January 28th, 1918. Boulogne
I saw poor Jack McCrae with Elder at No 14 General last night---the last time. A bright flame rapidly burning out. He died early this morning. Just made Consulting Physician to the 1st Army---the only Canadian so far to be thus honored. Never strong, he gave his all with the Canadian Artillery during the prolonged second battle of Ypres and after, at which time he wrote his imperishable verses. Since those frightful days he has never been his old gay and companionable self, but has rather sought solitude. A soldier from top to toe---how he would have hated to die in a bed. A three days' illness---an atypical pneumonia with extensive pneumococcus meningitis, as we learned this afternoon---for Rhea came for me and we went out with Sir Bertrand Dawson. They will bury him to-morrow. Some of the older members of the McGill Unit who still remain here were scouring the fields this afternoon to try and find some chance winter poppies to put on his grave---to remind him of Flanders, where he would have preferred to lie. Was anyone ever more respected and loved than he? Someone has said that "children and animals followed him as shadows follow other men."
Tuesday, the 29th
We saw him buried this afternoon at the cemetery on the hillside at Wimereux with military honors---a tribute to Canada as well as to him. A large gathering of friends---all who could get there, even from a distance: the Canadian Corps Commander with his divisional generals; General Dodds, Jack's former Artillery Commander; General Sloggett and the D.D.M.S. of our district; the Base Commandant; we Americans, with some Portuguese M.O.'s from No. 3 Canadian; all the C.O.'s and Consultants of the neighborhood.
We met at No. 14 General---a brilliant sunny afternoon and walked the mile or so to the cemetery. A company of North Staffords and many R.A.M.C. orderlies and Canadian sisters headed the procession---then "Bonfire," led by two grooms and carrying the regulation white ribbon, with his master's boots reversed over the saddle---then the rest of us. Six sergeants bore the coffin from the gates, and as he was being lowered into his grave there was a distant sound of guns---as though called into voice by the occasion. An admirable prayer by one of the three Padres who officiated. The Staffords, from their reversed arms, fix bayonets, and instead of firing over the grave, as in time of peace, stand at salute during the Last Post with its final wailing note which brings a lump to our throats---and so we leave him.
Sometime early in January, Jack, looking much troubled, came to Col. Elder saying: "I wish you'd come and see Windy---something's wrong with the poor dog---had him in my tent for the past two days---been vomiting, refuses all nourishment." So Elder found them, Windy on the mat before Jack's little stove, licking his hands. Jack had already given him two or three hypos of morphia, and there was not much else one could do. So Windy died and was buried with military honors in the grounds of the old Jesuit College which became the Meerut Hospital, where, with Sir George Makins, I saw the Indians under Col. Wall's care in May 1915, and where No. 3 Canadian General has now for two long years been thoroughly dug in.
Windy adopted the 1/ Lincolns---a large black mongrel dog. He came to be the pet as well as the mascot of the regiment and knew the khaki and those who wore it for friends---more particularly one of them---his chosen master. Those who didn't wear it were to Windy enemies or slackers, and this was the cause of his undoing---but we will come to that---alas---anon.
Fortune of war first took the regiment to Gallipoli, and there Windy was twice wounded, and he was wearing on his collar two bits of narrow gold braid when No. 3 Canadian first came to know him. This was in the early days of last August, after the first of the many mad rushes toward Passchendaele in which the battalion participated. Both Windy and his master were wounded---the one with multiples, Windy with a compound fracture of the leg from a fragment of the same shell that had his master's number. Bearers brought them in on the same stretcher. Windy, like his master, got his A.T.S. and a proper medical card at the field ambulance. Like hundreds of others, they were dressed at a C.C.S., and together were evacuated by hospital train to the Base. There chance brought them to No. 3 Canadian on the Calais road skirting the hills behind Boulogne.
Windy in a plaster cast went about on three legs, devoting himself chiefly to his master---when not with him, consoling himself with Jack. Wounds, even multiples, recover in time, and so it came about in the course of three or four weeks that Windy's master was to be evacuated H.S. class B to England---but the dog---no. Every manner of protest and appeal in vain. Even Elder went himself to intercede with the E.M.O., who was adamant---strict rules against dogs into the United Kingdom without suitable quarantine and papers.
A conspiracy to smuggle him on the hospital ship between the blankets of an empty stretcher was frustrated. So in tears Windy's master was taken aboard alone, promises being made that the dog would be well cared for until he came out again and they would rejoin their battalion together. Windy, to pass the waiting time, betook himself ardently to Jack. They had many an afternoon run (for his leg was now well) beside Jack's spirited Bonfire, who too had been wounded when Jack was in command of a battery at Neuve-Chapelle.
But there was work to do at other times of day for a Lt. Col. of the R.A.M.C. at the head of the medical service of a large hospital. Windy could not always sit whining at the door of a hutted ward, when interesting things were going on in the world near by. And some of these things were being helped along by people who did not happen to be in khaki! So when Windy was alone and a French ouvrier or anyone else in civies went down the road or through the grounds he would be likely to continue minus portions of his clothes.
Thus in certain quarters Windy grew unpopular, and to make a long story short it was, as Lawrence Rhea found, probably poison that did it. So all that sorrowing Jack could do was to ease his pain and last hours with euthanasia, as I have told. And Windy, with three wound stripes on his collar, lies in a cross-marked grave like any other Tommy; and though it's now midwinter, this afternoon found crocuses budding on the grave of the mongrel mascot of the 1/ Lincolns, who will never again go barking over the top with them as they follow their barrage.
Wednesday, Jan. 30th. Lillers
5 p.m. I came down here in the afternoon, after the ceremony ---and much subdued. Gen. Thompson, 1st Army D.M.S., had sent his car for me and we went along by a new route from Boulogne through Desvres, Thérouanne, to Aire, and so down to this district behind Béthune. The countryside in an entirely new guise---winter wheat being planted and advantage being taken of the fine weather for ploughing, much of it by people in blue uniforms---the underbrush from the forests being cut out and timber being sawn (by hand: not by a buzzing and screaming saw as with us)---the pollard willows getting their winter haircut and the roads full of old women and girls staggering home bowed with bundled fagots.
