It is just as well I came back when I did for there has just come in a heavy convoy and we are up to our eyes in work with three nurses sick & off duty.
I am busy x-raying people with really new wounds. The doctor is in great form but very busy as Col. W Affeleart has gone to another hospital for a few weeks to help re-arrange something, as they are doubling the hospitals at the front.
I hope you got my cable from Havre all right. I don’t think there were any yews: we only plant them if convenient or if there are some going begging.
I must dry up now and go on duty: I hear we are to have another convoy of some hundreds (the last was 250) at the end of the week. You may guess what that means.
Thank you and Mother very much indeed for your generous birthday presents which duly arrived at the CL. I had quite a gay birthday as several people knew of it, how I don’t quite know.
Before I forget, I am coming home about the 10th I think and shall come straight home as Isabel Beatty has got mumps and will not be out of quarantine.
My conge paper has arrived and so have my promotion papers I am only awaiting my rank badges to blossom forth in all my glory and chevrons too. My paper is being signed for the latter and I shall get them in a few days. Fraser, my friend and one of the nurses has been in bed for a week with a quinsy and then had 5 days con: leave after that and Stephenson has been away with boils and con: leave at Etretat so I have had a very hard time this last 12 days and I am thankful to have Fraser back this morning. I had a long letter from Lance about two days ago: I will bring it home for you to read.
We had a tennis match with the VADs at No 11 yesterday but they beat us. We lost in doubles and drew in singles. They were in practise and we weren’t. They have a rough cinder court, not very true, but still they can play there when they will and that makes a lot of odds.
Your letter posted on the 12th came today: quite quick work. I have had a very disappointed letter from Isabel today to say that her doctor wont let her travel: she had a deep seated varicose vein cut out just a month ago and she has got to be very careful with it. So she cant come up and stay with me after all: she asked me to thank you very much for asking her: she is most awfully sick at not being able to come poor kid.
I expect to be coming on leave about the 3rd or 4th of next month: I shall go to her for a couple of days and then come on home.
I don’t know how it is that you haven’t heard much from me: I have written most frequently of late.
I’m glad to hear that Granny is so fit: it will be her 90th birthday next month I think.
We had our worst raid on Tuesday night: they came and then slipped away for an hour when the guns made things too hot to be pleasant and then returned about an hour later. I was on raid duty and cursed heartily when I had got to bed after the first dose and had to turn out again.
I am having very bad luck in the electricity just now: Stephenson my right hand has been off duty for a month with boils: they came one after the other and are only just finished, she is convalescing by the sea. Fraser , my other assistant, who is very quick and useful at the work is in bed with bad septic tonsillitis and so I’m left with two raw hands who require so much shepherding that they are of very little use. Fortunately about 50 of my patients have been evacuated this week as we are expecting new men down from the hospitals nearer the front.
I expect that by the time you get this letter I shall be wearing my four little blue chevrons: the official permission has been given, I am only waiting til’ the certificate stating one’s right to wear them returns from headquarters. I am also going to receive promotion and become a section leader: I shall probably come home with a little single band of blue braid round my tunic cuff. A section leader is the lowest rank of officer and the area commandant, who is an awfully decent sort, recommended me for promotion as I am the senior VAD here and since we left the Anglo-French, and came under the Joint War Committee, we have many more VADs here.
It is very funny: Fraser has met John and Comyn Alder: John was engaged ( one of his many affairs) to girl called Knight-Robinson, and Fraser’s brother married her sister(K-R’s sister). So she Fraser stayed with the K-R’s and met John and Comyn, and knows Cecily by name very well, though they didn’t stay in the house together. Isnt the world a funny place! Fraser is a nice kid: her father was a General but has been dead a long time. They are a regular service family I think and are ( terrible expression but I cant think of another) very well connected. She lives in the opposite room to mine and works with me so we see a lot of each other. There are one or two very jolly new VADs come on the staff lately, one called Bartholomew from Edinburgh (the map people) an awfully good sort: has done 6 months in Italy and jolly well read and all that. She has a pal called Mitford, a huge tall girl, awfully decent too: her father is a General out here somewhere and her Mother is the Hon. Mrs Mitford and lives in Cadogan Square, so we are getting most aristocratic!! I’m looking forward tremendously to my leave: it is jolly lucky my getting it so soon.
Fancy Dorothy Humphreys being married. Our Belgian has just got married and returned from her honeymoon: we had a tamasha for her last night. Her husband is a nice little man, a sergeant in one of the Belgian military offices here. She is staying on to work here as usual. I will see what I can do in regard to your hints on the commissariat. It will be “quite all right Mrs Iggins” as someone once said.
