Sunday, 22 August 2010

Some Helpers of the Hospital

April 1916

For a whole year my friend Mr. Willie Walters, of Liverpool, sent me 10,000 cigarettes a week for the use of the wounded. Mr. Walters is providing another hospital, a battleship, and two regiments with tobacco, and so, having had his generous help for a whole year, we could not trespass on his generosity further. Mr. Berney, of Wimbledon, has a fund which has been more than useful in supplementing our supply. Our numbers here are so large that to provide five cigarettes a day for each patient means, with 1,500 beds, 7,500 a day. The Australian Associations and Newfoundlanders now supply their own men. Mrs. Bruce-Porter collects for a fund for the British regiments and others not already provided for.

Drives have been a great joy to the patients, and many chars-a-bancs were sent by Lady Turing, who collected a fund for this purpose at the kind suggestion of H.R.H. Princess Louise Duchess of Argyll. I hope with the longer days this fund may be revised. The Australian War Contingent have done much for the Australian patients, and the chars-a-bancs sent by the Association have been a great help to all the patients, for the chars-a-bancs sent by British friends have been shared by the Australians, and the Australian and Newfoundland chars-a-bancs have given pleasure to many Britishers. In this way the patients go out with their new friends, and the Empire spirit and character of the hospital are thus maintained.

Miss Margaret Boulton has done many things for the hospital. She has sent gramophones for the use of the patients, and also flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruit. This lady was one of the first to start a free buffet for soldiers going north. She personally worked and financed one at Euston for a long time. These buffets are now taken over by various organisations, but to Miss Boulton belongs the honour of being one of the earliest workers in this popular movement.

Mr. Guy Chetwynd has helped with bagatelle tables, having started the fund in Sporting Life, and to this paper's patrons we are indebted for many tables.

Mr. Ellis has brought papers every Sunday since the hospital opened.

Mr. and Mrs. Percy Chubb are American friends showing genuine and practical sympathy with England at the moment by doing many things to help the wounded, one of these being the setting aside of a wing of their house at Wimbledon for six officers, who may continue their treatment there, within motoring distance of the hospital.

Mr. Guthrie-Smith has been a helper to us in many ways, and his and Mrs. Guthrie-Smith's assistance in providing drives for the patients is but one instance of their kindnesses. The most important thing is his duty as hon. gardener; in this post he has taken charge of our extensive grounds, and the paths and flower-beds are his especial care. He must have had many causes for amusement, and on one occasion he was warned, quite seriously, by a newly arrived N.C.O. as to his need for more care in the way he did his work. He has renewed his acquaintance with many New Zealanders, and made friends with all about the place. He has been helped very much by Messrs. Neal and Sons, the well-known gardeners of this neighbourhood, who have been most considerate to us.


Friday, 20 August 2010

Stock-taking, Spring, 1916

April 1916

"Today," said the Sister, "we will count our Quartermaster's stock."
"Right," said the Staff. And then it began.
The Junior Staff went gaily collecting: "Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty- ..." when a howl went up from the patients.
"We want our towels."
It was, of course, inevitable that they should all want to wash at that precise moment. Then a rumour started with the Staff Nurse. "I know there ought to be fifty-nine counterpanes, so where are the other seven?" And the rumour spread and spread, and with it consternation and dismay. Everybody cross-examined everybody else - the Junior Staff searched each bed wildly - the Senior Staff frenziedly turned out cupboards, pantries, and lockers. And the patients ... made hay while the sun shone, as it were. To this chaotic upheaval entered the Orderly, who, on being informed of the tragedy, produced with a serene and unruffled air an aged I.O.U. for - thirteen counterpanes.

Peace, perfect peace - disturbed by a plaintive wail from the Sister: "One sheet short, and I counted them myself only yesterday!"
The search began again, commencing with the Orderly. Nothing doing. Then each sheet was counted by each member of the staff, individually and collectively; neighbouring linen-cupboards were 'investigated' but in vain, as everyone else was stock-taking too. Anxious enquiries were made of the M.O.'s (who thought it a huge joke), of the Fumigator (who knew 'nothin' abaht it'), of the gentlemen of the Dirty Linen Department (who said, 'Madam, we are 101 short ourselves and therefore can do nothing'), and of the Laundry Ladies (who condoled - but were not to be cajoled). And a cloud of depression and gloom descended on that ward. The patients were restless and scowled furtively at one another, and the staff, alas, was snappish, almost peevish; and temperatures rose, all on account of our sheet that had strayed from the fold. And not even an otherwise complete (and even plus!) stock could atone for the erring one.

And as the fatal hour of 8 p.m. drew night, a last combined hunt was instituted, and each bed was again feverishly unmade before the worry-worn patient was allowed to enter it ... when suddenly a cry of joy arose from the Sister.
"Rejoice with me for I have found my sheet which was lost - being used as a counterpane on the end bed but one!"
And the ward rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and the staff gave a tea-fight to celebrate it.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

An Intake of Wounded

April 1916

The facade of the hospital is like a dark cliff rising into the blackness of the sky. At the base of the cliff, faintly illuminated by some stray beam of light from a partly-curtained window, stand a double line of figures in khaki - orderlies. They chat and joke in subdued voices. Some puff the surreptitious cigarette. Suddenly there is a stir. Someone has caught sight of the lamps of the first ambulance, creeping at a snail's pace along the road on the far side of the railway line. Before they have disappeared round the turn by the hospital gates two more lamps are seen, slowly - ever so slowly! - moving across the vista; then another pair ... and another. Each pair of lamps represents a motor ambulance, driven with that patient skill which is demanded by slowness rather than speed; for the precious freight must not be shaken in transit.

