Wednesday, Sept. 19th
10 p.m. Three divisions are supposed to go over the top to-morrow to try once more for the high ground along the Menin Road---the 55th, the 9th, and one other on the 5th Corps (?) front. About an hour ago a steady downpour of rain set in.
Friday, 21 September, 1917
1 a.m. British, Australians, and South Africans went over on a wide front at 5.40 yesterday morning. Wounded began to come in about 10, giving us time to finish most of our morning's dressings, and to evacuate as many old cases as possible. Since then we have done seven, nearly all "multiples," so the total is about fifteen. Some unusual injuries---for example the lateral suture of a brachial artery and vein, etc. We've evacuated about 1500 cases---three trainloads. The weather has not been bad---no rain, I believe, though overcast.
Difficult to tell what has happened: the morning communiqué says Pheasant Farm, Wurst Farm, Barry and Anzac Farms in our hands, and the 2nd Army, on the right, has reached its "red line"---their objective, I presume. It's impossible to learn much from the Tommies, especially from these hit soon after going over. About 50 German wounded here, one cocky young lieutenant who admits the attack was "ganz unerwartet." No word of the airmen or the tanks.
10 p.m. Waiting for Gil to finish a case before I tackle this Westphalian German boy lying here. He seems a nice lad; says they know it's all up, but no one is permitted to talk about it. He says, too, their officers never go over the top in an attack the way ours do, and the men dislike them. He's very glad to be here getting his head ready to be opened, and adds that he tried two years ago to get taken prisoner, but there is always an officer behind with a revolver. There's a German lieutenant here aged 22---with a wounded finger!! Says he will be court-martialed after the war---no officer without a very good excuse may surrender. He was in a blockhouse---one of the "pill boxes" so much talked of---with eight men, all of them either wounded or killed but himself. What was he to do?
It's been a sunny cool day-ideal for an advance. General Sloggett was here this morning with Bertrand Dawson to say the usual things to the M.O.'s and nurses in praise of their hard work. He said all was over, for a few days at least, and we need expect no more wounded. Nevertheless a batch of Liverpool Scottish and South Africans have just been brought in after lying out for thirty-six hours---many bad wound infections. Indeed, it seems to me that most of the wounds have been even worse than last time. Telfer says we have evacuated 2719 cases in a little over 24 hours; also that since October 5, 1916, when No. 46 was set up, there will have been 20,000 cases through this one place by some time to-morrow. They then will shift to serial number 1 again. Twenty thousand cases---nearly a division---and the proper arrangement is one C.C.S. to a division. One may draw his own conclusions as to how long it takes before everyone in an army division may expect to suffer some form of casualty.
Fritz is "up" to-night, the first time I have seen him since returning from Camiers---also some of our own planes which quickly drop a Verey light if the big French searchlight happens to probe them out. Results of this last battle, according to hearsay, 2000 prisoners, six guns, 1000 yards over a ten-mile front. Nothing about our own casualties or counter-attacks. It certainly has gone better than the muddy affair of seven weeks ago.
Saturday, Sept. 22nd
11 p.m. Falling off to-day. It has not been so bad, though these late gas-bacillus infections are shocking. One of the afternoon's cases was a man named Traynor of the King's Liverpool Regt., with a huge 3-inch piece of shell, big as one's index finger, which had gone from his frontal eminence through the frontal lobe into the orbit. He must have been wounded sometime yesterday and came through the Wessex F.A. at 12.30---they are noting the hour as well as the date since our discussion of last Tuesday---was admitted here at 6.47 a.m., got lost somehow in the crowded wards, and was fired in at us unexpectedly this afternoon.
I was in the midst of this, under local anæsthesia, when General Skinner came in with some French officers---Ferraton of the Val-de-Grâce, now Genl. Inspecteur of the French Army up here, also the Liaison Officer of the 5th Army, a Major Romando I believe, and one or two others. They hung about, apparently interested, and when the stinking missile was finally dislodged and I got the gassy odor, I held it out to the D.M.S. to smell. He did, and didn't like it.
Sunday, the 23rd
7 p.m. We expected a rest to-day and a walk, but it has taken till now to do 18 dressings, most of them major ones, here in the theatre; and then at the end a try at saving one of the resuscitation-ward cases, a stretcher-bearer with a perforating wound from the right temple and out the left eye, cutting both optic nerves.
There is a nice fellow from Devonshire named Killick, a subaltern of the 6th London Regiment (174th Brigade and so the 58th Division) with about ten wounds, who is doing well enough to evacuate to-night. His objective was Wurst Farm and he is cheered to learn that it was gained and hopes his platoon got through the German barrage which caught him about at the concrete emplacements west of Hoppner Farm, quite early in the morning. He says that they were swinging round from the north, through the "triangle": Hoppner, von Tirpitz, to Wurst Farm, and were to meet the 55th Division coming up from the south to catch the place like a pair of flippers. Judging from the objective map for the 55th, I rather doubt this.
