January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915
"The winter and the dark last long:
Grief grows and dawn delays:
Make we our sword-arm doubly strong,
And lift on high our gaze;
And stanch we deep the hearts that weep,
And touch our lips with praise."
January 7, 1915, to February 6, 1915.
The Petit Vitesse siding—Uncomplainingness of Tommy—Painting the train—A painful convoy—The "Yewlan's" watch—"Officer dressed in bandages"—Sotteville—Versailles—The Palais Trianon—A walk at Rouen—The German view, and the English view—'Punch'—"When you return Conqueror"—K.'s new Army.
Thursday, January 7th.—We moved out of Boulogne about 4 a.m., and reached Merville (with many long waits) at 2 p.m. Loaded up there, and filled up at Hazebrouck on way back. Many cases of influenza with high temperatures, also rheumatisms and bad feet, very few wounded. When they got the khaki hankies they said, "Khaki? that's extra!"
9.30 p.m.—We have 318 on board this time, including four enterics, four diphtherias, and eighteen convalescent scarlets (who caught it from their billet). A quiet-looking little man has a very fine new German officer's helmet and sword. "He gave it to me," he said. "I had shot him through the lung. I did the wound up as best I could and tried to save him, but he died. He was coming for me with his sword." Seems funny to first shoot a man and then try to mop it up. The Germans don't; they finish you off.
An officer on the train told me how another officer and twenty-five men were told off to go and take a new trench which had been dug in the night. Instead of the few they expected they found it packed with Germans, all asleep. "It's not a pretty story," he said, "but you can't go first and tell them you're coming when you are outnumbered three to one." They had to bayonet every one of those sleeping Germans, and killed every one without losing a man.
All my half of the train had khaki hankies and sweets; they simply loved them. They are all, except the infectious cases, just out of the trenches, and such things make them absurdly happy; you would hardly believe it. I am keeping the writing-cases and bull's-eyes for the next lot. There were just enough mufflers to muffle the chilly necks of those who hadn't already got them.
The wet has outwetted itself all day—it must be a record flood everywhere. We shall not unload to-night, so I had better think about turning in, as I have the third watch at 4 a.m.
I found some lovely eau-de-Cologne and shampoo powders from R. among the mufflers, and a pet aluminium candlestick from G. Such things give a Sister on an A.T. absurd pleasure; you'd hardly believe it.
Friday, January 8th.—Still pouring. We unloaded by 9 a.m., got our mail in. My wardmaster was so drunk to-night that the Q.M.S. had to send for the O.C. And he had just got his corporal's stripe. He was a particular ally of mine and was in South Africa.
We are in that foulest of all homes for lost trains to-day, the Petit Vitesse siding out of B. station, with the filth of all the ages around, about, and below us. You have to shut your window to keep out the smell of burning garbage and other horrors.
It is nearly three months since I sat in a chair, except at meals, and that is only a flap-down seat, or saw a fire, except the pails of coke the Tommies have on the lines.
I expect we shall be off again to-night somewhere.
Saturday, January 9th.—Did you see the H.A.C.'s story of the frozen Tommy who asked them to warm his hands, and then seeing they were on their way to his trench hastily explained that he was all right—only a bit numb. One thing one notices about them is that they have an enormous tolerance for each other and never seem to want to quarrel. They take infinite pains in the night not to wake each other in moving over the heaps of legs and arms sprawled everywhere, and will keep in cramped positions for hours rather than risk touching some one else's painful feet or hand. If you want to improve matters they say, "I shall be all right, Sister, it might jog his foot." They never let you miss any one out in giving things round, and always call your attention to any one they think needs it, but not to themselves. It is very funny how they won't fuss about themselves, and in consequence you often find things out too late. Last journey a man with asthma and bronchitis was, unfortunately as it turned out, given a top bunk, as he was considered too bad to be a sitting-up case. At 6 a.m. I found him looking very tired and miserable sitting on the edge; "I can't lie down," he said, "with this cough." When I put him in a sitting-up corner below, he said, "I could a'slep' all night like this!" It had never occurred to him to ask to be changed. They get so used to discomfort that they "stay put" and never utter. We had missed his distress (in the 318 we had on board), and they were sleeping on the floors of the corridors, so the middle bunks were very difficult to get at. Any of them would have changed with him. This happens several times on every journey, but you can't get them to fuss. The Germans and the Sikhs begin to clamour for something directly they are on the train, and keep it up till they go off.
