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Title: Field Hospital and Flying Column
Being the Journal of an English Nursing Sister in Belgium & Russia

Author: Violetta Thurstan

Release Date: January 23, 2006 [eBook #17587]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


E-text prepared by Irma Spehar and the Project Gutenberg Online
Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images
generously made available by Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries

Note: Project Gutenberg also has an HTML version of this
file which includes the original illustrations.
See 17587-h.htm or

Images of the original pages are available through
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries. See


Being the Journal of an English Nursing Sister in Belgium & Russia



London and New York
G. P. Putnam's Sons
First Impression April 1915

M. R.

_Allons! After the great Companions, and to belong to them.
They too are on the road.
They are the swift and majestic men, they are the greatest women.
They know the universe itself as a road, as many roads,
As roads for travelling souls.
Camerados, I will give you my hand,
I give you my love more precious than money.
Will you give me yourselves, will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?_
















War, war, war. For me the beginning of the war was a torchlight tattoo
on Salisbury Plain. It was held on one of those breathless evenings in
July when the peace of Europe was trembling in the balance, and when
most of us had a heartache in case--_in case_ England, at this time of
internal crisis, did not rise to the supreme sacrifice.

It was just the night for a tattoo--dark and warm and still. Away across
the plain a sea of mist was rolling, cutting us off from the outside
world, and only a few pale stars lighted our stage from above.

The field was hung round with Chinese lanterns throwing weird lights and
shadows over the mysterious forms of men and beasts that moved therein.
It was fascinating to watch the stately entrance into the field,
Lancers, Irish Rifles, Welsh Fusiliers, Grenadiers and many another
gallant regiment, each marching into the field in turn to the swing of
their own particular regimental tune until they were all drawn up in

There followed a very fine exhibition of riding and the usual torchlight
tricks, and then the supreme moment came. The massed bands had thundered
out the first verse of the Evening Hymn, the refrain was taken up by a
single silver trumpet far away--a sweet thin almost unearthly note more
to be felt than heard--and then the bands gathered up the whole melody
and everybody sang the last verse together.

The Last Post followed, and then I think somehow we all knew.

* * * * *

A week later I had a telegram from the Red Cross summoning me to London.

London was a hive of ceaseless activity. Territorials were returning
from their unfinished training, every South Coast train was crowded with
Naval Reserve men who had been called up, every one was buying kits,
getting medical comforts, and living at the Army and Navy Stores. Nurses
trained and untrained were besieging the War Office demanding to be
sent to the front, Voluntary Aid Detachment members were feverishly
practising their bandaging, working parties and ambulance classes were
being organized, crowds without beginning and without end were surging
up and down the pavements between Westminster and Charing Cross, wearing
little flags, buying every half-hour edition of the papers and watching
the stream of recruits at St. Martin's. All was excitement--no one knew
what was going to happen. Then the bad news began to come through from
Belgium, and every one steadied down and settled themselves to their
task of waiting or working, whichever it might happen to be.

I was helping at the Red Cross Centre in Vincent Square, and all day
long there came an endless procession of women wanting to help, some
trained nurses, many--far too many--half-trained women; and a great many
raw recruits, some anxious for adventure and clamouring "to go to the
front at once," others willing and anxious to do the humblest service
that would be of use in this time of crisis.

Surely after this lesson the Bill for the State Registration of Trained
Nurses cannot be ignored or held up much longer. Even now in this
twentieth century, girls of twenty-one, nurses so-called with six
months' hospital training, somehow manage to get out to the front,
blithely undertaking to do work that taxes to its very utmost the skill,
endurance, and resource of the most highly trained women who have given
up the best years of their life to learning the principles that underlie
this most exacting of professions. For it is not only medical and
surgical nursing that is learnt in a hospital ward, it is discipline,
endurance, making the best of adverse circumstances, and above all the
knowledge of mankind. These are the qualities that are needed at the
front, and they cannot be imparted in a few bandaging classes or
instructions in First Aid.

This is not a diatribe against members of Voluntary Aid Detachments.
They do not, as a rule, pretend to be what they are not, and I have
found them splendid workers in their own department. They are not
half-trained nurses but fully trained ambulance workers, ready to do
probationer's work under the fully trained sisters, or if necessary to
be wardmaid, laundress, charwoman, or cook, as the case may be. The
difficulty does not lie with them, but with the women who have a few
weeks' or months' training, who blossom out into full uniform and call
themselves Sister Rose, or Sister Mabel, and are taken at their own
valuation by a large section of the public, and manage through influence
or bluff to get posts that should only be held by trained nurses, and
generally end by bringing shame and disrepute upon the profession.

* * * * *

The work in the office was diversified by a trip to Faversham with some
very keen and capable Voluntary Aid Detachment members, to help
improvise a temporary hospital for some Territorials who had gone sick.
And then my turn came for more active service. I was invited by the St.
John Ambulance to take out a party of nurses to Belgium for service
under the Belgian Red Cross Society.

Very little notice was possible, everything was arranged on Saturday
afternoon of all impossible afternoons to arrange anything in London,
and we were to start for Brussels at eight o'clock on Tuesday morning.

On Monday afternoon I was interviewing my nurses, saying good-bye
to friends--shopping in between--wildly trying to get everything
I wanted at the eleventh hour, when suddenly a message came
to say that the start would not be to-morrow after all. Great
excitement--telephones--wires--interviews. It seemed that there
was some hitch in the arrangements at Brussels, but at last it
was decided by the St. John's Committee that I should go over
alone the next day to see the Belgian Red Cross authorities before
the rest of the party were sent off. The nurses were to follow the
day after if it could be arranged, as having been all collected in
London, it was very inconvenient for them to be kept waiting long.

Early Tuesday morning saw me at Charing Cross Station. There were not
many people crossing--two well-known surgeons on their way to Belgium,
Major Richardson with his war-dogs, and a few others. A nurse going to
Antwerp, with myself, formed the only female contingent on board. It was
asserted that a submarine preceded us all the way to Ostend, but as I
never get further than my berth on these occasions, I cannot vouch for
the truth of this.

Ostend in the middle of August generally means a gay crowd of bathers,
Cook's tourists tripping to Switzerland and so on; but our little party
landed in silence, and anxious faces and ominous whispers met us on our
arrival on Belgian soil. It was even said that the Germans were marching
on Brussels, but this was contradicted afterwards as a sensational
canard. The Red Cross on my luggage got me through the _douane_
formalities without any trouble. I entered the almost empty train and we
went to Brussels without stopping.

At first sight Brussels seemed to be _en fête_, flags were waving from
every window, Boy Scouts were everywhere looking very important, and the
whole population seemed to be in the streets. Nearly every one wore
little coloured flags or ribbons--a favourite badge was the Belgian
colours with the English and French intertwined. It did not seem
possible that war could be so near, and yet if one looked closer one saw
that many of the flags giving such a gay appearance were Red Cross
flags denoting that there an ambulance had been prepared for the
wounded, and the Garde Civile in their picturesque uniform were
constantly breaking up the huge crowds into smaller groups to avoid a

The first thing to arrange was about the coming of my nurses, whether
they were really needed and if so where they were to go. I heard from
the authorities that it was highly probable that Brussels _would_ be
occupied by the Germans, and that it would be best to put off their
coming, for a time at any rate. Private telegrams had long been stopped,
but an official thought he might be able to get mine through, so I sent
a long one asking that the nurses might not be sent till further notice.
As a matter of fact it never arrived, and the next afternoon I heard
that twenty-six nurses--instead of sixteen as was originally
arranged--were already on their way. There were 15,000 beds in Brussels
prepared for the reception of the wounded, and though there were not
many wounded in the city just then, the nurses would certainly all be
wanted soon if any of the rumours were true that we heard on all sides,
of heavy fighting in the neighbourhood, and severe losses inflicted on
the gallant little Belgian Army.

It was impossible to arrange for the nurses to go straight to their work
on arrival, so it was decided that they should go to a hotel for one
night and be drafted to their various posts the next day. Anyhow, they
could not arrive till the evening, so in the afternoon I went out to the
barriers to see what resistance had been made against the possible
German occupation of Brussels. It did not look very formidable--some
barbed-wire entanglements, a great many stones lying about, and the
Gardes Civiles in their quaint old-fashioned costume guarding various
points. That was all.

In due time my large family arrived and were installed at the hotel.
Then we heard, officially, that the Germans were quite near the city,
and that probably the train the nurses had come by would be the last to
get through, and this proved to be the case. _Affiches_ were pasted
everywhere on the walls with the Burgomaster's message to his people:



CITIZENS,--In spite of the heroic resistance of our
troops, seconded by the Allied Armies, it is to be feared that the
enemy may invade Brussels.

If this eventuality should take place, I hope that I may be able to
count on the calmness and steadiness of the population.

Let every one keep himself free from terror--free from panic.

The Communal Authorities will not desert their posts. They will
continue to exercise their functions with that firmness of purpose
that you have the right to demand from them under such grave

I need hardly remind my fellow-citizens of their duty to their
country. The laws of war forbid the enemy to force the population
to give information as to the National Army and its method of
defence. The inhabitants of Brussels must know that they are within
their rights in refusing to give any information on this point to
the invader. This refusal is their duty in the interests of their

Let none of you act as a guide to the enemy.

Let every one take precautions against spies and foreign agents,
who will try to gather information or provoke manifestations.

The enemy cannot legitimately harm the family honour nor the life
of the citizens, nor their private property, nor their philosophic
or religious convictions, nor interfere with their religious

Any abuse committed by the invader must be immediately reported to

As long as I have life and liberty, I shall protect with all my
might the dignity and rights of my fellow-citizens. I beg the
inhabitants to facilitate my task by abstaining from all acts of
hostility, all employment of arms, and by refraining from
intervention in battles or encounters.

Citizens, whatever happens, listen to the voice of your Burgomaster
and maintain your confidence in him; he will not betray it.

Long live Belgium free and independent!

Long live Brussels!


All that night refugees from Louvain and Termonde poured in a steady
stream into Brussels, seeking safety. I have never seen a more pitiful
sight. Little groups of terror-stricken peasants fleeing from their
homes, some on foot, some more fortunate ones with their bits of
furniture in a rough cart drawn by a skeleton horse or a large dog. All
had babies, aged parents, or invalids with them. I realized then for the
first time what war meant. We do not know in England. God grant we never
may. It was not merely rival armies fighting battles, it was
civilians--men, women, and children--losing their homes, their
possessions, their country, even their lives. This invasion of
unfortunates seemed to wake Brussels up to the fact that the German army
was indeed at her gate. Hordes of people rushed to the Gare du Nord in
the early dawn to find it entirely closed, no trains either entering or
leaving it. It was said that as much rolling-stock as was possible had
been sent to France to prevent it being taken by the Germans. There was
then a stampede to the Gare du Midi, from whence a few trains were still
leaving the city crammed to their utmost capacity.

In the middle of the morning I got a telephone message from the Belgian
Red Cross that the Germans were at the barriers, and would probably
occupy Brussels in half an hour, and that all my nurses must be in their
respective posts before that time.

Oh dear, what a stampede it was. I told the nurses they must leave their
luggage for the present and be ready in five minutes, and in less than
that time we left the hotel, looking more like a set of rag-and-bone men
than respectable British nursing sisters. One had seized a large
portmanteau, another a bundle of clean aprons, another soap and toilet
articles; yet another provident soul had a tea-basket. I am glad that
the funny side of it did not strike me then, but in the middle of the
next night I had helpless hysterics at the thought of the spectacle we
must have presented. Mercifully no one took much notice of us--the
streets were crowded and we had difficulty in getting on in some
places--just at one corner there was a little cheer and a cry of "Vive
les Anglais!"

It took a long time before my flock was entirely disposed of. It had
been arranged that several of them should work at one of the large
hospitals in Brussels where 150 beds had been set apart for the wounded,
five in another hospital at the end of the city, two in an ambulance
station in the centre of Brussels, nine were taken over to a large
fire-station that was converted into a temporary hospital with 130 beds,
and two had been promised for a private hospital outside the barriers.
It was a work of time to get the last two to their destinations; the
Germans had begun to come in by that time, and we had to wait two hours
to cross a certain street that led to the hospital, as all traffic had
been stopped while the enemy entered Brussels.

It was an imposing sight to watch the German troops ride in. The
citizens of Brussels behaved magnificently, but what a bitter
humiliation for them to undergo. How should we have borne it, I wonder,
if it had been London? The streets were crowded, but there was hardly a
sound to be heard, and the Germans took possession of Brussels in
silence. First the Uhlans rode in, then other cavalry, then the
artillery and infantry. The latter were dog-weary, dusty and
travel-stained--they had evidently done some forced marching. When the
order was given to halt for a few minutes, many of them lay down in the
street just as they were, resting against their packs, some too
exhausted to eat, others eating sausages out of little paper bags
(which, curiously enough, bore the name of a Dutch shop printed on the
outside) washed down with draughts of beer which many of the inhabitants
of Brussels, out of pity for their weary state, brought them from the
little drinking-houses that line the Chaussée du Nord.

