May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

It is nearly two o’clock. Downstairs, in the great silent hall two British wounded are waiting for some ambulance to take them to the Station. They are sitting bolt upright on chairs near the doorway, their heads nodding with drowsiness. One or two Belgian Red Cross men wait beside them. Opposite them, on three other chairs, the three doctors, Dr. Haynes, Dr. Bird and Dr. —— sit waiting for our own ambulance to take them. They have been up all night and are utterly exhausted. They sit, fast asleep, with their heads bowed on their breasts.

Outside, the darkness has mist and a raw cold sting in it.

A wretched ambulance wagon drawn by two horses is driven up to the door. It had a hood once, but the hood has disappeared and only the naked hoops remain. The British wounded from two [?] other hospitals are packed in it in two rows. They sit bolt upright under the hoops, exposed to mist and to the raw cold sting of the night; some of them wear their blankets like shawls over their shoulders as they were taken from their beds. The shawls and the head bandages give these British a strange, foreign look, infinitely helpless, infinitely pitiful. Continue reading

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

Up till now your love and Providence do not forsake me. . . . We are still in the magnificent devastated woods, in the midst of the finest autumn. Nature brings many joys which dominate these horrors. Profound and powerful hope, whatever suffering still awaits us.

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

One bad symptom is disappearing. Towards dawn it has almost gone. He really does seem stronger.

[5 a.m.]

He has had no return of pain or restlessness. But he was to have a morphia piqûre at five o’clock, and they have given it to him to make sure.

[8 a.m.]

The night has not been so terrible, after all. It has gone like an hour and I have left him sleeping.

I am not in the least bit tired; I never felt drowsy once, and my cough has nearly gone.

········

Antwerp has fallen. Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

I have got something to do again—at last!

I am to help to look after Mr. ——. He has the pick of the Belgian Red Cross women to nurse him, and they are angelically kind and very skilful, but he is not very happy with them. He says: “These dear people are so good to me, but I can’t make out what they say. I can’t tell them what I want.” He is pathetically glad to have any English people with him. (Even I am a little better than a Belgian whom he cannot understand.)

I sat with him all morning. The French boy has gone and he is alone in his room now. It seems that the kind Chaplain sat up with him all last night after his hard day at Melle. (I wish now I had stood by the Chaplain with his Matins. He has never tried to have them again—given us up as an unholy crew, all except Mr. Foster, whom he clings to.) Continue reading

Mina “Jerry” McDonald

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Please note date is approximate:

Before the Babe and his family returned to Vienna the Princess invited, as she did once a year, Uncle Pista, Aunt Sharolta, and their daughter, with the Oberstuhlrichter and his wife, to dine at Schloss K . Their annual dinner at the Schloss was an exciting event in the quiet lives of these simple people, and they looked forward to it like children in pleased anticipation. On this occasion I heard the wheels of their carriages as they arrived, long before I had finished dressing, and in a few moments Claire, looking, if possible, lovelier than ever in a last year’s Callot dress, burst into my room almost hysterical with laughter, saying, as she threw herself into a chair

“You lucky wretch ! To think that you may always dress like that, while we…”  and she shrieked with laughter. At length, in reply to my questions, she managed to gasp out, ” Oh, can’t you understand? Here we are, every one of us, in Paris gowns, and they’ve come in brand new garments from Berlin . . . Berlin, Jerry! You’ve never dreamed of anything so funny in your life. Do be quick and come down, for Billy and the Babe are disgracing us all, and father and mother won’t really stand the strain of it much longer. Does one’s patriotism oblige one to praise such clothes?”

“Mine does,” I chuckled ; “if people order clothes from Berlin they deserve to wear them, and I’ll do all I can to make them wear them ; it’s the only chance I’ve had so far of ‘ doing my bit ‘ for my country.”

By the time I appeared in the drawing-room Billy had completely collapsed over the end of a sofa, with her back to the company ; but she raised her head as I passed to say in English, which none of the guests understood: “Behold us in the garb of patriotism!”