A typical glimpse of Picardy in winter---as it has always been, I presume, and long will be---regardless of the fact that just now an Australian division on the move blocks the slippery highway; that there are squads of well-fed-looking Boche P.O.W.'s going back to their compounds after their day's work; and that most of the population around Aire seems to be Portuguese. But perhaps not so typical in one other respect, for it's warm enough to ride on the front seat with the chauffeur and sunny enough to have brought the green tassels out on the roadside alders.
I am put up in a billet where lives a small boy named Edouard, who has taken a fancy to me---as I to him---and who now sits here doing arithmetic---"getting his lesson too." Tea---of course---where were Soltau and Wallace; and later dinner of rabbit and cabbage and rice pudding---very good, though---perhaps I should say because---rations. I learn that Gen. Thompson, who came out with a division, was captured at Mons and spent five months in Germany, though how he got away was not made clear. Later he was D.D.M.S. of the 6th Corps before coming as D.M.S. to this army---and he's a good one.
This morning to the 1st Army School at Bruay, where is No. 22 C.C.S., whose C.O. is Col. Goodwin, brother of the successor to Keogh and a fine type of officer. I was quite terrified by the audience (the Army Commander, Gen. Home and his staff, a lot of nurses, 50 N.C.O.'s, with innumerable stretcher-bearers and sanitary-corps people), a difficult one to interest in my topic of head injuries---the more so since I was preceded by some extraordinarily good things from these forward-area people. One in particular on the subject of clearing the battlefield was given by a young Irishman from Trinity College, Lieut. Col. Fletcher, C.O. of a field ambulance, wearing a D.S.O. ribbon and a bar to his Military Cross. There's no question about Fletcher's going out with his men into No Man's Land; and he told how they did their carrying, particularly around a broken traverse when in the trenches.
All this was illustrated by actual demonstration, even down to such details as concerned the disposition of the wounded man's box respirator and "tin hat"---the proper pads for the bearers' shoulders and neck---the numbers of bearers in a squad---all of the same height---should be pals---the M.O. must know men well enough to recognize their voices in the dark---the standardizing of the regimental aid posts---the placing of shaded lamps in obscure places and dugouts---the best way of carrying morphia. So much for everyday trench warfare; and then he went on to active operations---the using of German prisoners to carry wounded and the help often given by the R.E. people---the necessity of every man's bringing something back, cups, blankets, water, dressings, etc.---the ways of searching for wounded at night and the need of warning the infantry well to left and right of your own area that searchers are out---and if searching parties get lost and have no landmarks, go toward the heaviest firing, as it's probably British! Then the question of whether stretcher-bearers should bring back identification tags from the dead, encountered when looking for wounded---with this is tied up the whole question of the possibility of looting. What to do when you're out and Verey lights are shown---lie down? Not at all, merely stand absolutely still.
It was all very practical coming straight from such a man as Fletcher---and told to the bearers themselves. He added one thing about carrying in the field, and the difficulties due to the fact that the duckboards, though laid in pairs, were too narrow for four bearers carrying a stretcher on their shoulders; so he had persuaded the engineers to put the lines of duckboards about six inches apart so the bearers could keep on them.
When he was through, Gen. Thompson asked for comments and there were several, and finally to my delight a big Canadian sergeant arose and said he would like to show how they carried their wounded and could keep to duckboards while doing so. He and four bearers, all wearing M.C. ribbons, came forward---one of them got on a stretcher---the other four swung it up to their shoulders, but instead of its resting on their inner shoulders they put their heads and bodies close together and got the handlebars on the outer shoulders. Fletcher admitted he 'd never thought of carrying in this way and he asked some other questions which brought out that the Canadians carry six men to the squad; and when someone asked about carrying in the trenches, the sergeant said: "We never uses a trench, sir, we takes over the top." This: to the great delight of General Home and the rest of us, and it 's probably true.
Well, there was much more, and finally my feeble lecture, and then lunch, after which were visits to the hut, where McDonald, the X-ray man, was conducting the drill for the application of Thomas splints; to the area where the sanitary squads were getting instructed; to the field where riding exercises were going on under a sergeant riding master; and, much impressed with the school and its very democratic methods, we motor back to Lillers and to this French billet where in the tile-floored kitchen small Edouard and I, as I have said, are pretending to do our lessons.
Saturday, 9 Feb. Boulogne à Paris
Have just finished lunch in the dining car with two interesting people, a young tank officer and a major in the Intelligence Service. He of the tanks was led to tell of the Cambrai affair and the part played by his Battalion H, or 8 as it now is---how they gathered unobserved in the mist of the days preceding the attack, how they went out on the morning, a fine sight in battle formation---the crossing of the famous Hindenburg Line, which was a great disappointment---just ordinary trenches with very low wire that did not bother them at all---the green fields where astonished Boches were caught hoeing potatoes---the intact buildings with window boxes and flowers---the Boches scurrying away on bicycles or whatever else they could get aboard, most often their hind legs---the capture of two cows, some pianos and furniture, among other useful things---the long disappointing wait for the cavalry, which never came because one of the bridges was down and it did not occur to them to take the other two bridges only a mile up or down stream---Cambrai in front of them inviting entry and no opposition of any sort.
Life in a tank with its heaving and pitching a joyous frolic on such a day. His particular beast was a little faster than the others, and so drew away from them---luncheon in a farmhouse with a feast spread for some German officers who had beat a hasty retreat. They stayed up there some days and luckily were withdrawn before the Boche countered---otherwise he might have captured the whole fleet. As it was, British tanks are now an exhibit in Berlin, according to the papers.
Kept in bed for a few days by a bogus pneumonia, I missed the Conférence Interalliée, the Tuffier meeting where I was to give a paper, and also the surgical conference of the next two days. I was finally given a Paris leave, partly to see Finney about his organization plans and partly to see General Wood. He had had a close call---a Stokes mortar blown up---many fragments through his clothes, but only one flesh wound---this taking his biceps, grazing the median nerve, and just missing the artery---then on to kill the French officer with whom he was conversing. Three other French officers blown to bits---their arms and legs and brains and bowels over everybody. Colonel Kilbourne with a small fragment penetrating to the right brain.
