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


Dorothy’s War – Hallo, Hallo who’s your lady friend

D Higgins 1915 IWM

05/08/1915                                                                                                                             Rue St Lo

My Dearest Father

It is certainly your turn for a letter as I know my last two were to Mother. I am writing in the flat with the windows open listening to “Tipperary”, “Hallo,Hallo who’s your lady friend”, and innumerable songs of that description rendered, as only the English Tommy can render them, by the freight of a trooper which has just glided up against the quay, opposite to us in the darkness.

I am very busy these days: I work hard from 9-5 with about an hour off at lunch time and after that I am free – George Walcott has been up at No2 Hospital ( officers hospital) for nearly a fortnight. He ate something bad when he was up at the front and he has felt seedy all the time he has been here.  As it got worse he thought he might as well try and get himself right while he was waiting down here, so they took him up to the hospital and they found he was suffering from a poisoned inside and has been undergoing a rigorous starvation. However he is now convalescent and came up to see me this afternoon.

I have Mrs Garrard  in the electric room with me now: she gives the baths and helps generally, while I give the faradic and galvanic currents ( a sort of electric massage) and the high frequency treatment and help with the X-ray photographs.

I should be grateful for a little more money: I hope you don’t think I have got through my first instalment very fast: I don’t think I’ve been wildly extravagant. I must go to bed now as I’m awfully sleepy.


I shall be fearfully busy this morning as my colleague Mrs Garrard has had to go to England to see her husband before he goes to the front.

I am very glad that Granny is so well: please give her my love. Tell Mother that I should very much like to have the “National Song Book” if she can spare it , but if it is an awful wrench to part from it , she is on no account to send it to me. My monocle has come back and I am returning the prescription. I am afraid this is only a short letter, but I find it easier to write often and short.

I’m so glad the Grammar School affair was a success.

A new VAD has just arrived: quite a dear person. I wish I could send you some of my photos that I’ve taken here, but I’m afraid it is impossible.

I must stop now

With best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

D Higgins 1915 IWM


My Dearest Mother

Thank you so much for your last letters which have been extremely interesting, especially the one of the 18th which I fear must have cost your poor thumb many twinges. How tiresome it is to have so much rain: it is just the same story here.  I do hope you have roped in a cook by now, especially with Granny coming today. It will be very nice for her to get a little country air. Is old Mrs Baron still at Merton Lodge? If so they will I’m sure have many pleasant meetings. Please give my best love to Granny.

I expect Curry and Paxton have got my monocle some time ago now, as I sent it off ages ago, but as you say things take a long time to come across, and go too.

I expect someone must have taken a fancy to the AW roses enroute as they didn’t roll up.

I’m glad to hear the new maid is a possible person. If she is intelligent and amenable she ought to make a decent servant under your vigilant eye.What a pity you couldn’t have caught Mrs Sandall’s cook, but perhaps she’d have been no use to you.

I envy you sitting in the garden: that is a thing we can never do unless one happens to go out to tea somewhere where there is a garden. The wild flowers are again lovely: especially those wild knapweeds (centaurea) with the frilled edges (not the ordinary tight-headed one) and the scabious and wild mignonettes, with hosts of small flowers. The garden sounds too heavenly: I long to be grubbing in it. Tim got a book of photos from her home the other day: she is a great gardener and does nearly all of the garden herself, actual work, besides arranging: of course she has a man to do the hard work, but she had some photos of her own border and they were absolutely a sight. Her home is a lovely place on the river Dovey. Her brother has just gone out to the Dardanelles he is a Captain in one of the Welsh Fusilier battalions: he and George Walcott were at Wellington together in the same house and same form and knew each other quite well.

I’m glad the sweet Williams in my garden are pretty, and the baby gypsophila all right. I love monkshood: you ought to get Fuller to put in some of the plants in the long border this next”back-end”. I can’t think what the new yellow flower you speak of on my rock garden can be? Can you throw any light on the subject? The “sort of lavender” near the black boards is Nepeta Mussinii or cat-mint. I gather that the Rev d’Or by the pig-sty has repaid all that tucking in of the long shoots. Ernest Metz was very execrably pruned, so that may account for his defection, besides he sounds like an enemy rose-tree to me. I should make Fuller apply liq: man: to the big rose bed, a canful to each tree.

