This is Dorothy’s last letter home following her war service, it is really just a short note from Paris where she was having a ball. After her 4 years of service in WW1 Dorothy returned to Alford but, by then a very independent young woman, she quickly headed to London. In July 1919 the Joint Women’s VAD Committee granted her a scholarship for training in X Ray work and , in 1920, she sat her examinations in Radiography and Medical Electricity at Guy’s Hospital. She frequently stayed at the VAD Ladies Club in London . Dorothy worked as a Radiographer at the Royal Free Hospital where she met radiologist Dr Dulcie Staveley. The two colleagues shared a flat in Gloucester Place for many years before retiring to live at Ivy House in Alford together.
25th April 1919 28 Rue de Pontlieu, Paris VIII
My dearest Father
Never mind about the money it can’t be helped. I have borrowed £15 from Colonel Robinson so will you please send him a cheque for that amount.
I am having a ripping time here Paris is as full as it can be. I am going to see Tommy Sandall this afternoon and we may go out on the binge to-night. Yesterday morning I shopped and yesterday afternoon we went to the Louvre and the Pantheon. The former is in a terrible muddle as the treasures have only been brought back since armistice and nothing is where it was before. Last night we dined with the Robinsons: they had a party.
I don’t seem to have had any news of any of you for ages but I dare say you might say the same thing of me. I have been up to the eyes in work. I have got two Belgian nurses in the service and I am teaching them as fast as I can and doing a lot of clearing up, and making lists to simplify their work, and it is somewhat fatiguing.
However in a weeks time all will be over. I am terribly sad at leaving and wish I had been able to go on to Brussels with them, but they still don’t know when they will move: it may be next month or it may be June or July. As they once declared we should be there by the middle of February it’s a case of: I shall believe they are there when the train arrives at Brussels. However it no longer effects me as my hospital career ceases next Wednesday: I shall have just completed my four years foreign service. I have no word from you when or if the Indian family are coming home, or if you are servantless or if the others have recovered from”flu”.
I leave here on Wednesday morning and go to Paris to join Fraser where we shall stay until Sunday when we go to Boulogne and cross. Then we have to stay a day or two in town for BRCS formalities and I must get a rag or two of “civvies” and I hope to be home about the 4th May. Did you send me some money by the way , and how much, as it hasn’t reached the bank yet? If you want to write to me after the 23rd my address is c/o Lieut-Colonel Robinson. 28 Rue de Ponthieu. Paris VIII till the 27th.
The weather is very variable, lots of rain at intervals and very windy.
I really must dry up now. I am knee –deep in packing and so forth.
I hope by the time this reaches you the invalids will all be convalescent. You have indeed had a visitation. It is very bad luck on you all especially with your domestic troubles as well. I hope your cold and cough are better too.
You may expect me home about the beginning of May I think. I will wire you the precise date when I know it. We are all leaving by driblets through the month of April. We have already got seven Belgian nurses here and more are coming. I have got one in the Electricity and am teaching her as hard as I can.
Will you ask Father to send my allowance out as usual please and may I have some money for travelling expenses, parting presents etc. please. I am perhaps going to Paris for three or four days on my way home, but I am not sure yet. It depends whether Fraser’s uncle and aunt who live there can do with her. If she goes I shall go, but if not I shall return to England direct. The men are full of grief at our departure and openly confess a great preference for English nurses, as also the doctors!!
When do Robin and Molly expect to go back to Canada. I hope I shall see them before they go. Have you any news of the Indian travellers and their movements? I’m so glad you liked the lace: I thought it might do to put on a dress or something like that, and I ‘m glad M was pleased with the brooch.
I have been out several times on Sundays to see the paper chase ( a species of the BEF hunt) all the men ride and there is a meet at some spot and then 4 “foxes” men with paper in bags, lay a trail and are given a certain start. One is the Master with a horn and other are hounds and they track the foxes by the paper scent and have a good cross country run and every hunter about 1 and half hours riding. There is always a large following and we often get a car or ambulance lent us to follow in which is ripping fun. Then we have tea at some mess, Remount, Cavalry Indian Gunners or some old place and then come home.
