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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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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