A year in Wandsworth Hospital

By an Officer Patient who has been over Twelve Months in the 3rd L.G.H.

What a contrast there is between an Egyptian hospital and one in fair England! In Alexandria I was a patient for five months, a long period for a clearing hospital, and had the reputation, enviable or not, of being the oldest inhabitant, as well as one of the pioneers, for I was in the first week when the nucleus was formed. How clearly I recall those early days, with the heat, flies, mosquitoes, with nurses from New Zealand. Canada, England, South Africa, and patients from all parts of the Empire - altogether a most motley collection!

The changes were more varied than here; there was more life, more colour, more incident from day to day. What exciting stories we had in those early days of the Gallipoli adventure, rumours brought by boats visiting the port, of Canal attacks, of boats sunk in the Mediterranean, of weird and wonderful successes !

So it was with mingled feelings I heard the surgeon, " Well, we have done all we can for you here, and we think a change will do you good, so are sending you off to England." I had a Soudanese boy, who answered to the sobriquet of " Mossy-face," who keenly wanted to come with me to England also, and even took it upon himself to ask the Colonel for permission. Imagine the Matron's joy, had I turned up at No.3 with a black orderly!

Honestly I did not feel very happy when I first landed here. The change from Egypt was so complete - heavy rain, cold winds, leaves drifting in all directions new people, a ward full of surgical convalescents, whereas I had been used to a ward for two and I thought, "My God, what have I struck this time!"

How different are my feelings now. I came as a stranger to a strange land, but I shall leave with deep feelings of regret, with gratitude for much kindness and sympathy, with the knowledge that I have been as happy as possible in the circumstances.

How can I describe a year in hospital? Old patients returning on a visit or even, in some cases back, with a second dose of lead, exclaim to me, " What, you still here? When are you thinking of going? ''

"Oh. didn't you know? I'm for 'duration.' Matron has put me on the Inventory."

Truly the human mind is wonderful. for it has the capacity of allowing all the dark periods and trouble to recede into the back ground, leaving only the pleasant memories, and looking back over the past year, the main recollections are always of the lighter side of the gay jokes, the amusing discussions, and the kindness of the nurses.

To me, one of the most outstanding features of the past year was the Christmas celebration, when gaiety was infectious, when Sisters vied with each other in ward decoration, the true Christian spirit pervaded throughout. And when it was all over I, like many another Colonial, exclaimed, in the fullness of my heart "Thank goodness, it has been a real Christmas, even though in hospital in true old English style, such as we have read and imagined."

Greatly I enjoyed, too, the first big snowstorm early in the present year, when patients and sisters turned out to oppose a neighbouring ward urged on by the vocal encouragements of those unable to take part. Sad to relate, we met with ignominious defeat, and had to retire discomfited for two of our side disappeared; one had his pipe knocked out carrying a tooth with it, another his glasses while an Australian, who thought it all "huge" until he got hit in the eye, suddenly subsided with a remark that he did not think a snowball could hurt so much, and that the other blighter must have put a stone in it.

I also remember how we improvised a lamp shade out of the seat of a Scotchman's highly prized plaid trousers, and when the aforesaid Scotty came home (in the good old 10.30 p.m. days) found a highly flavoured ten months' old cheese which had returned from a trip to Salonika, in place of his trousers, and how he violently vociferated after "lights out," for a loan of some scent, as if he had not enough already.

The mental atmosphere of a ward is a subtle yet positive element and the strange part about it is that it continuously changes, and the batches of patients unconsciously conform to it. For example a few infectious spirits rouse all the others, and we have what we call a "Gay Ward."

Never was a wiser decision made than at Wandsworth by our late, loved C.O. when it was decided that there should be no segregation or distinction between patients from the British Isles and the various Colonial Forces. The war has brought men from the uttermost parts of the Empire into closer touch than ever before, allowed them to see their own defects, and appreciate the good qualities in others. For their countries and life interests have proved the basis of many a conversation, besides - best and greatest of all - being the means of cementing life friendships.

I did not intend, when I commenced these stray jottings, to narrate any topical stories, but I must tell one of the most amusing retorts I have heard in a word. Any patient reading this well knows the morning joys of being ejected from bed in the "Wee sma' hours."

Nurse standing over Australian patient at "umphteen a.m.": "Now lazy, out you come ! The women beat the men in Australia, don't they? "

(Sleepily): " Yes."

" Have the vote too, and know how to keep you in your place!"

(Wide awake): "Yes and that's why I enlisted!"

Many have been the people I have seen come and go, many have been the changes I have noticed, and soon I, too, shall go out again upon the Broad Highway. with the knowledge that it has not been, by and means a wasted year of my life.