I think I left off at the beginning of the trip to San Remo. We went to the cap and all packed into two big cars, they are like a touring car but wider and have an extra seat in the tonneau. One holds 8 and the other 10. We were six VADs, one little Sister from the Cap (she was Australian but in the QAs) exactly like the bird and not much bigger, a Frenchwoman and two daughters and son who was an aviator who had been invited by one of the officers at the cap and the rest of the 18 were officers. It was a gorgeous day, hazing sun and so forth. We left the cap just before 10 after going through Menton passed the frontier with many formalities and paper showing by both French and Italians. Then we stopped at the Villa Hanbury, between the frontier and Ventimiglia to look at the gardens which are quite wonderful. Old Sir Thomas Hanbury the brewer had the property and was buried there when he died, Lady Hanbury allows visitors on Mondays and Wednesdays. The garden is full of everything imaginable from tropical to wild plants. There were grapefruits that were as big as a child’s head growing on the trees and maidenhair fern growing on rocks in a wet grotto.
Then we went on and just by a Bersaglieri barracks on the cliff, just at the entrance to Ventimiglia, we burst a tyre. So we got out and photographed the Bersaglieri [Specialist Italian Marksmen], who were a handsome, athletic looking group of men, and then we walked down into the town, which is a dirty smelly little hole. Then the cars caught us up again and we went through Bordighera, which is pretty and clean-looking, and halted for lunch by the seashore just beyond the town. We had a very lively lunch in the blazing sun: I took a group [shot] on the rocks which ought to be quite amusing. Then after lunch we went on: the roads is marvellous the way it winds round the mountains half way up the slope. Between Ospedaletti and San Remo we saw Corsica quite plainly looking almost like a fairy place in the clouds.
When we got into the main street of San Remo we burst another tyre but as we were on the spot it didn’t matter much. We explored San Remo thoroughly: we bought post cards and posted them: I got some Kodak films which was very bon as one can’t get them in France. The old town is simply priceless: it is fairly smelly and very dingy, nothing but people and mules can go about in it as the streets are narrow and half of them are tunnels under houses and awfully steep. We had tea and then started back. Our car had engine trouble and climbed awfully badly however we got home safely.
The next day we went by special tram to Sospel. It is up in the mountains behind Menton. The train started from the cap about 9:30. 8 of us VADs went and the rest (about 30) were officers. The tram climbed up and up squeaking hideously all the time. When we got half way there at the highest point some of us disembarked and climbed up to Castillon, which is perched on an eminence while the tram goes through a tunnel below. It is a dear little village with a castle which is ruined by an earthquake. We could see snow-capped mountains further towards the inland quite distinctly: I took some photos which I hope may come out successfully.
Please excuse this awful scribble but I am continuing this letter in the train between Rouen and Paris and it is swaying dreadfully.
We explored the ruins and drank in the beauty of our surroundings: the lovely mountains so purple with their sides terraced with such infinite patience and covered with olive trees, and the little mountain streams trickling down their stony beds, and the blue hepaticas just coming along with the hyacinths and primroses and everything so warm and balmy: it seemed impossible that we were within a day’s journey of Paris which was cold with sleet and drizzle when I passed through it going South. We lunched at Castillon in a funny little café which called itself a hotel. We had hors d’oeuvres, omelette, stewed hare and fried potatoes, cheese and oranges. We were assisted by the two cats of the establishment, one black and one chintz [?] which circled round us or yowled incessantly except when they were fed with sardine remnants or hare bones. Even when we threw bones out of the open window they leapt after them, bolted them with unholy haste, returning singing like Hintze, who I fear was a Hun!