I found him with his sick-room full of people---as Williams, his aide, says it has been from the moment he reached Paris---very fit, showing what he could do with his palsied hand. Very anxious I should see Kilbourne, which I did, and advised him to go on home, it being two weeks with no symptoms and he being rather shattered nervously. Not so L.W.---he showed not a sign has been lunching out---expects to go to the Front again to finish his observations. A long drive with him in the afternoon---quite lovely. In an unfrequented part of the Bois we passed a closed carriage out of which stepped a heavy, oldish-looking man in a dark blue military cloak, who then tenderly helped out a little old lady in black---Madame Joffre and her forgotten husband.
4 p.m. W. B. Cannon, Michael Foster, and I are on the way to Paris for another Research Committee meeting. Cannon just back from England on his way to join the A.E.F. gas service. He remarked while breakfasting at our mess that we live well---we do. Practically unlimited toast instead of two half slices, and a communal bowl of granulated sugar staggered him after Blighty rations. In this connection he supplied the following:
My Tuesdays are meatless,
My Wednesdays are wheatless,
It is getting more eatless each day;
My home it is heatless,
My bed it is sheetless,
--All are sent to the Y.M.C.A.
The barrooms are treatless,
My coffee is sweetless,
Each day I get poorer and wiser;
My stockings are feetless,
My trousers are seatless,---
My God, how I do hate the Kaiser!
This jingle, he says, on reaching Germany was taken as proof of the economic woes of the English and appeared übersetzt in the Hamburger Nachrichten:
Am Dienstag fehlt mir Fleisch und Speck,
Am Mittwoch ist das Weissbrot weg, etc., etc.
Feb. 15-16. Paris
The meeting a great success---even better than the preceding ones, though we failed to get another piece of research started. A large crowd, overflowing the small room at 6 rue Piccini. Cannon presiding and very well.
On Friday afternoon---cerebrospinal fever. Two papers in French by Prof. Dopter of Val-de-Grâce and by M. Nicolle, which I missed because the U.S. Consul at Lyons fears he has a brain tumor. Then Col. M. H. Gordon---altogether admirable in substance and presentation. All about their intensive studies of the epidemics---and the poor results with serum---and finding out that there are four types of organisms which require different sera ---and the carriers and contacts---studies of the throats of large groups of men show that contact studies are less important than determining the number of carriers throughout the command. When the percentage of carriers begins to rise, then look out, for outbreaks occur among those recently brought in, who may be unfit, tired, without resistance, or have acquired no immunity. Contact studies, in fact, little use.
Then the whole matter of spraying wholesale in a large building which is filled with spray, just as one fixes the surface of a crayon sketch, with sprayed shellac---the same principle, I mean, so far as the apparatus goes. Various substances used---zinc sulphate and dichlor.-T. The latter somewhat irritating, and as soon as the spray gets thick enough so he can't be seen, Tommy puts up his handkerchief and breathes through his mouth. All depends, therefore, on whether there is a good sergeant present. The soldier's attitude is---"You can't fool me, this is some kind of experiment with a new gas." An enormous amount of work represented by swabs taken from thousands of throats.
Dinner with Finney, Yates, Crile, Tom Arbuthnot, and others, at some place near the Continental. Finney very amusing with tales of our colored labor battalion, told in his best style---"Get up, yo' black niggah, an' go to work; wha'd' you t'ink you is, a West Pointer?" sort of story; and "Boss, ah can't tell you wha' I'se gwine---we's travelin' under sealed orders." None so good, however, as Walter Cannon's of the darky who said he's always noticed that if he managed to get through March he 'd live the rest of the year.
Arbuthnot's single-handed capture of a Boche aviator while he was on temporary duty with a British F.A. was dragged out of him. Very funny and true. He ran two miles to the spot where the lame duck was seen coming down, and having outdistanced the field brought back the Iron-Cross-bedecked man, personally conducted.
Saturday proved a washout for antiseptics---in the morning the "primary" and "delayed-primary" closure of wounds. First Pierre Duval---an altogether A-1 paper read by Vaucher. The French certainly have the art of presentation---and what's more, the material to present. Primary closures possible in from six to eight hours---after twelve hours a contaminated wound has become infected. In quiet times all so treated---in times of rush about 30 per cent. Delayed primary suture must be resorted to in times of great activity---3rd, 4th, 5th day.
Primary suture means three weeks out---66 per cent successful.
Delayed primary suture means two months out---36 per cent successful.
Secondary suture means three months or over---i.e., wounds closed on the 18th to the 20th day.
He showed a number of admirable color photographs, in the midst of which Gen. Sloggett comes in looking like a Christmas tree with his polished buttons and four rows of service and honor ribbons. Much stirring of chairs to make a place for him---and as he must go soon Cannon asks him to say a few words. He does---to the effect that he notices his old friend Harvey Cushing in the audience and that the matter of primary closure of wounds has long been close to his heart---his old friend H.C. much embarrassed, might have added---"Since Feb. 2nd when he first heard of it."
Exit the D.G. with more scraping of chairs; after which Dr. Vaucher on his own topic, viz., the "bacteriological aspects of wound closures"---the wound soiled but not infected till six or eight hours, when bacteria begin to appear---cocci and especially bacilli---also methods of giving a quick answer to the surgeon by using five tubes---milk, broth, and agar slants---which suffice for an early report.
Then Le Maître with a very detailed paper presented by Joseph Blake, on a large series of successfully treated cases---emphasis laid on most careful technique with leaving of strands of horsehair in the depth to be withdrawn and tested culturally---an elaborate paper chiefly on technical methods with a long series of cases (2664 of primary suture) extending over the past two years. He advises following the track rather than to approach the missile by the shortest route. The average stay of his cases in hospital is 28 days.(30)
Finally Col. Gask, with a report from No. 10 C.C.S.---only 123 cases but with 82.9 per cent successes---the average interval being 10.2 hours---longest 28 hours---admits temptation in the B.E.F. to use antiseptics. Still the results of those using "Bipp," flavine, Carrel-Dakin, and no antiseptic whatever were precisely the same. Advocates Le Grand's coloring solutions as an aid in the débridement procedure. The Tommy is given a two weeks' leave after the wound is healed---the poilu only eight days. It keeps the men cheered up---"a Blighty one" means much to the British soldier. They found that 86.6 per cent of the wounds were already infected.
