Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915


On No.— Ambulance Train (2)


October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914

"The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him with soft wings."
—Julian Grenfell.


On No.— Ambulance Train (2).


October 20, 1914, to November 17, 1914.

Rouen—First Battle of Ypres—At Ypres—A rest—A General Hospital.

Tuesday, October 20th, 6 p.m.—Just leaving Rouen for Boulogne. We've seen some of the Indians. The Canadians seem to be still on Salisbury Plain. No one knows what we're going to Boulogne empty for.

We have been busy to-day getting the train ready, stocking dressings, &c. All the 500 blankets are sent in to be fumigated after each journey, and 500 others drawn instead. And well they may be; one of the difficulties is the lively condition of the men's shirts and trousers (with worse than fleas) when they come from the trenches in the same clothes they've worn for five weeks or more. You can't wonder we made tracks for a bath at Rouen.

We've just taken on two Belgian officers who want a lift to Boulogne.

Wednesday, October 21st.—Arrived at Boulogne 6 a.m. Went on to Calais, and reached St Omer at 2 p.m., where I believe we are to take up from the motor ambulances. A train of Indians is here. Some Belgian refugees boarded the train at Boulogne, and wanted a lift to Calais, but had to be turned off reluctantly on both sides. Have been going through bedding equipment to-day.

No mail for me yet, but the others have had one to-day.

3.30 p.m.—Off for Steenwerck, close to the Belgian frontier, N.W. of Lille. Good business Just seen five aeroplanes. Have been warned by Major —— to wear brassards in prominent place, owing to dangerous journey in view!

4.30.—This feels like the Front again. Thousands and thousands of Indian troops are marching close to the line, with long fair British officers in turbans, mounted, who salute us, and we wave back; transport on mules. Gorgeous sunset going on; perfectly flat country; no railway traffic except de la Guerre.

6 p.m., Steenwerck.—Pitch dark; saw big guns flashing some way off. The motor ambulances are not yet in with the wounded. The line is cut farther on.

8 p.m.—We have had dinner, and have just been down the line to see the place about 100 yards off. The Germans were here six days ago; got into a big sewer that goes under the line, and blew it up. There is a hole 30 feet long, 15 across and 15 deep—very good piece of work. They occupied the station, and bragged about getting across to England from Calais. The M.O. who lives here, to be the link (with a sergeant and seven men) between the field ambulances and the trains, dined with us. It is a wee place. The station is his headquarters.

Thursday, October 22nd.—Took on from convoys all night in pitch darkness—a very bad load this time; going to go septic; swelling under the bandages. There was a fractured spine and a malignant œdema, both dying; we put these two off to-day at St Omer. We came straight away in the morning, and are now nearly back at Boulogne.


Friday, October 23rd.—All unloaded by 11 p.m. last night. (1800 in a day and a night.) No.— A.T. was in; visited M. and S. Bed by 12; clothes on for forty hours. Slept alongside quay. Two hospital ships in; watched them loading up from ambulances. No time to go ashore. The wounded officers we had this time said the fighting at the Front is very heavy. The men said the same. They slept from sheer exhaustion almost before their boots were got off, and before the cocoa came round. In the morning they perked up very pleased with their sleep, and talked incessantly of the trenches, and the charges, and the odds each regiment had against them, and how many were left out of their company, and all the most gruesome details you can imagine. They seem to get their blood up against the Germans when they're actually doing the fighting—"you're too excited to notice what hits you, or to think of anything but your life" ("and your country," one man added). "Some of us has got to get killed, and some wounded, and some captured, and we wonder which is for us."

11.15.—Just off for ——? I was in the act of trotting off into the town to find the baths, when I met a London Scottish with a very urgent note for the O.C.; thought I'd better bide a wee, and it was to say "Your train is urgently required; how soon can you start?" So I had a lucky escape of being left behind. (We had leave till 1 p.m.) Then the Major nearly got left; we couldn't start that minute, because our stores weren't all in, and the R.T.O. came up in a great fuss that we were holding up five supply trains and reinforcements; so the British Army had to wait for us.

The worst discomforts of this life are (a) cold; (b) want of drinking water when you're thirsty; (c) the appalling atmosphere of the French dining-car; (d) lack of room for a bath, and difficulty of getting hot water; (e) dirt; (f) eccentricities in the meals; (g) bad (or no) lights; (h) difficulties of getting laundry done; (i) personal capture of various live stock; (j) broken nights; (k) want of exercise on the up journey. Against all these minor details put being at the Front, and all that that includes of thrilling interest,—being part of the machinery to give the men the first care and comparative comfort since they landed, at the time they most need it—and least expect it.