After lunch we set out to walk down the road to Sospel which is right at the foot of the mountains in a little hollow, 7 kilometres away. (Not quite 5 miles) We loitered down gently and arrived to find a dear little place on a stream with two quaint stone bridges across it, one with a house in the middle and then the same funny old town all huddled together. We had tea of sorts there and then came back in the tram. Wednesday we went into Monte Carlo and up to La Turbie by train. All these places are swamped with these damned gum chewing Yanks but one generally loses them out in the country. The Roman monument to the Emperor Octavius has been half pulled down by some vandal hands (probably Empire period) and used to build houses but there is a big piece left quite spoilt by having pink stucco houses squeezed up against it. We left La Turbie and went down a valley to the monastery of La Ghet where Notre Dame is supposed to work miracles. If people think she has worked a miracle for them they have to paint or get painted a picture illustrating the event. The consequence is that the walls of the monastery are covered with the most unique looking pictures of people falling down precipices and lying under trams and carts. I never saw sucj a priceless collection: they made me choke with laughter. We walked back up to La Turbie and then on to Eze where we had lunch. Eze is a dear little village among the mountains with a ruined castle towering above the cottages. Then we climbed down a mule track to the lower Corniche road and did some real Alpine climbing to get down. We walked along till we caught a tram and got into Monte Carlo and had tea at the Hotel de Paris which is a very good place and then trammed home.
Thursday morning I went into Menton to shop for two girls who were leaving at midday and then I and the three men went as far as Nice with them and we got there and saw them off. Then they stood me a thumping lunch at Maxims and we strolled on the front and listened to the band. I saw some VADs from Cannes whom I knew, and two men from Rouen, and then we caught the express tram home.
Friday morning I went into Menton and in the afternoon I and another girl, and two of the men, went into Monte Carlo. We walked round and up and down the terraces, and saw many people strangely but doubtless fashionably clothed and then we went into the Café de Paris for tea where they have a the dansant and we saw all sorts on knuts dancing: lots of French theatrical people, chiefly bad hats I should think, and also Nungesser the famous French aviator. It was one of the most amusing places I have struck for a long time.
Next morning I nipped down to Menton for a final shop: the flowers were so lovely that I longed to send you some but the posts are so irregular here in France that they would have probably been as dead as mutton when they arrived so it wouldn’t have been much good.
I left Roquebrune about 12 with 3 others and all went well till we got about halfway between Cannes & Toulon. Then the engine drew up and after some time people began to walk about on the line and pick flowers, and so one of the others went to investigate and said that several people were lying on their backs gazing up into the engine’s internals and large chunks of iron were lying about. After some time we saw two black and grimy ruffians (the driver and the stoker) wandering along the line collecting large bars and things which had fallen off the engine and they proceeded back to the engine with a large bundle of spoil, but it wouldn’t go along, and a goods train, which came up behind, had to push us till a new engine (wired for) arrived from Toulon. This made us two hours late into Marseilles and over two hours late at Paris. I took my luggage over to the Gare St Lazare and then went to Colonel Robinson’s for lunch and got back here about 7:30.
Since then I have been very busy as Dr Stouffs has gone up to Belgium on leave and I am in charge. I must dry up now: this is a very long screed: I hope not too full of drivel. I took some ripping photos while I was down there: they are jolly good some of them.
I received your letter of the 20th yesterday. You do seem to be having the most awful strafe with servants: what a curse they are. I wish I could help you but even over here the question is becoming acute.
I have looked everywhere for the Times marked by M: I didn’t forget it at all but I haven’t seen it and I haven’t missed a bundle. I thought she must have decided to keep it. I’ll look again when I get back. I got the papers here thanks very much for them. If Mrs Loy is laid up surely they will have the sense to make Mrs Marshall up. Where is Nellie Marshall now? They have demobbed 4 or 5 military hospitals at Rouen.
I know I am in disgrace with Tommy: I really have had such a lot on my hands lately that I haven’t had a minute for letters. You ask why I am on leave: well four months have elapsed since my last leave and since the armistice they are not so strict and, as a lot of people have terminated in our unit, it was really my turn for leave. Everyone raves about the South and it is such a tremendous opportunity to see the Riviera in the season and it doesn’t cost me a bean except what I am spending on motor drives and so forth. I’m not in the least ill, I was very tired after “the push” but I picked up days ago.