While doing dressings this morning there was a sudden furious Archie bombardment. We dropped everything and rushed out. A great sight---twelve Boche planes in formation, very high, black as larks against the gray clouds, and simply surrounded by dark puffs of shrapnel; finally one of them dove and fell. It was almost like shooting into a flock of ducks. Then a lot of our planes appeared and the flock scattered. The visibility has been extraordinarily good, and this afternoon the sky was fairly dotted with high-flying planes.
Monday, Sept. 24th
8 p.m. I decided last night that I was fed up with the place and its work, and suggested to Zink that we get up early and make our way into "Wipers" to see the Cloth Hall before it is entirely gone. So I was called at five by Thompson, who brought shaving water and breakfast---an egg, bread and butter, and something which might have been tea or coffee, I was not quite sure. A cold misty morning, and we started to leg it toward Poperinghe in the dim dawn. We finally hopped a lorry which carried us well through "Pop" and to a certain corner, where the driver advised us to wait for a lift. And sure enough, soon some big cars of the Salvage Corps came along and one of them gathered us in---it was labeled "Annie lorry."
A ghostly ride through a dense chilly mist, past camps, dumps, and dugouts, with glimpses of morning parades and Tommies stripped to the waist getting some sort of wash. Finally there appeared through the mist a faint greenish-yellow sun like the yolk of a hard-boiled egg, and on its surface a black spot! I thought at first it was a high-flying plane, or a bird, or something nearer---a fly or indeed a spot on my retina. But no, it stayed, and the driver said: "Looks like a bit o' shrapnel's 'it 'im." It must have been a sun spot with some rare atmospheric conditions making it visible.
We were on the southerly detour to Ypres via Oudendom, Dickebusch, and Kruisstraat. At a devastated place called "Pioneer Dump" we picked up some Australians who were "going in" and who said that their people had made an attack in the Shrewsbury Forest region, which accounts for the early morning barrage we had heard. It was weird enough getting glimpses through the mist of the wreckage in this forward area. The Porte de Lille was reached almost before we knew it, with traces of the old moat and tumble-down ramparts of the ancient fortifications. We had committed a great breach in not bringing our tin hats and box respirators instead of our small pocket gas masks, and only got across the bridge and by the traffic police by borrowing helmets from the Australians.
The moated city covers only a small area and we were soon dropped in the Grande Place at the very entrance of the ruined Cloth Hall---still a noble ruin whose former proportions may easily be imagined from what remains. Of the Cathedral near by there is practically nothing but a great mound of rubble, and if this part of the town is like all the rest, the ruin is complete---much worse than I had thought possible, even after three years of more or less incessant shelling.
Ypres is a safe enough place, especially on a misty morning, and to-day there was no gunfire on either side. Still, at every corner ---one of them is known as "Suicide Corner"---a traffic officer respectfully notified us that no one was permitted there without helmet and respirator. So we had to move along, finally getting a lift through Vlamertynghe on our way back to Proven, where we arrived at ten, in time for the day's work, which fortunately has not been heavy.
I find it impossible to do justice to the ghostly view we had of ruined Ypres. I recall the huge water tank near the Vlamertynghe Gate which has been torn from its roots and tilted on edge---not the ugly sort of gas or oil tank which offends one in our cities at home, but one which had been veneered with brick and Gothic stone tracery to match the architecture of the town. Beyond that, it's a blur, like a kodak film developed after overlapping exposures.
Wednesday, the 26th Sept.
The attack came this morning with zero hour at 5.50. It was a minor affair of which we had received no notice, else we would not have ventured into Ypres. There have been low clouds all day on the verge of tears---fortunately unshed. We were off our guard as there were no walking wounded, Brandhoek having been reopened to care for them. Hence our first warning was when a lot of lying cases began to arrive about 1.30, and it took only two hours for our quota of 200. Apparently the attack has been a success, with comparatively few wounded.
The men quite elated. We have seen chiefly Suffolks, Welsh Fusiliers, and Gordons of the 3rd Divisions. They say they went beyond Zonnebeke, and believe the Polygon Wood has been taken. Wounded from the 59th Division were also very cheerful and a sergeant told me they had taken Gravenstafel. However, I saw some wounded this evening at No. 12, who say there were three very violent counter-attacks and that they had to give way, with loss of all the ground gained. We may pay for this to-morrow.
Friday, Sept. 28th
2 a.m. We've had a day of it, and though it's late I must put some of it down, lest the next twenty-four hours crowd it all out. We have covered since 9 a.m. yesterday twelve head cases, which owing to multiples constitute a total of about twenty more or less major wounds---our record so far.
It was a little hard "sticking" to-night for it sounded as though the world were exploding---almost noisy enough for a field ambulance. At one time a munition dump went off near by---at another a Fritz came over, was caught and held in the searchlights for three minutes by the watch---Zink timed him---and in the midst of Archie flashes one could see his tracer bullets as he methodically swept the road with his machine gun. Soon a lot of bombs were dropped near by---Proven perhaps---and every now and then the big French naval guns would go off and rattle the operating hut as though they were next door instead of a mile or so away. As I say, it was hard sticking while so much was going on outside in the clear moonlight night; but we had our work cut out for us. Just as we were leaving we saw brought in the victims of one of the bombs---from near Vlamertynghe---three officers among them.
