Sunday, July 22nd. Mendinghem
10 p.m. Unexpected things occur over here. My last entry, as I recall it, was about our simple doings at No. 11 General, to which we have become attached and which, according to hearsay, we were soon to leave. The "team" for service in a C.C.S. had been countermanded and, as we were under orders to evacuate, the wards were growing empty and there was time to study French, play tennis, and to look about at one's neighbors before our transfer to Boulogne---in a few days, as we supposed! I had been interested in making wax moulds as a soft-tissue splint for large infected wounds, and with Bashford, Morrison, and Hartley, was dressing a case daily at No. 26 in Étaples.
On getting back from there Saturday, I found Sir Anthony Bowlby lunching at our mess and he said our team was to be called on after all---at his special request to go to No. 46---wherever that might be to help with the head cases during the coming battle. Probably Monday---he was not quite sure. Probably, too, our move to Boulogne would have to be postponed. The present was no time for us to be taking over a new hospital---all beds would be needed.
This did not sound very urgent, and after lunch we looked at cases that interested him in the wards---among them a man with an arteriovenous aneurysm apparently of the subclavian artery and vein, with a greatly dilated right heart; also some of the "new gas" cases, of which he had already seen many---several thousand in fact---and then we went over to see the finals of the tennis match being engineered by Colonel Steele, the C.O. of No. 4. Miss Cunningham was in the process of mopping up the court with her opponent when one of our sergeants made his way, through the crowd and handed me a message stating that our "team" must be ready to leave for the Front at 4 p.m. It was then three minutes to four!
Aware of what was in store for us, at Bowlby's suggestion a request for an extension of time was put through to the D.D.M.S. at Étaples, and after considerable palaver we were given until eight this morning. By that time we had managed to wangle an extra operating table and to assemble some special instruments, a cache of sterile "Boston tins," gas masks, helmets, and baggage rolls holding a folding bed, blankets, canvas bath, bucket, and such---and it's lucky we stayed to gather them.
Again two females driving a large ambulance, on the side of which was inscribed:
This legend I have down accurately, because, on account of it, I was nearly taken up by an M.P. in Poperinghe at 1.30 as a suspicious character. We really should not have been in Poperinghe, for it is an unhealthy place---shelled every day---on the direct road to "Wipers" rather than to our destination. But the females had never been up here---it was only a mile or two out of the way and one of them had a brother, in "Pop." So we went that way---had lunch in a Flemish café, Towne and I, Miss Gerrard, Clifford our orderly, and the females---and a good one it was. While they were watering their car in the busy Grande Place I caught sight of the above inscription and pulled out my notebook to copy it. Promptly up whips a British M.P. sergeant who wanted to know what I was writing down . . . .
11.30 p.m. There was good reason for interrupting this tale. The C.O. from No. 64, an energetic young person named Wolstenholme, whose C.C.S. lies beyond the railroad track, had just dropped in---there were two or three of us in the mess hut writing under a feeble lamp---all were newcomers like myself. He was telling how he had seen, this afternoon, a Boche plane attack and "sink" a captive balloon, and be in turn attacked and winged by one of our planes---a tale incited by our hearing some curious explosions which someone said were aeroplanes signaling to their base. Suddenly at this juncture an M.O. hustled in and said, "There's a Fritz about; they are looking for him"---so we went out-a--ll but our neighboring C.O., who stayed to finish his whiskey. Well, it was an amazing sight---the air simply alive with searchlight beams---then many explosions of Archies---soon the hum of our planes going up, and the Archies ceased-machine-gun fire began up in the air---rat-tat-tat---the wise men of this command all rushed for their helmets, and in about a minute! Well, it sounded as though it were at our very feet---one, two, three, and then a fourth shattering explosion, the last one simply earsplitting, leaving your head humming. Then rat-tat-tat in the air again on all sides---seemingly scores of searchlights crossing and recrossing---the planes flashing signals---how can one possibly describe it at the tail end of such a day?
It was some time before I noticed that two or three of the new Australians and I were the only people left looking on, and that somehow all the lights of the hospital were out. We finally came back in the mess hut, lit a candle, and found the visiting C.O. crawling out from under the table---wise man! Others of the local officers then began to appear, admitting that they had dived under beds or whatever else was handy.
"How far away were those things---about half a mile?" I innocently asked. "Oh, a little closer than that," said the C.O. from No. 64, wiping the dirt from his clothes and mopping up the whiskey he had spilled. In a few minutes Padre Robinson came in with a fragment of the bomb, which he said was warm when he picked it up---notice that he is a Padre---the nearest hole lies just between us and 64, near the railroad track, about 100 yards away.
