Monday, 24 January 2011

Round The Hospital

September 1916
By Mr. Quossip

Newly back from Strafland, Cpl. Cheeribloke met me while I was taking my promenade down A. corridor. The Corporal, attired in natty blue (blue is the wear, you know!), was propelling his own landaulet - the latest craze in conveyances. "I'm teaching it to waltz" was his little jest as he butted backwards into a competitive vehicle which had rashly attempted to pass him at the tricky bit of road between Kitchen Corner and The Ramp.

Sister Summery, all smiles as usual, has confided in me that her present guests at the Lads. When I add that 'the Lads' unanimously testify that Sister Summery is It, you will grasp the full significance of this Pointed Par.

Anna Maria Twentystun (of course, it is the Dowager I am alluding to) whose residence in Garratt Lane is the scene of many a social success, has left D27.The good wishes of all go with her, and the younger of our Blades in Blue may well envy the lucky suitor who is leading so ponderous a parti to the altar.

The sweet likeness of little Dolly Dimpledean (late of Daly's) has come to hand today. Dolly, it seems, is toiling like a galley slave for the wounded - or will be when our hard-hearted Matron can be persuaded to give her a berth. Meanwhile, in spite of rebuffs which would have damped the zeal of one less courageous, the Adored of the Stalls has been tiring her poor wee self to tatters by being photo'ed in her Red Cross Uniform.

At supper in the Orderlies' Canteen last night I found myself next to Pte. Long-i'-t'hair, whose ancestral home, Hut 6, is so beautifully situated at the edge of the valley of the Ellbeesceear. His was work he told me is keeping him very busy; several times this year he has had to deny his usual weekend. However (as he himself added, with his usual cheery smile), "War is Hell."

Mrs. Quossip informs me that 'Tumbler Teas' are now much in vogue in V.A.D. circles - owing no doubt to the best china being stowed away in the cellar, safe from the marauding Zepp. The correct procedure at these affairs is to invite your guests, mentioning at the same time that you've nothing to offer for tea(if wise, they'll bring their own), and then raid your neighbours' rooms for crockery.
At the particular party mentioned by Mrs. Quossip the net result of these surprising manoeuvres was two cups, two toothbrush jars, and a tooth glass. A good dentifrice is a real necessity, it appears, as a cheaper one spoils instead of adds to the flavour of the tea. The time-honoured toothbrush and penholder deputised for spoons, and the chocolate biscuits, so dear to the feminine heart, were served in the soap-dish. quite a recherché affair, it seems.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Poet's Corner


Who is it think I'm strung on wire,
With arms and feet that never tire,
Expect me, with a smiling face,
From dewy morn till eve to race
And never use their heads to save
My legs from running to the grave?
My officers.

Who is it that, when old or grand,
My limitations understand,
As majors or as colonels scan
Their orderly as fellow man,
But, as subalterns often seem
To think, he's just a dud machine?
My officers.

But there must come an end to strife,
And we go back to private life;
When I once more can take my ease,
And do as little as I please.
Who, in their turn - their war work done -
Ah, blessed hope, may have to run?
My officers!




Tell me not in accents tender
That an army nurse's life if fine;
It has joys beyond recall -
Listening to the Tommies' whine.

First it's socks, and then it's hankies,
Kit shirts and vests, the morning long;
The afternoon - sheets and pyjama trousers;
In the evening the same old song.

It is good to smooth their pillows,
Cheer them all upon their way,
Regulars, Terriers, Canadians and Anzacs,
Grumbling or growling the livelong day.

Oh, the Tommies oft remind us,
As we work from morn till night,
That the saying is a true one,
'The more you work, the more you might.'

But let us all, then, grin and bear it,
Grumbling only makes us worse;
When they're marked up for disposal
They always want to take their nurse.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Women's Work?