Another typical instance (though not a pretty one) of Tommy's reluctance to complain occurred on the last journey. I came on one compartment full, busily engaged in collecting J.J.'s off one man in the middle, with a candle to see by. His blanket, I found, was swarming, and it was ours, not his, one of a lot taken on at Rouen as "disinfected"! (For one ghastly moment I thought it might be the compartment where I'd spent a good half-hour doing up their feet, but it wasn't.) I had the blanket hurled out of the window, and they then slept. But they weren't going to complain about it.
There was one jovial old boy of 60 with rows of ribbons. He had three sons in the Army, and when they went "he wasn't going to be left behind," so he re-enlisted.
Sunday, January 10th.—Woke up at Bailleul, sun shining for once, and everything—floods and all—looking lovely all the way down. Loaded up early and got down to B. by 4 p.m. to hear that we are to go on to Rouen—another all-night touch. We have put off the fourteen worst cases at B., and are now on our way to R. This is the first time we have shipped Canadians, P.P.C.L.I., the only regiment as yet in the fighting line. They are oldish men who have nearly all seen service before, many in South Africa.
Lots more wounded this time. Some S.L.I. got badly caught in a wood; they've just come from India.
When I took the Devonshire toffee round, a little doubtful whether the H.A.C.'s would not be too grand for it, one of them started up, "Oh, by George, not really!"
We have a boy on board with no wound and no disease, but quite mad, poor boy; he has to have a special orderly on him.
Monday morning, January 11th, Rouen.—The approach to Rouen at six o'clock on a pitch-dark, wet, and starlight morning, with the lights twinkling on the hills and on the river, and in the old wet streets, is a beautiful sight.
My mad boy has been very quiet all night.
Tuesday, January 12th.—At S. all day. By some mistake it hasn't rained all day, so we took the opportunity to get on with painting the train. We worked all the morning and afternoon and got a lot done, and it looks very smart: huge red crosses on white squares in the middle of each coach, and the number of the ward in figures a foot long at each end: this on both sides of the coaches. We have done not quite half the coaches, and are praying that it won't rain before it dries; if it does, the result is pitiable. The orderlies have been shining up the brass rails and paraffining the outside of the train, and have also played and won a football match against No. 1 A.T.
Wednesday, January 13th.—Woke at Abbeville; now on the way to Boulogne, where I hope we shall have time to get mails.
5 p.m.—We went through Boulogne without stopping, and got no mails in consequence; nor could we pick up P., who has been on ninety-six hours' leave. We have been on the move practically without stopping since 11 p.m. last night, and are just getting to Béthune, the place we went to two days after Christmas, where we were quite near the guns, and went over the Cl. H. which had been shelled. Expect to take wounded up here. The country is wetter than ever—it looks one vast swamp. Of course the rain has spoilt our lovely paint!
Thursday, January 14th.—We picked up a load in the dark and wet, with some very badly wounded, who kept us busy from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. without stopping. Some were caked with mud exactly to their necks! One told me he got hit trying to dig out three of his section who were half buried by an exploded coal-box. When he got hit, they were left, and eventually got finished by our own guns. Another lot of eleven were buried likewise, and are there still, but were all killed instantaneously. One man with part of his stomach blown away and his right thigh smashed was trying to get a corporal of his regiment in, but the corporal died when he got there, and he got it as well. He was smiling and thanking all night, and saying how comfortable he was. Another we had to put off at St Omer, on the off chance of saving his life. He was made happy by two tangerine oranges.
Many of the sitting-ups have no voice, and they cough all night. We unloaded this morning, got a sleep this afternoon, and are now, 5 p.m., on our way up again. The Clearing Hospitals are overflowing as of old, and like the Field Ambulances have more than they can cope with. We have to re-dress the septic things with H2O2, which keeps them going till they can be specially treated at the base. Some of the enterics are very bad: train journeys are not ideal treatment for enteric hæmorrhage, but it has to be done. Two of my orderlies are very good with them, and take great care of their mouths, and know how to feed them. It is a great anxiety when a great hulking G.D.O. (General Duty Orderly, not a Nursing Orderly) has to take his turn on night duty with the badly wounded.