Midnight. One of the M.O. anæsthetists has just come in and says the explosion broke many windows in the operating room, and they had to finish up with candles. This is evidently a warm cOmer we've come into. Word has been passed around that in a few days will come off the biggest battle in history---about half a million troops concentrated in this area. They are after a ridge called Pilkem, about three miles north of "Wipers" and due east of Boesinghe and here. So the major offensive is not to be confined to the coast after all.
I will try and tell to-morrow more of to-day---or rather later to-day more of yesterday. I doubt if I shall sleep much, there's too much noise.
Monday, the 23rd of July
8 a.m. I didn't---not because of the noise (though about three there was some violent strafing, and frequent low-flying planes were disturbing), but because of the cold. These thermic transitions I have not become accustomed to, and there was little under me but a piece of canvas, though plenty of blankets above. At 5 p.m., when we reached here, my tent was suffocatingly hot---at 1 a.m. freezing.
I've just been over to see the hole---it's gone---filled up completely, and the bent rail straightened. Just as ants repair a damage to their hill. One bomb fell between us and 64---near the mortuary. The next one fell about 500 yards beyond---on the other side of No. 64 to the disaster of an estaminet ("Rest-a-minute"), a house, and some trees. Quite possibly the hospitals were too well lighted and made a good target. Lt. Colonel Young, the Australian, being a souvenir hunter, brings me two large fragments of the beast as keepsakes. It was an interesting reception here, but I hardly care to have it repeated.
6.30 p.m. Somewhat revived by tea, though nearly "done in" after a day's operating. Getting started is very difficult--learning other people's ways, how they clean up, what sort of gowns are available, how many towels one may use, how dependable are the X-ray, the ether, etc. One very bad case this afternoon which I tried to do with about 50 people looking on. Horrid, this having to operate in one's clothes, encased in a rubber apron, in a Nisson hut with the temperature about 85°F.
To go back to yesterday's departure from Camiers:---
Our start was delayed, as the women drivers said they had to report to the D.D.M.S. at Étaples; so we did, and a corporal there said we needn't have done so and advised us to push along. As a matter of fact, we would have needed no papers whatsoever, had it not been for the Poperinghe episode, the full recital of which was broken off last night.
Étaples, Camiers, Neufchâtel, Samer, Desvres, by a northern road through Wierre-au-Bois and very lovely, north through Brunembert to the main highway from Boulogne to St. Omer. We thus cut off a large strip. From St. Omer through Cassel, which we were only permitted to skirt, as it is the present advanced G.H.Q., and wonderful the views are, even from the lower road we took. As I recall it, Cassel was spared during the German advance---saved by some few veterans of '70 who barricaded the road and made a showing as though the place were strongly held.
Only one church, so far as we could see, was damaged.
All the old familiar landmarks stand out from the plain--- Mont des Cats, Mont Rouge, Kemmel, the steeples of Steenvoorde, Bailleul, and Hazebrouck. As we were coming down the eastern side of the hill we met and passed Richard Harte and some teams from the Philadelphia Unit---equally dust-covered with ourselves. They stayed at Steenvoorde for lunch, while we pushed across the Belgian border toward Poperinghe. We should have turned north at Abeele and so to Proven via Watou, but, as I have said, we did otherwise.
Poperinghe is certainly a lively place these days, especially in the Grande Place, where we had to leave the car while we got lunch, at the only place in the town where officers go---a place run by some refugee innkeepers from Ypres. All of the buildings except the few facing west were badly peppered, and there were occasional houses down. On one of the buildings was a large sign saying WIND DANGEROUS and there was a big brass siren alongside of it to be used as an alerte against gas. The place of course was infested with troops, and all the paraphernalia of war; and from the square led a narrow road with an arrow pointing east and a huge sign: TO YPRES.
The road from Poperinghe to Proven was scarcely less congested. Among other things about half a mile's worth of pontoons---French, I believe, for crossing the canal---the first I had seen. We reached No. 46 about 3.30, and a friendly R.C. Padre gave me things for a bath on a rubber sheet, and helped otherwise to make me presentable. There was really no hurry whatsoever in our getting here, for teams from everywhere are still coming in. I will enumerate them some day.
We couldn't possibly be in a better place---simple, of course, but the whole equipment is far better than at our No. 11 in Camiers. Many of the officers in funny little canvas Armstrong huts---really very comfortable---a grass tennis court, flower beds, and vegetable gardens. It must have been a typical Flemish roadside farm two years ago. My tent is only twenty feet from a picturesque barn with thatched and moss-covered roof almost reaching to its knees, and chickens and an old cart. Near by are a cluster of bell tents for the officers of these new teams, of which we make one, then some Sawyer stoves, and some Nisson huts for enlisted men in a pear orchard---everything of course connected up with duckboards. The hospital proper is across the new four-track railroad which goes through us---in fact that's why we 're here---to Proven, which is only a scant mile away, and thence I know not where.
