I caused a great stir and astonishment among the French by carrying a little Belgian, into the shop on my back, pick-a-back fashion

How can you say that your presents were bitty: they are both lovely and awfully useful, and are a great joy to me

D Higgins 1915 IWM27/12/1915                                                            Rouen

My dearest Mother

I have lived in a breathless whirl ever since about the 22nd, and so you must forgive me, that I have neglected you. I am so glad you like the lace. It took me such a long time to choose even with my artistic Tim to help me. What are you going to do with it ?

The staff clubbed together and gave Matron a piece of “Point de Flandres” lace for Christmas, which was really awfully pretty.

The chief difficulty with Pall Mall was

  1. That Mr Maples kept telling them that we weren’t really wanted or needed , and that the Belgians could easily replace us ( all of which was absolutely untrue)
  1. That they quite understood that Matron wished to leave, which was very stupid as she had twice written to Mrs Watson (advisory matron to the Anglo-French Hospitals committee) stating her willingness to stay and look after us.

However all’s well that ends well. Sister went and talked straight and plain to everyone and made them see our side of the case. I still haven’t heard all Sister’s adventures as she only came back on Thursday night and we have been so busy.

On Friday we packed up parcels and decorated, and in the afternoon Tim and I had a tea-party. We got 5 men out of Tim’s ward who are lame and paralysed and amputated and generally cant walk. One has no legs at all, having both amputated in the middle third of the femur, poor little chap. We got two taxis and I got into the first with 3 only one of whom could talk French at all and so I talked the most fearful French and Flemish ( I’m getting on a bit with the latter, but very incorrect it is ) all the way and showed them the sights as we  passed them. The second taxi was supposed to start after us and follow round town. It came up very soon after we arrived at the quiet patisserie we’d chosen, but to my horror, no Tim & no paralysed man, only two occupants. I asked in a frenzied way what they had done with Tim and Dingemen (the paralytic) but they didn’t know except that she had stayed at the hospital. I was struck with horror and dismay as it was really her party: I was sharing ex’s and helping to entertain but she had invited them and arranged it all and she is their ward sister. However one of the medical gymnasts (a big fair swede) who was also of the party (walking to the tea=place) came up with two more guests, two lame men, who had walked on crutches being less disabled than the rest. So we and the taxi men got all our people carried into the tea shop and to a nice table in an alcove which we’d reserved for us.

I caused a great stir and astonishment among the French by carrying a little Belgian, who has bad metatarsal fractures in both feet, into the shop on my back, pick-a-back fashion. The Belgians just loved it  and were awfully tickled. So miserable and alone the Swede and I started the tea party and then I set off to find Tim. I met her just outside in the street, very cross and heated, because she was waiting for the orderlies to carry down the paralytic, her taxi –driver had misunderstood and torn off down the road after me. She had been all round the town searching for a taxi but couldn’t find one anywhere and so had to come along in despair and hoped to catch our taxis unloading. However unfortunately they had gone so I sent her in to do hostess and went to look for a taxi myself. Luckily I found one almost at once.     Leaping into the street I tore off to the hospital where I found the poor  Dingemen sitting disconsolately in the porch. We carried him out to the taxi and set off hot foot to the teashop. The poor chap told me in the most awful Flemish and French that he had never been in car before and he thought that the shabby old taxi was so beautiful. It was rotten luck that he missed the “bit birl roond the toon” as they say in Scotland, but however we got him to the tea-party alright. They all enjoyed themselves immensely and although they were rather shy, it was quite a merry affair. The tea shop people were awfully kind to them and gave them chocolates and little calendars and they only charged us 15.75 francs for a thmping tea for 11 people, brioches and jam and cakes and meringues and oranges. Then the taxis came back and we conveyed them home to the hospital with their faces wreathed in smiles. We got them all up to the ward safely without mishaps, and they certainly enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

On Christmas day we went to church early and then distributed presents and in the afternoon we prepared for the tea which was given by Mr Maples.

They had their usual tea of bread and coffee which was made nice by butter and jam on the bread, and then they had four little cakes each and 2 oranges. Each ward was rippingly decorated and had a little Christmas tree. Tim had a ripping bouquet of white artificial flowers tied with English and Belgian ribbon given to her by her ward, and several friends of mine in her ward (which of course is my special pet, although I have patients in every ward) gave me one too. I was so surprised and very shy when I got it, however I thanked them as best I could. Artificial flowers sound hideous but they are really awfully pretty. They had chosen them as they said we should always be able to keep them.

One parcel of shoes has come, there were 8 pairs in it I think, so I expect the others are still enroute.

I’m now allowed to go and do dressings on Sunday (my free day) to keep myself in practice, which is ripping.

I must dry up now, best love and all good wishes for 1916 to you and Father.

From your loving 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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