It is time the sun shone somewhere—but it will surely, later on.
Friday, January 15th.—We got to Bailleul too late last night for loading, and went thankfully to bed instead. Now, 3.30 p.m., nearly back at B., but expect to be sent on to Rouen: most sick this time, and bad feet, not exactly frost-bite, but swollen and discoloured from the wet. One of my enterics is a Field Ambulance boy, with a temp. of 105, and he only "went sick" yesterday. How awful he must have felt on duty. He says his body feels "four sizes too big for him."
It is a mild day, sunny in parts, and not wet.
Still Friday, January 15th.—We unloaded at 6 p.m. at B., and are to start off again at 4.15 a.m.; business is brisk just now; this last lot only had mostly minor ailments, besides the enterics and the woundeds.
The French Major has had a letter from his wife at last, they are with the Germans, but quite well. We drank their health to-night in special port and champagne! and had Christmas pudding with sauce d'Enfer, as the lighted brandy was called! But we are all going to bed, not ivrés I'm glad to tell you. This going up by night and down by day is much the least tiring way, as we can undress and have a real night in bed.
Later.—Hazebrouck. We have been out, but couldn't get as far as No.— Cl. H. (where I find T. is), as the R.T.O. said we might be going on at 11.30.
We came across an anti-aircraft gun pointing to the sky, on a little hill. The gunner officer in charge of it seemed very pleased to see us, as he is alone all day. (He walks up and down the road a certain distance, dropping stones out of his pocket at each turning, and clears out the surrounding drain-pipes to drain his bit of swamp, as his amusements.)
He showed us his two kinds of 12 lb. shells, high explosives and shrapnel. The high explosive frightens the enemy aeroplane away by its terrific bang, he says: our own airmen say they don't mind the shrapnel. He says you can't distinguish between one kind of French aeroplane and the Germans until they are close enough over you to see the colours underneath, and then it may be too late to fire. "I'm terrified of bringing down a French aeroplane," he said. He was a most cheerful, ruddy, fit-looking boy.
9 p.m.—Another train full, and nearing Boulogne; a supply train full of minor cases came down just before us from the same place, where we've been three days running. The two Clearing Hospitals up there are working at awful high pressure—filling in from Field Ambulances, and emptying into the trains. All cases now have to go through the Clearing Hospitals for classification and diagnosis and dressings, but it is of a sketchy character, as you may imagine. They are all swarming with J.J.'s, even the officers. One of the officers is wounded in the head, shoulder, stomach, both arms, and both feet. A boy in my wards, with a baby face, showed me a beautiful silver, enamelled and engraved watch he got off a "Yewlan"; he was treasuring it in his belt "to take home to Mother." I asked him if the Yewlan was dead. "Oh yes," he said, his face lighting up with glee; "we shot him. He was like a pepper-pot when we got to him." Isn't it horrible? And like the boy in 'Punch,' he'd never killed anybody before he went to France. I wonder what "Mother" will say to his cheerful little story.
I have been busy bursting a bad quinsy with inhalers and fomentations. After a few hours he could sing Tipperary and drink a bottle of stout!
There are two Volunteer shop-boys from a London Territorial Regiment, who call me "Madam" from force of habit.
Sunday, January 17th.—We didn't unload at Boulogne last night, and are still (11 a.m.) taking them on to Êtretat, a lovely place on the coast, about ten miles north of Havre. The hospital there is my old No.— General Hospital, that I mobilised with, so it will be very jolly to see them all again.
We are going through most lovely country on a clear sunny morning, and none of the patients are causing any anxiety, so it is an extremely pleasant journey, and we shall have a good rest on the way back.
3 p.m.—Just as I was beginning to forget there were such things as trenches and shrapnel and snipers, they told me a horrible story of two Camerons who got stuck in the mud and sucked down to their shoulders. They took an hour and a half getting one out, and just as they said to the other, "All right, Jock, we'll have you out in a minute," he threw back his head and laughed, and in doing so got sucked right under, and is there still. They said there was no sort of possibility of getting him out; it was like a quicksand.