The orderlies ranks stiffen; the chat ceases; cigarettes are thrown away. The first ambulance has passed through the gates and is gliding up the drive. Simultaneously the main entrance door of the hospital is thrown open, the electric light above it is switched on, and the Matron and a group of sergeants issue forth on to the flight of steps to superintend the intake. The ambulance gently comes to a standstill. Four orderlies step from the ranks. One opens the back cover that has hidden from passers-by the vision which, perhaps, it would have been better for all to see - and ponder. His fellows are smartly unfastening the straps that hold each stretcher on its shelf. Four pairs of muddy boot soles, projecting from beneath blankets, indicate that the ambulance is full. Who are the owners of those passive, oddly pathetic feet - who are these latest victims of war's chance? It is not (for the moment) the orderlies' business to enquire. The only problem is to move these helpless pieces of human wreckage, as rapidly and comfortably as may be, to the place where they will in due course be repaired. The great machine which has employed them knows their names and whereabouts; it may be that even already, in some remote office, clerks are diligently entering them ('religion,' 'age,' 'length of service,' 'married or unmarried') in countless dossiers.

The stretcher-handles click into place; each is grasped by an orderly. 'Haul!' - the stretcher, with its immobile burden, slides out. 'Lift!' - strong arms raise it, lest it bump as it emerges. 'All clear, lower!' - the four bearers back away, with their stretcher, and mount the steps into the hospital.

The receiving-hall is brightly lit. On the table at the far end stands a great tank of steaming cocoa and an array of cups. Orderlies are bringing in piles of bundles of 'blues'; others are ready with string and labels and vast volumes in which the newcomers' belongings may be listed before they are taken to the pack-store. As our stretcher enters, borne by its quartette of orderlies, it is stopped at the door. A doctor bends over the patient. "What's your trouble, eh?" Two weary eyes unclose, and the pale lips whisper, "Shrapnel wound in left thigh" ... "Enteric" ... "Frost-bite" ... "Rheumatism" - the possible answers are, alas, innumerable. Promptly the doctor decides the ward to which the patient must be entrusted; a metal ticket, bearing the name of the ward and the number of the vacant bed, is placed on the stretcher, and it moves forward to make room for another.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The First Zeppelin Raid

April 1916

As seen by some of the Nursing Staff

We had been warned so often that to me it was almost a cry of 'Wolf!' Wolf!' I was just going to bed, when I heard a noise which sounded like far-off knocking. I listened, and it was repeated at very short intervals. Then I heard a voice from below say, "There they are!" I thought to myself "Zeppelins," so, picking up the pup (as my most valuable possession)*, I flew downstairs, and joined Cpl. Hunwick on the front step.

It was very dark - a darkness that could be felt. When I got accustomed to it, I saw an oblong object, surrounded by light, travelling very quickly away from us. The guns by this time were very loud, and we could see the firing quite distinctly. After a short time I saw a second Zep., not as distinctly as the first. Then all sorts of rumours began to spread. Victoria Station being destroyed was the principal one, I think. The Nursing Staff in one house were very disturbed. One Sister, who was in bed, jumped out, crying "They are bombing us!" dressed at lightning speed (even to putting on her cuffs), and was heard to mutter, as she disappeared in the darkness, "Let me die with the men." Some time later I saw the same lady, quite collected, going back to her rooms, and on enquiring what she was doing in hospital at that time of night was told that if she had to die she would much rather die in her ward with 'her men' than escape being hurt if they were in danger. Another poor thing in the same house was left to turn out all the lights, which was such a lengthy proceeding that the Zeppelins were almost back in their own country when she got outside to see them.

Another Sister, after making elaborate preparations in the cellar (and spoiling numerous garments with candle grease in doing so), went to bed and slept soundly. On hearing the news next morning she was furious, and could not think why she had not been wakened to go to the cellar! Since then we have repeatedly been "warned." I shall never forget the feeling it gave one to see all the men engrossed in their concert, singing at the top of their voices, and listening afterwards to Mr. Dion Cane recite 'The Hell-gate of Soissons,' while a few of us who were 'in the know' listened with the other ear and half expected - well, things we do not even dare think of.


*[Edith Holden, the Matron, was accompanied in her work from the early days of the war by her Pekingese dog]

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Daily Routine of a Soldier's Life

April 1916

Culled from "The Ration," the magazine of the Reading War Hospitals

Told by a few well-known hymns.

6.30 a.m. Reveille. Christians Awake

6.45 a.m. Rouse Parade. Art thou weary, art thou languid.

7.00 a.m. Breakfast. Meekly wait and murmur not.

8.15 a.m. Company Parade. When he cometh.

8.45 a.m. Manoeuvres. Fight the good fight.

11.15 a.m. Swedish Drill. Here we suffer grief and pain.

1.00 p.m. Dinner. Come, ye thankful people, come.

2.15 p.m. Rifle Drill. Go, labour on.

3.15 p.m. Lecture by Officers. Abide with me.

4.30 p.m. Dismiss. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

5.00 p.m. Tea. What means this eager anxious throng.

6.00 p.m. Free for the Night. O Lord, how happy we shall be.

6.30 p.m. Out of Bounds. We may not know, we cannot tell.

10.00 p.m. Last Post. All are safely gathered in.

10.30 p.m. Lights Out. Peace, perfect peace.

10.45 p.m. Inspection of Guards. Sleep on, Beloved.


Monday, 2 August 2010