The place, as I have said somewhere before, is called "Mendinghem." This was originally a joke and was to have been "Endinghem"; but this on second thought was changed as being too much even for the Tommy. The army has a professional name maker, I may add. Mendinghem is already on the printed maps and there is in this district a "Bandagehem" and "Dosinghem" which I have not located as yet.
At Mendinghem No. 46 and No. 12 are side by side and No. 64 is just across the track. At Dosinghem, which is in the direction of Crombeke, are C.C.S.'s Nos. 62 and 63. Sir Anthony told me that there would be fifteen C.C.S.'s for the 5th Army: better than eleven for the 2nd Army at the Messines affair. They are probably all more or less like our No. 46---200 actual beds which may expand to 1200 or 1300, and may "take in" without a struggle, as did No. 46 the day before I got here, 1000 mustard-gas cases.
Poor devils! I've seen too many of them since---new ones---their eyes bandaged, led along by a man with a string while they try to keep to the duckboards. Some of the after-effects are as extraordinary as they are horrible---the sloughing of the genitals, for example. They had about twenty fatalities out of the first 1000 cases, chiefly from bronchial troubles. Fortunately vision does not appear to be often lost.
A privileged character at Messines, I was told what was going on. Small chance of that here, and it's futile to listen to mess-table gossip. To have reliable information naturally adds to the interest, but after all it is not our special noncombatant business. However, it would seem from hearsay that there has been a radical change in the disposition of the armies. The 5th Army, under General Gough, to which we are attached and of which Bruce Skinner is the D.M.S., has its present H.Q. at Watou, the 2nd Army having been pushed somewhat south of its former sector. The 4th Army is supposedly up on the coast; and the best of the French troops, with men chiefly from the northern provinces, lie between with the Belgians somewhere about opposite Dixmude.
It appears that the operation is to be on an unprecedented scale.
As I sit here just outside my tent I can see the row of captive balloons (saucisses), possibly a quarter of a mile apart along the line. I counted thirty of them at one time as we were coming up here yesterday. Meanwhile the air is full of throbbing things which are not captive, and to which one never quite becomes accustomed. About half an hour ago a flock of thirteen big battle triplanes came over headed east, and I should think all told fully thirty or forty have passed during the hour---some low from the aerodrome near by, others flying very high, straightaway east or west like bees to or from their hives.
Aside from the constant dull rumble there has been no sound of serious strafing to-day. At the moment it's so comparatively quiet that I can hear a faint hum, like a fading tuning fork near one's ear. It's hard to find this particular bird, but he's directly above, barely visible, going north, about as big as a mosquito. They say the Hun comes over at about this height, when he comes at all---unless perhaps at night.
11 p.m. The personnel of No. 46 is a good and loyal one: Colonel Ellis the C.O.; Capts. Roper, Adjt., who also takes the X-rays; Wright, the surgeon specialist, and Shelton, his anæsthetist; Richardson, a surgeon, and Coleridge, his anæsthetist; Welpley, a surgeon, 6 ft. 3.5 in. and therefore called "Tiny"; Telfer, the evacuation officer, an extraordinary man-of-all-work both day and night. These eight made the original territorial group, with Warren, Quartermaster; the three Padres, Coffey, R.C., Robinson the Maconochie, Perkitt, C. of E., and Wetherill in charge of the Church Army Hut.
Poor Telfer is all bunged up with a secondhand dose of this mustard-oil gas or whatever it is. Many more of these men were brought in last night; and as the orderlies were panicky, owing to the raid, he did a lot of handling of patients himself and to-night has a bad cough, swollen and lachrymating eyes---like the men themselves. One or two others who have handled and undressed gassed Tommies have got it too in mild form.
After lunch Col. Wolstenholme took me through No. 64---a new C.C.S. which has been thrown together recently and is wholly in tents. It looks to me more workable than No. 46, which has been here the better part of a year, and while picturesque is rather sprawled out, the officers' quarters being separated from the wards and operating room by the tracks. Wolstenholme says No. 64 represents General Skinner's plan for all future C.C.S.'s---tents to be lined up in columns of four, so to speak, so that anyone can readily find his way about when transferred from one C.C.S. to another.
The place is laid out in a rectangle with a broad central duckboard avenue, and A-lines to the right for lying cases and B-lines to the left for walkers, who should be able to find their own way. There are some C-lines, too, but W. says the less said about them the better; for slightly wounded men they want to keep about the place simply disappear in the "deep blue C-lines."
