Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Deathless Spirit

By Malcolm Savage Treacher (Sergt. H.A.C.)
July 1916

I have witnessed many impressive services. Have seen God praised in tinsel and glitter; amid priceless Rembrandts and wondrous statues of gold and silverwork. Under Norman fabrics; beneath lofty Gothic pillars; in abbeys and cathedrals; and in ancient historic piles, the very names of which spell reverence, into whose old stones the essence of our history has permeated. But no service has impressed me as did that in the Chapel of the 3rd London Hospital. Yet it was not the service itself; that was too swift in its action. One endeavoured to cram too many spoken prayers; too much quantity, if I may say so, and not enough quality. For our prayers to God cannot be hurried; they must be spoken with awe - in lowly reverence. No; it was not the service itself that impressed me. Rather it was the men. Those men in rough blue suits; those men who the breath of war had singed; those men whom God had taught how to pray.

I came early. I was almost the first man present. Others followed - halt and lame, torn and bleeding in their country's service. Then a detachment of the hospital staff in khaki, clanking awkwardly with iron-shod boots into their seats, marshalled by a stout N.C.O., whose ribbons showed long and honourable duty. Then groups of sweet-faced nurses. Then more of the men in blue. If you would have a sight to wring your very heart strings come and see these men. Battered by shell fire, maimed with bullets, white and pale with fever and sickness are these. Some carry limp, helpless arms in slings; some hobble on sticks and crutches; some - God have mercy upon them - are led. Their eyes no longer see the light of the sun, the beauty of women's faces, the loveliness of the flowers, and the heavens themselves. They are blind. There are others even more woefully pathetic - their very features they have sacrificed. Yet they all smile. Outwardly they are all cheerful and happy. For a time they are through with the ordeal. They have come to praise their Maker - they are through with their lives.

We all sing a hymn. I do not remember what it was. A few prayers were chanted, and, the organ droning, we all rose from our knees. Two late comers are wheeled into the church. They are on stretchers. We are singing by this time. It is 'O come, let us sing unto the Lord.' Our voices are shy at first; then they grow louder. Those men who sing are earnest. They are here for no vulgar show of ostentation in dress. They are here to praise God. Yet their voices are still thin. One seems, as it were, waiting for something - some culmination - some apotheosis. We sit down again. Some sacred words are read from St. John as the lesson. Then the Benedictus is chanted. Yet in its place would I rather have seen the Te Deum - that anthem of praise which the Spaniards sung kneeling before battle at the time of the great Philip. There are more prayers; and a fine touch of genius then chose a hymn which rolled back the years for us all, which to more than one of that congregation brought the time vividly to the moments when he lisped the hymn on his mother's knee.

Is it manly for surreptitious tears to roll down one's cheek? One might as well ask if it is human to experience human emotion. It was thrilling to see all those battle-scarred men thrown back their heads. It touched one's heart to hear their deep voices uniting in that children's hymn.
'There is a green hill far away' they sang in full throated chorus, each man probably struggling to hide his own emotion. Touching indeed was the effect of all this. But still we all waited for something - for some culmination. It was not the prayers that followed, nor the next hymn - a bloodless, uninspired piece of work telling of intense joy in celestial spheres where 'no toil and care are there,' for the modern adventurous spirit demands no milk and honey setting when God gives even the ant and the bee greater tasks than men achieve on earth. Nor had this moment come when the Priest stood before the Cross, before the candles on the Altar - when he blesses us all in words as old as our civilisation. We pray swiftly and earnestly. The organ is droning meanwhile a tune at first scarcely recognisable. Its volume swells. Each man feels the zest of ripe enthusiasm surging in him. Some mighty wave of emotion sweeps through us all.