The rear was brought up by Red Cross wagons and forage carts,
commissariat wagons, and all the miscellaneous kit of an army on the
march. It took thirty-six hours altogether for the army to march in and
take possession. They installed themselves in the Palais de Justice and
the Hôtel de Ville, having requisitioned beds, food and everything that
they wanted from the various hotels. Poor Madame of the Hotel X. wept
and wrung her hands over the loss of her beautiful beds. Alas, poor
Madame! The next day her husband was shot as a spy, and she cared no
longer about the beds.

In the meantime, just as it got dark, I installed my last two nurses in
the little ambulance out beyond the barriers.
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The Germans had asked for three days to pass through the city of
Brussels; a week had passed and they showed no signs of going. The first
few days more and more German soldiers poured in--dirty, footsore, and
for the most part utterly worn out. At first the people of Brussels
treated them with almost unnecessary kindness--buying them cake and
chocolate, treating them to beer, and inviting them into their houses to
rest--but by the end of the week these civilities ceased.

Tales of the German atrocities began to creep in--stories of Liège and
Louvain were circulated from mouth to mouth, and doubtless lost nothing
by being repeated.

[Illustration: MAP OF BELGIUM]

There was no _real_ news at all. Think how cut off we were--certainly it
was nothing in comparison with what it was afterwards--but we could
not know that then--and anyway we learnt to accommodate ourselves to the
lack of news by degrees. Imagine a Continental capital suddenly without
newspapers, without trains, telephones, telegraphs; all that we had
considered up to now essentials of civilized life. Personally, I heard a
good deal of Belgian news, one way and another, as I visited all my
flock each day in their various hospitals and ambulances stationed in
every part of the city.

The hospital that we had to improvise at the fire-station was one of the
most interesting pieces of work we had to do in Brussels. There were 130
beds altogether in six large wards, and the Sisters had to sleep at
first in one, later in two large dormitories belonging to firemen absent
on active service. The firemen who were left did all the cooking
necessary for the nursing staff and patients, and were the most charming
of men, leaving nothing undone that could augment the Sisters' comfort.

It is a great strain on temper and endurance for women to work and sleep
and eat together in such close quarters, and on the whole they stood
the test well. In a very few days the fire-station was transformed into
a hospital, and one could tell the Sisters with truth that the wards
looked _almost_ like English ones. Alas and alas! At the end of the week
the Germans put in eighty soldiers with sore feet, who had over-marched,
and the glorious vision of nursing Tommy Atkins at the front faded into
the prosaic reality of putting hundreds of cold compresses on German
feet, that they might be ready all the sooner to go out and kill our
men. War is a queer thing!!

* * * * *

On the following Tuesday afternoon the Burgomaster of Charleroi came
into Brussels in an automobile asking for nurses and bringing with him a
permit for this purpose from the German authorities. Charleroi, which
was now also in German hands, was in a terrible state, and most of the
city burnt down to the ground. It was crammed with wounded--both French
and German--every warehouse and cottage almost were full of them, and
they were very short of trained people.

The Central Red Cross Bureau sent a message, asking if three of us
would go back with him. _Would we!_ Was it not the chance we had been
longing for. In ten minutes Sister Elsie, Sister Grace and I were in
that automobile speeding to Charleroi. I had packed quickly into a
portmanteau all I thought I was likely to want in the way of uniform and
other clothing, with a few medical comforts for the men, and a little
tea and cocoa for ourselves. The two Sisters had done likewise--so we
were rather horrified when we got to Hal, where we had to change
automobiles, the Burgomaster said he could not possibly take any of our
luggage, as we must get into quite a small car--the big one having to
return to Brussels. He assured us that our things would be sent on in a
few days--so back to Brussels went my portmanteau with all my clean
aprons and caps and everything else, and I did not see it again for
nearly a week. But such is war!

We waited nearly an hour at Hal while our German permits were examined,
and then went off in the small car. It was heart-breaking to see the
scenes of desolation as we passed along the road. Jumet--the
working-class suburb of Charleroi--was entirely burnt down, there did
not seem to be one house left intact. It is indeed terrible when
historic and consecrated buildings such as those at Louvain and Rheims
are burnt down, but in a way it is more pathetic to see these poor
little cottages destroyed, that must have meant so much to their owners,
and it makes one's heart ache to see among the crumbling ruins the
remains of a baby's perambulator, or the half-burnt wires of an old
four-post bed. Probably the inhabitants of Jumet had all fled, as there
was no one to be seen as we went through the deserted village, except
some German sentries pacing up and down.

Parts of Charleroi were still burning as we got to it, and a terrible
acrid smoke pervaded everything. Here the poorer streets were spared,
and it was chiefly the rich shops and banks and private houses that had
been destroyed. Charleroi was the great Birmingham of Belgium--coal-pits
all round, with many great iron and steel works, now of course all idle,
and most of the owners entirely ruined. The town was absolutely crammed
with German troops as we passed through; it had now been occupied for
two or three days and was being used as a great military depot.

But Charleroi was not to be our final destination--we went on a few more
kilometres along the Beaumont road, and drew up at a fairly large
building right out in the country. It was a hospital that had been three
parts built ten years ago, then abandoned for some reason and never
finished. Now it was being hastily fitted up as a Red Cross hospital,
and stretcher after stretcher of wounded--both French and German--were
being brought in as we arrived.

The confusion that reigned within was indescribable. There were some
girls there who had attended first-aid lectures, and they were doing
their best; but there were no trained nurses and no one particularly in
command. The German doctor had already gone, one of the Belgian doctors
was still working there, but he was absolutely worn out and went off
before long, as he had still cases to attend to in the town before he
went to his well-earned bed. He carried off the two Sisters with him,
till the morning, and I was left alone with two or three Red Cross
damsels to face the night. It is a dreadful nightmare to look back at.
Blood-stained uniforms hastily cut off the soldiers were lying on the
floor--half-open packets of dressings were on every locker; basins of
dirty water or disinfectant had not been emptied; men were moaning with
pain, calling for water, begging that their dressings might be done
again; and several new cases just brought in were requiring urgent
attention. And the cannon never ceased booming. I was not accustomed to
it then, and each crash meant to me rows of men mown down--maimed or
killed. I soon learnt that comparatively few shells do any damage,
otherwise there would soon be no men left at all. In time, too, one gets
so accustomed to cannon that one hardly hears it, but I had not arrived
at that stage then: this was my baptism of fire.

Among the other miseries of that night was the dreadful shortage of all
hospital supplies, and the scarcity of food for the men. There was a
little coffee which they would have liked, but there was no possibility
of hot water. The place had been hastily fitted up with electric light,
and the kitchen was arranged for steam cooking, so there was not even a
gas-jet to heat anything on. I had a spirit-lamp and methylated spirit
in my portmanteau, but, as I said, my luggage had been all wafted away
at Hal.

But the night wore away somehow, and with the morning light came plans
of organization and one saw how things could be improved in many ways,
and the patients made more comfortable. The hospital was a place of
great possibilities in some ways; its position standing almost at the
top of a high hill in its own large garden was ideal, and the air was
gloriously bracing, but little of it reached the poor patients as
unfortunately the Germans had issued a proclamation forbidding any
windows to be open, in case, it was said, anyone should fire from
them--and as we were all prisoners in their hands, we had to do as we
were bid.

At nine o'clock the Belgian doctor and the German commandant appeared,
and I went off with the former to help with an amputation of arm, in one
of the little temporary ambulances in the town of M----, three
kilometres away. The building had been a little dark shop and not very
convenient, and if the patient had not been so desperately ill, he
would have been moved to Charleroi for his operation. He was a French
tirailleur--a lad about twenty, his right arm had been severely injured
by shrapnel several days before, and was gangrenous right up to the
shoulder. He was unconscious and moaning slightly at intervals, but he
stood the operation very well, and we left him fairly comfortable when
we had to return to the hospital.

We got back about twelve, which is the hour usually dedicated to
patients' dinner, but it was impossible to find anything to eat except
potatoes. We sent everywhere to get some meat, but without success,
though in a day or two we got some kind of dark meat which I thought
must be horse. (Now from better acquaintance with ancient charger, I
know it to have been so.) There was just a little milk that was reserved
for the illest patients, no butter or bread. I was beginning to feel
rather in need of food myself by that time. There had been, of course,
up to then no time to bother about my own meals, and I had had nothing
since breakfast the day before, that is about thirty hours ago, except
a cup of coffee which I had begged from the concierge before starting
with the doctor for the amputation case.

Well, there was nothing to eat and only the dirtiest old woman in all
the world to cook it, but at three o'clock we managed to serve the
patients with an elegant dish of underdone lentils for the first course,
and overdone potatoes for the second, and partook ourselves gratefully
thereof, after they had finished. In the afternoon of that day a meeting
of the Red Cross Committee was held at the hospital, and I was sent for
and formally installed as Matron of the hospital with full authority to
make any improvements I thought necessary, and with the stipulation that
I might have two or three days' leave every few weeks, to go and visit
my scattered flock in Brussels. The appointment had to be made subject
to the approval of the German commandant, but apparently he made no
objection--at any rate I never heard of any.

And then began a very happy time for me, in spite of many difficulties
and disappointments. I can never tell the goodness of the Committee and
the Belgian doctor to me, and their kindness in letting me introduce all
our pernickety English ways to which they were not accustomed, won my
gratitude for ever. Never were Sisters so loyal and unselfish as mine.
The first part of the time they were overworked and underfed, and no
word of grumbling or complaint was ever heard from them. They worked
from morning till night and got the hospital into splendid order. The
Committee were good enough to allow me to keep the best of the Red Cross
workers as probationers and to forbid entrance to the others. We had
suffered so much at their hands before this took place, that I was truly
grateful for this permission as no discipline or order was possible with
a large number of young girls constantly rushing in and out, sitting on
patients' beds, meddling with dressings, and doing all kinds of things
they shouldn't.

I am sure that no hospital ever had nicer patients than ours were. The
French patients, though all severely wounded and prisoners in the hands
of the Germans, bore their troubles cheerfully, even gaily. We had a
great variety of regiments represented in the hospital: Tirailleurs,
Zouaves, one Turco from Algeria--our big good-natured Adolphe--soldiers
from Paris, from Brittany and from Normandy, especially from Calvados.
The German soldiers, too, behaved quite well, and were very grateful for
everything done for them--mercifully we had no officers. We had not
separate rooms for them--French and German soldiers lay side by side in
the public wards.

One of the most harrowing things during that time was the way all the
Belgians were watching for the English troops to deliver them from the
yoke of their oppressor. Every day, many times a day, when German rules
got more and more stringent and autocratic, and fresh tales of
unnecessary harshness and cruelty were circulated, they would say over
and over again, "Where are the English? If only the English would come!"
Later they got more bitter and we heard, "Why don't the English come and
help us as they promised? If only the English would come, it would be
all right." And so on, till I almost felt as if I could not bear it any
longer. One morning some one came in and said English soldiers had been
seen ten kilometres away. We heard the sound of distant cannon in a new
direction, and watched and waited, hoping to see the English ride in.
But some one must have mistaken the German khaki for ours, for no
English were ever near that place. There was no news of what was really
happening in the country, no newspapers ever got through, and we had
nothing to go upon but the German _affiches_ proclaiming victories
everywhere, the German trains garlanded with laurels and faded roses,
marked "Destination--Paris," and the large batches of French prisoners
that were constantly marched through the town. An inscription written
over a doorway in Charleroi amused us rather: "Vive Guillaume II, roi de
l'univers." Not yet, not yet, William.

Later on the Belgians issued a wonderful little newspaper at irregular
intervals of three or four days, typewritten and passed from hand to
hand. The most amazing news was published in it, which we always firmly
believed, till it was contradicted in the next issue. I collected two or
three copies of this paper as a curiosity, but unfortunately lost them
later on, with all my papers and luggage. One or two items I remember
quite well. One gave a vivid account of how the Queen of Holland had
killed her husband because he had allowed the Germans to pass through
Maestricht; another even more circumstantial story was that England had
declared war on Holland, Holland had submitted at once, and England
imposed many stringent conditions, of which I only remember two. One
was, that all her trade with Germany should cease at once; secondly,
that none of her lighthouses should show light at night.

One of the German surgeons who used to operate at our hospital was
particularly ingenious in inventing tortures for me; I used to have to
help him in his operations, and he would recount to me with gusto how
the English had retreated from Mons, how the Germans were getting nearer
and nearer to Paris, how many English killed, wounded and prisoners
there were, and so on. One morning he began about the Fleet and said
that a great battle was going on in the North Sea, and going very badly
for the English. I had two brothers fighting in the North Sea of whom I
had no news since the war began, and I could bear it no longer, but fled
from the operating-room.

