Sunday, Nov. 11th. Boulogne
Six months ago to-day our eager party sailed from New York. Eleven days ago we assembled---those still attached to the Unit---in Boulogne. The transfer has been in the air since June and we were promised at least ten days' notice, but the order came like a bolt from the blue. We may possibly have to thank Cadorna's weak 2nd Army for this; for the Boche, freed from the need of holding the Russian line, joined the Austrians and broke through, claiming almost 200,000 Italian prisoners and countless guns---the British got theirs away in time. All this meant urgent help from the French and British---the hurried sending of troops together with medical units. Here this large affair touches us, for our predecessors at No. 13 General were chosen to go on short notice and we must supplant them, which we managed to do in a two days' period.
On the morning of the first, after a parting snapshot at the 46 C.C.S. group, Gil, Miss Gerrard, Pte. Clifford, and I, with all our enlarging equipment---for one's personal possessions in some curious fashion grow apace---started by ambulance, as we anticipated to Camiers, stopping for lunch with the D.M.S. 2nd Army people at Quaestraete by Cassel---then on to Boulogne, which we reached after dark. By mere chance we found the Unit already moving up and taking over.
So we were dumped here; and though I went down to Camiers the next day to see if there were any loose ends I might pick up, the place was completely evacuated, a new British unit having taken over our supplies. Thus No. 11 General with all its interests and discomforts, its bombing and its sump pits, has become an episode of the past, and I looked sadly on Graham's neglected little flower beds with patches of mignonette still bravely blossoming about the margin of my long-unoccupied tent.
The days since then have been full of a number of things---my chief concern being to keep the group together and have them continue to mess in company. Some had already broken loose and engaged rooms before I got here. To induce a collection of war-weary individuals to live amicably together longer than six months is no light task; but the Unit and its esprit de corps come first. So, after rustling round, a small unoccupied villa named "Saint Joseph" was found on the water front a few minutes' walk from the Casino, and adjacent to a place where thirteen of our predecessors had lived. In the villa, Cutler, Horrax, Morton, William Potter, and I promptly deposited ourselves on a six months' lease; and then there was a struggle for the larger house, with interviews and inventories and papers to sign, and a new Mess President---George Denny this time---and a new range to buy, and I know not what all. But we have secured about twelve occupants, and our five---for we mess with them---mean a fair proportion of the officers. They had their first breakfast there this morning and should be reasonably happy.
Here we have engaged an old bonne---a "Goody" I presume, Élise, by name---who carts water for us, gives us breakfast, and tidies up. So far we have cooked our own suppers from the Campbell's soups, Libby's corned-beef hash, cocoa, etc., which come in our parcels---chiefly mine with the green string---from home. Meanwhile gas men have provided us with les becs nouveaux, if anyone knows what that means, so that we are becoming moderately well illuminated, and soon we'll get sheets and pillow cases from the hospital supplies and have something between us and our blankets and be really civilized once more.
Meanwhile many people lend a hand: Sir Arthur Lawley, the Red Cross Commissioner who immediately purchases for us---at 450 pounds!---the Casino's second-rate X-ray outfit which Captain Gamlin had wholly dismantled; Col. Blaylock, the Canadian Commissioner, with Phoebe Wright in his office, through whom I got this house; Sir Almroth Wright, who takes me into his comfortable billet where, with Freeman, Colebrook, and Fleming, his assistants, I stayed for three days until we got established, meanwhile using abundantly his expansive limousine for errands. Col. Elliott and "the deaf one" at No. 7 General are eager to help; also the McGill people at No. 3 Canadian in the old Jesuit College at the top of the town on the Calais road, where are old friends, Jack McCrae, Lewis Refôrd, Birkett the C.O., and Elder, who is soon to succeed him; the Chief Ordnance officers' place, where a D.A.Q.M.G. tells me how I can wangle this particular expansive "table, field service," I am writing on; the Church Army Hut with some nice women in charge---Mrs. Dyson, Miss Haldane, Mrs. Northcote, and some others who will permit us to gather there for tea at 4.30 until we can get settled; also very useful to us was Miss Fitzgerald, our Edith Cayeu nurse, long in service at the Casino. She, having a perfect knowledge of the country and speaking Italian like a native, is the only one of the outgoing unit who is not "to proceed forthwith to Italy."
The weather has been good, so different from Flanders, only one rainy day, and that was Thursday the 6th, the day of a final Flanders battle---I've almost forgotten about them since leaving No. 46. This Italian business with its second Hun invasion has eclipsed all else; and the Russian situation is almost worse, Kerensky now a fugitive and the Soviets in power with "an immediate peace" their slogan. These are the darkest days for Les Alliés certainly since the Marne.
Wednesday, Nov. 14th
10 a.m. En route Paris à Boulogne. On Monday afternoon, Sargent, who has been anxious to see us operate before his departure for home, rushed in a poor Canadian from No. 8 Stationary whom Nature had treated badly by giving him a cleft palate, and the Boche had added insult by a penetrating wound of the skull. One of the type of cases I fear Sargent and Holmes and I are going to disagree about, for they favor leaving them alone. At all events there was a large stinking abscess in the temporal lobe and under local anæsthesia this was found and opened, and the missile easily extracted with the magnet.
The same evening Sargent gave a farewell dinner at Foquet's in Ambleteuse to "brass hats" and others. I was included---among the others---and Sir Almroth took me out and also sent me in again, for I had to leave early in order to get the 9.06 p.m. for Paris. Very pleasant, but after the soup I pocketed an apple and in Wright's car beat it for the train. It was a scramble; and I passed an unbelievably shivery night---not having had the forethought to take a pillow and a blanket.
