those at home to know all there is to know of modern
warfare--of the vast pestilential graveyard that is Belgium--yet one
cannot help wishing that some of the vibrations of these strenuous
times could be more clearly felt by them, that they would cease to see
things as they wish to see them, and realise that the worst is yet to
come--that we must brace ourselves to face it.

Not only the spirits of the fallen heroes of our little insignificant
Western Front cry out to be avenged, not only the scarce human
prisoners, dying in hundreds of cold and hunger in disease-ridden
concentration camps; the girl mothers of Belgium, the murdered
innocents, the crucified Canadians; men burned by liquid fire,
suffocated by poison gas, parched men dying of thirst on the arid
plains of the East; but every forbear of our gallant race warns us that
the end is not yet, that to safeguard the future of our children the
nation must turn its whole attention to the work in hand.

How can we blame the slackers who, for want of confidence, refused to
throw in their lot with what seems to them a wild-goose chase--until
fetched? We must blame the slothful system that allows one man to
profit by another's patriotism.

We must not lay the blame of any one failure at the door of any one
particular man, but attribute it to the fault we are most often apt to
exalt as a virtue--as if by so doing we exonerated our mistakes--our
slack unpreparedness.

Surely, until we are animated by one great unity of purpose, one great
desire to sink personal in national interests, even as our dead heroes
have done, there can be no end.

Surely if our Russian Allies could achieve in one day what reformers
had scarce hoped to see effected in a hundred years, and by one fell
swoop convert herself into an abstemious country, animated with but one
desire--to conquer--we should be able to attain a little more unity, a
little less slackness?


_October 29th._ The news of the King's accident whilst reviewing the
troops is the one thing one hears discussed on all sides. Exactly where
he will be taken seems as yet indefinite, but the orderlies from the
Officers' Hospital opposite are fully convinced that _their_ wards are
being prepared for his reception. The French seem almost as upset as
we are, for their love of our Royalty remains as staunch as during the
life of King Edward, whom they worshipped, and the Prince of Wales--of
whom we have caught an occasional glimpse on his way to and from the
Front--vies in popularity with his genial grandfather.



CHAPTER XIV

November, 1915


_November 2nd, All Souls' Day!_ The Bishop of Arras held a service in
the cemetery, a memorial service for those _morts pour la Patrie_.

The rain streamed down from the steel-grey sky in Boulognese torrents
as the mass surged hither and thither amongst the crowded graves.

Those graves into which but a year ago we watched the dead being heaped
three deep, into which we cast our meagre offering of violets with a
wish that those relatives at home might know that at least two English
souls were there to pray for them lovingly at the end, are now old
graves and planted with neat little boxwood crosses.

Oh! city of little white crosses on that high hill, what a history of
pain and valour you stand for!

The bishop came late. Some feared the weather might deter him; others
scoffed at the idea.

"A bishop who has faced the fighting with his people in the field, who
has watched his whole diocese gradually destroyed, will not fear the
rain!" they said.

Addressing a few words of thanks to the crowd for being present, the
bishop hastily robed. The choir chanted. A new young widow beside
me began to sob. Scarce an eye in that vast concourse of black and
uniforms was dry.

"_Requiescat in pace!_"

It seemed to me that no passed souls could be so needful of that prayer
as the restless, tortured souls of the living mourning crowd.

An irresistible something drew me once more towards the now deserted
hospital on the quay. It had _had_ to be abandoned for reasons of
hygiene. For even after the rise of its now celebrated dental, ocular
and aural departments, even when the lavatories and baths and X-ray
apparatus had been satisfactorily installed, its situation--low down by
the sluggish water--its lack of proper ventilation, made it untenable,
and within the space of a few days it was transferred to healthier
quarters facing the sea and refreshed by sun and breezes, where there
was no fear of the low fever that continually attacked the staff in
that original charnel-house. Once more it is an evil-smelling empty
barn. I clapped my hands to my eyes to see if I was awake. _Could_
this ever have been the place we knew, the harbour of so much pain!
Oh, could those whitewashed walls and dirty floors speak! No tales
of massacre could be more lurid than the remembrance of the original
British Expeditionary Force who passed through and will not come again.
In spite of the dead stillness that reigned I could feel the throbbing
of the many souls who passed away. Vividly, as if no intervening year
had elapsed, their faces rose up to greet me with cries for water and
release from pain, whilst eager blue-ticketed crowds pressed forward as
the arrival of a hospital ship was announced.

A rat ran across the concrete, emphasising the desolation of the scene.
Out of the gloom of a certain corner the spirit of a nameless prisoner
greeted me. With a last tetanus spasm--a writhe--a death-rattle--the
jaw relaxed like a gaping fish, and a strange little sigh seemed to
betoken a released spirit.

The mortuary door was blacked over. Why not removed? For what
purpose could such a place ever be used again? The theatres still
stood--deprived of their hardly accumulated equipment. A sigh of wind
came through a broken pane. Was it imagination, or did it bear with it
faintly from afar the old oft-heard cry: "Christ help us!"

Bah! It was but an evil nightmare. _They_ are all gone. I alone am left
to tell the tale; and generations to come will never know.

Outside things are not much changed. The cobblestones, responsible
for the premature demise of such innumerable pairs of stout boots and
shoes, are as uneven as ever. The best part of the road, however, has
now been railed off for the use of ambulances only, in order that the
wounded may be subjected to as little jolting as possible. I recall
how, after our first few days at the Gare Maritime Hospital, one of the
nurses discovered an easier method of getting from our billets to our
work, and how the half-hour's walk to the hospital was soon superseded
by a ten-minutes' row in one of the many ferryboats from one side of
the harbour to the other. Sometimes, of course, it had been too rough.
Once, indeed, there was nearly a calamity when an old boatman, rather
more anxious for the welfare of his pocket than the safety of his
passengers, ventured out in a storm so violent that the little boat was
in danger of being swamped by the waves, and necessitated the putting
out of the lifeboat, or whatever is the Boulognese equivalent. Even
then the strong current proved almost too much for the frail craft,
which was gradually drifting seawards. For several days afterwards most
of us risked extra weary feet rather than face the elements at sea.

Sometimes, of course, we obtained a lift in an ambulance or private
car, for even to-day the laws of _meum_ and _tuum_ are less rigorous
here than at home. It is no unusual occurrence for a driver going along
a desolate road with no passengers to offer a lift to any solitary
pedestrian he may find on the road. He will not, needless to say, go
out of his way if duty forbids, but just drop his passenger at the
nearest point to the destination for which he is bound. Nor, in a place
where there are hardly any public vehicles to be had, is one shy of
"asking for a lift," a proceeding which one can hardly picture at home.


_November 18th._ Out of evil comes good, and if ill-health has
temporarily paralysed my activities, it has at least given me time and
opportunity to see something of the environment of the place that has
been our home for so long.

There is one hospital base fringing the sea and situated in the pine
forests which once formed one of the smartest little golfing centres
of the coast whither Fate took me. There can be no harm in describing
it, for already we are told a most exact and minute description has
appeared in the German medical papers!