Charleroi and its neighbourhood was just one large German camp, its
position on the railway making it a particularly valuable base for them.
The proclamations and rules for the behaviour of the inhabitants became
daily more and more intolerant. It was forbidden to lock the door, or
open the window, or pull down the blinds, or allow your dog out of the
house; all German officers were to be saluted--and if there was any
doubt, any German soldier was to be saluted, and so on, day after day.
One really funny one I wish I could reproduce. It forbade anyone to
"wear a menacing look" but it did not say who was to be the judge of
this look.

Every one was too restless and unhappy to settle to anything, all the
most important shops were burnt down, and very few of those that were
left were open. The whole population seemed to spend all their time in
the street waiting for something to happen. Certainly the Germans seem
to have had a special "down" on Charleroi and its neighbourhood, so many
villages in its vicinity were burnt down and most abominable cruelties
practised on its inhabitants. The peasants who were left were simply
terrorized, as no doubt the Germans meant them to be, and a white flag
hung from nearly every cottage window denoting complete submission. In
one village some German soldier wrote in chalk on the door of a house
where he had been well received, "Güte Leute hier," and these poor
people got chalk and tried to copy the difficult German writing on every
door in the street. I am afraid that did not save them, however, when
their turn came. It was the utter ruthlessness and foresight with which
every contingency was prepared for that appalled me and made me realize
what a powerful enemy we were up against. Everything was thought out
down to the last detail and must have been prepared months beforehand.
Even their wagons for transport were all painted the same slate-grey
colour, while the English and Belgians were using any cart they could
commandeer in the early days, as I afterwards saw in a German camp
Pickford's vans and Lyons' tea carts that they had captured from us.
Even their postal arrangements were complete; we saw their grey
"Feld-Post" wagons going to and fro quite at the beginning of the war.

Several people in Charleroi told me that the absolute system and
organization of destruction frightened them more than the actual fire
itself. Every German soldier had a little hatchet, and when Charleroi
was fired, they simply went down the street as if they had been drilled
to it for months, cutting a square hole in the panel of each door, and
throwing a ball of celluloid filled with benzine inside. This exploded
and set the house on fire, and later on the soldiers would return to see
if it was burning well. They were entirely indifferent as to whether
anyone were inside or not, as the following incident, which came under
my notice, will show. Two English Red Cross Sisters were working at an
ambulance in Charleroi, and lodging with some people in the centre of
the city. When the town was being burnt they asked leave to go and try
to save some of their possessions. They arrived at the house, however,
and found it entirely burnt down, and all their things destroyed. They
were returning rather sorrowfully to their hospital when an old woman
accosted them and told them that a woman with a new-born infant was
lying in bed in one of the burning houses.

The house was not burning badly, and they got into it quite easily and
found the woman lying in bed with her little infant beside her, almost
out of her wits with terror, but too weak to move. The nurses found they
could not manage alone, so went down into the street to find a man. They
found, after some trouble, a man who had only one arm and got him to
help them take the woman to the hospital. One of the nurses was carrying
the baby, the other with the one-armed man was supporting the mother,
when the German soldiers fired at the little party, and the one-armed
man fell bleeding at the side of the road. The Sisters were obliged to
leave him for the moment, and went on with the mother and infant to the
hospital, got a stretcher and came back and fetched the man and brought
him also to the hospital. It was only a flesh wound in the shoulder and
he made a good recovery, but what a pitiful little group to waste
ammunition on--a newly confined mother and her infant, two Red Cross
Sisters and a crippled man.

One can only imagine that they were drunk when they did these kind of
things, for individually the German soldier is generally a decent
fellow, though some of the Prussian officers are unspeakable. Discipline
is very severe and the soldiers are obliged to carry out orders without
troubling themselves about rights and wrongs. It is curious that very
few German soldiers know why they are fighting, and they are always told
such wonderful stories of German victories that they think the war will
soon be over. When they arrived at Charleroi, for instance, they were
told they were at Charleville, and nearly all our wounded German
soldiers thought they were already in France. They also thought Paris
was already taken and London in flames. It hardly seems worth while to
lie to them in this way, for they are bound to find out the truth sooner
or later.
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After we had had a long week of night and day work, two more of my
nurses suddenly turned up at the hospital. They had most unexpectedly
got a message that I had sent in by hand to Brussels, begging for nurses
and saying how hard pressed we were, and had got permission to come out
in a Red Cross motor-ambulance. I was, of course, delighted to see them,
and with their help we soon settled down into the ordinary routine of
hospital life, and forgot we were prisoners under strict supervision,
having all kinds of tiresome rules and regulations to keep.

The question of supplies was a very difficult one from the first. We
were short of everything, very short of dressings, chloroform and all
kinds of medical supplies, and especially (even worse in one way) very
short of hospital linen such as sheets and towels and shirts and
drawers, and we had the greatest difficulty in getting anyone to come
and wash for us. One might have thought that with almost every one out
of work, there would have been no lack of women; but the hospital was a
long way from the nearest town and I suppose they were afraid to come;
also, of course, many, very many, had had their houses burnt, lost their
all and fled away. The food question was a very difficult one also. We
had to live just from day to day and be thankful for small mercies.
Naturally for ourselves it would not have mattered at all, but it _did_
matter very much for our poor patients, who were nearly all very ill.
Meat was always difficult often impossible to get, and at first there
was no bread, which, personally, I missed more than anything else;
afterwards we got daily rations of this. Butter there was none; eggs and
milk very scarce, only just enough for the very severely wounded.
Potatoes and lentils we had in great quantities, and on that diet one
would never starve, though it was not an ideal one for sick men.

I remember one morning when we had only potatoes for the men's dinner;
the cook had just peeled an immense bucket of them and was putting them
on to boil when some German soldiers came and took the lot, and this so
infuriated the cook that we had to wait hours before we could get
another lot prepared and cooked for the patients' dinner. The
water-supply was another of our difficulties. All the watercourses in
the neighbourhood were polluted with dead bodies of men and horses and
no water was fit to drink. There was a horrible, greenish, foul-smelling
stream near the hospital, which I suppose eventually found its way into
the river, and it sickened me to imagine what we were drinking, even
though it was well boiled.

It was very hot weather and the men all dreadfully thirsty. There was
one poor Breton soldier dying of septicæmia, who lay in a small room off
the large ward. He used to shriek to every passer-by to give him drink,
and no amount of water relieved his raging thirst. That voice calling
incessantly night and day, "A boire, à boire!" haunted me long after he
was dead. The taste of long-boiled water is flat and nasty, so we made
weak decoctions of camomile-tea for the men, which they seemed to like
very much. We let it cool, and kept a jug of it on each locker so that
they could help themselves whenever they liked.

Some of the ladies of the town were very kind indeed in bringing in wine
and little delicacies for our sick, and for ourselves, too, sometimes.
We were very grateful to them for all their kindness in the midst of
their own terrible trouble and anxieties.

All the first ten days the cannon boomed without ceasing; by degrees it
got more distant, and we knew the forts of Maubeuge were being bombarded
by the famous German howitzers, which used to shake the hospital to its
foundations. The French soldiers in the wards soon taught us to
distinguish the sounds of the different cannon. In a few days we knew as
well as they did whether it was French or German artillery firing.

Our hospital was on the main Beaumont road, and in the midst of our work
we would sometimes glance out and watch the enormous reinforcements of
troops constantly being sent up. Once we saw a curious sight. Two large
motor-omnibuses with "Leipziger lokal-anzeiger" painted on their side
went past, each taking about twenty-five German Béguine nuns to the
battlefield, the contrast between this very modern means of transport
and the archaic appearance of the nuns in their mediæval dress was very

Suddenly one Sunday morning the cannonading ceased--there was dead
silence--Maubeuge was taken, and the German army passed on into France.
It is difficult to explain the desolating effect when the cannon
suddenly ceases. At first one fears and hates it, then one gets
accustomed to it and one feels at least _something is being done_--there
is still a chance. When it ceases altogether there is a sense of utter
desertion, as if all hope had been given up.

* * * * *

On the morning of September 1 the German commandant suddenly appeared in
the wards at 7 o'clock, and said that all the German wounded were going
to be sent off to Germany at once, and that wagons would be coming in an
hour's time to take them to the station. We had several men who were not
fit to travel, amongst them a soldier who had had his leg amputated only
twelve hours before. I ought to have learnt by that time the futility
of argument with a German official, but I pleaded very hard that a few
of the men might be left till they were a little better able to stand
the journey, for there is no nationality among wounded, and we could not
bear even German patients to undergo unnecessary suffering. But my
remonstrances were quite in vain, and one could not help wondering what
would become of _our_ wounded if the Germans treated their own so
harshly. I heard from other ambulances that it was their experience as
well as mine that the lightly wounded were very well looked after, but
the severely wounded were often very inconsiderately treated. They were
no longer any use as fighting machines and only fit for the scrap-heap.
It is all part of the German system. They are out for one purpose only,
that is to win--and they go forward with this one end in
view--everything else, including the care of the wounded, is a
side-issue and must be disregarded and sacrificed if necessary.

We prepared the men as well as we could for the long ride in the wagons
that must precede the still longer train journey. Once on the
ambulance-train, however, they would be well looked after; it was the
jolting on the country road I feared for many of them. None of us were
permitted to accompany them to Charleroi station, but the driver of one
of the wagons told me afterwards that the man with the amputated leg had
been taken out dead at the station, as he had had a severe hæmorrhage on
the way, which none of his comrades knew how to treat. He also told us
that all the big hospitals at Charleroi were evacuating their German
wounded, and that he had seen two other men taken out of carts quite
dead. We took this to mean very good news for us, thinking that the
Germans must have had a severe reverse to be taking away their wounded
in such a hurry. So we waited and hoped, but as usual nothing happened
and there was no news.

We had a very joyful free sort of feeling at having got rid of the
German patients. The French soldiers began to sing The Marseillaise as
soon as they had gone, but we were obliged to stop them as we feared the
German doctor or commandant, who were often prowling about, might hear.
Losing so many patients made the work much lighter for the time being,
and about this time, too, several of the severely wounded men died. They
had suffered so frightfully that it was a great relief when they died
and were at rest. The curé of the parish church was so good to them,
never minding how many times a day he toiled up that long hill in the
blazing sunshine, if he could comfort some poor soul, or speed them on
their way fortified with the last rites of the Church.

One poor Breton soldier could not bear the thought of being buried
without a coffin--he spoke about it for days before he died, till Madame
D----, a lady living in the town to whom we owe countless acts of
kindness, promised that she would provide a coffin, so the poor lad died
quite happily and peacefully, and the coffin and a decent funeral were
provided in due course, though, of course, he was not able to have a
soldier's funeral. Some of these poor French soldiers were dreadfully
homesick--most of them were married, and some were fathers of families
who had to suddenly leave their peaceful occupations to come to the war.
Jules, a dapper little pastrycook with pink cheeks and bright black
eyes, had been making a batch of tarts when his summons had come. And he
was much better suited to making tarts than to fighting, poor little
man, for he was utterly unnerved by what he had gone through, and used
to have dreadful fits of crying and sobbing which it was very difficult
to stop.

Some of the others, and especially the Zouaves, one could not imagine in
any other profession than that of soldiering. How jolly and cheerful
they were, always making the best of everything, and when the German
patients had gone we really had time to nurse them and look after them
properly. Those who were able for the exertion were carried out to the
garden, and used to lie under the pear-trees telling each other
wonderful stories of what they had been through, and drinking in fresh
health and strength every day from the beautiful breeze that we had on
the very hottest days up on our hill. We had to guard them very
carefully while they were in the garden, however, for if one man had
tried to escape the hospital would have been burnt down and the
officials probably shot. So two orderlies and two Red Cross
probationers were always on duty there, and I think they enjoyed it as
much as the men.

Suddenly a fresh thunderbolt fell.

One Sunday morning the announcement was made that every French patient
was to go to Germany on Monday morning at eight.

We were absolutely in despair. We had one man actually dying, several
others who must die before long, eight or ten who were very severely
wounded in the thigh and quite unable to move, two at least who were
paralysed, many who had not set foot out of bed and were not fit to
travel--we had not forgotten the amputation case of a few days before,
who was taken out dead at Charleroi station. I was so absolutely
miserable about it that I persuaded the Belgian doctor to go to the
commandant, and beg that the worst cases might be left to us, which he
very pluckily did, but without the slightest effect--they must all go,
ill or well, fit or unfit. After all the German patients were returning
to their own country and people, but these poor French soldiers were
going ill and wounded as prisoners to suffer and perhaps die in an
enemy's country--an enemy who knew no mercy.