The great moment has arrived. Alert, each man rises hurriedly to his feet, standing stiff and upright, his hands at 'Attention' by his side. This is the climax. In that second the spirit of our race is abroad. Those on crutches have scrambled afoot; blind men lift their faces aloft; even does one chalk-faced soldier, lying flat on his stretcher a moment before, crane himself upright on his elbows. All men's voices are uniting together in one great song. Its words are doggerel; its tune blatant and unsympathetic; but this anthem of England's King stands for Victory and Triumph.
'Send him victorious, happy and glorious' we cry aloud in one mighty voice. The spirit of our race is abroad, I say, at that moment.
You who look on wipe away another tear with your coat sleeve. It is over. The priests have walked softly towards the vestry. The men in khaki whisper among themselves. The stretchers and bath chairs are being wheeled away. Divine service in the Chapel is over.

Outside the birds are singing. A golden sun is blazing through the trees in full splendour. None of us think of our comrades scarce a day's journey away, lying in muddy burrows, exposed to danger and peril during every hour of their lives; of our own chances to rejoin them. For at that moment the 'Peace of God which passeth understanding' is in our souls.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

An Urgent Appeal

July 1916

This magazine now enjoys a considerable circulation amongst the general public; we make no apology, therefore, for venturing to print an appeal - quite frankly - for money. The money is required not for The Gazette - which fortunately is self-supporting (and this without, we are glad to say, the aid of advertisements) - but for a fund whose maintenance closely touches the comfort of the gallant fellows to whom everyone in this country is indebted: the hospital's wounded. These men are practically all smokers, and we have yet to meet the anti-tobacco fanatic who carries his views so far as to grudge our soldiers the solace of a cigarette or pipe. But by King's regulations the patients in a military hospital are not, for the time being, allowed to have money in their possession.

Admirable associations have sprung up which supply tobacco, and of these the chief is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Smokes Society,. The 3rd London General Hospital has, however, hitherto refrained from appealing to this Society for help - or at any rate has only done so once, when a sudden shortage occurred. We have preferred to supply our tobacco by means of privately collected subscriptions as long as possible. Nevertheless, the drain on our Cigarette Fund (as it is called) is severe. The 3rd London has 1,600 beds; and when 1,000 are occupied by British troops and 500 by Colonial, an issue of four cigarettes per day per man (or the equivalent in tobacco for pipe smokers) costs about £14 a week.

It should be explained that through the Soldiers' and Sailors' Smokes Society we obtain our stock extremely economically, for though we do not depend, as has been shown, on this society, we buy duty free by its aid. Furthermore, it must be understood that the Australian and Newfoundland patients have a generous allowance of smokes automatically provided for them by the patriotism of their own Homelands. No such arrangement obtains in the case of our good friend Tommy Atkins of Great Britain. During twenty-two months we have managed, in the 3rd L.G.H., to supply cigarettes and tobacco daily to British patients by means of the kindness of our own friends. We ask now that other friends will come forward to carry on this record. Our regular contributors, through either Mr. Berney's fund or the fund collected by Mrs. Bruce Porter, are not numerous; and if any reader would like to assist by regular subscriptions, however small, or a donation, we shall be very grateful - and so, we may add, will our patients.

Cheques or postal orders may be sent either to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Smokes Society (Buckingham Gate, S.W.), marked for credit of the 3rd London General Hospital, or to Mrs. Bruce Porter, 6 Grosvenor Street, W.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Crimea - and Now

July 1916

The C.O. describes some further striking contrasts in War Hospital efficiency

While Miss Florence Nightingale was short of female nurses, think what she had as male.
The ambulance men all died of D.T.s or cholera. The orderlies were raw corporals and untrained men, over-worked, ill-fed, and underpaid; in fact a rabble. The rations were drawn 'uncooked' for each patient, so that by the time the food was drawn it was too late often to cook it, and so it was kept all night in the wards. It remained for this wonderful woman to suggest that diets should be issued in bulk. Her suggestions were practically embodied into the Royal Warrant for the Medical Staff Corps of 1855; and, while she condemned the medical officers severely for failure as administrators, it is a satisfaction that she bore willing testimony to their skill and devotion as doctors. The Records of the hospitals were scanty to a degree, and the only note kept was that a man died on a certain day. In the base hospital at Scutari they died at the rate of a hundred a day. Compare that with the present war. In many thousands of cases which have passed through our hospital and sections since the outbreak of the war we have had an average of deaths from all causes of 1 in 150, though many of the patients admitted were almost dead when they arrived.