Tuesday, the 24th of July,
1.30 p.m. Very hot. We've just finished lunch, one of the features of which is the daily censoring of the Tommies' letters, which are dealt out by one of the Padres to each plate. They are mostly to Annie or Allie and "hoping you are in the pink as I am the same." Sir Wilmot dropped in and asked about the gas---says they now know the composition---a pungent smell, hence the suggestion of mustard---a very dark oily fluid, a trace only of hydrocyanic acid. He did not say what it is. It's very bad on this side, but we hope Fritz is getting the worst of it and wishes he had never used gas. The C.O. says that in retaliation of the first day's use we sent over 70,000 shells containing 30 tons of the British gas---whatever they now use---phosgene, I believe.
8.30 p.m. We have been taking in since seven, instead of at ten to-morrow morning, and are likely to be busy, though so far they are mostly more mustard-gas cases---very pitiful. It really must be quite a setback, and it's interesting to hear these men comment on Fritz---chiefly to the effect that he's hard to beat.
I asked the C.O. to let me see the new C.C.S. plans and he gave me his set to read and copy. I was standing by the operating hut later on, looking them over, when along came a man in a brass hat who proved to be none other than the 5th Army D.M.S. himself. He appeared pleased---told of the opposition he had received in getting the plans introduced---gave me two sheets of them from his own pocket---took me into the C.O.'s office, where he had much to say about the new gas, and left some directions about the disposition of the men's clothes, to prevent reinfections. He was lamenting the fact that they had cut him short of teams, and I suggested drawing further from Base Hospital No. 5, and at the same time commandeering our magnet, together with Capt. Derby himself, who would be most useful here caring for the eyes of these mustard cases, and looking at eyegrounds for us.
The General stayed to tea, which sounds formal but lasts about five minutes. A delightful man named Lyle Cummins, A.D.M.S. of the 16th Irish, was also here.
11.30 p.m. An extraordinary flight of aeroplanes came over this afternoon, more notably two flocks of them very high, going east, in V formation, with their fast scout trailers behind still higher up---a marvelous sight for one unaccustomed, as I still am, to these creatures. One of the flocks were battle triplanes. A young flier from the aerodrome near by paid us a visit and said he had been showing General Pershing about yesterday. Extraordinary, the offhand way these lads have of discussing their particular business. He was talking of the change in the character of the country. Two weeks ago behind the German lines it was all green fields and farms. Now for five miles beyond it is a devastated brown waste from the mere shelling preliminary to the real battle. His chief grouse was in being strafed by one's own Archies, particularly since Fritz rarely ventures over here nowadays.
Burge, the Australian major attached here with Col. Young, is an amusing soul, and has picturesque expressions. He says that among the Anzacs the act of searching for lice is spoken of as "reading your shirt." One can easily visualize the posture.
Wednesday the 25th. 10 p.m.
The "Summary of Official Communiqués" for to-day, No. 317, like other documents of its kind, is remarkable for its discretion in saying nothing. Nevertheless it is brought to us by the D.R.L.S. ---a special-delivery person on a motor cycle---the Dispatch Rider Letter Service. This document begins: "Russian Theatre (24th July). No report received." Likewise ditto for the Rumanian Theatre. The Salonika Theatre and the Italian Theatre vary this by saying simply: "No change." The French Front mentions some artillery activity on the Chemin des Dames. Mention of our own "Theatre" is only permitted via the "Enemy Official Communiqué and Wireless Press Service." Herein it says for the Western Theatre: "In Flanders the artillery duel continues with unprecedented intensity. British reconnaissances are increasing in frequency." As a matter of fact, it's been a comparatively quiet twenty-four hours; but I 'm glad Fritz feels as he does. Certainly he's giving it to us, and a steady procession of big Scots Guards continues to come in with bandaged eyes.
Four bad heads in our last take-in of 200 cases. Our team is beginning to work more smoothly, and Towne and I managed to clean up our cases. We rotate with Nos. 64 and 12, and at present it takes about twelve hours to get around. There must now be over 2000 casualties a day and this number will mount hugely when the time comes. I have said that there are half a million of all ranks in this district---twice the number of the 2nd Army at Messines. But I was told to-night that this means 500,000 rifles and gunners, and does not include all the A.S.C., R.A.M.C., and other noncombatants.
New teams are being added to our numbers. Two more to-day brought up here from the Somme. They had spent the winter in Ypres, living in the old prison cells, these being the only safe places for regimental M.O.'s. We now number thirty. There was evidently no reason for haste last Saturday afternoon. I 'm told that a message "to proceed forthwith" means to the B.E.F. "in about twenty-four hours."