Almost a year ago we had visited it, seen the magnificent wards of the
---- Hospital that has now been converted for the use of officers, and
visited a large French hospital.

It had been run almost entirely by untrained voluntary Englishwomen
with a modicum of experience who apparently diagnosed their own cases
and treated them accordingly. Well I recall the hall of dusky Zouaves
gobbling up their midday meal, or disposing of what victuals they did
not require on to the sanded floor, just as a vision of English beauty,
clad in the daintiest of nursing creations, tripped out of a side ward,
her eyes aglow with excitement.

"I _know_ he's got enteric," she exclaimed cheerfully to our cicerone,
pointing to her patient and glancing at the Red Cross book in her hand.
"I _know_ he's got enteric, and I shall treat him for it."

Exactly how many patients that charming girl managed to dispose of I
haven't discovered, but, as the Court Circular announced her marriage
shortly afterwards, we may assume that the Zouaves proved enough. What
the hospital lacked in operating theatres in those days it made up for
in "dressing-rooms," where doctors and nurses worked side by side,
and when aseptic conditions always, antiseptic measures generally,
were things unknown. And now? Along the roadside lie huts with
accommodation for over twenty thousand patients, with all the requisite
medical staff, and within quite a small area no fewer than four of our
canteens have replaced the small tent of other days, whilst individual
enterprises run by free lances, commonly known by their nicknames of
"Lady Angelina Flapcabbage" and "Mrs. Always Huntem," still flourish.


_November 19th._ Of the observation airships that have passed daily
over our field on their way to prospect in the Channel, I have said but
little; yet they are a very interesting item of our daily programme as
they search for mines and torpedoes on a still day, wirelessing their
messages back to the aerodrome some miles away.

 [Illustration: THE MARQUEE DEVOTED TO THE STORAGE OF TABLES, ETC.]

 [Illustration: THE BUSY DINNER-HOUR IN A HUT]

It was my good fortune to visit the hangars to-day.

As the car sped along in the waning light and drew up before the wooden
huts which form the officers' and men's quarters, the great hangar,
painted in varied hues for all the world like a giant toy tunnel,
formed an impressive sight.

The officers of the R.N.A.S. have a way of making their bunks as
shiplike as possible, and the neatness of the place, the well-arranged
vases of flowers, the well-made curtains, bore out the nautical
reputation for almost feminine "nattiness."

Without, one was challenged on all sides by vigilant sentries who
guarded entrance and egress to the place, to say nothing of the
upturned anti-aircraft guns, whilst grey naval cars panted in and out
on their business.

The sea of mud and general dampness contributed to the illusion that
one was aboard, as two men came up to ask for leave to "go ashore."

Perhaps the C.O. caught the look of inquiry in my eye.

"Ashore," he explained, "is the town of B----."

The little outlying villages, boasting scarce more than three shops
amongst them, made the nearest town a matter of some importance.

Within the hangar lay all the trappings and trunks of those huge
inflated monsters, whose levers regulate such wonderfully diverse bombs
of destruction, and whose observer's seat might be a smoking-room
arm-chair for comfort. From a corner, where lay the debris of derelict
machines, we were allowed to purloin a small piece of the yellow fabric
as a memento of our visit, whilst over the tea-table--for the quality
of which there were many quite unneedful apologies--we came across the
air jargon, of which hitherto only "dope" and "cold feet" had figured
in our vocabulary.



CHAPTER XV

December, 1915


_December 2nd._ Each honours list brings us greater surprises than the
last, for it seems that a man who runs a military grocer's shop at the
Base in perfect security is far more likely to reap a reward than a man
risking his life daily in all the discomfort of the trenches!

We have been convulsed with laughter lately by the antics of a little
chauffeur, erstwhile jockey, whose reckless driving has for some time
been the talk of the place. He has long evaded the arm of the law, but
the other night, very unwisely, knocked down an important French Staff
Officer in the middle of a country road.

"'Op in, and I'll give yer a lift," said the jockey in his most Cockney
accent, with a jerk of the thumb towards the car, as he handed the
French officer a two-franc piece to hold his tongue!


_December 3rd._ The French people often come to us with demands for
contraband goods. "Will we sell them just a _little_ tea, as it is so
expensive in France? Or cigarettes--just a few packets of Woodbines? Or
some matches, as theirs, being a Government monopoly, are both dearer
and of an inferior quality?"

All these little favours we have regretfully to refuse, explaining
that it would be a breach of faith with the French Government, whose
kindness permits goods for the British Forces to come in untaxed and
under bond, but who would not for a moment tolerate the abuse of this
privilege.

But the R.A.M.C. have many opportunities of rendering little services
to the civilian war sufferers.

The confidence in khaki felt by the French population is extraordinary
and highly complimentary. If a child sprains an ankle or cuts his hand
he will go to the first man in khaki for help, be he orderly or medical
officer; and owing to the scarcity of French doctors, medical etiquette
is waived for the time being, and our R.A.M.C. does wonderfully good
work amongst the poor.

To-day our maid--"the little savage"--dropped a heavy window on her
hand. It was badly contused, but she was more frightened than hurt, and
cried unceasingly. Whilst I was donning a hat and coat to take her to
the doctor she disappeared, much to my astonishment.

Half an hour later she turned up, all smiles.

"I was afraid Mademoiselle might take me to a French doctor," she said,
brandishing a bottle of lead lotion triumphantly, "so I went along to
the big hospital that smells so strongly of good disinfectant!"


_December 20th._ Our days are busy preparing for our invitation
Christmas tea, which, by the way, is to be postponed until New Year's
Day, owing to the amount of festivities and work in the hospitals; but
our interest is focused on affairs in Macedonia, the fall of Monastir,
General Townshend's retreat to Kut-el-Amara, Sir John French's
retirement from command in France, and, last of all, the withdrawal
from Anzac and Suvla Bay.


_December 26th._ On Christmas Day we were occupied in decorating the
building, whilst the men, true to their long-anticipated licence (for
to-day restrictions are relaxed), grew very merry over their dinners,
supplemented by unlimited beer. With what results, it were perhaps
indiscreet to mention! But hilarious visits from various groups of
the prospective artists at hospital concerts, clad in their make-up of
mufti and rakish top-hats, with a gait far from steady, make us wonder
how much of the afternoon's programme will perforce have to be omitted!


_December 30th._ Our Sunday evening services are more enthusiastically
attended since we organised a male voice choir, with our best pianist
as president, and an erstwhile Sheffield photographer, who has sung
at the musical festivals, as vice. Quite a number of undreamt-of
denominations are drawn together by the bond of music.

One might almost classify music over here under three
heads--extemporary, local, and imported; and it is not until one has
stood in a crowded hall, or seen the enthusiastic reception accorded to
every effort in that direction, that one realises the large rôle music
plays in the existence of the average Briton, usually accredited with
lack of artistic appreciation.