6 p.m.—Hazebrouck again. We are said to be going to Belgium this time—possibly Ypres. There are a terrible lot of wounded to be got down—more than all the trains can take; they are putting some of them off on the stations where there is a M.O. with a few men, and going back for more.

There were two lovely French torpedo-boats alongside of us at Boulogne.

7.30 p.m., Ypres.—Just arrived, all very bucked at being in Belgium. An armoured train, protective coloured all over in huge dabs of red, blue, yellow, and green against aeroplanes, is alongside of us in the station, manned by thirty men R.N.; three trucks are called Nelson, Jellicoe, and Drake, with guns. They look fine; the men say it is a great game. They are directed where to fire at German positions or batteries, and as soon as they answer, the train nips out of range. They were very jolly, and showed us their tame rabbit on active service. They have had no casualties so far. Our load hasn't come in yet. We are two miles from our fighting line. No firing to-night to be heard—soon began, though.

Sunday, October 25th.—Couldn't write last night: the only thing was to try and forget it all. It has been an absolute hell of a journey—there is no other word for it. First, you must understand that this big battle from Ostend to Lille is perhaps the most desperate of all, though that is said of each in turn—Mons, the Aisne, and this; but the men and officers who have been through all say this is the worst. The Germans are desperate, and stick at nothing, and the Allies are the same; and in determination to drive them back, each man personally seems to be the same. Consequently the "carnage" is being appalling, and we have been practically in it, as far as horrors go. Guns were cracking and splitting all night, lighting up the sky in flashes, and fires were burning on both sides. The Clearing Hospital close by, which was receiving the wounded from the field and sending them on to us, was packed and overflowing with badly wounded, the M.O. on the station said.

We had 368; a good 200 were dangerously and seriously wounded, perhaps more; and the sitting-up cases were bad enough. The compound-fractured femurs were put up with rifles and pick-handles for splints, padded with bits of kilts and straw; nearly all the men had more than one wound—some had ten; one man with a huge compound fracture above the elbow had tied on a bit of string with a bullet in it as a tourniquet above the wound himself. When I cut off his soaked three layers of sleeve there was no dressing on it at all.

They were bleeding faster than we could cope with it; and the agony of getting them off the stretchers on to the top bunks is a thing to forget. We were full up by about 2 a.m., and then were delayed by a collision up the line, which was blocked by dead horses as a result. All night and without a break till we got back to Boulogne at 4 p.m. next day (yesterday) we grappled with them, and some were not dressed when we got into B——. The head cases were delirious, and trying to get out of the window, and we were giving strychnine and morphia all round. Two were put off dying at St Omer, but we kept the rest alive to Boulogne. The outstanding shining thing that hit you in the eye all through was the universal silent pluck of the men; they stuck it all without a whine or complaint or even a comment: it was, "Would you mind moving my leg when you get time," and "Thank you very much," or "That's absolutely glorious," as one boy said on having his bootlace cut, or "That's grand," when you struck a lucky position for a wound in the back. One badly smashed up said contentedly, "I was lucky—I was the only man left alive in our trench"; so was another in another trench; sixteen out of twenty-five of one Company in a trench were on the train, all seriously wounded except one. One man with both legs smashed and other wounds was asked if it was all by one shell: "Oh yes; why, the man next me was blowed to bits." The bleeding made them all frightfully thirsty (they had only been hit a few hours many of them), and luckily we had got in a good supply of boiled water beforehand on each carriage, so we had plenty when there was time to get it. In the middle of the worst of it in the night I became conscious of a Belgian Boy Scout of fourteen in the corridor, with a glass and a pail of drinking water; that boy worked for hours with his glass and pail on his own, or wherever you sent him. We took him back to Calais. He had come up into the firing line on his cycle fitted with a rifle, with tobacco for the troops, and lived with the British whom he loved, sharing their rations. He was a little brick; one of the Civil Surgeons got him taken back with us, where he wanted to go.

There were twenty-five officers on the train. They said there were 11,000 Germans dead, and they were using the dead piled up instead of trenches.

About 1 o'clock that night we heard a rifle shot: it was a German spy shooting at the sentry sailor on the armoured train alongside of us; they didn't catch him.