'This is not a scene at the summer sales, but merely Orderlettes eager to realise on the I.O.U.s of the Clean Linen Store'

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Experiences in a Nurse's Life

September 1916

It is impossible for any woman to go through three years in a General Hospital without having a variety of experiences which would hardly fall to her lot in any other position. Thus repetition might sound rather curious or amusing to the outside world, but no trained nurse would regard them as anything unusual.

Whilst I was in my probationer days I was at work in a very busy ward where the Sister was rather an ogress. On the occasion in question there had been a rush of new patients, a new house physician, and stocktaking all on the same day, and the junior members of the nursing staff had survived a most agitating morning. A day labourer, who in time of convalescence had nothing else to do but lie in bed and see the working of the ward pass before his eyes, being one of the philanthropists of this world, called me to his side at the first propitious moment, and, raising himself on his elbow to give emphasis to his utterance, said;
"You didn't ought to stop at this, my girl; I'll find you a much better job behind a bar when I get out of 'ere." I did not avail myself of his kindly services, though I certainly thanked him for them.

The following story is told of the Matron of a Nursing Home in the East of England, whose responsibilities extended over a very large area, and who had, as one branch of her work, to superintend the district nursing in the outskirts of and the town of Ipswich. She went with two of her nurses on one occasion to see a destitute old woman who was living alone in a very neglected condition, and completely dependent on any services the neighbours would do for her. It was a busy morning's work to put the invalid on a water bed, give her an elaborate toilet, and clean up the cottage. But when it had been accomplished to everyone's satisfaction, the old granny turned to the Matron with a little sigh of regret, and said:
"Ah! my dear, you'd 'ardly credit 'ow I'm come down in the world. I used to be a cook in a grand house in Grosvenor Square, with six of the likes of you under me."
No one has enjoyed the story quite as much as the Matron herself, who, since the occurring of this incident, it may be interesting to know, has received the Royal Red Cross of the First Class for valuable work rendered on foreign service.


Monday, 3 January 2011

Looking Backwards - a Note by the Matron

September 1916

As we go to press we have well entered the third year of the war. When one looks back it seems hardly possible that this can be so, although I suppose we have all crowded into the last two years more than we have ever done before. Looking round the wards which have been built all around us, and seem to have grown up with us, we wonder when it will stop growing.

We started the 3rd London General with 520 beds crammed together in those first days in every available room and corner of the buildings. Then by degrees, after days and nights of ceaseless hammering, the first long corridor appeared - which is now called the Old Huts - and the surplus beds were drafted into it. Then we thought we had a big hospital. Now we have 1,637 beds equipped and the majority of them occupied, and we are contemplating extending up to 1,800. With the second extension was added another 520 beds; this meant extra kitchen accommodation and stores. These all seemed to spring up like mushrooms, and as soon as they were finished the equipment was put in, and in a very short time we had A, B, C, and D corridors in the New Extension occupied, and working well.

Looking back over the work of two years, it has been hard and unceasing, but I think we all feel that, in spite of this, it has not been altogether unhappy. The wonderful cheerfulness of the men when they must be suffering, the brightness of the wards, and the general air of contentment through the Hospital, makes one feel that the years have been well spent. Many changes have occurred, and faces that were very familiar have gone - some for a time, some for ever. Convoy after convoy arrive night and day, and the well-known characters about the place disappear one by one. Still we go on with 'the daily round, the common task,' living from day to day and hoping - sometimes almost against hope - that one day there may be a silver lining to the cloud.

One of my special friends has just had his hospital birthday, and he is as cheerful today as he always has been, and I think sets us all an example. Our Gazette, too, has just had its first birthday, and I look forward to it with real pleasure each month and wish it every success in its second year. Many of the Staff have been here all the time. The Nursing Staff, in common with others, have taken the rough with the smooth all the way through. Many have been the dark days when wards had to be moved, surgeons changed, and staff nurses put on night duty, but in spite of all these hardships there is a bright side, although we don't always see it.
In the beginning of the third year of the Hospital, we all, I think, feel more hopeful, and who knows, before long we may be able to
'Pack up our troubles in our old kit bags and
Smile, smile, smile.'

I wonder!