God help any constituency that is fool enough to elect a woman as their member. Women in authority are autocratic tyrants !

1 Lady Astor's election campaign 1919.jpg
Lady Astor campaigning for election.

28th October 1918 HMB

My dearest Mother

A lovely long letter from you yesterday, dated the 20th and another today, dated the 23rd. We are still frantically busy: a new convoy comes in about twice a week which keeps things up to fever pitch. Don’t worry about the x-ray work: I am always tucked away behind a protective screen so there is no danger what so ever.

Deutschland uber alles” is sung to that beastly Austrian National Anthem tune. There’s no hurry about the other stockings: I’m quite well off so far. The interesting enclosure was a betise of mine. You said “ another little bit of interest” referring no doubt to the small sum of post office interest on War loan, I mis-read it and thought it was some racy scrap of scandal or newspaper cutting !!

I realised afterwards that I had not understood your meaning !!

I am very sorry to hear about Billy Humphrey’s: it is rotten luck for such a lad, but he is probably safe which is deja quelquechose in these days.

No 20 is at Carmiers, between Etaples and Boulogne but nearer the former.

Granny’s Mary is bad luck too: she looked so extraordinarily well when we saw her. I remember the Barlow boy: a very shy gawky youth he used to be. It is wonderful how soon they learn to write with their left arm.

I’m glad to hear such splendid accounts of Jack: he is having a pretty busy time I expect. I’m sorry to hear that Bunny is naughty again and tries her mother so much, but I am still surprised that M doesn’t manage to get “up-sides” of her.

I am glad to hear about Arthur Green, I wondered what had happened to him. Tell Mrs C H H  to tell him that it is never called Albert ! Hospital now; always Anglo-Belge or Militaire Belge. He could have tea with me at the club if I can get off. It is dreadfully painful having a limb amputated: all the nerves seem to jump and dance. & one feels one’s toes or fingers hurting months after they are gone !

I didn’t know young Moohman had had shellshock: rather tragic for such a hefty young fellow! Has anyone heard of Tommy Roberts and if he is still queer and paralysed ? The species of sugar doesn’t matter a bit: the chief thing is to have it. Two lbs will be ample. I’ll let you know how to get it to me: I may have a trustworthy patient coming on leave soon, but I am not sure.

I expect I can get the bigger dividend cashed at Cox’s and the little one at the A P.O. & I shall get the certificates with them which will save trouble.

Well I suppose the world is so upside down and after war life is going to be such an utter change from pre-war life, that women MPs are only a drop in the deluge of alterations which are to come, but God help any constituency that is fool enough to elect a woman as their member. Women in authority are autocratic tyrants !

I had a most thrilling box from Isabel last night containing a flat platinum safety pin with my initials on it: a pair of gold and mother of pearl sleeve links with naval emblems in their middles, a gold Red Cross brooch: two silk hankies and several tiny things. She says it is arrears of what she would have liked to give me when she was poor and couldn’t. I am quite overwhelmed!! Ann has left and gone back to her.

We are still living a hectic existence: we have got some extra staff but not enough, and more are coming, these things all take time. If the heads of the Belgian medical service had warned us that they intended to turn us into a surgical base hospital, we could have made arrangements but we had no warning whatsoever. The poor chap I told you about with the thoracic wound went West about 5 days ago: his other lung go infected. It was almost more merciful so, as he would have been such a ghastly wreck had he survived.

We had a jubilant letter from one of my late assistant orderlies who has rejoined his regiment: they are just outside Ghent. He is tired but full of beans morally.

I am very fit in spite of my labours. Tell father that I will write to hime in a few days. The photos haven’t come yet.

No more now: I am going to sleep the sleep of the just!!

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

The war news is most thrilling from day to day …

Belgian and British troops and their transport in the ruins of Pervyse, 18 October 1918. Note two observation balloons in the air.    © IWM (Q 11393)

13th October 1918  HMB

My dearest Father

Life becomes more hectic every minute, we are inundated with “grand Hesses”  heavy cases from the front. Some of them have only been wounded a few days and are tired and dirty beyond description. And the wounds! I have never seen such things before. The x-ray work is terrific: I am constantly at it, localising foreign bodies, bullets, shell splinters etc. This morning we polished off twenty people in the x-ray room in 1½ hours !! We have got some more nurses in but we get more convoys in. The treatments have dwindled tremendously of course because we’ve had to evacuate most of our convalescent patients. It is a pity in a way that our equipment should be wasted, and we are awfully ill equipped to deal with such a huge influx of heavy cases, but we are doing our best.

