Tuesday, 22 February 2011

An Appreciation

October 1916

A Word of Encouragement from the Principal Matron

May I take this opportunity of the first issue of Volume II of The Gazette to thank it and its perpetrators for very many delightful hours during the last year. My little dog has often looked up in surprise to hear a burst of laughter when we seemed alone, but by degrees he is getting to understand the cause of this strange behaviour, and to recognise the cover of The Gazette, even though it occasionally changes it colour. Whenever I feel in the blues I long to find time to go to the 3rd London, and when I encounter any specially depressed friends would like to order them the same prescription.

Where is the spell? Partly, I think, the secret lies in the fact that our C.O., nobly seconded in all his work by Miss Holden, not only had great powers of organisation, but also possessed the gift - owing, in a large degree, to his own vivid, sympathetic and original personality - of collecting round himself and drawing into his work so many interesting and clever people, and inspiring them to devote, each in his own line, not only their brains but also their hearts, to help those who in this great Armageddon have found their way to the 3rd London; and though for a time he has been called to foreign fields of action, this same influence permeates every corner of the place.

This helps one to realise the various touches of genius which confront one at every turn of the hospital, and one is not surprised to see the notice boards in the corridors ornamented with sparkling little artistic gems by way of announcements of the various entertainments, and to find the men's recreation room hung with drawings by well-known artists, and to discover that these artists, whose pictures have adorned the Academy, are the khaki-clad R.A.M.C., who in their different ranks are devoting their energies to the cause of the patients. Whether their ward work is up to Academy pitch only the 'Sisters' could say! But the results are very excellent.

Then again, on entering the Splint Department, we are prepared to find it presided over by a celebrated sculptor, who not only directs the moulding of the most scientifically useful and comfortable of splints, but also has brought his genius to bear in building up the features of the patients, so that many who seemed to have been hopelessly disfigured in defence of their country are turned out from this department even handsomer than before they entered the battle at all.

On the musical side also the 3rd London contains its undefeated sportsmen. It is rumoured that one afternoon, a concert party failing to turn up, rather than disappoint the audience, the matron went to the piano and, as if by wireless telegraphy, the word went round, and one of the best and most enjoyable concerts of the season was carried out without a moment's hesitation. If I began to write about the wards I should never end. The results speak for themselves. Among many of the good jokes that are always going round the hospital none give me as much pleasure as that of the patient who, returning to visit his old ward, told the Sister, as the highest form of appreciation and gratitude, that she was 'well known in all the public houses.'


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Some 'Don'ts' for Patients - by One in C8.

September 1916

put 'Tonight's the Night' on the gramophone when Nurse is cross. (Her evening off has probably been postponed till Friday.)

DON'T ask Sister for cigarette cards if she looks worried. (She is most likely having an interview with Matron tomorrow morning.)

DON'T develop new symptoms when the M.O. is snappy. (You will get scant sympathy if he was three tricks down on his 'no trumps redoubled' last night.)

If the M.O. prescribes No.9's, DON'T argue. (He might change his mind and make it Castor Oil.)

If you are an Infantryman, DON'T talk about the little girl in the Estaminet at B__, who was so keen on you. (We have ALL met her.)

If you belong to the A.S.C., DON'T tell Nurse anything about the saphead you held at Wipers - or whatever other name you think of. (Some rotten Infantryman is sure to ask his neighbour the difference between 'saphead' and 'softhead.')

If you belong to the A.O.C., DON'T forget to wear your spurs as you walk down the ward saying 'Goodbye' the day you are discharged from hospital. (It impresses the Orderlette.)

If the fellow in the next bed snores, DON'T forget to accuse the night Nurse of it. (It will make you popular with her.)

If there is a sergeant in your ward, DON'T forget to laugh at his jokes. (Sergeants have been known to get boxes of 'Abdullas' sent them occasionally.)
(Note to Editor.- Please alter brand in above paragraph if you can get another firm to pay me more for the advertisement. - AUTHOR.)

If you must relate funny stories, for Heaven's sake DON'T tell the one about the girl and the soldier. (You never know when Sister will come in.)