I have seen George several times again, but he is now in the officer’s hospital with internal troubles; a sort of indigestion or catarrh I think.

I wish you wouldn’t refer to me as an emancipated female: firstly it sounds like suffragettes and secondly, you know that I really I would much rather be at home with you and father or “emancipated” and on my own, if it weren’t for the desire to “do my bit”.

I wish I’d been with you in church: they ought to be smacked for having the Austrian National Anthem.

I went out with George again the other night: we dined and went to the Cinema where I saw Mr McEntire’s wedding , on at the cinema! Wasn’t it funny. He was the little Scot I met at the bazaar in town, a friend of B and May’s. He is now in the London Scottish! George is now in hospital with troubles in his inside.

I have no news haven’t been doing anything particular. I am very fit and awfully busy.

I will write to Father next.

With best love to you both

From your loving Dorothy

Dorothy’s War – George Walcott arrives

D Higgins 1915 IWM


My Dearest Mother

Thank you so much for your letters which were as always a great joy and full of interest.

I must tell you that on Thursday last I had a pleasant surprise : I was down at the flat with the other two: Tim and I were just waiting for an officer friend of hers to turn up , who was about to take us out for dinner. Suddenly the flat bell rang and so I flew off to open the door and hold the man in talking in the hall, as all of the other rooms are bedrooms and lo & behold there was George Walcott(Lloyd )  looking awfully bronzed and fit. It appears he went out to the battalion in the trenches about a month ago, and had just come down to Rouen to bring up another draft, but apparently the authorities are still keeping them here, so he is at a loose end, and was delighted to find a companion. I just talked to him for a bit, I arranged to go out to tea with him the following day, and then Tim’s man came, so we parted. The next day, George and I had tea at the buck tea shop of Rouen, and then went out on a train into the country, at least up to the hill of Bonsecours which is close to the town and from which you can see most of Rouen, miles of river and a lovely view with great stretches of country on the left bank of the river. Both sides of Rouen for some way up and down the river, the right bank is a range of humpy chalk hills, whereas the left bank is a gentle slope. The wild flowers on the chalk hills are lovely, a blue plant like borage ( it grows at Salmonby, but I’ve forgotten its name)    knap-weed (purple) centaurea and lots of others.

Then Sunday morning , we went to church together. Sunday afternoon, we motored out on the Neufchâtel road about 15 miles to fetch two girls who had been on sick leave, staying in the country. It is the main road to the front from here, and is in consequence, very bad and very worn. We saw convoys of motor lorries and motor ambulances going up to the front. We picked up the two girls and went on by a very pretty road to Clères, a junction on the Rouen-Dieppe line. It is quite a charming village with a tiny trickling river running through it and a funny kind of market-hall, like a cart shed, just a roof and supports, no walls. It is very picturesque though as it is built of huge square beams many years old. We had tea there and then went to visit the Chateau of Clères which is rather famous. It is the seat of the Duc de Choiseul, who is now at the front, but I believe his wife was there. We were however allowed to walk round the house and grounds. It is a magnificent old place, though the part that is habited has evidently been restored, but sympathetically so. Clères is about 22 kilometres from Rouen, so we got back about 6.15.

Tuesday afternoon George came up here for tea and then took me to a YMCA concert by Lena Ashwell Concert Party. There is a YMCA hut close to his particular part of the camp. The concert was from about 7.15-9.15 and very jolly. The whole audience was Tommies, bar about two YMCA officials and about 6 women. You would have enjoyed I’m sure. One Tommy came in with a baby owl sitting on his shoulder: it still had the fluffy plumage of its babyhood but sat there unconcerned with wide open eyes, in spite of the electric light, as its owner pushed his way through the crowd. Of course we had lots of old favourites and new ones too. 

I enclose you a photo of myself like the one I sent Father. I hope you’ll like it. I’m going to send one to John and Elsie, as I have the film. I believe you asked me if the flat was more expensive. It costs each of us about 10 francs a month more, but its well worth it , with the extra space, conveniences even luxuries and above all air. The other place was so phuggy! I must send this off this minute or I shall miss the post. I’ll write more soon, I think I told you I sent my monocle to C&P.