One really should be an hour ahead of time for a train these unhappy days. I tried to be when we changed this morning but, even so, barely got a place, which I suspect may belong to the Portuguese officer who is glowering in the corridor, though he left nothing recognizable here to indicate his intended occupancy. I should like to ask him, but as there are Russians---one with enormous white whiskers down to his centre of gravity---Belgians, with their silly little tassels hanging from the peak of their caps---doubtless on the principle of dangling a wisp of straw before a reluctant mule---a dark blue French aviator who, after reading La Vie Parisienne, is now sunk in a novel entitled Ma P'tite Femme---a middle-aged French lady and her husband encased in a traveling shawl and the morning journaux---I 'm shy about asking him. There are some more of his kind farther down the corridor.
Traveling is a matter of sauve qui peut these days. But I wonder what the Portuguese really is thinking about, and these Russians too. They are over here, the Russians, several divisions of them I believe, eating up food and doing nothing. The men won't fight of course and, worse, won't work. Meanwhile Kerensky and Korniloff seem to have embraced again, probably with kisses, and together are marching on Petrograd and the Soviets.
One sometimes wonders what it's all about and what indeed we are all over here for. Some kaleidoscopic turn may alter our destinies at any minute: what we want---we Allies---is unity of purpose, and leaders, or, better still, one leader. An Allied War Council of three is in the air, but Cadorna refuses to serve Lloyd George, who is about the only minister anywhere who has been in the war from the beginning, talks plain when he says: "With the whole united strength of our people we shall win---but we shall only just win." And British troops are pouring over the Alp and French are already there, while the Hun is known to be planing to break the Western Front before spring.
Meanwhile the Flemish farmer on whose land No. 46 C.C.S. was laid out---and I presume it's true of other farmers elsewhere---doesn't really care. He philosophizes that he and his forbears long before him have tilled the same acres, as will his progeny long after him. It has not made much difference to any of them, what governments have come and gone---now Roman, now Spanish, now French, now German, now Belgian, now English---nor what wars brought them; and for that matter he usually manages to make a little more money at such times---as in the case of the pigs at No. 46 fattening on crusts from the officers' mess. Is his the vox populi, or is Albert's? Julius Cæsar said the Belgæ are by far the bravest because they are most distant from the culture and civilization of Rome---furthermore they are neighbors to the Germans across the Rhine, with whom they constantly wage war.
My object in Paris was to attend a meeting of a newly appointed research committee called by Alex Lambert.(24) He unfortunately had gone on a trip to Italy. Also another meeting was scheduled for the earlier afternoon, of the Tuffier group, the subject for discussion I particularly desired to hear being cranio-cerebral injuries. Gibson and I were the only ones who turned up. It appeared that the meeting had been held the week before! in conjunction with the Conférence Chirurgicale Interalliée.
In Lambert's absence our Research Committee meeting was not much---vague like everything else in Paris, and lacking punch. We finally decided to recommend an intensive study of trench fever, alone or in conjunction with the British, who possibly can lend us an entomologist in the shape of Bacot of the Lister Institute. He has had a greater familiarity with the louse family than anyone of whom we know. He takes them as boarders---food and lodging both, as a matter of fact. Strong, Swift, and I were put on a special committee of action which convened immediately, and in general it seems best: (1) for Strong to organize the study; (2) for Dr. Welch to send a bacteriologist; (3) to use Bacot if we can, or get Brues from home as an entomologist; (4) Swift to direct the clinical work; (5) to use freshly landed personnel from the medical corps as volunteer experimental material; (6) to shut them all up together where they will be free from the interventions of the devil and a C.O.; and (7) expect results as far as the louse is concerned in three months. Col. Elliott tells me there is never any difficulty getting volunteers; that when McNee tried his direct-transfusion experiments men came up like trout to a fly---one of them a baronet caught in the service as a private. He knew that if he got trench fever it meant Blighty and if he could only get home he might get a commission. He got the fever, the leave, and the commission.
Sunday, December 2nd. Boulogne
The "deaf one" came to lunch with us at the mess to-day---the food largely left over from our Thanksgiving feast---cold turkey, cider, nuts, and raisins. He was a little vague about Thanksgiving Day, said he had an idea we held it in July: Chinese firecrackers, tetanus, and the rest---had read about it in our papers. Indeed he had read a great deal of American literature---especially fond of the Saturday "Morning" Post, and of Charles, or was it James Fenimore Cooper who wrote stories about the blockade runners in the war between the North and South---or was it East and West. Never could really understand our geography very well nor our flag, haw, haw! the stripes---tried to count 'em the other day on the flag now over the Casino, but it was blowing so hard couldn't tell whether there were nine or eighteen---I reckon---don't you always say "I reckon"?
Then, after some turkey, more of the same---always struck him as peculiar that Washington was situated where it is---saw it on the map the other day---just south of British Columbia. Has a niece living in a part of New York City---perhaps we might happen to know her---an idea that she is a trained nurse and may have come over with us; but perhaps she isn't, not quite sure of her name nor the place she lives in. We suggest Brooklyn, Harlem, Hoboken, Jersey City, Coney Island, Chicago. No, don't sound familiar; but she goes over the bridge that divides New York and uses the overhead---he "reckons," that's it, the "overhead"---to get home.
And by the way, speaking of bonds, do any of us know what Ingersolls are? Watches, we suggest. No, doesn't think so, but bought some once and made a lot of money---so much he was afraid there was something phony, so he sold out---always wondered what they were and had wanted to ask some Americans.
But we couldn't be typical Americans as we didn't say "wahl neow" as they do in the Saturday "Morning" Post---great paper! Colonials always acquire a certain peculiar accent---not always disagreeable for example, there was a Miss Fitzgerald at No. 13, an Englishwoman who was born in Florence---never lost it---could always tell she was a colonial. When we told him she was an American and our Edith Cayeu nurse sent from Boston, Massachusetts, he said we must be talking about quite a different person, for his Miss Fitzgerald wore an English sister's uniform.