Thursday, July 26th
Yesterday's cases doing well. We are planning to organize the work with the purpose of making an official report should we get a sufficiently large number of "heads."
General Gough, the 5th Army G.O.C. and one of the most popular in France, with his A.D.C. and staff, was here to lunch. An Irishman, he had resigned his commission rather than lead a force from Dublin against Carson and his Ulstermen. He was agreeable and attractive like most of the regulars I have seen. Talked much of Pershing and his recent visit here to the 5th Army---also of the problems of the war, including America's problems---left for the Anglo-Saxon race to finish.
After lunch a young captain from No. 32 at Brandhoek legged it in. They have put up their advanced C.C.S. during the past five days, and are ready to "take in" to-morrow-----being halfway between Poperinghe and Ypres, shells go over their heads both ways. If the coming push does not result in an advance in the first few hours, they will be heavily bombarded. No. 44 and the 3rd Australian are not as yet set up, but soon will be. He says there are thirteen teams at No. 32---officers and nurses have been pouring in for the past few days.
My telephoning of Tuesday night has borne fruit. Though Patterson our C.O. not enthusiastic, George Derby, George Denny, and Johnnie Morton have turned up with the precious magnet---also with surprised faces showing through the layer of dust which covered them.
Friday, July 27th
Operating late last night---till 1 a.m. A 48-hour-old case getting pressure symptoms. Except ourselves, no one at No. 46 knows how to use an ophthalmoscope. Wolstenholme at 64 is the real live-wire about here. He has already modified and improved the "Skinner C.C.S. Plan." Would make a fine hospital superintendent. He does not wait for "brass hats" to tell him what to do with the mustard-oil cases---he's already making a thorough study and sending them down with record slips. Apparently a good many have been evacuated with supposedly mild or receding symptoms, and have died en route to the Base with dilated hearts.
5 p.m. Rumors are flying about thick and fast. We are evidently approaching zero time. Many men dropping in as the stage is set, and nothing to do but wait. To see Capt. Leitch with a specimen for examination---in a mobile laboratory attached to No. 12. Setting a Flemish garden surrounded by hop vines and lettuce beds. Met General Skinner on the way back through No. 12. Hints that it will be day after to-morrow---wants an outline of what we may be able to do with the head cases. Says the rats have all been killed in the trenches by the gas---may stop trench fevers. Methinks it may do the contrary if the flea is concerned, unless he is gassed also. Captain Graham Jones to tea---is at No. 121 Field Ambulance, a sort of C.D.S., at a place called "Canada Farm." Says it's remarkable how the skin is protected by shoulder straps ---by a notebook or New Testament in a man's pocket: the new gas therefore penetrates clothing.
Special orders concerning these cases are issued---among them one from Herringham, who mentions experiences at 91 F.A. (the main dressing station of the 15th Corps) with the subcutaneous injection of calcium chloride. Graham Jones says the Boches are moving back about six miles. Whether this is a good or bad omen no one seems to know. Certainly their shelling has diminished. There were one or two Boche planes over to-day, being Archied. Conditions favored them, as they could dodge in and out of clouds
Captains Morrison, Fraser, and several others also here to tea---and later on McNee with an A.D.M.S. from the 3rd Army to see the mustard-oil cases. Awful to see these big Scots Guardsmen dying from fulminating pneumonia about two weeks after first being infected. The original chlorine business two years ago, though a surprise and different from this, was certainly no worse.
11.30 p.m. The rumors of the afternoon seem to be confirmed. Fritz has gone back---the Guards and the 38th Division have been following and are across the Ypres Canal. Three young Flying Corps men of our neighborhood brought in as casualties---others here to inquire about them. Mere kids. They have been flying over the evacuated zone at about 200 yards' height to see what is left; one of them said: "They could have hit us with a beer bottle." The three have been hit with something more serious, however. There are practically no guns to-night---an ominous silence. Fritz is a hard nut to crack. It's no joke going forward in a devastated country with every dugout a potential trap, and possible mines everywhere.
Saturday, July 28th
Operations---getting teams in order. A vigorous walk this p.m. with George Derby out toward Crombeke and the observation balloons; and after tea copied the ground plans of No. 46 from the diagram in Capt. Telfer's possession. Col. Maynard Smith, the surgical consultant, here to dinner, and a long talk with him afterward. The C.C.S.'s are growing to be regular base hospitals as far as equipment is concerned. That there should be fifteen of them in a single army area would have staggered the officials even a year ago. The chief difficulty lies in bringing up their supplies, for the combatants need every square inch of space on wheels for their own purposes.
