Thursday, 21st March. Boulogne
WAGSTAFFE down from St. Omer and here to lunch. Says the Hun has dropped big shells within three miles of No. 7 at Malassise---28 miles from the line. Something important evidently on foot. He expects to be transferred to Lillers to do head cases and was told a team would be called for from here. Prof. Chittenden and Graham Lusk at the Meurice---tried in vain to locate them for dinner at the mess---just as well, for they would have thought we had too much food---we probably have. They claim that people are more economical of food in the U.S.A. than some of our allies. When all cards were laid on the table as to stores, the French forgot to mention certain large reserves of barley. They favor a 2000-2400 calorie ration per diem whereas our army ration is 4000 or more. When this was brought to the attention of the Congressional Committee, it was stated that a ration established by George Washington should continue---like the Constitution, I presume.
11 p.m. Col. Fullerton just in---back from behind Bullecourt with the news that the Germans have opened up on a wide front south of Arras and that the British have given way in many places to a depth of three miles. This is an inappropriate time for a discussion of calories and basal metabolism.
Friday, March 22nd
Just dined with Sir Arthur Lawley to meet Sir Charles Russell, who failed to appear, though Gen. Wilberforce, the Base Commandant, came in his place and incidentally asked Sir Arthur how long it would take to evacuate the Red Cross office, and if all their preparations were made. It is rumored that Arras has been taken. Most disturbing talk about our present situation and the critical significance of these next few days. Calais has been badly bombed on successive nights; Dunkerque shelled from the sea; the gassing of back areas will come before long.
6 p.m. A dense fog for the past three days and no papers or mail. Very meagre news filters through and that discouraging. Saw Newton D. Baker for a few minutes this morning in his private car---sidetracked at the Boulogne station while awaiting safe transport to England. Looked very tired and serious. Twitted him about sending the Lakeside Unit over before ours---Crile and I both being Clevelanders, he might at least have flipped a coin. Convoys of gassed and wounded from the Armentières region were brought down in the afternoon.
12 p.m. Perfect weather for an air raid after the fog lifted--- and we've just had a bad one.
Sunday, March 24th
12 noon. This a.m. with General Wilberforce and his A.D.C., Bartholomew, to see the results of last night's raid. One big bomb right in the court of the Medical Stores---the largest in France---much damage---quite serious indeed---countless X-ray tubes ruined---glassware and dyes lost as well as other fragile laboratory stuff. All else is now exposed to the sky so a rain in the next day or two would play the very mischief. Another bomb had dropped on some cardboard French houses and demolished them completely, the inmates being buried.
Then, joined by the officer in charge of the labor battalion of this area, we went to Wimereux to inspect the No. 94 P.O.W. camp. Most interesting. They were out of their wire stockades and lined up on parade in two groups of about 500 each. The General scrutinized each man and was rather severe on the C.O., a poor decrepit Lt. Col, with two wound stripes. Some of the captives had ill-fitting heavy corduroy coats which he didn't like---he spotted every torn pocket, and picked out one man without the blue patch sewn in his trousers. Very little escaped him.
We then visited the two compounds and went through them with a fine-tooth comb---even poking into garbage cans and finding a few potato peels which should have been eaten and a bone which should have been in the soup. They are all fat, healthy, and well-treated---the French think too well. But they are an ill-assorted lot, few intelligent faces among them---far below the average of the Tommies in appearance and stature--undersized as some of the present-day Tommies actually are.
They are allowed to receive packages from home with goodies; and a number of N.C.O.'s have had uniforms sent out in which they attire themselves Sundays---many with the Iron Cross ribbon. Jägers in their green uniforms---guards with the white stripe on their collars---obedient animals with much heel clicking. After the inspection they paraded by us in columns of four with the goose step---many of them pretty poor at it---on their way to their compounds.
Their huts very spick-and-span---the prisoners indeed were hutted long before the British wounded were under anything but canvas. The place itself is an ideal one---a perfect summer resort. Some of these men came from the Somme; others from last fall's operations in Flanders; but even the ones captured earlier did not impress me greatly---certainly no big fellows such as I have seen elsewhere.