Then after some apple pie, which he recognizes as such from experiences with the Saturday Post, he produces his wonderful cigarette holder---which is so much a feature of his apparatus I have never commented on it before---and inserts therein an expensive "guest" cigarette proffered by Sgt. Wilson. This is too much for Cutler, who asks him to explain, which he does---it's really two cigarette holders, connected by a piece of red rubber tubing in which you put a piece of cotton---used to have a cough every year from October to May, but since using this, never. Would recommend it to anyone---makes every cigarette, good or bad, taste just alike. We hope he'll come again, and we guarantee really to teach him our language. Sometimes it's very difficult to know whether the "deaf one" is wholly an ass or just part.
The meeting with the "deaf one" spurs me, after a three weeks' lapse, to resume this journal. I hesitate to say it's been P.U.O., for this malady stands under the shadow of the louse, with whom I have made no acquaintance, so far as I 'm aware. Whatever the disorder may have been, its chief symptoms were shivery sensations, aches, and a weazened brain. The weather fortunately has been wonderful for a Picardy November---only one or two days of rain, quite warm at times, and with grass and shrubs still a brilliant green.
To-day for the first time there is a bite of winter in the air, and a half gale is driving in a pounding surf. It breaks high over the sea-wall roadway a hundred yards from here, and interrupts the traffic between Boulogne and Wimereux. We have no coal, find we are not permitted to buy kerosene in the local shops, and as the days are growing very short and the wind whistles in through the large cracks of the French windows of this summer residence--- there is little to encourage writing.
But it's a great sight-the sea-from our front windows. They face due west, overlooking the jetties through which must pass all the multitudinous craft for this port: hospital ships, packets, fishing trawlers, small sailing craft of all descriptions, hydro-aeroplanes, gray ships, camouflaged ships of every description, ships indifferent to the U-boat. But when the convoys come out morning and afternoon, Blighty-bound, two or three low-lying destroyer hounds pick them up a mile or so out and race with them across to Folkestone and bring others back, and at times the sea from our outlook is fairly alive with boats.
Not so this afternoon. A mile beyond the jetties lies the breakwater, now simply smothered by huge waves, which explode into clouds of foam that run along and envelop the lighthouse and the mast of the latest wreck that lies close by---twice the height of the lighthouse they are. There will needs be some sweeping for floating mines before free communication is opened again. It's half after three and the sun, which is getting very low, sends, through holes in the broken clouds as through the doors of a fiery furnace, shafts of light which play here and there on the spray over the sea wall, pick up a small tug which is cavorting in the open, or light up a patch on the sands beyond the road at our front.
We had quite a gay Thanksgiving Day, with a large feast for the men at two, another for the sergeants' mess at three, and in the evening at the officers' mess, where for the first time all were gathered as of old. In the afternoon the men issued a football challenge to the sergeants, which the latter did not accept, so they worked off the effects of their dinner on one another by having a strenuous game on the sands just beyond the Casino---so noisy a game, in fact, that the D.D.M.S. telephoned to the Casino to inquire the meaning of it. Capt. Wall---a Mississippian and a very good sort---was the officer of the day and received the message.
He endeavored to explain that it would not occur often, that the day merely happened to be one of our national festivals---and to make sure the D.D.M.S. would fully understand he added that it was in honor of our Declaration of Independence. The D.D.M.S. thereupon abruptly rang off.
The dull month somewhat enlivened by occasional visitors. Yesterday de Schweinitz and Mosher, majors in the M.O.R.C., over here in the interests of a "Section of Surgery of the Head" which has a subsection of Brain Surgery being organized by Charles Bagley, who has published a book "from the Office of the Surgeon General" on the War Surgery of the Nervous System. The Medical Department is to be divided into eight sections, each of which is to be represented in every hospital, and everyone is to be a Colonel, tra la---three Chiefs of Sections already appointed: Finney for Surgery, Young for Venereal Diseases, Goldthwait for Orthopædics.
To-day a visit from Archie Malloch from No. 3 Canadian, who brings a young M.O. from Hamilton, just back from a period at the Front where he was as horrified by the waste as all others seem to be---except those who can check it. A large dugout whose floor was paved with bully-beef tins---full ones---narrow side up---keeps the dugout quite dry, fine drainage between the tins. Another in which 250 pairs of rubber trench hip boots were found buried beneath a lot of litter---the men had simply found this a convenient place to take them off. And as for rifles which cost the army five pounds apiece---well, they simply lie about and rust---used as signposts, used as supports for sandbags to cover a dugout, thrown away if a man is tired---"lost" of course.
Then the everlasting question of rum; for the thrice weekly ration is only a fillip. Food becomes the medium of barter. Two drinks in an estaminet for one bully-beef tin. It had become so bad that a raid was made in two towns just as an example; and thousands of pounds' worth of canned food, and jam, and tins of biscuit, and soups, and blankets, and uniforms being cut over for the children, were exhumed from the Belgian attics and cellars---all very depressing. But worst of all are the numbers of valuable things the men discard before going into battle---poor fellows, one may well sympathize with them. If they come back at all they will be re-outfitted without a question, or else be bandaged, put in blue pyjamas, and given a Smith-Dorrien bag which will contain all they'll need in hospital.
A few days ago dined with Blaylock, the Canadian Commissioner, Cuthbert, his house mate, Colonel Elder from No. 3 Canadian, and a bearded person---Sir Edw. Stewart with British Red Cross connections. From them I learned that poor Major Moshier who took us up to Potijze that memorable afternoon was killed the next day. We seem very far away from the war and the Passchendaele ridges where they are still grimly hanging on. Taylor Young, who dropped in later this afternoon to give me all the gossip of No. 46, shakes his aged head about it. Even No. 62 at Bandagehem had its turn of bombing a few days ago---some sixty casualties. Not a very helpful experience for shell-shock cases.
On Tuesday the 20th the British under General Byng, with the aid of a lot of tanks, gave the Boche a surprise wallop without preliminary barrage, and pushed through the Hindenburg Line toward Cambrai in a big salient, some of which they may be able to hold.(25) It was a brilliant affair---said to have been suggested by Pershing---and served to cheer everyone up after the slow progress of the summer through the Flanders mud, the Russian débâcle, and the Italian retreat. Russia we must now discount; but the Italians are holding, and winter has descended in the high Alps with necessary cessation of all activity on that front.
