It is a great thing to have one’s friend attached to a hospital whose quarters are in one of the swagger hotels of Paris!!  

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Hotel Astoria Paris WW1© Charles Lansiaux / BHVP / Roger-Viollet

11/5/1917

My dearest Mother

Please forgive my remissness in writing: I have been to Paris!

I dare say you may have seen in the papers that there has been a conference  (inter allie) on re-education and reestablishment of the disabled soldier. Well as we are largely concerned in the physical re-education we have been very busy. I think I told you there was going to be this affair when I was home. The médecinchef here had an official job of collecting reports on physiotherapy. Well I was just crazy to go [with]: the médecin-general, the médecinchef, Dr Stouffs and Dr Hendrix (artificial legs) and Miss Loveday and one of her medical gymnasts.

I asked Matron and she said yes if the médecinchef would let me, and if a new Belge we were expecting daily turned up. Well I asked Dr de Marneffe and he said yes, if Dr Stouffs would let me. Dr Stouffs said he’d be delighted if I could be replaced in the electricity (I have been working short ever since I came back, two nurses and an orderly instead of three nurses)  as I couldn’t leave Nick alone in the electro. However the Belge turned up and an awful specimen at that. But it released me for the congress. The médecinchef and co. had to go on Monday night as the show bullied off on Tuesday morning and didn’t finish till Saturday evening. I found that Wednesday and Thursday morning were to be the most interesting so Matron gave me leave and I immediately wrote off to Mrs Pollard to ask her if she could put me up. I had a wire the next day saying she’d be delighted. As Tim said there is nothing like falling on one’s feet: making the acquaintance of a woman in Paris and then wanting a pied-à-terre at Paris about a month afterwards. So on Tuesday night I set off by the evening express to Paris: as luck would have it I met a man I knew on the train; a Colonel Gascoigne in the Canadian forces and we travelled together and dined together on the train which was much more amusing. He saw me to the Astoria too which was pleasant for me. I was taken to Mrs Pollard’s suite by the night guard. On the 6th floor where all the chiefs of the staff live there are ripping little suites of rooms and Mrs Pollard has one. I had one too, a vestibule, sitting room, bedroom and bathroom and a big balcony overlooking the Champs Elysees with a glorious view of the SacréCœur and the  Butte de Montmartre. I had a tub and turned in at once. It is a great thing to have one’s friend attached to a hospital whose quarters are in one of the swagger hotels of Paris!!

Next morning I was at the congress betimes and met all the hospital people. The proceedings were at times instructive and always amusing. The French doctors quarrelled fearfully among themselves. There were lots of interesting photographs and exhibits of all kinds and orthopaedic apparatus. I spent all Wednesday there and Thursday morning. I went out to lunch with Colonel Gascoigne at  Latrues (?) on Wednesday: it is one of the palaces in Paris, I think ? Anyway I had a top-hole lunch there. I met Dr McClure at the congress: he is Captain Anwyl’s doctor and knew Mrs Pollard very well. Sir Berkeley Moynihan was also there and Dr Fortesque Fox (whirlpool baths) and Surgeon-general Russell and Sir A Griffith-Boscawen. There were some other people from England but I didn’t know who. Then there were Italians, Serbs, Portuguese, Romanians, French and Belgian. It was so funny to hear all the diferent Nationalities speaking French.

On the Wednesday night Mrs Pollard took me to the theatre: a very amusing and somewhat racy French farce – I went for a stroll by myself between tea and dinner and saw a little of life.

On Thursday Dr Stouffs and Dr McClure came to lunch at the Astoria and we saw all over the place afterwards.

I must dry up now: will finish my narration in a day or two.

The bike saddle has arrived: also Father’s money. Many thanks.

Best love

Your loving daughter Dorothy.

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The Spode ware sounds delightful, is it the green kind?

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29/04/1917                                                              HMB

My dearest Mother

Many thanks for your long awaited letter which took 9 days to come !! It is a beastly shame: my second letter from Southampton doesn’t seem to have reached you, and as for my wire: it was despatched on Monday the 16th  at 8.45am!