All manner of stories are flying about and it is difficult to learn what really has happened. First we had all our objectives; then we were driven back all along the line; then, according to some, we were back again. It all depends on what a man happened to be doing or seeing when he was hit. A wounded officer told me this afternoon, with tears, that his men---new recruits---had actually run.
Blake has just come into the mess where I am writing, with the tale that the men are seeing red---that they were driven out of many places but regained them later to-day, and have found all the wounded they left behind bayoneted in the interval. There'll be the devil to pay and not many prisoners will be seen. While Gil was dressing his pet Boche officer this afternoon I asked him what he thought of the war. He looked scornfully at me and made no reply. I then asked him what he thought of the Kaiser. He rolled up his eyes, put his hand on his heart, and said solemnly: "Unser Kaiser---Unser Kaiser." These are hard people to beat.
There was a perfect succession of cases and we managed to turn them off more rapidly than ever before; no less carefully, I hope. I remember my surprise at one of them, a queer-looking chap named Rifleman O. Butler, from Banbury Tutwell (sic), where he works in a brick yard, peace times. He had an awful-looking, not to say evil-smelling, gutter wound. While novocainizing his scalp I as usual tried to make him talk, and asked him his division and regiment. "Oxford Bucks; 20th Division, sir." "How can that be, they went over on the 20th, a week ago?" "I went over with 'em, sir." He actually did, and has been lying for a week in a shell hole, until, during the attack of yesterday, someone found him. He said he had eaten nothing, for his bully beef went "agin" him and he wasn't hungry---indeed thought he had been out of his head for two or three of the days. Then when it got dark he used to holler, but no one came.
A stolid soul is O. Butler from Banbury. He doesn't seem to think his escapade anything out of the ordinary and I haven't a doubt he will recover from his ugly wound---his kind does. I asked him if he was in the barrage of yesterday morning and whether he knew there was an offensive under way. No, he just heard a terrible rattle and crawled up to the edge of his shell hole and waved his hand: some stretcher-bearers came along and took him away-that's all he knows.
2 p.m. They got the No. 29 aerodrome on the "Pop"-Proven road last night, about half an hour after Gil and I passed there. Seventeen wounded, the Squadron Major among them; he with four others died here during the night. One of the R.A.F. officers from No. 29, who came in to see the survivors this morning, said that some daredevil had gone up from No. 70, which is alongside of them, to meet the Hun---the first one over this area after sunset. They were showing a green flare to give him his bearings and the C.O. of 29 had stepped out of the dugout, where they were at mess with some guests, to protest, for it was an equally good guide to the Hun. He got a bad G.S.W. multiple with a torn spleen, and Alexander's effort to save him, when they got him in here, was too late.
In fact, it was such a bad night that our cases this morning are much agitated and upset---all begging to be sent down. No operations; dressings only. Some of the cranio-cerebro-facial cases are doing remarkably well under Dakin's dichloramine-T.
7.30 p.m. The transitions over here are quite unbelievable. This morning hell fire was loose---much worse than on the days preceding July 31st---the bombardment, though six miles away, was so heavy that the operating room shook with it---drum fire hardly describes it, for that suggests interruption of sound, whereas this was practically continuous from the time I awoke till about noon. Repelling a German counter, I judge---possibly our men going over. This evening by contrast is absolutely quiet except for the faint strumming of some M.O. in the mess, on an old piano, wangled from Dunkerque, and the occasional clatter of someone's footsteps on our noisy duckboards which sound like a sort of muffled xylophone---if that's the name of the instrument. Mess call. .
Along the Proven road toward Dunkerque, two miles north-west of here, is a pretty village called Rousbrugge, stringing out along the usual main street, with its town hall, shops, church, and market place; then a fascinating canal with lazy barges and poilus in horizon-blue fishing from them. Others lean over the bridge which separates Rousbrugge from the next village, called Beveren, and watch a long-haired black dog plunge into the water to retrieve a stick thrown out for him. In the little market place plays a French military band to accompany a soldier with a fine baritone, who sings a spirited song.
All this is a scant two miles away from Mendinghem---and a Flanders as different from our khaki-colored area as the sky is from the soil. I had never been in this direction before, and this afternoon walked over with Fred Murphy, who is with a team next door at No. 64. We got our pictures taken by a little Belgian woman in Beveren. She has a brother living in Detroit and therefore is proud to say a few words in English. So here on our immediate left is the 1st French Army, with their best fighting corps, the 36th and the Chasseurs Alpins (the "blue devils") under General Antoine, with headquarters at Rexpoede; and a fine-looking lot of men they are---every other one, it would seem, wearing a Croix de Guerre.
An auxiliaire who proved to be a Miss Tredwell of American Ambulance days breezed up saying she was at H.O.E. No. 34 over Crombeke way; also that in Rousbrugge was a Franco-American Ambulance supported by a Mrs. Burdon-Turner; and there she escorted us for tea. At this Centre Chirurgical they take only grands blessés---an interesting place, completely under cover in well-spaced Adrian huts and with ample room in contrast to our crowded British C.C.S.'s. This Burdon-Turner Ambulance No. 1 has attached to it an Hôpital Chirurgical Mobile No. 1--the identical mobile outfit originated by Marcille and perfected by Gosset that I saw in Paris in May 1915.