I could hardly bear to go into the wards at all that day, and busied
myself with seeing about their clothes. Here was a practical
illustration of the difference in equipment between the German and
French soldiers. The German soldiers came in well equipped, with money
in their pockets and all they needed with them. Their organization was
perfect, and they were prepared for the war; the French were not. When
they arrived at the hospital their clothes had been cut off them anyhow,
with jagged rips and splits by the untrained Red Cross girls. Trained
ambulance workers are always taught to cut by the seam when possible.
Many had come without a cap, some without a great-coat, some without
boots; all had to be got ready somehow. The hospital was desperately
short of supplies--we simply could not give them all clean shirts and
drawers as we longed to do. The trousers were our worst problem, hardly
any of them were fit to put on. We had a few pairs of grey and black
striped trousers, the kind a superior shopman might wear, but we were
afraid to give those to the men as we thought the Germans would think
they were going to try to escape if they appeared in civil trousers, and
might punish them severely. So we mended up these remnants of French red
pantaloons as best we could. One man we _had_ to give civil trousers as
he had only a few shreds of pantaloon left, and these he promised to
carry in his hand to show that he really could not put them on.

The men were laughing and joking and teasing one another about their
garments, but my heart was as heavy as lead. I simply could not _bear_
to let the worst cases go. One or two of the Committee came up and we
begged them to try what they could do with the commandant, but they said
it was not the least use, and from what I had seen myself, I had to
confess that I did not think it would be. The patient I was most unhappy
about was a certain French count we had in the hospital. He had been
shot through the back at the battle of Nalinnes, and was three days on
the battlefield before he was picked up. Now he lay dying in a little
side room off the ward. The least movement caused him acute agony, even
the pillow had to be moved an inch at a time before it could be turned,
and it took half an hour to change his shirt. The doctor had said in the
morning he could not last another forty-eight hours. But if he was alive
the next morning he would be put in those horrible springless carts, and
jolted, jolted down to the station, taken out and transferred to a
shaky, vibrating train, carrying him far away into Germany.

Mercifully he died very peacefully in his sleep that evening, and we
were all very thankful that the end should have come a little earlier
than was expected.

Late that night came a message that the men were not to start till
midday, so we got them all dressed somehow by eleven. All had had bad
nights, nearly all had temperatures, and they looked very poor things
when they were dressed; even fat, jolly Adolphe looked pale and subdued.
We had not attempted to do anything with the bad bed cases; if they
_must_ go they must just go wrapped up in their blankets. But we
unexpectedly got a reprieve. A great German chief came round that
morning, accompanied by the German doctor and German commandant, and
gave the order that the very bad cases were to remain for the present. I
cannot say how thankful we were for this respite and so were the men.
Poor Jules, who was very weak from pain and high temperature, turned to
the wall and cried from pure relief.

At 11.30 the patients had their dinner--we tried to give them a good one
for the last--and then every moment we expected the wagons to come. We
waited and waited till at length we began to long for them to come and
get the misery of it over. At last they arrived, and we packed our
patients into it as comfortably as we could on the straw. Each had a
parcel with a little money and a few delicacies our ever-generous Madame
D---- had provided. It was terrible to think of some of these poor men
in their shoddy uniforms, without an overcoat, going off to face a long
German winter.

So we said good-bye with smiles and tears and thanks and salutations.
And the springless wagons jolted away over the rough road, and
fortunately we had our bad cases to occupy our thoughts. An order came
to prepare at once for some more wounded who might be coming in at any
time, so we started at once to get ready for any emergency. The beds
were disinfected and made up with our last clean sheets and
pillow-cases, and the wards scrubbed, when there was a shout from some
one that they were bringing in wounded at the hospital gate. We looked
out and true enough there were stretchers being brought in. I went along
to the operating theatre to see that all was ready there in case of
necessity, when I heard shrieks and howls of joy, and turned round and
there were all our dear men back again, and they, as well as the entire
staff, were half mad with delight. They were all so excited, talking at
once, one could hardly make out what had happened; but at last I made
one of them tell me quietly. It appeared that when the wagons got down
to Charleroi station, the men were unloaded and put on stretchers, and
were about to be carried into the station when an officer came and
pointed a pistol at them (why, no one knew, for they were only obeying
orders), and said they were to wait. So they waited there outside the
station for a long time, guarded by a squad of German soldiers, and at
last were told that the train to Germany was already full and that they
must return to the hospital. They all had to be got back into bed (into
our disinfected beds, with the last of the clean sheets!) and fed and
their dressings done, and so on, and they were so excited that it took a
long time before they could settle down for the night. But it was a very
short reprieve, for the next day they had to go off again and there was
no coming back this time.

I often think of those poor lads in Germany and wonder what has become
of them, and if those far-off mothers all think their sons are dead. If
so, what a joyful surprise some of them will have some day--after the
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This seemed a favourable moment for me to go to Brussels for a day or
two to visit my flock. The Committee gave me leave to go, but begged me
to be back in two days, which I promised to do. A _laissez-passer_ had
been obtained from the German commandant for a Red Cross automobile to
go into Brussels to fetch some supplies of dressings and bandages of
which all the hospitals in the neighbourhood were woefully short. And I
was also graciously accorded a ticket of leave by the same august
authority to go for two days, which might be extended to three according
to the length of stay of the automobile.

The night before I left, an aeroplane which had been flying very high
above the town dropped some papers. The doctor with whom I was lodging
secured one and brought it back triumphantly. It contained a message
from the Burgomaster of Antwerp to his fellow-citizens, and ended thus:
"Courage, fellow-citizens, in a fortnight our country will be delivered
from the enemy."

We were all absurdly cheered by this message, and felt that it was only
a matter of a short time now before the Germans were driven out of
Belgium. We had had no news for so long that we thought probably the
Antwerp Burgomaster had information of which we knew nothing, and I was
looking forward to hearing some good news when I got to Brussels.

I found Brussels very much changed since I had left it some weeks
before. Then it was in a fever of excitement, now it was in the chill of
dark despair. German rule was firmly established, and was growing daily
more harsh and humiliating for its citizens. Everything was done to
Germanize the city, military automobiles were always dashing through,
their hooters playing the notes of the Emperor's salute, Belgian
automobiles that had been requisitioned whirred up and down the streets
filled with German officers' wives and children, German time was kept,
German money was current coin, and every café and confectioner's shop
was always crowded with German soldiers. Every day something new was
forbidden. Now it was taking photographs--the next day no cyclist was
allowed to ride, and any cyclist in civil dress might be shot at sight,
and so on. The people were only _just_ kept in hand by their splendid
Burgomaster, M. Max, but more than once it was just touch and go whether
he would be able to restrain them any longer.

What made the people almost more angry than anything else was the loss
of their pigeons, as many of the Belgians are great pigeon fanciers and
have very valuable birds. Another critical moment was when they were
ordered to take down all the Belgian flags. Up to that time the Belgian
flag, unlike every other town that the Germans had occupied, had floated
bravely from nearly every house in Brussels. M. Max had issued a
proclamation encouraging the use of it early in the war. Now this was
forbidden as it was considered an insult to the Germans. Even the Red
Cross flag was forbidden except on the German military hospitals, and I
thought Brussels looked indeed a melancholy city as we came in from
Charleroi that morning in torrents of rain in the Red Cross car.

My first business was to go round and visit all my nurses. I found most
of them very unhappy because they had no work. All the patients had been
removed from the fire-station hospital and nearly all the private
hospitals and ambulances were empty too. It was said that Germans would
rather have all their wounded die than be looked after by Englishwomen,
and there were dreadful stories afloat which I cannot think any German
believed, of English nurses putting out the eyes of the German wounded.
Altogether there were a good many English Sisters and doctors in
Brussels--three contingents sent out by the Order of St. John of
Jerusalem, to which we belonged, a large unit sent by the British Red
Cross Society, and a good many sent out privately. It certainly was not
worth while for more than a hundred English nurses to remain idle in
Brussels, and the only thing to do now was to get them back to England
as soon as possible. In the meantime a few of them took the law into
their own hands, and slipped away without a passport, and got back to
England safely by unofficial means.

The second afternoon I was in Brussels I received a note from one of my
nurses who had been sent to Tirlemont in my absence by the Belgian Red
Cross Society. The contents of the note made me very anxious about her,
and I determined to go and see her if possible. I had some Belgian
acquaintances who had come from that direction a few days before, and I
went to ask their advice as to how I should set about it. They told me
the best way, though rather the longest, was to go first to Mâlines and
then on to Tirlemont from there, and the only possible way of getting
there was to walk, as they had done a few days previously, and trust to
getting lifts in carts. There had been no fighting going on when they
had passed, and they thought I should get through all right.

So I set out very early in the morning accompanied by another Sister,
carrying a little basket with things for one or two nights. I did not
ask for any _laissez-passer_, knowing well enough that it would not be
granted. We were lucky enough to get a tram the first part of the way,
laden with peasants who had been in to Brussels to sell country produce
to the German army, and then we set out on our long walk. It was a
lovely late September morning, and the country looked so peaceful one
could hardly believe that a devastating war was going on. Our way led
first through a park, then through a high-banked lane all blue with
scabious, and then at last we got on to a main road, when the owner of a
potato cart crawling slowly along, most kindly gave us a long lift on
our way.

We then walked straight along the Mâlines road, and I was just remarking
to my companion that it was odd we should not have met a single German
soldier, when we came into a village that was certainly full of them. It
was about 11 o'clock and apparently their dinner hour, for they were all
hurrying out of a door with cans full of appetizing stew in their hands.
They took no notice of us and we walked on, but very soon came to a
sandy piece of ground where a good many soldiers were entrenched and
where others were busily putting up barbed-wire entanglements. They
looked at us rather curiously but did not stop us, and we went on.
Suddenly we came to a village where a hot skirmish was going on, two
Belgian and German outposts had met. Some mitrailleuses were there in
the field beside us, and the sound of rifle fire was crackling in the
still autumn air. There was nothing to do but to go forward, so we went
on through the village, and presently saw four German soldiers running
up the street. It is not a pretty sight to see men running away. These
men were livid with terror and gasping with deep breaths as they ran.
One almost brushed against me as he passed, and then stopped for a
moment, and I thought he was going to shoot us. But in a minute they
went on towards the barbed-wire barricades and we made our way up the
village street. Bullets were whistling past now, and every one was
closing their shops and putting up their shutters. Several people were
taking refuge behind a manure heap, and we went to join them, but the
proprietor came out and said we must not stay there as it was dangerous
for him. He advised us to go to the hotel, so we went along the street
until we reached it, but it was not a very pleasant walk, as bullets
were flying freely and the mitrailleuse never stopped going pom-pom-pom.

We found the hotel closed when we got to it, and the people absolutely
refused to let us come in, so we stood in the road for a few minutes,
not knowing which way to go. Then a Red Cross doctor saw us, and came
and told us to get under cover at once. We explained that we desired
nothing better, but that the hotel was shut, so he very kindly took us
to a convent near by. It was a convent of French nuns who had been
expelled from France and come to settle in this little village, and when
they heard who we were they were perfectly charming to us, bringing
beautiful pears from their garden and offering to keep us for the night.
We could not do that, however, it might have brought trouble on them;
but we rested half an hour and then made up our minds to return to
Brussels. We could not go forward as the Mâlines road was blocked with
soldiers, and we were afraid we could not get back the way we had come,
past the barbed-wire barricades, but the nuns told us of a little lane
at the back of their convent which led to the high road to Brussels,
about fifteen miles distant. We went down this lane for about an hour,
and then came to a road where four roads met, just as the nuns had said.
I did not know which road to take, so asked a woman working outside the
farm. She spoke Flemish, of which I only know a few words, and either I
misunderstood her, or she thought we were German Sisters, for she
pointed to another lane at the left which we had not noticed, and we
thought it was another short cut to Brussels.

We had only gone a few yards down this lane when we met a German sentry
who said "Halt!" We were so accustomed to them that we did not take much
notice, and I just showed my Red Cross brassard as I had been accustomed
to do in Charleroi when stopped. This had the German eagle stamped on it
as well as the Belgian Red Cross stamp. The man saluted and let us pass.
_Now_ I realize that he too thought we were German Sisters.

We went on calmly down the lane and in two minutes we fell into a whole
German camp. There were tents and wagons and cannon and camp fires, and
thousands of soldiers. I saw some carts there which they must have
captured from the English bearing the familiar names of "Lyons' Tea" and
"Pickford" vans! An officer came up and asked in German what we wanted.
I replied in French that we were two Sisters on our way to Brussels.
Fortunately I could produce my Belgian Carte d'Identité, which had also
been stamped with the German stamp. The only hope was to let him think
we were Belgians. Had they known we were English I don't think anything
would have saved us from being shot as spies. The officer had us
searched, but found nothing contraband on us and let us go, though he
did not seem quite satisfied. He really thought he had found something
suspicious when he spied in my basket a small metal case. It contained
nothing more compromising, however, than a piece of Vinolia soap. We had
not the least idea which way to go when we were released, and went wrong
first, and had to come back through that horrible camp again. Seven
times we were stopped and searched, and each time I pointed to my German
brassard and produced my Belgian Carte d'Identité. Sister did not speak
French or German, but she was very good and did not lose her head, or
give us away by speaking English to me. And at last--it seemed hours to
us--we got safely past the last sentry. Footsore and weary, but very
thankful, we trudged back to Brussels.