We are awfully busy in the garden just now: we did not plant any new trees by the summer house they are too expensive and we shall just have to risk people annoying us by staring in! Sunday afternoon is a perfect pest: everyone in Rouen choses the road past our quarters for a walk especially as there are the fire ruins to stare at and comment on. The lamps got over safely and the provender although not in its first youth was delicious.

I also had a p.c. from Molly saying that R was my side of the water but he didn’t come this way. Poor Molly I am very sorry for her, but as she says she has been lucky. I hope Bunny will be better behaved: I dare say she will get broken in a bit now the baby is less on her –M’s- hands and she has more time to devote to the little imp.

The Spode ware sounds delightful, is it the green kind? We were much amused at the communication May had received about me. If it weren’t so funny it would be insulting. We have written to May urgently on the subject of staff and wire too. They have been awfully tiresome at headquarters but help is coming at last. We are four short (no five) at the moment. Tim is in the operation ward and unfortunately ( for me and for her as she doesn’t want to stay there) gaining golden opinions from the doctors there. Dr Stouffs is furious at her being taken away as he also thinks very highly of her but the Medecin-chef did it so he can’t complain. She will come back again to the electricity when the new nurses arrive. I have only got an orderly to replace her which is a very poor do. Fortunately I have very few patients at the moment (comparatively speaking)  I haven’t been so slack since we came up here. The hospital isn’t very full just now.

The weather is delightful here just now: we have had a bright sunny week and no rain, Tim and I have been slaving with the last of our seeds. Will you please get me some giant sunflower seeds – 1 pkt – and some more – 2or 3pkts – mignonette to plant for a succession. Our Darwin tulips and narcissi in round beds look awfully healthy and it is wonderful to see the results we have in our packing case frames. Our chief trouble is cats and dogs; there is a perfect plague of them. They take a short cut across our garden to the mess kitchen to scavenge and frequently inter some succulent morsel in our flower beds. We are going to have rabbit wire put up but things move very slowly in a military establishment.

I was much amused about Mrs Mucky B. Still I don’t suppose Nurse expected to find anything else. Please tell Nurse that her jam was absolutely delicious. Alas that it may only be spoken of in the past tense.

There isn’t much more to tell you. I have bought Miss Loveday’s bike. It is a bit expensive but it has a 5 speed gear and quite a good machine, would you should bag it. Please take the saddle and saddlebag off my bike and send it out here as hers is a brute: I should be worn to a thread if I rode far on it. Tim will try and get a bike when she is home: in the meanwhile she can borrow from the others. Also I am afraid I am stony broke. I had the paying for the bike (perhaps Father would give me it for my birthday) and I had my expenses while at Southampton, and the washerwoman’s bill to pay when I arrived here – so there you are!

I mus dry up now: my light is supprosed to go out in five minutes and I haven’t taken any of my clothes off yet!! You will send the seeds as soon as possible, also a packet of Shirley poppies please.

 

My best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy

Please would you send the May Nash’s magazine. How are the roses looking ? I’ve got my fountain pen back all right: I hope yours is better now.

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..the sausages and pork pies … were delicious in spite of being 10 days old!!

Dorothy Feb 1916 Rouen18/04/1917 HMB

My dearest Mother

Your wire to Tim arrived this afternoon: how it happened that my wire to you despatched from Havre at 8.45 Monday morning with my own hands has not reached you I am entirely unable to explain: it cannot have been stopped for military reasons as I simply stated that I had arrived and nothing more. Anyway I have sent off another in French this afternoon which I hope will reach its destination. Perhaps by now the original one has come through.

I arrived on Monday morning having crossed on Sunday night. It was rough but I was not ill merely rather uncomfortable. Mrs Pollard caught me up on Saturday evening and we crossed together. She did not travel on with me as the other VAD and I caught a slow train to Rouen. I got all my possessions safely here and they are delighted with the lamps we ate the sausages and pork pies and they were delicious in spite of being 10 days old!! I had a P>C> from M telling me that R was coming over.