Best love, ever your loving Dorothy.   

Dorothy’s War – The Centenary of Waterloo

D Higgins 1915 IWM


My Dearest Mother

The centenary of Waterloo: how I wish we could have another victory. It is funny to think that had I been in Rouen in 1815, it would have been in prison!

I have had rather a go of hay fever the last few days: it is a nuisance, nothing more. I hope the hospital is going on well. Father asked me if there were fish in the Seine, I do not know what sort but I think there must have been a fish seen sometime because I often see rows of patient anglers, but never never have I seen anything being dragged out!!

The mauve things behind the alliums were probably muscari comosum plumosum. Had they a kind of untidy hair appearance not at all like  the other muscari ?

The other day Miss Crane ( commonly known as Melisande) Tim Anwyl and I went with Col. Moore to La Bouille again, about 10 days ago. He is a friend of Melisande’s a nice old boy: he is doing train conducting ( like Captain Bertrand) as he is a “dug-out.” [colloq, old soldier dug out of retirement]

He was in Skinner’s Horse (3rd Bengal Cavalry) and spent 28 ( I think) years in India. He knows Molly B quite well and B of Hamilton and the Black and Tan. He also knew Col. Cole and had been up to Manipur many years ago for shooting so knew it. It was jolly talking to him: I’ve got some good photos with him in, which I will be able to show you some day. He was a funny old stick: he is very lonely here and told someone afterwards that he had intensely enjoyed his afternoon with us.

Miss Brodie is ill with measles: she has been very seedy indeed, as after she became measly they took her to a French hospital and they did not look after her at all well there, so one of our sisters who was having a holiday has gone up to nurse her. She was joined 3 or 4 days ago by one of our doctors so she has two measley patients on her hands. It is rotten luck being mewed up in a rotten French place with a thing like measles: it would bore me stiff, especially as Miss Brodie has had them so severely.

I have made great friends with Tim Anwyl she is the one you liked the look of when we went off from Victoria. She is an exceptionally nice girl, very Celtic but unlike most Welsh people, very delightful. She is a very clever person and draws and paints well: is of a thoroughly artistic temperament and very distinguee. I am very fond of her and she of me. She is very upset just now as her best man friend ( he would undoubtedly have married her later on ) has been killed in the Dardanelles. He is the brother of her great friend, the big girl in the blue hat who saw her off. Her own brother, a captain in the Welsh Fusiliers is going out to the Dardanelles ( en route now) this week: it is dreadful for her, poor girl.

We are rather upset: Lady Samuelson a nurse (VAD) here, died of syncope in her room last night. She was a very nice old soul, not a good nurse, and rather eccentric, but very kind and awfully generous. She was a hearty (diseased ) subject I believe. It is really a happy release as she had two husbands, both dead, her favourite daughter also, and her two sons, one killed in South Africa and one about a month ago. Poor old thing.

I’m keeping Elsie’s letter to me as I haven’t answered it yet.

By the by, I’ve broken my monocle: have you got the prescription ? If so could you get me another made ? You’ll have to wait till I send you a p.c. with the dimensions of the frame on it.

I must stop to catch the mail.

Best Love your loving D.

Dorothy’s War – June 1915

D Higgins 1915 IWM


My Dearest Father

Thank you so much for your long letter which I received this morning. My rheumatism is quite cured now so I am able to write at more length. Before I forget please thank mother very much for her long letter and for the sketch which I sent on, and for the parcel which Mrs Garrard brought over. I am awfully sorry that the servant question is so trying, yet I don’t feel that I could help much if I were home somehow.

Last night I motored out to Grival which is officially known as Annexe No1, to the Hospital Anglo- Belge. It is one of our convalescent and is 38 Kilometres from here and 25 from Dieppe. It is a sweet place just beyond Bellencombe. It is as usual on the edge of a forest (there are so many here that nearly every place is in or near a forest) and has a lovely little stream running through its grounds, where the men catch trout. It is really a river; one of the three that run into the Channel at Dieppe. It is a school, disused of course. I saw a lot of my old patients there and chatted to them. It is so amusing shaking hands here is a positive fetish but it doesn’t matter which hand you use. It seemed so funny having my left hand so vigorously shaken. There are about 230 men there.