But that was not quite the end of our adventure, for just as we were
getting into Brussels an officer galloped after us, and dismounted as
soon as he got near us. He began asking in broken French the most
searching questions as to our movements. I could not keep it up and had
to tell him that we were English. He really nearly fell down with
surprise, and wanted to know, naturally enough, what we were doing
there. I told him the exact truth--how we had started out for Mâlines,
were unable to get there and so were returning to Brussels. "But," he
said at once, "you are not on the Mâlines road." He had us there, but I
explained that we had rested at a convent and that the nuns had shown us
a short cut, and that we had got on to the wrong road quite by mistake.
He asked a thousand questions, and wanted the whole history of our lives
from babyhood up. Eventually I satisfied him apparently, for he saluted,
and said in English as good as mine, "Truly the English are a wonderful
nation," mounted his horse and rode away.

I did not try any more excursions to Tirlemont after that, but heard
later on that my nurse was safe and in good hands.

* * * * *

My business in Brussels was now finished, and I wanted to return to my
hospital at M. The German authorities met my request with a blank
refusal. I was not at all prepared for this. I had only come in for two
days and had left all my luggage behind me. Also one cannot leave one's
hospital in this kind of way without a word of explanation to anyone. I
could not go without permission, and it was more than sixty kilometres,
too far to walk. I kept on asking, and waited and waited, hoping from
day to day to get permission to return.

Instead of that came an order that every private ambulance and hospital
in Brussels was to be closed at once, and that no wounded at all were to
be nursed by the English Sisters. The doctor and several of the Sisters
belonging to the Red Cross unit were imprisoned for twenty-four hours
under suspicion of being spies. Things could not go on like this much
longer. What I wanted to do was to send all my nurses back to England if
it could be arranged, and return myself to my work at M. till it was
finished. We were certainly not wanted in Brussels. The morning that the
edict to close the hospitals had been issued, I saw about 200 German Red
Cross Sisters arriving at the Gare du Nord.

I am a member of the International Council of Nurses, and our last big
congress was held in Germany. I thus became acquainted with a good many
of the German Sisters, and wondered what the etiquette would be if I
should meet some of them now in Brussels. But I never saw any I knew.

After the Red Cross doctor with his Sisters had been released, he went
to the German authorities and asked in the name of us all what they
proposed doing with us. As they would no longer allow us to follow our
profession, we could not remain in Brussels. The answer was rather
surprising as they said they intended sending the whole lot of us to
Liège. That was not pleasant news. Liège was rather uncomfortably near
Germany, and as we were not being sent to work there it sounded
remarkably like being imprisoned. Every one who could exerted themselves
on our behalf; the American Consul in particular went over and over
again to vainly try to get the commandant to change his mind. We were to
start on Monday morning, and on Sunday at midday the order still stood.
But at four o'clock that afternoon we got a message to say that our
gracious masters had changed our sentence, and that we were to go to
England when it suited their pleasure to send us. But this did not suit
_my_ pleasure at all. Twenty-six nurses had been entrusted to my care by
the St. John's Committee, four were still at M., and one at Tirlemont,
and I did not mean to quit Belgian soil if I could help it, leaving five
of them behind. So I took everything very quietly, meaning to stay
behind at the last minute, and change into civilian dress, which I took
care to provide myself with.

Then began a long period of waiting. Not one of my nurses was working,
though there were a great many wounded in Brussels, and we knew that
they were short-handed. There was nothing to do but to walk about the
streets and read the new _affiches_, or proclamations, which were put up
almost every day, one side in French, the other side in German, so that
all who listed might read. They were of two kinds. One purported to give
the news, which was invariably of important German successes and
victories. The other kind were orders and instructions for the behaviour
of the inhabitants of Brussels. It was possible at that time to buy
small penny reprints of all the proclamations issued since the German
occupation. They were not sold openly as the Germans were said to forbid
their sale, but after all they could hardly punish people for reissuing
what they themselves had published. Unfortunately I afterwards lost my
little books of proclamations, but can reproduce a translation of a
characteristic one that appeared on October 5. The italics are mine.

BRUSSELS: October 5, 1914.

During the evening of September 25 the railway line and the
telegraph wires were destroyed on the line Lovenjoul-Vertryck. In
consequence of this, these two places have had to render an account
of this, and had to give hostages on the morning of September 30.
In future, the localities nearest to the place where similar acts
take place _will be punished without pity--it matters little
whether the inhabitants are guilty or not_. For this purpose
hostages have been taken from all localities near the railway line
thus menaced, and at the first attempt to destroy either the
railway line or telephone or telegraph, _the hostages will be
immediately shot_. Further, all the troops charged with the duty of
guarding the railway have been ordered _to shoot any person with a
suspicious manner_ who approaches the line or telegraph or
telephone wires.


And Von der Golst was recalled from Brussels later on because he was too

There is no reparation the Germans can ever make for iniquities of this
kind--and they cannot deny these things as they have others, for they
stand condemned out of their own mouths. Their own proclamations are
quite enough evidence to judge them on.

One cannot help wondering what the German standard of right and wrong
really is, because their private acts as well as their public ones have
been so unworthy of a great nation. Some Belgian acquaintances of mine
who had a large chateau in the country told me that such stealing among
officers as took place was unheard of in any war before between
civilized countries. The men had little opportunity of doing so, but the
officers sent whole wagon-loads of things back to Germany with their
name on. My friends said naturally they expected them to take food and
wine and even a change of clothing, but in their own home the German
officers quartered there had taken the very carpets off the floor and
the chandeliers from the ceiling, and old carved cupboards that had been
in the family for generations, and sent them back to Germany. They all
begged me to make these facts public when I got back to England. Writing
letters was useless as they never got through. Other Belgian friends
told me of the theft of silver, jewellery, and even women's

It was not etiquette in Brussels to watch the Germans, and particularly
the officers. One could not speak about them in public, spies were
everywhere, and one would be arrested at once at the first indiscreet
word--but no one could be forced to look at them--and the habit was to
ignore them altogether, to avert one's head, or shut one's eyes, or in
extreme cases to turn one's back on them, and this hurt their feelings
more than anything else could do. They _could_ not believe apparently
that Belgian women did not enjoy the sight of a beautiful officer in
full dress--as much as German women would do.

All English papers were very strictly forbidden, but a few got in
nevertheless by runners from Ostend. At the beginning of the German
occupation the _Times_ could be obtained for a franc. Later it rose to 3
francs then 5, then 9, then 15 francs. Then with a sudden leap it
reached 23 francs on one day. That was the high-water mark, for it came
down after that. The _Times_ was too expensive for the likes of me. I
used to content myself with the _Flandres Libérale_, a half-penny paper
published then in Ghent and sold in Brussels for a franc or more
according to the difficulty in getting it in. These papers used to be
wrapped up very tight and small and smuggled into Brussels in a basket
of fruit or a cart full of dirty washing. They could not of course be
bought in the shops, and the Germans kept a very keen look-out for them.
We used to get them nevertheless almost every day in spite of them.

The mode of procedure was this: When it was getting dusk you sauntered
out to take a turn in the fresh air. You strolled through a certain
square where there were men selling picture post-cards, etc. You
selected a likely looking man and went up and looked over his cards,
saying under your breath "_Journal Anglais?_" or "_Flandres Libérale?_"
which ever it happened to be. Generally you were right, but occasionally
the man looked at you with a blank stare and you knew you had made a bad
shot, and if perchance he had happened to be a spy, your lot would not
have been a happy one. But usually you received a whispered "Oui,
madame," in reply, and then you loudly asked the way to somewhere, and
the man would conduct you up a side street, pointing the way with his
finger. When no one was looking he slipped a tiny folded parcel into
your hand, you slipped a coin into his, and the ceremony was over. But
it was not safe to read your treasure at a front window or anywhere
where you might be overlooked.

Sometimes these newspaper-sellers grew bold and transacted this business
too openly and then there was trouble. One evening some of the nurses
were at Benediction at the Carmelite Church, when a wretched newspaper
lad rushed into the church and hid himself in a Confessional. He was
followed by four or five German soldiers. They stopped the service and
forbade any of the congregation to leave, and searched the church till
they found the white and trembling boy, and dragged him off to his fate.
We heard afterwards that a German spy had come up and asked him in
French if he had a paper, and the boy was probably new at the game and
fell into the trap.

About this time the Germans were particularly busy in Brussels. A great
many new troops were brought in, amongst them several Austrian regiments
and a great many naval officers and men. It was quite plain that some
big undertaking was planned. Then one day we saw the famous heavy guns
going out of the city along the Antwerp road. I had heard them last at
Maubeuge, now I was to hear them again. Night and day reinforcements of
soldiers poured into Brussels at the Gare du Nord, and poured out at the
Antwerp Gate. No one whatever was permitted to pass to leave the city,
the trams were all stopped at the barriers, and aeroplanes were
constantly hovering above the city like huge birds of prey.

On Sunday, September 27, we woke to hear cannon booming and the house
shaking with each concussion. The Germans had begun bombarding the forts
which lay between Brussels and Antwerp. Looking from the heights of
Brussels with a good glass, one could see shells bursting near Waelheim
and Wavre St. Catherine. The Belgians were absolutely convinced that
Antwerp was impregnable, and as we had heard that large masses of
English troops had been landed there, we hoped very much that this would
be the turning-point of the war, and that the Germans might be driven
back out of the country.

On Wednesday, September 30, the sounds of cannon grew more distant, and
we heard that Wavre St. Catherine had been taken. The Belgians were
still confident, but it seems certain that the Germans were convinced
that nothing could withstand their big guns, for they made every
preparation to settle down in Brussels for the winter. They announced
that from October 1 Brussels would be considered as part of German
territory, and that they intended to re-establish the local postal
service from that date. They reckoned without their host there, for the
Brussels postmen refused to a man to take service under them, so the
arrangement collapsed. They did re-establish postal communication
between Brussels and Germany, and issued a special set of four stamps.
They were the ordinary German stamps of 3, 5, 10 and 20 pfennig, and
were surcharged in black "Belgien 3, 5, 10 and 20 centimes."

About this time, too, they took M. Max, the Burgomaster, off to Liège as
prisoner, on the pretext that Brussels had not yet paid the enormous
indemnity demanded of it. He held the people in the hollow of his hand,
and the Brussels authorities very much feared a rising when he was taken
off. But the Echevins, or College of Sheriffs, rose to the occasion,
divided his work between them, and formed a local police composed of
some of the most notable citizens of the town. They were on duty all day
and night and divided the work into four-hour shifts, and did splendid
work in warning the people against disorderly acts and preventing
disturbances. It is not difficult to guess what would have happened if
these patriotic citizens had not acted in this way--there would most
certainly have been a rising among the people, and the German reprisals
would have been terrible. As it was a German soldier who was swaggering
alone down the Rue Basse was torn in pieces by the angry crowd, but for
some reason this outbreak was hushed up by the German authorities.
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The authorities seemed to be far too busy to trouble themselves about
our affairs, and we could get no news as to what was going to happen to
us. There was a good deal of typhoid fever in Brussels, and I thought I
would employ this waiting time in getting inoculated against it, as I
had not had time to do so before leaving England.

This operation was performed every Saturday by a doctor at the Hôpital
St. Pierre, so on Saturday, October 3, I repaired there to take my turn
with the others. The prick was nothing, and it never occurred to me that
I should take badly, having had, I believe, typhoid when a child. But I
soon began to feel waves of hot and cold, then a violent headache came
on, and I was forced to go to bed with a very painful arm and a high
temperature. I tossed about all night, and the next morning I was worse
rather than better. At midday I received a message that every English
Sister and doctor in Brussels was to leave for England the next day, via
Holland, in a special train that had been chartered by some Americans
and accompanied by the American Consul. How I rejoiced at my fever, for
now I had a legitimate excuse for staying behind, for except at the
point of the sword I did not mean to leave Belgium while I still had
nurses there who might be in danger. The heads of all the various
parties were requested to let their nurses know that they must be at the
station the next day at 2 P. M. Several of my nurses were
lodging in the house I was in, and I sent a message to them and to all
the others that they must be ready at the appointed place and time. I
also let a trusted few know that I did not mean to go myself, and gave
them letters and messages for England.