One told me—not as such a very sensational fact—that he went for eleven weeks without taking off his clothes, or a wash, and then he had a hot bath and a change of everything. He remarked that he had to scrape himself with a knife.
We have been travelling all day, and shan't get to Êtretat till about 7 p.m. It is a mercy we got our bad cases off at Boulogne—pneumonias, enterics, two s.f.'s, and some badly wounded, including the officer dressed in bandages all over. He was such a nice boy. When he was put into clean pyjamas, and had a clean hanky with eau-de-Cologne, he said, "By Jove, it's worth getting hit for this, after the smells of dead horses, dead men, and dead everything." He said no one could get into Messines, where there is only one house left standing, because of the unburied dead lying about. He couldn't move his arms, but he loved being fed with pigs of tangerine orange, and, like so many, he was chiefly concerned with "giving so much trouble." He looked awfully ill, but seldom stopped smiling. Of such are the Kingdom of Heaven.
Later. On way to Havre.—These are all bound for home and have been in hospital some time. They are clean, shaved, clothed, fed, and convalescent. Most of the lying-downs are recovering from severe wounds of weeks back. It is quite new even to see them at that stage, instead of the condition we usually get them in. Some are the same ones we brought down from Béthune three weeks ago.
One man was in a dug-out going about twenty feet back from the trench, with sixteen others, taking cover from our howitzers and also from the enemy's. The cultivated ground is so soft with the wet that it easily gives, and the bursting of one of our shells close by drove the roof in and buried these seventeen—four were killed and eleven injured by it, but only two were got out alive, and they were abandoned as dead. However, a rescue party of six faced the enemy shells above ground and tried to get them out. In doing this two were killed and two wounded. The other two went on with it. My man and another man were pinned down by beams—the other had his face clear, but mine hadn't, though he could hear the picks above him. He gave up all hopes of getting out, but the other man when rescued said he thought this one was still alive, and then got him out unconscious. When he came to he was in hospital in a chapel, and it took him a long time to realise he was alive. "They generally take you into chapel before they bury you," he said, "but I told 'em they done it the wrong way round with me. That was the worst mess ever I got into in this War," he finished up.
Wednesday, January 20th, Sotteville.—The others have all been out, but I've been a bit lazy and stayed in, washed my hair and mended my clothes. This place is looking awfully pretty to-day, because all the fields are flooded between us and the long line of high hills about a mile away, and it looks like a huge lake with the trees reflected in it. No orders to move, as usual. Ambulance trains travel as "specials" in a "marche," which means a gap in the timetable. There are only about two marches in twenty-four hours, and the R.T.O.'s have to fit the A.T.'s in to one or other of these marches when orders come that No.— A.T. is wanted. We do not get final orders of where our destination is till we get to Hazebrouck or St Omer. We have been six days without a mail now, and have taken loads to Êtretat and to Havre.
Thursday, January 21st.—We were not a whole day at Sotteville for once: moved out early this morning and are still travelling, 9 p.m., between Abbeville and Boulogne. It has been a specially slow journey, and, alas! we didn't go by Amiens: the only time we might have, by daylight. Beauvais has a fine Cathedral from the outside. I believe we are to go straight on from Boulogne, so we may not get our six days' mail, alas!
Friday, January 22nd.—We didn't get in to B. till midnight, too late to get mails, and left early this morning. At Calais it was discovered that the kitchen had been left behind, in shunting a store waggon, so we have been hung up all day waiting for it at St Omer. Went for a walk. It is a most interesting place to walk about in, swarming with every kind of war material, and the grey towers of the two Cathedrals looked lovely in a blue sky. Such a dazzling day: we were able to get on with painting the train, which is breaking out into the most marvellous labelling, the orderlies competing with each other. But when at 6 p.m. it seemed the day would never end, No.— A.T. steamed up with our kitchen tacked on, and in the kitchen was the mail-bag—joy of joys!