You seem to be suffering fearfully from want of rain. We have been very dried up here too: only one or two thunderstorms.

I see there has been another Zep raid on the NE Coast: not near you I hope: they really are devils.

Fancy old Jake getting an army appointment: my Lord what an old ……. I would love to put a spoke in his wheel. However the undesirable party will not clear out I suppose.

I can well understand Ethel Besson liking Cambridge: it is one of the finest, largest and best equipped hospitals in the country. I’m sorry K Simons is not getting on: it sometimes happens that one gets to such a place and there is often friction between VADs and trained nurses, arising from faults on both sides. Have you got your glasses altered to your liking yet?

I have never had an answer to the letter I wrote to Uncle Sid: not that I really expected one just yet !! I know what he is like. Of course he never sent me the photo he promised me- I don’t know how he can keep up his Mark Tapley attitude. I knew that what Dick Rawnsley said was true and more indeed : of course we hear heaps of things here that I don’t write about: it would be quite useless as they would not be passed.

Asquith ought to be hanged drawn and quartered for saying that we have plenty of ammunition, about 6 weeks ago: he must have known he was lying.

I wonder how the new Govt will work: I wish McKenna had been given the push also: why on earth did they make him C of the E [Chancellor of the Exchequer].

I am quite fit again now: no more rheumatism. I see that you have had another Zep raid on the NE coast. Not near Alford I hope. We had 60 new men in last night so it has made things quite busy in the wards.

I don’t know if I told you that I saw an operation last week. I saw a shrapnel bullet (about the size of an ordinary marble) dug out of a man’s neck. It was jolly interesting.

On Sunday a party of us went up the Seine in a motor boat: there is a girl here, a Miss Crane, with whom I am rather friendly and her cousin is Clonel Gough; he is an awfully nice man, a retired soldier who is out doing office work in the record office I think. He is quite oldish. He is a cousin of the celebrated Goughs ( Hubert and John) of the Curragh Affair: John was a VC and was killed recently.

He arranged the party which consisted of Miss Crane, and another girl and myself, the Baron de Villenfagne  (our motor man) Col. Gough and a Captain ( I never heard his name properly) We had a mechanic with us to manage the motor boat and we went up to Giselle and then down again: we had tea at a ripping place called St Adrien: just above Rouen. The river is full of islands and so pretty. I steered nearly all of the way: great fun.

I must dry up now or I’ll miss the post.

Best love to you both

Your loving D.

A new flat in Rouen


Mr Dearest Mother

Thank you very much for your long letters and Father’s too: I received them both on the on the 8th and enjoyed them immensely. We are now directly under the Anglo-French hospitals committee , and indirectly through the AFWC under the patronage and approval of the BRCS.

We have got a new matron here: a very nice woman called Mrs Wycliffe-Thompson. She is of course a proper trained nurse, (retired) and has one of the SA war medals. She is an awfully decent sort: she takes an interest in all of us, and insists that everyone shall have so much free time a day and looks after us generally. She also comes in and sees our work, and asks us how things are going on and so forth, and above all she is generally to be found in the hospital, not motoring about, like the last lady.

Never mind about the fencing jacket: I dare say it would have been rather tight too, & anyway I haven’t touched a foil for over a week: my rheumatism has not quite gone yet.

I have not done any bathing yet and I don’t suppose I will do much: if I do it will only be with the Doctors, two of whom are expert swimmers and I promise to be careful.

Keep all the photos for me please: anyway I’m sure you’ll like to show them to people. I don’t think I want any thin clothes except my tussore tennis skirt and one of my white ones (the drill one, not the linen) and one of my short white petticoats.  Also some of my white tennis stockings: the ones with the coloured clocks: I can get shoes here. I went out to tea with some English people here last Sunday: one of our people took me up: I had an awfully jolly time and met a lot of English officers. Of course ordinarily I go out to tea etc. in uniform for preference but they have a badminton court, and I shall probably go up there and play. They lend racquets so one only wants clothes. Also I may get a chance of tennis later.

