I got up at six. Last thing at night I had said to myself that I must wake early and go round to the Hospital with the money.
With my first sleep the obsession of Ghent had slackened its hold. And though it came back again after I had got up, dressed and had realized my surroundings, its returns were at longer and longer intervals.
The first thing I did was to go round to the Kursaal. The Hospital was being evacuated, the wounded were lying about everywhere on the terraces and galleries, waiting for the ambulances. Williams and Fisher and the other man were nowhere to be seen. I was told that their ward had been cleared out first, and that the three were now safe on their way to England.
I went away very grieved that they had not got their money. Continue reading
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
One bad symptom is disappearing. Towards dawn it has almost gone. He really does seem stronger.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
The mosquitoes from the canal have come up and bitten me. I was ill all night with something that felt like malarial fever, if it isn’t influenza. Couldn’t get up—too drowsy.
Mr. L. came in to see me first thing in the morning. He also came to hear at first hand the story of our run into Antwerp. He was extremely kind. He sat and looked at me sorrowfully, as if he had been the family doctor, and gave me some of his very own China tea (in Belgium in war-time this is one of the most devoted things that man can do for his brother). He was so gentle and so sympathetic that my heart went out to him, and I forgot all about poor Mr. Davidson, and gave up to him the whole splendid “scoop” of the British troops at Saint Nicolas. Continue reading
(I have no clear recollection of Sunday morning, because in the afternoon we went to Antwerp; and Antwerp has blotted out everything that went near before it.)
The Ambulance has been ordered to take two Belgian professors (or else they are doctors) into Antwerp. There isn’t any question this time of carrying wounded. It seems incredible, but I am going too. I shall see the siege of Antwerp and hear the guns that were brought up from Namur.
Somewhere, on the north-west horizon, a vision, heavenly, but impalpable, aerial, indistinct, of the Greatest Possible Danger. Continue reading