We have just got to Bailleul, 10.30 p.m.: a few guns banging. We are wondering if we shall clear the Cl. hospitals to-night or wait till morning: depends if they are expecting convoys in to-night and are full.
11 p.m.—P. and I, fully rigged for night duty, have just been gloomily exploring the perfectly silent and empty station and street, wondering when the motor ambulances would begin to roll up, when B—— hailed us from the train with "8 o'clock to-morrow morning, you two sillies, and the Major's in bed!" so now we can turn in, and load up happily by daylight, and it's my turn for the lying down, thank goodness, or rather the Liers, as they are called.
Saturday, January 23rd.—Another blue, sunny, frosty morning. Loading up this morning was hard to attend to, as a thrilling Taube chase was going on overhead, the sky peppered with bursting shells, and aeroplanes buzzing around: didn't bring it down though.
The train is full of very painful feet: like a form of large burning chilblain all over the foot, and you can't do anything for them, poor lambs.
Still Saturday, January 23rd.—This is our first journey to Versailles. My only acquaintance with it was on the way up from Le Mans to Villeneuve to join this train. Two kind sisters, living in a sort of little ticket office in the middle of the line, washed and fed me at 6 a.m. in between two trains, but I saw nothing of the glories of Versailles—hope to to-morrow.
I don't think the men will get much sleep, their feet are too bad, but we are going to give them a good chance with drugs, the last thing. We shall do the night in three watches.
Sunday, January 24th, 5 a.m., Versailles.—They've had a pretty good night most of them. If you see any compartment, say six sitters and two top-liers showing signs of being near the end of their tether, with bad feet and long hours of the train, you have only to say cheerfully, "How are you getting on in this dug-out?" for every man to brighten visibly, and there is a chorus of "If our dug-outs was like this I reckon we shouldn't want no relievin'!" and a burst of wit and merriment follows. You can try it all down the train; it never fails.
They are all in 1st class coaches, not 3rds or 2nds.
9.30 a.m.—They have only four M.A.'s, and the hospital is 1-1/2 miles off, so all our 366 limping, muddy scarecrows are not off yet. There is a mist and a piercing north wind, and lots of mud. The A.T.'s do so much bringing the British Army from the field that I hope some other trains are busy bringing the British Army to the field, or there can't be many left in the field.
They told me another story of a man in the Royal Scots who was sunk in mud up to his shoulders, and the officer offered a canteen of rum and a sovereign to the first man who could get him out. For five hours thirteen men were digging for him, but it filled up always as they dug, and when they got him out he died.
6 p.m.—Just getting to Rouen, probably to load for Havre. They do keep us moving. We just had time to go and see the Palais Trianon with the French Sergeant (who is nearly a gentleman, and an artist). Is there anything else quite like it anywhere else? It was défense d'entrer, so we only wandered round the grounds and looked in at the windows, down the avenues and round the ponds and hundreds of statues, and went up the great escalier. Louis Quatorze certainly did himself proud.
It was a long way to go, and we were walking for hours till we got dog-tired after the long load from Bailleul, and after lunch retired firmly on to our beds. I don't think we shall take patients on to-night.
Monday, January 25th.—We have been at Sotteville all day; had time to read last week's 'Times'—an exceptionally interesting lot.
Have just had orders to load up at Rouen for Havre to-morrow; then I hope we shall go back to Boulogne. We have not stayed more than an hour or two in Boulogne since January 9th—that is, for seventeen days; but we've managed to just pick up our mails every few days while unloading the bad cases. We ought to get back there for a mail on Thursday.
We have taken down a good many Northamptons lately. They seem an exceptionally seasoned and intelligent lot, and have been through the thick of everything since Mons.
Did I tell you that in one place (I don't suppose it is the same all along the line) they are doing forty-eight hours in the trenches, followed by forty-eight hours back in the billets (barns, &c.) for six times, and then twelve days' rest, when they get themselves and their rifles cleaned; they have armourers' shops for this.
They nearly all say that only the men who are quite certain they never will get back, say they want to. If any others say it, "well, they're liars." But for all that, you do find one here and there who means it. One Canadian asked how long he'd be sick with his feet. "I want to get back to the regiment," he said. They seem rather out of it with the Tommies, some of them.