Really the flu seems to have started off full tilt again: I am awfully sorry about Nancy Scott. I think it was Saturday when I wrote my last letter. Sunday morning four of us (all VADs) took our lunch down to the beach: there is a small strip of shingle between the rocks. There we were joined by three officers from the Michelham Convalescent Home at Cap Martin: it is only about 20 minutes walk, and 10 minutes in the tram from us. They also brought their lunch so we had a royal feast and then lay on our backs and basked in the sun. After that we climbed up to the old village at Roquebrune: about half way up the mountain side above us and only accessible by a small path. It is a most fascinating village with all the houses jumbled higgledy-piggledy on top of each other and the streets are narrow alleys going through archways under the houses. There is quite a fine ruined castle there which we duly explored and sat on the ramparts for some time watching the clouds scudding over the tops of the neighbouring peaks and looking out over the gorgeous blue blue sea. Then we finally started to go down and an ancient woman appeared from nowhere: one of the men was being very polite and opening a gate for her when she suddenly stooped down and she got her head bumped. She was furious and cursed him up hill and down dale in the most extraordinary patois. He looked so uncomfortable poor man that we all burst out laughing. Then we came back to the villa and tidied ourselves and went off to tea with this party at the cap. The Michelham home is a huge hotel on the very tip of the cap and they have an MO or two, a Matron, 2 Sisters and 4 VADs as staff. They have 200 convalescent officers, all sorts from pip squeaks to Generals. They are all of them up and about of course, lots of these are convalescing from broncho=pneumonia. They have a huge lounge there and can invite their friends to tea and so we all trotted in and had tea and listened to music. They have a fiddle and piano which discourses sweet music to them and on Sunday as a special treat Mr Moody of the Moody-Manners Open Company ( he is a Captain in the RASC down there convalescing) sang to us. He has a lovely voice and sang several songs delightfully.
Well I will stop and catch the post with this and write again describing our trip to San Remo of which I hope you will have received the post cards sent from there.
Best Love to you all your loving Dorothy.
PS: I am so glad to hear of Robin’s safe return, I thirst to hear his adventures.
Here I am really arrived in the most wonderful place. After 21 hours in the train I fetched up here, feeling inches deep in dirt and very sleepy. I will try and describe this place to you. The station is a wee place between Monte Carlo and Menton and on the opposite side of the bay in which Monte Carlo lies. The villa is a gorgeous white house well over a 100 feet from the sea with a garden running down in terraces. I am now sitting on the lowest terrace looking out into the bay with sheer rock below me and a small place chipped out for the railway to run, about 40 feet below this terrace, and then sheer down to the sea again, which is the most gorgeous real tourquoise blue and dashing against the rocks. Yesterday it was rainy and cold, today it is absolutely baking. The sky is very blue but full of white clouds so there is no sun glare. I am sitting in a thin Summer coat but I am sure I should be quite warm enough without it. This is really a place for Army Sisters, when I arrived I was greeted very kindly by Miss Geddes, Matron in charge. I was taken to my room, which I share with a VAD Sister, and I had a gorgeous hot bath and dressed for dinner.
The villa belongs to a Mrs Warre who has lent it for a convalescent home for Nursing Sisters. It is a most luxurious private house, beautifully furnished. There are nine Matrons in the house, I’m told some of them are Matrons in Chief so the atmosphere is a little overwhelming, but still one can dodge them pretty well. I have a lovely little white bed very comfy with mosquito curtains and three windows in the room and a balcony. Two of the windows lokk out over the bay. I don’t know if you’ve ever been out here but the vegetation is wonderful. Palms, oranges and lemons growing on trees, bougainvillea, geraniums, flowering cactus, mimosa, almonds, magnolias, heliotropes, roses and many other flowering shrubs, some of which I have never seen before, and some whose names I have forgotten, grow in the utmost profusion.
I had breakfast in bed this morning, after having gone to bed early and slept like a top. Fried bacon, which I like now, toast and jam all beautifully served. The mountains which run up from behind us are lovely with clouds sitting on the top of them.
