I wish I could drop a bomb into the Balkan States, big enough to shut them all up for a bit………..

IMG_20150426_000210.x.15                                                                                                 Rouen

My Dearest Mother

I started a letter to you about 3 days ago and in a fit of absent mindedness tore it up with a lot of rubbish, so I must start again.

I’m afraid Father wouldn’t get my letter in time for his birthday so I sent a wire which I hope he’d receive.

It was Tim’s birthday too yesterday, but we were too busy to do much.

I had such a nice letter from Nanny: it was delightful to hear from her: do thank her next time you see her. She says “I should have sent you a few lines before, but Nurse said she had told you all the news of the town so waited a few weeks”. Now I have never had a line from Nurse so what has happened to her letter I can’t imagine. It is the first letter that has gone astray, as far as I know. I hope you’ll tell Nurse or she’ll think I’m an ungrateful little devil.

Why are the Fred Riggals leaving ? I suppose Tommy Bucknall’s drinking ways didn’t help to keep the farm together. You say it is in the market: does that mean that Walter is selling it?

Fancy the Wrights going. That is a blow. Did I acknowledge my allowance which had duly arrived. Thank Father very much for it please.

I don’t want any other warm clothes: I have got a woolly muffler and a wool coat here. I am going to apply for leave for the middle or latter half of November: I don’t know if I shall get it. I hope so en tout cas as I hope I may get in a little hockey and shooting when I come.

I think the Hockey club is wise to lie more or less low: certainly its no use half the first XI going out and making fools of itself. I don’t think I paid Father for the field out of my own money, but still I don’t know and it is best as you say. It is kif-kif to me ( as we say here).

Tim and I rocked with laughter to hear that our bridge problems were taking the whole Committee of the Portland Club to arrange and decide them.

How is poor old ET ?I suppose she may drag on for weeks and even months. I suppose Chas.H would know the Benton man.

I wish I could drop a bomb into the Balkan States, big enough to shut them all up for a bit.

I did see “the roast hare” he looked more like it than ever! I have been bombarded with questions about the history of St Lô. I haven’t the vaguest idea who the gentleman was. There is a town in Bretagne called St Lô. It is close to Dinard, so I expect the saint was a Breton celebrity.

I enclose you a photo of myself taking an Xray photo with Mrs Garrard assisting. It looks very swishy doesn’t it. Tim insisted on my posing thus as she wanted the phot0 for her album, so I send you a copy to amuse you.

The bird left on Monday night for three weeks leave in England to wind up her husband’s affairs. I miss her as she was with me in the Salle d’Electrothérapie. I’ve got quite a nice little girl in her place however: the baby of the hospital: just 20.

I must dry up now,

With best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy

I had the tongue out photo of Elsie and the boys in a silver frame. I was awfully kicked with it.

One feels disinclined for letter writing somehow……………………

D Higgins 1915 IWM28.09.1915                                                                             Rouen

My Dearest Mother

The Times has just slipped from my nerveless grasp: it is almost too good to be true. I have just seen the obituary notice of Keir Hardie. What a fitting accompaniment to the other good news in the papers. I do hope these victories will quickly be followed by others.

We are having the vilest weather just now: cold and raw with torrents of rain. The whole of Rouen is paved with large granite setts and I never knew such things for holding puddles !!

I wish you’d send me Aunt Jane’s thrilling letter: I will be sure to return it. I had a letter from Mary Gold who has got safely home. Poor thing she was sick for 26 days running: it was partly because she has got a baby coming : I don’t know when. She told me several bits about the Zep raid.

By the by will you buy me six new pairs of black cashmere stockings size 10 and send them out. I generally give about 2/6 fr them. Will you deduct the amount from my next quarter’s allowance.

Please beg Father to let me have £10 a quarter instead of my usual. I honestly don’t want it out here, and in these hard times it is ever so much better to save it. I should be so much happier if he would – I am still very busy as my own special boss, after being away on leave for 10 days, after his return only stayed one day and has been sent off to do another 10 days relief work, after which he will return and everything will be as before, I hope. While he was away on his holiday I had to take 3 radiographies all by myself as I’m the only one who understands the installation. Two of them I had a doctor watching me , but the third there was no one but myself and the bird (Mrs Garrard) and the boy who always helps me to things and develops them afterwards. The photos were a roaring success, my own boss Dr Stouffs, who usually takes all the X ray photos (radiographies), congratulated me on my good plates. By the by will you buy me 3  pairs of white woollen gloves and send them out and also look out any other decent pairs I have in my top left hand drawer. They and the stockings can come out together.

I fear I am somewhat to blame about Doris Brampton as I had a letter from her saying she was staying at Skegness and if I were in her direction I was to go and look her up. She was staying with her people at the Seaview Hotel for the golf. I never had time somehow for answering her letter. I hardly have time to write anywhere but to you and Father. You see when one goes on from 8.30 to 5 with only a short break for lunch, one feels disinclined for letter writing somehow. I always want to go out.