Just had a grand hot bath from a passing engine in exchange for chocolate.
We shall have a quiet night to-night. Sotteville is the quietest place we ever sleep in; there is no squealing of whistles and shouting of French railwaymen as in all the big stations. Last night they were shunting and jigging us about all night between Rouen and Sotteville. Slow bumping over hundreds of points is much worse to sleep in than fast travelling. In either case you wake whenever you pull up or start off. But we shall miss the train when we get into a dull hotel bedroom or a billet, or perhaps a tent. My month at Le Mans in Madame's beautiful French bed was the one luxury I've struck so far.
Tuesday, 26th January.—A dazzling blue spring day. As we were not going in to load at Rouen till 3 p.m., we went for the most glorious walk in this country. We crossed the ferry over the Seine to the foot of the steep high line of hills which eventually overlooks Rouen, and climbed up to the top by a lovely winding woody path in the sun. (The boatman congratulated us on the sinking of the Blücher, as a naval man, I suppose.) "Who said War?" said P. while we were waiting on the shingle for the boat; it did seem very remote. At the top we got to the Church of Le Bon Secours, which is in a very fine position with a marvellous view. We had some lovely cider in a very clean pub with a garden, and then took the tram down a very steep track into Rouen. I was standing in the front of the tram for the view over Rouen, which was dazzling, with the spires and the river and the bridges, when we turned a sharp corner and smashed bang into a market-cart coming up our track. For the moment one thought the man and woman and the horse must be done for; the horse disappeared under the tram, and there arose such a screaming that the three Tommies and I fell over each other trying to get out to the rescue. When we did we found the man and woman had been luckily shot out clear of the tram, except that the man's hand was torn, and the old woman was frantically screaming, "Mon cheval, mon cheval, mon cheval," at least a hundred times without stopping. The others were out by this time and the two tram people, and the French clack went on at its top speed, while P. and the Tommies and a very clever old woman out of the tram tried to cut the horse clear of the broken cart, and I did up the man's hand with our hankies; the only one concerned least was the horse, who kept quiet with its legs mixed up in the tram. At last the tram succeeded in moving clear of the horse without hurting it, and it was got up smiling after all. The outside old woman went on picking up the fish and the harness, &c., the man was taken off to have his hand bathed, and the poor old woman of the cart stopped screaming "Mon cheval, mon cheval," and went off to have a drink, and we walked on and found a train at Rouen. That sort of thing is always happening in France.
I hope the overworked people at the heads of the various departments of the British Army realise how the men appreciate what they try and do for them in the trenches. If you ask what the billets are like, they say, "Barns and suchlike; they do the best they can for us." If you ask if the trench conditions are as bad for the Germans, they say, "They're worse off; they ain't looked after like what we are."
9.30 p.m.—On way to Havre. I was just going to say that from the Seine to Le Havre there is nothing to report, when I came across a young educated German in my wards with his left leg off from the hip, and his right from below the knee, and a bad shell wound in his arm, all healed now, done at Ypres on 24th October. And I had an hour's most thrilling and heated conversation with him in German. He was very down on the English Sisters in hospital, because he says they hated him and didn't treat him like the rest. I said that was because they couldn't forget what his regiment (Bavarians) had done to the Belgian women and children and old men, and the French. And he said he couldn't forget how the Belgian women had put out the eyes of the German wounded at Liège and thrown boiling water on them. I said they were driven to it. I asked him a lot of straight questions about Germany and the War, and he answered equally straight. He said they had food in Germany for ten years, and that they had ten million men, and that all the present students would be in the Army later on, and that practically the supply could never stop. And I said that however long they could go on, in the end there would be no more Germany because she was up against five nations. He said no man has any fear of a Russian soldier, and that though they were slow over it they would get Paris, but not London except by Zeppelins; he admitted that it would be sehr schwer to land troops in England, and that our Navy was the best, but we had so few soldiers, they hardly counted! He got very excited over the Zeppelins. I asked why the Germans hated the English, and he said, "In Berlin we do not speak of the English at all(!!!); it is the French and the Russians we hate." He said the Turks were no good zu helfen, and Austria not much better. He was very down on Belgium for resisting in the first place! and said the Schuld was with France and Russia. They were very much astonished when England didn't remain neutral! He had the cheek to say that three German soldiers were as good as twenty English, so I assured him that five English could do for fifty Germans, and went on explaining carefully to him how there could be no more Germany in the end because the right must win! and he said, "So you say in England, but we know otherwise in Deutschland, and I am a German." So as I am an English we had to agree to differ. His faith in his Vaterland nearly made him cry and must have given him a temperature. I felt quite used up afterwards. He is fast asleep now. There is also an old soldier of sixty-three who says General French and General Smith-Dorrien photographed him as the oldest soldier in the British Army. He has four sons in it, one killed, two wounded. He was with General Low in the Chitral Expedition, and is called Donald Macdonald, of the K.O.S.B.'s. "Unfortunately I was reduced to the ranks for being drunk the other day," he said gaily. "But the Captain he said, 'Don't lose 'eart, Macdonald, you'll get it all back.'"