Some there are whose hunger for music is such that, all untutored in
the art of playing, they are constrained to sit down to any tin kettle
of a piano in a vain attempt to pick out some well-loved melody with
one finger for hours at a time. At these moments the listeners are not
altogether sorry that half the notes have grown dumb from disuse and
dampness!

I wonder if there is anything in all billet, trench or Base existence
to equal an extemporary concert? Whether the means at hand consist of
a penny whistle and comb, a number of lusty voices, or the now almost
obsolete Made-in-Germany mouth-organ, it matters not.

Invariably a leader of men arises (usually a pianist), and as
invariably he shows a genius for discovering local talent. Maybe he
has heard a pal engaged in trench-digging whistle an air from the
"Messiah," maybe a deep voice bellows a few notes of "Till the Boys
Come Home." As sure as he is there, the leader will collect his
material for an impromptu "sing-song."

Then the fun begins. Private Jones, the silent, is discovered to be
the possessor of a magnificent tenor voice, whilst Corporal Rawlinson,
whose buffoonery is the joy of his company, displays extraordinary
aptitude for comic songs and anecdotes, or a newly joined recruit,
hitherto dubbed "Snowball" on account of his pallor, is discovered to
have been a professional clog-dancer in pre-war days.

The leader realises that here is material for a really good Christmas
concert to which every C.O. in the vicinity may be invited with
impunity. "A pantomime," someone suggests, and a pantomime is evolved.
Solos, duets, choruses, all original, are worked up to a perfection
that is incredible, and the neighbourhood is invited to "the Christmas
Pantomime in Three Spasms," for which "carriages and stretchers" are to
be ordered at nine o'clock.

At least, this is how the sergeant responsible for our splendid
Christmas pantomime tells me it originated. Costumiers and wigmakers
from home "come up to the scratch," as the men have it, and supply not
only complete suits for Robinson Crusoe, Man Friday, Dick Whittington,
and Fair Damsels, but make-ups for clowns and harlequins and all the
other paraphernalia of pantomime.

Topical allusions and catchwords are the joy of the audience for many
days to come, and in the intervals of the performance Sergeant Topham,
as a coon, gives humorous anecdotes, and Sapper Hall sings solos, of
which the refrains as a chorus are encored at least a dozen times.

It isn't very great music, but, as one who has heard most of the great
music in most of the great capitals, I should like to state that there
is no more impressive thing in the world than an old barn or outhouse
"somewhere in Flanders," filled with men whose voices threaten to bring
down what remains of the roof for very lustiness. It may be a hymn,
it may be an old melody with modern ribald words, it is the primitive
method primitive man employed in primæval times, of self-expression.
And if Britons do not compose complicated "'Ymns of 'Ate," they do at
least put into their "Tipperary" all the passion of love and patriotism
and determination that otherwise, from sheer natural reserve, must
remain unexpressed.

Of local talent there is much to say. Since the time of the
_troubadours_ and _trouvères_ the fame of the French _chansons_ has
spread abroad, nor has the stress of war lessened our Allies' hold on
the greatest of arts. Even now it is not hard to get together a number
of musical souls to form a miniature orchestra to enliven dreary days.

The appearance of the band is apt to surprise one. The 'cellist, in
private's uniform, has to be back in barracks by nine, he informs one;
the first violin, a minute boy of twelve years old, with a couple of
half-smoked cigarettes tucked behind his ears, casts his eyes longingly
on whatever food is near. He is at a local school of music, and works
so hard that he has little or no time to eat, he explains. The pianist
is a bearded veteran whose six sons are fighting. He was once the _chef
d'orchestre_ at the one and only first-rate hotel, which is now full
of wounded. An officer in the reserve plays the viola; he was a barber
by profession, and picked up his music from an artist sister. Strange
and diverse characters, they are all drawn together by the bonds of
their art, and once they begin to play with all the finesse, all the
charm and taste of their race, the incongruity of their appearance is
forgotten. Nor is it necessary to say that the appreciation accorded by
their khakied Allies is of unparalleled enthusiasm.

I do not remember ever to have heard anything more haunting than a
"Marche des Estropiés," written by a wounded Frenchman as he lay in
hospital and inspired by the ceaseless stream of lame and limping
figures that hobbled past his window. It was a true sample of local
talent that bordered on genius.

We had had a concert in a big wooden canteen hut, and for two hours the
Frenchmen had entertained their Allies by a series of popular tunes.
They did not attempt to hide their contempt at the fact that rag-times
were more favourably received than chamber music, but they played them
with a right good will nevertheless.

Martial law decreed lights out at nine o'clock, and at nine o'clock the
men trooped out. Darkness reigned. Outside the rain beat down drearily
on to the mud-bathed road, above which sound an occasional booming of
distant guns was audible.

Someone said:

"Can't we have some _music_ now?"

The _chef d'orchestre_ understood and smiled.

By the light of two candles the four musicians began to play. Their
repertoire was big--they did not need to call upon Hun music; they
played "Manon" and the haunting Slav music, and Italian things that
breathed sunshine and joy, and "Sappho."

For fear of the military police we blocked up every crack of the
windows. Then, sobbing above the sound of the elements, rose the wail
of the "Marche des Estropiés," till every corner of the darkened hall
seemed flooded with light, and the soul of the most dead materialist
was reborn.

"My son composed it," said the bearded old man, who alternately
conducted as first violin and acted as pianist, simply, as the last
long-drawn note died into the stillness. "And he is in the trenches."

It was only afterwards, when they had gone and the windows were
unbarred and the incessant patter of the rain made the desolation of it
all more awful than before, that we realised how we had hungered for
music, and blessed the local talent that had lifted us for so short a
time out of our weary and narrow rut.

Of imported music, one can only state that if it is to be imported
from home, no matter what its quality or quantity, it will be greeted
uproariously.

Great and small are welcomed alike. From the celebrated oratorio
singers and rag-time kings to the obscure little girl who offers her
services on the score of her promising soprano voice, no one goes away
disappointed with their reception. We show no favouritism! The artists
themselves confess that the bad acoustic properties of the ward hastily
converted into a concert hall, the less boisterous yet none the less
hearty applause, the small audience, necessitated by the beds and
stretchers, all are compensated for by the gleam of happiness in the
eyes of those blue-coated figures, the whispered "It was heaven" from
the boy with the bandaged hand, the hand clasp of the one-armed man.
They find their great reward as much in the feeble applause of the
wounded as in the tumultuous ovation of the fighting men, or a hall
crammed full of white-capped nurses.

A notice announcing the advent of a concert party from "Blighty" is one
of the "thrills" of Front and Base existence. Everyone flocks to hear
it, and the debt owed to the association whose generosity has made it
possible for every Base, and a good many places "Further up the line"
than the Base, to enjoy regularly these Lena Ashwell Concert Parties,
which are one of the most civilising elements of life out here, can
never be repaid.

To be kept in touch with the latest songs, the latest train of thought
from home; to see, after months of the same war-worn faces and
well-known uniforms, daintily-clad artists whose every movement bears
a breath of home; to hear, after the eternal reiteration of the local
favourites' small repertoire, new music, new voices, it borders on an
earthly Paradise.