Sunday, Dec. 9
4 p.m. A rainy Sunday and growing dark already. Both sea and sky of the same dirty gray color, hanging like a curtain dragged in folds up onto the wet sands. On it are a few painted boats mistily showing. The full moon has gone and no recent raids---perhaps owing to the bad weather, for it blew steadily a half gale for some days. The raiders got over London once, and Calais several times, and though we had a single alerte one night given by the gun on the cliff-head behind us, there was nothing further.
Harvey and Goethals back from No. 46---their return announced for Tuesday---they arrived Thursday. A characteristic mix-up. They had had little to do during their first two or three weeks; many of the teams had been sent away; No. 12 was transformed into a convalescent camp, and the new D.M.S., having ordered things put on a winter's basis, had gone on a vacation. Whereupon "things" began to get active. There was a final attack on the ridge, of which from the papers we have heard nothing, with an advance which was forcibly repulsed by the Boche. Many casualties followed. The two C.C.S.'s, still on duty at Mendinghem, with rotations about every two hours, were swamped---cases lying on stretchers, untreated for hours, all over the place.
Our usual weekly meeting---Thursday this time-----on wounds again---just ourselves with Wright and his people, though others have begun to come in---Fullerton, who speaks highly of the meet---also two nice young captains from Charles Peck's unit at Chaumont were there. We are slowly learning something about wounds, and those we have to tackle here at the Base are very bad---old and suppurating.
Saturday afternoon Major Sinclair gave us an hour at No. 8 Stationary, and put up a fresh hip for our instruction in his fishnet frame; got another man with fractured femur on his feet in a caliper hip splint after union, and told us 80 per cent in his circa two hundred fractured femurs have thus "walked" home. He's a very clever person with a strong mechanical genius.
Subsequently to dinner---on dos Santos's invitation-at No. 32 Stationary, where I dined once before with the hospitable Colonel Eames. Their regular guest night, but this time in honor of the two new consultants, T. R. Elliott and Webb-Johnson, the latter having taken Sargent's place. Many speeches and toasts, with "He's a jolly good fellow" oft repeated and horribly sung---a deadly custom. Wright made an amusing speech, but General Sawyer slobbered over "our oldest allies the Portuguese" and "the representative of our newest ally---no, not ally, cousin, brother, etc., etc., all past differences to be wiped out, now arm in arm to march to victory forever, amen," or words to this effect. So dos Santos and the representative of the newest ally had to respond feebly, and modestly express their appreciation of being so warmly welcomed. Then after these tortures, two of Santos's boys---eight of them are attached there, all from the University of Lisbon---played duets on the piano and violin most delightfully, something the Anglo-Saxons, arm in arm stolidly awaiting victory over the enemy, never could have done, nor would have done so naturally and simply even could they.
On the way home Sir Almroth said there are three kinds of people in the world: those who offer you something because they desire you to have it; those who offer you something because they want it themselves; and those who never offer you anything at all. Just what the allusion was you'll have to guess. You always do.
Thursday, Dec. 13, 1917. En route Paris à Boulogne
When the Tommy shouts to the farmer's wife: "Mama doolay promenade," she, understanding him perfectly, knows immediately that the cow has run away. When I say to a ferocious taxi driver: "Avenue du Bois du Boulogne, rue Piccini 6," he makes me repeat it with every variation of pronunciation I am capable of---and they are many---and then like as not refuses to go. The Tommy, in short, gets movement out of the farmer-wife which I with my cultivated French am incapable of getting out of the reluctant and bewhiskered chauffeur. Possibly he doesn't propose to waste d'essence, as the cow was wasting du lait, for it's some distance to rue Piccini, 6. All this because our sessions have been held at this old place of Doyen's, now Red Cross Military Hospital No. 2, under the care of Major Joseph Blake.
We have had our second meeting of the Research Committee and attendant gathering---very successful. We went down on the 2 p.m. train Monday---Lee, dos Santos, and I; dos Santos an altogether charming companion and very full of talk---of history, art, architecture, and the people of the Peninsula. He would have had a good excuse for being less companionable, for the papers say the revolutionary troops in Lisbon have barricaded the street at a point which S. says is just opposite his house, where are his wife and two children.
He will have words with the Portuguese Minister, an old friend and patient who has been through other revolutions---been in fact more or less shot up in them, exiled to Africa, escaped by being sent across the continent boxed up as mds. to Mozambique. To him S. is carrying two bottles of port as a present. This for the reason that British and Allied officers have access to Portuguese wines through the army canteens---others can't get them. And so, as I say, to Paris and the Edouard VII and a luxurious hot bath and bed.
On Tuesday morning, after many commissions---more especially to get a wig and costume for Pte. Call, who's the "Mimi" of our men's coming show---to the Strongs' for lunch with Warwick Greene, the Blisses, and Col. Elliott, who as representative of the British Research Committee has been invited to participate in our deliberations.
The afternoon meeting was given over to gas gangrene, and Colonel Wallace gave the clinical side very well; then Herbert Henry, leading up to the serum treatment. There were possibly sixty there---some French and English guests, McNee and Wallace from the 1st Army with their Gargantuan D.M.S. General Thompson, T. R. Elliott, and others.
Then our committee meeting. Much was accomplished and a few important points registered. Strong reported his experience with the B.E.F. Trench Fever Commission, who had gobbled the entomologists Bacot and Peacock as soon as word got about that we wanted to tackle the louse question. But it must have been clear to the Britishers who were present, as well as to Cols. Ireland and Kean and Siler, our regulars who also were there, that we wanted merely to get things attacked promptly, done thoroughly, and with mutual help, regardless of professional priorities, jealousies, and personal recognition---indeed that it would be far better to have contributions issued, unsigned, as official papers, and to wait for the end of the war for the distribution of credits. The great concession was made by Col. Ireland that our subcommittee could get to work unfettered by army red-tape and channels, and that any men we wanted to select would be detached and put to work for stated periods on our problems.
