Kate Luard

Le Havre, France

Le Havre, France

Hot and brilliant. Eleven fugitive Sisters of No.— have come back to-day from Amiens, and the others are either hung up somewhere or on the way. The story is that Uhlans were arriving in the town, and that it wasn’t safe for women; I don’t know if the hospital were receiving wounded or not. Yes, they were. Another rumour to-day says that No.— Field Ambulance has been wiped out by a bomb from an aeroplane. Another rumour says that one regiment has five men left, and another one man—but most of these stories turn out myths in time.

Wounded are being taken in at No.—, and are being shipped home from there the same day.

This morning Matron took two of us out to our Hospital camp, three miles along the Harfleur road. The tram threaded its way through thousands of our troops, who arrived this morning, and through a regiment of French Sappers. There were Seaforths (with khaki petticoats over the kilt), R. Irish Rifles, R.B. Gloucesters, Connaughts, and some D.G.’s and Lancers. They were all heavily loaded up with kit and rifles (sometimes a proud little French boy would carry these for them), marching well, but perspiring in rivers. It was a good sight, and the contrast between the khaki and the red trousers and caps and blue coats of the French was very striking. We went nearly to Harfleur (where Henry V. landed before Agincourt), and then walked back towards No.— Camp, along a beautiful straight avenue with poplars meeting over the top. About 20 motors full of Belgian officers passed us.

The camp is getting on well. All the Hospital tents are pitched, and all the quarters except the Sisters and the big store tents for the Administration block are ready. The operating theatre tent is to have a concrete floor and is not ready.

The ground is the worst part. It is a very boggy hay-field, and in wet weather like Wednesday and Tuesday they say it is a swamp. We are all to have our skirts and aprons very short and to be well provided with gum-boots. We shall be two in a bell-tent, or dozens in a big store tent, uncertain yet which, and we are to have a bath tent. I am to be surgical.

While waiting for the tram on the way back, on a hot, white road, we made friends with a French soldier, who stopped a little motor-lorry, already crammed with men and some sort of casks, and made them take us on. I sat on the floor, with my feet on the step, and we whizzed back into Havre in great style. There is no speed limit, and it was a lovely joy-ride!

We are seeing the ‘Times’ a few days late and fairly regularly. Have not seen any list of the Charleroi casualties yet. It all seems to be coming much nearer now. The line is very much taken up with ammunition trains.

To show that there is a good deal going on, though we’ve as yet had no work, I’m only half through my 7d. book, and we left home a fortnight and two days ago. If you do have a chance to read anything but newspapers, you can’t keep your mind on it.

We are getting quite used to a life shorn of most of its trappings, except for the two hotel meals a day.

My mattress, on the floor along the very low large window, with two rugs and cushions, and a holdall for a bolster, is as comfortable as any bed, and you don’t miss sheets after a day or two. There is one bathroom for 120 or more people, but I get a cold bath every morning early. S—— gets our early morning tea, and M. sweeps our room, and I wash up and roll up the beds. We are still away from our boxes, and have a change of some clothes and not others. I have to wash my vest overnight when I want a clean one and put it on in the morning. We have slung a clothes-line across our room. The view is absolutely glorious.

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