And, of course, the artists cater for the tastes of their different
audiences, and never forget Mr. Thomas Atkins's love of hearing his
own voice. Anything in which he can join rejoices his heart, and a
valse tune played by a mediocre 'cellist, to which the men are asked to
whistle, often receives an ovation infinitely superior to that accorded
to a famous singer's rendering of old folk-songs, much to the concert
director's surprise.

But then the valse was one that brought memories of home and twilight
evenings spent with loved ones over the piano, or maybe visions of some
irresponsible ball-room mood that our generation will never know again,
and though it wasn't Great Music it went straight to the hearts of the
hearers.

And so, no doubt, one day, when War no longer holds us in its grip, we
shall hearken spellbound to the strain of some melody that our local
band of tin whistles and combs used to play, and mayhap with the divine
discontent of humanity, we shall sigh softly for the good old days of
France, bully beef and tin whistles.



BOOK III

1916

Scrapped



CHAPTER XVI

January, 1916


_January 1st, 1916._ Each New Year's Day one wonders afresh at the
oddness of commencing the year in January, cold January, when all
the world is engrossed in recovering from Christmas benevolence and
bracing itself to hustle through the days with the minimum amount of
cold, instead of Nature's New Year in April. January, this month of
surprises, with its rain and sunshine, sleet and mists, its promises of
rest soon to be found, is surely already a hoary old man with a life
of infinite experience behind him, a month for achieving and not for
beginning things.

At least, this is how we felt when the New Year's festivities, over
which we had taken such trouble, commenced. Our tables, plentifully
laid out with fruits, bonbons and crackers, the gifts of friends at
home as well as those here, betokened rather Christmas than New Year
gaieties.

If our decorations of green garlands, mistletoe, holly and ribbons
were more elegant than effective, they were, at any rate, appreciated,
judging by our guests' criticism as they waited in a queue for the
doors to open.

Throughout the tea, which kept us well occupied as, cans in hand, we
filled and refilled cups, a first-rate volunteer concert party kept the
room in roars of laughter.

Some A.S.C. officers (professionals in peace time) were especially
clever in patter songs, and delight was unbounded when one of them,
unrecognisable in a motley selection of our garments and a gorgeous
wig, in which he impersonated a "flapper," moved coyly among the
audience and, willing or unwilling, embraced all within his reach,
singing in a high falsetto, "You made me love you."

For those unable to come to the early tea we hastily prepared a second
spread for eight o'clock, during which time a local French orchestra
played popular selections.

Thus, with much festivity, by which we hoped to make a slight break
in the monotony of "this Base existence," ended New Year's Day, 1916.
Successful though it was, to me at least there was a certain tinge of
sadness, for it is impossible any longer to conceal the fact that,
owing to failing health, my days of work are numbered.

To be "scrapped" like the Ford cars, to return home a derelict, a Rip
van Winkle, is no pleasing prospect; but--_che sarà, sarà_. We are all
fatalists now, like the men in the trenches.

Nor is the passing of so many familiar faces altogether a pleasing
thing to contemplate, whilst the psychology of new arrivals leaves
us marvelling. Did _we_ ever thrill at the sight of a crowded camp,
a convoy, or feel an odd sensation of pride at the sight of the
khaki-crammed rooms in the early days of our apprenticeship? Were we
inspired to write long descriptions of "The Front"--as they insist on
calling the Base--and of War?

Every now and then one feels tempted to say, "War? What do _you_ know
of war?

"Have _you_ seen men as they came down from the Front during the first
mad months, primitive, demented, at their last gasp, ready to face
death in any form rather than the hellish uncertainty they had just
left? Have _you_ heard the groans of the wounded, seen arms rotting off
and legs smashed to pieces, and dressed black gaping holes in young
boys' sides? Have _you_ seen faces blown beyond recognition--faces
eyeless, noseless, jawless, and heads that were only half heads?

"Have _you_ stood by the dying and watched them in their last agonies,
writhing with tetanus, and prayed God to give a speedy release from
their sufferings?

"Have _you_ been round the cold, extemporised wards and covered up
countless restless forms on their pallets, smelt the smell of the
mud-caked coats that were their pillows, soothed their coughs with what
there was left of tinned milk, hearkening as they cried aloud in their
sleep:

"'Great Lord Jesus, help us!'

"Men who had probably not prayed since their childhood, men who had
probably scoffed at the idea of God--have _you_ heard them live through
their battles again in their slumber or under anæsthetics? 'Get at 'em,
lads--now's your last chance--give it 'em 'ot--ah! ah!'

"Have _you_ removed clothes and boots from helpless limbs caked on
by seven weeks' mud and overrun with vermin? Have _you_ seen forever
nameless enemy corpses washed and carried out to the mortuary, and,
enemy though they were, because of their youth, wished that you could
tell their mothers you had done your best?

"When you have seen this--which you never can see, for this was
'In the beginning,' and now the great System is prepared for every
emergency--and not before, will you know what modern warfare means."

Yet it is all something one would not have missed, although no sane
person would face it a second time; for, as an American said recently:
"Those who have not participated in this war will be for ever lacking
in something which is not to be recaptured later."


_January 5th._ Not only did a Taube honour us with a visit to-day, but
it actually deigned to drop a bomb or two and succeeded in killing a
few women and children, though not a single man, just outside one of
our huts. After an exciting chase it was brought down, we are told, off
Calais; though exactly the object of the visit no one can imagine.


_January 15th._ In the evening the Gymkhana finals and prize-giving
took place. It is surprising what an amount of sport can be found in an
indoor affair of this sort.

True, it needs someone with a strong personality to organise, but
such a personality is in our midst at the moment in the person of
the Rev. Dr. F----, denomination unknown, but humour and strength of
character undeniable. In spite of the fact that he acts as Master of
Ceremonies, clad in a ludicrous medley of garments, khaki breeches,
brown fisherman's blouse, canvas slippers that convert him into a
true "Simplicitas," he is never for a moment lacking in the dignity
necessary to a _Maître de Cérémonies_.

The greatest zeal is shown in participation of the different
sports--the wheelbarrow race, the cock fight, hat-trimming competition,
potato race, the spar pillow fight, for which an odd contrivance of
wood has been erected over a buffer of mattresses, and other items of
the varied programme.

Most fun was perhaps found in the shaving race, in which the palm was
awarded to the man who shaved his victim most cleanly and quickly with
the handle of a teaspoon.


_January 24th, Dawn._ It was about eight o'clock yesterday that the
first alarm was given. In the stillness of the serene night the church
bell began to toll; simultaneously the sound of whistles rent the
air. Thinking it must be the military policemen on their nocturnal
hunt for delinquents not yet in barracks, I put my head into a
neighbouring café to drop a suggestive word of warning to two unwary
sergeants lingering over their glasses of beer. It was not the military
policemen, however, for from the distance a cry of "Fire!" resounded,
and with the incredible rapidity characteristic of all rumours we
learned that the Enteric Hospital was ablaze.