Please may I have Father’s gift out here and yours kept for war bonds.
The guns are just sounding the alarm so I’m sitting clothed more or less on the edge of my bed. They may come in about half an hour. Pouf the light is cut off: this will have to wait.
6:15am Next Morning
From 11 to midnight was decidedly lively. There were certainly some bombs dropped but I don’t quite know where.
After what has seemed an interminable silence I got a letter from you last night. It seems simply ages since you wrote, though I think it is only about 12 days.
Thank you very much for the little badge: I have already written to Mrs B to thank her for it.
I am glad to have it though we never wear such things out here. We are getting our chevrons shortly though the official sanction is a long time coming through: you see we don’t work fort the British Army and besides we have only been under the Joint War Committee: however we are to have them and they are to be retrospective, that is to count for our service under the Anglo-French Committee, but we can’t put them up before we get authorisation. Miss Crowdy the PC has been awfully decent about them. She came and inspected us a fortnight ago. I hope I get them before I come on leave. We had a raid last week but nothing particularly exciting. I cursed the thing for spoiling my beauty sleep! I wrote thanking you for the bit of bike which is quite all right now.
I went to early service this morning as I was on duty both morning and evening and it was my only chance. This afternoon six of us went up to the camps to a sports gathering. There was a huge crowd and when we got into the enclosure we had to split as 3 of them found seats first. Luckily my old friend from the echelon Colonel Vyvyan saw me, the upshot of it was that I and the other two were perched up on the dais among all the brass hats. I had the Belgian General on my left, whom I know quite well. We had a little pleasant conversation and then the French General came and sat on his left so I was left free. We had tea at the base commandant’s table ( he is the brigadier who was a friend of Lady Swettenham’s) and altogether had a ripping time.
The sports were jolly good and there was a gorgeous musical ride by Lancers from the base, all on old Life Guards horses, horses which were sent down from the line as only fit for base duty, but lovely black beasts. Then there was a parade of army carts competing for the best turn-out: their harness shone and the chains and buckles were like silver and you could have seen to powder your nose in the horse’s coats. Some of the drivers were Kaffirs and Hindus: they sat so proudly and saluted so beautifully.
Fraser and I had to leave early as we were on evening duty and I spent the evening in the dysentery ward robed in a white overall and nearly drowned in corrosive sublimate. It is the milder form, we call it “Summer complaint” here but they feel awfully miserable and upset with it for a few days poor chaps.
I have been having a very hectic time lately in the work line: I have been most awfully busy, and to complete my woes Stephenson my right hand has been off duty for about 3 weeks with “boils and blains” like the Egyptians. She is up at Sick Sisters hospital and goes to the Convalescent home at Etretat today I think, so I have had Fraser who has only been in the Electricity 6 weeks, and although intelligent doesn’t know as much as Stee who has been there nine months, and the third place has been filled by two raw hands, one after another, who are rather trying. All this gives me a lot of extra work, however I’m bearing up as well as can be expected.
I hope Stee will buck up and get better as she will have to take charge while I’m on leave.
Thanks awfully for letting me have Isabel : I have written to ask her for the first week of my leave.
The garden is fairly flourishing but it gets scorched and soaked by turns which it doesn’t like much.
I think the Tattershall scheme sounds quite nice: I like the idea of the windows.
I assure you Isabel would much rather share my room: we slept in hers at Forest House and her bed is exactly the same size as mine & we slept in a smaller one together here.
I’m awfully sick at having missed Tommy again: we have no luck. I heard from Tim the other day: her brother is still pretty bad I’m afraid.
I don’t seem to have any more news.
Please give my love to M and the kids when you next go to Sutton.
Thank you so much for your lovely long letter of the 14th which I got last night.
Before I forget it will you write at once to Lieutenant A Van Hoorde, Bureau des Conges Militaire, General Buildings, Aldwych and ask for a demande de conge for me. You know what to say as you’ve done it before, and when it comes fill it up and ask them to send it off by return.
There is heaps of time really as I’m not coming on conge until the first week in September but they are rather careless and dilatory people and it is as well to have it in good time. It is ripping getting leave again so soon, but several of the people who were due for leave before me are leaving so that puts me high up on the list.
