08/05/1915                                                                                                                                                         Rouen

My Dearest Mother

Thanks awfully for your letters you are a brick to write so often and such lovely long ones too: I’m afraid your poor thumb must have been very painful after 6 sheets, even though it was written in bits. I have just received your letter and Molly’s enclosed. I have written to hr more than 3 times in 9 months: she is talking through her hat ! I’m sorry she has been so seedy: it is most unfortunate in such a benighted place.

I hope you are better again now: it is horrible being seedy like that. The weather here has been awfully trying: it has been trying to thunder for about 5 days and has been very hot and absolutely airless: we have had one or two small storms, but they haven’t cleared the air a bit.

How tiresome of Roberts to want to go: servants really are fools. However perhaps she may change her mind.

Of course I mean to write often: as I can’t talk to you I must do the next best thing, and that is, write. How amusing that my letter should have been censored. Do keep them all as I am longing to see a censored letter, and then you can show it to me when I come home!

Poor old Wilson; I hope he is better now: Gladys told me he was dreadfully ill, and that Greenwood’s accident had preyed on his mind.

I’m glad to hear that Captain Hadfield is going on well. I’ll tell you something about the 5th Lincs presently, but I want to answer your letters first.

As far as I can gather, your letters to me are NOT censored, and the penny stamp is quite all right.

Fancy Holmes selling his business: it ought to give Armitage a help on. What is Billy Allis going to do: just farm or is he going to keep on the coak and corn game? And where is AA going to farm? Is Vamplew’s a motor bus? He told me he was trying to get one.

The garden sounds absolutely top-hole: I long to see it. There are some pretty public gardens here with lilacs and chestnut- trees, white and pink rhododendrons and lots of people have Kerrya japonica in their gardens. Lilacs grow everywhere, both the ordinary and the Persian, and really are a sight. Have those boxes of seeds come up yet, I mean the ones I left in my little frame ?

I’m glad Nanny got my card all right: please give her my love next time you see her. I sent one to Lib and Nurse and Mrs CHH and lots of people, including the Sandall family, and had a card from Cecile a few days ago. I would willingly send a card to Mrs Ernest Reed, but I’m not quite sure whether to address her Caroline Street or Pump Square. I must send one to Mrs Sparrow Smith too or she would be awfully upset. Let me know how to address them both, next time you write and then I can send them off.

I’m glad the Nemesia were all right, are they still flowering? Do you see much of the Scottish Horse officers? Miss Brodie tells me there is tremendous rivalry between them and the Lovat’s Scouts, as being the representatives of Lowlands and Highlands!

You seem to be having a rotten time with spring-cleaning I’m not sorry to miss that!

It is pleasant to hear that Alford has not forgotten me and takes an interest in my adventures.

I thought Mrs Glenford had been to Lincoln once and had been sent back: I suppose that was owing to that muddling juggins, Dr Elliott. I’m sorry the Parkers have gone : they were nice people.

ALL our nurses are English: we have a Belgian girl Mlle Freisey ( I’m not sure if that’s how she spells it) as house keeperand she helps in the wards sometimes, but she is the only foreign woman in the place except a few laundry women and the cook. All the doctors are Belgian army men, one captain; 4 Subalterns; there is a colonel doctor who is in Rouen and comes in now and then, but he’s not regular staff. Most of us are Red + and wear the uniform of our society, but a few are St Johns and wear their own kit, and about two wear odd uniforms. We have just got a new one who wears Salisbury infirmary uniform! Our hospital will hold nearly 300 I believe, but we haven’t got that number in at present, as two large drafts went off to Grival this week, and our new ones aren’t going in till next week. Grival is the convalescent  home, about 25 miles from Rouen. It is a big school and has been given over to the chief: it will hold 300 and has about 200 there I think. I haven’t been there yet, but I hear it’s a lovely place right in the country.

I’m glad to hear my coat has been sent off: I want it badly. It wasn’t the girl I crossed with that has a brother in the Scouts and is Major Baillie’s cousin: it was the energetic one who couldn’t wait till Thursday, and crossed on Tuesday night. Don’t you remember, Mrs Macdonald said “Miss Brodie’s going across tonight”. She is a nice girl: I believe I’ve told you about her in my last letter. Miss Anwyl (pronounced as its spelt “anwil” its Welsh for darling) is a nice girl: she is 27 though she doesn’t look a day older than I do.