The weather is very rotten here: it is still very cold and rains fearfully. My Brig. Gen. patient has left, what a pity.

I had to send the wire to May, I hope it has reached her safely. I have also written. They have just put us in two topping new baths and are going to arrangedais about hot water to be laid on sometime. Our daisies are out and look awfully pretty. I have absolutely no more news so I’ll dry up.

 

Best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy.

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It was so ripping seeing you all again…

Netley Abbey

Netley Abbey Nave 1909 : http://www.hampshire-history.com

SS Normania

11/04/1917

My Dearest Mother

Here I am stuck again: it is a rotten business. We didn’t go last night and I shall be very astonished if we go tonight: it is simply too sickening. It spoils everything to be kept hanging about like this. The weather is very rough and the rumours fly thick and fast. I have the other VAD from No. 2 as a stable companion. We got ourselves put together as it is more cheerful to be with a person one knows. I simply hate being stuck like this: now my leave is over I want to get back to my work and simply can’t bear loafing around here. This morning we walked out to Netley and gazed on the hospital from a respectful distance: we also inspected the ruins of Netley Abbey which are extensive and very fine.

This afternoon we went to the pictures, I am deadly bored.

I enjoyed my leave so much and it was so ripping seeing you all again. You were so good to me and so generous, it isn’t just the money you spent for me it is the way it was done and I do thank you awfully now though for the life of me I couldn’t have done it yesterday when I said goodbye to you.

The weather is foul rain and hail and snow and wind all the time.

The Red Cross people at 83 Pall Mall are indeed failing. They have lost my receipt for my carnet. I ought to have noticed that it was not there but had such a sheaf that I didn’t miss it till I was looking over my papers in the train. It was jolly careless of them all the same as the papers were all clipped together.

My Belgian leave paper will be overdue with this rotten hold up. I think I shall be able to get my carnet out of the Havre people all right as I know its number.

I must dry up now: I am too gloomy to write anymore: my travellings are indeed ill fated.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy

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Suddenly up came the British Army fire brigade…..

Dorothy Feb 1916 Rouen7/3/1917

My Dearest Mother

I should have written on Sunday but I was on duty all day and the rest I had some important work to do arranging our new tool-house and potting shed, and looking over our seed–boxes and stores of sand and leaf mould ready for our consignment of seeds. The authorities had given me a tiny room about 6 ½ feet by 7 1/2 feet for my potting shed at one end of the scehoir (sechoir is the drying house where washing is dried and is always very warm)  We had got the carpenter to put us up some shelves made from old packing cases and we were awfully bucked with it.

Monday afternoon I was just tidying up in the electricity room and glanced out of the window and saw columns of smoke pouring up I went outside to see it and flew back telling Tim and Nick that there was a fire close to our hut. So we all tore over and found the Sechoir and the Magasin with the Swedes quarters (medical gymnasts and masseuses) blazing. We had orders to clear our hut completely and the doctors and soldiers set to work to help us. In about 10 or 15 minutes all of our clothes, books, china, camp beds, packing cases, tables, chairs and everything were buzzed out of the windows or carried to a safer space farther into the hospital.

We never expected to see half our things again. Then the roof of the garden house (thatched) caught fire just about ten feet from our hut and we thought that all was up. They were certain our hut would turn next, suddenly up came the British Army fire brigade (a ripping motor fire engine belonging to the base) and it got here before the village fire brigade or the Rouen fire brigade!!!

They certainly saved us and thanks to them our hut was saved though it was jolly well scorched at the far end.

There were two of my patients who worked like angels for me. The job was afterwards to go round and pick up one’s things from the strips of ground where everything had been placed higgledy piggledy. I got these two boys to collect all our things and put them in the electricity room. It was a long way, but I could lock them up and there wasn’t any danger of anyone stealing anything, and I think it is due to that that we have recovered all our things, at least not all, but a great many. Of course we were told to make claims to the Belgian Givt for our losses which I have done accordingly – What no amount of restitution can set right is the loss ofour garden; I say loss for it is nearly dead. There must have been a hundred people trampling on the four beds. One between the mess hall and our hut was full of daffys just beginning to peep and it has been literally ploughed up. I suppose we shall get it right in time but following on the record of frost and bitter cold – which have already frozen and killed many of our treasures it is a bitter blow and has grieved Tim and I more than anything. The sight of it is simply heart breaking.