The Médecin Chef, Le Normant by name, showed us the chief features of the place, including his device for resuscitation tables and the splendid X-ray equipment and bacteriological laboratory. We hie ourselves home arguing over the comparative merits of the Tommy and the poilu, but agree that if Joe Flint's Yale Ambulance is built on the lines of these mobile units of which the French now have eighty, he will have done a great service. I spoke about them with some enthusiasm at dinner, but my British neighbors showed faint interest.
Col. Ellery, C.O. of No. 13 C.C.S., is a temporary guest here, as Elverdinghe proved too hot a place for them. He was in Gallipoli---at Anzac. Awful experience---the blizzard, the flies, the dysentery, and constant exposure to shellfire. His C.C.S. is shown in the picture in Masefield's book.
Wednesday, 3rd Oct.
11 p.m. It has been our "taking-in" day and we have been moderately busy with cases from bombs and shells, largely in back areas. Nevertheless, the information is abroad that there is to be an attack to-morrow in which only two 5th Army corps will participate. This, however, may be preliminary to a widespread engagement---weather permitting---from the sea to the Lys, for the 4th Army has become rejuvenated since its setback in July. Meanwhile the 5th Army is shortening its front and the 2nd on our right may participate in the effort to straighten the line south of Ypres, where, from the slowness of the advance, it is now so indented the enemy can enfilade our positions.
Young Capt. Walker, the M.O. of the 2/ Scots Guards, came for me at seven to dine with Ross at their present billet in some field "a twenty minutes' walk" from here near Heydebeek. A dark cloudy night, we got lost in French territory and kept getting challenged; so it was 8.30 when we reached the camp, to find Ross and a Lieut. Menzies sitting under a queer little umbrella tent with dinner waiting for us. They are going in to-morrow for their part of the big push, and Ross said that the next two or three weeks will make it clear whether or not the British could have done it without America's participation. They and the French are to coöperate in an attack on Houthuist Forest, which is probably a badly infested spot.
Ross had just come from Calais, where he passed the night of the raid; more than 100 bombs dropped in the town, with much damage and many casualties despite the defensive preparations with 30 or more planes on patrol. The raiders came two or three at a time from varying directions, and only three of them were brought down, and the roads out of Calais were packed with refugees.
There was much talk of the war and the international situation; of England's refusal in 1914 to let a million and a half Japanese participate on this front; of the characteristics of the Hun, and hate, and the dead and their gruesome appearance---a skeleton in a uniform and helmet---the crows, the frogs, and the maggots make short work of a dead body. Gloomy talk for people the night before an attack. Meanwhile there were other dinners in various officers' huts, and Pipe Major Ross with two or three others played again. I asked the name of one particularly mournful tune and was told it was "The McIntosh Lament." Very appropriate to the evening, for it was blowing up cold and wet.
Friday, Oct. 5th
2.30 a.m. Zero was 6 a.m. yesterday---cloudy and drizzly. Morning report of 5th Army addressed to 29th and 4th Guards, 11th, 48th, 18th, 9th, 63rd, and 58th Divisions. "Attack appears to be everywhere progressing satisfactorily."
R. Bastianelli turned up in the morning. With Soltau, took him after lunch to see the D.M.S. and then to Dosinghem, where very actively at work. Got back here at four, when lying cases began to come in. Operating till now---belated owing to necessity of reopening the Anzac Padre's extensive temporal wound because of a secondary hemorrhage, which I finally secured. Bastianelli stuck it manfully to the end.
Poured cats and dogs all the late afternoon, but clearing now. Apparently the heavy rain held off until most of objectives gained. Second Army has sidestepped and with the 48th and 4th Divisions has taken over the area previously held at right of 5th Army by the 5th Corps. Rumor that the 29th Division has taken Poelcappelle---also that the attack opened just a few minutes after an extensive counter had been launched by two or three divisions of Boches who were caught in the open by our barrage and wiped out. Indeed they have been making successive counter-attacks during the past week with fresh divisions, which show how loath they are to give up these ridges.
10 p.m. I have just left the mess, where is going on, around a little stove with its first winter's fire, a lively discussion on religion between Bastianelli, the R. C. Padre Coffey, Wheeler, an Irishman, the C.O., Roper, and some others. Time for me to get out and make up for last night's short hours. We have been busy, but everything is cleaned up for the time being. No great numbers of wounded, at least in this 5th Army area. Rémy, however, now in the area of the 2nd Army, has had its hands full.
Dressings all day long---this lot of cases doing exceptionally well. Only 2 or 3 thousand casualties in the 5th Army area, I believe; only 11,000 in the 2nd Army---very good considering the importance of the positions taken, for we are now astride of the ridge east of Broodseinde and can look off over a flat plain for thirty miles in which the enemy must now wallow.
