Friday, May 11, 4 p.m.
ABOARD S.S. Saxonia, waiting at anchor in the Narrows while some new firemen are secured to take the places of six who vanished shortly before we left the dock---evidently preferring none to a salt-water job just now. It has been a hectic week. Word came from Washington Monday afternoon of a sudden shift in orders from Fort Hamilton to Fort Totten---some 30 miles apart---necessitating much telephoning and telegraphing to redirect our supplies already en route. Our rabble has been fully equipped and Lt. Villaret in five days of intensive drilling has transformed them. Fort Totten a busy place with our Unit leaving this morning and the Columbia outfit under Brewer moving in.
Getting accustomed to a uniform easier than expected. Cannon says when he first appeared in one his small boy called out: "Mamma, look, here comes Father dressed up like a Boy Scout!" One of Peabody's parishioners congratulated him on his "union suit"---indicating some confusion between the advertisements for underwear in the backs of magazines, "The Union forever," and E pluribus unum.
Getting accustomed to army ways less easy. Was informed yesterday that I must go ("proceed" is the word) to Governor's Island for my "ordnance"---not quite sure what that meant or how to get there, but saluted and obeyed. Found an old Col. Mitchem in the Quartermaster's Department who provided me with cavalry spurs---without horse---a villainous-looking, greasy automatic with holster to tie on my leg---also a woven belt, with the laconic remark, "Leather belts no longer worn." This was disconcerting as the. C.O. had instructed me to get a leather belt like his. Peculiar.
Enlisted Personnel and Officers at Fort Totten the Day before Embarkation. Top Row: Ober, Goethals, Towne, Bock, Forbes, Robertson, Morton. Second Row: Denny, Brown, Cannon, Cutler, Stoddard, Horrax. Third Row: Villaret, Fitz, Derby, Boothby, Peabody, Lyman, Binney. Fourth Row: Reynolds, Cushing, Patterson, C. O., Lee, Osgood
Crile's Unit was bundled Tuesday on the Orduna---undrilled and without uniforms or flags. They were permitted by Washington to rob us of five carefully chosen army sergeants---now replaced by somewhat questionable ones. The Columbia outfit sails to-morrow on the St. Louis---a faster ship than ours.
New York meanwhile was going mad over "Papa" Joffre---a $50,000 display and entertainment. He would probably have preferred to see our little band drilling at Fort Totten. They were brought up to the pier this afternoon in a government tender. Two hundred men look quite a lot. Soon the nurses appeared, miraculously changed in their street costumes of dark blue with red facing---a quick job by the New York Red Cross chapter.
It was quite a stirring departure. Eliot Wadsworth and the Drapers, General and Mrs. Goethals, Robert de Forest, and Mrs. Leonard Wood, who said the General would have given up his West Point visit with Joffre had he known we were sailing. The enlisted men called for Lt. Villaret, and then for Capt. Reynolds, whom they cheered wildly. Good old Reynolds---squaring his shoulders and pretending his eyes were not wet. They had given him a loving cup yesterday at Fort Totten. Our sailing was supposed to be "secret"; yet everyone in the N.Y. Harbor must have known the Saxonia was loaded with ammunition, have seen us go aboard, and have heard our whistles blowing when we left the dock.
Saturday, May 12
We passed out of the Narrows last evening with searchlights wigwagging and boring into the clouds. Patterson called a meeting in the saloon and introduced himself to officers and nurses, and this morning we started on a purely military basis with "Orders of the Day" posted---an office set up in the library---men on guard mount in the passageways, over the ammunition, etc. Calisthenics for the officers on the upper deck in the morning---the hour carefully arranged to coincide with that given over to the first-aid talks to the men, who, being indoors, are removed from the sight of our abdominous and awkward selves as we are put through.
First boat drill this p.m.---rather a gruesome performance---all kinds of life preservers hanging on all kinds of people in all sorts of ways. The Captain, being the proud possessor of an inflatable waistcoat, finally appears and blows himself up for us. His name is Vennison, a bantam Englishman recently on the Alaunia, which was torpedoed in the Channel. He and Patterson swapped naval and military yarns at dinner. An extraordinary monochrome evening, all bluish-gray---the ship, the sea, the clouds.
Sunday, May 13th
Overcast with a brisk northwest wind. Enough sea running to affect many of us---more especially the officers detailed to give typhoid inoculations and smallpox vaccinations below decks. An hour this morning with some of the enlisted men, trying to learn from their past records who can most profitably be put to special tasks. A very good lot; all kinds of surprises, such as a man listed as a chauffeur who is an expert laboratory technician---can make media, cut and stain sections. Malcolm conducted the services. "They that go down to the sea in ships."
There are about a dozen meagre-looking civilians aboard---most of them born within the sound of Bow bells---cockney traveling salesmen, we had surmised. One of them approached me this afternoon as I was watching the storm---spoke pleasantly of our mission, and we fell awkwardly into speech. He was a Tommy---had been in the Boer War---was one of the original British Army ---at the retreat from Mons---called home soon after the Marne, being in the Engineers---at the Woolwich Arsenal for the next six months while Zeppelins were trying to feel it out---then to the U.S.A. at Pittsburgh supervising munition making. An English drummer indeed! He believes fully in the Angel of Mons---indeed says he saw the apparition himself.
Sunday a.m., the 20th
Wet, foggy, and blowing. One can somehow sleep fully dressed and wearing a cork life preserver, even with a snoring bunkie. Orders issued yesterday that life belts must be continuously worn.
11 p.m. The weather moderated this afternoon and we had our usual daily excitement over a sail---first on the starboard and then on the port bow. Not quite sure just when the Captain began zigzagging, but we surmised he did not like the looks of her and was turning to get our stern rifle to bear. She was on the horizon about eleven miles away perhaps. I went aft and found the gunner rubbing up the mechanism, with Patterson's gun crew, organized from our own men, on hand. The Captain finally announced that she was "a Frenchman," signals were run up and we could soon see hers with our glasses-those who still have them, for mine are in use by the guard. We soon zigzagged up to her and she made a beautiful sight---a barque, under full canvas. Bound for Havre from China, out 90 days---knows nothing of the war since sailing, or of the recent submarine activity. One wonders what possible chance she can have. We finally crossed her bows about half a mile away. George Derby and I walked the afternoon out and timed our zigzags---a 90-degree turn every twenty minutes.
We learned that there were four life suits in the party; Peabody has one and William Potter's wife had insisted he take one. We turned them over to the four members of the Unit on the civil list---the three secretaries and the dietitian. In the privacy of their cabins they practised getting into the suits---not too easy. With one or two exceptions everyone is outwardly calm. Stoddard slept on the deck last night armed to the teeth, and Percy Brown says "the deck for him to-night also."
Continuous wearing of life preservers is no joke and most of us have taken them off---but dragging them about is scarcely less irksome. The wireless to-day announces the arrival of the Orduna with Crile's outfit, and we are promised a convoy by to-morrow noon. It will be a welcome sight. Meeting with the inbound "Frenchman" this afternoon makes it reasonably certain that we are in the Bay of Biscay. A shore bird---some kind of snipe---came aboard and made itself very much at home.
Monday a.m. May 21st
Sunshine and a calm sea lift our spirits. Still, one becomes accustomed to anything, even to sleeping in one's boots in an unventilated stateroom. Our average course points N.E. There are gulls about and we have been passing wreckage---a hatch and some spars, a life belt, and nondescript pieces of wood. Still nothing to compare with the Lusitania experience of two years ago. That was a concentration of wreckage and emotions. To-day there is less intensity in our feelings just as there is in the scattered drift.