What an unnecessary lot of kit for EB to have. It sounds positively absurd. I get on quite well with what I have. I am going up to the camps this afternoon with Miss Brodie: she has been up several times and has got to know her way about, as she often goes up to see Scottish people. I met a 4th Lincs Tommy last night and spoke to him. He was a nice lad and came from Sleaford, and he told me that there were about a dozen 4th and 5th Lincs. men up in the camps. It’s no use my telling you all about the camps, as it wouldn’t be allowed to pass: suffice it that near Rouen are camps and hospitals with English Soldiers therein. All details will have to be stored in my memory for the present. He seemed to think that there was an Alford man up there, and they are always so delighted to speak to an “English Lady” let alone, one from Lincolnshire, that I determined to go up and rout them out. That is why I am going up.

Monday 10th

I now have lots more to say, but it must come in sequence. I went to the camp on Saturday night, and found 4 men from the 5th Lincolns. They are not really sick, but have boils rheumatism, and so forth: too sick to be useful up at the firing line but not bad enough to encumber the ground of a hospital or convalescent home. I also found my friend of the 4th Lincs. and I asked him to take down my address, as I wanted them to let me know if any Alfordians come down, so I wrote it on a bit of paper, he read it and said, “Is it MrFrederic Higgins of Alford”?  So I said , yes and told him I was is daughter and he said that he knew Father very well, as he was in the office of the Farmer’s Association ( I think at Lincoln) and used to supply F with manure and has seen F in the office: he said, F was on the committee , and he remembered him perfectly. He as a little fair haired man: a nice little chap. The others were from various companies but none from Alford: one used to live at Alford and play footer: he talked of Blakey, and Doggy Taylor and others. His name was Walker, and he is in the Louth Co. now. They were all delighted to have a chat and I too enjoyed it very much. One of them, I think he was a Whitworth, had been all through the S. Africa war: he had both medal ribbons on his tunic. He was a Grimsby man, but in Capt. Hadfield’s lot. The Alford man was Porter (not Freer, but the one who played footer and cricket: wasn’t he a clerk in the SBC’s office?) he isn’t in the Lincs. Regt. But in the Derbys or Sherwood Forresters, anyway some terrier regiment of the N Midlands DVN. But he was out and I didn’t see him. I believe he’s working in one of the military offices, protem.

On Sunday morning I got your letter, and Miss Brodie wanted to go up again to the camps, so after lunch we set out and she went to her hospital and I went to mine. I found Teddy Tomlinson and was allowed to see him for about quarter of an hour. He has been moved to no2 ward. I don’t think I ought to go into details about his health, as the matron was going to write to his mother last night. He was very glad to see me, I think, and said he felt fairly well in himself, but his temperature was up and down a good deal. I am going up again on Tuesday: the sister told me there was no cause for anxiety. She was awfully nice to me. I took him up some papers, including the Lincs. Standard. They are not quite sure what is the matter with him, but it’s not pneumonia as far as they can tell. He’s living on milk, eggs & bread [?]

I expect I shall know more when I go on Tues, I will then write again. Miss Brodie and I get ragged awfully by the girls here as when we see respectively a Seaforth, or a Lincoln we rush up and speak to them. Poor devils it seems to give them pleasure, and we like to know how our own men are getting on. I was so glad to be able to see Tomlinson and do what I could as they are decent people, and very staunch friends of ours. The camps are a beastly long way here it is a hot dusty journey: you can tram part of the way, but not all. Of course we always go up in uniform and the Tommies are absolute gentlemen: they often salute us or if we ask the way or speak to them, always address us as “sister” a title that of course we have no right to; it is delightful seeing them. Often when one is travelling up on the train with them one’s knowledge of French comes in useful, to assist them in struggles with money. The difficulty is that French tram conductors and shop keepers will treat an English Robert as a franc and so poor Tommy generally gets done out of 2d in the shilling, unless someone is handy to help him with his explanation.

Yesterday as I was coming back from church I met M. Bertrand (my old fencing master) in Khaki. Of course we greeted each other warmly: he is a captain in the British Army: I asked him what regiment, and he said “general service”, no regt. He does anything but fight!! I expect he has got the job because of his perfect command of French and English. He goes up and down in charge of troop or hospital trains. He tells me that he is often in Rouen and hopes to see more of me, which will be jolly. I must dry up now, as someone is waiting to take them to the censor;

Best love to you both

Your loving daughter Dorothy.

About Mrs T

Beyond the day job, the housework and the garden I love to delve into local and family history. I also love to get involved in local projects. Recent research for Alford Manor House has combined the two and led to obsession.
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