A lively committee meeting in the late afternoon with Edouard Rist present for the first time---we wish to publish the papers instanter and distribute them. Rist thinks it will be allowed by the French censor---Leishman does not think it will be by the British. So we decide to print and distribute the French papers only; whereat Leishman thinks pressure might possibly be brought to bear, etc., etc.
Siler and Gordon are to organize a study of the prophylaxis against carriers of throat infections---meningitis, influenza, infectious colds, etc.; but no work was planned as a result of the wound treatment papers. The obvious need is to find what antiseptic, if any, will shorten the period of time before the secondary suture of an infected wound is possible.
Dinner with the Britishers---a visit from Leonard Wood---the 11.40 to Boulogne with Michael Foster, by good luck in a wagon-lit.
Feb. 28th, Thursday. Boulogne
I feel as if I had emerged from a winter chrysalis to find the spring here, lilacs budding, bluebells and dandelions in the fields, M.O.'s playing golf at Wimereux, a hockey game here on the beach, the sea a wonderful blue, visibility such that the shore of England is in sight from the cliffs at Wimereux. Really a beautiful sight from these windows on such a day, now that one has time to think about it. . .
After three months' solid work, late hours, and much anguish of soul, a monograph on head wounds was finally delivered to the world night before last. It was, in fact, born triplets, two of them being immediately dispatched to the D.D.M.S., thence by D.R.L.S. to G.H.Q. 2nd Échelon, where Col. Martin in the D.G.'s absence assures me they will be quickly censored and sent to Adastral House, London, to be again censored, and then---poor things---to one Hey Groves, editor, in Bristol.(31) The third I retain to give a start in life myself. Meanwhile there has been much wastage of paper---also gas (illuminating), and much faithful clicking by hospital secretaries in copying and recopying in triplicate.
Having emerged from my winter state, as aforesaid, there have been things to do. Col. Elliott will send me to England via hospital ship---not so pleasant as he would lead me to think, as the H. S. Glenart Castle was torpedoed yesterday off Bristol---the seventh since they began with the Asturias. But it's the only way if I am to unload myself of a collection made for the Warren Museum, consisting of pathological specimens, clinical histories, souvenirs of Ypres, shell cases, helmets with holes in 'em, and I know not what else---in addition to McGuire's much perforated tent, which a search brought to light. All this means much time in packing and arranging with the help of Sgt. Campbell---five pieces in all. Then some repairs to myself---a tooth fixed by Parker, eyes and my first pair of glasses by George Derby---a haircut in a highly perfumed French shop---heels raised on R.B.O.'s advice for slumping arches. Some day Barbara will flatten her nose against a window on Walnut Street and say: "Mother, who is that testy old man with specs hobbling up the front walk?"
Work at 13 General has been slack and many have gone on leave. Cutler just back from ten days with Depage, at La Panne, simply bursting with enthusiasm. Wall and Ober from the Riviera, in a similar condition, though for other reasons than seeing military surgery. My first operation since the New Zealander---who luckily is regaining his vision---was on Wright's ear, which I've Darwinized with a fine tubercle---in fact, have pointed. This for the removal of a small epithelioma. Wright's friend B. Shaw should be similarly treated, though his may be pointed already; and I suspect he's a goat below stairs and plays split pipes cross-legged in his natural environment. He tells Wright, however, he's less a faun than a jackdaw---picks up everything he can find, particularly from other people's brains.
Friday, March 1st, 10 p.m. London
Another travelogue begins to-day, which has come in like a lion. An early omelette and coffee---an ambulance sent by the E.M.O. to the Casino for my five boxes and McGuire's tent and another package added by Miss Haldane to bring over by hand---so, with a haversack of French butter to make me welcome in England, through a blizzard half snow and half rain, to the Hospital Ship St. Denis. There coffee again with Major Bird, the C.O. of the boat, a sister, and a V.A.D., the last being something of a "sister" in her own right insofar as all the Barnum-Carters of the army are her brothers. The sister and the V.A.D. are in attendance on a poor Brigadier Gen. of the 5th Cavalry being sent home with a bad cough, though he, poor man, does not yet know of the malignant growth causing it. The attentive E.M.O. sees that my papers are correct---the few wounded and many sick are gotten aboard---and we slide out of the harbor between the jetties to take our place as the third in our convoyed procession.
A gorgeous day, with patches of blue sky which let the sun through to illuminate areas of brilliant green sea covered with cavorting white horses. But soon less interesting---no more sun coming through---the breeze stiffening to a half gale---the former green of the sea shifts to the face of the sister, who abandons her general to the V.A.D., who in turn abruptly departs to seek her mate, leaving their patient to me. I finally get him on a couch in one of the officers' cabins and, with threatening innards of my own, watch the seas sweep from stem to stern over our torpedo-boat companion while she first shows us her upper deck and then her keel. And so cold! Go in and get warm? Not I. Nor the Tommies. "Worst crossing in six months," says the Captain as we finally, after seeming hours, slide under the lee of the cliffs where our consorts put in to Folkestone and we proceed alongshore to Dover.
There a feint at lunch, aboard, with a cheery person named MacCreery, the Dover E.M.O., wearing an M.C. ribbon which I judge was won in Mesopotamia, where he endured the siege of Kut-in fact, he's none other than the optimistic Mac in the story of Kut which ran in Blackwood's during the summer. He showed me his arrangements for eight trains a day and as many boats, and where the men are fed and warmed and "dolly bagged." The dolly-bag woman said she presumed we'd had a poor crossing as the men were shy of cigarettes and only wanted chewing gum. An acute observer---she---I took gum myself.
Then the train---Very comfortable---sitting with Gen. Campbell and a used-up aviator boy who finally talked: At No. 9 Aerodrome in Proven since the middle of November riding an R.E.8 bus---knew all my friends and adored Major Sutton---wounded while photographing---bad business in the morning as the Hun gets in between you and the sun where you can't see him---the Huns rather scorned for they never engage in single combat---never unless three or more to one and then they turn tail if you show fight---but their anti-aircraft guns very bad---much more accurate than ours. He got caught by a group of twelve scouts, which was his final undoing, though twice wounded before, and a patient once in No. 12 and again in No. 46---not sleeping now nor eating much---living on cigarettes---six months in fact about one's limit, and three if you use alcohol---then home, and if there's anything left of you, you engage in instruction work. Their area covered the four miles from the forest to Poelcappelle, while my No. 7 friends covered the four miles further south. All this was punctuated with a good deal of zooming and banking and looping and spinning, though an R.E. 8 is not much good for stunts.