The matter of convoys has interested and disturbed us more or less from the start. There has been every sort of rumor---that 12 American destroyers went over with the Orduna---that the St. Louis (carrying Base Hospital No. 2) is armed fore, aft, and amidships, and is also to be convoyed. Meanwhile, poor we have been zigzagging across alone with a periscope behind every wave. The Captain, who told us at breakfast that we should have protection by noon, has been outwardly cheerful---largely put on, as was evident when at 5.30 he shouted excitedly down from the bridge: "There she is---our escort! !"
Everyone scrambled forward, soon making out a small dot on the horizon---and it seemed scarcely 15 minutes before she piled up on us with a huge bone in her teeth, swept around our stern, and took her place about half a mile off the port bow. We of course all cheered and waved; but the few dirty-looking sailors aboard stood motionless except for a lone figure on the low pilothouse who was going through a wigwagging performance at an astonishing speed. This small and probably antiquated destroyer has a large "29" painted on the seat of her pants. It hardly seems possible that she can make much difference, but her moral support is unquestionably large. There will be less sleeping on the deck to-night.
In the early afternoon we had an elaborate litter drill on the upper deck with stretchers, and were made to go through all the evolutions for both No. l's and No. 2's. At one point the No. 2's had to stand for about half an hour holding the blooming things at shoulder arms while the C.O. gave us a long dissertation "from the book" on the theory and practice of litter drills. I happened to be a No. 2. The thing weighs at the outset 23 pounds---and considerably more after 30 minutes. Walter Cannon, another No. 2, remarked: "Mother never meant that I should be a soldier."
We expect to reach Falmouth to-morrow at 6 a.m. Our army trunks are packed and assembled on the forward deck.
Falmouth, May 22nd
Ca. 10 p.m. Waiting in a cold station for our train to start, with good prospect of sitting up all night. Enlisted men are to go to the R.A.M.C. training centre at Blackpool---officers and nurses to London. It's been a long day. Aroused early, we passed the Scilly Islands at 6 a.m. and soon ran into a cold fog. In the late afternoon picked our way slowly through mine fields into Falmouth Harbor, passing tankers, trawlers, destroyers, a Dane painted white with big red polka dots, two Dutchmen---tramps----with "Rotterdam" painted on their sides in letters six feet high and the alternate eight-foot-wide red and white stripes prescribed by the Germans at the time we were told we might send one ship a week to Falmouth.
The British Commodore in charge of the patrol here has just told me we had a close call. The City of Corinth, an 8000-ton freighter loaded with rice from Singapore, was torpedoed off the Scillys just before we got there and two other ships escaped by a close margin. It's a bad place off the Lizard just now, and, being worried about us, he went out in a scout boat about 1 a.m. and spoke with our destroyer-escort without signaling the Saxonia, fearing a pot shot.
Wednesday, May 23rd
A fatigued and disheveled crowd reached London in the early a.m.---poor transport to our hotels: officers to the Curzon; nurses to the York. To the Embassy after breakfast for passports, etc. Mr. Page and "Irv" Laughlin very cordial---must do something for us. In the late evening an hour in the Royal Officers' Overseas Club, where we have been put up. Long talk with a British Columbia man, Col. Worsnap---with the Canadians when they took Vimy Ridge a month ago.
Thursday, May 24th
A Zeppelin raid over London did not waken us between our luxurious sheets. Sir William Osler for breakfast---wants us all to go to Oxford. Passports and much shopping. Cleveland Unit leaves for France. Luncheon at the Curzon with our monitor, Col. Bigbee, after which a scrabble for taxis, which are scarce; to the York Hotel, where we pick up four nurses with whom Patterson, Lee, Osgood, Cannon, and I to Clarence House to be received by the Duke of Connaught. He is a past master at this sort of thing---better than his nephew, I doubt not. The latter received and reviewed the Lakeside outfit at Buckingham Palace yesterday; and speeches were made. It did not last long with us to-day. There was a person in an official red cape---a Miss Bixby---who naïvely remarked to the Duke, evidently an old friend of hers: "I finally got rid of the first lot yesterday."
Then with Roger Lee to the Officers' Club, where we were to meet Armour. There was a reception going on with the King and Queen in attendance; also the Princess---very pretty. It was given for the Canadian officers under the lead of Col. Godson. We slipped around behind the crowd, much embarrassed by the diversion our entrance occasioned. Finally, when royalty moved on, the Canadians gathered about---jubilantly cordial. Col. Godson, his wife, and daughter came up and we were introduced all round. A less formal and much more agreeable party than the one we had inadvertently stumbled upon. Col. G. speaks with a bare whisper---an ugly scar through his jaw, throat, and larynx.
Friday evening, May 25
A quiet dinner with the Godlees---iron rations, which I shared. Found them depressed but very cordial. A row of photographs on the mantel of fine-looking young people they will never see again. Sir Rickman has resumed his hospital work after several years of retirement. Yesterday he operated upon the surviving one of his nephews, who has lost an eye and one leg. Reamputation followed by serious erysipelas---ample reason for his anxiety.
Sunday, May 27th. En route to London
8.30 p.m. Just leaving Oxford after a good night's rest and a memorable day at 13 Norham Gardens. Fitz, Derby, Cutler, and I at the Oslers'; Cannon at the Sherringtons'; Boothby at Haldane's. England in May! Some of us never here before; few if any of us at this most wonderful season. The roadsides abloom--hawthorns, yellow-tasseled laburnums, lilacs, red and white chestnuts---rock gardens with every imaginable flowering plant, iris, tulips, wallflowers, and flowering vines of all kinds. It takes a gray wall to show off wisteria properly.
Before dinner we walked down to see the young cadets having supper at Magdalen---the streets full of them with their white cap bands taking the officers' training course. One young lad who showed us the way and walked with us for a bit was just back from France, and had been through Gallipoli. Now rising from the ranks to become a lieutenant and have about one chance in four of not getting killed within a year. The Isis was covered with boats holding convalescents.
This morning a visit to the hospital in the examination halls---Col. Parker and Capt. Gurdleston. The hospital overflows into New College, of which Capt. G. is a fellow, and we went through the gardens, bounded on two sides by the old Oxford wall. There were shacks along the walls for the outdoor treatment of shellshock cases---many of them there. M'Dougall, whom I saw later at lunch, told of one of them: a Tommy of the original army---through Mons, the Marne, and many later battles, including the Somme; had been over the parapet 19 times and finally, two months ago, was in an attack when they ran into their own barrage and many of his pals were killed around him; they were in the open and the fire from both sides was very intense.
He got safely through, had taken some prisoners in a dugout, and was searching them preparatory to sending them back, when an officer came up and shot all of them---"No prisoners to be taken." He went on a little bit, became tremulous; his left arm and shoulder began to twitch; then he broke down and wept. M'Dougall (who by the way was visiting us at the opening of the Phipps Clinic) says it's often very wise to let these men talk and weep themselves out. This particular man had been rapidly improving; had lost his tremor; the twitching had become less and he was less lachrymose. Things looked promising till last night, when a bit of plaster from the old wall fell down near the head of his bed. His earlier symptoms are all back again to-day.
A pleasant dinner at the Sherringtons' with some undergraduates just back from the Front---one of them with his second wound stripe on his sleeve. S. talked much of the delayed tetanus which is showing up, and of his experiments to determine the best way of giving antitetanus serum. They now advocate four doses of 500 units, one every week after the reception of a wound. Sir David Bruce, whom we saw yesterday at the Medical War College, has kept a chart of the tetanus cases developing at home. Soon after the war they rose to terrifying numbers, but when serum had been supplied in sufficient amounts to be given at all first-aid stations tetanus practically disappeared. This was when we were first in France. Now what they call chronic tetanus is showing up---often involving one limb, or one side of the face alone.
