Kate Luard

Nantes, France

Orders came last night to each Matron to provide three or five Sisters who can talk French for duty up country with a Stationary Hospital, so M. and I are put down with two Regulars and another Reserve. It is probably too much luck and won’t come off. The duties will be “very strenuous,” both for night and day duty, and we are to carry very little kit. The wire may come at any time. So this morning M. and I and Miss J——, our Senior Regular, and very nice indeed, got into the train for St Nazaire to see about our baggage, and had an adventurous morning. The place was swarming with troops of all sorts. The 6th Division was being sent up to the Front to-day, and no medical units could get hold of any transport for storing all their thousands of tons of stuff. One of the minor errors has been sending the 600 Sisters out with 600 trunks, 600 holdalls, and 600 kit-bags!! The Sisters’ baggage is a byword now, and we could have done with only one of the three things or 1-1/2. We have been out nearly a month now and have not been near our boxes; some other hospitals have lost all theirs, or had them smashed up. We at last traced our No.— people and found them encamped on the wharf among the stuff, trying to get it stored with only one motor transport lent them by the Flying Corps. They were very nice to us, offered us lunch on packing-cases, and Major —— cleaned my skirt with petrol for me!

They sorted out the five kit-bags and boxes for us from the rest, as we have to go in to-morrow and repack for duty,—only sleeping kit and uniform to be taken, and a change of underclothing. They said we’d have to make our own transport arrangements, as the 6th Division had taken up everything. So in the town we saw an empty dray outside a public-house, and after investigating inside two pubs we unearthed a fat man, who took us to a wine merchant’s yard, and he produced a huge dray, which he handed over to us! We lent it to the Matron of No.—, and we have commandeered the brewer for No.—’s to-morrow. Then we met a large French motor ambulance without a French owner, with “Havre” on it, which we knew, and sent Miss —— in it to the Asturias to try and collar it for us to-morrow. She did.

There were a lot of Cavalry already mounted just starting, and Welsh Fusiliers, and Argyll and Sutherlands, and swarms more. We had another invitation to a packing-case lunch from three other M.O.’s at another wharf, but couldn’t stop.

We saw three German officers led through the crowd at the wharf. The French crowd booed and groaned and yelled “Les Assassins” at them. The Tommies were quite quiet. They looked white and bored. We also saw 86 men (German prisoners) in a shed on the wharf. Some one who’d been talking to the German officers told us they were quite cheerful and absolutely certain Germany is going to win!

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