I often get practice in ordinary nursing when my own work is slack and I do relief in the wards. I assure you what with that and constantly seeing things done, and the amount of shop we talk, I am more than remembering my general nursing knowledge.

I’m sorry to hear that Mrs Sandall is seedy: poor little woman. I expect she finds life very wearing, especially now Col. Jessop has been killed: poor man, he was a very genial bird: I met him at the point to point once, when we went with the Sandalls. I’m told he was adored by his battalion. I have never seen his death in the casualty lists.

How are you getting on with maids: it is sickening for you. I should have thought there would have been lots of girls about, as so many people have reduced their households.

Poor cat! Roberts really is a devil: of course it was my fault for not finishing him myself before I left: I did part of him but couldn’t finish. Of course no new hair can grow till the matted lumps are cut away.

I am delighted to hear that there are no slugs.

It seems to me that you are in more danger at home than I am here and if I want Zeppelin raids I must come back. Why on earth can’t they say in the papers where it happened:  everyone knows. Do tell me more particulars next time you write.

I think Rouen is a very rheumatic place: anyway it is a nuisance. The source of trouble is my wrist and it is all over my arm from shoulder to finger-tips on bad days, and only just a little in my wrist on my good days. It is getting better now, but writing is one of the things that hurts it most.

Are the pansies in the green bowl in flower yet and if so what colour? Iris Germania will certainly have to be rechristened.

The country here is lovlier and lovelier everywhere I go. We motored to Caudebec en Caux the other day. It is a village on the river between here and Le Havre. The road in the Rouen-Havre road which goes fairly direct, and the river winds, so we kept touching the river and then it sheared off from us again. Part of the run was through a pine forest which smelt delicious. By the by we have changed our quarters. We did not like the Normandy it was a very airless stuffy little hotel, although not noisy itself it was in a noisy street. Also the proprietary family were not very attentive to us as we only slept there and didn’t have meals and were ot very profitable. So we set about flat hunting and heard of one on the Quai du Havre, which on examination, proved a ripping place on the 4th floor: one side looking on to the river, and the other right over Rouen to the hills at the back. There is a vestibule, 3 bedrooms , a kitchen, also another little place where one can have a gas ring and heat water, with an adjacent water tap. It is beautifully clean and airy. One of the bedrooms is a very big room with two windows which open on to a balcony overlooking the quay. It is really a drawing room and is furnished accordingly but there is a huge screen which hides the bed in a corner, and behind the piano cunningly hidden is the washstand. The piano is quite decent: I played and sang some of my little French songs to a select audience of two the other night. There was a pile of music in the room and before I had explored very far, I found “Medje” which pleased me mightily. I think I’d like you to send me out one or two favourites. “ The Little Silver Ring”; “Si Mes vers avaient des ailes”; “Now sleeps the Crimson Petal”; “ Le Portrait” and my book of 20 Grieg Songs. You can’t imagine how topping it is to see and feel a piano again. I shall miss my sympathetic accompanist however, most horribly. Although I have a very jolly life out here I miss you both very much, and my home too.

I must stop now : my wrist aches abominably.

Best Love to you both : I’ll answer Father’s letter in a day or two .

Ever your Loving Dorothy

There are some stamps in the bottom of the envelope.D Higgins 1915 IWM


My Dearest Mother

I fear it is some time since I wrote which is very naughty of me. But it has been so fearfully hot that I have felt too slack to write. However it is cooler today, after a little rain. It has really been quite hot for a week: the mid-day temperature has been between 82-85 and with the lack of breeze and air it makes it feel much hotter. You see the town is at the bottom of a basin and the streets are very narrow with high houses, and the general effect is somewhat stuffy. Thank you ever so much for your lovely long letter of to-day: you are a dear to write such ripping fat interesting letters, and I simply revelled in my walk around the garden with you.

I am sorry to hear that you are having a rotten time trying to get servants. It is simply sickening.

I had a charming letter from B today, full of knits and some tobacco for the hospital and enclosing some for several of us with it, as all tobacco is very expensive out here especially English brands of cigarettes. Caporal the state tobacco is not very dear, but it is filth!