The next morning I was still not able to get up, but several of my
people came in to say good-bye to me in bed, and I wished them good luck
and a safe passage back to England. By 1 P. M. they were all
gone, and a great peace fell over the house. I struggled out of bed,
put all traces of uniform away, and got out my civilian dress. I was no
longer an official, but a private person out in Belgium on my own
account, and intended to walk to Charleroi by short stages as soon as I
was able. I returned to bed, and at five o'clock I was half asleep, half
picturing my flock on their way to England, when there was a great
clamour and clatter, and half a dozen of them burst into my room. They
were all back once more!

They told me they had gone down to the station as they were told, and
found the special train for Americans going off to the Dutch frontier.
Their names were all read out, but they were not allowed to get into the
train, and were told they were not going that day after all. The German
officials present would give no reason for the change, and were
extremely rude to the nurses. They told me my name had been read out
amongst the others. They had been asked why I was not there, and had
replied that I was ill in bed.

Just then a letter arrived marked "Urgent," and in it was an order that
I should be at the station at 12 P. M. the next day _without
fail_, accompanied by my nurses. I was very sad that they had discovered
I did not want to go, because I knew now that they would leave no stone
unturned to make me, but I determined to resist to the last moment and
not go if I could help it. So I sent back a message to the Head Doctor
of the Red Cross unit, asking him to convey to the German authorities
the fact that I was ill in bed and could not travel the next day. Back
came a message to say that they regretted to hear I was ill, and that I
should be transferred at once to a German hospital and be attended by a
German doctor. That, of course, was no good at all--I should then
probably have been a German prisoner till the end of the war, and not
have been the slightest use to anyone.

I very reluctantly gave in and said I would go. We were told that we
should be safely conducted as far as the Dutch frontier, and so I
determined to get across to Antwerp if I could from there and work my
way back to Brussels in private clothes.

I scrambled up somehow the next day, and found a very large party
assembled outside the Gare du Nord, as every single English nurse and
doctor in Brussels was to be expelled. There must have been fifteen or
twenty doctors and dressers altogether, and more than a hundred Sisters
and nurses.

A squad of German soldiers were lined up outside the station, and two
officers guarded the entrance. They had a list of our names, and as each
name was read out, we were passed into the station, where a long, black
troop-train composed of third-class carriages was waiting for us. The
front wagons were, I believe, full of either wounded or prisoners, as
only a few carriages were reserved for us. However, we crowded in, eight
of us in a carriage meant for six, and found, greatly to our surprise,
that there were two soldiers with loaded rifles sitting at the window in
each compartment. There was nothing to be said, we were entirely in
their hands, and after all the Dutch frontier was not so very far off.

The soldiers had had orders to sit at the two windows and prevent us
seeing out, but our two guards were exceedingly nice men, not Prussians
but Danish Germans from Schleswig-Holstein, who did not at all enjoy the
job they had been put to, so our windows were not shut nor our blinds
down as those in some of the other carriages were.

A whistle sounded, and we were off. We went very very slowly, and waited
an interminable time at each station. When evening came on we had only
arrived as far as Louvain, and were interested to see two Zeppelins
looming clear and black against the sunset sky, in the Mâlines direction
flying towards Antwerp. It was not too dark to see the fearful
destruction that had been dealt out to this famous Catholic University,
only built and endowed during the last eighty years by great and heroic
sacrifices on the part of both clergy and people. The two German
soldiers in our carriage were themselves ashamed when they saw from the
window the crumbling ruins and burnt-out buildings which are all that
remain of Louvain now. One of them muttered: "If only the people had not
fired at the soldiers, this would never have happened." Since he felt
inclined to discuss the matter, one of us quoted the clause from The
Hague Convention of 1907 which was signed by Germany:

The territory of neutral states is inviolable.

The fact of a neutral Power resisting even by force, attempts to
violate its neutrality cannot be regarded as a hostile act.

This was beyond him, but he reiterated: "No civilians have any right to
fire at soldiers." And all the time they were killing civilians by bombs
thrown on open cities. So deep has the sanctity of the army sunk into
the German heart.

Night drew on, and one after another dropped into an uneasy sleep. But
we were squeezed so tight, and the wooden third-class carriages were so
hard, that it was almost more uncomfortable to be asleep than to be
awake. We persuaded the two German soldiers to sit together as that made
a little more room, and they soon went to sleep on each other's
shoulders, their rifles between their knees. I was still feverish and
seedy and could not sleep, but watched the beautiful starry sky, and
meditated upon many things. We passed through Tirlemont, and I thought
of my poor nurse and wished I could get out and see what she was doing.
Then I began to be rather puzzled by the way we were going. I knew this
line pretty well, but could not make out where we were. About three
o'clock in the morning I saw great forts on a hill sending out powerful
search-lights. I knew I could not be mistaken, this must be Liège. And
then we drew up in the great busy station, and I saw that it was indeed
Liège. So we were on our way to Germany after all, and not to the Dutch
frontier as we had been promised.

Next morning this was quite apparent, for we passed through Verviers and
then Herbesthal the frontier town. At the latter place the doors of all
our carriages were thrown violently open, and a Prussian officer shouted
in a raucous voice "Heraus." Few of our party understood German, and
they did not get out quickly enough to please his lordship, for he
bellowed to the soldiers: "Push those women out of the train if they
don't go quicker." Our things were thrown out after us as we scrambled
out on to the platform, while two officers walked up and down having
every bag and portmanteau turned out for their inspection. All
scissors, surgical instruments and other useful articles were taken away
from the Sisters, who protested in vain against this unfair treatment.
The soldiers belonging to our carriage, seeing this, tumbled all our
possessions back into the carriage, pretending that they had been
examined--for we had become fast friends since we had shared our scanty
stock of food and chocolate together. I was personally very thankful not
to have my belongings looked at too closely, for I had several things I
did not at all want to part with; one was my camera, which was sewn up
inside my travelling cushion, a little diary that I had kept in Belgium,
and a sealed letter that had been given me as we stood outside the
station at Brussels by a lady who implored me to take it to England and
post it for her there, as it was to her husband in Petrograd, who had
had no news of her since the war began. I had this in an inside secret
pocket, and very much hoped I should get it through successfully.

We were ordered into the train again in the same polite manner that we
had been ordered out. Our two soldiers were much upset by the treatment
we had received. One had tears in his eyes when he told us how sorry he
was, for he had the funny old-fashioned idea that Red Cross Sisters on
active service should be treated with respect--even if they were
English. He then told us that their orders were to accompany us to
Cologne; he did not know what was going to happen to us after that. So
Germany was to be our destination after all.

At the next station we stopped for a long time, and then the doors of
the carriages were opened and we were each given a bowl of soup. It was
very good and thick, and we christened it "hoosh" with remembrance of
Scott's rib-sticking compound in the Antarctic; and there was plenty of
it, so we providently filled up a travelling kettle with it for the
evening meal. Then we went on again and crawled through that
interminable day over the piece of line between Herbesthal and Cologne.
Evening came, and we thought of the "hoosh," but when it came to the
point no one could look at it, and we threw it out of the window. A
horrible yellow scum had settled on the top of it and clung to the
sides, so that it spoilt the kettle for making tea--and we _were_ so

At last, late at night, we saw the lights of Cologne. We had been
thirty-two hours doing a journey that ordinarily takes six or seven. We
were ordered out of the train when we reached the station, and were
marched along between two rows of soldiers to a waiting-room. No porters
were allowed to help us, so we trailed all along those underground
corridors at Cologne station with our own luggage. Fortunately it was so
late that there were not many people about. We were allowed to have a
meal here, and could order anything we liked. Some coffee was a great
comfort, and we were able to buy rolls and fruit for the journey.

An incident happened here that made my blood boil, but nothing could be
done, so we had to set our teeth and bear it. A waiter came in smiling
familiarly, with a bundle of papers under his arm, and put one of these
illustrated weeklies beside each plate. On the front page was a horrible
caricature of England--so grossly indecent that it makes me hot now
even to think of it. As soon as I saw what they were, I went round to
each place, gathered them up and put them aside.

As we waited I wondered what was to be the next step, and could not help
thinking of my last visit to Cologne two years before. Then I went as a
delegate to a very large Congress and Health Exhibition, when we were
the honoured guests of the German National Council of Nurses. Then we
were fêted by the Municipality of Cologne--given a reception at the
Botanical Gardens, a free pass to all the sights of Cologne, a concert,
tableaux, a banquet, I don't know what more. Now I was a prisoner
heavily guarded, weary, dirty, humiliated in the very city that had done
us so much honour.

After about three hours' wait we were ordered into another train,
mercifully for our poor bones rather a more comfortable one this time,
with plenty of room, and we went on our way, over the Rhine, looking
back at Cologne Cathedral, on past Essen and Dusseldorf, into the very
heart of Germany. It was rather an original idea--this trip through the
enemy's country in the middle of the war!

In the morning we had a nice surprise. We arrived at Münster, and found
breakfast awaiting us. The Red Cross ladies of that town kindly provide
meals for all prisoners and wounded soldiers passing through. They
seemed very surprised when all we English people turned up, but they
were very kind in waiting on us, and after breakfast we got what was
better than anything in the shape of a good wash. We had a long wait at
Münster so there was no hurry, and we all got our turn under the
stand-pipe and tap that stood in the station. Then on and on and on, and
it seemed that we had always been in the train, till at last, late one
evening, we arrived at Hamburg.

We were ordered out of the train here for a meal, and this was by far
the most unpleasant time we had. Evidently the news of our arrival had
preceded us, and a whole crowd of Hamburgers were at the station waiting
to see us emerge from the train.

They were not allowed on to the platform, but lined the outside of the
railing all the way down, laughing at us, spitting, hissing, jeering,
and making insulting remarks. And though we were English we had to take
it lying down. At the first indiscreet word from any of us they would
have certainly taken off the men of our party to prison, though they
would have probably done nothing more to us women than to delay our
journey. There were about fifteen doctors and dressers with us, and we
were naturally much more afraid for their safety than for our own. I
think I shall never forget walking down that platform at Hamburg. We
were hurried into a waiting-room, the door of which was guarded by two
soldiers, and a meal of bread and cold meat ordered for us. The German
waiters evidently much resented being asked to serve us, for they nearly
threw the food at us.

Then something happened that made up for everything. A young German
officer came up and asked in very good English if there was anything he
could do for us in any way.

"I beg your pardon for speaking to you," he said, "but I received so
much kindness from every one when I was in England, that it would be the
greatest pleasure I could have if I could help you at all." And he
started by giving the waiter the biggest blowing-up he had ever had in
his life, for which I could have hugged him. He then went off and came
back in a few minutes with fruit and chocolate and everything he could
find for us to take with us. He was a very bright and shining star in a
dark place. Then along the platform past that horrible, jeering crowd
and into the train once more.

It was night, and most of us were asleep when the train stopped with a
jerk, the doors of the train were thrown open, and the fresh, salty
smell of the sea met our nostrils. Some of the party, hardly awake,
thought they had to get out, and began to descend, but such volumes of
wrath met their attempt that they hastily got in again. Every window in
the train was shut, every blind pulled down and curtains closed, and a
soldier with loaded rifle stood at each window. We were crossing the
Kiel Canal. There were a great many people in England who would have
given anything to have been in our shoes just then. But we saw
absolutely nothing.

They forgot to give us any breakfast that day, but we did not mind.
Every mile now, along this flat, marshy country, was a mile nearer
Denmark and freedom, and our spirits rose higher every moment. Though
why the Germans should take us all through Germany and Denmark, when
they could just as easily have dropped us on the Dutch frontier, I
cannot even now imagine.

Early that afternoon we arrived at Vendrup, the Danish frontier, and the
soldiers and the train that had brought us all the way from Cologne went
back to Germany. It was difficult to realize that we were free once
more, after two months of being prisoners with no news of home, tied
down to a thousand tiresome regulations, and having witnessed terrible
sights that none of us will ever forget. Strange and delightful it was
to be able to send a telegram to England once more and to buy a paper;
wonderful to see the friendly, smiling faces all round us. It felt
almost like getting home again.
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Late that night we arrived in Copenhagen. The kindness we received there
surpasses all imagination. The Danish people opened their arms in
welcome and gave us of their best with both hands. Every one went out of
their way to be good to us, from the manager of the delightful Hotel
Cosmopolite, where we were staying, to the utter strangers who sent us
flowers, fruit, sweets, illustrated papers and invitations to every
possible meal in such profusion.

Miss Jessen, the secretary of the Danish Council of Nurses, called at
once and arranged a most delightful programme for every day of our stay
in Copenhagen, bringing us invitations to see over the most important
hospitals, and the Finsen Light Institute, the old Guildhall, the
picture gallery, and anything else any of us wanted to see.