We finally pull in to the outskirts of London. There three or four cars, including ours, are switched off, and in due time, after the sick and wounded have been taken care of, I gather together my things. Then a person named Wolf, who is a jeweler (mornings) on Dover Street, takes me and mine to the College of Surgeons, where I finally dig out a caretaker who accepts the precious boxes. The College to take what they want---the rest to be forwarded by the Red Cross to the Harvard Medical School.(32)
Then to Brown's, where Prof. Chittenden and Graham Lusk are encountered and they press me to dine with them on the strength of their meat and bread cards, I having none as yet---and quite prepared by that time for something more nourishing than gum. I expected one 8-gram roll such as "Chitty" is supposed to live on, but instead a very fine dinner with tongue, which they said the British do not call meat, and a bottle of cider which I strongly suspect was a bit fortified. They are over here in the interests of nutrition, and when their influence becomes felt I will see myself growing thin again. Lusk says the Germans claim to be winning the war by using the Hindenburg offensive and the Chittenden defensive.
So to Mr. Burghard's on Harley Street to leave my manuscript; to the Sargents' to leave a present of butter; and finally here at the American Officers' Club in Chesterfield Gardens---to deposit myself for the night.
Saturday, March 2nd
Oxford and wintry cold, though things are growing and Prunus blossoms are out. Even the wall peaches in bud. The usual miscellaneous gathering at the "Open Arms."(33) Sir James Fowler, who. quickly gets in mufti---Miss Nutting's young nephew, a Canadian signaler convalescing from wounds---Susan Chapin and I. Tea and many appear, including the Robert Chapins; then much over books in the library, where enter a strange pair---the enthusiastic Charles Singer, he of the Studies in the History and Method of Science which begins with the visions of St. Hildegarde---and the other an aged and shriveled university professor of Spanish with some rare medical incunabula under his arm.
And W.O. sails through the interruptions as though they were the very things he cordially longed for, with no secretary and unfinished notes on his letter pad-papers everywhere---that is, everywhere there were no books. Meanwhile, he finds time among other things to write a review of Lucien Dorbon's Essai de Bibliographie Hippique, which happens to have crossed his path. But the poor man is a shadow of his former self.
Thaxter and Van Gorder in after dinner, and then more books till it's overlate. Much from Sir William about Thomas Bodley, who "concluded at the last to set up his Staffe at the Library doore in Oxford; being thoroughly perswaded that in his solitude and surcease from the Commonwealth affaires, he could busy himself to no better purpose, &c."---this at the end of his sixteen-page autobiography---one of the best ever written. He first got all his friends to bring books, and they would tell prelates who might be visiting Oxford to take an armful of books to Bodley---which they would do, pilfering them from their cathedral stores. Hence the Bodleian possesses rare manuscripts from Exeter and Cairo and elsewhere which these places have moved heaven and earth to get back.
So to bed reading an amazing privately printed and rather vitriolic volume called Astarte; a Fragment of Truth Concerning George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, Recorded by his Grandson, Ralph Milbank, Earl of Lovelace.
Sunday, 3rd March. Oxford
A morning visit to the Cowley Hospital with Thaxter and Van Gorder; many here to lunch; more to tea---poor Collier, who has just lost a son, and Sir Charles Sherrington, who looks as though he expected to any minute---nevertheless friendly, bright, and cheerful as always. Mrs. Draper; Mrs. Wright and Marian, with many more. A choral service at six in New College chapel with Lady O. and Sue---old Spooner peeking out under his bristling white eyebrows giving the benediction.
W.O. and Sir James go to Christ Church for supper. Ours at home, and afterwards a long talk with Lady O. about Revere and their tragedy---the months of dread-of the telephone, the messenger boy, the postman. Whenever she saw the telegraph boy at a distance he would quickly shake his head---"not for you this time." In Revere's kit which finally came was his pocketbook in which W.O. had written the names and addresses of some old German friends---v. Müller, Ewald, and others---in case the boy should be taken prisoner---no thought that they might have gotten someone into trouble if found on this side of the wire.
March 4th. Oxford
A cold, still, leaden day---no rain or snow, but might have brought either W.O. in his Lt. Col. uniform---entitled to a Colonel's but didn't know the difference---or care. With him on his weekly visit to No. 15 Canadian at Cliveden. By the old Oxford-London turnpike; the Harcourt place at Nuneham Park; Dorchester Abbey; the Chiltern Hills; Shillingford and the Thames; the Henley "mile," Henley and the hill over the river; Maidenhead; Taplow. Very beautiful---elms budding, gorse in yellow bloom, forests of magnificent beech trees.
Col. Mewburn from Calgary, in charge of the surgical division, meets us and, joined by the staff, we visit the neurological cases---some of them very interesting. We were at the far end of the pavilion gathered round a bed when Nancy Astor in her riding habit popped in the other end of the ward and began most vigorously to abuse one of the Tommies---a huge Yorkshireman---sitting forlornly beside his bed. "Get up," she said---"you haven't any guts." He does---and she belabors him with her crop. He roars with delight, and the others join in. She is doubtless the best psychotherapeutist in the establishment; they all adore her. Everyone thinks it is the best military hospital in England---I rather agree.
Lunch at the officers' mess, where I 'm called on for a speech.
We then escape with Harry Wright to the house and find Lady A. and two Englishwomen lunching---on American hash!---with her adorable children. She said that two of them were rowdies like herself.
Sunday, Mar. 10th. Boulogne
The crossing on Thursday was uneventful. During the run down to Folkestone, chief interest centred on two spick-and-span West Pointers---a colonel and a major-just out of a bandbox -tight-fitting, neatly pressed thin uniforms, paper-soled pointed riding boots---very alert and erect---also very complaining. Such a contrast to the civilian officers of the B.E.F. just returning from leave with all emotions buried behind the Times after a "So long, old girl," and "Bring back a D.S.O., Charlie," on the platform. Charlie, like most of the others, in heavy trench boots and enveloped in a soiled raincoat over a ragged "British warm"--many of them with wound stripes and the spectral Mons-Star ribbon in addition to others, indicating long as well as meritorious service.