Guided by the smell of smoke and the dishevelled groups at the
doorways, we found ourselves in the midst of the confusion. From the
lower windows of the building a cloud of black smoke issued. Men on
ladders, hose in hand, had smashed the windows--a fact which merely
served to add fury to the flames.

"Turn the water on!" they cried, and even above the din of the
gesticulating, gabbling crowd came the cry, "Turn the water on!" The
Frenchman to whom the appeal was repeated shrugged his shoulders. He
did not quite understand.

There is no wind; it is a divine night, as calm and clear as midsummer,
with a bright moon looking smilingly on. It can yet be saved, this
wonderful building, whence issue streams of khaki figures readjusting
the respirators they had donned in place of smoke helmets, bearing
with what care they can their precious burdens on beds and stretchers.

A voice beside me said:

"Here, you, take _that_!"

"_That_" proved to be a woman's form which the speaker was carrying
with the aid of a frail-looking little V.A.D., who, from the way she
held the patient, had obviously never been in such a position before.
I gripped the man's hand, with a "Don't strain; lie easy!" to the
patient. We got her into a neighbouring house, where already two or
three other bad cases are installed. Their beds are tilted upwards,
they are clad in their hospital garments only.

"Ah! You're there, Hope," says our burden, as we deposit her in a deep
arm-chair, to the white-faced boy whose bed occupies most of the small
room.

The coincidents of war are strange! It is supposedly from this very
patient that she has contracted the disease.

"Yes, and he's an officer now," came a nurse's reply. "Gazetted to-day.
Did you know?"

They are very cosy and cheerful, and as yet the noise without has not
penetrated the room. We pass out again. The fire is getting under way
now; clouds of black smoke issue from the windows of the first floor,
and flames lick the upper balcony.

Still they cry for more water.

They have moved the patients from the beach to the side streets now.
They lie on the roadway, already soaking in the water which, by reason
of the countless leakages in the hose, fails to arrive anywhere near
the scene of action.

In their eyes is a mute appeal, as a gust of wind hurls a shower of
sparks over their helpless forms. Then a cloud of smoke hides them from
our sight.

"Is anyone left in the building?" is the question on everyone's
lips. A reassuring murmur goes round that no patients are left, and
the firemen, looking strangely grotesque in their respirators, are
now making efforts to save a few of the valuable instruments and
records. Some of them are cut about the face by falling glass. From
the open doors smoke begins to issue, and cries of "Gangway, there!
Gangway!" The hot flames fan one's cheeks. They come in spurts now.
Great fascinating spurts! One surmises which window next, and feels a
ridiculous sensation of pride at being present, coupled with a longing
to do something.

The opportunity comes. Load after load one's hands are filled with
apparently valuable documents. "Officers' Mess," shout the men who
place them there, as one moves off to find an entrance to the building.

On returning the noise is greater than ever. The rescued are being
deposited anywhere--everywhere--wildly--_pêle-mêle_. Red blankets fall
from windows, papers flutter a moment, adding to the general danger,
and get trodden under foot in the mud.

"The left wing is doomed. Can they save the right?"

"Why don't they blow it up to safeguard the adjoining houses?"

Fragments of conversation float from all sides. Everyone has
suggestions to make, but it seems to be no one's business to carry them
out.

One's thoughts fly to those patients on the stretchers, and one wonders
why this must be added to all they have already endured. Many of them
will die of shock. It all seems so unnecessary. And all this time,
silently and with dignity, the electric lights in the right wing of the
great edifice burn on.

What are those old stone walls feeling as their invincible enemy
creeps on? They who have seen so much of the levity of peace time, so
much of the sorrow of war, have come to their end at last. They meet
their fate bravely, unflinchingly, with the fortitude of the captain of
an abandoned ship.

One thinks of all the comedies and tragedies that have been enacted
within these walls, the laughing romances of summer days, the weary
suffering. One recalls the months of valuable research work that have
been carried on in the improvised laboratories--discoveries to benefit
mankind--all may be irrevocably lost.

One thinks of all the things lying there--the little personal
things--the treasures that can never be replaced--the lover's first
gift, the parent's last letter.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doomed building has been abandoned. The moon gleams red through the
veil of sparks and smoke on to the crowd that has congregated on the
beach. Watching the Ypres-like eddies of flame, one casts a thought at
the surprise of the arrivals on incoming troopships; one wonders if
folks at home, too, are watching the stupendous beacon.

It is all a matter of time now, and the watching is so full of
suspense that the end is anxiously awaited by all. A wind is springing
up with the oncoming sea, endangering the neighbouring buildings, more
especially the adjacent infectious compound composed of carefully
isolated bathing-boxes.

On the roof of each stands an orderly extinguishing the sparks as they
fall by means of buckets of sand and water handed up by the crowd below.

To the horror of fire is added the horror of risk from infection,
as the rudely awakened patients are hurried from their involuntary
isolation. As the roaring flames draw nearer, ambulances reeking of
disinfectants hurry backwards and forwards with their loads.

The flames run on; turning, twirling and twisting, they play round the
glowing beams and iron girders, revelling in their might, licking their
chops, one might almost say, as the dull, uncanny thuds of falling
masonry bring terror to the hearts of the onlookers.

Then a strange thing occurs. Of a sudden the roof falls in with a
crash, dome and eaves, and against the sky stands the flaming skeleton
of the ruin. Simultaneously a great red cross glows for a space of
time on the southern side. And, although it is only a burning window
frame, it seems to us to symbolise the invincibility of that great
universal emblem of mercy--the Red Cross.


_January 25th._ With the dawn we visit the ruins. An uncanny stillness
reigns as the waning moon gleams through the charred framework.
Distorted bedsteads hang by a thread from skeleton balconies, charred
heaps of clothing and paper litter the ground. Isolated beams and
fragments gleam, ghostlike, in the desolate upper stories, shedding
every few moments a thin shower of sparks. A slight wind fans the one
remaining corner into a bright blaze. The thin stream of water is still
being played, by way of precaution, upon the adjoining houses.

A French sentry, leaning wearily on his rifle, guards the approach
on one side, whilst on the other a British Military Policeman has
installed himself upon an empty cask to make the best of his long wait.

Through the cavernous window frames, from gaping cavity to gaping
cavity, heedless of the floors that are no more, the wind passes like
a restless, moaning spirit. All the wonder, all the excitement, all
the glory of its glorious end has passed. There remains only the
smouldering debris, the blackened, unbeauteous bricks, the after-smell
of burnt-out burning.


Later in the day many sightseers began to appear, some even walking
out from the town before their day's work began to verify the reports.
For, needless to say, many were the rumours about the fire which had
reached them, and they were with difficulty persuaded that--a few cuts
and scratches from broken glass excepted--there had not been a single
casualty.