All this much clearer to me after seeing the large topographical maps at the D.M.S. headquarters near Cassel, where Bastianelli and I dined and spent the night. Quite like old friends---General Porter, Capt. Stirling, Soltau, Gordon-Watson, Myer Coplans, a newly attached boy named Patterson, whose room we had, and Col. Chopping. It came out that Chopping was responsible for naming Mendinghem, Dosinghem, and Bandagehem; the latter was to have been Kuringhem; also Choppinghem was suggested but discarded.
A very delightful dinner with these 2nd Army people, in an old château at the foot of the small hill just east of Cassel, with much showing of maps and discussing of the Italian situation and our own. Coplans's stories of Ypres, of which he has made a close study, were particularly interesting to me---the place built on an alluvial plain where several streams meet and now run under the town---or did. All this with the building of the Cloth Hall in the 13th century when the place had some 400,000 people. Then the cloth trade shifted, I believe, to Bruges, and Ypres shrank greatly in size so that to-day's shells turn up and expose the foundations of buildings in a wide area outside its modern boundaries. The place, like others in the area, was walled and fortified in the 17th century by Vauban, who made the walls from the soil dug out of the moat-massive walls which have stood up against these three years of shelling---honeycombed with casemates in which thousands of civilians took shelter during the first winter, and in which thousands of Tommies now do likewise.
The operation of October 4th extended from Tower Hamlets, on the Menin Road, north to Langemarck, a distance of about eight miles. A long strip of the main ridge centring from Zonnebeke to Broodseinde, at the neck of the ridge, was taken by English, Australians, and New Zealanders. The Australians were in the centre and took Broodseinde; the New Zealanders on the left took Gravenstafel, the Abraham Heights, and possibly Poelcappelle.
This "battle of Broodseinde," if so it comes to be called, is probably the most important British victory of the year. A powerful enemy counter-attack by fresh divisions from the east was nipped in the bud, and Bruges can now be seen from our positions on the western slope of the ridge. All the Gheluvelt region except the short spur on which ruined Gheluvelt stands, and the low spur with the village of Becelaere, are in the British hands, and they are within 2500 yards of Passchendaele village. Moreover, having Poelcappelle gives a good footing toward the outflanking of Houthuist Forest. There are said to be over 4000 prisoners, and at Rémy alone there were 700 German wounded.
Monday, Oct. 8th. Mendinghem
10 p.m. I would never have believed that weather could be so atrocious. I have just returned to this forlorn camp after 24 hours in Camiers. A howling wind and rain all the way, and here everything is wet, sodden, and cold. At Proven just now we ran into a brigade of dripping troops going to the Front, and we were held up for half an hour while the poor fellows trudged past, followed by their kitchens and limbers. It was almost as bad going down on Sunday. This certainly is not a propitious time to hit the Germans again.
Wednesday, October 10th
2.30 a.m. They went over, despite the weather, at 5.20 (winter time) this (yesterday) morning. The bad weather has broken and to-night it is cold, still, and clear as a bell, with a waning moon. Col. Soltau, who came in this afternoon, said there was a powwow at G.H.Q. at midnight, some opposing any attempt to advance in such unpromising weather. The men have come in very cold and muddy, but highly elated at the success of the attack. The Boches seem to be on the run; many prisoners taken---one whole battalion surrendered in a body, it's rumored.
Our cases mostly walking wounded again and the heads not particularly bad ones. We have just finished a Yorkshireman of the 4th W. Ridings, with two separate penetrating wounds, and it took a long time. He says he's in the 49th Division, and we've seen men from the Guards, the 29th, 48th, 11th, 9th, and 4th. Nevertheless this is not supposed to be the final big push over a twenty-one-mile front. The Guards and the 29th have been in together this time and a wounded officer of the 29th has given me his dirty barrage-map which shows their objectives and the times, with a six-minute wait almost every 50 yards, and from zero to the crest a six-and-a-half-hour continuous barrage. The French participated, and report taking Mangelaere.
Thursday, Oct. 11th
1 a.m. Not so late as last night, but done to a frazzle after our final case. Having made my notes on the man's field-medical card, I summoned the clerk, who didn't show any signs of intelligence until I called him "clark," when he shambled up and I asked him, "if he could read my notes, to please copy them in his operating-room book." He assumed an expression of going over the parapet and began: "Long gee tudinal sinews signdrome"---I gave it up and copied them myself.
This second day after a battle is always to be dreaded---bad cases, many of them after lying out a day or two. The news does not sound quite so good to-day---a German counter and the Guards driven back from Poelcappelle. We shall have to wait for a chance newspaper to learn what happened day before yesterday. To-day Horrax gathered in from a Boche prisoner a copy of the Frankfurter Zeitung of October 8th! ---the most recent news we've had, for the C.O. as usual has taken the Times to his Armstrong hut.
It's been a cold raw day with rain in spots. When I woke early this morning I heard the hum of a flock of planes, and getting up poked my head out of the tent and saw some eight fighting planes hovering over the aerodrome very high, and circling irregularly about. Suddenly first one and then another turned sideways and fluttered down, spinning like a leaf, for a thousand feet or more, and then flattened out. A most astounding spectacle, but one to which we shall doubtless all become more accustomed as time goes by. We sailed from New York five months ago to-day.