By the by, before I forget it, by all means send me your Times, I am always a week or so behind hand, so if you sent them once a week it would do beautifully. I am sorry to say that my nice friend Miss Hunter is going this week perhaps for good. You remember she was one of my fellow prisoners on the boat.

I am afraid I shall not be able to take leave till the beginning of April as there is no one to replace me. I simply can’t leave Tim and Nick in the electrotherapy alone: there is more work than we three can properly manage already and now we are just starting radiotherapy, which is most complicated and delicate work.   I am sending this specially as our posts to and from England are held up!!! Shhh !!!

Best love your loving Dorothy.

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Now don’t begin to worry about U boats….

Dorothy Feb 1916 Rouen26/2/1917

I hurried Father’s letter off in order that you should have some news of me, and in the meanwhile received your thrilling letter of the 18th. I do hope your news was true. I still contend that we are no worse off since the final Hun declaration of submarine frightfulness: I could tell you one or two stories, but it would mean my letter being severely censored or perhaps destroyed so I musn’t. However I hope I shall be able to tell you these stories myself sometime before many moons have passed.

I have been terrifically busy this last week: lots of new men with the inevitable examining and radiographing many of them. Yesterday was our Sunday off. We (Tim and I) stayed in bed to brekker and made chocolate and fried eggs on our Tommy’s cookers. Then we did lots of little things till lunch time and after lunch we walked off to a wood we wotted of [old English means we knew of] and dug up primrose roots and brought them home and planted them in the garden.

I was hugely tickled about Michael’s language, I told the story to Tim and she says he takes after his Godmother!!

By the by you will probably have a bill for seeds from Ryder and another from Pennell. I will refund you the money: I have it here in subscriptions from the staff, but thought it would be easier to pay you a lump sum as I don’t know what the postage exps will be or anything. If you will settle their accounts at once when they come in I shall get the seeds quicker that way.

By the by, what happened to Betty Botham’s arm, anything? I suppose not.

The purple stuff arrived on Saturday having been despatched on Jan 10th. I hope it has been long enough!!  Tim is now busy cutting it up into lengths and tacking it together

I must dry up now

With best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy

PS. Expect me home on leave in about a fortnight to three weeks time: I have just asked and got permission to take from about March 12th – 27th or something of the sort.
Now don’t begin to worry about U boats….: everyone is taking leave as usual and if I don’t snatch my chance now heaven knows when I shall get any leave. I’m looking forward to it no end and I shall prune all the roses and spend your birthday with you which will be ripping.

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Lord preserve me from female doctors: I wouldn’t ever go near one…….

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My Dearest Mother

Has everyone else had spotted fever? What asses Mrs B &L are to be sure.

I hope your cold and chill have quite gone now: you have been rather a poor thing haven’t you. I think John and Elsie are very wise not to come home this year though it is hard for them and us. If the Indian jams bore you dreadfully; we will have them with pleasure!! But don’t send them out just now.

I don’t know if I said much about Beatrice and her woes last time I wrote. What has she got? Muscular arthritis does not and cannot exist!! You might as well say varicose arthritis!! They have either got hold of the wrong end of the stick (not the first time either) or else the Doctor woman has been pulling their legs. Lord preserve me from female doctors: I wouldn’t ever go near one if I could help it.

I don’t know if I thanked you heartily for making up my War Loan to a round sum: I shall refund it to you out of my savings.

I hope that brute Archie B will be sent somewhere very nasty and get something very nasty!!

May’s cigarettes have just arrived, I will write to them at once – I think it will be far the best thing to have the interest on my War Loan paid direct into the Savings Bank. When those beastly bits of brown paper come out here they are always a nightmare to me till I have got them safely signed and posted back again.