The journey down was rather trying I spent the day in Paris with Fraser’s uncle and aunt( having reported at the BRCS HQ and left my kit there ) I went back there in the evening and was motored to the Gare de Lyon and safely tucked into the 8:15pm express. We were six in our carriage, 4 army sisters and 2 VADs ( myself and another) The heat was appalling and we had to turn off the radiators ( all through the cold weather the carriages were almost unheated) I dozed in my corner waking up with cramp or pins and needles every few minutes. Shortly after Lyons I woke up for good to admire the Rhone Valley which is really lovely. The river was in spate all muddy and swirly and the willows and reeds all muddy too. The rocks in the foreground were muddy and the distant hills purple, all the houses built of mud or mud and stone with warm red tiled roofs which made lovely splashes of colour. A little further and there were whole orchards of almond trees in full bloom and funny little twisted grey green trees. I wondered if they were olives. The express by which I will return tomorrow week has just rumbled past below me. We breakfasted early in the train and got very excited when we came to Avignon looking for the bridge. We saw two bridges but whether either was the celebrated pont I doubt.
At Marseilles we halted for half an hour to stretch our legs: the approach to Marseilles with the estuary is very pretty. After Marseilles we lunched , at least some of us did, and then I sat in the next apartment to my own which was VADs only and we yarned. The railway is most fascinatingly built all along the coastline with a constant view of the sea. Even in the grey misty rain yesterday the sea was blue.
Matron is over at Cannes, I’m going over to see her one of these days. I expect I shall be very busy when I get back as Stouffs is going on leave and I shall be left in sole charge of the shop.
Has Robin got home yet ? I quite expect to hear that he and I were in Paris or Marseilles on the same day. It is very thrilling about John and Elsie I suppose they will be home about the middle of May. Are they coming for 6 months or a year ? He ought to get a year after being so long without leave. I suppose the kids will stay in England.
Did I tell you that the man who outed Asquith is Fraser’s cousin ? His son in law Sir George Stirling is Colonel of the Reinforcements Camp at Rouen. He is in the Indian army really but got badly pipped [shot] in the war and has this permanent base job now. He is quite a decent sort and we have seen a lot of him lately, he came to our dance and we saw him at the hostel dance and so forth.
I really must dry up now: I have no more news and the sun is scorching me.
Thank you very much for your letters and also for the handsome and generous holiday allowance which will be more than enough for my trip as the Red Cross pay my travelling expenses and keep me down there. I am going to Roquebrune, not to Cannes as there is a vacancy there on the 19th, so I shall leave here on the morning of the 18th, spend the day in Paris and catch the night Riviera Express. My address will be Villa Roquebrune, Cabbe Roquebrune, Alpes Maritimes, France. I get there on the 19th and leave again on the 1st. It will be a nice rest and a glorious opportunity for seeing the Riviera free of charge practically. The BRCS has these two places , one at Cannes, one at Roquebrune, (close to Menton) where they send their nurses for a change and rest. I shall hope to go to Monte Carlo, but I shall have to beg borrow or steal some mufti [civvies] as we aren’t allowed in the rooms in uniform!!
We have had about a fortnight of bitter cold and I got a little skating but it has been thawing for two days now.
I don’t know if I told you all about our gorgeous run to the Somme front: I think I did but if not tell me and I’ll write you a long screed about it. I am lunching with Fraser’s aunt in Paris on Tuesday, the one we saw about 3 weeks ago when we went to Paris. We are having much heart burning over dancing: there have been rows about it in some places and very strict new orders have come out that we may only dance in our own quarters. It is rather silly and all comes from some silly regulation that the Army Sisters may not dance. One of our girls broke her leg the day before yesterday tobogganing.
I have got such a lovely Boche helmet, camouflaged, from the Somme battlefield with a hole in the top where a bullet pierced it and killed the owner I expect. We are pretty busy just now and I think Fraser will have her hands full when I go on leave. We are very unlucky among the staff just now, Three are up at sick sisters hospital, one with a broken leg, one with slight congestion of the lungs, and one with a septic finger which has infected the bone : she will have to have part of it amputated I’m afraid. It is the index finger of her right hand which is simply putrid black. I have x-rayed her several times and the bone is very much eaten away by suppuration.
We don’t know yet when the hospital proposes to move but it will possibly be next month.