3 p.m. This is the third day of what our local paper calls the Gigantesque Bataille sur le Front Britannique. There is a strange feeling of something critical impending. Yet it's a lovely spring day---warm---a little misty---with no horizon. Windows are open and the sun streams in. Across the curtain of calm sea merging into a cloudless sky three large destroyers are passing south ---some absurdly camouflaged transports are anchored near the breakwater, and were it not for their stacks it would be difficult to tell which way they were pointed---numberless fishing schooners are lying idly, doubtless praying for a breeze. Above a half-dozen noisy French hydro-aeroplanes are circling around, and a big yellow "Lizzie" has just gone over---low enough to see her pilot's head. The tide is low and people are lazily scattered over the shoal sands, or the rocks beyond, picking up mussels. On some benches are a group of our officers playing with a little French child. Sailors and nursemaids and Australians and W.A.A.C.'s and Tommies and civilians are strolling about sunning themselves---blues and browns and blacks.
An hour ago a Gotha went over and the air was full of white shrapnel puffs. He was very high---20,000 feet perhaps. Early this morning there was another. It's unusual to have two a day. There was but one yesterday, and as is customary he returned at night. I had gone to the Casino to mail a letter after dinner, when the show began. It was midnight when I got back.
They were over for an hour. I don't know how many of them, nor how many eggs they dropped, but Keenan reports that a French Intelligence Officer says 55, which seems doubtful. They got some 30 or 40 civilians and a few French officers, I believe, in the Haute Ville. Only three cases came in to us---one abdominal---Tommies. This back-area business is merely a part of what's going on forward---to get our wind up. But most amazing is the announcement that they've been able to reach Paris!! with 240 mm. shells---one every quarter of an hour---from a point some 75 miles away. Incredible!
Doubtless Ludendorff's greatest effort. The question is, can we hold? The long-expected affair opened on Thursday with feints all along the line---at Nieuport, Merckem and Dixmude, Reims and Verdun, under gas and a smothering bombardment. The chief attack at 8 a.m., centring on the 5th Army (Gough), was over a front of approximately 60 miles, from the Scarpe near Monchy to the Oise near La Fère. Mass attacks---heavy fighting---gradual giving way before some 60 German divisions, about half a million men. All weather conditions favored them with a three days' mist ---just what favored General Byng at Cambrai last November. They claimed 16,000 prisoners on the first day. On the second day Haig admitted a retirement to our reserve line, "our troops fighting with the greatest gallantry."
We've had practically no wounded, which is ominous. Word has been sent to Wallace that Cutler and I will go up to Lillers immediately if needed. Meanwhile there is nothing to do but sit in the sun and stroll on the sands---and wait. This is the hardest thing to do.
Monday, March 25th
They have broken clean through---there's no gainsaying that. The first real breach on Friday opposite St. Quentin, made by von Hutier. The whole line from the Scarpe to the Oise had to fall back toward the old Somme line of July '16. Péronne and Ham were the hot spots yesterday, both lost. Also ground lost at Ervillers north of Bapaume.
Their objective is evidently to drive a wedge toward Amiens between the French and British armies. They may thus envelop this northern area and again threaten the Channel Ports. The test is yet to come; they already claim 30,000 prisoners and 600 guns. Paris has had an especially lively week-end. There are all sorts of speculations over the long-range bombardment. Many still doubt it. Old Élise, with a shrug, says, "Coup de théâtre." Possibly she is right.
Tuesday, March 26th
The wedge between the British and French armies widens out. The chief drives of yesterday in the direction of Bapaume and Nesle, with Péronne holding. Evidently a stubborn British resistance. The weather has been perfect for an offensive. What luck for the Hun! There appear to be three German columns: (1) von Bülow on the right from Cambrai in the direction of Bapaume and Albert; (2) von der Marwitz in the centre from St. Quentin to Péronne and along the Somme; (3) on their left von Hutier in the direction of Noyon and Roye, and up to to-night they have advanced to a depth of 36 km. These are all new German generals on this front.
