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
Mr. L. asked me to breakfast. He has told me more about the Corps in five minutes than the Corps has been able to tell me in as many days. He has seen it at Alost and Termonde. You gather that he has seen other heroic enterprises also and that he would perjure himself if he swore that they were indispensable. Every Correspondent is besieged by the leaders of heroic enterprises, and I imagine that Mr. L. has been “had” before now by amateurs of the Red Cross, and his heart must have sunk when he heard of an English Field Ambulance in Ghent. And he owns to positive terror when he saw it, with its girls in breeches, its Commandant in Norfolk jacket, grey knickerbockers, heather-mixture stockings and deer-stalker; its Chaplain in khaki, and its Surgeon a mark for bullets in his Belgian officer’s cap. I suggest that this absence of uniform only proves our passionate eagerness to be off and get to work. But it is right. Our ambulance is the real thing, and Mr. L. is going to be an angel and help it all he can. He will write about it in the Illustrated London News and the Westminster. Continue reading
We get up at six.
We hang about till eight-thirty or nine. A fine rain begins to fall. An ominous rain. Car 1 and Car 2 are drawn up at the far end of the Hospital yard. The rain falls ominously over the yellow-brown, trodden clay of the yard. There is an ominous look of preparation about the cars. There is also an ominous light in the blue eyes of the chauffeur Tom.
The chauffeur Tom appears as one inspired by hatred of the whole human race. You would say that he was also hostile to the entire female sex. For Woman in her right place he may, he probably does, feel tenderness and reverence. Woman in a field ambulance he despises and abhors. I really think it was the sight of us that accounted for his depression at Ostend. I have gathered from Mrs. Torrence that the chauffeur Tom has none of the New Chivalry about him. He is the mean and brutal male, the crass obstructionist who grudges women their laurels in the equal field. Continue reading
It really isn’t safe for the Commandant to go out with Ursula Dearmer. For her luck in the matter of bombardments continues. (He might just as well be with Mrs. Torrence.) They have been at Termonde. What is more, it was Ursula Dearmer who got them through, in spite of the medical military officer whose vigorous efforts stopped them at the barrier. He seems at one point to have shown weakness and given them leave to go on a little way up the road; and the little way seems to have carried them out of his sight and onward till they encountered the Colonel (or it may have been a General) in command. The Colonel (or the General) seems to have broken down very badly, for the car and Ursula Dearmer and the Commandant went on towards Termonde. Young Haynes was with them this time, and on the way they had picked up Mr. G. L——, War Correspondent to the Daily Mail and Westminster. They left the car behind somewhere in a safe place where the fire from the machine-guns couldn’t reach it. There is a street or a road—I can’t make out whether it is inside or outside the town; it leads straight to the bridge over the river, which is about as wide there as the Thames at Westminster. The bridge is the key to the position; it has been blown up and built again several times in the course of the War, and the Germans are now entrenched beyond it. The road had been raked by their mitrailleuses the day before. Continue reading
No Germans, nor sign of Germans yet.
Fighting is reported at Saint Nicolas, between Antwerp and Ghent. The Commandant has an idea. He says that if the Belgian Army has to meet the Germans at Saint Nicolas, so as to cut off their advance on Antwerp, the base hospital must be removed from Ghent to some centre or point which will bring the Ambulance behind the Belgian lines. He thinks that working from Ghent would necessarily bring it behind the German lines. This is assuming that the Germans coming up from the south-east will cut in between Saint Nicolas and Ghent.
He consults the President, who apparently thinks that the base hospital will do very well where it is. Continue reading