In an existence so _choc-à-bloc_ with meetings and partings as ours,
it is only a few of the better-known faces that remain in our memory.
Yet there came into our hut this morning a man whom we shall not easily
forget! He came with a kindly-faced N.C.O., who explained that they
were "joy-riding." It was, one surmised from his shyness, the patient's
first outing, for he seemed as yet unaccustomed to his disfigurement,
which was, to say the least of it, appalling, and which, by means of
his large muffler and averted head, he made vain efforts to conceal.

Something in the appeal in the eyes of that pallid, crooked face that
may once have been handsome, something of the pathos of that limping,
bent young figure, as he stood by the counter declining the sergeant's
persuasion to take something, with a pathetic gurgle, only just
comprehensible, of, "I can't eat! You _know_ I can't eat," touched us
all particularly.

And to think that this is but one of thousands of cases for ever
haunted by their own hideousness, for ever dependent on others.
Such things as this it is that have wrought us to such a pitch of
indignation that the words are apt to escape our lips, "God strafe
Germany, the author of this devastation!"



CHAPTER XVII

February, 1916


_February 3rd._ To-day we are debating as to whether or not a genuine
spy has been within our grasp and wriggled out again. The sum of the
matter is this:

Boarding a crowded tram on its way into town, we were fain to avoid the
closeness of the over-crowded interior by standing on the conductor's
more airy platform. The conductor himself, an ill-grown little Belgian
_réformé_, seemed pleased enough of company, judging by the avidity
with which he poured forth his sorrows into our sympathetic ears.

Since the fall of Antwerp he has had no word from his young wife, nor
has he been able to get a line through to her to inform her that he
is alive. His terror lest she should wed again before his return was
pathetic.

"_Hélas!_" he kept sighing. "Has not Belgium suffered more than all
countries put together?"

We did not rejoin, as we might well have done, that valiant Belgium's
losses can only be compared with the sum of English lives expended in
maintaining, maybe for sentimental as much as strategical reasons,
that little hell round Ypres that represents all that remains of King
Albert's country; for at about this moment a dark man in some kind of
police uniform joined in the conversation.

He, too, was Belgian, he explained, and in charge of the refugees in
the neighbourhood.

"The French hardly welcome us cordially," he said, "but I do my best to
help the poor creatures whom Fate leads this way."

The conversation drifted to the recent air raid on London.

"I wonder they don't come here," said the conductor.

"On dit qu'il y a trop d'espions!" I remarked simply.

The dark man jumped, and, winking significantly, whispered in my ear:

"One can't talk here. You are in it too?"

Utterly taken aback, I was dumb for a moment. Had I by chance come upon
one of the members of that huge octopus-like system of enemy espionage?

Then, moved by some unaccountable impulse, I nodded knowingly, and
pointed out to sea.

"You know, then?" he asked, nodding in the direction in which I
pointed. "Oui! Après la guerre."

What could he mean? What was I expected to know, to be participating in?

I shall never learn; for at that moment the tram drew up, and with an
unexpectedly hearty handshake and hopes of meeting again soon, this
protector of the Belgians alighted and disappeared into the crowd.

Who could he be? "_Après la guerre_"--what did it mean? I wonder.


_February 6th._ My diary draws to a close. To-day we went for the last
time to the little church on the hill.

What a number of illusions have been dispelled since that October
morning in 1914 when we first crept in late from the hospital, indoor
uniform and all, just as we had come off duty!

The place had been packed then with warriors caked with the mud of
Flanders. How their voices had resounded! For in the hearts of all was
the cherished belief, "It is all too awful. It can't last long."

"Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away." What a significance
the familiar words had taken on in the unfamiliar surroundings.

And to-day? For congregation a few tired nurses, an odd officer or two,
some civilians over here visiting their wounded and dying.

A service devoid of the burning enthusiasm of other days, a sermon
that did not even mention war, or spur us on to greater efforts, or
vindicate our cause, but dealing with obscure ritual and spiritual
difficulties not likely to waylay most of us.

Undoubtedly our illusions are past. We have learnt our limitations as a
nation; discovered the inherent nobility of many whose capacities had
hitherto lacked opportunity, seen how war brings out the best and the
worst of every character, and noted that at the bed-rock of all men
lies the primitive savage.

The respect we so generously accorded our enemies in the beginning is
replaced by a justifiable contempt for their barbarities. A certain
allowance is made for soldiery fighting under the influence of ration
drugs, but when we read, as we have to-day, of the death of three
hundred Serbians, forced by Germans and Bulgarians to dig their own
graves and then, having bound each other's eyes, await a horrible
massacre, we are no longer justified in our tolerance.

We are up against a foe whose devilish unscrupulousness is only
equalled by scientific cunning. And to combat his ingenuity, to rid the
world of his demoralising degeneracy, every resource of the Empire must
be brought into play.

Not merely individual but national sacrifice is needed. Conscription
of labour and wealth and land, governors whose only inducement to
govern is the joy of serving, a free Press and, above all, a sane and
scientific education to fit our children to take the highest place
among nations in the tremendous commercial war of the future.

Gone are the days of blind optimism and hope; gone the men who passed
through and found a few hours' solace within these grey walls; gone
the youth that made the impossible appear achievable. The very stones
seemed listless, the dim daylight, filtering through high windows,
weary.

An old Staff Colonel in front of me leant against the grey pillar and
wept like a child. Was he mourning one of those who passed through
earlier? Most of them have gone West by now.

In the interim of the swelling organ rose the cry of the wind in moans
and sobs round the old stones whose founder had passed away this very
morning.

Such was St. John's-on-the-Hill.

Mists lay all over the city and over the dashing sea as we wended our
way for a last visit to the camps, where we lent a helping hand.

It is as wonderful as the never-extinguished vestal fire, this work
that has no ending--these huts where no sooner is one batch of troops
sent on than another arrives, with time only for occasional spasmodic
cleanings.

A battalion of K.'s "contemptible little Army" had arrived during the
night. If, after nineteen months' fighting, this is the specimen of
manhood England can produce--well knit, in the prime of condition,
the embodiment of health and strength--all one can say is: "_Cave,
Germania!_"

And though to collect the ever-dwindling supply of mugs (beginning
with a thousand on Monday, one may safely reckon to find but 800 by
Saturday night! Where they walk to no man knows--sometimes homewards,
more often trenchwards, one surmises), although to collect the mugs it
is a literal necessity to step over figures that lie huddled against
each other in a sleep so deep, so log-like, that nothing disturbs them,
one is none the less impressed by their magnificence.

The evolution of the camp canteen is a thing to note. There is the
wooden roof and flooring in place of the close interior of a boardless,
draughty tent; there is an augmented staff, for ever cooking and
stewing, to cope with the work; and stores are conveyed regularly to
the place, obviating the necessity for those spasmodic rushes to fetch
substitutes for bread when the supply of everything gave out at the
same moment.