The garb of patriotism emphatically merited Claire’s laughter not only was the texture gross and the colouring hideous, but the heraldic twists of the outline were appalling in their clumsiness. Even the General was behaving badly and kept saying,  “Donnerwetter!” and “Jesus Maria” very audibly, as the glories of the Berlin creations dazzled him anew. The ladies took almost tragic pride in their abominable garments, and I had no difficulty in persuading them that there would no longer be any need for Germans and Austrians to patronise London, Paris, or even Vienna, when Berlin fashions were so beautiful and so becoming. The Prince, who saw that the younger people were likely to become uproarious, cut short my praises and took me, amid many little explosions and gurgles, to the other end of the room where, under pretence of showing me a bit of old Halics pottery he had bought, he kept me till dinner was announced, and all had regained some measure of composure. It was a wonderful evening throughout, and poor old Uncle Pista was almost pathetic when he informed us, as he said good night, that he had never seen us so bright or so happy, and he was glad that we could keep up our spirits in spite of the war. So Berlin clothes have their uses !

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

The Hospital is so full that beds have been put in the entrance hall, along the walls by the big ward and the secretarial bureau. In the recess by the ward there are three British soldiers.

There are some men standing about there whose heads and faces are covered with a thick white mask of cotton-wool like a diver’s helmet. There are three small holes in each white mask, for mouth and eyes. The effect is appalling.

These are the men whose faces have been burned by shell-fire at Antwerp.

The Commandant asked me to come with him through the wards and find all the British wounded who are well enough to be sent home. I am to take their names and dress them and get them ready to go by the morning train.

There are none in the upper wards. Mr. —— cannot be moved. He is very ill. They do not think he will live. Continue reading

Eugáene Emmanuel Lemercier

The Argonne, France

The Argonne, France

It seems that we have the order to attack. I do not want to risk this great event without directing my thoughts to you in the few moments of quiet that are left. . . . Everything here combines to maintain peace in the heart: the beauty of the woods in which we live, the absence of intellectual complications. . . . It is paradoxical, as you say, but the finest moments of my moral life are those that have just gone by. . . .

Know that there will always be beauty on earth, and that man will never have enough wickedness to suppress it. I have gathered enough of it to store my life. May our destiny allow me time later to bring to fruit all that I have gathered now. It is something that no one can snatch from us, it is treasure of the soul which we have amassed.

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

Had breakfast with Mr. L.

Went down to the “Flandria.” They say Zele has been taken. There has been terrific anxiety here for Ursula Dearmer and the two Belgian nurses (Madame F.’s daughter and niece), who were left there all night in the convent, which may very well be in the hands of the Germans by now. An Ambulance car went off very early this morning to their rescue and has brought them back safe.

We are told that the Germans are really advancing on Ghent. We have orders to prepare to leave it at a minute’s notice. This time it looks as if there might be something in it.

I attend to the Commandant’s correspondence. Wired Mr. Hastings. Wired Miss F. definitely accepting the Field Ambulance Corps and nurses she has raised in Glasgow. Her idea is that her Ambulance should be an independent unit attached to our corps but bearing her name. (Seems rather a pity to bring the poor lady out just now when things are beginning to be risky and our habitations uncertain.) Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

7 A.M. Got up early and went to Mass in the Cathedral.

Prepared report for British Red Cross. Wrote “Journal of Impressions” from September 25th to September 26th, 11 A.M. It’s slow work. Haven’t got out of Ostend yet!

Fighting at Zele.

[Afternoon.]

Got very near the fighting this time.

Mr. L. (Heaven bless him!) took me out with him in the War Correspondents’ car to see what the Ambulance was doing at Zele, and, incidentally, to look at the bombardment of some evacuated villages near it (I have no desire to see the bombardment of any village that has not been evacuated first). Mr. M. came too, and they brought a Belgian lady with them, a charming and beautiful lady, whose name I forget. Continue reading

May Sinclair

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

Malaria gone.

The Commandant called to give his report of the ambulance work. He, Mrs. Torrence, Janet McNeil, Ursula Dearmer and the men were working all yesterday afternoon and evening till long past dark at Termonde. It’s the finest thing they’ve done yet. The men and the women crawled on their hands and knees in the trenches [? under the river bank] under fire. Ursula Dearmer (that girl’s luck is simply staggering!)—Ursula Dearmer, wandering adventurously apart, after dark, on the battle-field, found a young Belgian officer, badly wounded, lying out under a tree. She couldn’t carry him, but she went for two stretchers and three men; and they put the young officer on one stretcher, and she trotted off with his sword, his cap and the rest of his accoutrements on the other. He owes his life to this manifestation of her luck. Continue reading