There isn’t a day for the last 10 days that I haven’t done 10 hours a day & sometimes more. The Swedes have all turned into nurses too and are working like bricks. I have never been so busy in my life.

The war news is most thrilling from day to day: oh lord I do hope the Hun is going to be bled dry as far as money and resources go. I curse to think that we shall not have the chance of devastating the “Fatherland” not as they have done it, for that would be to lower ourselves to their level, but I should like the shock of battle to lay waste the fertile lands in the valley of the Rhine.

Poor Belgians: they have paid very heavily. They couldn’t get their artillery up quickly enough because of the bad ground, and they were fearfully knocked about.

A very nice Colonel I know had both his sons killed, one in fair fight, the other shot by a German officer prisoner at the head of a batch of captured Huns being marched off to the cages! Needless to say that particular batch did not reach the cages after this damnable act of Hun swinishness and treachery!!

This is intended to be a birthday letter. Many congratulations on your 74th birthday. Your next one will see a different picture I think. I longed to be with you at Claythorpe. I’m glad you had a good day – I’m very relieved to hear that Robin is safe.

I will write again in a day or two if I can, I am so sleepy when I come off. Your lighter is being made.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

Please thank Mother for clips: stockings: flask & chatty letter. The interesting enclosure was missing !!

We have got two wards full of Spanish flu (pneumonic variety) as well.

I wish we could make the swine understand that for every town they burn and destroy one of theirs shall suffer the same fate.

Ruined town of Bailleul, 2 September 1918. Photograph taken from the top of the Belfry.  © IWM (Q 78703)

3rd October 1918              HMB

My dearest Father

This will only be a short letter as we are most awfully busy: the Belgian push has brought us in heaps of new wounded, they were wounded on the 28th and came here on the 2nd so we are awfully busy. I was only off for a short time yesterday and today as I have been helping in the wards when my own work was done, & my own job has been jolly heavy lately.

I am very fit and full of beans which is a good thing. Isn’t the war going splendidly. I wish we could make the swine understand that for every town they burn and destroy one of theirs shall suffer the same fate. It is the only way to stop their awful work of destruction.

The petites Belges are awfully bucked with themselves as indeed they have every reason to be. Tell Mother that the French call it Arra(s) and the Belgians pronounce the S but as it is a French town, the former is the more correct.

I was awfully sorry not to be able to say goodbye to you properly. Also I meant to ask you about the memento: however it must wait till I come home again.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy

… there has just come in a heavy convoy and we are up to our eyes in work

British prisoners bringing in their wounded to a German advanced dressing station, September 1918.        © IWM (Q 88111)

25th September 1918     HMB

My dearest Mother

Here I am again, safe & sound, at the hospital.

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.

Best love to you all

Your loving D

I arrived yesterday morning after a vile crossing (10 ½ hours) in a dirty little cockle shell …

London Street Scene 1918.  Outside the Photographic Bureau of the Ministry of Information the day before the official opening, 10 Coventry Street, London.  © IWM (Q 31118)

11th September 1918         London

My dearest Mother

I arrived yesterday morning after a vile crossing (10 ½ hours) in a dirty little cockle shell: I was slightly sick.

I shall return tomorrow to the fold. I hope Molly told you that I’d wired her. I ought to have come over on Monday morning by Boulogne but was stopped at the last minute and that delayed me a day.


I am stopping with May and B, who send their love. I have so much to tell you that it must be a case of “all news when we meet”.

Best love to you both

Your loving Dorothy

I have had a very hard time this last 12 days

IMG_20150426_000226th August 1918             HMB

My dearest Father

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.

I must stop to catch the post.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

We had our worst raid on Tuesday night: they came and then slipped away


Nurses survey air raid damage inflicted to No. 9 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Étaples on 2 June 1918. The hospital was bombed on 31 May 1918.      © IWM (Q 11539)

15th August 1918 HMB

My dearest Mother

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.

I must dry up now

Best love to you all

From your loving Dorothy.