Our teams have at last been made out---very tardily it seems. Our neighbors are already at work on the same schedules, sixteen hours on, eight hours off, that they will follow when the rush comes. No one can explain its postponement. Some say the French were not ready but as Derby and I saw a lot of Chasseurs Alpins when we were near the French Army sector this afternoon, they at least have sent some of their best troops. The offensive when it comes off is evidently going to cover a large area---it is now said the objectives are Roulers and Bruges. One takes these rumors for what they are worth---and that's very little.
Sunday, July 29th. Midnight
Much like other days except that the peasants have on their Sunday best, and we had a cold snack for supper. More operations this morning, and our first try with the magnet---unsuccessful. Still, things are beginning to straighten out. Maynard Smith took me out to Brandhoek on the Poperinghe-Ypres road after lunch. Up there the country is simply swarming with men, munitions, and mud, for it rained hard this morning. A bad thing for the advance if it keeps on. I recognized, by their red-hand emblem, the Ulster Division, which I saw moving up after Messines. The story goes of a race between two rivals to reach Ireland, and The O'Neill---if it was he---cut off his hand and threw it ashore before his rival could land, thereby claiming the soil. Curiously enough the 16th Irish is fighting alongside the Ulsterites, and both under General Gough! ---shades of Curragh Barracks!!
No. 32 at Brandhoek is ready for work, though the sisters have not come up as yet. Colonel Sutcliffe, a big-bodied soul, was tramping about in the mud fixing up his final duckboards. There are about nine teams of abdominal surgeons ready for work---Miles, Caning, Sampson, and Anderson among them. No. 44 is less ready, but still far enough along to give us tea. The 3rd Australian also was floundering in the mud and getting established ---our old Baltimore acquaintance, Col. Newland, being the Chief Surgeon. These three C.C.S.'s are necessarily alongside both road and railway, for hospitals and ammunition dumps must compete for sites of the same kind---hence they are likely to be heavily shelled, but this afternoon was comparatively quiet.
Then back by the cut-off around Poperinghe to the "Pop"--Crombeke road, which was crowded with troops and ammunition columns, and field batteries going up with a long line of mules,. each carrying twelve shells---six on a side---past an aerodrome and so to Dosinghem, where are Richard Harte at No. 4, Garrod at No. 47, and George Brewer at No. 61. Brewer was on duty in the reception tent and seemed very fit and well. All three of these places are---so far as the lay of the land permits---put up on the Skinner plan, and very admirable it is---just like our neighbor No. 64, except that smaller marquees are used. Very attractive wards they make too---the sisters and matron in the officers' ward at No. 4 were even puzzling over the color scheme, and asked Maynard Smith if he did not think they had made it too green.
So back to Mendinghem, stopping on the way at Château Lovie, where is the army headquarters. A fine Belgian country house, not differing from the usual French type, in a large park with a big pond in front, where some Tommies were fishing. All of the offices, of which innumerable ones are necessary, were so effectively camouflaged that one had to look closely for them among the trees.
A battle has come to be an enormous business---even such a thing as the map department has to be on a huge scale, and turns out new detail maps almost daily from studies made of aviators' photographs. Snapshots are taken of certain suspected roads, for example, perhaps every day, and preferably in the late afternoon, at the same hour, so that the shadows of the embankments on the roadway can be accurately studied, measured, and compared. This afternoon the shadow shows some irregularities not there yesterday---indicating gun emplacements established after dark---and to-night this spot in a given square is heavily shelled and they are blown up or driven out, as indicated by to-morrow's pictures.
Back to find a lot of work going on, and the evening spent in a futile endeavor to resuscitate disconsolate Johnnie Morton's first patient, who had a respiratory failure from a spreading intracerebral hemorrhage.
Monday, July 30th. 2 p.m.
Overcast and unpromising weather for an offensive. Very quiet---practically no guns---nothing in the air. Still waiting for zero day and hour. The general feeling is expressed by one of Bruce Bairnsfather's sketches pinned on the wall of the mess---two uncouth Tommies, Ole Bill and a companion, cowering in a dugout: "'Ow long are you up for, Bill?" "Seven years." "Yer lucky ---I'm duration."
There is even an air of uncertainty and despondency about the recent issue of jam. The present batch is referred to as J.U.O.---"jam of uncertain origin." Marmalade, such as "Mother used to make," is only a memory. Here is Shilton's bill-for one week's messing---it somehow sounds very untidy:
Dr. To Mess President C.C.S. 46
To messing for week ending 28/7/17 Entrance fee 15 frcs. 1 week's messing 15 frcs. To Major Cushing 30 frcs.