As for our work, we do not get men straight from the trenches: in fact the majority of them come with healed wounds. It is a special hospital, almost an orthopaedic, soon to be entirely so. All men who’s wounds when healed leave complications, such as atrophy, neuritis, stiff muscles, or joints, contracted muscles or cut nerves, and other things like that come here and often have to have minor operations and special treatments, such as machines, electric baths, galvanic battery, hot air baths, massage, high frequency electric treatment. I work in the group of nurses who manage the machines, the electric baths, the galvanic battery, the hot air baths and the high frequency treatment. I do not yet know how to do the last, and am this week in the machine room, learning them. They are mechanical contrivances for moving stiff joints. They remind me forcibly of medieval instruments of torture, though they are not at all torturing. One screws or straps the stiff joint into which ever machine is necessary, there are ones for the fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee and foot. They are worked by a system of weights, which I do not feel equal to explaining on paper, as it is rather technical.

One has to push the carbon very gently and gradually into the water watching the gauge all the time, and the same when the bath is finished, as if done jerkily, it gives the patient a shock, only a small one it is true, but in the case of rheumatism or neuritis enough to cause considerable pain and malaise for an hour or two. The sensation is one of pins and needles, not painful nor really uncomfortable but rather trying for half an hour. They generally look like beetroots or shrimps when they take out the foot or hand which has been treated. I was given a bath nyself before I touched a patient at all, so that I should know what it was like. I forgot to mention that the plaque has to be moist before it is placed against the back, or the felt would not conduct. Hence much mirth and wriggling when on a chilly day the unfortunate men have a cold damp clammy plaque laid firmly against the small of their backs. So you see I neither make beds nor wash the patients. I am at present doing duty in the operation ward. All the men in it are either going to have an operation the next day, or have recently had one. There is a poor little boy close to me who is suffering dreadfully. He has acute neuritis, and I have been giving him electric baths for it, and he has just been operated on, two days ago.They discovered that one of the big nerves in his arm was sticking to the muscle round the scar of his wound, so they have detached the nerve. Only quite a tiny operation but he was in such a nervous and pain racked state before that all the pain he suffers is doubled. I am awfully sorry for him, poor little thing.

Father really ought to pay for the Hockey nets; as it was his friends of heifers who did it, but as the hockey club has a favourable balance we’ll let him off!!!

I’m glad you liked the photos: I have some better snapshots, but I’m not allowed to send them home. What a good thing Mr W Rawnsley has come to his senses: he will be more useful at home. The little yellow rock plant must have been a sedum, not a saxifrage, as I haven’t a yellow saxifrage anywhere; oh it might be that little golden saxifrage which seeds itself everywhere. I had forgotten it.

I have been on one or two awfully pretty motor drives lately. One down to Moulineaux which is on the Seine, nearer Le Havre: we went through a glorious big forest on a slope, on the left bank of the river the country is fairly flat for a space varying from half to two kilometres in width, and then it rises fairly steeply, and a great deal of the slope is wooded, and absolutely lovely. This particular part was a huge forest where we were, all winding roads and with bunnies and deer in it. We rolled through it for miles and then came to the chateau of Robert Le Diable a magnificent old ruin on a height all among apple trees, and overlooking the Seine. Below is the village of Moulineaux. It is such a ripping car and will do a good 55 miles an hour. All the main roads here are top hole for speed. Wide with great long straight reaches of two or so miles.

I just revelled in your letter about the garden: you couldn’t have sent anything to give me more pleasure. Is the old rose coloured allium out in my garden yet, and are there any muscari comosum plumosum? Up in my anemone bed by the bees, did the anemone fulgens that Mrs Baron gave us , all come true single ? She dug them up all with single flowers on them, under my eyes, so I am anxious to know if they came single or not ?

The pink flower on the rock garden is saponaria officinalis. I’m glad the lithospermum prostratum is doing well, because the first one I had died.