Wednesday, March 27th
Morning. The thrust clearly is being made toward Amiens---perhaps Abbeville and Dieppe. This would cut the British off from the rest of France, but no one seems in a panic about it. Élise continues cheerful---"Les Boches, ils ne sont pas encore arrivés---this as she brings our morning coffee. She adds that all of the French boys from fifteen to nineteen have been taken away to a place of safety and all the men from forty to sixty are to be mobilized. We presume that they long have been, so don't argue with her over the morsel which she enjoys.
Noon. "Does everyone get a coffin at the Base?" ´Oh, yes, sir, the officers very fine ones with planed tops. These are just thin ones of unseasoned wood---green elm, but French elm, I 'm sure, quite a different grain from ours." "How do you happen to know so much about wood?" "Oh, I'm a house furnisher and undertaker too---they goes together with us."
While anxiously awaiting the news of the situation on the Somme one must do something to kill time; and this conversation was with a Tommy, Class B3 of the Devons, who was nailing up the boxes in the Autopsy Hut, where I spent a part of the morning examining brains of these poor devils. All too many, unoperated upon, have died soon after reaching here with bad 48-hour infections---end-results of the kind of injuries we were seeing last summer at No. 46 and usually could save.
House furnisher and undertaker! One thinks only of soldiers out here and forgets previous occupations. On going through the wards later to see dressings, I asked some of the men with amputated arms or legs what they did peace times:
That rascally red-headed Jock, Aikenhead of the Black Watch, was footman to the Duke of Atholl in Dundee; and only Harry Lauder could imitate him on the subject of poaching pheasants and taking them to the lassie who lives down the glen. The Duke has many other footmen; but Jock says he's the "fast footman," whatever that may mean.
Next to him is Childrey of the Royal Berks, whom Frank Ober and I have been working over---both legs off at the knee---born on the estate of a Mr. Cranfield in Brampton, Huntingdonshire, and a groom in the stables. Both he and Jock are relics of Passchendaele and are being evacuated to-day to make room for these newer cases.
Coombs, aged 23, shifted just two years ago from polisher in a silversmith's shop to B battery, 236 R.F.A.---the 18-pounders---wounded on the second day somewhere near Bapaume; and Ober had to take off his right arm yesterday near the shoulder for a gas infection.
Hendry, a youth of 20 from Toronto, apprentice in a machine shop, out for a year, through Passchendaele untouched, and got this one recently, before Lens.
Blondell is 34, a joiner, only out since March '18 with the 7th Borderers; was in the support line near the Cambrai road when he got "his," at 9 a.m. the first morning, March 21st. He never even saw the Boche. I fail to understand how he reached here.
Holland, an Edinburgh boy of 25 in the 3/ Grenadier G'ds, a brass polisher in a foundry. They had just come out of the line from near Arras on the morning of Mar. 21st for divisional rest---were on parade. He was the only man in his platoon hit---his right arm.
Heslop is 42, 23rd Middlesex, a hack-yard manager in Stockton, County Durham. Been out 9 months, part of the time in Italy. Sent up with hurried reënforcements---encamped at Achiet-le-Grand and he got "his" five minutes later.
Burdett is a husky young coal miner of 20 from Fifeshire---in the 1/6 Black Watch. Out 10 months---hit on the first day near Beaumetz to the left of the Cambrai road.
Thompson, a postman from Welburn, of the 7th East Yorks, 17th Division---out 18 months---back from leave only one day. They were retiring and on the third day---his birthday, March 22nd---were in bivouac behind Avrincourt on the top of a canal bank---a shell got him and killed seven out of eight of his pals.
George Clements says he's a loco' driver in a cement works in Northfleet, Kent---had been in the home coast defense since last October in a battery of six-inch guns of the R.G.A. He and four others were taking up rations and had gone back to a lorry for a box of bully when they got it, he in the leg.
Another legless man is Joe Mason of the 9th W. Yorks, a "grease extractor," peace times, in Bradford. He's 47 years old and has a family; came out with the first Kitchener army---this his first wound.
