R.M.S.P. Asturias, Havre.—At last we are uprooted from that convent up the hot hill and are on an enormous hospital ship, who in times of peace goes to New York and Brazil and the Argentine. There are 240 Sisters on her, one or two M.O.’s, and all the No.— equipment. She is like a great white town; you can walk for miles on her decks; she is the biggest I have ever been on; we are in the cabins, and the wards and operating-theatres are all equipped for patients, but at the moment she is being used as a transport for us. We are supposed to be going to St Nazaire, the port for Nantes. They can’t possibly be going to dump No.—, No.—, No.—, No.—, and No.— all down at the new base, so I suppose one or two of the hospitals will be sent up the new lines of communication.
Poor Havre is very desolate. All the flags came down when the British left, and the people looked very sad. Paris refugees are crowding in, and sleeping on the floors of the hotels, and camping out in their motor cars, and many crossing to England. There is a Proclamation up all over the town telling the people to pull themselves together whatever happens, and to forget everything that is not La Patrie. Also another about the military necessity for the Government to leave Paris, and that they mustn’t be afraid of anything that may happen, because we shall win in the end, &c., &c.
We don’t start till to-morrow, I believe; meanwhile, cleanliness and privacy and sheets, and cool, quick meals and sea breeze, are cheering after the grime and the pigging and the squash and the awful heat of the last fortnight. I have picked up a bad cold from the foul dust-heaps and drainless condition of the smelly Havre streets, but it will soon disappear now.
I wish I could tell you the extraordinary beauty of yesterday evening from the ship. There was a flaming sunset below a pale-green sky, and then the thousand lights of the ships and the town came out reflected in the water, and then a brilliant moon. A big American cruiser was alongside of us.
We shall get no more letters till we land. I have a “State-room” all to myself on the top deck; the waiters and stewards are English, very polite to us, and the crew are mostly West African negroes, who talk good English. The ship is very becoming to the white, grey, and red of our uniforms, or else our uniforms are becoming to the ship, and her many decks; but why, oh why, are we not all in hospital somewhere?