We had an interesting visit at the War College Saturday morning. Capt. Roper, a Toronto man who works there, showed us the gas experiments---how the box helmet is adjusted and tested, and also the less effective hood---like the one young Levick brought me a year ago. These men making poison-gas experiments and testing out devices to protect against them are unknown workers---hidden cogs in the huge machine. Roper said they had now issued 2,000,000 masks of the recent box-respirator pattern, very quickly applied, three seconds, I believe---time for "Rifleman Brown" to have acted before ringing his gong.
Tuesday, May 29th
6 p.m. After the dull London bank holiday, to-day again a lively one. Osgood blew in late last night announcing the arrival of Joe Goldthwait and 20 orthopædists, free from any regular army tangle, though commissioned. They are to do "reconstruction" work in various depots here under Robert Jones, who has been overwhelmed with orthopædic problems, as may be imagined. They are now here at the Curzon; also the St. Louis and Philadelphia Base Hospital Units have arrived. Col. Bigbee says we are to have a further respite until 2.30 to-morrow, and then to Folkestone. Apparently the aeroplane raid of Sunday and the many lives lost have so tangled things up that the Channel must be swept.
Luncheon with the Lady Randolph Churchill and a daughter-in-law, at 8 Westbourne St. Much about "Winston" and the Dardanelles affair which he wanted to pull off in 1914, but was prevented; also his possible reinstatement in the government, his relations to Lloyd George, etc. Afterward to the American Women's Hospital for Officers at 99 Lancaster Gate, to meet the King and Queen. Mrs. Reid there, and Lady Ward, her daughter; Lady Paget; Lady Harcourt; Mrs. Laughlin; Lady Astor; and some other women, with Penhallow and myself. Mary very unbending. George very otherwise: quite chatty, in fact, and very likable. Talked about our units and the accident to the Chicago group, for which he had his own nautical explanation---gun badly placed, etc.
Then to Henry Head's for an illuminating talk on the organization (or lack of it) of the neurological work of the war, and bad it has been. As poor as the opportunities are great. How under Walter Fletcher and T. R. Elliott the Research Council grew out of---or grew into---its present relation with the War Office. Starting as the Research Committee---an outcome of the National Insurance Act---just before the war; then taking over the project of a Medical History of the War, thus necessitating reports of cases, without which such a history would be impossible. But no one seems to use their sheets, and Head says if we will send back "green tickets" with our neurological cases and accompany them, with notes, we will be doing more than anyone else has so far done.
Wednesday, the 30th
To the War Office with the C.O. for an appointment with the two D.G.'s---Keogh and Sloggett. Very much disturbed at our prospect---a down-at-the-heels hospital at Camiers under canvas. A most undesirable and badly drained camp, according to Strong, who has just been there with the U.S.A. Sanitary Commission. A short visit with Walter Fletcher at the Research Committee Room, and he takes me to St. Paul's, where a service for the deposition of the flag of the "American Legion"---Americans who have served in the Canadian Corps.
Then a hurried lunch and we depart from Charing Cross at 1.30, together with a solemn crowd of British officers returning to the Front. A gloomy crossing on the packet from Folkestone to Boulogne---cold, foggy, crowded. In life belts again and most everyone standing. We were surrounded by destroyers, which in the fog were invisible, but which growled and screamed and scolded at one another with their sirens all the way across. On disembarking our kodaks were taken from us and, packed in huge charabanc affairs, we were carried some 15 miles down the coast to our destination. A late frugal supper in a cold mess hail, and now to bed on a cot in a small conical tent, without undressing.
Thursday, May 31st., Camiers
Beginning to take over. A shockingly dirty, unkempt camp. Luckily about half of the patients have been evacuated before our arrival, leaving only 600 or so. Our first convoy of 200 wounded at 1 a.m., half of them "sitters" and half "stretchers"---systematically disposed of by members of the outgoing unit, with whom, naturally, we are not very popular. Each of our officers will have charge of about 100 beds. What can they possibly do with daily notes of the cases?
Sunday, June 4th
4 p.m. I have just parted from young Graham, pathologist of the group we are supplanting, who is going to turn over his tent to me. He hates to leave this place---forlorn as it is and though he is going to a new billet where there is a good laboratory---chiefly because he has planted a few pitiful flowers in the hard-baked clay on the border of the drainage ditch about his tent and some of them are coming up. There are to be some Scotch marigolds, D.V, and in the corners are some ragged bamboo poles on which a little cluster of sweet peas may some day climb. Graham has been in since Mons, was wounded, has a shortened arm, and wears a D.S.O. ribbon.
We are having glorious weather---the first, according to all accounts, since last year. Lucky for us, as this particular "No. 11 General" is under water in wet weather. We are effectually swallowed up in the British Army Machine, and already Base Hospital No. 5 has completely lost its identity. Communication anywhere is nearly impossible: succeeded three days ago in sending home a cable requesting supplies and asking for an acknowledgment. None has come and there seems to be no way to get anything done ---even to buy food for the mess---except through cumbersome channels. Little wonder people become inert and careless.
Our young officers have taken hold valiantly, and the wards, with the nurses' help, are already improved in appearance. The men too have been redding up and Osgood has some kind of shop emerging from the chaotic place called a carpenter's shop which was in a tent in a remote corner of our crowded encampment. I say crowded because on one side, behind barbed wire, is a camp of Kaffirs of the "South African Labor Corps"---black as the traditional ace; beyond that one of the huge Portland Cement works which infest this valley of the clay dunes; then comes a railroad embankment prohibiting drainage of any sort.
Yesterday afternoon after our first convoy of the previous night had been straightened out, Patterson, Lee, Osgood, Cannon, and I went to Wimereux, where another hospital group is emerging, similar to that of which we make a part here in the Camiers
Étaples region. It seems small when compared to the 70,000-bed! capacity of this district. We had been invited to a meeting (the second) of the Med. Soc'y of the Boulogne District, at No. 82 Stationary Hospital (Col. Simpson, C.O.) and, since we have no form of transport, a huge ambulance, commandeered from the Étaples Station and driven by two women, took us over. The dust covered us an inch deep by the time we arrived, but the meeting was well worth it.
Major Sinclair of the regular army---an orthopædic genius of the Robert Jones type---had the whole afternoon to himself demonstrating the treatment of gunshot fractures of the thigh with improved Thomas hip splints, Balkan frames, hammocks, etc. He put up four of them, for high, median, and low fractures, and showed the proper kinds of apparatus to be used in the first-line hospital, the C.C.S., and the Base. It was a remarkable demonstration---his manner of presenting the subject altogether admirable, and a man with a gunshot fracture of the femur is lucky to come under his care.
There was a large gathering of officers from everywhere, and Sargent, promising to bring me back in the morning, persuaded me to stay and dine at the Australian mess and spend the night with him at No. 32 Stationary. Like most of the evenings in this strange land, it grew cold, and I nearly perished in my thin American Army uniform, for they insisted on sitting out both before and after dinner. It is a famous mess in what was the Wimereux Golf Club. From the porch one can see the cliffs of Dover on a clear day, and alongshore the point of Ambleteuse projects out into the sea. This was Napoleon's naval base for his planned invasion of England---the old supports for the piers still visible.