"Rotten town, London---had to wait fifteen minutes for our hotel bill---almost missed breakfast and the train---never want to see the d----d place again. And they wouldn't give us a check for our luggage! Now in America you can check your trunk right from your room to your destination, etc., etc."
"Yes, just landed Tuesday; saw two 'subs,' think we got one of 'em; fine trip, brass bedsteads, bath, all to ourselves, twenty aeroplane squadrons on. board. Going to send machines over in droves, engines not very fast, but so many of them we won't miss the few crashed by faster Hun planes. Training our men to shoot; British have been all-fired stupid; when we break through there'll be open warfare and the men'll know what to do; lots of niggers, great fighters, fine shots. Now if you had only done this at Cambrai, etc., etc."
The patient young captain to whom this was chiefly addressed showed wonderful restraint. "You see, we 're very fed up with the war. That's the way we used to feel; but then we've made so many mistakes, and your country understands administration so much better and has no red tape and will show us the way, I 'm sure."
"We certainly will, we've got 600,000 over here already and they 're coming at the rate of 200,000 a month, all arrangements made for it---isn't that going some?" And so it went all the way to Folkestone. I saw them later shivering on the packet's deck---no one taking any notice of them. They have much to learn and they're probably at bottom very brave and capable, though tactless, fellows. . .
Yesterday afternoon with Col. Sir Henry Erskine and another A.S.C. officer to Calais. By the back road through pretty Wimille and other less attractive---indeed squalid---French towns. A wide expanse of fertile country being ploughed and planted by people dressed in fragments of old French uniforms---this fact, with the two huge aerodromes and anti-aircraft stations which we passed, alone indicating war. Off the direct road at Marquise and through Guînes near which was the Field of the Cloth of Gold, though there's now no trace of Henry VIII or Francis I unless the relic of the old earthen fortifications can be such. This detour let us in to the south of Calais with its tangle of tracks and miles of enormous warehouses which line the canal, and we drop our companion at the offices of the Director of Supplies and go on into the town.
The, old Notre-Dame like an English church---the Jardin Richelieu, where is Rodin's amazing group representing the six hostages demanded by Edward when, after the battle of Crécy, he starved Calais to surrender. It is difficult to understand the writhings of the group in whose centre stands Eustache de St. Pierre. Such feet!! The group is so high on its pedestal one has to look up at the figures and sees chiefly feet---enormous feet. Rodin was after shadow effects, I 'm told, and cared little for anatomy in proportions. Perhaps if placed somewhere on the ground among trees with an opening to give a silhouette effect, or even on the sands with nothing about--very good; but here by the highway on a pedestal---impossible.
To the market place with the market in full blast, and fat, red-cheeked children and well-fed dogs despite the war. Interesting, the ancient Hôtel de Ville, and especially the old watchtower near by-the Tour du Guet---which I understand goes back to the ninth century and was used as a phare (lighthouse). The buildings are a good deal peppered by bombing raids, many windows are boarded up, and by curious chance a direct hit has occurred on the high tower of the unfinished new Hôtel de Ville, which is modern and promised to be ugly.
March 13. Abbeville
An interesting change to be with the Australians, many of them wearing the divisional patch indicating service in Gallipoli--- Col. Purdy the C.O., Fiaschi, who once visited us at the Johns Hopkins, Col. Powell, whose C.C.S. was about 250 yards from the Turks' line.
My lecture was scheduled for five, with officers from No. 2 Stationary and the South African hospital near by as the audience. Introduced by Col. Thurston, the A.D.M.S. of the district, cousin of the present D.D.M.S., Boulogne. Col. Thorburn there. Subsequently a formal mess dinner at which I sat by Col. Gallie, who in May 1915 was found dispatching ambulance trains from Boulogne---curious how I continue to run across the R.A.M.C. people I first met at that time. Charing Cross and Port Said no longer are supreme as places in which unexpectedly to encounter friends.
"Mr. Vice; the King," of course, followed by the usual speeches ---some very amusing. We then adjourned to the common room, a wheezy box melodeon was procured from the Y.M.C.A. hut, and much local talent was dragged out of the company, in all of which Col. Gallie entered with zest. Old songs---darky songs---college songs of ancient date---with Scotch, Irish, South African, or Australian variations. Captain Bryden a regular Harry Lauder with "Stop your tickling, Jock," arid such. A South African named Drummond with many Biblical songs---a man named Chaplin, as good as his namesake, danced, another whistled---Col. Russell a song---and the old music box nearly jumped off the table under the Padre's enthusiastic handling of its short, tuneless keyboard.
Finally, all together, "A wee doch-an-dorris," then "Auld Lang Syne," and after "God Save the King," Col. Gallie scuttles off to do two hours' work which he has neglected, Eames and Powell get wrapped up to start back for Boulogne, the surgeons fortify themselves with coffee in preparation for a convoy---me for bed, where I nearly froze and longed for my bed socks.
A hospital visit and then with Taylor Young for a glimpse of Abbeville. Across lots to see the remaining bit of the Vauban wall, and by the stockade where No. 1 Punishment is still given for certain offenses in the British Army---tied to a stake for two hours a day and the rest of the time in unproductive work like digging trenches and immediately filling them again. Very mediæval and little better than the earlier whipping post or stocks, though the ordeal is no longer public.
Abbeville very interesting---the rendezvous for the first crusade ---under English dominion from the time of Edw. I for about 200 years, i.e., the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Somme runs through the town in a most picturesque way, while the splendid façade of the old unfinished church of St. Vulfran is the chief landmark. The whole region is surrounded by remains of Roman camps---Cæsar's defenses against invasions by the Belgians---the great Roman road from Lyon to Boulogne passed through the town, in whose local patois many Latin words are still used. Then in the fifth century came the Hun destroying as he went---after which the Dark Ages, from which we awake to find the House of Capet building St. Vulfran. And now in the whirligig of time the Hun tries to repeat the process.