The pale pink thrift is armeria maritima, and I got it from Anderby Creek. The red valerian that grows in the gooseberry walk, grows like a weed on all the chalk cliffs here. The country round here is all chalk, like the South of England, and one finds many wild flowers here that grow on the Sussex downs and also the lovely little chalk blue butterfly that only lives on the Downs. How is the Alberic Barbier arch doing: I was rather dubious as to the success of my pruning there not that I think it could have been much worse than Fuller’s, but have the laterals on the long shoots come out well ? Don’t let Fuller hack at my sweetbriars: it won’t hurt them to run wild for a bit. I am glad to hear that my tiny Gypsophilia is doing well: if it is still tiny, Fuller ought to put some lime or soot round it, and please will you tell him to keep my slug traps well set with bran above and salty water below. I’m glad the Darwins in the corner are doing well. Have the forget-me-nots done well with them too? I knew that Calystegia would be a handful, if it liked itself, but what matter, and its too pretty to uproot. It’s a pity the tubs didn’t do better; they are most unaccountable things.

I become more enamoured of Normandy every time I go out motoring, which is fairly often. It is a most beautiful country, and with great forests in every direction, all grown on hills which make them even more beautiful. We have been in the Forêt de Lyon to-day it has an extent of 5000 hectares. I don’t know how that works out in acres, but you would probably find out if you looked in the end of the 20th century dictionary. And the valley of the Seine is simply gorgeous. Of course they tell me that this is considered one of the most beautiful parts of France and I can easily believe it.

The DH Evans bill is quite all right it was a pair of shoes I forgot.

There is a lot of my little mauve linaria in the walls and cliffs here.

One of my travelling companions is bringing this over to England on Monday night. She will stay a few days, so I want you to pack me up a few things and send them to

Mrs Garrard , C/o Mrs Hancock, 39 Brook St Mayfair W

And she’ll bring them across for me as I don’t want to wait 3 weeks or more for them. I want my fencing coat white if you can find it: I think it is in my old school trunk. Also my soft collars about half a dozen; please choose the longest ones as they vary in size. Also any of my white shirts ( blouses) ( I put shirts on the last page: you might have mis-read it as skirts) that are respectable: 3 will do. You can send my tussore shirt for one if you like. I think that’s all.

I am getting quite a nice collection of snapshots in spite of the fact that one is not supposed to have a camera here, but it is winked at.

Mrs Garrard is posting you a parcel containing two pairs of stockings and two pairs of knickers which want mending. There is no hurry about them coming back as I have enough to go on with, only I thought I had better get them mended in case any of my others got holes in. Mrs Garrard will be in town till Saturday or Sunday so you will have plenty of time to send the parcel up. I shall want a pair of sleeve-links: they all live in the little round pot with a mauve top. I think I should like the Lincoln Imp pair. Perhaps you’d better send them separately in a registered envelope. If perchance you can’t find my fencing coat don’t worry , as I can make the ones here do quite well.

I can’t write any more as I’ve bruised the ball of my thumb and its somewhat stiff. I think this is the longest letter I’ve ever written I y life : I hope you won’t get awfully bored with it.

My very best love to you both

Ever your loving


Please take great care of my photos as some are irreplaceable.

17/05/1915                                                                                                                         Rouen

My Dearest Father

I am sending you some photos I had taken at a funny little shop: they are pretty weird, but rather amusing. I used one of each for you and one of each for mother. The one in the outdoor uniform is not so bad, but the other is a poisonous libel!

Have you seen much of the Scottish Horse officers and their wives? Are they as nice as the Scouts?I suppose Captain Hadfield has had the bullet extracted from his thigh by now: I expect he’ll have a slight limp for life. How is John Budibent ?

I hope the letters and cuttings I returned have got home safely. I have had a letter from Colonel Sandall fairly recently and also one from Mr Clayton-Smith. I am so sorry to hear that Mrs Rawnsley has broken her arm; it is indeed rotten luck. It will keep her in England for some little time. How is Claythorpe going on? I suppose you have got some little pigs there now, and how many calves were there altogether?

