Fancy George Sergeant escaping: good for him!

Group of escaped POWs, January 1918  © IWM (HU 91339)

28th June 1918

My dearest Mother

I’m sorry you haven’t had a letter since the one with the snaps for I certainly sent one. Did you not get one acknowledging the 3 speed gear and so forth.

Stephenson, the girl from Cumberland who is my right hand in the Electro knows the woman by repute, who has married Tom Holden. It is probably a case of “not man lost or woman thrown away”.

General Leman is the hero of Liege: he was wounded there in one of the forts and was a prisoner in Germany for over 3 years and was very recently repatriated after a stay in Switzerland.

I hope that M and family are well and comfortably settled in that they are not being tried by the vagaries of Sutton weather. Of course she can do just what she likes with my old bike.

A propos of bikes would you please go to Badleys and get a foot of valve tubing (the little rubber tubing to mend valves with) if he has got as much, as it is for several of us. It doesn’t matter if it is in several pieces.

I am delighted to hear that you have been driving yourself: it is really splendid. I knew where M’s house was we drove past it going to “Sandy’s” last time I was on leave.

Fancy George Sergeant escaping: good for him!

[On Saturday 15th June 1918 the Boston Guardian reported that Private George Sergeant had recently arrived in London having escaped from a German Prisoner of War camp.  George Sergeant, son of JH Sergeant, had been held for nearly two years having been captured during the opening stages of the Somme: 1st July 1916. He had enlisted during the early days of the War. ]

I got your letter of the 23rd last night, jolly good going. I don’t even know the last Howard. I know the fat one and the hockey one and know of the other’s existence, but I don’t remember having seen her. There is indeed hope for all. It is very  tiresome that you cannot get a housemaid and it would be a terrible tragedy if Elizabeth migrated. How trying to have such a terrible gale. We want rain too but we are not so desperately parched as all that.

The photo taken in the Swede’s garden was after I had slept out in their garden with them one Saturday night in the hot spell. We had brekker in the garden and then snapshotted ourselves. We were some of us dressed and some camouflaged and some frankly undressed I among the number! It is warm now but not tropical heat as it was then.

Please tell Father that I am more or less on the rocks, and will he send my allowance to the C.L as usual please.

We had an alarm last night but no raid. I am very busy with work just now and the hay-fever is still going strong, but it doesn’t worry me too much luckily.

There is a great epidemic of influenza (rather of the Spanish Variety) blowing about but I am free so far.

I must dry up now: I have absolutely no news.

Best love to you all

Ever your loving Dorothy.

We had a very lively time last week: 4 raids in 7 days …


Hun Plane Caught in Searchlights  …       David M Carlile

7th June 1918 HMB

My dearest Mother

I missed the post with my letters and the photos so I have kept it back another 24 hours and am writing you a second letter. I had a letter from Tim two days ago: her brother has been invalided out so her mind is more at rest. He is staying with her at friends down at Kingfield and having treatment.

By the by will you have my bikes guts despatched by registered post or something safer and more expeditious than ordinary parcel post.

I was thrilled to the marrow to hear of the Rennells move, why did they do it and when: do write more on this subject: I had no idea of it.

My hay-fever is awful just now: however I don’t let it bother me too much.

I can’t talk about the hospitals being bombed: it makes me choke with rage. We have got 3 or 4 Boche prisoners: accident cases up from a labour camp near here and we have to have them here. I have nothing to do with them thank heaven, but I believe they are most respectful and very well behaved. Is “Nellie Washbourn still swinging the lead” perhaps the raid will shake some patriotism into her.

I’m jolly glad Mrs Baron has got a medal, I must write and congratulate her. She wrote me a very nice letter about mine. I am glad to hear Ford has got home safely. We had a very lively time last week: 4 raids in 7 days (2 were very small ones) We all scuttle out and patrol the wards at least there are always 4 or 5 of us have to. I do from choice as I like to see what is going on. Some of the men are terrible scared poor devils especially those who have been wounded by aeroplane bomb or bombed at Calais in hospital, as many of them are, and it seems to cheer them up when we come round: they are awfully funny and always ask if we are frightened! It is ripping to go down to the ridge at the end of the hospital and see the searchlights and the flashes of the guns and hear the shrapnel bursting.

The aeroplanes came very close over the hospital one night when they were going away and several times we have heard their engines. However we’ve been quite slack this week only one visit at the beginning of the week.