The mental distress to a woman like Florence Nightingale, seeing brave men die for want of proper food and nursing, must have been awful. The thousand and one things she did show how she valued the personal touch in dealing with the sick and wounded. This, after all, now as then, is the most valuable faculty that can be possessed by a doctor or a nurse - to let each patient realise he has a personality and is not merely a number. It is, as we all know, the dominant note of the 3rd London, and has done more to make it successful from the patients' point of view than anything else. The bright wards, the flowers, and the skill of the surgeons all count; but, in my opinion, they rank after the 'personal interest' of the staff for the patients. A few cheery words from the Medical Officer, which shows he knows the patient's name and regiment, will give more stimulus to the patient and help him more towards recovery than any amount of physic.

Florence Nightingale took the trouble, amid all her business, to send a line now and then to the relatives of the patients, often conveying their last message. I know many of our nurses here do the same, for I have heard outside of such; but if any of the staff who read this article have spare time, let them use it by sending a line now and then to the near relatives of their serious cases; it will be appreciated more than many realise. This is especially the case when the patient is far from his home. Under Florence Nightingale's influence the class of orderly improved, and we find a tribute from her to her orderlies that they carried out duties which would never have been done for the sake of discipline, and 'there was never a word or look which a gentleman would not have used.'

In the spring of 1855 the mortality had fallen from 42% to 2.2% at Scutari, and so Miss Nightingale went to the Crimea to inspect the hospitals there. Worry and overwork had undermined her health, and she had a severe attack of fever. When convalescent she refused to go to England, but went back to work. The joy of England at her recovery manifested itself in a fund to be hers, and she wished it used for the training of nurses and their sustenance. The amount of drunkenness was awful, and men actually died of drink; and, till Miss Nightingale took the matter in hand, no one appeared to mind. It had been the custom; why interfere or bother? She interfered, and set to improve the men's conditions by giving counter attractions, especially to give them means of being educated, as the soldier of those days was very often unable to read or write. But, in spite of their want of education, when in the reading huts their manner was quiet and well-bred. Their good manners made a lasting impression on Miss Florence Nightingale.

Time has brought a very different class of men to the Colours, and in the present war men of all standards and education are in the ranks; but it is as well for those who may think that their presence in the ranks is adding lustre to the Army that they should remember the soldier of all times has been a gentleman, and, if he possessed vices of the period, they were those met with in gentlemen of the period. I have seen many thousands of men through this hospital, and when a man has forgotten to behave as a gentleman it has been in spite of his uniform and position as a soldier. In civil life, away from the good example of other soldiers, the same man would have been worse. The so-called common soldiers, taken as a class, are always gentlemen in manners and feelings.

Florence Nightingale's task in breaking down vested interests was colossal, and it was only by irregular methods that she succeeded in getting things done. She had to soothe over the medical profession owing to an over-zealous admirer making an attack on the medical officers which was not fair, and in many ways she had to smooth the religious jealousies of the nurses. Her persistence was rewarded, and she did was she set out to do, i.e., she made the experiment of female nursing in military hospitals successful, reduced the death rate, and saved thousands of lives.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Diary of a Zepp. Night

June 1916

By a Girl Orderly
(Passed by the Censor)

9.15. - Night Sister blows in rather hurriedly. "All lights out, and just run round to the other wards." Start off on my travels, beginning by badly barking my shins on radiator. Make a frantic dive for the door and land with a resounding crash into a screen. Start once more, and eventually arrive - falling over every possible object en route. Dash upstairs and drop metal matchbox down well of staircase with a noise like several bombs. Await result in palpitating silence. Nothing happens, so 'carry on.'