Even if you are fond of music, DON'T put 'Salut d'Amour' on the gramophone more than four times in succession. If you do, some other silly idiot, whose brain does not soar above ragtime, will develop a headache and Sister will ban the gramophone for the rest of the day. ('I' got a headache once, so I know.)

If your egg should happen to be a little.. er.. so-so, DON'T take it lying down. Go to the O.C. Chicken Run and lay a complaint.
(Note to Editor.- This paragraph is NOT intended as a reflection on the Wandsworth hens, but 'eggs is eggs,' as Omar - or was it George Robey - once said.- AUTHOR.)

DON'T go into hospital with influenza or such-like simple complaints. (The Officers and Sisters will like you much better if yours is an interesting case.

C.B. (18th Royal Fusiliers).

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Main Hall Sketches

September 1916

In the old coaching days the lot of a turnpike keeper must have been quite an amusing one. Human beings on all manner of journeys of business and pleasure would pass him by - from the romantic young couple on their way to Gretna Green to the sleepy waggoner, in the early hours of the morning, on his way to London Town with his market produce. Something of the same variety of passers-by helps very efficiently to 'kill time' for the clerical V.A.D. in the Hospital Main Hall. All sorts and conditions from the mud-stained, tattered hero straight from France to the small girl with a paper bag of eggs and a bunch of flowers for the soldiers who wants 'to see the Mytron.'

In a rather detached way one gleans much of the daily history of the whole hospital. A telephone message from one of the distant huts to the Wardmaster to find Captain This or Dr. That, and presently an orderlette, at something between a flutter and 'the double' in an agitated quest for oxygen or brandy, means that some poor boy is having a pretty hard struggle with the enemy. Sheafs of telegrams are left in the hall for despatch by one of the many coming and going messenger boys, from which one can often patch a little story from a few words.
"To Miss Priscilla Maidenaunt. So sorry; not feeling quite up to visitors today. - from NEPHEW JACK."
"To Miss Blanche Blossom. So glad you are in town. Call for you in taxi 7. Dine at Regent Palace. Wherever you like, to follow. Feeling very fit. - JACK."
Both are signed at the back by Second Lieutenant Blank, X Ward, 3rd L.G.H. !
Patients waiting for the arrival of friends will often entertain us with light conversation. A wounded warrior was waiting for his wife, who was coming up from the country to see him.
"My wife, she doesn't half like the idea of coming to see me at a hospital. She's a nervous sort of body; can't bear the sight of blood or anything. As for me - well, that sort o' thing doesn't bother me a bit. You see I was a barber as well as a tobacconist by trade before the war."

Many and varied are the 'emergency' calls for the Wardmaster from various quarters of the Hospital. Not the least so was a call from the Matron one day - the Wardmaster was not long gone, and when he returned he was carrying a hat box from which came the strangest sounds. Behold, a family of kittens - for whose nursery, Pussy, with excellent taste, had chosen Matron's best hat! Many dear old ladies arrive on kindly errands at our Enquiry Office. One wished to see a certain Australian.
"I don't know his name, but you will know the one I mean; he has a swollen leg and foot, not wounded, but swollen."
We looked rather blank, so to make the matter quite clear she continued:
"Last Sunday week he was sitting on a chair in the drive just outside the door for the first time!"
She thought us strangely unobservant and inefficient, and I am sure, even when we explained that there were over 1,400 patients in hospital at the time, and that we had no method of recording them either by the state of their legs or by their first outings in the hospital grounds. Another dear old lady not easily forgotten is one in a beady bonnet and 'mantle,' who came to take four patients for an afternoon's outing - I forget whether it was the Zoo or the 'Trenches' in Knightsbridge where they were going. This was to be followed by tea, and "What time shall I bring them back?" said the little old lady. "When do they go to bed?"

My last picture is of a 'Clerical' trying to soothe an agitated specialist waiting for a taxi - which will not arrive - and very conscious of an already overdue appointment on the other side of London. And as this attempt almost proved the finish of a busy day, I will make it my finis also.