10 p.m. There are many interruptions in this life. Canadians from Étaples ("Eat apples") here for dinner; a man had to be seen in one of the wards, from which I have kept pretty much away to give the younger men free swing. Then poor Col. Campbell, the displaced C.O., stopped me out in the cold and for half an hour unburdened himself regarding the work they had been forced to do, which largely accounts for the run-down condition of No. 11. Undermanned---often only eight medical officers and these frequently shifted---he and Wolfenden have faced the music for the past few months, having had 8000!! patients pass through their hands since the Somme offensive; most of them serious cases, night work, secondary hemorrhages and major infections, and yet they have found time to do some careful work with Carrel-Dakin treatment. No wonder they have broken down and are to leave for Blighty this coming morning at 3 a.m.
I am now returned to our untidy messroom wrapped in an overcoat, the remaining British officers drinking whiskey here, the dry Americans writing home in the next room. This going "dry" needs constant explanations and must seem quixotic to these people, though we are doing it for them. Possibly we cannot stick it without seeming too peculiar and making people we really wish to see avoid our camp.
But to go back to Wimereux. There was a large gathering for dinner: Col. Eames, the Australian C.O.; Col. Pike, D.M.S. of the 1st Army just back from the Front; the Consultants, Fullerton, Sargent, and Wallace; two French officers, one of them the old Commandant at Boulogne wearing on his breast the black and green ribbon of the Franco-Prussian War---black for sorrow and green for hope.
The most striking figure of all was a Captain (Sir Beachcroft) Towse, wearing the uniform of the Gordon Highlanders with a V.C. ribbon---slim, dapper, erect, precise---and blind! One of the most promising officers of the regular army, a great polo player, shot through both orbits in the Boer War. He is now writing letters home for Tommies on a typewriter, and spends his days in the hospitals, except when playing golf (actually!) on what is left of the course, and entertaining people at the mess. He kept me up, shivering with cold, long after the others had gone to bed. He made his way about the room like a cat, smoked his cigarettes---though his olfactory sense is also gone, as Sargent told me---with precision, and handled his glass of whiskey as though he could see as well as taste. I slept in a cot at No. 32 in some borrowed woolen pyjamas about an inch thick---the pyjamas---which taught me a lesson, for it was the first night I've been really warm.
Thursday, June 14th. Camers
Just back from an extraordinarily informing week---the week of the Messines Ridge, taken by General Plumer and the 2nd Army. The story, as near as I can recall it from some scarcely legible notes, may best be told day by day.
Wednesday, June 6th. Hazebrouck
An unexpected order came last evening to report to the D.M.S. of the 2nd Army at Hazebrouck. No explanation accompanied it and our C.O. was somewhat peeved thereby---"dictating to a United States Army Officer," etc. It was stated that a car would call for me at 9 a.m. and sure enough it did, in the shape of a large ambulance for four lying cases, as usual driven by two females. No knowledge of what to take, or for how long, but a compromise was made with a bedding roll---which was not needed---and a few instruments, which distinctly were.
We made our way via Étaples, through the crowded camps of this district, full of men rushing about like so many ants and all the color of the soil; drilling in the sand, practising with machine guns, throwing bombs, having bayonet exercise, digging trenches, and I know not what all. Skirting Montreuil, the G.H.Q. of the First Échelon, and by way of Aire, we crossed the great undulating pastoral district which goes on for miles and miles in this part of France. To my escorts almost everything was either "ripping" or "topping," and not a few things---like the great clover fields---were really "top hole"---everything except about five miles of impenetrable dust behind some Portuguese lorries that would not permit us to pass.
It took about four hours to make the run and I was deposited at the office of the D.M.S., General Porter, and from there was directed to the mess, which I entered looking like a dustpan. I was brushed off and introduced to the gathering: Colonel Arthur Chopping, the A.D.M.S., Colonel Soltau, Captain Stirling, D.A.D.M.S. of Sanitation, Sir Anthony Bowlby, Colonel Gordon-Watson (consultant of the 2nd Army just as Wallace is of the 3rd), and one or two others.
It was soon apparent that an important attack was impending--- probably to be launched within the next twenty-four hours. Preparations had been made for heavy casualties---possibly 30,000--and for the first time some intermediary corps dressing stations (C.D.S.'s) had been provided for in the zone between the field ambulances (F.A.'s) and the regularly established casualty clearing stations (C.C.S.'s).
Naturally, the Boches were fully cognizant of what was on foot but, not knowing just where or when the thrust was to be made, their artillery was attempting to feel out the strongest points and to locate concealed batteries by drawing their fire. A shell could scarcely be dropped anywhere in the area without hitting something important, particularly if it landed near one of the main roads, which were lined with ammunition dumps and crowded with men, guns, and trucks, both corps and, divisional, of every conceivable kind and for every possible purpose.
As I came gradually to learn during the next few days, the five British Armies lay disposed from north to south in the following order: 2, 1, 3, 5, and 4; and the D.M.S.'s of each army in the same order were Generals Porter, Pike, Murray Irwin (Robertson's uncle), Skinner, and O'Keeffe. The 2nd Army, which alone concerns us, and which had not been given of late a serious trial, held the line from Boesinghe nearly to Armentières. It was made up of four corps: the 8th on the north, then the 2nd, next the 10th and 9th opposite the salient made by the Messines Ridge, and finally the Anzac Corps below. Each corps comprised four divisions, engaged or in reserve, the 10th corps having the 41st, 47th, and 23rd---the 24th came into the battle later. The 9th corps had the 11th, 16th, 36th (Ulster: the divisional emblem of the Red Hand of Ulster being a familiar symbol on many of the A.S.C. wagons), and the 19th in reserve. The 2nd Anzac Corps included also the 25th British, and the wounded from this division naturally congregated at the Anzac Corps Dressing Station, of which something later on.
For the four army corps with twelve divisions engaged and four in reserve, eleven casualty clearing stations were provided and also three corps dressing stations, for which officers and men had been drawn from some of the field ambulances as well as base hospitals. These eleven C.C.S.'s were disposed: two at Proven or "Mendinghem"; four just south of Poperinghe at a place called Rémy Siding; four at Bailleul---the Tommies' "Balloo,"---town founded by Jean de Bailleul, an ancestor, I believe, of the founder of Balliol College; and one at Steenwerck. In addition to these, there are three so-called "stationary hospitals": No. 12 at Hazebrouck supposedly for head cases; No. 15 at Mont des Cats, where the slight wounds, and cases of shell shock also, I believe, were routed; and the third, No. 10, at St. Omer, where a large number of casualties of all kinds could be handled.
How many persons, in addition to the native population, were congregated in the sector in preparation for the battle I cannot say, but I was told that daily rations were issued for 520,000, which of course included noncombatants as well as the fighting units which probably represented scarcely more than half the number. The area was so teeming with people that an enemy shell, as I have said, could scarcely fail to hit someone somewhere; and already some 3000 casualties had occurred and the hospitals were busy long before the actual engagement.
After lunch Bowlby took me off on his final round-up of the hospitals and we began with No. 12 Stationary, now given over to the New Zealanders under Colonel O'Neil. There I found Stout, an Australian, who a short time ago was a visitor in Boston. The hospital was in an old parochial Catholic school, and one was as likely to stumble into a schoolroom of French children under the tutelage of a priest as to enter the ward which he had expected to visit; and school children would file out, stepping over stretchers of a recent convoy, or could be heard from the operating room singing or chanting their prayers. It is here that Bowlby wants me to lend a hand during the coming days.
Next on to Bailleul, where we stop briefly at the old convent, No. 2, under Colonel Leake, the place I visited two years ago and where we find them hard at work. Then No. 1 Australian (Colonel Dick, C.O.), also in an old building where they are busy with their rotation---"take in"---of cases; and I may add that the C.C.S.'s of a district take cases in relays of 150, when the next in the neighborhood has its turn; so that the usual first question is either "who is taking in?" or "When do you switch off?"