Peter Bias, aged 20, with a strange dialect and a well-nigh toothless grin, comes from the Orkney Islands, which he never expected to leave and hopes he never will again. He's a ploughboy---with one leg---a year in France with the 8/10 Gordons, 15th Division---hit on the 19th when his battalion was moving up between Monchy and the Cambrai road.
A. Brook, a Rifleman, in the 4/ Lincolns, a master painter, aged 38, with a family in Lindley, Ottersfield, Yorkshire. Wounded Mar. 23rd near Bullecourt---he, too, leaves a leg in France.
Sam Hemphill at 20 says he was a "killer and flesher" in Edinburgh; and aspired to become a butcher, I doubt not, before he lost his arm, holding a strong point to the right of Armentières on the afternoon of Mar. 21st with the 7th Camerons. Out 22 months; this his second wound.
Davies is the youngest, a line boy from Lianelly, South Wales, who says he was a mechanical fitter, and is now only 19. He joined up with "Kitchener's Mob" when 16 and came out with the Northumberland Fusiliers in April 1915. This is his first wound---on March 21st at 4.30 p.m. to the left of Bullecourt---a rear-guard action with machine guns and no artillery support. Luckily only an arm so he got out alone---"sorry---he wished he could have stuck it with the rest."
And this is by no means all, for there were an electric-crane driver, a lathe worker, a handkerchief packer, a musician (bassoon and strong bass); a stationer, and many other mutilés I did not happen to question, in addition to the two black boys from the Jamaica labor company---still in Ward 3 C with amputations after trench feet acquired last December---Esau Lemon and Samuel Hibbert. Esau says he "cultivates" and so does Sam---probably means they drive mules.
There are old army men, too, though they don't happen to have amputations. On Towne's ward is an old boy of 48---16 years in the regular army and worked up to sergeant in the Northumberland Fusiliers---in the Soudan, Crete, South African campaigns---came out here with 200 others from his old regiment who reënlisted as privates in Jan. of 1915; though three times wounded, he prefers this kind of warfare to South Africa---would sooner fight than march, which is what you did in S.A., from 3 a.m. till night, with nothing but a piece of bully at the end. "Here you fight and get plenty to eat." He's a well-nourished party, I may add.
Alongside of him is a Mons man---a "contemptible"---a young, clean-limbed Tommy 10 years in the regular army---came to France from India with the first native battalions who were thrown in the line, Sept. 14th, 1914---28 days in the trenches near Estaires and then a four days' march to Ypres---not a shave all the time!! Things must have been desperate for this to happen to a Tommy. He's very scornful of all these Mons ribbons being worn by people who were in offices at the Base---only three are alive in his regiment who deserved them. It was his company who took the sergeant down who had been crucified near St. Julien.
Later. The tension is somewhat relieved by a quiet dinner at Wright's with Col. Gage, once of the 14th Hussars, now Receiving Officer here for men; Mrs. Gardner, the Queen W.A.A.C., ditto for women; also Lady Algernon Gordon-Lennox. Last night at the Anglo-American Hospital with Lady Hadfield, Mrs. Kennard, the Base Commandant, and Sir Charles Russell,(34) the King's Councilor; very interesting talk---much self-criticism by the British---"Why are we such a damned stupid race?"---this from Sir Charles. Much about the Irish Question; the seriousness of the threatened strike of the A.S.E.; the opposition to Lloyd George, and would Asquith be any better; Kitchener's rough handling of the Irish Question so far as volunteers went; Redmond's successor; the King's colorlessness; the Prince of Wales here in Boulogne and "off on his own" somewhere---this last to the great anxiety of General Wilberforce. America as usual also a topic, and Sir Charles tells of the barmaid who served a mug of beer to a Sammy. Says he: "It's flat, this beer." "Naturally," says she, "it's been waiting for you three years."
Wednesday the 27th
p.m. S------ in to lunch, rather jumpy and tired. Most outspoken about the British and the fact that the French have had to bring up reserve divisions. He is in the Intelligence Office---one of the few men who know the French cipher, quite a different thing from the codes by which messages are sent. Other ciphers in reserve of course---a single letter sent out over the wires would shift to another cipher in a jiffy in case of suspicions that the cipher was known.