I will write to Mrs Baron myself about Matron’s letter. Do you know if Matron said anything about my character or if she merely wrote and signed a statement that I’d done 13 months work? Do ask Mrs B. I was most amused about the Riddall girls: it certainly does serve them right.

I suppose Audrey B is simply raking in the dibs.

I had a long letter from M telling me about her diffs with coal etc.

26/2/1917

I hurried Father’s letter off in order that you should have some news of me, and in the meanwhile received your thrilling letter of the 18th. I do hope your news was true. I still contend that we are no worse off since the final Hun declaration of submarine frightfulness: I could tell you one or two stories, but it would mean my letter being severely censored or perhaps destroyed so I musn’t. However I hope I shall be able to tell you these stories myself sometime before many moons have passed.

I have been terrifically busy this last week: lots of new men with the inevitable examining and radiographing many of them. Yesterday was our Sunday off. We (Tim and I) stayed in bed to brekker and made chocolate and fried eggs on our Tommy’s cookers. Then we did lots of little things till lunch time and after lunch we walked off to a wood we wotted of [old English means we knew of] and dug up primrose roots and brought them home and planted them in the garden.

I was hugely tickled about Michael’s language, I told the story to Tim and she says he takes after his Godmother!!

By the by you will probably have a bill for seeds from Ryder and another from Pennell. I will refund you the money: I have it here in subscriptions from the staff, but thought it would be easier to pay you a lump sum as I don’t know what the postage exps will be or anything. If you will settle their accounts at once when they come in I shall get the seeds quicker that way.

Tim’s brother is ill again with his insides: it is sickening for him poor man as he has only just recovered from two fractured clavicles!!  By the by, what happened to Betty Botham’s arm, anything? I suppose not.

The purple stuff arrived on Saturday having been despatched on Jan 10th. I hope it has been long enough!!  Tim is now busy cutting it up into lengths and tacking it together

I must dry up now

With best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy

PS Expect me home on leave in about a fortnight to three weeks time: I have just asked and got permission to take from about March 12th – 27th or something of the sort. Now don’t begin to worry about U boats: everyone is taking leave as usual and if I don’t snatch my chance now heaven knows when I shall get any leave. I’m looking forward to it no end and shall prune all the roses and spend your birthday with you which will be ripping.

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Did they have much skating on the brickpits ?

Dorothy Feb 1916 Rouen21/2/1917

My Dearest Father

I don’t know when this will reach you as one of our girls has been at Havre for over four days waiting to go home on leave. However here goes. The cold has quite gone but it is horribly foggy and raw: a nasty damp feeling which eats into one’s bones and personally I feel it much more unpleasantly than the dry frosty cold. I hope your leg is quite all right now: you will have to have a little electrical treatment with me!! Fancy poor old Siddy breaking his arm! I do hope he is having plenty of massage and medical gymnastics they are so essential. He ought to have started a few days after the fracture.

I suppose all the War Loan business is concluded now: it is a blessing they will let one condense all one’s scraps: it is much more sensible. Captain Shaw must have had a nice long leave: how lucky for him to have skating. Did they have much skating on the brickpits: there is a lot of flooded land round here and there has been nearly 3 weeks skating, but of course it is all finished now and is very muddy indeed.

To-day I have been fearfully busy there were thirty new men came in and Dr Stouffs examined them all and kept calling me to undo and do up dressings and so forth and so on. Then we took ten x-ray plates one after another: I never left the room between 11 and 12.15 and it was one wild rush. It is no end of a job: dressings to undo, limbs to fix in the proper position, focus the apparatus, fix the plate, write the men’s names down tell the doctor that I’m ready for him and then he comes to see if my preliminary arrangements are correct and the we take the photo. He regulates the tube and I work the switches and regulate the current and time the exposure. We have a lot of new apparatus coming and we are going to do Radiotherapy or treatment by X-rays.

Last week we dined with Miss Hunter, we got special late leave and had some bridge afterwards. It was great fun and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We had to walk up as the trams stop running pretty early.

Have you been very short for sugar? Everyone in France is on tickets, we are very severely rationed here but have enough really.