It took from 4 to 10 p.m. to unload our bad cases and get them into hospitals on motor ambulances: they lay in rows on their stretchers on the platform waiting their turn without a grumble.

There have been so many hundreds brought down this week that they've had suddenly to clear four hotels for hospitals.

We are now in the filthiest of sidings, and the smell of the burning of our heaps of filthy débris off the train is enough to make you sick. We all slept like logs last night, and could have gone on all day; but the train has to be cleaned down by the orderlies, and everything got ready for the next lot: they nearly moved us up again last night, but we shall go to-day.

I think if one knew beforehand what all this was going to be like one would hardly want to face it, but somehow you're glad to be there.

We were tackling a bad wound in the head, and when it was finished and the man was being got comfortable, he flinched and remarked, "That leg is a beast." We found a compound-fractured femur put up with a rifle for a splint! He had blankets on, and had never mentioned that his thigh was broken. It too had to be packed, and all he said was, "That leg is a beast," and "That leg is a Beast."

Monday, the 26th, 7 a.m., Ypres.—We got here again about 10 p.m. last night in pouring wet, and expected another night like Friday night, but we for some reason remained short of the station, and when we found there was nothing doing, lay down in our clothes and slept, booted and spurred in mackintosh, aprons, &c. We were all so tired and done up yesterday, M.O.'s, Sisters, and orderlies, that we were glad of the respite. There was a tremendous banging and flashing to the north about three o'clock, and this morning it was very noisy, and shaking the train. Some of it sounds quite close. It is a noise you rather miss when it leaves off.

One of the last lot of officers told us he had himself seen in a barn three women and some children, all dead, and all with no hands.

The noise this morning is like a continuous roll of thunder interrupted by loud bangs, and the popping of the French mitrailleuses, like our Maxims. The nearest Tommy can get to that word is "mileytrawsers." There are two other A.T.'s in, but I hear we are to load up first.

This place is full of Belgian women and children refugees in a bad way from exhaustion.

A long line of our horse ambulances is coming slowly in.

Had a very interesting morning. Got leave to go into the town and see the Cathedral of St Martin. None of the others would budge from the train, so I went alone; town chock-full of French and Belgian troops, and unending streams of columns, also Belgian refugees, cars full of staff officers. The Cathedral is thirteenth century, glorious as usual. There are hundreds of German prisoners in the town in the Cloth Hall. It was a very warrish feeling saying one's prayers in the Cathedral to the sound of the guns of one of the greatest battles in the world.

An M.O. from the Clearing Hospital, with a haggard face, asked me if I could give him some eau-de-Cologne and Bovril for a wounded officer with a gangrenous leg—lying on the station. Sister X. and I took some down, also morphia, and fed them all—frightful cases on stretchers in the waiting-room. They are for our train when we can get in. He told me he had never seen such awful wounds, or such numbers of them. They are being brought down in carts or anything. He said there are 1500 dead Germans piled up in a field five miles off. They say that German officers of ten days' service are commanding.

Tuesday, October 27th, Boulogne.—We got loaded up and off by about 7 p.m., and arrived back here this morning. There are two trains to unload ahead of us, so we shall probably be on duty all day. It is the second night running we haven't had our clothes off—though we did lie down the night before. Last night we had each a four-hour shift to lie down, when all the worst were seen to. One man died at 6 a.m. and another is dying: many as usual are delirious, and the hæmorrhage was worse than ever: it is frightfully difficult to stop it with these bad wounds and compound fractures. One sergeant has both eyes gone from a shell wound.

The twelve sitting-up cases on each carriage are a joy after the tragedy of the rest. They sit up talking and smoking till late, "because they are so surprised and pleased to be alive, and it is too comfortable to sleep!"

One man with a broken leg gave me both his pillows for a worse man, and said, "I'm not bad at all—only got me leg broke." A Reading man, with his face wounded and one eye gone, kept up a running fire of wit and hilarity during his dressing about having himself photographed as a Guy Fawkes for 'Sketchy Bits.'

Wednesday, October 28th.—Got to Boulogne yesterday morning; then followed a most difficult day. It was not till 10 p.m. that they began to unload the sick. The unloading staff at Boulogne have been so overworked night and day that trains get piled up waiting to be unloaded. Fifty motor ambulances have been sent for to the Front, and here they have to depend largely on volunteer people with private motors. Then trains get blocked by other trains each side of them, and nothing short of the fear of death will move a French engine-driver to do what you want him to do. Meanwhile two men on our train died, and several others were getting on with it, and all the serious cases were in great distress and misery. As a crowning help the train was divided into three parts, each five minutes' walk from any other—dispensary on one bit, kitchen on another. Everybody got very desperate, and at last, after superhuman efforts, the train was cleared by midnight, and we went thankfully but wearily to our beds, which we had not got into for the two previous nights.