9.45. - Suffering from shock and ready for anything. See figure silhouetted against window. Ask what it's doing out of bed, and find it's the statue of ___ that adorns the ward. Retire crushed.

10 p.m. - Frenzied search for respirators and solution by match-light. Wake most of the patients with the striking, and singe hair and eyebrows - but success attends my efforts. All is prepared. Do your worst, O Hun!

10.15. - Obtain electric torch, and, shrouding it in kit handkerchiefs, go forth in search of adventure and, incidentally, of Night Sister. Am asked by a gentleman if I can direct him to L. Offer him the services of my glow-worm, and put him on the broad road that leadeth to L. The same old tale again, I suppose: Cherchez la femme.

10.30. - Fire in side ward insists on blazing. Damp its ardour, but it bursts forth afresh every few minutes. On ordinary occasions to look at it is to put it out. Tonight it needs a pint or so of water every half-hour (more or less) - illustrating the cussedness of things as they are.

11. - Toast feet on radiator and search the heavens for the foe. Nothing doing.

11.30. - Still nothing doing.

12 midnight. - Suspense is wearying. Decide to have supper. Cook something - bacon by the smell thereof - make coffee, and pour three parts down the sink in the endeavour to strain it. Eat and drink in solid darkness; but all is tasteless, dust and ashes as it were. Queer what a difference sight makes to flavour.

12.15. - A tiny light comes down the ward, swaying and dancing through the blackness. Is it a fallen star or a Will o' the Wisp on his nightly travels? Neither - but our 'Lady of the Lamp' on her midnight round. And the news she brings: "Raid in the ___ district; nothing definite." Cheering. Will they blow us up en masse or a ward at a time? Take a gloomy survey of my past, and speculate on the chances of arriving 'there' whole or in portions.

12.45. - Patrol the ward, pitying the unsuspecting patients slumbering regardless of peril!

1 to 3. - A not very lucid interval.

3.15. - Another visit from the Lady of the Lamp. No tidings either way. Why, oh why, did I leave my happy home and come on night duty?

4 a.m. - Dawn begins to lighten our darkness, and the order 'Lights out' coincides with the running of the first train to be released. It dashes through with a whoop of triumph and defiance, and I pull myself together and decide that it's not such a bad life after all.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Pack Store

Scanning doesn't do justice to this image, but worth it to get a glimpse of a department that's often mentioned, but whose inner workings are rarely seen.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Members of the Unit who have left for Service Elsewhere

May 1916

December 31st
, 1915: Pte. T. H. Paget left to take up commissioned rank in R.N.V.R.

February 15th, 1916: Pte. R. A. Scannall transferred to 3rd London Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance, Chelsea.

February 18th: Ptes. de la Bere ('Fatigue') and J. A. Grant transferred to Artists Rifles O.T.C.

March 4th: Cpl. W. Melhuish transferred to Army Service Corps, Winchester.

March 6th: Pte. B. Chapman discharged to re-enlist in Royal Flying Corps, Farnborough.

March 18th: Sgt. F. Derwent Wood promoted Lieutenant in H.M. Regular Forces.

March 18th: Cpl. F. C. Mulock left to take up commissioned rank in R.N.V.R.

March 31st: Pte. P. E. Smith transferred to 58th London Casualty Clearing Station, Ipswich.

April 7th: L-Cpl. M. A. French joined H.M.H.S. Panama, now sailing between Southampton and Havre.

April 14th: Cpl. M. B. Evergood left to take up commissioned rank in the Commonwealth Military Force.

April 14th: Pte. H. R. Harrild joined H.M.H.S. Panama.

April 14th: Pte. F. Wilcoxson left to join Cadet Training Corps with a view to obtaining commissioned rank in R.F.A.