5 p.m. Bowlby here inspecting us, and to tea. With him to Nos. 64 and 12. On the quiet, it is to be early to-morrow. Let us hope there will be no more rain, for it adds enormously to the sepsis. Gordon-Watson, Consultant of the 2nd Army, also lurking about, gathering up some of the teams they had loaned the 5th. Apparently the pressure is to extend as far south as Arras. Bowlby said that thirty-one German planes were brought down in the great air fight of day before yesterday and only three British failed to return. He is an unmitigated optimist---his strong point.
Tuesday, July 31
What may go down in history as the third battle of Ypres opened to-day---zero time at 3.50 a.m. After a week of favorable weather came the deluge.
Wednesday, Aug. 1
1.30 a.m. One of the disadvantages of our picturesque camp just came home to me as I felt my way back to this soggy red tent. Pitch black, pouring rain, and has been, I believe, nearly all this fearful day-two ambulance trains of the new variety, about a mile long, vestibuled so you can't climb under or over the couplings, standing between the officers' quarters and the hospital encampment---your electric torch burned out---trying to stick to slippery duckboards about a foot wide. Depressing for a well man, but imagine what these poor wounded devils have had to go through to-day, and what the many not yet found are enduring. The preoperative hut is still packed with untouched cases, so caked in wet mud that it's a task even to strip them and find out what they've got.
Thursday, August 2
2.30 a.m. Pouring cats and dogs all day---also pouring cold and shivering wounded, covered with mud and blood. Some G.S.W.'s of the head, when the mud is scraped off, prove to be trifles---others of unsuspected gravity. The preoperation room is still crowded---one can't possibly keep up with them; and the un-systematic way things are run drives one frantic. The news, too, is very bad. The greatest battle of history is floundering up to its middle in a morass, and the guns have sunk even deeper than that. Gott mit uns was certainly true for the enemy this time.
Operating from 8.30 a.m. one day till 2.00 a.m. the next; standing in a pair of rubber boots, and periodically full of tea as a stimulant, is not healthy. It's an awful business, probably the worst possible training in surgery for a young man, and ruinous for the carefully acquired technique of an oldster. Something over 2000 wounded have passed, so far, through this one C.C.S. There are fifteen similar stations behind the battle front.
10.30 p.m. We 're about through now with this particular episode. Around 30,000 casualties, I believe---a small advance here and there, and that's about all. Doubtless there are many prisoners---we've seen a lot of wounded ones, big husky Hun boys. But I do not believe it has been other than a disappointment. Much ground has been lost (e.g., at St. Julien) in counter-attacks.
Operating again all day, and finished up an hour ago with an extraction of a large piece of shell from a man's badly infected ventricle with the magnet---then dinner, and now to bed. It still rains. A lot of wounded must have drowned in the mud. One of to-day's cases was a fine young Scot having frequent Jacksonian attacks from a glancing sniper's ball through his tin hat, a piece of which was driven into the brain. He had lain, he said, in the protection of a shell hole with one or two others---the water up to his waist---for twelve hours before they were found. But there has been scant time to talk to wounded, to prisoners, or to "brass hats," and I know little of what has gone on.
Friday, August 3
Continuous downpour for the fourth consecutive day. Expected to have an easy time to-day and to catch up on dressings, notes of cases, and statistics. The morning went somewhere. The D.G., Sir Arthur Sloggett, at the mess for lunch, together with Sir William Somebody, head of the British Red Cross and a friend of T.R.'s. I was half an hour late, which is not the thing---properly chided by the C.O.
In the early afternoon a large batch of wounded were unexpectedly brought in---mostly heads---men who have been lying out for four days in craters in the rain, without food. It is amazing what the human animal can endure. Some of them had maggots in their wounds. Then a long operation on a sergeant with things in his brain and ventricle like the man of last night---the magnet again useful---George Derby ditto. He has been helping me lately, while Towne makes records, and Johnnie Morton, with George Denny as his anæsthetist, is at another table. Many muddy bystanders from the adjacent hospitals looking on and fairly sitting on the instrument stands.
Saturday, August 4 (really 3.30 a.m. on the 5th)
Another night helping Johnnie and Blake as long as I could stand up. I think the teams do better work by night than by day, and it is noticeable that the night shifts are composed of the emergency teams. Urgent operations on more rotting men. One case I did had a gross gas infection of the brain. My particular grouse lies in the fact that no one protests against locking tight every door of a twenty-car ambulance train between the hospital and our camp. There are two alternatives---to feel your way around in a sea of mud or to crawl under. I crawled under to-night and nearly cracked my head. I'll feel less peevish later.