To-day was fine and sunny, and while the train was getting in stores we went into the town to find a blanchisserie, and bought a cake and a petticoat and had a breath of different air. We expect to move up again any time now. Most welcome mails in.

News of De Wet's rebellion to-day. I wonder if Botha will be able to hold it?

'The Times' of yesterday (which you can get here) and to-day's 'Daily Mail' say the fighting beyond Ypres is "severe," but that gives the British public no glimmering of what it really is. The —— Regiment had three men left out of one company. The men say General —— cried on seeing the remains of the regiments who answered the rolls. And yet we still drive the Germans back.

There is a train full of slightly wounded Indians in: they are cooking chupatties on nothing along the quay. The boats were packed with refugee families yesterday. We had some badly wounded Germans on our train and some French officers. The British Army doesn't intend the Germans to get to Calais, and they won't get.

Thursday, October 29th, Nieppe.—Woke up to the familiar bangs and rattles again—this time at a wee place about four miles from Armentières. We are to take up 150 here and go back to Bailleul for 150 there. It is a lovely sunny morning, but very cold; the peasants are working in the fields as peacefully as at home. An R.A.M.C. lieutenant was killed by a shell three miles from here three days ago. We've just been giving out scarves and socks to some Field Ambulance men along the line.

Just seen a British aeroplane send off a signal to our batteries—a long smoky snake in the sky; also a very big British aeroplane with a machine-gun on her. A German aeroplane dropped a bomb into this field on Tuesday, meant for the Air Station here. This is the Headquarters of the 4th Division.

Friday, October 30th, Boulogne.—While we were at Nieppe, after passing Bailleul, a German aeroplane dropped a bomb on to Bailleul. After filling up at Nieppe we went back to Bailleul and took up 238 Indians, mostly with smashed left arms from a machine-gun that caught them in the act of firing over a trench. They are nearly all 47th Sikhs, perfect lambs: they hold up their wounded hands and arms like babies for you to see, and insist on having them dressed whether they've just been done or not. They behave like gentlemen, and salaam after you've dressed them. They have masses of long, fine, dark hair under their turbans done up with yellow combs, glorious teeth, and melting dark eyes. One died. The younger boys have beautiful classic Italian faces, and the rest have fierce black beards curling over their ears.

We carried 387 cases this time.

Later.—We got unloaded much more quickly to-day, and have been able to have a good rest this afternoon, as I went to bed at 3 a.m. and was up again by 8. It was not so heavy this time, as the Indians were mostly sitting-up cases. Those of a different caste had to sleep on the floor of the corridors, as the others wouldn't have them in. One compartment of four lying-down ones got restless with the pain of their arms, and I found them all sitting up rocking their arms and wailing "Aie, Aie, Aie," poor pets. They all had morphia, and subsided. One British Tommy said to me: "Don't take no notice o' the dirt on me flesh, Sister; I ain't 'ad much time to wash!" quite seriously.

Another bad one needed dressing. I said, "I won't hurt you." And he said in a hopeless sort of voice, "I don't care if you do." He had been through a little too much.

It is fine getting the same day's London 'Daily Mail' here by the Folkestone boat.

It is interesting to hear the individual men express their conviction that the British will never let the Germans through to Calais. They seem as keen as the Generals or the Government. That is why we have had such thousands of wounded in Boulogne in this one week. It is quite difficult to nurse the Germans, and impossible to love your enemies. We always have some on the train. One man of the D.L.I. was bayoneted in three different places, after being badly wounded in the arm by a dumdum bullet. (They make a small entrance hole and burst the limb open in exit.) The man who bayoneted him died in the next bed to him in the Clearing Hospital yesterday morning. You feel that they have all been doing that and worse. We hear at first hand from officers and men specified local instances of unprintable wickedness.

Saturday, October 31st.—Left Boulogne at twelve, and have just reached Bailleul, 6 p.m., where we are to take up wounded Indians again. Somehow they are not so harrowing as the wounded British, perhaps because of the block in language and the weirdness of them. Big guns are booming again. (This was the most critical day of the first battle of Ypres.)