My anchusas are a sight: absolutely huge. The pink and scarlet sweet Williams are coming out too and the garden really looks quite gay but there is such a lot of watering to do.

I had dinner or supper rather at no.6 Vet hospital about 3 weeks ago on a Sunday night at the officers’ mess. They picked me up tramping home and there was an awfully jolly girl chauffeur and they asked us in to supper. The C.O. was a Captain Greg (Grieg?) who is a Board of Agriculture man for East Anglia (for animals) an awfully nice chap. There was also a Captain Haig or Haigh who knew Mr Carnley, Jack Fox, Major Allott and his son, the Marsdens and all our local celebrities. He had stayed in our neighbourhood and hunted.

I must dry up now

Your loving Dorothy.

The weather is lovely but we want rain terribly badly: the country is simply parched for want of it.

D Higgins 1915 IWM7th June 1918 HMB

My dearest Father

I’m afraid I’ve been most remiss about writing but I’ve been gardening early and late these days. I went down into the town one day last week to see Miss Hunter and met Miss Broadwood, Harry G-T’s sister in law. She is going home I’m sorry to say as she is a very nice person. She asked most tenderly after you.

Miss Hunter is going home this week: I bought two ripping little oil paintings from her collection, both with Bonsecours in them. Miss Broadwood told me that Dick had gone up the lines somewhere again.

We have not been so fearfully busy this week: no more convoys in just at present. The weather is lovely but we want rain terribly badly: the country is simply parched for want of it.

It is rotten luck on the Thorndike girl losing her husband so soon – we have never had any other patients than Belgians and we are absolutely full up with them. I quite agree with you that Hedley Le Bas wants shooting at sight and so does Pemberton–Billing, I should have thought that Justice Darling would have kept him in better order.

I have been most tremendously busy myself as far as work goes: we have tken so many X-ray photographs that we have run out of plates!!

I hear from Aunt Jenny that poor Bessy has mumps: it is indeed trying at her age and I expect she feels pretty rotten.

I cant answer your question re memento just yet as I haven’t been able to think what I want, but it shall receive my best attention.

I didn’t quite understand about Canon B and the curate: who is B.G.L who might slate the latter?

I had a very nice letter from Mrs Baron congratulating me in the name of the detachment on the honour I had won for them as well as myself.

I am sorry to hear about Nellie Marshall and hope she’ll go on alright.

I expect “he” is glad the birding season is on that he may supplement his scanty rations. We continue to live very well here.

Best love to you all .

From your loving D

I have been decorated to-day by the Queen of the Belgians …


14th May 1918

My dearest Mother

What you have so long wished for has come to pass: I have been decorated to-day by the Queen of the Belgians with her own medal, the order of Elisabeth. She came on an unofficial visit to the hospital to-day and at the conclusion of her visit she decorated Matron, Sister and myself, four of the senior VADs, and four of the Swedish gymnasts. It was ripping having it from her own hands. She is such a darling little thing I absolutely fell in love with her on the spot. She looked so sweet trotting round and talking to all the men and taking snapshots of them. I shall have to be photographed in my medal and send you one. I have already been snapshotted several times.

We are going to have a bust in the mess tonight and crack a bottle of champagne over the event. It is an awfully pretty ribbon kind of a dull grey blue moire ribbon with cerise edges.

I shall be quite the nut now!

Of course I am fearfully excited. She shook hands with me, as I did my best curtsey, and asked how long I’d been here and if I was English, and then as she pinned the medal on my breast, thanked me and said I was “tres devouee”.

I am quite giddy with replying to “felicitations”. I believe we get signed photos of her too but I’m not sure of that. The Inspecteur, Chief of the Belgian Army Medical Service was there too and was awfully agreeable.

I must dry up now

Best love to you all

Your loving and thrilled daughter, Dorothy.

Old Captain Beatty was talking through his hat about X-ray dangers …

1918 Xray equipment                   ( here being used for a dog) :    Collection: OHA 80: Reeve Photograph Collection National Museum of Health and Medicine, Otis Historical Archives 

10th May 1918    HMB

My dearest Mother

I’m glad to hear that you’ve got back safely and hope your teeth are all right now. I hope Mr Colyer didn’t give you a rotten time.

It was awfully thrilling about the gold coins found at “the Elms” I chuckle to think how the Youngs would curse!!