The president, Madame Tscherning, and the members of the same council,
arranged a most delightful afternoon reception for us at the Palace
Hotel, at which Dr. Norman Hansen welcomed us in the name of Denmark,
and read us a poem which he had written in our honour.


Silent, we bid you welcome, in silence you answer'd our greeting
Because our lips must be closed, and your teeth are set
Against the gale.
Our mouths are mute, our minds are open--
We shall greet you farewell in silence;
Sowers of good-will on fields where hate is sown--
Fare ye well.


That evening at dinner we all found a beautiful bunch of violets tied up
with the Danish colours on our plates, and a pretty Danish medal with
the inscription "Our God--our Land--our Honour" which had been issued to
raise a fund for the Danish Red Cross Society. This was a little
surprise for us on the part of the manager of the hotel, who, like
every one else, simply overwhelmed us with kindness. One simply felt
dreadfully ashamed of oneself for not having done more to deserve all

On the first day of our arrival in Denmark came the news of the downfall
of Antwerp, and through all these delightful invitations and receptions
there was a feeling in my heart that I was not free yet to enjoy myself.
The downfall of Antwerp seemed almost like a personal loss. We had been
so close to it, had shared our Belgian friends' hopes and fears, had
watched the big German howitzers going out on the Antwerp road, had
heard the bombardment of the forts, on our long journey through Belgium
had seen the enormous reinforcements being sent up to take it. And now
it had gone, and the Germans were marching on Ostend. What was the end
of all this going to be? We _must_ win in the end--but they are so
strong and well organized--so _dreadfully_ strong.

In that same paper I read an account from a Russian correspondent,
telling of the distress in Poland, which they described as the "Belgium
of Russia." It stated that the news just then was not good; the Germans
were approaching Warsaw, and that the people in many of the villages
were almost starving, as the Germans had eaten up almost everything.
(How well I could believe that!) The paper went on to say that the
troops were suffering severely from cholera and from typhoid fever and
that there was a great scarcity of trained nurses. That gave me the clue
for which I was unconsciously seeking--we had been turned out of
Belgium, and now, perhaps, our work was to be in that other Belgium of

Three other Sisters wished to join me, and I telegraphed to St. John's
to ask permission to offer our services to the Russian Red Cross. The
answer was delayed, and as we could not go to Russia without permission
from headquarters, we most reluctantly prepared to go back to England
with all the others.

On the last morning our luggage, labelled Christiania-Bergen-Newcastle,
had already gone down to the station when the expected telegram arrived:
"You and three Sisters named may volunteer Russian Red Cross." We flew
down to the station and by dint of many tips and great exertions we got
our luggage out again. I should have been sorry to have lost my little
all for the second time.

This permission to serve with the Russian Red Cross was confirmed later
by a most kind letter from Sir Claude Macdonald, chairman of the St.
John's Committee, so we felt quite happy about our enterprise.

We could not start for Russia for another ten days. We were to be
inoculated against cholera for one thing, and then there were passports
and visés to get and arrangements for the journey to be made. The
ordinary route was by Abö, Stockholm and Helsingfors, but we were very
strongly advised not to go this way, first, because of the possibility
of mines in the Baltic, and, secondly, because a steamer, recently
crossing that way, had been actually boarded, and some English people
taken off by the Germans. And we had no desire to be caught a second

So it was decided to my great joy that we should travel all the way
round by land, through Sweden, through a little bit of Lapland, just
touching the Arctic Circle, through Finland and so to Petrograd. The
thought of the places we had to go through thrilled me to the
core--Karungi, Haparanda, Lapptrask, Torneo--the very names are as
honey to the lips.

* * * * *

One might have expected that all the kindness and hospitality would
cease on the departure of the majority of the party, but it was not so.
Invitations of all kinds were showered on us. Lunches were the chief
form of entertainment and very interesting and delightful they were.
There was a lunch at the British Legation, one at the French Legation,
one at the Belgian Legation where the minister was so pathetically glad
of any crumbs of news of his beloved country; a delightful dinner to
meet Prince Gustav of Denmark, an invitation to meet Princess Mary of
Greece, another lunch with Madame Tscherning, the president of the
Danish Council of Nurses, and the "Florence Nightingale of Denmark."
Altogether we should have been thoroughly spoilt if it had lasted any
longer! One of the most delightful invitations was to stay at Vidbek for
the remainder of our time, a dear little seaside place with beautiful
woods, just then in their full glory of autumnal colouring. It was
within easy reach of Copenhagen and we went in almost every day, for
one reason or another, and grew very fond of the beautiful old city.

The time came for us to say good-bye. I was very sorry indeed to leave
dear little Denmark where we had had such a warm welcome. Denmark is, of
course, officially, absolutely neutral, but she cannot forget the ties
of blood and friendship that bind the two island countries together.
They are indeed a splendid people to be kin to, tall and fair and
strong, as becomes an ancient race of sea-kings. I only hope that it may
be my good fortune, some day, to be able to repay in some small measure
all the wealth of kindness so freely poured out for us.

On Saturday, October 24, at 7 P. M. we started for Lapland! Many
of our very kind friends came down to the station to give us a good
send-off and with last presents of flowers, fruit, chocolates and
papers. We crossed first to Malmö on the ferry, which took about an hour
and a half. It was very calm and clear, and we watched the little
twinkling lights of Denmark gradually disappear and the lights of Sweden
gradually emerge in exchange. At Malmö there was a customs examination
which was not very severe, as our things were all marked with a huge Red
Cross, and then we got into a funny little horse tram that conveyed us
to the station.

When morning broke we were speeding along towards Stockholm. The country
was very different from Denmark, much wilder, with rocks and trees and
sand and an occasional glimpse of lake. At that time Sweden was supposed
to bear little good-will towards England, and certainly our reception in
that land was distinctly a chilly one. We drove on arrival to a hotel
which had been recommended to us and asked the concierge if there were
rooms. He said there were, so we had our luggage taken down and
dismissed the cab. The concierge then looked at us suspiciously, and
said, "You are English?" "Yes, we are English." He then went and
confabbed for some minutes with the manageress, and returned. "There are
people still in the rooms, they will not be ready for twenty minutes."
"Then we will have breakfast now and go to our rooms after." Another
long conversation with the manageress, and then he returned again.
"There are no rooms." "But you said there were rooms." "There are no
rooms." Evidently there were none for English travellers anyway, so we
went to another hotel opposite the station, where they were civil, but
no more. We had to stay in Stockholm twenty-four hours and simply hated
it. I had heard much of this "Venice of the North," but the physical
atmosphere was as chilly and unfriendly as the mental one.

The recollection stamped on my memory is of a grey, cheerless town where
it rained hard almost the whole time, and a bitter wind blowing over the
quays which moaned and sobbed like a lost banshee.

I was asked to luncheon at the British Legation, and this proved a very
fortunate occurrence for us all, as the minister was so kind as to go to
great trouble in getting us a special permit from the Swedish Foreign
Office to sleep at Boden. Boden is a fortified frontier town and no
foreigners are, as a rule, allowed to stay the night there, but have to
go on to Lulea, and return to Boden the next morning. We started off on
the next lap of our northern journey that evening, and again through
the minister's kind intervention were lucky in getting a carriage to
ourselves in a very full train, and arrived twenty-four hours later at

It was extraordinarily interesting to sleep in that little shanty at
Boden, partly, no doubt, because it was not ordinarily allowed. The
forbidden has always charms. It was the most glorious starlight night I
have ever seen, but bitterly cold, with the thermometer ten degrees
below zero, and everything sparkling with hoar frost. It was here we
nearly lost a bishop. A rather pompous Anglican bishop had been
travelling in the same train from Stockholm, and hearing that we
insignificant females had been permitted to sleep at Boden, he did not
see why he should not do the same and save himself the tiresome journey
to Lulea and back. So in spite of all remonstrances he insisted on
alighting at Boden, and with the whole force of his ecclesiastical
authority announced his intention of staying there. However, it was not
allowed after all, and he missed the train, and while we were
comfortably having our supper in the little inn, we saw the poor bishop
and his chaplain being driven off to Lulea. They turned up again next
morning, but so late that we were afraid they had got lost on the way
the night before.

All the next morning we went through the same kind of country, past
innumerable frozen lakelets, and copses of stubby pines and silver
birches, till we arrived at Karungi where the railway ends. We made
friends with a most delightful man, who was so good in helping us all
the way through that we christened him St. Raphael, the patron saint of
travellers. He was a fur trader from Finland, and had immense stores of
information about the land and the queer beasts that live in it. He was
a sociable soul, but lived in such out-of-the-way places that he seldom
saw anyone to talk to except the peasants, and it was a great treat, he
said, to meet some of his fellow-countrymen, and his satisfaction knew
no bounds when he heard that one of us hailed from Lancashire, near his
old home.

From Karungi we had to drive to Haparanda. Our carriage was already
booked by telegram, but a very irate gentleman from Port Said got into
it with his family and declined to get out, using such dreadful
language that I wondered the snow did not begin to sizzle. We did not
want to have a scene there, so when "St. Raphael" said if we would wait
till the evening he would take us over by starlight, we graciously let
the dusky gentleman with the bad temper keep our carriage.

We went in the meantime to the little wooden inn and ate largely of
strange dishes, dried reindeer flesh, smoked strips of salmon, lax, I
think it is called, served with a curious sweet sauce, and drank many
glasses of tea. At 9 P. M. behold an open motor-car arrived to
take us the thirty miles' drive to Haparanda. It seemed absolutely
absurd to see a motor-car up there on the edge of the Arctic Circle,
where there was not even a proper road. There were several reindeer
sleighs about, and I felt that one of those would have been much more in
keeping. The drivers look most attractive, they wear very gay reindeer
leggings, big sheep-skin coats and wild-looking wolf-skin caps.

The frozen track was so uneven that we rocked from side to side, and
were thrown violently about in the car, like little kernels in a very
large nut. But it was a wonderful night all the same, the air was thin
and intoxicating like champagne, and the stars up in these northern
latitudes more dazzlingly brilliant than anything I have seen before. We
had to get out at Haparanda and walk over the long bridge which led to
Torneo, where the Finnish Custom House was, and where our luggage and
passports had to be examined.

We arrived there very cheerful and well pleased with ourselves, to find
all our old travelling companions waiting till the Custom House was
open; the bishop and his party; the bad-tempered man and his family; a
Russian and a Chinese student who were travelling together, and some
others. They had been waiting in the cold for hours, and had not had
their papers or luggage examined yet, so we had had the best of it after

And we scored yet once more, for "St. Raphael," who spoke fluent
Finnish, at once secured the only cart to take our things over the ferry
to the railway station about half a mile away.

It was borne in upon me during this journey what an immense country
Russia is. From Torneo to Petrograd does not look far on the map, but
we left Torneo on Wednesday night, and did not arrive in Petrograd till
12.30 A. M. on Saturday, about fifty-two hours' hard travelling
to cover this little track--a narrow thread, almost lost the immensity
of this great Empire.

Petrograd is not one of those cities whose charms steal upon you
unawares. It is immense, insistent, arresting, almost thrusting itself
on your imagination. It is a city for giants to dwell in, everything is
on such an enormous scale, dealt out in such careless profusion. The
river, first of all, is immense; the palaces grandiose, the very blocks
of which they are fashioned seem to have been hewn by Titans. The names
are full of romance and mystery. The fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul,
for instance, how it brings back a certain red and gold book of one's
youth, full of innocent prisoners in clanking chains confined in fetid
underground dungeons. It seemed incredible to really behold its slender,
golden minarets on the other side of the Neva. But this was no time for
sight-seeing, we were all very anxious to get to work at once. So my
first excursion in Petrograd was to the Central Bureau of the Red

The director of the Red Cross received me most kindly and promised that
we should have work very soon. He suggested that in the meantime we
should go and stay in a Russian Community of Sisters, who had a hospital
in Petrograd. I was very glad to accept this offer for us all, for we
must assimilate Russian methods and ways of thought as soon as possible,
if we were to be of real use to them. Still I very much hoped that we
should not be kept in Petrograd very long, as we wanted, if possible, to
get nearer the front. I told the director that we had been inoculated
against cholera and typhoid, and would be quite pleased to be sent to
the infectious hospitals if that would be more help, as there are always
plenty of people to nurse the wounded, but comparatively few who for one
reason or another are able to devote themselves to this other very
necessary work.