H. sent me a lovely parcel of fifty packets of cigarettes and some chocolate, and A. sent a box of nutmilk choc. They will be grand for the men.

One drawback on having the Indians is that you find them squatting in the corridor, comparing notes on what varieties they find in their clothing! Considering the way one gets smothered with their blankets in the bunks it is the most personally alarming element in the War so far.

Sunday, November 1st, BoulogneAll Saints' Day.—We loaded up with British after all, late in the evening, and had a very heavy night: one of mine died suddenly of femoral hæmorrhage, after sitting up and enjoying his breakfast.

12 noon.—We are still unloaded, but I was up all night, and so went out for a blow after breakfast. Found two British T.B.D.'s in dock; on one they were having divine service, close to the quay. I listened specially to the part about loving our enemies! Then I found the English Church (Colonial and Continental), quite nice and good chants, but I was too sleepy to stay longer than the Psalms: it is ages since one had a chance to go to Church.

After lunch, now they are all unloaded, one will be able to get a stuffy station sleep, regardless of noise and smells.

We carried thirty-nine officers on the train, mostly cavalry, very brave and angelic and polite in their uncomfortable and unwonted helplessness. They liked everything enthusiastically—the beds and the food and the bandages. One worn-out one murmured as he was tucked up, "By Jove, it is splendid to be out of the sound of those beastly guns; it's priceless." I had a very interesting conversation with a Major this morning, who was hit yesterday. He says it's only a question of where and when you get it, sooner or later; practically no one escapes.

Rifle firing counts for nothing; it is all the Coal-boxes and Jack Johnsons. The shortage of officers is getting very serious on both sides, and it becomes more and more a question of who can wear out the other in the time.

He said that Aircraft has altered everything in War. German aeroplanes come along, give a little dip over our positions, and away go the German guns. And these innocent would-be peasants working in the fields give all sorts of signals by whirling windmills round suddenly when certain regiments come into action.

The poor L. Regiment were badly cut up in this way yesterday half an hour after coming into their first action; we had them on the train.

They say the French fight well with us, better than alone, and the Indians can't be kept in their trenches; it is up and at 'em. But we shall soon have lost all the men we have out here. Trains and trains full come in every day and night. We are waiting now for five trains to unload. It is a dazzling morning.

Monday, November 2nd.—On way up to ——. The pressure on the Medical Service is now enormous. One train came down to-day (without Sisters) with 1200 sitting-up cases; they stayed for hours in the siding near us without water, cigarettes, or newspapers. You will see in to-day's 'Times' that the Germans have got back round Ypres again (where I went into the Cathedral last Monday). No.— A.T. was badly shelled there yesterday. The Germans were trying for the armoured train. The naval officer on the armoured train had to stand behind the engine-driver with a revolver to make him go where he was wanted to. The sitting-up cases on No.— got out and fled three miles down the line. A Black Maria shell burst close to and killed a man. They are again "urgently needing" A.T.'s; so I hope we are going there to-night.

Eighty thousand German reinforcements are said to have come up to break through our line, and the British dead are now piled up on the field. But they aren't letting the Germans through. Three of our men died before we unloaded at 8 p.m. yesterday, two of shock from lying ten hours in the trench, not dressed.

Tuesday, November 3rd, Bailleul, 8.30 a.m.—Just going to load up; wish we'd gone to Ypres. Germans said to be advancing.

Wednesday, November 4th, Boulogne.—We had a lot of badly wounded Germans who had evidently been left many days; their condition was appalling; two died (one of tetanus), and one British. We have had a lot of the London Scottish, wounded in their first action.

Reinforcements, French guns, British cavalry, are being hurried up the line; they all look splendid.

Wednesday, November 11th.—Sometimes it seems as if we shall never get home, the future is so unwritten.

A frightful explosion like this Hell of a War, which flared up in a few days, will take so much longer to wipe up what can be wiped up. I think the British men who have seen the desolation and the atrocities in Belgium have all personally settled that it shan't happen in England, and that is why the headlines always read—


You can tell they feel like that from their entire lack of resentment about their own injuries. Their conversation to each other from the time they are landed on the train until they are taken off is never about their own wounds and feelings, but exclusively about the fighting they have just left. If one only had time to listen or take it down it would be something worth reading, because it is not letters home or newspaper stuff, but told to each other, with their own curious comments and phraseology, and no hint of a gallery or a Press. Incidentally one gets a few eye-openers into what happens to a group of men when a Jack Johnson lands a shell in the middle of them. Nearly every man on the train, especially the badly smashed-up ones, tells you how exceptionally lucky he was because he didn't get killed like his mate.