I don’t know if I told you that Colonel Grant-Thorold came up to call on me Tuesday afternoon last week: I was very busy and could only see him for a few minutes and he asked me to go down to dinner with him at the Hotel de la Poste the next day, Wednesday. I went down and had a pleasant time: he was most interesting to talk to and we had an excellent dinner and Pol Roger (champagne) and then we sat and had coffee and liquers in the lounge and he walked down with me to the train and saw me in. He was waiting for a new job at Rouen – not a job AT Rouen necessarily – he me be here yet for all I know. I enjoyed his conversation but it was most difficult to hear what he said as he talks very softly.

Is little Mrs Baron staying long at Merton Lodge or is it a flying visit? Tim isn’t coming back here at all which is beastly. Her brother isn’t any better and she feels he leans on her so tremendously and anyway she is very busy trying to get him out, and can desert him. I think she is right though it is rotten for her, and for me, and she is a great loss to the hospital.

Would you please send me a p.o. for £1 as there is a topping little sketch in oils of the river with Bonsecours in the distance which I’m going to buy off Miss Hunter. I had dinner with her on Wednesday night. She is probably going home very soon.

My dear, old Captain Beatty was talking through his hat about X-ray dangers: it is quite unkown to have eye-trouble. Nearly all our X-ray work is done in the day-light. We only do screen work twice a week for an hour and then I’m well protected behind a thick lead glass screen.

What luck your having had a raidlet: they always leave me in peace and I have no sport.

Please tell M that No.3, that she asked for, is here so I’m afraid I can’t lend it to her. Has my bike’s guts turned up yet? I hope so. If it didn’t come in time to send to Lieutenant Vanderwegen keep it till I can send you another address. Will you look out my most respectable panama hat, with a black velvet ribbon on,  and roll it up and send it off to me please.

We have been awfully busy lately: we had two convoys in last week: I asked to be allowed to receive one of them and was called at 3:30am and had a hectic four hours receiving stretcher cases, putting them to bed, and redoing dressings that had slipped and so forth. I enjoyed it mightily quand meme.

We had a troupe of Belgian players about 10 days ago: they were quite good: they were the same people who played in London at the Criterion Theatre: Libeau is the chief. They played “Le Marriage de Mlle Beulemans”  that classic of Belgian life so piquant to any who know the Belgians well, and “Ce Bon M Zoeterbeck” also very amusing but whose wit is less fine and subtle than the other piece. It was a great treat and we enjoyed them immensely. I had a go of flu last week quite mild: thank goodness it is all right now. Everyone is having it Doctors, nurses and patients alike. But now my hay fever is starting.

I am very busy in the garden: the Darwin tulips are out and look lovely, under planted with forget me not and with a border of double white arabis. The garden is full of yellow and red wallflowers and the pansies are lovely, aubretia, honesty and doronicums make the place quite gay, and my little sweet peas are flourishing.

I must dry up now and go to bed.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy


Just a few lines to tell you that I am going out to dinner tonight …

D Higgins 1915 IWM1st May 1918


My dearest Father

Just a few lines to tell you that I am going out to dinner tonight with Colonel Richard Grant-Thorold. He came up yesterday afternoon and as I was busy I couldn’t talk to him for long but he asked me to go down and dine with him at the Poste tonight which will be quite jolly.

I got an acknowledgement of your money from the bank, thanks awfully for it. I expect Mother has returned by now. Will you ask her to send my BSA (bit of my bike) to the following address:

Lt Vanderwegen, Farm Cottage, …. Surrey. He will be there till May 11th.

I expect Badley will have got it back by the time this reaches you.

No more now it is duty time and post time too.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

Here I am safe and sound back at the old hospital…


HMB     25th April 1918

My dearest Mother

Here I am safe and sound back at the old hospital.

We had an awfully smooth crossing and shared a cabin together. The boat wasn’t very full. It was very hot though and I couldn’t sleep very much. We planted two yew trees as I told you. It was very necessary.

We spent a quiet morning at the BRCS hostel at Havre and came on by the mid-day train. It is an old bus and takes hours, but it’s more comfortable than arriving by the crowded express at 7. There is little or no news: they are pretty busy as they have had two biggish convoys in since I left and are expecting others.

The garden looks top-hole: I’m awfully pleased with it.

I must dry up now and go to bed.

Best love to you all


Your loving Dorothy.