So an Inter-Ally Gas Gangrene Committee was appointed with Wallace and Henry, Fred Murphy and Taylor, and a fifth to be named by Dr. Welch from home so as to keep in touch with the work being done at the Rockefeller Institute. And we are to comb our units over here for the proper men to work with Henry, who prefers the Lister Institute to the laboratories in Blake's hospital.
Sunday, Dec. 16th. Boulogne
Dinner last evening with some neighbors---a Captain and Mrs. Langridge, who once occupied this villa and are now a few doors above. He of the Red Cross, with the interesting job which he has organized of caring for the relatives of wounded men in the overseas bases on the D.I.L. It must be a satisfactory business, receiving, forwarding, making comfortable, cheering these grateful people who are soon to see their own, even though it be for the last time. Much more satisfactory than the doctors' business, which is accepted without thanks as merely a part of the day's necessary humdrum. Pathetic too, often enough, as in the case of the homely old washerwoman---never out of England before---who crossed in response to a call because her Joe was ill. Having been met and given tea at the Christol, she was taken in a limousine to Wimereux, and said to the M.O., "Wot's wrong with my boy Joe, 'as 'e a cold in 'is 'ead?" When told that Joe had lost both his legs and had a bad chest wound she said: "'E never let on to me 'e was a-solgerin'. I thought 'e was doin' hoffice work."
She, of the Church Army Hut, works at No. 2 Australian and has come to think almost more of the Australian than the Tommy. They came out together in 1914, he a shipowner, their three children dead and buried. Soon came the rule that husbands and wives could not be here together, and he said to the Red Cross officials: "That's too bad, I'll have to go home, for my wife must stay." This was so unexpected that the matter was arranged somehow, and here they have been and have managed to dine together about once in ten days---as last night for example, he waiting on the table and managing the dishes which a high-tempered cook sent up from below on a dumb-waiter. Nice folks.
Robertson is back from the Front, where he has had an interesting period with his uncle, D.M.S. of the 3rd Army, and done some excellent work on blood transfusion. He knows the Cambrai performance at first hand. Someone blundered badly, and three Boche divisions poured through as far as Gouzeaucourt, almost before their presence was known. They nearly got a contingent of U.S. Engineers, who, armed with picks and shovels, helped the military police to check the rout.(26) The affair opened by the enemy sending over about 100 aeroplanes which bombed and machine-gunned the British out of their positions.
Robby thinks we are pessimistic at the Base. We are. From my small experience there is less grousing at the Front than the rear---the less perspective you have of the whole situation and the more you are concentrated on your own little job, the better for you. And people talk too much, particularly the pessimistic ones. There's a sign hanging in the Étaples station which says:
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard:
We all should copy this wise old bird---
or words to this effect. General Scott, on refusing to speak at a public dinner in London, merely quoted the Spanish proverb which says: "A closed mouth catches no flies." During war time only optimists like Bowlby should have the privilege of speech.
Henry Stokes here for dinner on his way back to Rémy after two weeks' leave. Took him into the Casino to see a man with an amputation I was anxious about. He said, coming out: "I've been in here often before, but this is the first time the place hasn't smelled bad." Another compliment yesterday from Sir Almroth, who said that since we came they had either stopped sending patients to the Casino or else we did things differently somehow, for his work used to be interrupted by howls from below which he no longer hears.
Col. Alexander sends word that my dear young friend Gideon Walker, the M.O. of the 2/Scots Guards, was killed in the Cambrai counter-attack of the 30th November---a brave lad---I've long expected it. Rumor has it that the Guards, who had been in the primary attack on the 20th, had been withdrawn and were suddenly called on to stem the onslaught on the southern side of the salient, where the Boche broke through, penetrating our original lines even to Gouzeaucourt and beyond.
Capt. Blake from 46 C.C.S. was stationed at Ytres, and he says it was an exciting ten days. The original objective was Cambrai, but one of the two bridges over the canal got crushed in by a tank so the cavalry were held up, and when they finally got over, they allowed themselves to be checked by a strip of barbed wire, so that by the end of the first day there were some bad jags in the penetrating salient. This gave the Boche time to bring up troops, which increased every day, and finally on the 30th he nearly bit off the entire salient. At the Ytres C.C.S. they were all very nervous about it for days---in fact had attempted to do no work and were packed up ready to evacuate. The planes came over in a flock, as I have said, and the Boches might have come right through if they had only known it.
Wed, the 19th Dec.
Robertson gave a talk this afternoon on his transfusion work at No. 3 C.C.S. in Grévillers near Bapaume; also at No. 46 in Ytres during the Cambrai affair. Very interesting. Made sufficient impression on Colonel Gray to cause him to volunteer as a donor, since they had few walking cases from whom they could get blood to store. Gray must be an A- l man for the consultant's job.
Later Wright took me out to a hospital (Col. Rodway, C.O.) at Wimereux, to their weekly guest night, on Michael Foster's invitation. Very cold, particularly in a Boston-made uniform which is too small to cover the padding we all need. The usual "Mr. Vice -The King" and later "The President of the United States." This in water for me---and very difficult to get---a final compromise on a siphon of soda water, with the result that I would have gone off like a bottle of ginger pop if anyone had pulled my cork. Then snuff was passed about before the port had its turn. Foster took a large pinch and went through the usual motions. As nothing seemed to happen, I suggested that he had struck a dud.
Later we gathered round a red-hot stove where Foster told some amusing anecdotes, e.g., about Prince Christian, who was once under his care and called his attention to the fact that he wore a glass eye. "Never would have guessed it, Your Highness," from M.F. "And what's more I have two," solemnly continued the Prince, "one a trifle bloodshot to wear after I've been dining out."
We depart at ten. A hard frost for the past three nights---deep enough for the ground to stay solid. The new moon is coming and the Hun is taking advantage of it---a raid over London yesterday evening and probably another to-night, as our lights went out during Robby's talk in the afternoon, with the usual four signals. But Fritz probably had larger game than Boulogne.