But the British---stupid, pig-headed! Been warned for two months by his Office just where the attack was to be and practically the exact day---and been told over and over again. They would do nothing---no reserves sent over---their chief ammunition dumps within three miles of the line---warned about this several times---would take no action. Now Lloyd George is saying, "Hold fast, my brave lads, we will send you reserves and guns"---from where? and the French have to move divisions up to stop the gap. France already nearly bled white, and holding a length of line two to one to the British, who are enjoying theatrical campaigns in Palestine.
There may be some truth in all of this, but it had better not be ventilated. And when I try to interject that they are dogged and courageous and one must take his allies for what they 're worth, S----- gets excited and gesticulates.
Thursday, March 28th
A Boche salient thrown out yesterday between the Ancre and the Somme almost to Amiens---about 12 km. distant, I believe. Montdidier the crucial point as the railway needed to bring up French reserves. The French Colonials have come in and are helping the British to hold the line. Amiens, they say, is a mess--train service almost stopped and the city full of refugees. The weather gives promise of breaking---cold, rainy, and windy to-day---this will check our aeroplane activity but will hamper the enemy's getting up his guns.
p.m. Rumors fly thick and fast. Some 500 walking wounded to-day---detained cases, so-called----here merely for a meal and while awaiting a boat. Most of them should be sent to a convalescent camp on this side---but there seems to be no machinery to comb out those who ought not to go home in the present stress.
Good Friday, March 29th
"Les combats ont pris sur ce point---à l'ouest de Montdidier un caractère acharnement inouï!" This from Le Télégramme at breakfast announcing the loss of Montdidier. A busy day with all forward hospitals shooting cases at us and a large number of them recently wounded.
Lloyd George says the battle is only beginning and sends a public appeal to America to hurry reënforcements. General Wood has reached home at a crucial time and appears to have stirred people into renewed activity by some plain truths.
Saturday, March 30th
Cold and rainy. The news possibly a little better. At least they did not do so much yesterday. Their line north of Montdidier was straightened, but the heavy attacks before Arras on their right to regain Vimy Ridge appear to have been held up. It is rumored that in the emergency Foch has been made at least a temporary generalissimo for all the forces.(35) Everyone takes hope remembering how before Fère-Champenoise in 1914 he sent word to Joffre: "Mon centre cède, ma droite recule, situation excellente, j'attaque!" Pershing meanwhile has come up to the scratch and offered everything he has to the French. This has brought a sense of great relief to everyone . . . . A large convoy this afternoon of detained cases---all from the hospitals at St. Omer, which evidently are being evacuated. The men had all come from the Ypres salient and say there is feverish activity there in the construction of secondary defenses, including concrete pill boxes---high time.
Sunday the 31st
So far as one can tell, what has been going on the past critical ten days is about as follows: The valley of the Oise separated the British and French armies. The surprise attack of the 21st, which spread over a 50-mile front from Arras to the Oise, was mainly concentrated on the British right wing, held by the 5th Army under General Gough, which was in process of being reformed after its Passchendaele losses. It moreover was vulnerable, being furthest removed from its source of supplies, and also for the reason that it had recently taken over from the French a part of their line as far south as La Fère, with which it was unfamiliar.
The purpose of the Boche apparently was to drive a. wedge between British and French and to roll them back, if parted---the one on Boulogne, the other on Paris. Meanwhile the valley of the Oise would serve to protect their left flank (cf. sketch) as far as Noyon (N), on reaching which they hoped to complete the breach.
The Thrust toward Amiens
Got Trapped by the Crozat Canal
On the first day (Thursday, the 21st), judging from captured documents, they did not get as far as planned and this changed their entire programme. The chief pressure was on the Cambrai salient---or what we still had of it---and the line held fairly well, their deepest penetration being in the neighborhood of Croiselles.
On Friday the 22nd, things changed in their favor, and between 3 and 5 p.m. the main defensive positions west of St. Quentin were pierced and they poured through along the Omignon Valley, compelling a retirement during the night of the whole line from Vimy to the Crozat Canal.