7 p.m. Another day of dressings. I recall asking one of the Parrys---we have two of them in adjoining beds---how he was feeling to-day. "Tray bong," says Parry. And this is the customary reply, even when things don't look the best to us. All round, the Tommy is an amazing fellow and only grouses over trifles---particularly his food, which is exceptionally good. Mr. Wilson's high-sounding phrase, "To the last man and the last dollar, etc." is met by "Ole Bill," who wants to know who'll take his rations up to the last man.
The wounded New Zealand Padre turns out to be the senior Chaplain of the corps, who has made it his practice always to go over with the men---but this time he happened to be back with the artillery! "There was a good deal of Fritz's 'heavy stuff' coming over; two or three batteries had been hit; the men were beginning to get the wind up; I was trying to keep them steady when something happened and I just settled down to the ground." That's all he can remember till yesterday, when he found himself in the officers' ward here and wondered why he couldn't see out of his left eye.
Fred Murphy has just been in from 64. Wants to know how I manage to keep warm. I don't. The oil stove I wangled from Camiers Monday is defective according to my batman, who is perhaps better at polishing leather and brass buttons for the English than in coaxing an oil stove to burn for an American.
11 p.m. The Tuesday battle---the ninth or possibly the tenth since we came up here on July 24th---started in with the usual downpour, on waterlogged ground, over a front from S.E. of Broodseinde to St. Jansbeke, about a mile N.E. of Bixschoote. To the right, if I gather correctly, the Australians went over the crest of the ridge; in the centre the Lancashire Territorials moved toward Passchendaele and Poelcappelle, recapturing the latter; on the left, the 19th Division and the Guards, coöperating with the French, reached the outskirts of Houthuist Forest. Marlborough once said: "Whoever holds Houthuist Forest holds Flanders." In 1914 the Belgians flooded a vast area to save the last remnant of their country. It now makes the strongest defense against the Allies' efforts toward its liberation.
Word has come to expect a busy day to-morrow. It is again drizzling, though nothing like the evening before this last battle.
October 12th, Friday
Imagine a brigade plodding toward the line in pitch-dark, a cold wind, a downpour of rain. They start to move up at six in the evening---a trip which should take three hours. Stumbling over impossible roads, in impossible mud, heavy with their packs, this trip takes eleven hours! Exhausted, they reach the broken area where a semblance of a line is held; and half an hour later, while still dark---at 5.25 to be exact---they go over behind their barrage toward the enemy and probable death.
Three of them get on together about 500 yards toward some obscure objective---they didn't quite know where or the name of it---nor care much. All three get wounded from the same shell and find a temporary refuge at the edge of one of the many craters. It was half full of water and the sloping banks were of sticky mud. One is drowned very soon. The survivor, who is now here, held the second, his chum, who was badly hit, out of the quicksand and water for three hours, and then from sheer fatigue had to let him go, and saw him drown before his eyes. This is not an exceptional story by any manner of means.
They went over again, in short, this morning---worse than any morning we have seen, if that is possible, and it is only three days since the last. I've had a sergeant of the Irish Guards from Cork, with a skull thicker than a Baltimore darky's and no depression of the inner table despite my expectations. The Cork skull is mightier than the tin hat. Another sergeant of the 2nd Scots Guards---a machine gunner---who said they were on the edge of Houthuist Forest where he saw my friend Captain Walker in the thick of it with his bearers. He had much praise for the regimental M.O.'s. Then there were some of the Household Battalion attached to the 4th Division, which therefore must have been in; ditto some of the Black Watch and I believe the 34th and 17th.
It's hard to tell how well they have done. Certainly there must have been a setback after Tuesday's advance, for some of them spoke of again retaking Poelcappelle, which means that the Guards must have been pushed out of it. Others spoke of being near the ridge, but whether it was Passchendaele or not they were not clear. Apparently the Germans came out to meet them this time, and there was hell to pay---waist deep in mud. One wonders how men could long survive even were there no fighting. One of my morning's cases had been lying out since Tuesday's battle---and I thought it was damp and cold in my tent and under blankets last night!
Saturday, Oct. 13th
12 m. We have been busy through an encouraging surgical day, with three successful magnet extractions. Horrax is just finishing up the last case---a perforating wound through the left hemisphere. The casualties of this last battle must have been heavy, for the wounded keep coming in---so fast that we have been wondering whether there might not have been another attack to-day. The weather continues to be atrocious---certainly rain fifteen hours out of the last sixteen-and a gale of wind.
This morning the "pre-op" was full of cases for us. Here is my list starting the day:
Winter, E. 860594. 7th Borderers, 17th Div.---penetrating cerebellar. Sitting down. Helmet on. Blown into the air. Unconscious for a time, does not know how long. Later crept back to a trench---legs wobbly-dizzy, etc.
Robinson, H. 14295. 1st So. African Inf., 9th Div.---penetrating rt. temporal. Wounded yesterday about 6 p.m. Knocked down but not unconscious. Helmet penetrated. Walked 20 yards---dizzy---vomited---numbness left arm, &c. No transport until this morning owing to mud.