The Cartoonists Help the British to See Humor Even in the Worst Aspects of the War. An Echo of the Air Raids, by George Belcher; and of the Duckboards, by Will Owen.
Monday, Dec. 24th
Very raw and cold with mist and rain. For this we rejoice as it will keep Fritz away this Christmas Eve. He came Saturday about eight---from over the sea, so there were no warning signals---the lights went out suddenly and then the bombs, with practically no interval.
I was caught giving a dinner at the du Nord for Alexander Lambert---to meet the local Red Cross people and some others---Sir Arthur Lawley, Blaylock, Langridge, Cols. Elliott, Eames, Webb-Johnson; and Elliott brought Colonel Thorburn with him. Lambert barely back in time from a visit to the Front, and just as we were gathering at 7.30 in the small hotel packed with newly arrived Canadian nurses, who should turn up but Strong with Opie and Baetjer on the way to St. Pol for our trench-fever mission. Strong was persuaded to join us, and by climbing over the abundant luggage and blanket rolls of the blue-coated and brass-buttoned Canadian officer-nurses we managed to get into our room.
About at this juncture the lights went out. We heard what sounded to me like five distant bombs, and then the Archies. It was like being back in Mendinghem, but we went right on with our repast with the aid of a lamp---no one commenting particularly on the raid. At about ten, however, an orderly came for Blaylock, telling him that they had gotten the Canadian Stores and there were some casualties. I began to be uncomfortable about the Casino, but feeling that if there was trouble they would send for me, and having Lambert on my conscience, I stuck it until they broke up about eleven.
Langridge, learning that I was going to see Lambert off at 1.06 for Paris and had no conveyance, got one of his cars and we went over to see what the damage had been---a badly wiped-out street in a thickly populated part of town across the river---a lot of people caught in the open, as there was no chance to take cover---170 casualties and 50 deaths, a French soldier or guard told us---chiefly civilians and Tommies of the labor companies---mostly gone to 13 General!
They certainly had had their hands full---the faithful Cutler being first on the spot and taking matters in charge. The hospital already overcrowded and 50 of these bombed cases suddenly dropped on them. Very bad cases for the most part---21 deaths practically on admission---many others in too bad shape to touch until the next day.
On Sunday morning the cases were pretty well cleaned up, a penetrating abdomen from Goethals's ward falling to my share---had evidently been bleeding during the night---pulseless, but picked up after a transfusion and found to have a perforation of the large bowel with the abdomen full of blood. My first operation for some time, and I hope he may do better than the last, a poor fellow who died of a mediastinal abscess after transection of his oesophagus from a penetrating shell fragment low in the neck.
There is to be a clean sweep of officers approaching their 60th year, so we learn. Col. Morgan to succeed Gen. Sawyer here as D.D.M.S. and Capt. Stirling to remain here instead of going to Italy with Gen. Porter, who has been taken ill. General Skinner is probably one of the lot. Word came on Friday from the local D.D.M.S. that he---Gen. Skinner---was coming to Boulogne by train to arrive at 6.30---had telephoned to ask if I could put him up for the night and meet him with my car!! "Yes, most gladly, but what sort of an establishment do you suppose he thinks I keep?" "Oh, a château and a limousine." So they arranged to lend me a car which I could pass off as mine, and at 6.30 to the train, meanwhile having asked Webb-Johnson, with whom I was to dine in Wimereux, if I could bring the General with me.
How long an American major ought to wait for a British general, about to be retired, I do not know, but after three hours, cold and supperless, I told the R.T.O., who had encouraged me with "ought to be in any minute now," oft repeated, I 'd be hanged if I 'd wait any longer for the C. in C. himself. What happened to General Skinner I can't imagine, but I can imagine what happened to Webb-Johnson's dinner, to which he had invited some V.A.D.'s -Miss Sloggett and Miss Lawley---who were to be brought from No. 14 in his car after it had fetched me.
Our Christmas Day will probably be much written about, and great credit is due the committee who had the festivities in charge, with George Derby their chairman.
Last evening our carols in the wards from 6 to 7.30; then a buffet supper at the sisters' mess, very abundant and good with a turkey pie and much else, followed by the tree and distribution of presents by H. Lyman in the guise of St. Nick. Most amusing, many of them, with very clever skits in verse perpetrated largely by Johnnie Morton, George Denny, and Miss Hawkins, who constituted the Joke Committee. "Carrie's On" was probably the best, and a close second the skit on the C.O. in his slacks meeting the Queen on her visit to Camiers.
This afternoon from four to six a procession through the wards, of people in costume and of others who had come to entertain the patients---the Frivolity people again---some Scotch performers piloted by Padre Jeffries---our own men's vaudeville with Clifford as an Irishman, McGann a Maine farmer, Call in Mrs. Bliss's wig and a few other things, McDonald as a negro minstrel, and so on.
There being many rings to the circus and only two pianos, it required much navigating to get all the events in all the wards, but it was very gay and the wards much decorated with a big Christmas tree in each---indeed three in the baccarat ward. Then at 7.30 more carols in the Church Army Hut for Mrs. Dyson and her Britishers: "O come, all ye Faithful," "Holy Night," and "The First Noël," which, in much diminished numbers, we struggled through before silent smoking Tommies, and were resuscitated subsequently by some powerful tea of no recent brew.
It's been a mixture of a day---clear, windy, snowy, rainy, in alternation, and to-night clear again as a bell, with the moon, alas! nearly full.(27)
Boxing Day---just why I do not know, but the British find it useful as a day in which to recover from the effects of the day before---a sort of Sunday-Monday and it's-Tuesday-before-we-really-get-back-to-work idea. Wright says he hates Christmas. He appeared in his laboratory to-day to find "God Bless Our Colonel" in cotton and glue over his desk and the room festooned with papers daubed with fuchsin, gentian-violet, eosin, and methylene blue, which made him hate it worse than ever.