In the course of this enforced retirement, as the British gave way the French extended their lines by throwing in reserves between Noyon and Montdidier. This place became a sort of German spearhead where for the past few days there has been severe fighting, which appears temporarily to have checked their advance. Meanwhile for the British from the Oise to Arras it's been a case of sauve qui peut in a headlong retirement of army and refugees feebly protected by rear-guard action. By the fifth day all the ground gained in 1916 during the prolonged battle of the Somme and ultimate retirement of the Germans has again been lost.
Very little change in the past 24 hours. We were pushed back a little at Mézières, the rest of the line holding despite fierce attacks delivered against the French. The poor old 5th Army! Gough is said to have been withdrawn and Rawlinson put in his place.
B., who has been here, attributes the break-through to several elements (cf. sketch). St. Quentin lay in a small salient between the French and the British armies, and in deference to the French had not been shelled; for this reason the enemy, taking advantage of the mist, brought up large forces unobserved. What is more, on the insistence of the French the British had recently taken over 25 miles of line which took them down to La Fère, possibly to the Oise -the line necessarily very thinly held.
When the break finally occurred at St.-Quentin the enemy poured through north of the Crozat Canal, and the British troops and supplies in the triangle made by St. Quentin, Ham, and La Fère were trapped, as the only bridges across the Canal were on its northern arm.
Few participants in all this have come our way and we consequently have no first-hand information. What has been going on in that new German salient bulging day by day closer to Amiens can readily be imagined. We have been chiefly concerned as to how we are to extricate ourselves should Amiens be taken and the Boulogne to Paris L. of C. thus be blocked. Even now all through traffic---and little is permitted---is being routed deviously via Abbeville.
Everything serene at No. 13 General, though we're told the other hospitals of the district have been hard worked. The convalescent camps are overfull and the German prisoners at 94 P.O.W. have been removed to a place of greater safety and their place turned into another "Con. Camp."
Monday, April 1st
General Bradley, the Chief Surgeon for the A.E.F., here this morning, says Base Hospital No. 5 is to remain with the British but I am to be detached---sometime in the future---not a very important line of work---can wait until things are well organized. The General scarcely seems aware of the present desperate situation. Evidently I must find work here and Fullerton puts in a timely offer, namely, to see the head cases of this district, which we promptly do---good and bad---visiting most of the hospitals ---No. 83, No. 55, No. 54, and No. 32 Stationary, where we had lunch.
Across the table sat two young American M.O.'s---Cameron and Osincup. From the latter: "I've seen you before, sir . . . . You were sitting in the back of an ambulance on the road from St. Pol to Hesdin---I was riding with the Indian Cavalry Division; Col. McNab told me who you were." Small world this. They with about 1500 others were hustled over here as "casuals" about the time we were. Since then they've been with British regiments in the thick of it and know more about the war and what it means to the foot soldier than anyone with the A.E.F.(36)
In the afternoon again to No. 83 to show them the tricks of a lumbar puncture, and there another encounter---Miss Duncan, the matron of No. 46 C.C.S. They certainly had a close shave---called from Proven to Noyon to rejoin the 5th Army---had taken over a French H.O.E. still containing French wounded, and on Monday, March 17th, were given full charge, regarding themselves as a sort of base hospital, of circa 1000 beds. By Saturday night they had 3500 patients, many very badly wounded. No. 61 C.C.S., which was at Ham, had evacuated to them, and sisters began to arrive from forward areas. Also many wounded from a field ambulance, among them a legless American M.O. from California. A shell had landed on their party as they were withdrawing.
By Sunday night orders came for the nurses to leave on an hour's notice---the order countermanded---on Monday morning more conflicting orders, but they finally got away on a civilian train, heartbroken at having to leave the wounded behind. The M.O.'s and personnel stayed until the afternoon. They evacuated about 1000 wounded, and then got away themselves. Telfer was the last to leave just as the Germans were coming in---he would be. Most of them had to walk 30 miles, the Sgt. Major and others tramping way back to Amiens, where, to complete the story, they got badly bombed that night. They expect to be brought together again at a place called Picquigny, 10 km. west of Amiens. Miss D. never wants to go through anything like it again, and, I judge, would have preferred to stay with the wounded. Why shouldn't they have stayed, some of them at least?