A farewell visit to Col. Gallie, who was found chuckling over a bundle of official papers concerning the transportation of 800 Tommies, sent from the Italian front to Havre, under "Y-scheme" treatment for malaria. Before they could find out what the Y-scheme of treatment was-it took two months of inquiries "through proper channels"---the contingent had reached England.
Then the afternoon train to Paris for to-morrow's Research Committee meeting. A late supper with the Strongs, after which Wright (Sir Almroth) blows in and I drag out of Richard the story of the investigation at St. Pol, and Wright for once admits that someone has really done a good piece of work. Strong, as usual, overmodest, praising the Trench Fever Committee and the 150 enlisted men who have been subjected to the experiments.
Wright finally asked who was going to get the credit. "Damn the credit; we 're trying to win the war; it's unnecessary to mention any names." All this he thinks very absurdly idealistic. Strong has done a fine job---thinks the army could easily be deloused, but whoever attempts it would need the authority of a major general. It's gratifying to have had this demonstration of the source of trench fever come out of our first discouraging meeting of the Research Committee back in October. .
Sunday, March 17. Neufchâteau
Here by train with Thayer, Bert Lee, and Allison---learning much meanwhile about the situation and activities---or inactivities -of the A.E.F. Very beautiful along the Marne Valley through Meaux, Château-Thierry, Épernay, the Champagne country, its brown hills stubbly with the vine poles stacked like tepees for the winter---in regular rows like the prickly spines on a cactus leaf.
Through Châlons-sur-Marne, where Attila was turned back in the fifth century; Vitry-le-François; Revigny, where we pass some trainloads of U.S.A. troops---the 2nd Division, I 'm told, just going to the Front for the first time; Bar-le-Duc; Ligny, and finally Gondrecourt, where Eben Finney---just graduated from the Hopkins Base Hospital---meets us, and in a rattly Ford takes us the 20 miles through Domremy, of Jeanne d'Arc memory; and so to Neufchâteau, where Finney, Fisher, and Yates are billeted in what Thayer calls a Tour Babel.
The unusual spectacle of American soldiers---many of them wearing green ribbons for St. Patrick---wandering around the streets interested me particularly; but it was too late to look about and we sat down hungrily to a dinner which turned out to be a feast, owing to the recent arrival from Baltimore of numerous packages "not to be opened till [last] Christmas," containing plum puddings, fruit cake, and the like. Eben says that the old lady in whose house Thayer is billeted eagerly asked, when they arrived with his abundant luggage, including an iron trunk full of books: "Le monsieur, il est un général, n'est-ce pas?"
Monday, March 18. Neufchâteau
After an early visit to the office of the "Consultants" where were Young, Keyes, Thayer, Boggs, and others, we went to Bazoilles Sur Meuse about 10 km. away, near the place where the river disappears underground through the cracks in its bed. Here a good sized hospital centre suddenly greets one's eye from the crest of a hill---the Johns Hopkins place (Base Hospital No. 18) dominating the valley landscape. There many friends, Cy Guthrie and Stone in charge, and many nurses of long remembrance. As good work being done as in the J.H.H. itself, and their 32 students are perhaps even better trained than they would have been at home. Would that we could have brought ours! In an attractive situation beside a pine hill---the whole hospital under wood--- evidently a very fine spirit on all sides despite their most uncomfortable winter. They call the place "Bacillus on the Mess." But one forgets past rigors on a day like this.
In the afternoon to Sebastopol, north of Toul, where John Gibbon is struggling with Evacuation Hospital No. 1 behind the 1st Division, who are holding a part of the line north of there. Through Soulosse and Colombey, we then skirt Toul, a fascinating place with complete encirclement of walls, by Vauban of course, and a fine old cathedral within. It is a fortified area of the 1st class on the Moselle with the Marne-Rhine Canal passing like a moat on the northern side of the walls. Almost equal to Metz and Verdun in its military importance---the three heights near by, particularly the isolated cone of Mont St. Michel, dominating the great plain of the Woëvre.
A very busy area it appears---roads lined with big guns coming up---ammunition dumps innumerable, new railroads being laid in all directions by Annamites and Italian labor corps---the latter composed of soldiers who gave way last autumn before the Austrians and are now, undergoing penance by breaking stones on French roads.
Pagny, where the old signpost to the east still reads "Strassburg"--Ugny---Vaucouleurs---Maxey-sur-Vaise, where the stream wanders through the main street and is conveniently arranged for the washing in public of one's dirty linen---Goussaincourt--Greux---and Domremy-la-Pucelle again, where we stop for a few minutes at the wee cottage in which the Maid was born. Then home with a brilliant sunset to the west, outlining the huge château on the crest of the hill across the valley where lives an aged American woman, the Princesse d'Alsace---at least so says Eben, who like most "Sammies" picks up extraordinary bits of information.
Wednesday, March 20th
"Oh, we 're wise guys, we are: there's a lot yet to learn," says a young major of Marines in his gray-green uniform. "They got on to our SOS. signal the first night and up went a lot of rockets along the line and, bang! our artillery sent over their barrage; and when they were through up went another lot of rockets and they went at it again. When things had finally quieted down we found that a million and a half dollars' worth of shells had landed beyond the wire where there were no Boches. Gimme a light.".
We got away yesterday about 8 a.m. from the "Tour Babel"---Finney, Allison, and I in one flivver, Fisher and Lee with his field equipment in another---Lee being bound for the H.Q. of our 2nd Division, who are just going into the line for their first experience.
It promises to be a fine day, though very dry, and the dust from the roadside has so settled over everything that the hedges and trees look as though covered by hoarfrost. On once more through the pine and beech forest to Domremy, Greux, and Gondrecourt. Thence along the valley to picturesquely situated Bar-le-Duc, a port on the Marne-to-Rhine Canal, where we stop to ask directions at a crossroads, one corner of which lies in ruins from an aviator's bomb, while the other carries a monument to the "inventeurs de la pédale," MM. Michaux, père et fils. The town, an important centre, is often bombed and considerably scarred, not to say scared, for large Cave de Secours placards are on every side.