Matthew, R. 202037. 8th Black Watch-penetrating right parietal; hernia cerebri. Thinks he was wounded three days ago, etc. A fine big Jock.
Hartley, J. 26th M.G.C., 8th Div. Wounded at 11 last night, not unconscious. Walked to dressing station. Thinks they had reached their objective, &c.
Bogus. 3rd N.Z. Rifle Brigade, 1st Anzac. Frontal gutter wound. In line for two nights before show began-awful conditions. Had gone 1000 yards when wounded, &c.
Beauie. 7th Seaforths, 9th Div. Stretcher-bearer, wounded while bringing out his third man---4 to a stretcher---300 yards from advanced line, &c. Occipital penetrating (?).
Medgurck. 11th Royal Scots, 9th Div. Multiple wounds, including head, &c.
Dobbe. Household Batt'n., 4th Div. Wounded near Poelcappelle sometime yesterday afternoon. Adm. here 7 p.m. In "resus" since. Severe. For X-ray, etc.
Very difficult to know what has been going on-no news to-day, no newspapers. It would appear that we have not done so well. This is about the fifth major battle within a month.
Sunday, Oct. 14th
6 p.m. I asked an officer of the Oxfords who was here to lunch why they did not postpone Friday's offensive owing to the storm.
He said such a thing is impossible---it would take two days to check an attack of this magnitude. When once staged and the time set the scale of the operation is so enormous it has to come off regardless of the weather---which certainly seems always to favor the Hun.
Friday's battle was on a six-mile front, with the heaviest fighting between Passchendaele and Poelcappelle, where the line had been pushed back on Tuesday evening. The principal obstacles to the advance are not so much the enemy and his elaborate concrete defenses as the wet terrain. Men who are trying to struggle on, waist deep, in a morass full of shell-hole ponds into which they can slip and drown make an easy target for machine guns.
11 p.m. To Sunday supper at 8.15 with Harris and the R.E.'s in Proven, through much mud, but very pleasant while there. They tell me another push is expected to-morrow. Fritz is panicky about it and has been over here often this morning to see what is going on, and often to-night to leave his card.
Monday, Oct. 15th
The raiders yesterday did much damage and got a lot of men---200 of the Canadian labor battalion at one clip, so that our last night's "take in" was mostly bombed cases.
6 p.m. To-day's expected attack did not come off---unfortunately so in view of the favorable weather. It has been a cold but a beautiful day, with great masses of billowy white cumulous clouds about which many planes could be seen, and I have chanced to see several squadrons of six or eight go over. The birds are migrating. I never saw an actual swarm of them before---wheeling and circling over a little wood just to the west of us---thousands of them, like a flock of locusts. Suddenly another swarm would approach and join the main one, and so the swarm grew---mobilizing for a flight south. Were I an aviator I would join them. I have been in to No. 64 to tea with Caning and Briggs and asked Wolstenholme what they were---field-fares, he said. Sampson at our mess says starlings.
The British papers contain very little about last Friday's battle---possibly for a very good reason. The 5th Army as a "thrusting army" seems to be "in rather bad," though we do not talk about it much---the 16th and 36th and Guards so broken up and decimated they have had to be sent out altogether. All this may account for the gradual taking over of our area by the 2nd Army, with the resultant lessening of our work at No. 46.
A letter from the D.G. requesting me to lunch with him tomorrow regarding Base Hospital No. 5 affairs.
Tuesday, Oct. 16
6 p.m. En route, Hesdin-Paris. Some French civilians in the corridor vigorously discussing the American automobile industry---an English staff officer opposite, whose sandwiches and chocolate I have just shared---two Belgians asleep in the other corners. The light is too feeble for reading---one's fingers almost too cold for scribbling---a poor choice.
A cold ride this morning from No. 46 to Hesdin, where I arrived a half hour late. The roads so packed with troops till we neared St. Omer that it was slow going. Between Watou and Steenvoorde a continuous line of R.F.A. limbers going up; between Fruges and Hesdin a continuous line of cavalry---coming out, alas! They could not be used. Mostly Indian horsemen, many lancers, the Deccan Horse among them, from all parts of India.(16) I was in the back of the ambulance by this time to get out of the wind, and my impression of them was one of turbans and teeth. Riding into the wind and dust---for the roads have dried off back here---they curled back their upper lips into a sort of snarl such as a monkey makes. The Tommies with them had their mouths shut. There was a young American M.O. "casual" riding with the field-ambulance section, who eagerly saluted when he saw my uniform. A whole cavalry division covering twenty-five miles of road, according to their A.D.M.S., who took lunch with us at Hesdin.
General Sloggett very anxious to know whether we are to remain with the British or be transferred; so are we. If we are to remain, I am to take charge of all the cranial work of the B.E.F., and go about from hospital to hospital, demonstrating and instructing and learning. If we are not to remain, it is not worth while moving us to No. 13.