I must dry up now as I am going to write a few lines to Mother.

Best Love

Your loving Dorothy

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We have got leave until 11, a great event!

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12.2.1917                                                                               HM Bonsecours

My dearest Mother

How is life? It is a little less cold here or I am acclimatised. My chaps and chilblains are almost gone and dont trouble me anymore. I hope you have got all those papers by now. I sent them off a few days ago by registered post. The wire about the glasses was in reply to a letter from M. saying that Robin wanted a pair of glasses and couldn’t get hold of them and they are almost un-buyable now, and would I lend him mine: she was very good and said of course I must say no if I didn’t wish to let them go. I have always felt rather a scrub for hugging them up so I sent them rather wired you to send them. I suppose he is still in England.

Did I tell you I have a most amusing patient Brigadier General Umfreville (English despite his name), he is Inspector General of the Military Prisons with the B.E.F. or some such title. He is a most amusing man and comes to me 3 times a week. You will no doubt say , “why does he go to a Belgian hospital”. Well because there are no physiotherapy hospitals in France and he would have otherwise to go home to England and lose his job!! For the same reason I have a Colonel Barton-Smith, also on the staff here sergt-major Parkin. They get to know some Belgian officer who introduces them to the Medecin-chef here, who is delighted to have them as it brings kudos to his hospital.

The latest German frightfulness seems to be a rather empty affair, personally I don’t think it will make much difference. The Seine is almost completely frozen over in some places and the narrower channels between the islands and the mainland are quite blocked with the broken ice. The tugs charge the ice and break it up as well as they can.

To-morrow night Tim and I are having an early dinner with Miss Hunter and are going to play bridge afterwards. We have got leave until 11, a great event! We went to tea with her at the canteen last week which was quite amusing. Last Sunday afternoon we went to the Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana and L Femme. They were quite good on the whole we enjoyed ourselves very much.

Would you please ask Father if he could send me a little money, I am nearing the rocks save for my dress allowance.

I must dry up now

Your loving Dorothy

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Even the flowers in our vases freeze solid……..

D Higgins 1915 IWMMy Dearest Mother                                                            24.1.17

All we can think or talk about is the cold. We have 8 degrees of frost in our barracks (of course Tim and I are warm and cosy thanks to the stove we bought with your Christmas present) and everything is frozen as hard as board. Even the flowers in our vases freeze solid. Little currents of ice cold air seem to pour through the cracks in the boards and the only really hot place is bed!! We are on a very strict ration of coal too as it is almost impossible to get hold of in France. The frost and cold have increased steadily during the last ten days and we have allsorts of frozen water-taps and things. All the rheostats for the electrical treatment are liquid and we spent ages this morning thawing them before we could start work, and the damptowels too which were just like blocks of wood.

Personally I am not suffering much from the cold except for the beastly chillblains on my feet and chapped hands. The former don’t break, thank the lord, but I have cracks all over my hands, it is the inevitable dabbling in salt water and Iodide of Potassium solution all day. I’m bound to use them in my work. However I’m full of beans and my tail is well up, thank heaven. I gather from Father that he is going to convert my war loan stock into 5% stock. I am going to send you £12 home to add to it. I suppose I can realise all these odd sums I have in war certificates and make another £50 cant I. I don’t know how much I have in odd sums but t must be a fair amount. If I can’t well I can’t, but it seems to me it would be practical to do that and have it all concentrated. However you can tell me next time you write.

I have signed the green paper and I am enclosing it in this letter. Father says something about his shin being better thanks to your careful dressing: a detailed scrutiny of his previous letters fails to extract and mention of damage to the said tibia: what has he been doing? Bumping into something on a dark night I expect!!

There are lots of things I would like to tell you about but they would probably lead to the destruction of the letter so I wont.

 

Thanks awfully for the stores list: it is interesting to compare prices. What do you think people are paying for coal here in Rouen Frs 180 (between £6 & £7) for a French ton which is not quite as much as an English ton. And it is very difficult to get even at that price!

I do hope you are better. I will write again soon.

With very best love to you both.

Your loving Dorothy.

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