Wasn’t the Lusitania devilish and diabolical. I hope bluffing boasting America, who up to now has been all swank and talk and no deeds, will really wake up now. I’m jolly glad enemy aliens are to be interned: the time is late now: it ought to have been done last September. I was horribly shocked to see that Newton Woodwiss is killed: poor boy it seems such a little time since I was dancing with him, and he was a nice lad despite his little affectations. I saw about poor Tommy Garfit too. Have you seen Betty Fenwick-Owen’s baby and is it a nice little thing?

This is a very scrappy letter so far but I am answering some of yours, and that makes it rather disjointed. I wish I could come over in a little biplane and do a little rook shooting and have a look at you both, and the garden and then fly back. It would be ripping.

I went up to the camp again yesterday to see Teddy Tomlinson and as I was crossing the Rue Jeanne D’Arc I casually glanced at the 3ASC Tommies , and behold the middle one was Charles Lacey. Mother will probably know better than you who that is. He was Tom Parker’s butcher –boy who enlisted last October. He is here at Rouen at the docks cutting up frozen meat. He has been all over the place, Bruges, Ostend, Dunkirk, Amiens, Boulogne and other places that I can’t remember. He looks awfully fit and rather less “soft” than before. He still has the same crazy smile! I asked him how he liked it, and he said well enough, but he wouldn’t mind a fortnight’s holiday.

He has applied for exchange into another regiment as he is tired of cutting up meat and wants to do a bit of fighting. He was more astonished to see me and stood open mouthed for several minutes, and declared he wouldn’t have known me in uniform. I chatted to him for some minutes and then went up to No 9 and found the boy much better. His temperature is much steadier and he was lying outside in his bed in the sun with an awning to shade his head. It was a gorgeous day and beside him was a Canuck (Canadian RE man) who had had a mild attack of gas but was well on the way to recovery: he simply sounded as though he had a bad cough and cold in his throat and chest. I sat for half an hour between their beds on a camp stool and talked to them. It is quite true that the Boches crucified a Canadian sergeant : the soldiers all tell one so, not one or two. Wasn’t it a ghastly thing. I came back from the hospital on Tuesday with a lot of wounded who were going to England. They were all wounded in the upper half of the body and able to walk and sit and more or less take care of themselves. They were as merry as sandboys in their clean bandages and bloodstained uniforms. Each man was labelled like a parcel. I gave them some cigarettes and chatted with them and they were awfully interesting. Of course one has to take some of their statements [with a pinch] but still the whole conversation was really thrilling, I have come to the conclusion that the English Tommy is one of the most charming characters in existence. They are simply delightful. Tomlinson will quite possibly be sent to England towards the end of the week so the sister told me. I saw a military funeral as I was going up: a Highlander, with a pipe playing “the Flowers of the Forest”.

Tuesday. It poured with rain at intervals yesterday and again this morning, and it is quite cool. Funnily enough, I was talking to one of the girls here who lives at Cheltenham and looking at her paper, and found an account of Kathleen Richardson’s wedding. Please thank Mother very much for the overalls which arrived last night. She would do well to put “On active service” on the outside of parcels and also their contents, though the latter isn’t so necessary. I went with Miss Brodie on Sunday Morning to the Indian Post Office here and bought two sets of stamps ( Indian surcharged BEF ) and had one set stamped with the FPG post-mark and the other left plain. They are great treasures. One of the Belgian girls here is also going to get me a set of Belgian stamps marked with their special Havre postmark.

How is Mother getting on with her maid hunt. I regret Robert’s departure but I don’t care about the rest. On that Jo. c from the 5th W. Yorks. A. Gaunt was the subaltern who arranged the matches with me. C.E.Ward the colonel, BS Bland, a Cambridge half blue hockey, and a captain in the regt, DP Mackay another Capt. ( I had tea at his digs with Mrs Wood and Edith, and W Goldie, the very charming Major.

Tell Mother that I certainly think Whiteley’s bill is very heavy, but I know shipping rates have gone up immensely since the war. I enclose the bill. I’m so sorry her coat and skirt was not a success. I hope she enjoyed Jean Stirling Mackinlay: I would have loved to take her to it. What a pity there has been trouble at Woodthorpe: it seems all the more sad as there have been Kelks there for hundreds of years. I got my wee lamp all right, many thanks for it.

I must stop now, as I’m busy.

Best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy

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.