Then on to No. 53, in another old building (Colonel Peake, C.O.), where we have tea with a number of very nice men. Meanwhile heavy firing going on---too much for comfort; only a few hours before C.C.S. No. 11, near the station at Bailleul, had been hit, and yesterday an ammunition train standing in the yard ditto, and car by car it went off during the course of the next half hour like a bunch of firecrackers. Col. Peake called my attention to a hole in the roof of the building made two or three days ago by a shell just as a medical case, brought in on a stretcher, had been deposited on the landing platform. Two of the man's toes were cut off by a fragment of the shell, making a "battle casualty" of him, much to his surprise and delight, for it probably would take him back to Blighty.
Bowlby thought No. 11 too unhealthy a place for us to visit this afternoon, so on to Rémy Siding, where are four C.C.S.'s in a row along the railroad, most convenient for evacuating cases. At No. 17 (Colonel Wingate, C.O.) we were shown about by Captain Meyer, and there I found Forbes Fraser, seen in Paris-Plage with Makins a few days ago. Then the 2nd and 3rd Canadian; and finally No. 10, where the brothers Henry and Adrian Stokes were encountered. Adrian showed us some spirochetes in cases of jaundice in men and horses, more or less prevalent at this time; he showed us, too, some astounding pathological specimens from men who have died of their wounds---an aneurysm of the vertebral artery, and another of the heart.
Then back to Hazebrouck, with Kemmel Hill to one side and the Trappist Monastery of Mont des Cats to the other, through hop country with the vines now halfway up the poles---the fields stewing with soldiers---the roads packed with guns and lorries, and everywhere a prevailing sense of something serious impending. Captain Stirling had secured for me a billet de logement with a French family on the Square, where a bantam batman named Cholmondeley provides hot water, shines my American leather---unaccustomed to such attentions---and informs me that "zero time," from which everything is calculated, has not as yet been given out, but will be to-night.
The weather looks threatening, and a heavy rain would spoil the whole show as it has done more than once before. On our way back this afternoon we passed some huge 15-inch howitzers slowly moving up on their huge caterpillar tractors. A heavy rain would make it almost impossible to move them, one would suppose, even though the roads hereabouts have been vastly improved and widened during the two years since I first saw them, when there was a central strip of furrowed pavés barely wide enough for a farmer's cart.
Thursday the 7th. Hazebrouck
Zero time proved to be at 3.10 a.m. and I remember being awakened, probably by the great mine explosions---600 tons of explosives in 19 blasts---and of hearing the tremendous barrage which went on for half an hour or more and suddenly ceased---or else I went to sleep. Some of these great mines had been placed under the Boche lines, as I subsequently learned, as long as 18 months ago, at which time they had first planned for the attack. Warfare under the ground is almost as novel as warfare in the air---digging, listening with auscultatory devices---out-manuvring enemy sappers by going below or to the side---and finally getting below with every chance that your tunnel will be dug into any minute.
As two years ago we found our way---the hard-worked Stirling, Sir Anthony Bowlby, and I---from Hazebrouck eastward, with the range of low hills on our left, extending from Cassel to Kemmel, just north of which is the Scherpenberg, where we stood on that occasion. Between this landmark and Kemmel lies Mont Noir---almost leveled for its product of sand to fill bags, to make road beds and concrete; this. we cross and find our way to the top of Mont Rouge, where from a little knoll one gets a great sweep of the ridge. Even so it is difficult to get a clear idea of what is going on, particularly when one does not know the plays, and, being somewhat hazy, the visibility is not of the best. But we can see the long rows of observation balloons---unusually high and looking like curled-up slugs---probably 20 of them, whereas beyond the ridge we can make out only two German balloons. Aeroplanes of course were working everywhere and the artillery fire was very heavy---directed over the ridge by now, for the German stronghold on the crest perfected during two years' occupancy had been taken almost at the first rush.
There were many lines of guns along the near slope, though it was impossible to detect them except by the flashes, and heavier guns were being fired from our right and rear. Doubtless field pieces had been moved up over the ridge by this time. There were some A.S.C. men and gunners at the summit of Mont Rouge, which like the Scherpenberg is surmounted by a windmill, and we gather that the operation has been a great success---the troops are still advancing and likely to wipe out the salient from Ypres to Ploegsteert ("Plug Street") Wood. Returning wounded report that they were over the third line by 4 a.m.---as good as the Canadians at Vimy who ate the breakfast prepared for the Bavarians. The view, if not so good as from Scherpenberg, is nevertheless very fine and one could just make out Ypres in the more northerly distance.
There was little if any appreciable artillery firing in our direction and, as a contrast to what at the moment was going on across the exposed valley to which the British have tenaciously clung so long, not ten yards from us on the slope below was a little old man in a sort of garden, busily mending two long brown windmill sails which were spread out on the grass---either uninterested or unaware. There also was an old church near by, a sort of Lourdes with a famous healing spring. It will be visited by more cripples than ever before in times to come, no doubt.
Resisting the temptation to linger, we take our way back to Bailleul, where is a heavy intake of wounded, and Bowlby makes sure that the rotation between the several C.C.S.'s is going on properly. Fewer casualties than expected, however, and the men for the most part are elated and proud of themselves. Those at No. 53 that have reached the wards and are non-evacuable already have their Smith-Dorrien (Dolly, Dorothy, Comfort, etc.) bags and are happy to be in bed.
And so in all the C.C.S.'s. A great tent for reception, with rapid recording of patients---some to go on, some to remain, and of these a large quota to the preoperation room for their turn, and others with chest wounds to their proper ward, or still others in critical shape to another place; and meanwhile an equally rapid evacuation takes place and a train is ready for 600 cases, and before they are off in come another 150, and why can't No. 11 take these, and No. 2 is overcrowded or another behind in its work.
Then over to No. 1 Australian, which is groaning with its job and can hardly keep clear. The large receiving room still full and another convoy already coming in. To save time the men have been branded like cattle, at the F.A.'s, on the forehead or arm if there's a head bandage--or anywhere it can be seen---with a T by an aniline pencil-tetanus antitoxin. I stopped to speak to one poor boy who was evidently dying---a stretcherbearer, hit while carrying back a wounded Boche---a large piece of his pelvis carried away. Quite conscious. "I 'm doing not so bad, sir, but I know I've got it this time." Terrific.
The usual quick lunch taken at No. 2 with Col. Leake, Shaw, Stevenson, and the big padre---and I learn that in these attacks about one out of every five who are hit is killed, while about 2 per cent of those who reach a C.C.S. die there. After lunch to Steenwerck (Col. Webb, C.O.), where is the 2nd Australian C.C.S.
Many Anzac wounded---very pleased with themselves. Capt. Oliver, whom I met at Wright's mess two years ago, operating---also Craig and Barton. Excellent system of taking in, thanks to the husky bearers all over six feet. Also convenient evacuation on narrow-gauge tracks as at Rémy. Talked with some wounded Germans.
Then back another way to Bailleul and to No. 11, which for sufficient reasons we did not visit yesterday, but the Boches are not shelling to-day---for equally good reasons. Col. Humphries, the C.O., a cordial man, showed us about and told how they had tried to get the R.E.'s to put a ventilating roof on their operating hut, and showed us where yesterday a big piece of shell had made a suitable opening, just over one of the tables. Quite a new place ---in tents---in a field alongside the railroad, recently moved up from the Somme for this fight. Bowlby makes his usual compliments and we tea before moving on to No. 22, where I wait for Col. Chopping and learn meanwhile that they have taken in between seven and eight hundred already, and a convoy is just coming in, and the wearied bearers go out for them.