Sunday, August 5
8.30 a.m. I do. Except for the fact that my ragged batman, Ashford by name, says there are orders not to provide us with our customary inch of bath water---that we must henceforth go to the bathing tent. This structure lies in the hospital grounds on the other side of the barricaded track. Lt. Zinkhan---a joyous American attached here as a "casual"---said at breakfast that he had thought it out fully. He told his particular batman to bring him some weak tea. He says it makes a fine lather.
Three years ago to-day England declared war against Germany. About four months ago we did.
7.30 p.m. Lieutenant Zinkhan is not only joyful but venturesome---a some---a typical American---known as "Zink." He enjoys Mutt and Jeff, and quotes them often. The Britishers laugh, but don't entirely understand.
On Sunday last---it seems a year ago---among others a Scots Guard came down with a head wound, and on his No. 24 Field Ambulance card was the name "U. Zinkhan, U.S.R." We naturally supposed that our Zink had in some mysterious fashion found his way up to an F.A. and sent this man down. But not at all. When confronted with the act later in the day he denied having been farther than Proven. When shown the card he exclaimed: "Good God! That's my brother. I've been looking for him for three months."
Late Monday evening there was delivered here in a large limousine our Zinkhan. He had been to see his brother---had started out about noon on foot to Poperinghe and been given a lift in a lorry---again on foot toward Ypres until he "hopped" another lorry. He finally got wind of where F.A. No. 24 roughly was situated and was put down at a point where it grows too hot for motor transport. At a remount station he wangled a horse, which he rode for two miles, until a 5.9 blew up a donkey engine near by---it simply disappeared in the air. At this juncture Zink dismounted and walked---a concealed naval gun nearly blew his head off---he got across the canal and up into the Ypres sector. There he somehow found his long-lost brother in a dugout near "Hellfire Corner." His brother said: "Zink, I 'm scared to death." Said Zink: "So am I."
He stayed ten minutes and got back as fast as he could. No one questioned his going or coming. People were too busy getting 1 themselves under cover and staying there. He made his way back to the Poperinghe road this side of Ypres. There he encountered some staff officers, one of them evidently an American, who wanted to know what he was doing up there. It turned out to be the American C. in C. being shown about by General Gough! General Pershing's curiosity had been aroused by the unfamiliar sight of an American uniform. "Zink" dined with them, and was sent home in the General's car.
That, he says, was the most trying part of his expedition, for, unaccustomed to a limousine, he wasn't sure whether it was proper to loll back or sit forward upright. He decided to loll back. One essential difference between an American and a Britisher is that the former can hold up his trousers with a belt; the latter has to wear braces. Zink is an American. But turning up in the C. in C.'s car was about all that saved him from a court-martial for going A.W.O.L.
To-day Zink's brother was here for tea---out for two days' rest---very shaky, and well he might be. Browsing around Hellfire Corner and Hooge for four days looking for wounded under heavy fire, in his triangle between the railroad and the Menin Road. His battalion had missed their barrage and only got ahead a very short distance. He finally got ninety bearers, mostly oldish men. On their first trip twelve of them were killed. The next time there were volunteers---some N.C.O.'s and others---and they succeeded in getting in a batch of Devons who were in shell holes, wounded. It took twelve bearers to carry a two-man stretcher---eight at a time and four in reserve---often sinking in above their knees in this impossible mud. That was on the fourth day, and the wounded men had been without food all this time---they had to leave four of them behind, as they could not get back to them.
Some tank officers here also for tea. One of the tanks practically disappeared in the mud and they had to escape through the roof. There are three or four inches of pasty mud between us and C.C.S. No. 64, where the bearers have been carrying some of our overflow wounded---it is enough to suck off your rubber boots unless you curl up your toes. What another ten inches would be like can be imagined. It would take off everything below your waist, if you could pull yourself out at all. Perhaps that's why Britishers all wear braces.
Tuesday, August 7th
1 a.m. Another day of work---our "taking in" day, and almost as many head cases as during the rush. Very bad ones, many moribund. Swift and Zink came into our team and helped Johnnie and myself. Many visitors and onlookers. George Brewer and some men from Dosinghem; in the afternoon General Blackader of the 38th Division, which did so well on the right of the Guards. They have just moved out and are replaced by the 20th Division. Bruce here looking on most of the day. Our team really working very well, with a Sister Dunn, a Canadian, Miss Gerrard, the anæsthetist, Clifford, our orderly, who has a tough job lathering and shaving clotted hair from dirty scalps, and a helper loaned us by No. 46. . . . A muggy steaming day yesterday---neither sun nor rain.
Chapter Five, continued
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