 I have since found that no sort of evidence was brought forward by the Germans to support this charge, and it is emphatically denied by the Belgian authorities.
Wednesday, January 27th.—They have found a way of warming our quarters when we have not an engine on. I don't know what we should have done without it to-day; it is icy cold. Mails to-morrow, hurrah! Going to turn in early.
Thursday, January 28th.—Got to Boulogne this morning. Have been getting stores in and repairs done; expect to be sent up any time. Sharp frost and cold wind.
Friday, January 29th.—One of those difficult-to-bear days; hung up all day at a place beyond St Omer, listening to guns, and doing nothing when there's so much to be done. The line is probably too busy to let us up. It happens to be a dazzling blue day, which must be wiping off 50 per cent of the horrors of the Front. The other 50 per cent is what they are out for, and see the meaning of.
We are to go on in an hour's time, "destination unknown."
Saturday, January 30th.—We got up to Merville at one o'clock last night, and loaded up only forty-five, and are now just going to load up again at a place on the way back. We have been completely done out of the La Bassée business; haven't been near it. No.— Cl. H. that we saw on December 27th, where S.C. and two more of my No.— G.H. friends were, had to be evacuated in a hurry, as several orderlies were killed in the shelling.
One of my badly woundeds says "the Major" (whose servant he has been for four years) asked him to make up the fire in his dug-out, while he went to the other end of the trench. While he was doing the fire a shell burst over the dug-out and a bit went through his left leg and touched his right. If the Major had been sitting in his chair where he was a minute before, his head would have been blown off. He said, "When the Major came back and found me, he drove everybody else away and stayed with me all day, and made me cocoa, and at night carried my stretcher himself and took me right to Headquarters." His eyes shine when he talks of "the Major," and he seems so proud he got it instead.
I asked a boy in the sitting-ups what was the matter with him. "Too small," he said. Another said "Too young"; he was aged fifteen, in the Black Watch.
A young monkey, badly wounded in hand and throat (lighting a cigarette—the shatter to his hand saved worse destruction to his throat, though bad enough as it is), after we'd settled him in, fixed his eye on me and said, "Are you going to be in here along of us all the way?" "Yes," I said. "That's a good job," and he is taking good care to get his money's worth, I can tell you.
Some of them are roaring at the man in 'Punch' who made a gallant attempt to do justice to all his Xmas presents at once. There is a sergeant-major of the Royal Scots very indignant at having been made to go sick with bad feet. Any attempt to fuss over him is met with "I need no attention whatever, thank you, Sister. I feel more like apologising for being in here. Only five weeks of active service," he growled.
The latest Franco-British idea is to Arras the Boches till they Argonne!
Sunday, January 31st.—We did go on to Rouen. B. is full to the brim. We have only unloaded at B. three times since Christmas.
I'm beginning to think we waste a lot of sympathy on the poor wounded rocking in a train all night after being on it all day. One of mine with a bullet still in his chest, and some pneumonia, who seemed very ill when he was put on at Merville, said this morning he felt a lot better and had had the best night for five days! And my fidgety boy with the wound in his throat made a terrible fuss at being put off at Boulogne when he found he was the only one in his compartment to go and that I wasn't going with him.