The long-legged padre has been attending burials and tells me of the officer just in who was saved from a chest wound by a Bible in the upper pocket of his tunic. Moral. The wounded on the crowded stretchers all over the big court invariably say, "Not so bad, sir," however bad it may be. And they all have very good news from the ridge: Messines and Wytschaete taken, and still going on. So Hill 60 which I saw lost two years ago has probably been recaptured to-day.
Chopping appears and takes me back to No. 12 at Hazebrouck, meanwhile informing me that Messines Ridge was far more impregnable than Vimy. We run into a cloudburst with hailstones large as marbles and get sopping wet from outside in. Later the same from inside out, for, with Stout assisting, I did my first head case, wrapped in a rubber apron and in my boots. A man with the name of Dark; and it was. No X-rays, a poor light and a bullet in the knee, which I didn't get, and another likewise in his side which had reached his lower spine and caused retention. All this incidental to his cranial wound which we repaired and closed.
Crile arrives from his base at Rouen and we learn that some of the great problems of the war are lice and scabies, which a bath and disinfection every ten days keep only moderately down. Mumps and measles too have been serious among the newcomers, especially the New Zealanders. Then, too, forms of albuminuria occur, and there are many fevers like trench fever that are poorly understood, together with a variety of febrile disorders commonly designated P.U.O.(7) for want of a more precise designation.
Friday the 8th
Wytschaete, Messines, and Hollebecke in British hands---a great victory. Capt. Myer Coplans at breakfast---water expert---just back from the Front---has been at Messines itself---water supply pumped there from tanks on Kemmel in five hours after the troops got in. Story of arsenic found in wells doubtless false. Water in this zone a serious problem, but there has been extraordinarily good health---no cases of typhoid or paratyphoid reported for three weeks. They have fear of typhus from the combination of omnipresent lice and possible Hungarian "carriers" among the P.O.W.'s. The same is true of dysentery among the men back from Mesopotamia and Gallipoli, 5 per cent of whom are "carriers," and the disease lights up on the slightest provocation. Coplans says the triumphs of the campaign are the duckboards and the incinerators.
At 9.30 to the New Zealand Stationary again, where Major Baigeant gathers in more head cases for me than I can possibly do. The unusual experience for me of operating alone on heads with a strange anæsthetist using chloroform and a so-called "cleaned-up" sister. Of course much too great loss of blood, poor if any X-rays, practically no neurological study. Luckily most of the cases went well with flaps and closure. Most of them really favorable. Captain Acton, a New Zealander with a badly lacerated shoulder and a left parietal lesion, giving him a pure right astereognosis, was one of them.
The wounds in most cases of course are multiple. "Multiple" indeed may hardly convey the impression. Mostly shell explosion effects---very few bullet wounds in a game like yesterday's. Indeed the more trifling the wound appears to be, the more serious it may prove on investigation. Or the reverse may be true---an ugly-looking wound that proved relatively trifling. One boy had a small temporal wound and stated that there was a hole in his tin hat. The operation showed that a strip of his helmet about two inches long and half an inch wide had been cut out as though by a can opener. This metal sliver had curled in through the temporal bone over his ear, passed through the brain, and its point emerged just behind the external angular process. Not a pleasant thing to dislodge, particularly as it had divided his meningeal artery, which began to bleed after the bone was removed and the missile loosened.
Dinner at the mess with General Sloggett and his "Bobby" Major Black. Many tales of the army and the struggle to perfect the R.A.M.C. during the early days.
Saturday the 9th
More operations at the N.Z. Stationary in the morning. More cases than we can handle and 50 are sent on to the Base. Those of yesterday seem to be doing very well and Capt. Acton is already gaining power in his arm. One can't tell much about these wounded soldiers. A man might have his whole face blown off and, if he could talk at all, he'd be "doing very well, sir." While I was attempting to switch a large flap of scalp over a lacerated wound---and none too happy about it---a red-tabbed staff officer appeared and looked on. I couldn't very well salute and so smiled a Bazett smile. "You don't know me?" "No, sir." "I 'm General Macpherson." "Tiger?" "Yes, how did you know? "---and it was his turn to smile. "Blanchard Randall saw us off on the boat and said he hoped I might meet you."
At noon to Bailleul via Strazeele to meet Bowlby at No. 2---arrive just in time to see the Field Marshal visiting the wounded and congratulating the C.O. Best-looking man I ever saw---admirable to his very boots, which I may add were a sort of undressed kid, not the polished leather other British officers cultivate. A shy man, I judge, but very friendly. Col. Leake made us sign his visitors' book, where therefore the name of a Major, U.S.R., appears under D. Haig, F.M., and S. Kiggell, Lt. Gen. Sir Douglas seemed well satisfied with the past two days---said in fact that it was the most satisfactory operation in which he had ever participated. Everything had gone like clockwork---already 7000 to 8000 prisoners. Afterward lunch at No. 2 again with Col. Leake and all very chipper.
Then to 53 once more---passing the prisoners' compound.
Clever thoracic operation by Lockwood with closure of hole in diaphragm. Thoraco-abdominal wounds especially difficult, and on the left side a visceral herniation into the chest is likely to occur. At an adjoining table someone removed an iron shrapnel ball! First one I have seen. Scarcity of lead? At the third table was a man with a through-and-through wound of his left thigh, the piece of shell having lodged in the other thigh, breaking the femur without actually reaching it.
Talk with an intelligence officer who has been combing the prisoners. They are big, strong, cheerful, and well-fed, though very lousy. Extraordinary the details of information which opposing armies have of one another's forces. There were maps in General Porter's office the day before the battle, not only giving every German trench of every kind but the names of the trenches and just what troops under what officers occupied them, and what troops were in reserve. This of course is the main purpose of the raids and bombing parties.
Then a visit to the series of corps dressing stations---a new venture, as I have said---established for this particular battle. Ordinarily there is a field ambulance for each brigade, or twelve for each corps, and as these F.A.'s are in two sections, one nearer the Front than the other, the latter can be fused in time of anticipated stress into a large corps dressing station. This was first tried out at the Somme. I judge that it will not be repeated if a sufficient number of casualty clearing stations to make one for each division can in the future be provided. It would have required 16 for the 2nd Army instead of the 11 whose disposition I have given.
And so to the most southerly of the corps dressing stations at Pont d'Achelles, an Anzac place, comprising among other field ambulances the 9th Australian. An enthusiastic and energetic C.O., Col. McGuire, showed us about. Far better than our base hospitals---neat as a pin---extensive use of oilcloth. Many makeshifts of course, such as beef-tin covers for the bowls, but within, everything in order, and without, duckboards everywhere.
One would not have believed that 2000 cases had passed through their hands in the past 24 hours. The station, mostly in Nisson huts with monitor roofs---better ventilation therefore than the usual Esquimau---like Nissons provide. McGuire estimated that the Boches sent over 20,000 gas shells during the few hours before the attack, so their early intake was chiefly gassed cases. For them oxygen (though useless in chlorine-gas poisoning) had proved beneficial and there was ample provision for its administration---even for giving it to men while wearing the recent type of box respirator.
Saw a convoy brought in-most of them hit within the hour---splendidly handled by the husky Australian bearers and quickly sorted. McG. emphasized again that the first duty is to record, the second to clear the case through, and dressing of the wound comes third. There were a lot of Mauris among the wounded---wonderful big chaps! Bowlby told me of last winter's tree-felling contest in which the Mauris beat all comers, Scotch, French, Canadians, Australians, and English. The French were second, and protested because the Mauris had cut the trees a foot higher than they. The Mauris took them on again and beat them at their own level. Rules: three men and three trees, I believe, and they could help one another in any way they chose.