Saturday, Dec. 29
A farewell dinner to General Sawyer, the local D.D.M.S., who is being retired. Small and enjoyable. The Base Commandant, Wright, Eames, Fullerton, Elliott, Holmes, Taylor, Captain Towse, and myself. Wright was at his inscrutable best---on morals and the Decalogue---only four Commandments really to be considered and he believed in breaking them. Many British officers going on leave, Captain Towse among them. They say Queen Victoria wept when she pinned on him the V.C. which heads the two rows of his service ribbons. He is going to be sent on a talking tour of England to buck people up who are wobbly.
Jan. 6th. Sunday
The inarticulate Col. Hamerton, C.O. of No. 12 C.C.S.---our Mendinghem neighbor of last summer---in to lunch. They are to make over No. 12 into a Convalescent Camp. On water alone he managed to loose his tongue and talked most interestingly about Africa and the negroes. Like most English regulars of middle age he has lived in various out-of-the-way places and been for months on end in the interior of Africa, the only white man in his post. "All coons don't look alike to him" by any means, and the conversation turned on his chance remark that the Jamaica "niggers" out here are Ivory Coast "niggers" from the Congo.
He was in Uganda when T.R. went through with Selous. The natives wanted to know if he was a king. "No." "A governor?" "No." That was as far as they could get, for "President of the U.S.A." meant nothing to them till it was explained that it had something to do with americani, the name they give to their loincloths made of American calico---so "President Americani"---president of the loincloth---he became. They probably thought he owned a cotton plantation or mill.
A long tramp in rain and slush up to No. 3 Canadian by roundabout back roads. Tea with Elder and Rhea. John McCrae comes in late: back from giving a lecture in the Lens region. Does not appear to me at all like the "In Flanders Fields" person of former days. Silent, asthmatic, and moody. There are only seven of the original McGill Unit still attached.
Monday, Jan. 7th
Our coal is not only scant but atrocious, being largely dust, and flakes of soot fall all over our papers. This due in part, possibly, to the lack of draught in the chimney, which has certainly not been cleaned out in many a day and year. The only time the fireplace does not smoke is when the blower is on, but that burns up the dust in short order and we get no heat. The choice lies between warmth and smoke therefore. Cutler has concocted a sort of half blower out of two sides of a Boston Surgical Dressings Committee tin. It is quite handsome and promises much.
We can get no more petrol for our feeble lamps and the gas has gone bad. Élise has summoned the "Bec Auer" again, and this time he has come in the person of a poilu of the 1st Artillery just back from Nieuport. Jolly, smiling, quick, skillful. He has set us ablaze with new Welsbachs, and meanwhile told us all about himself and the war, which will last one year longer---then more d'argent and less gloire. He incidentally presented a bill to us for the last réparation and thought it a great joke when Elliott pulled out a receipted one for the amount. They're wonders, the French.
Working here all day on the "penetrating wound" section of my paper.
Thursday, Jan. 10
The snow has vanished under a warm sun in a clear sky. A land of contrasts. "Tous les saisons dans une journée," says old Élise, who staggers in with a bucket of coal dust she has wangled from l'ordonnance, as she calls the mess next door. Most of it will in the course of an hour precipitate itself as fine dust over these papers.
Wed., Jan. 16th
Once more en route Paris to Boulogne. We came down Sunday afternoon, Col. Elliott, Bock, Stoddard, and myself. B. and S. had not as yet been absent from the Unit for a single day these past eight months---and were never before in Paris. It was a joy showing them about the next morning in Alex Lambert's Cinderella R.C. car which he loaned me for the purpose. But I think two episodes that interested them most were these: (1) On leaving the Gare du Nord the night of our arrival, and while struggling to get into the Métro, an aged gentleman of military bearing, ahead of us, gave way, bowed---"Les militaires!"---and insisted on our getting into the train before him. (2) An hour before this at Amiens, we were crowding around the steps of the diner on which stood a French waiter in a white coat, holding back the push so that those with billets de réservation could get aboard first. In the crowd, though standing head and shoulders above it, was the D.M.S. of the 1St Army covered with service ribbons. He reached out, lifted the Frenchman by the scruff of his neck like a puppy dog, and, depositing him on the platform, majestically climbed aboard. The waiter, who, I may add, was also wearing decorations, never lost his equanimity or smile, but, remarking "Les Anglais!!" climbed back on the step and went on with his job as though nothing had happened.
To the Continental this time, hoping for a room overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries, a hot bath, and a long sleep between sheets-much needed, for it's been "to bed after midnight" these past ten days. Elliott promptly turned in---I around the corner to see the Lamberts and ask for a car. Their small room full of smoke and people---General Wood and his aide, Williams; Robert Bacon, now a colonel and going to the British G.H.Q. as our liaison officer; Henry Stimson, one-time Secretary of War, also a colonel in the artillery. L.W. just back from a visit to the British front and most enthusiastic about what he had seen.
Monday afternoon on tetanus. Leishman, who had to suffer from a wrong pronunciation of his name, was altogether satisfactory and there was a very good discussion. I plead for an initial dosage of 1500 units to be tried in a given sector and compared with the initial 500 units with repetitions. There was some sparring about local and delayed tetanus and methods of treatment and so on---all told, a much better meeting than we could have hoped for.
Tuesday devoted to the important subject of scabies and I.C.T.---which had to be explained(28)---and furunculosis and impetigo---in short to "the itch" and its sequelæ---its prevention and treatment; thus the louse and delousing were naturally dragged in. In due course a most handsome portrait-in-oil of Mr. Louse by Sgt. Maxwell was passed about---indeed a family group. This is always done.
No figures were brought out, but McCormick, who is with us on the train, estimates one hundred thousand cases a year and an average of 15 days out per case---some wastage indeed. This affection must well head the list, not only in numbers but in total loss of days. Men must be glad when it's time to go over the top if it makes them forget to scratch.