Thursday, Oct. 18
2 a.m. En route, Camiers. The man next me has wakened and sneezed. So have I. The rest are dead to the world---a French sous-lieutenant of the 10th Regiment wearing a Croix de Guerre, a French colonial in khaki with a sphinx on his collar, a French colonel, and a nondescript in black whom I take for a Padre, curled up in a corner, and the sneezer. All the world has a coryza ---in Mendinghem, in Hesdin, in Paris. Paris again a confusion, and after the first glow of their arrival the Americans show signs of discontent and disagreement. Many of the people over here really haven't enough to do, and as they are unaccustomed to authority as the military sees it, they grouse. There is such a thing as the soldier's cheerful grousing over trifles which is often amusing and obscures greater miseries. This grumbling at the Base has a different note.
Reached Paris in time to find a dinner being given for Colonel -now General-Bradley, by a group composed largely of members of our old Clinical Society who are over here. I cannot believe that he will long survive in his present difficult job as Chief Surgeon for the A.E.F. Just now a peculiar mix-up between the Red Cross and the Army, made worse by Jim Perkins and Murphy getting into U.S. instead of R.C. uniforms. No longer possible on short notice to get such things as warm underwear for hospital nurses by requisitioning the R.C., which has them in stock. Requests must go through regular army channels, with the goods possibly delivered sometime next spring.
The next morning to Tuffier's hospital on the rue de la Pompe, where he demonstrated some thoracic cases; then an assistant told of their studies of wound cicatrization and the laws that govern it; and after this T. himself gave a most instructive account of the present hospital organization in the Service de Santé.(17)
October 19th, Mendinghem
6 p.m. It's embarrassing to receive "thanks awfully for cheering us up" when you know that you are really not an optimist inside no matter what you may try to show outside. Ross, on the other hand, not only is a professional soldier with a longer service in the battalion than anyone else, but he is a professional optimist as well. He has had it from a staff officer, who told him straight from someone else who knows, that there would be Peace by Christmas, and so on.
Perhaps it's his cows, for the 2/ Scots Guards, as I may have said before, have real milk, and hence it's particularly pleasant to have tea with them. There are three cows which go everywhere-- -except over the top---with the battalion; they were commandeered in this Ypres sector just three years ago this month, their owners having taken flight. Meanwhile, there have been two calves and another is expected, worth many gallons of petrol. To-morrow at 4 a.m. when the Guards move back to St. Omer for a rest, the cows go along in a boxcar attached to the officers' train, bearing the label---"horses, 3, officer's."
Capt. Walker (who after all wasn't killed) and the Padre dropped in on me at four, saying they were out in a rest billet a couple of miles from here---near Bandagehem---and wouldn't I walk over and have tea with Ross. Moreover, the pipes were playing at No. 63 and we could stop and hear them, which we did. Very fine it was and stirring---Pipe Major Ross and eleven other strapping pipers, with five drummers in addition, all in their Royal Stuart tartan. They played while marching and going through simple manoeuvres. The pipes for a march or a dance!
I had never visited No. 63 before (Col. Lyons, C.O.), though it is a scant two miles along the railroad track to the north. They take only the sick; and No. 62 near by takes the shell-shock cases. The Guards were encamped about a mile back straddling a crossroad, and Ross's umbrella tent was in a wet pasture---good for the cows---beside a pond, doubtless very pretty in summer.
There we had the milk in our tea and they told me about their part in the action, and reaching the edge of the wood. Walker lost eight out of his thirty-two bearers, which he thinks not so bad, and the battalion had 200 casualties---not so bad either---one must be an optimist. Pessimist me; knowing that they had gone in with only 500---for they leave 500 now in reserve as a nucleus in case they are all wiped out---adds "of course not so bad." Walker's bearers got along only four to a stretcher-two miles along the tape in what becomes a trench, with mud up to the knees before you get to the duckboards---after that it's fine going. They are to be replaced by the 35th Division---Sherwood Foresters, Lancs, Oxfords, and others---by "misgeeded Englishmen," in short.
Saturday, the 20th Oct. 10 p.m.
A full operating day, Briggs and Caning from No. 64 looking on. Five perforative cases, a Lancashire Fusilier, a Northumberland ditto; a man from the Tank Corps hit while on a salvage expedition trying to rescue a mired male tank; an artilleryman from. a siege battery; also a boy hit while taking up rations across No Man's Land during the night---scattered cases therefore. Our "take in" was slow---less than the 200 in 24 hours. .
The Boches have taken the island of Oesel and with its capture now control the Gulf of Riga, the Baltic, and with it the Russian fleet; but there are rumors of mutinies in the German Navy, which is somewhat cheering.
Sunday the 21st
A beautiful autumnal Sunday. Clopton over in the morning from Rémy to look on at our dressings. In the afternoon to Dosinghem to see Revere's grave and meet the new sergeant who is caring for it. It's dreadful to see that place grow---a thousand burials in the past three weeks. A service going on---a Padre, a Tommy at attention at the foot of the grave, a body in a blanket barely showing above the surface of the muddy water in the bottom of the ditch.
A notice is posted to the effect that no one is to absent himself from the camp after 10 a.m. to-morrow---a new way of announcing an attack. There have been many rumors and heavy firing every morning for the past three days, but less discussion than usual concerning it---a good thing. It is said that a railroad has been laid as far as St. Jean. May this weather hold!
Chapter Five, concluded
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