To reach our destination, at Ancemont, we are told to follow the road to Verdun by way of Souilly, and what a spectacle it is! The voie sacrée---the wide 50-mile causeway from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun that saved the day for the French, and over which, in lieu of a railroad to the fortress, an endless chain of 10,000 motor camions went up and down a few feet apart in those anxious weeks of last summer! What road builders the French are! Even now this great artery of traffic is so much traveled that the usual isolated piles of crushed stone do not suffice for repairs, but there is an uninterrupted wall of it ready for use, extending for miles along the roadside. How the British in Flanders would envy these people with limestone rock merely waiting to be blasted out and used for road building without the need of transportation. We soon turn north and pass through numberless small towns of the mother-hen and chicken variety and proceed by Issoncourt to Souilly. Very dusty it becomes with our 2nd Division moving in and the French coming out. A mile or so of our Packard trucks looking more like motor-driven "prairie schooners" than the British lorries so familiar. And the boys! simply white with dust but cheerful to a degree; as Finney says, they look as though they were out for business.
Souilly, as I recall, was a wee town fairly blue with the French 7th Army there in billets, and in front of the Town Hall of the small place stood two captured German Minenwerfers and a huge unexploded 420 shell, five feet high. The valley of the Meuse opens out at Ancemont, and we cross on some new-laid wooden bridges, pass through Dieue and on to the divisional H.Q. under General Bundy at Sommedieue, a small hamlet full of our troops, including Marines. We lunch on coffee and a Hamburg steak (instead of tea and bully beef) with Col. Morrow, chief M.O. of the division on whose staff Richard Derby chances to be, so that Lee finds a friend and we leave him very happy and hopeful in his novel and squalid surroundings, with shell holes in the wall and an ominous ABRI DE BOMBARDEMENT in large letters before a dugout near by.
Finney's business done, we get away about two, it having come on to rain mildly so that the dusty roads promptly become miry and slippery---there's no halfway stage. It's impossible to give an idea of the signs of activity past and present as we proceed along the valley of the Meuse on this western side of the St. Mihiel salient.
Verdun is the nodal point of this area from which everything radiates, just as Ypres is the nodal point of the Flanders line, and there is the same concentration of material and the same evidence of determined resistance whatever the cost and sacrifice. But the way it is done is as different as horizon-blue is from khaki. On ne passe pas represents the spirit in both places, but no Britisher would have ventured to show the sentiment concealed in these four words. And the situations, too, are utterly different---Ypres on an alluvial plain with no modern fortifications; Verdun on a high escarpe in highlands, a fortress of the first rank with a circle of secondary fortresses all about.
Through Dugny and Belleray, and finally the town with its unmistakable twin towers and the distant circle of fortified hills came into view. We strike into the road from Clermont and approach from the west to enter by the Porte Neuve, which has been fairly well protected during these three years by the precipitous walls of the massive Vauban citadel. Still the upper part of the battlements even here is damaged, and there is an oblique crater in the middle of the southern wall from a direct hit at a time when the German lines had drawn in closely on each side.
The Territorial who bars the entrance to the citadel scrutinizes us, then turns us over to a sentry who takes us to a spiral stone staircase electrically lighted, and up we go---86 steps to a level still far underground, where are galleries on galleries, protected by masonry many metres thick. First to the great vaulted chambers where the État-Major has his office. He appears, greets us cordially, regrets that M. le Col. Commandant d'Armes is occupied and he himself too busy to accompany us, but he will detail someone for the purpose. Would we like to see some of the specimens which had fallen on the citadel during the customary morning's bombardment? There was a large table covered with big pieces of obus, mostly 380's, some of them with the pointed cap to overcome windage still in position---all carefully marked and labeled.
Our guide then takes us through more corridors, past great racks full of freshly baked loaves, some of them still warm to the touch---120,000 loaves a day, he says, made from a mixture of American and French flour with a proportion of rye, beans, and sago---"really a more palatable bread than that from pure flour",---but we are to see the baking later. Then into the open across a bridge leading from the top of the isolated citadel over to the walls of the town proper, and the Esplanade de la Roche; for this is the Haute Ville on the plateau of Verdun from which the Kaiser boasted he would review his troops in Feb. 1916. Even here are trenches and wire in preparation for a last stand for the citadel.
He takes us through the Porte Châtel, the oldest monument of Verdun, to the Cathedral. "Yes, the 44th Territorials are the honorary guard for Verdun---been here since the outbreak of war---500,000 Germans and 350,000 French the estimated casualties of the 1916 offensive---not such a bad exchange, though it's estimated to mean one dead for every square metre of Verdun---a good deal of the town still standing, but no house has escaped a hit from something or other: tous les maisons, un obus. They shell us every day---ought to begin again about 4 o'clock---100 arrivées were counted this morning-mostly 380's."
Such items we gather from our cicerone, who takes us first into the courtyard of the old archevêché dating from Louis XIV, and recalling the architecture of Versailles. A wonderful outlook over the town, but very sad in its present state. Then the Cathedral, which had a direct hit yesterday, making another large hole in the roof, and the place was full of workmen dismantling and boxing the organ, together with such architectural and sculptural treasures as can be removed and sent to the Petit Palais in Paris.
The Cathedral has been curiously spared, at least when compared with St. Martin's at Ypres; but there, to be sure, the enemy was firing down upon a town in a low plain from the encircling ridges, while here the town itself is on a height. Like ordinary tourists we are led down to the old crypt, evidently Roman, with low columns, having curious capitals on which are carved bearded faces upside down for some symbol or other; also some twelfth-century mural decorations. Then into the sacristie, where are the remains of beautiful woodwork, and from one large room through arched windows is a wonderful view of the remaining houses of the red-tiled town---ready to crumble at a touch. The sight of a cat makes me ask if there are any civils remaining---no, only the guard, this long time, and the pompiers,for almost every day there's more or less of a conflagration.
We hear the scream of two arrivées and it's about time to take cover, so back into the citadel where we're shown the huge bakery, the kitchens, chambers on chambers, the electrical plant, depots of food to last a year for thousands of men, wireless telephone and telegraph stations, engine rooms, a chapel, a museum, the entertainment hall, where in Sept. 1915 the ceremony of decorating the town with the Légion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre was held, and where now a lively song is grinding out on a talking machine; the huge coöperative store in a corridor full of poilus making purchases---every provision for existence, defense, and entertainment in case of prolonged siege. On ne passe pas.
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