I had the easy watch last night because of my cold, and went to bed at 1 a.m.; got a hot bath this morning, and lay low all day till a stroll between the Seine and the floods after tea (Sotteville). There are four trains waiting here, and the C.S.'s have been skating on the floods. We move on at 1 o'clock to-night. No.— A.T. had a bomb dropped each side of their train at Bailleul, but they didn't explode.
The French instruction books have come, and I am going to start the French class for the men on the train; they are very keen to learn, chiefly, I think, to make a little more running with the French girls at the various stopping places.
Two officers last night were awfully sick at not being taken off at B., but I think they'll get home from Rouen. One said he must get home, if only for ten minutes, to feel he was out of France.
Wednesday, February 3rd.—Moved on last night, and woke up at Bailleul. Some badly wounded on the train, but not on my half.
On the other beat, beyond Rouen, the honeysuckle is in leaf, the catkins are out, and the woods are full of buds. What a difference it will make when spring comes. On this side it is all canals, bogs, and pollards, and the eternal mud.
We found pinned on a sock from a London school child, "Whosoever receives this, when you return conqueror, drop me a line," and then her name and address!
Thursday, February 4th.—For once we unloaded at B. and went to bed instead of taking them on all night to Rouen.
Moved out of B. at 5 a.m., breakfast at St O., where we nearly got left behind strolling on the line during a wait. We are going to Merville in the mining district where L. is.
3 p.m.—We have just taken on about seventy Indians, mostly sick, some badly wounded. They are much cleaner than they used to be, in clothes, but not, alas! in habits. Aeroplanes are chasing a Taube overhead, but it is not being shelled. Guns are making a good noise all round. We are waiting for a convoy of British now.
It is a lovely afternoon.
The guns were shaking the train just now; one big bang made us all pop our heads out of the window to look for the bomb, but it wasn't a bomb. A rosy-faced white-haired Colonel here just came up to me and said, "You've brought us more firing this afternoon than we've heard for a long time."
We are filling up with British wounded now on the other half of the train. It is getting late, and we shan't unload to-night.
Later.—We were hours loading up because all the motor drivers are down with flu, and there were only two available. The rest are all busy bringing wounded in to the Clearing Hospital.
The spell of having the train full of slight medical cases and bad feet seems to be over, and wounded are coming on again.
Three of my sitting-up Indians have temperatures of 104, so you can imagine what the lying-downs are like. They are very anxious cases to look after, partly because they are another race and partly because they can't explain their wants, and they seem to want to be let die quietly in a corner rather than fall in with your notions of their comfort.
At Bailleul on our last journey we took on a heavenly white puppy just old enough to lap, quite wee and white and fat. He cries when he wants to be nursed, and barks in a lovely falsetto when he wants to play, and waddles after our feet when we take him for a walk, but he likes being carried best.
Some Tommies on a truck at Railhead brought him up for us; they adore his little mother and two brothers.
Friday, February 5th, Boulogne.—We did get in late last night, and got to bed at 1 a.m. They are unloading during the night again now, and also loading up at night.
One boy last night had lost his right hand; his left arm and leg were wounded, and both his eyes. "Yes, I've got more than my share," he said, "but I'll get over it all right." I didn't happen to answer for a minute, and in a changed voice he said, "Shan't I? shan't I?" Of course I assured him he'd get quite well, and that he was ticketed to go straight to an eye specialist. "Thank God for that," he said, as if the eye specialist had already cured him, but it is doubtful if any eye specialist will save his eyes.
To-day has been a record day of brilliant sun, blue sky and warm air, and it has transformed the muddy, sloppy, dingy Boulogne of the last two months into something more like Cornwall. We couldn't stop on the train (there were no orders likely), in spite of being tired, but went in the town in the morning, and on the long stone pier in the afternoon, and then to tea at the buffet at the Maritime (where you have tea with real milk and fresh butter, and jam not out of a tin, and a tablecloth, and a china cup—luxuries beyond description). On the pier there were gulls, and a sunny sort of salt wind and big waves breaking, and a glorious view of the steep little town piled up in layers above the harbour, which is packed with shipping.