Boulogne, Thursday, November 12th, 8 p.m.—Have been here all day. Had a hot bath on the St Andrew. News from the Front handed down the line coincides with the 'Daily Mail.'

Friday, 13th.—Still here—fourth day of rest. No one knows why; nearly all the trains are here. The news to-day is glorious. They say that the Germans did get through into Ypres and were bayoneted out again.

Friday, November 13th, Boulogne.—We have been all day in Park Lane Siding among the trains, in pouring wet and slush. I amused myself with a pot of white paint and a forceps and wool for a brush, painting the numbers on both ends of the coaches inside, all down the train; you can't see the chalk marks at night.

This unprecedented four days' rest and nights in bed is doing us all a power of good; we have books and mending and various occupations.

Saturday, November 14th.—Glorious sunny day, but very cold. Still in Boulogne, but out of Park Lane Siding slum, and among the ships again. Some French sailors off the T.B.'s are drilling on one side of us.

Everything R.A.M.C. at the base is having a rest this week—ships, hospitals, and trains. Major S. said there was not so much doing at the Front—thank Heaven; and the line is still wanted for troops. We have just heard that there are several trains to go up before our turn comes, and that we are to wait about six miles off. Better than the siding anyhow. Meanwhile we can't go off, because we don't know when the train will move out.

The tobacco and the cigarettes from Harrod's have come in separate parcels, so the next will be the chocolate and hankies and cards, &c. It is a grand lot, and I am longing to get up to the Front and give them out.

Sunday, November 15th.—We got a move on in the middle of the night, and are now on our way up.

The cold of this train life is going to be rather a problem. Our quarters are not heated, but we have "made" (i.e., acquired, looted) a very small oil-stove which faintly warms the corridor, but you can imagine how no amount of coats or clothes keeps you warm in a railway carriage in winter. I'm going to make a foot muff out of a brown blanket, which will help. A smart walk out of doors would do it, but that you can't get off when the train is stationary for fear of its vanishing, and for obvious reasons when it is moving. I did walk round the train for an hour in the dark and slime in the siding yesterday evening, but it is not a cheering form of exercise.

To-day it is pouring cats and dogs, awful for loading sick, and there will be many after this week for the trains.

Every one has of course cleared out of beautiful Ypres, but we are going to load up at Poperinghe, the town next before it, which is now Railhead. Lately the trains have not been so far.

Monday, November 16th, Boulogne, 9 a.m.—We loaded up at Bailleul 344. The Clearing Hospitals were very full, and some came off a convoy. One of mine died. One, wounded above the knee, was four days in the open before being picked up; he had six bullets in his leg, two in each arm, and crawled about till found; one of the arm wounds he got doing this. I went to bed at 4. The news was all good, taken as a whole, but the men say they were "a bit short-handed!!" One said gloomily, "This isn't War, it's Murder; you go there to your doom." Heard the sad news of Lord Roberts.

We are all the better for our week's rest.

Tuesday, November 17th, 3 a.m.—When we got our load down to Boulogne yesterday morning all the hospitals were full, and the weather was too rough for the ships to come in and clear them, so we were ordered on to Havre, a very long journey. A German died before we got to Abbeville, where we put off two more very bad ones; and at Amiens we put off four more, who wouldn't have reached Havre. About midnight something broke on the train, and we were hung up for hours, and haven't yet got to Rouen, so we shall have them on the train all to-morrow too, and have all the dressings to do for the third time. One of the night orderlies has been run in for being asleep on duty. He climbed into a top bunk (where a Frenchman was taken off at Amiens), and deliberately covered up and went to sleep. He was in charge of 28 patients. Another was left behind at Boulogne, absent without leave, thinking we should unload, and the train went off for Havre. He'll be run in too. Shows how you can't leave the train. Just got to St Just. That looks as if we were going to empty at Versailles instead of Havre. Lovely starlight night, but very cold. Everybody feels pleased and honoured that Lord Roberts managed to die with us on Active Service at Headquarters, and who would choose a better ending to such a life?

7 a.m.—After all, we must be crawling round to Rouen for Havre; passed Beauvais. Lovely sunrise over winter woods and frosted country. Our load is a heavy and anxious one—344; we shall be glad to land them safely somewhere. The amputations, fractures, and lung cases stand these long journeys very badly.

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