Thank you so much for sending me the photos of Elsie and the boys to look at. I have gratefully kept the trio you said I might. I wish Jack looked a little more robust: it seems as if a puff of wind would blow him away. Michael looks more sturdy. I’ll send them back most carefully.

I’m sorry to hear that old ET is playing up so fearfully, on what must be her death bed. However the news about Lance must be cheering to her. What a good thing that young “Miss” has a got a more suitable attachment. It is awfully good of Mr Chalke to try again for the Army, as his health is certainly very uncertain. Is young Birkett (Freddy) still sitting shivering with cold feet ?

Talking of shivering , it is beginning to be very chilly just now, especially going along the quays at 7.45 !!

You would laugh if you could see our garden. It is 3 Michaelmas daisy plants, in pots: we hae bought them from a nursery garden and they are all flowering and looking nice: two finished geranium plants, one pot of cuttings that I’ve taken, one hart’s tongue fern I dug out of the woods at Grival, and one dying lily plant.

Tim is an awfully keen gardener and we so love looking after them.

Thank you so much for all the Indian letters: I enjoyed them immensely. I’ll send them back tomorrow: I haven’t a thick envelope here, they’re all at the flat. Please tell Father I’m quite all right for funds.

I am so glad to hear thar you have got a cook if only of “sorts”.

I’m so glad my sweet peas have been good: I wish I could have seen them.

Tell Father I’m shocked to hear of his doings at Saleby! Shooting I mean!!!

The boats have been coming most regularly lately so that’s a pure canard !

I must dry up now, or I shall miss the mail.

Best love to you both

Your Loving Dorothy.

The local maidens made good use of their time…………….


My dearest Mother

Thank you so much for your letters and Father’s too. Excuse this singular writing, but the only weapon I can lay my hand on at present is this pen, so I must needs use what is handy.

George left Rouen in the hospital ship St Andrew on Sunday morning very early: I didn’t see her go out. He went on board the Saturday night about tea-time: we went down on the quay to bid him good bye about 5.30. He took over a treasure for you that I didn’t trust to the post: it takes so long to come over. I don’t think M can have got my first letter from here: anyway I wrote one about a month ago, and I am going to write again this week.

Certainly Mr Mitchell is the biggest ass I ever knew. I am certain he is going into it with his eyes open too.

Gilbert the Filbert’s name was McEwan.

The Lovat’s Scouts have gone out to the Dardanelles without their ponies but have taken their saddles with them. So Miss Brodie told me. Her brother is now Bede Major instead of Major Alhusen I think.  As you say the local maidens made good use of their time.

I hope the CHHs wont be Zepped. I was on a tram in Rouen the other day and a Red Cross orderly from No 2 ( the officer’s hospital which is run by the British Red Cross Society for the army and doesn’t have RAMC men but volunteers from mens VADs) said “Excuse me sister, but who is that no 32 Lincoln. So I said that my detachment was Alford, and he told me he lived in Grimsby, his Grandma and Grandad kept a tobacco shop close to Palethorpe’s shop in Victoria Street. I knew whereabouts he meant, and his uncle’s name was Ernest Benton (I think) a clerk in Grange & Wintringham’s office. I asked him if any other Lincs men were in the hospital and he said a man from Spilsby, I forget his name! I remember 3 of the Spilsby men’s VAD went to France and Rouen early in the war. We chatted till our ways separated, as he had recently returned from leave and was able to tell me how the harvest looked etc.

By the by I don’t think I ever commented on Archie B’s conduct. Truly he is a blackguard of the first water. I was awfully interested in the Bridge extract. I wish the expert would have answered my questions which I asked him about three months ago; points of bridge.

I will write to Mrs Colli re hockey club. I made out a balance sheet but it didn’t balance somehow ! It was some silly mistake as I paid all the bills most carefully and had kept my petty cash book most scrupulously. The “imbalance sheet” is in the drawer of the little oak table in the nursery. I certainly think they would be wise to run the club as last year with reduced expenses and match list.

It went very well really. All the more with Miss Hargreaves offer of supplementary players. It would be a great pity to let it slide because everyone turned up well last year.

Of course I must no go on being captain, ought I to write a formal letter of resignation I wonder. Mrs C ought to be capt. And they must find a vice from somewhere. I hope Mrs C. will go on being secretary and get someone to help her with my secretary work.

Poor old ET it is rather dreadful that she should have broken up like that. I sent her a ppc the other day.

18th Sept.

I had a long chatty letter from Phoebe Rennell the other day with a brief scrawl from Clarence inside it. She is very decent writing to me.

I heard about Captain Lowe’s wound before you told me: poor man it was rotten luck. You would see Mr Garrard in the Times obituary notices on Weds or Thurs.

I sent Nanny and Nurse p.c.s [ postcards] so I suppose that’s why they asked for my address. I had a letter from Mrs CHH yesterday and one from Trevor Bracken “somewhere in Africa” with the Indian Expeditionary Force B. He is not with with his regt the 94th, Russell’s Infantry, but is attached to the 13th Rajputs. He was very bored with Africa.