Yesterday's papers say we are holding all along the line, yet our local, Le Télégramme, headlines that "Dans an Splendide Élan les Troupes Franco-Britanniques Reprennent Moreuil." This means a bulge of two or three miles nearer the Amiens-Paris railway than I had reckoned on. But the French remain serene and confident in Clemenceau and Foch, whose praises fill the news sheets---"tout va bien," and "ils ne passeront pas." Paris continues to be shelled from 75 miles away; on Good Friday they got a church full of people---chiefly women and children---a chance shot, having caught a pillar supporting the roof.
Tuesday, April 2nd
Despite the low ceiling an air raid aroused us early this morning. I finally got up at 3 a.m. and went to the Casino, but all was quiet. They dropped several in the fields out behind No. 83---no great damage done. No marked change in the line the past 24 hours, though "fierce encounters" continue in the Démuin-Hangard-Moreuil area, and also north of Montdidier. This part of the line is only five miles from the railroad. Foch says he is prepared to guarantee Amiens---to whom? The Australians got in on Wednesday the 27th and relieved the hard-pressed English troops. It's announced that the Americans are to be brigaded with the Allies until sufficiently trained to form their own divisions.
Thursday, April 4th
8 p.m. Busy with brains---other people's. Have been at No. 83 and at No. 2 Australian (Col. Powell, C.O.)---a good place and my first visit there. Very attractive blue and white wards, and about 90 femurs. Abbeville has been evacuated of its hospitals---to become an important military centre.
A drizzling rain. Things have been comparatively quiet for two days with only local fighting. We hope they've shot their bolt. They are said to be digging in. Reserve troops continue to pour through here. At this moment a long line of shadowy Tommies, stretching from the Casino as far toward Wimereux as one can see in the dusk, are tramping by in column of fours---whistling and singing as they march. They must therefore be the new draft---boys out for the first time: older troops are less likely to sing going up. Old Élise was watching them at our door as I came in from the mess---"C'est toujours triste, n'est-ce pas?"
Friday, April 5th. Boulogne
Have just dined in a little cold room at the Criterion with Sir Arthur Lawley to meet Sir William Garstin. Jim Perkins and Snow expected from Paris, but they started by train this morning and heaven only knows when they may arrive. The D.D.M.S. there; also Maj. Collett and a man in civies named Anstruther, who, I believe, not long since was whip for one of the parties in the House of Commons.
Garstin a most interesting person---much traveled---great friend of Kitchener's, an engineer, indeed built the Assuan dam, possibly while K. of K. was in Egypt; on the Suez Commission which meets once a month in Paris. Much about another friend, Wingate, the present sirdar, who has just lost an only son; I was told later this has happened also to Garstin himself. He got on the subject of Kipling and said he thought "They" was his finest thing: one can easily understand why.
Lawley himself an old soldier, once captain of the 10th Hussars,(37) so that there was much talk of the British Army, chiefly reminiscent of Africa and India; but this not all. Many tales that will scarcely get told---how the native Indian officers from the Lancers led forward the Irish Guards at Cambrai after they had lost their own officers; tales of the Flying Corps in these recent battles; of General Sloggett's son, who has disappeared with his entire battalion.
Tales, also, of the Tommy by Col. Thurston---in dialect not always easy to follow. A sergeant of the North Lancs he had just been interviewing was telling him of their long-unavailing stand: "Then the hofficer, 'e sez 'ook it; so we 'ooks it with the L.F.'s" ---which merely means they finally withdrew with the Lancashire Fusiliers. In regard to the full participation of the U.S.A., the D.D.M.S. said it's worth remembering that every man requires each year 2 1/2 tons of supplies---about 15 pounds a day (for food, clothing, etc.) irrespective of his ammunition.
Chapter Seven, continued
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