Then to the 2nd Dressing Station at a place called Westhof, not far from Neuve-Église, where a shy Irishman named Kelly was the C.O.----a Boche prisoner for a year and badly treated. Here I saw the first cases, in unwounded men, of genuine shell shock in the acute stages---just brought in. Very pitiful. One with pronounced general tremor, an anguished expression, and semiconscious; the other still more stuporous and jerking about, every few minutes---as though falling in his sleep or having a strong electric current passed through him. When some near-by Archies went off, fired at a passing Boche plane, it was horrifying to see them convulse.
Colonel Kelly's figures of their intake were: 4999 cases from 5.10 a.m. the 7th to 12 noon the 9th, i.e., to-day. They evacuated during the main rush four cases a minute. From 3 a.m. the 7th to midnight of the same day there were 1254 lying and 1581 walking cases, 2835 in all. Here, too, the reception as well as the operating pavilion was as clean and tidy---even to the rows of safety pins laid out---as though they were merely ready for the rush instead of just getting through with it. The third C.D.S., at Dranoutre, just behind Mt. Kemmel, was more primitive, more recently established, and in a more exposed position. On our way back we overtook the Ulster Division---coming out---strung along for a good many miles; and there have been red hands: elsewhere than those painted on the lorries these past three days, one may be sure.
Sunday, June 10th
Stirling, who has been up all night, brings to breakfast the "daily intelligence summary" of the 2nd Army---and remarkably detailed documents they are. Prisoners so far reported, 138 officers and 6377 other ranks, of which only 31 officers and 1231 O.R. are reported from C.C.S.'s. Also the translation of a secret order to German officers, telling them among other things that they would receive ample artillery support---which they did not, though several guns from the Barbarossa had been brought up---also that the ridge must be held at any cost.
Dressing of my cases at the N.Z. Stationary. So far all appear to be doing well. Back to the office of the Army D.M.S., whom I have come to like very much. He shows me a complimentary telegram from Gen. Plumer, "to be transmitted to all Hospital C.O.'s." Also explains his elaborate plotted chart of sick and wounded for the past year---the sick have long been about 0.5 per cent lower than in ordinary civil life. As usual for a few days before a great advance, no sick were reported at all, and then on the 7th and 8th came the peak in the red line-recording the 17,000 wounded of these past days.
Then with Bowlby once more on his rounds of the C.C.S.'s. , First to Proven, where we have not been before, by way of Steenvoorde with its striking old fenestrated steeple, across the Belgian frontier at Watou---"What Ho" of T. Atkins. The road leads straight away north into parts of Belgium where new C.C.S.'s are now being established. B. says I may draw my own conclusions. It is quite evident that preparations are being made for the next thrust, which is to be north of Ypres, and I gather from various things seen later in the south that the 5th Army under General Gough is being slowly moved around from its present place near Albert, up into this sector, at the left wing of the British line. Indeed we passed, going north, a lot of the 38th Welsh Division, with their dragon symbol---and I do not identify them as part of the 2nd Army. The two "Mending'em" C.C.S.'s lie alongside a new British-built double-track railroad---built with the aid of German prisoners. No. 46 under Col. Ellis and No. 12 under Col. Hamerton, who was moved from the N.Z. Stationary in Hazebrouck only two weeks ago. We saw some excellent abdominal work being done in a Nisson hut. No. 12 set up in a field, in marquees which can accommodate 1200 cases.
Next to Rémy Siding once more, passing on the way about 30 huge guns with caterpillar tractors. Some long naval guns were among them, asleep under the trees at the side of the road---their muzzles pointing south, so I presume their destination was north. Their habits of course are essentially nocturnal. Lunch in the mess at No. 10 with the Stokes brothers and Col. Marriott the C.O., a nice man; also G. W. Crile, who has been operating here for a few days.
Back to Bailleul again; first to No. 53 where Lockwood, Thomas, and Gordon-Taylor were at work; then to No. 1 Australian, where I was prevailed upon to do a laminectomy on a poor man with extreme radiating pains down his legs from a G.S.W. of the lower thoracic spine. They tried an 8-minute X-ray exposure! This proved a failure; and with misgivings I started in, only to find that the missile had skirted from the thorax down somewhere toward his pelvis. Probably a hematorrhachis.
At all of these places visited to-day the wounded were still coming in in large numbers. The tail end of the battle. Yet heavy firing keeps up and an occasional Boche shell comes even into Bailleul. The windshield of General Haig's car is said to have been broken yesterday by shell fragments as he was leaving No. 11, which has finally been evacuated to-day as too "unhealthy". even for a C.C.S. Some of the men brought in have been lying out for 48 hours---one poor chap for a double amputation. The Boches too have put a barrage over in the "Plug Street" area, using up their ammunition, it is rumored, before withdrawing their guns.
The German communiqués via Amsterdam make very light of the three days' battle, saying that they have merely straightened. their line. The papers announce the arrival of General Pershing and his staff in London.
Monday, June 11th:
A month since we left home. Rain last night and cooler. Again with Bowlby on his rounds. First to Bailleul, passing an outcoming division. The hopvines have nearly reached the tops of their poles during the past week. At No. 2 we went through the abdominal ward with Col. Leake---very excellent results, particularly when compared with the early days.
There was one man I especially remember---Collaran, by name. Sergeant Major of the 3rd Battalion Worcesters---has seen 16, years' service---came out with the original army on August 12th, 1914---in the 3rd Division with General Hamilton who was killed---was at Mons, the Marne, in the thin line at Ypres; first wounded November 1914, and twice since---back in England for only thirteen days in the ten months. He was shot in the abdomen on the 7th, early in the attack, crawled back to his original trench, where an M.O. said he could do nothing and he must wait for bearers. Collaran said he knew this might be many hours, so he made his way back alone to an advanced dressing station, where he got transport here. He had 19 intestinal perforations!! and is the man I saw Shaw operating upon the first day we came up. What's more, he's recovering, and wants to know when he can get back---not to Blighty but to his battalion.
And so to No. 1 Australian again; then to No. 53, and from there to Steenwerck, past the shell hole by the wall near No. 11 that just missed the Field Marshal. Colonel Webb says it dropped between the C. in C.'s car and one of the hospital lorries. We lunch while some big naval guns fire their screeching shells overhead. Three padres at the table: Church of England, Catholic, and Conjoint Board. The last named, a nonconformist, is called "the Maconochie" after the ration of that name---a kind of Irish stew which includes almost everything that is left over.
Bowlby wishes me to see some research work in the 1st Army area on the early closure of infected wounds---so to Estaires across a great alluvial plain---a huge market garden--to C.C.S No. 54---a sort of advanced stationary hospital with only 25 beds and four M.O.'s on the staff who are experimenting with the new antiseptic "flavine." The wounds have a remarkable appearance---B. likens them to "cold storage wounds"---and though they do not become bacteria-free as under Dakin's fluid, they nevertheless may be closed after a few days.
The wounds were covered by a layer of fibrin which looked to me much like the thin layer made by Zenker fixation. They showed us some promising results; but sharing Sir Almroth Wright's views on the subject of the antiseptic treatment of these lacerated wounds, I don't feel enthusiastic. Certainly it will not do for penetrating cranial wounds, in which primary closure of the scalp after débridement seems to me imperative. I greatly doubt whether reliance on any known antiseptic will aid the average surgeon in accelerating the return of wounded men to active duty ---which of course is the purpose of these studies.