I wonder what sort of a new curate we shall get. Decent ones (socially I mean) are as rare as diamonds. I’m afraid the slugs wiped out my little red delphinium, strafe them.

You may be interested to hear that the campanula that we slave drove is once more a roaring success: full of bloom.

I must stop now:I’ve been at this letter for about 3 days.

Shall write again tomorrow. Thanks muchly for the 14/9 p.o. I got Fr 19.90 for it !!

Best love to you both

From your loving Dorothy.

Dorothy’s War – a visit from Miss Kitchener – ” Cant imagine what she came for “




My Dearest Mother

Thank you so much for your ripping long letter and the Indian ones: I will return them “tantot” as we say here. I do enjoy your letters and Father’s too: I look out for them eagerly.

I think you must have forgotten to enclose any cuttings as I couldn’t find any in the letter. I longed to know what “Tormy” was up to. The HMB ( Lovat’s Scouts etc.) have gone to the Dardanelles, or are on their way up there, so Miss Brodie tells me. The weather here has been perfectly hellish: rain all day and every day, and beastly cold.

I hope poor old ET is better. Please give her my salaams next time you see her.

Poor Ivan Perry: isn’t he in the 8th D of Wellingtons ? I’m so sorry it is a wound in the cheeks as there is such danger of facial paralysis: the face is honeycombed with nerves . I very much doubt a raid on the coast around you: Zeppelins, but troops no, I think! I always feel rather worried when I see a Zepp raid on the E Coast, till I hear from you.

How nice it would be if you and Father could come over here. The only trouble is the papers: even for us , getting to and from England is the very devil, and for ordinary civvies, much worse. I hope you may get a cook soon, it seems an awful task.

Poor Mrs Garrard has lost her husband. Lieut S.T.Garrard 14th tt. 8th Rifle Brigade. Isn’t it dreadful for her poor little Bird ( what we always call her) He was killed in the trenches and buried in the cemetery by the prison at Ypres ( I think I told you that it was always Ypres never Yprés :  the Flamands pronounce it Leperr: they always roll their r’s but much more gutturally than the French). The Bird hopes to stay on here and work: she has no children, and her people are in Australia so she would be very lonely and miserable in England. He had only been out here 3 weeks about.

George is up in NO 2 hospital with quinsy. I had a pathetic note from him and Tim and I went up to see him on Tuesday: we found him in bed with a very swollen, ulcerated throat and hardly able to speak: the next time we went up the quinsy had burst and he was a little better. He may be unpopular with his men but cold feet he certainly has not got: he is nearly crying with rage at being kept back to the line.

I can quite imagine what you say about Ford. I have never thought him a suitable person. Tommy is quite different. Is Clarence Rennell better? I hope so please give him my kind remembrances ( or whatever you call it) next time you see him.

You will be amused to learn that I’m developing a memory! Everyone gives me messages for the doctors and I only once forgot one. ( Touch wood !)

Certainly Lady Milnes-Gaskell deserves to be strafed : she is a little inconsequent about her plants.

Did my little red rock delphinium ever show up. It was low down on the right of the steps: about opposite where that yellow orange linum that you sent me bits of grows.

I have got some harts tongue ferns at Grival the other day and potted them with the aid of my favourite flower woman in the flower market, and we have them on our balcony, also some geranium plants which were in Tim’s ward and have finished flowering: we hope to take some cuttings and raise them.

I’m so glad the gypsophila fl.pl. is doing well: how is my little one? Did the eremurus do anything? If not could it be moved out this autumn, a little farther forward ? Did the Sidalceas do well ? and how are the sweet briar cuttings under the nursery window ? Don’t let Fuller whip off their heads : 6 months hence will be early enough. And roses hardly want any pruning in the Autumn: it is the March April pruning which should be the severe one.

We had Miss Kitchener ( Lord Kitchener’s unmarried sister to visit the hospital) on Friday. Can’t imagine what she came for. Only heard in the morning, so I had to bustle round and get everything tidy in my department.

Mine is a difficult room to keep in order with two doctors always working there and other popping in and out at intervals. They laugh at my fetish for tidiness, but I’m training them by degrees. They are getting quite good at hanging their coats on pegs instaed of throwing them down anyhow and putting their cigarette ash and ends on trays instead of on the floor. I wonder if this tidiness will last with me! I’m sure you’ll say that it sounds very unlike me!!

Please give Mrs Humphreys my love and apologise for my not writing : it is not the will but the time that is lacking.

I meant to comment in Father’s letter on his information that Billy Humphreys had entered the office. I am very glad, as he is a good steady boy, if a trifle stolid and it is always pleasing to keep it in the family.

I must stop now

Best love

From your loving Dorothy

I’m quite fit again now.

I met young Coney (Furniture’s Son)two days ago, he had come down for a few days rest. I mean the dark haired one who played the piano. He seemed pleased to have a chat.

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