To be sure, the difficulties of taking the till remain the same, and
the problem of changing an English pound-note into French money at
26 francs 30 centimes--the last time we were here the rate was 25
francs--subtracting the price of a cup of tea, a packet of shag, a
pencil and a shaving stick, doling out all these articles with the
exception of the tea; immediately afterwards rendering a French three
francs into English coin, subtracting for a bar of chocolate and a
hand mirror. Continuing this process uninterruptedly and unceasingly
for an hour, during which time one is assailed by a chorus of questions
such as "What's the price of a 'am sandwich, Miss?" "What time does
the leave boat go?" "What _mayn't_ we put in a letter home?" etc., _ad
lib._; all this to the non-mathematician is bewildering in the extreme.

At the old Queen Mary Hut, where my apprenticeship had been served, the
development was even more amazing. A billiard-room, with no fewer than
four tables supplied by a benevolent speculator, has been built, and
a row of baths for men on their way home, whilst the kitchens are so
finished that they might well be envied by any efficient housewife.

But perhaps the culminating point is the cinema hall that has been
opened not far off--a cinema hall to accommodate a goodly number, and
worthy of the Metropolis itself.

There was a last committee meeting too; those committee meetings that
were landmarks on our calendar. They were a fortnightly institution,
and consisted of the lady superintendents of the different centres,
who met the camp leaders--the male portion of the staff--every
month. Their purport was to discuss the affairs of state, business
difficulties, etc.

By one who was competent to judge they were described as the "safety
valve for ladies who _must_ grouse," and certainly there _was_ a good
deal of talk about nothing. One lady would ask how many swabs and
dusters it was permissible to buy for one hut--a question which might,
or might not, duly be recorded in the minutes. The next would complain
of her indolent orderlies. Important questions in themselves, but not
of great use to those of us who found it possible to settle these
matters amongst ourselves!

The agony I had gone through during those early committee meetings
will be for ever remembered, for, being the only unmarried woman under
forty in a community bent on filling all vacancies with their personal
friends, my position was not enviable. But for a sense of humour it
would have been intolerable. Over and over again the question of age
would arise as I would sit in dumb impotence whilst one inquisitor
after another voiced their views.

"Miss B---- would be excellent in charge of X---- centre if she weren't
so young. I know officially she is only thirty, and it would not do."

"We don't approve of young women," said another. "_There_, of course,
is the exception," bowing to me.

Seeing I was many years younger than the youngest worker, my feelings
can better be imagined than explained. My own experience is that the
best workers range from twenty-five to forty, and over that age no
woman should be allowed in the war zone. There is no room in the system
of "scrap and discard" for those who are easily fatigued; and women
unaccustomed to manual work, however enthusiastic they may be, are
unable to acclimatise themselves to it as they get on in years.

For _endurance_, too, younger women are needed. As a subaltern,
invalided down with nerves after seventeen months' fighting, said to me
recently:

"It's all a matter of time--the only difference is, we younger ones can
stand it longer."

The same holds good for women's work. Spurts of energy followed by
collapse are useless. It is the power of steady endurance that is
required, and found most often in younger women.

Nor is there any room for the caprices of the dangerous age. The past
generation was not brought up with the public school _esprit de corps_
which characterises the modern girls, and which has taught them to play
for their side or institution, and not for their own ends.

But to get back to the committee meeting, and to do justice to its
evolution, I must state that after all these months, during which we
have combated for automatic rising as recognition of work for the
Reward of Service, it has adopted the broader view that not personal
acquaintances but proved workers are most deserving of responsibility,
whether old or young.


_February 10th._ My final impression of the place was a beautiful
one. An extemporary concert, with many choruses, a packed house, an
enthusiastic, cheering audience. It is like a very beautiful dream
that we had dreamed true, this place; and, now that it is sufficiently
perfect, other and fresher hands than ours must take it over--fresher,
but not more loving.

 [Illustration: "THE CITY OF LITTLE WHITE CROSSES"]

Here in this little out-of-the-way corner of the globe, in a very
insignificant work, we have buried all our youth and most of our
vitality. God! but it is hard to relinquish the reaping to others!
"To renounce without bitterness!"

A last glimpse of that City of Little White Crosses, where, past pain,
past suffering, in rows of close formation--closer than they ever stood
in lifetime shoulder to shoulder--lie those who are "for ever England."

Could they but see those dear shores of home they had so longed
for with their dying breath, radiating their messages of pride and
thankfulness across the Channel, how proud they would be!

A military cemetery "Somewhere in France" is a thing one does not
forget. If, one day when peace reigns, we are once more growing
slothful and negligent of the bigger issues of life, let us pay a
yearly pilgrimage to one of these shrines of our honoured exiles.

True, the French gravediggers will no longer be shovelling the sandy
soil over the newest comers, hiding the tier upon tier of plain deal
coffins or the number-plates that are the only distinguishing marks;
true, the unwonted odour of Death will no longer haunt our nostrils;
mayhap we, too, shall be deaf to the sighing of the many souls in the
wind. Yet surely the warrior spirits will arise and strengthen us,
whispering: "Let us not have died in vain. We laid down our lives for
the Old Country. For the love of God 'carry on,' as we had hoped to do."

A last look at the faces of those friends who for many months have
formed my whole world.

Then "Cheer up, you have done your bit," they cry as we step aboard. As
if any man, woman or child of Britain has done his bit until this thing
is over, until there is some semblance of the crushing victory that
shall lay our unscrupulous enemy low!

Then on to the boat.

One parting gift that was pressed into my hands on leaving will be
treasured for all time. It is John Oxenham's little volume "All's
Well," and to us out here it seems as if he has been divinely inspired
to bear the message of hope to countless broken hearts.

    _"Is the pathway dark and dreary?
        God's in His heaven!
    Are you broken, heart-sick, weary?
        God's in His heaven!
    Dreariest roads shall have an ending,
    Broken hearts are for God's mending,
        All's well! All's well!
          All's ... well!"_


Travelling on board a troopship is not exactly the acme of comfort
for a woman at the best of times, and for anyone in bad health it is
distinctly unpleasant, for the decks are so crowded with warriors that
instinctively one makes one's way towards the ladies' saloon, only to
find, alas! that it serves as the general sleeping compartment for
officers. No sooner is the first throb of the engine felt than the
water-tight doors are closed, and one is continually running into
insurmountable walls.

If, after many efforts, one _does_ attain the ladies' saloon by means
of a cicerone to guide one across the masses of inert forms sprawled
over the decks, and down various dark passages and narrow iron ladders,
it is only to discover that the once cosy saloon has become an
excessively close compartment, from which, rather than be drowned like
a rat in a trap if a torpedo comes along, it were better to flee to the
inclemency of the upper decks.

As we boarded the boat at 10 A.M., however, on this bright February
morning, everything promised well. Already the lower decks were crammed
with life-belted Tommies. Life belts are the order of the day now, and
in many cases there is life-saving practice as well, as a safeguard
against any emergency.

All eyes were turned "Blightywards" in anticipation of home, and to
check their impatience the men began to sing. The volume of the song
swelled to such an extent that it threatened to bring the upper decks
down, for the voices were those of men who had earned their leave.

"We must be waiting for some Staff knut," said a subaltern in the
crowd, gazing sadly at the guarded gangway, off which no one might
pass once their papers had been scrutinised, towards the buffet so
temptingly near.