Now I want very much to have Isabel to stay with me during my time at home. I’m afraid it is a bit inconvenient for you with no housemaid, but couldn’t Lib come in for that time! Isabel would share my room from preference and she is not an exigeante person at all in the house. She is so used to a haphazard menage. You see she is going to be married in the autumn unless anything untoward happens and will then go off to India for 18 months and I shant see her all that time and I don’t want to cut into my leave with you by going to stay with her, because the time goes so quickly and it would be just ideal having her and you at the same time. So do let me invite her down for a week or ten days. She’ll understand that things are bound to be different form pre-war conditions and they are used to a very happy-go-lucky rough and ready life. She had just had an operation for a varicose vein in her leg poor dear.
It is hazingly, stiflingly hot here with terrific rain and thunderstorms which do more harm than good. There were hailstones bigger than walnuts on Wednesday evening.
Coud you go to Badley and stir him up about my bits of gear. There was an important part missing of my gear that you sent out: I have written to him about it but he hasn’t answered. Please excuse this wobbly scribble: I am terribly hot as have just spent nearly two hours shut up in a room devoid of light or air doing X-ray screen work and one feels rather like chewed string afterwards !
Must stop now, let me know soon about Isabel as I want to write and ask her.
Thank you very much for money in large quantities which has just arrived, and for which I am most grateful.
I have written, full of wrath, to Bradley: they have left a large piece of my 3 speed gear behind in England and the mechanic here can’t fix it up with a part missing. So I have written direct to him and told him to get it and send it along as soon as possible.
Perhaps Mother would stir him up a bit if she happens to be passing, and also get me some more valve tubing as I passed the bit on to the Commandant. I don’t want any larger a bit than she sent before.
Please thank Mother for paying Pennell’s bill, seeds are very precarious this year and then the drought has been the limit.
I am very glad that Alf Nainby has had to go, but it is most inconvenient as I wanted half a dozen of the photos he took of me 18 months ago. I suppose it is quite impossible to get at them or Ada. I hope Walter will be able to get WJH off for you: it is really rather ridiculous taking a man like that.
We had lots of heavy showers yesterday and to-day and it is much cooler; last week, Sunday especially, was roasting.
I flew up to No 8 on Monday to find that Lionel Morris had left for Blighty a week before! The Greyhound is at No 25. I haven’t run across her yet, thank the Lord.
Our gardens look rather jolly though the plants are short perhaps owing to the drought. I have had the most magnificent anchusa plants: they have been a mass of blue and the pink & scarlet sweet Williams have been ripping too.
We haven’t had any raids lately: there was one about a week or 10 days ago and nothing since.
The Italians have done jolly well haven’t they: things are looking a bit brighter than they were, thank heaven. Entre Nous I am fed to the teeth with all this buttering up of the Americans, though I’m afraid it is certain that if they hadn’t come along we should have been in the “Kart”.
Is Mrs Rawnsley still at Calais? It isn’t exactly a health resort I believe. Has Nellie Marshall come home yet or is she still in town at her hospital ?
Would you look up in Kelly and see if you can find anything about a family of Mitfords who live in Cadogan Square. We have got one here: a huge tall girl and jolly.
Also we have got a Bartholomew from Edinburgh: one of the map people, quite a nice kid.
After having been the baby and the senior VAD for 18 months, there are now 3 or 4 younger than I. We are really under the Joint War Committee now and can get VADs for the hospital quite easily. Four of our most undesirable people are leaving, and another silly blighter which makes five, and we have quite Christian people in their stead so we are very bucked about it. We are thrilled to the marrow: Short who has been here two years (a silly gushing would be artistic type who wrote to Mother once and has a thumping opinion of herself) has just got engaged to one of the doctors, a hugely fat man with a beard who looks forty and is in reality only a year older than I: and certainly 6 or 7 years younger than she. He has just got his discharge from the army. He has been here about 18 months and she has nursed in one of his wards for over a year.
How she can I don’t know. He is a very decent sort, but still: I disapprove most heartily of international marriages. The Belgian nurse, Fuzzy, is getting married in about a fortnight’s time to one of her own countrymen. She will stay on here, but Short is going home.
There is a terrible dove-cot atmosphere about the place: I hope it wears off soon.
I’m glad to hear that M & Co are having nice weather at Sutton. How trying for Robin to have the measles. We have odd clutches of Boche prisoners in here: there is a camp of them near Rouen who work for the Belgians and when they have an accident or go sick they come here and live in a small hut under guard. The nurse who has to do with them speaks German very well and doesn’t mind much: I, thank God, never come near them.