Gen. Thompson-Wright calls him "Harry"---often rose in his majesty and to the delight of all would put his stamp of disapproval on some wild American project. "Squirting soldiers with cresol oil! ---the Tommy simply won't do it---couldn't go into an estaminet and talk to the girls stinking like that---he would make a tobacco container out of the squirt gun in 24 hours. As for flat-irons!---no coal or gas to heat 'em---no men available to use 'em---wouldn't spit on 'em to see if they were hot enough if they were available---tried it once myself---men gave 'em away to the French girls."
Lunch with John Finney, who has been ill and looks thin. He has a large job ahead as Director of the Surgical Services. The eight-section idea "made in Washington" apparently given up, and there are to be only three---Surgery (Finney) and Pathology (Siler). Who for Medicine? Thayer seems to be the natural choice, with Tommy Boggs as ballast for his sail. Looks a good deal like a transplanted Johns Hopkins, but after all the thing to do is to get the best men and let people criticize if they wish. Peck and Billy Fisher to be Finney's assistants. Wants me to take over and organize the neurological work. Young's and Goldthwait's appointments, made in Washington, will have to stand---but no others for a time. Lyster has been sent over from Washington to let the regulars know they are to coöperate thoroughly with the M.R.C. people---the Directors of Base Hospital Units henceforth to be actually in charge of the professional work and disposition of the staff.
Then in the afternoon Capt. Jacobs, another R.A.M.C. guest---on delousing, and a good deal of confusion occasioned by the difference between pants and trousers and breeches, for "drawers" by any such name are not worn by the British. Well, we got thoroughly deloused. Subsequently a Research Committee meeting, at which Sir William Leishman and Col. Elliott again sat in---and we made plans for our next meeting's programme, and the investigative problem to come out of this one, with reports from our trench-fever and gas-gangrene-serum committees, which are already at work.
We broke up in time for me to go, about six, to the Blisses', where I ran into a large tea party of French people---officers, aged philosophers, dames, and demoiselles---and in the middle of the room Pte. Call and Pte. Reed, our two nice, chubby enlisted men---perfectly at home! I had told Call in the a.m. to see Mrs. Bliss and thank her for the costume and wig. They went the first thing---were invited to lunch---back again for tea---enraptured!
Breakfast with Leonard Wood, Capt. Williams, and a Col. Somebody. L.W. to have a meeting with a man who at one time in his career was a school-teacher in Connecticut---Clemenceau; and then off for the French front. Wants me to go along, but I have business in Boulogne with my report.
There was an interesting episode at the committee meeting on Monday. Strong reported on our trench-fever progress and spoke of the volunteers for inoculation. Col. Ireland, who usually keeps wholly in the background, got up and said he wished to tell a story. It was in Cuba, during the occupation after the Spanish War. Walter Reed presented to the Governor---i.e., Leonard Wood's proposal to use volunteers for an experiment in the transmission of yellow fever. He was told to go ahead with full authority. The Governor's then aide was a young lieutenant named McCoy. McCoy is now colonel, and serves on Pershing's staff. Ireland's proposal for Strong to make experiments here went through his hands to the General-McCoy remembered and Pershing gave the order. Ireland only asked for six men: 100 promptly volunteered from the 26th Division.
Tuesday, Jan. 22nd. Boulogne
Dinner last night at the Anglo-American with Lady Hadfield to meet a home neighbor---Mrs. Larz Anderson, who is working over here in a French Ambulance and is soon going to join Depage in Belgium. Wright there---also Col. Kennard. Sir Almroth simply paralyzing. Does not believe in exercise---has not walked a mile since he can remember---told the War Office if he was to come out he must have a car, even though his billet and laboratory are only a half mile apart. Asked them if they wanted him over here to use his legs or his head. They gave him a car---we go to dinners in it at Wimereux. Col. K. was in the Boer War---got talking of Colenzo, Hart's Hill, etc., and told of going over the battle grounds at the end of the war with a friend. On Hart's Hill they met an old man in civies wandering about---he seemed to know a good deal of what had taken place and when they finally parted they ventured to ask his name---"General Hart."
This led to talk of battlefields, among them Gettysburg, and of Lincoln and the "Address." Wright hadn't read it for years---tried to recall a passage---finally gave the entire Address with one or two word changes---an amazing person! The only things that interested him in America, for which Lady H. stands up warmly, were the colors of the autumn foliage in Canada and the fact that someone had discovered some good lines in Milton---saw them painted on the walls of the Congressional Library. Knows most of the two Paradises by heart but had missed these lines.
Much cheered to-night by the advent of Bull. He has evidently had a triumph in London and Capt. Henry behaved admirably. Bull says Henry could not have appeared more pleased and cordial if he had been the one first to get the gas-bacillus antitoxin. Evidently it is just as effective when B. welchii is mixed with B. sporogenes, B. histolitica, and the rest. Also it can be given together with A.T.S. without impairing the activity of either. In its specificity it is comparable to Behring's diphtheria antitoxin as a prophylactic as well as therapeutic agent. A really great discovery. If it is substantiated, amputations for gas gangrene ought to become as rare as tracheotomies for diphtheria.
Incidentally he says there are half a million of our troops over here---we think he's probably wrong, but it's pleasant to have someone believe it---and that they are coming at the rate of 30,000 a week. Pretty good.
Saturday, Jan. 26th
11 p.m. The Queen of the W.A.A.C.'s was at the nurses' tea---at least I took her for the Queen---name unknown---ought to be Mrs. Jarley---controls the Waacs works---chance for someone to evolve a joke. There are some new ones coming out---the "Wrens"---Women's Royal Naval Service or something of the kind, whereas the brown ones are "Women's Army Auxiliary Corps," I believe.(29) Soon as many women as men, almost enough to go one apiece for the Australians, who are in rest hereabouts, and doubtless the sea makes them homesick. At least they sit out in front of here and gaze at it a good deal in pairs. Though not apparent on the surface, there must be some honey which can still be squeezed out of the Waacs.
Count Czernin for Austria and Count von Herding for Germany reply to-day to Lloyd George's and Wilson's terms. There's nothing for it but to push on.
Chapter Six, concluded
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