Fragments of conversation were borne in from all sides; some of them
savoured of pantomime, others of the pathetic humour of harlequin.

A _very_ temporary "gentleman" second lieutenant leant against the
rail twirling an imperceptible moustache. Although he addressed his
remarks to a sergeant of the Artists' Rifles on his way home to take
up a commission, they were obviously intended for the edification and
squashification of the whole audience.

"Will you--er--stick to the Service--er--après la guerre?" he inquired,
flicking his muddy boots with his swagger cane. One expected to see
him place a monocle in his eye and cap his remarks with a "What--what?"
in simulation of the theatrical swell. The sergeant's reply was
inaudible, but he was obviously a sahib.

"I--er--expect to--if--er--the Service is still possible. Now one has
to hobnob with one's--er--tailor...."

If the onlooker were seized with a desire to throttle the young
jackanapes he stifled it with the consoling thought that he, too, was
doing his bit, and might turn aside to note that the bronzed Indian
Staff Major at the entrance to the hatchway was being addressed by his
General.

"_That_ isn't mine?" he asked, pointing to a frailly packed paper
parcel of awkward dimensions held together by a frayed piece of string.

"No, sir. That's something Colonel M---- got for his son in
Paris--toys!" he added in an awestruck whisper that sounded like a sigh.

The General turned on his heels, also with a sigh, and an "I see!"

Perhaps they both thought of days when their sons, too, were safe in
the nursery.

I followed the crowd down to the saloon and fed on what there
was--coffee and ship's biscuit. Being only a civilian, and a wreck
at that, I was served with a gentle consideration that bordered on
contempt. Longingly my thoughts wandered to the buffet on the Quai.

The sun and the tide rose higher and higher, the gangway sloped upwards
to the deck instead of downwards as when we came aboard. I looked at
the well-ordered crowd and closed my eyes. In an instant the Boulogne
of eighteen months ago came back to me, the Boulogne that knew War and
the horrors of War.

I saw before me the vast consignments of goods that lay along the
quayside, destined, one realised helplessly, never to reach their
owners. Overcrowded, understaffed ambulance trains steamed into the
station--trains that once bore us to the Sunny South--disgorging their
sad burdens, who lay on stretchers in the never-ceasing rain, awaiting
the arrival of hospital ships.

Many died in the rain in those days, until that Medical Officer was
inspired to haul them into the disused sugar-shed clearing station.
Where once stood the mortuary is now the innocuous Censor's office. In
place of the cheerless barn, whose walls could tell so many tales, a
well-ordered post office.

I turned away, haunted by the cries of the dead and dying I had seen.
Not the most solid edifices of masonry can obliterate the gruesome
realities of a vivid memory.

A cheer went forth from the lower deck as two mine-sweepers, bearing
a prize intended to send us to our doom, swept majestically into the
harbour. The canteen workers, who had been allowed aboard with food
for the men, moved off, the gangway was hauled in. Another troopship,
alongside ours, partially obstructed our final view of the old town.

Convoys of ambulances stand, as they have stood for nigh on two years,
in front of the old Red Cross Headquarters. Coal carts, their owners
crying their goods in the low, monotonous wail peculiar to themselves,
still ply along the roads, side by side with cars of every description,
from Rolls-Royces to the "Rolls-Fords" (no one is ashamed to be seen in
a Ford in the war zone). Uniforms of every kind, khaki and the grey,
red-tipped nurses, predominate.

Tinkling their bells, the trams wend their way in and out of the town,
driven mostly by decrepit Belgian _réformés_ whose tales of sorrow and
wonder would fill volumes. Picturesque groups of saboted fisherwomen
cluster round a skiff as the gleaming fish are unloaded.

_Tiens!_ We are off! The watertight compartments are shut. The sun,
already sinking low, tints the pinnacles of the old church, lights up
the windows of the fishing village with fairy-like colours. One last
look at the masts that rise out of the mists, the gleaming, winding
river, the camps, the tents, all that goes to make that wonderful
elusive thing "The Base" in the war zone.

Gulls follow our course and swoop down in vain search of a meal!

In my throat is a stifled sob. So _this_ is the end. Broken in body, I
am to leave the work I love, and with it youth and vitality--and this
whilst the fighting wages hardest in the West.

One last look at the sun-bathed shore, and then the boats swing
outwards on their davits and hide it all from view.



EPILOGUE


It is an odd coincidence that the last words of this War Diary should
be penned by candlelight in a darkened northern town, to the sound of
bombs falling on an entirely defenceless city. With the truly sporting
instinct of Britons, everyone has turned out to see what they may of
the "fuss" by which our humane foe hopes to terrorise us. By the light
of flares the great marauding machines of destruction are seen to hover
apparently stationary. It is a fitting moment to add a note of apology
to this book, of apology to those whose homes have been ravished and
who might, therefore, resent the reflection that as yet our Island has
not felt the full pinch of war; of apology to those and of explanation.

For it is needless to say this diary was originally kept for purely
personal reasons, with no idea of publication, but from the desire one
day to make good to those at home the silences enforced by a rigorous
censor.

Seeing, however, that the interest manifested in our existence at the
Base seems general enough to warrant the appearance of these pages, and
seeing there is no one else to tell the tale, I send my little volume
into the world with the prayer that it may give to those who would
know, some idea of Boulogne as she now is, that it may carry one or two
momentarily away from their own sufferings.

To achieve this is all I ask.

If in some parts I have spoken too freely, I crave forgiveness on the
score that I have but recounted things as we saw them at the time. If,
on the other hand, there are many omissions, it must be noted that a
War Diary published during war time is of necessity much expurgated to
meet the demands of the censor. Nor would it be in the interests of
anyone to tell of chance meetings with well-known men and women whose
rôle in the Great Game has not yet been brought to light.

And for any dates misplaced I must plead the extenuating circumstances
of a busy, restless life that left little leisure for the keeping of a
detailed daily diary.

Of the many friends who are still carrying on the work out there I
have spoken but little, not because there is little to say, but because
my heart is too full of the great work they are doing, and the memory
of little kindnesses rendered to a derelict in the midst of so much
that is more pressing. May they in their turn, if time renders them
"scrapped" and useless, find joy in the remembrance of their work, and
peace in the hope of one day serving again.

As Kipling has it:

    _"Only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame,
    And no one shall work for money and no one shall work for fame,
    But each for the joy of working...."_


       YORKSHIRE, _May_, 1916.


  PRINTED BY
  CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE,
  LONDON, E.C.
  F.20.1016


       *       *       *       *       *

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

  Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

  Hyphenation and spelling has been retained as in the original publication.

  p153 "intermittingly" replaced with "intermittently"
  p156 "Anxieties never some singly" replaced with
       "Anxieties never come singly"
  p253 "stanch" replaced with "staunch"

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_

  Small capitals have been changed to UPPER CASE





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eighteen Months in the War Zone - The Record of a Woman's Work on the Western Front" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home