Dorothy’s War – Miss Higgins gets arrested by the French



My Dearest Mother

Having dispatched a hasty scribble to you in Father’s letter, I will now proceed with a proper letter. I suppose your cook is the daughter of the old man who plays the drum in Phillips String Band. I have had a long letter from B, with yards about poor dear Stanley. He seems to have what is commonly known here as “ la froussite du front” or un carrottier ( a man who has cold feet. I don’t believe all that d. not about heart etc. it is funk) I don’t think I want anything but the National Song Book. Thank you so much for sparing it. As for books I want three little botanical text books, I forget their names but they are on the bottom shelf of the bookcase at the wall side of my bedroom ( behind the door) or were, when I left. I’m teaching Tim botany, I can’t get on without a book of some sort.

I did have the chance of cutting that Skegness cad here. I saw him coming up the main street as I was walking down, with Tim, and I looked at him or rather through him for asecond, and then turned away my head and went on talking to her. How are the sweet peas doing this year ? The flower market here is lovely, but they seem to have very few sweet peas.

I had a letter from Mr Clayton-Smith: he is wounded but only slightly, to quote his own words “three times and all the lot didn’t make one decent wound”.  He is at a rest camp, on his back, about 3 miles behind the firing line. His trench was only 5’ yards from the Boches when he was hit.

I am writing at the flat: the St Andrew, one of the hospital ships, has just come in up the river: she looked so fascinating, all green and white, with a huge Red Cross painted on her side. I hate all these Zeppelin raids on the East Coast, while I’m away: I do hope they haven’t been near you. I suppose in due time I shall hear where they really did go. It annoys me that the brutes always get away scatheless, or almost so, every time.

If we winged a Zepp every time those devils came over they’d soon get sick of it.

Last night Tim and George and I went to the local theatre which had been hired for the evening by the YMCA. One of Lena Ashwell’s concert parties came over and with them Gertrude Jennings (Authoress of “Between the Soup and the Savoury” and “Five Birds in a Cage”, the curtain raiser to Quinneys) They did the latter and two other plays of hers which were very good: she acted in them all. Then there was a girl who sang extremely well, and a man not do good, and a girl violinist, and we had a very good variety show.

We had quite an adventure on the river the other night, Tim George and I. We set off in the cool of the evening about 6 and hired a boat from the Ile Lacroix in the middle of the town, and rowed up to the second island, quite a long way, where we picked flowers and ate a picnic meal. About 9 O’clock we rowed back in the dusk  and to get back into the town reach of the river , one has to pass under a railway bridge. We were just about to row through when a ringing shout of “Halte-La” made us fairly jump. We shouted to ask what was the matter and explained who we were ( at least I shouted as George’s French vocabulary might be counted on the fingers of one hand) but we had to row to the bank , where a French sentry told us to land , one taking charge of our boat and two, of us ! They  told us we must go and speak to the Sergeant of the Guard. So we were marched across a field, I jabbering volubly in my best French telling the soldier that we were in blissful ignorance that it was “ strictement difendu” to pass under the bridge after dark.

We arrived at the farm house and he thumped on the door and he flung open the door and there was the sergeant sleeping peacefully. So he was roused and on hearing that there were ladies hastily threw his trousers on over a very voluminous pair of pants. He then came and with many apologies for his undress. He asked us what we were doing so I, with much waving of hands, in my politest fashion explained that we meant no harm and, no one having ever told us that the bridge was forbidden ground after dark, we had sinned in ignorance. Tim and I showed our passports and hospital (Anglo-French) certificates and George’s uniform was enough for him. He saw by our papers at once that we were ok and I of course agreed how necessary it was to guard the bridge, as spies have tried to blow it up. I said that the boatman who had let us the boat should have warned us, and the sergeant said that he had orders to tell everyone  to whom he let boats. They warned us in a friendly manner not to do it again and said if we did we should again be arrested as we were now. So we assured them that it should not happen again and were escorted to our boat and assisted into it. We got home without further delay or adventure: I gave the boatman a good blowing up in the best Higgins style and left him speechless !! Of course the next day, having been arrested, we were the envy of the hospital!.

We went out for a motor run the other night and saw all sorts of game in the forest: deer, pheasants and rabbits and got some ripping heather. We came out by the river and picked huge bunches of tansy eupatorium, traveller’s joy, teasel, loosestrife and achillea.

I must stop now

Best love to you all


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Mrs T

Beyond the day job, and the garden, I love to delve into local and family history. While pursuing one project other snippets frequently distract me, resulting in the eclectic mix of tales from the past found here.

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