We were joined by McNee, whom I met two years ago at Bailleul---now pathologist for five C.C.S.'s and the F.A.'s of the 1st Army---and with him to the 2nd London at Merville, where trenches are still to be seen, and a church considerably knocked about. There McNee has a large laboratory, and his co-worker Capt. Dunn showed us the brain from a fatal shell-shock case with its remarkable punctate hemorrhages---gas poisoning or shell shock? We were shown other examples of secondary wound closure under flavine; and then tea with the sisters and a pet kid (sic) called "Muriel." Ours at Camiers is "Percival."
Then via Haverskerque, along a road lined with ammunition embankments, to St. Venant and over the Canal, Lillers, Bourecq, to the chalk hills which run across the Pas de Calais from Vimy Ridge to the Coast---over the same table-land we crossed last Wednesday. Clover fields spotted with poppies, luzerne fields, corn just coming to ear, sheep browsing by the roadsides with a sheep dog on watch to keep them from the grain---also a nanny goat along to give the dog milk! An expanse of lovely farms with lines of old men and women slowly advancing on their knees as they weed between the rows---even back here there are miles of lorries and London busses along the roads. Through Heuchin; Anvin, and Erin---the "Tankville" of the British soldiers---fully 100 of the beasts, one or two of them ambling about like great prehistoric turtles.
Then past a region of thorn hedgerows---into more roiling country---the Forêt d'Hesdin, and my destination in an attractive château, in a park full of birds, with a batman named Ringwood to get me a bath and clean my boots, while some nightingales outside are singing madly.
A pleasant dinner with the D.G. and his staff of A.D.M.S. officers---Col. Morgan, Majors Black, Martin, and Bulkley--with much not necessarily intended for my ears about preparations for the coming offensive farther north. This was all very restful and enjoyable until there unexpectedly blew in, late for dinner, a colonel of the 9th Lancers who is a British liaison officer at Compiègne, the present French G.Q.G., where he certainly has become tinged with pessimism. He finally let loose about the recent Champagne offensive something to this effect:
Everyone in Paris knew all about it in January, especially the women, chiefly those other than respectable. Germans of course ditto. No effort to change plans. Was to be a big affair---to break the stalemate and end the war. Corps d'Élite of the French brought in. Became known that Germans had brought up 50 divisions instead of the 30 in the area when the plans were begun in January. French Cabinet goes out to Compiègne in a special train to bless the attack, which is a miserable failure, 150,000 casualties. Later no reserve troops brought up, no repos given. Finally about five divisions mutinied---very respectfully of course, no rioting and breaking of windows; they simply didn't care to go in again. Considerable drunkenness among French soldiers who are now getting four sous instead of one a day, therefore can buy more wine. New officers have little control of men, no more camaraderie ---women of Midi actually hiding men when in rest billets, and are firmly opposed to a continuance of the war. France indeed in an impossible state---fizzling out. Necessary to make someone a scapegoat, therefore not only Nivelle but his whole staff demoted. French never stand by one another: Briand tried frequently to oust Joffre and finally succeeded---same thing with Nivelle. Italy all through. The Portuguese a terrible lot---worse than useless. The only glimmer of hope is that Russia is not entirely eliminated and that Brussilof will put on a show in July.
The Frenchman of course a brave fellow---gets worked up to a flame heat for a few moments and is then irresistible; but the flame soon goes out and it takes an exceptional man to kindle it again. British soldiers never flame only a steady glow all the time---indeed it's up to the English to finish the job alone---with the possible help, in time, of America. We shall see. Disconcerted by all this, I was glad to escape to bed. Of course he was just letting off steam; but the first principle for allies is to keep the lid on.
Tuesday the 12th
With Bowlby to visit some of the 3rd Army hospitals. From Hesdin to St. Pol and Aubigny over the broad highway which was the chief line of communication during the Vimy Ridge battles. So to Agnez-les-Duisans, about four miles west of Arras and approximately seven from the present line, where some C.C.S.'s (Nos. 8, 14, and 19) have been set up for the past three months---admirably arranged in the fields between a railroad siding for evacuation and a roadway for ambulances. Not a particularly healthy place. No. 41 near by was blown up a few days ago and No. 19 had a close shave, for a "dud" landed by the C.O.'s tent and buried itself there. It was carefully exhumed and taken to a near-by field to be exploded.
After visiting the other two stations we stopped at No. 19 for lunch; and just as we were sitting down at the mess a disheveled and muddy young staff officer rushed in and said General Congreve had just been hit by a shell in the outskirts of Arras. We went over to the preoperation ward where he was being put through like anyone else---a badly lacerated hand, and the side of his face scraped a good deal. None of the staff officers with him had been touched.
A lean, scholarly looking, imperturbable person, he realized that an amputation was necessary; wished to have it over soon; did not want to give up the command of his Corps---what was the mere loss of an arm! B. knew all about him physically--- long ill-health---nearly died at the Somme from dysentery---chronic asthma. Captain Samson did a quick amputation under light chloroform and the General, who wears a V.C. ribbon I may add, came out promptly and said he saw no reason why he should be relieved from duty for such a trifle.
Bowlby had expected to go into Arras, but this episode discouraged us and we merely skirted the town, with its ruined cathedral looming up, for a glimpse of the recent battlefields and the evacuated territory in a more quiet area. Through Warlus, Dainville, and on to Wailly at the margin of the old line---and there's little of the village left to tell the tale; and so along parallel to the lines, to Agny, equally leveled, and where we cross the old trenches to the recently captured strip. This was not so very long ago---a short two months in fact since that snowy Easter Monday when, after a preliminary bombardment the like of which, the war had not yet seen, the Canadians on the first rush reached the crest of the ridge; and a scant three weeks since the great battle drew to a close after the capture of Bullecourt.
We then followed a road leading south toward Boisleux-au-Mont---all the roadside trees for the three miles having been cut nearly through about three feet from the ground and broken back by the Boches in their retreat from the Somme to the Siegfried line. Near by was an advanced dressing station, which was being dismantled as no longer sufficiently far forward; and the C.O. was sending on his last abdominal cases---90 had been operated upon here during the fight-with 50 recoveries---not so bad. We walked across the open country, picking our way between shell holes and avoiding thistles and pieces of barbed wire and "duds" and unexploded grenades.
Near Boisleux station is a deep railroad cut which must once have been in French hands, for on the eastern side were old French dugouts in the protection of the bank, while on the western side were German machine-gun emplacements pointing to the west and down the slope we had ascended. How troops ever faced machine guns so protected is beyond me. To be sure, the one we particularly investigated had been destroyed by a chance hit, but it was encased in heavily reënforced concrete, and was so covered with earth and sod that it must have been practically invisible. The fire-opening was a narrow slit between heavy steel rails and the entrance was through a tunnel from the bottom of the embankment. In many places the great zones of German barbed wire were still in place and seemed impenetrable. We could look over to Monchy-le-Preux, where the afternoon "hate" was going on in lively fashion.
Then back to Hesdin via Doullens, Frévent, and the valley of the Canche---very lovely. A simple fireside dinner with Bowlby and Herringham in the library of the French billet which they share, and to which they endeavor always to return for the night if they possibly can. Sir Wilmot is reading with enthusiasm Thiers's "sublime" history of France under Napoleon, which he found on the shelves. There is not much that either of these men misses. They are steeped in the history of the Pas de Calais, once a part of the Spanish Netherlands---the château of Charles Vth's sister is one of the landmarks in Hesdin.
Chapter Four, concluded
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