We betook ourselves without delay to the Community of Russian Sisters,
and were installed in dear little cell-like rooms at the top of the
house devoted to the Sisters. The other side of the house is a
beautiful little hospital with several wards set apart for wounded
soldiers. There are a great many similar communities in Russia--all
nursing orders. They are called Sisters of Mercy, but are not nuns in
any sense, as they take no vows and are free to leave whenever they
like. The course of training varies from two to three years and is very
complete, comprising courses in dispensing and other useful subjects.
The pity of it is that there are comparatively few of these trained
Sisters at the front; the vast majority of those working there have only
been through a special "War Course" of two months' training, and are apt
to think that bandaging is the beginning and the end of the art of

The Russian Sisters were most interested in our adventures, and most
kind and nice to us in every way, but assured us that we should not be
allowed anywhere near the front, as only Russian Sisters were allowed
there. They were very surprised when the order came a few days after our
arrival, that we were to get ready to go to Warsaw at once. That was
certainly not quite at the front at that moment, as just then Russia
was in the flush of victory, following the retreating Germans back from
Warsaw to the German frontier. But it was a good long step on the way.

One errand still remained to be done. I had not posted the letter given
me by the English lady at the Brussels station to her husband in
Petrograd, wishing to have the pleasure of delivering it myself after
carrying it at such risks all through Germany. Directly I arrived I made
inquiries for this Englishman, picturing his joy at getting the
long-deferred news of his wife. Almost the first person I asked knew him
quite well, but imagine what a blow it was to hear that he had a Russian
wife in Petrograd! I vowed never again to carry any more letters to
sorrowing husbands.

Before we went I received a very kind message that the Empress Marie
Federovna would like to see us before our departure. Prince Gustav of
Denmark had been most kind in writing to his aunt, the Empress, about
us, and had also been good enough to give me a letter of introduction to
her which I sent through the British Embassy.

A day was appointed to go to the Gatchina Palace to be presented to her
Majesty. The palace is a little way out of Petrograd and stands in a
beautiful park between the Black and the White Lake.

We were greeted by General K----, one of the Empress's bodyguard, and
waited for a few minutes in the throne room downstairs, chatting to him.
Soon we were summoned upstairs, a door was thrown open by an enormous
negro in scarlet livery, and we were ushered into the Empress's private
boudoir. The Empress was there, and was absolutely charming to us,
making us sit down beside her and talking to us in fluent English. She
was so interested in hearing all we could tell her of Belgium, and we
stayed about half an hour talking to her. Then the Empress rose and held
out her hand, and said, "Thank you very much for coming to help us in
Russia. I shall always be interested in hearing about you. May God bless
you in your work," and we were dismissed.

I would not have missed that for anything, it seemed such a nice start
to our work in Russia.

Every spare moment till our work began had to be devoted to learning
Russian. It is a brain-splitting language. Before I went to Russia I was
told that two words would carry me through the Empire: "Nichevo" meaning
"never mind," and "Seechas" which means "immediately" or "to-morrow" or
"next week." But we had to study every moment to learn as much Russian
as possible, as of course the soldiers could not understand any other
language. French is understood everywhere in society, but in the shops
no other tongue than Russian is any use. German is understood pretty
widely--but it is absolutely forbidden now to be spoken under penalty of
a 3000 rouble fine. In all the hotels there is a big notice put up in
Russian, French, and English in the public rooms "It is forbidden to
speak German," and just at first it added rather to the complications of
life not to be able to use it.
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In two or three days' time after our visit to the Empress we were off to
Warsaw and reported ourselves to Monsieur Goochkoff, the head of the Red
Cross Society there.

We received our marching orders at once. We were not to be together at
first, as they thought we should learn Russian more quickly if we were
separated, so two of us were to go to one hospital in Warsaw, two to
another. My fate was a large Red Cross hospital close to the station,
worked by a Community of Russian Sisters. I must say I had some anxious
moments as I drove with Sister G. to the hospital that afternoon. I
wondered if Monsieur Goochkoff had said we were coming, and thought if
two Russian Sisters suddenly turned up without notice at an English
hospital how very much surprised they would be. Then I hoped they were
very busy, as perhaps then they would welcome our help. But again, I
meditated, if they were really busy, we with our stumbling Russian
phrases might be only in the way. It was all very well in Denmark to
think one would come and help Russia--but supposing they did not want us
after all?

By the time I got so far we had arrived at the hospital, the old
familiar hospital smell of disinfectants met my nostrils, and I felt at
home at once. I found that I had been tormenting myself in vain, for
they were expecting us and apparently were not at all displeased at our
arrival. The Sister Superior had worked with English people in the
Russo-Japanese War and spoke English almost perfectly, and several of
the other Sisters spoke French or German. She was very worried as to
where we should sleep, as they were dreadfully overcrowded themselves;
even she had shared her small room with another Sister. However, she
finally found us a corner in a room which already held six Sisters.
Eight of us in a small room with only one window! The Sisters sleeping
there took our advent like angels, said there was plenty of room, and
moved their beds closer together so that we might have more space.
Again I wondered whether if it were England we should be quite so
amiable under like circumstances. I hope so.

I began to unpack, but there was nowhere to put anything; there was no
furniture in the room whatsoever except our straw beds, a table, and a
large tin basin behind a curtain in which we all washed--and, of course,
the ikon or holy picture which hangs in every Russian room. We all kept
our belongings under our beds--not a very hygienic proceeding, but _à la
guerre comme à la guerre_. The patients were very overcrowded too, every
corridor was lined with beds, and the sanitars, or orderlies, slept on
straw mattresses in the hall. The hospital had been a large college and
was originally arranged to hold five hundred patients, but after the
last big battle at Soldau every hospital in Warsaw was crammed with
wounded, and more than nine hundred patients had been sent in here and
had to be squeezed into every available corner.

My work was in the dressing-room, which meant dressing wounds all day
and sometimes well into the night, and whatever time we finished there
were all the dressings for the next day to be cut and prepared before
we could go to bed. The first week was one long nightmare with the awful
struggle for the Russian names of dressings and instruments and with
their different methods of working, but after that I settled down very

Sister G. was in the operating-room on the next floor, and she, too,
found that first week a great strain. The other two Sisters who had come
out with us and had been sent to another hospital apparently found the
same, for they returned to England after the first five days, much to my
disappointment, as I had hoped that our little unit of four might have
got a small job of our own later, when we could speak Russian better and
had learnt their ways and customs.

After the first few days we began to be very busy. In England we should
consider that hospital very badly staffed, as there were only twenty
Sisters to sometimes nearly a thousand patients, all very serious cases
moreover, as we were not supposed to take in the lightly wounded at all
in this hospital. The sanitars, or orderlies, do all that probationers
in an English hospital would do for the patients, and all the heavy
lifting and carrying, so that the work is not very hard though very
continuous. There was no night staff. We all took it in turns to stay up
at night three at a time, so that our turn came about once a week. That
meant being on duty all day, all night, and all the next day, except for
a brief rest and a walk in the afternoon. Most of the Sisters took no
exercise beyond one weekly walk, but we two English people longed for
fresh air, and went out whenever possible even if it was only for ten
minutes. English views on ventilation are not at all accepted in Russia.
It is a great concession to open the windows of the ward for ten minutes
twice a day to air it, and the Sisters were genuinely frightened for the
safety of the patients when I opened the windows of a hot, stuffy ward
one night. "It is _never_ done," they reiterated, "before daylight."

The Sister Superior was the mainspring of the hospital. She really was a
wonderful person, small and insignificant to look at, except for her
eyes, which looked you through and through and weighed you in the
balance; absolutely true and straight, with a heart of gold, and the
very calmest person in all the world. I remember her, late one evening,
when everybody was rather agitated at a message which had come to say
that 400 patients were on their way to the hospital, and room could only
be made for 200 at the most. "Never mind," she said, not in the least
perturbed, "they must be made as comfortable as possible on stretchers
for the night, and to-morrow we must get some of the others moved away."
And the Sisters took their cue from her, and those 400 patients were all
taken in and looked after with less fuss than the arrival of forty
unexpected patients in most hospitals.

All night long that procession of shattered men brought in on stretchers
never ceased. The kitchen Sister stayed up all night so that each man
should have some hot soup on arrival, and all the other Sisters were at
their posts. Each man was undressed on the stretcher (often so badly
wounded that all his clothing had to be cut off him) and hastily
examined by the doctor. He was then dressed in a clean cotton shirt and
trousers and lifted into bed, either to enjoy a bowl of hot soup, or,
if the case was urgent, to be taken off in his turn to the
operating-room. And though she was no longer young and not at all
strong, there was dear Sister Superior herself all night, taking round
the big bowls of soup or sitting beside the dying patients to cheer and
comfort their last hours. How the men loved her.

It was she who gave the whole tone to the hospital--there the patients
and their welfare were the first consideration and nothing else mattered
in comparison. The hospital was not "smart" or "up to date," the wards
were not even tidy, the staff was inadequate, overworked, and
villainously housed, the resources very scanty, but for sheer
selflessness and utter devotion to their work the staff of that hospital
from top to bottom could not have been surpassed. I never heard a
grumble or a complaint all the time I was there either from a doctor, a
Sister, or an orderly, and I never saw in this hospital a dressing
slurred over, omitted, or done without the usual precautions however
tired or overworked everybody might be.

Of course the art of nursing as practised in England does not exist in
Russia--even the trained Sisters do things every hour that would horrify
us in England. One example of this is their custom of giving strong
narcotic or stimulating drugs indiscriminately, such as morphine,
codeine, camphor, or ether without doctors' orders. When untrained
Sisters and inexperienced dressers do this (which constantly happens)
the results are sometimes very deplorable. I have myself seen a dresser
give a strong hypodermic stimulant to a man with a very serious
hæmorrhage. The bleeding vessel was deep down and very difficult to
find, and the hæmorrhage became so severe after the stimulant that for a
long time his life was despaired of from extreme exhaustion due to loss
of blood. I have also heard a Sister with no training except the two
months' war course say she had given a certain man _ten_ injections of
camphor within an hour because he was so collapsed, but she had not seen
fit to tell the doctor she had done this, nor had she let him know his
patient was so much worse until he was at the point of death. Neither of
these particular incidents could have happened in the Red Cross
hospital at Warsaw as the Sisters there were properly trained; but even
there they gave drugs at their own sweet will without consulting
anyone--particularly in the night.

We were so busy at the hospital that we did not see much of Warsaw. To
the casual observer it looks a busy, modern, rather gay capital, but
almost every inch of the city is interesting historically, and nearly
all the pages of that history are red with blood. War, revolutions, and
riots seem to have been almost its normal condition, and the great broad
Vistula that flows sluggishly through it has been many a time before
stained crimson with the blood of its citizens. But this time the war is
being fought under different conditions. Russians and Poles are for the
first time working together with a common aim in view. If the only
outcome of this war was the better mutual understanding of these two
great nations, it would not have been fought entirely in vain.

When we first arrived the Russians had beaten the Germans back to the
frontier, and every one was elated with the great victory. Now at the
end of October things did not look quite so happy. The people who knew
looked anxious and harassed. The newspapers, as usual, told nothing at
all, but the news which always filters in somehow from mouth to mouth
was not good. Terrific fighting was going on outside Lodz, it was said,
and enormous German reinforcements were being poured in. Warsaw was full
to overflowing with troops going through to reinforce on the Russian
side. A splendid set of men they looked, sturdy, broad-chested, and
hardy--not in the least smart, but practical and efficient in their warm
brown overcoats and big top boots.

There are two things one notices at once about the Russian soldier. One
is his absolute disregard of appearances. If he is cold he will tie a
red comforter round his head without minding in the least whether he is
in the most fashionable street in Warsaw or in camp at the front. The
other noticeable characteristic is the friendly terms he is on with his
officers. The Prussian soldiers rarely seem to like their officers, and
it is not to be wondered at, as they treat their men in a very harsh,
overbearing way. On duty the Russian discipline is strict, but off duty
an officer may be heard addressing one of his men as "little pigeon" or
"comrade" and other terms of endearment, and the soldier, on the other
hand, will call his officer "little father" or "little brother." I
remember one most touching scene when a soldier servant accompanied his
wounded officer to hospital. The officer was quite a young,
delicate-looking boy, who had been shot through the chest. His servant
was a huge, rough Cossack, who would hardly let any of us touch his
master if he could help it, and stayed by his bed night and day till the
end, when, his great frame heaving with sobs and tears streaming down
the seamed and rugged face, he threw himself over the officer's body and
implored God to let him die too.

The hospital began to grow empty and the work slackened down, as every
possible patient was sent away to Moscow or Petrograd to make room for
the rush of wounded that must be coming from the Lodz direction. But no
patients arrived, and we heard that the railway communications had been
cut. But this proved to be untrue.

One Sunday afternoon Sister G. and I, being free, betook ourselves to
tea at the Hotel d'Europe--that well-named hostelry which has probably
seen more history made from its windows than any other hotel in Europe.
We favoured it always on Sunday when we could, for not only was a
particularly nice tea to be had, but one could also read there a not
_too_ old French newspaper. I think just at first we felt almost as cut
off from news of what was happening on the English side as we did in
Belgium. No English or French papers could be bought and the Polish and
Russian papers were as sealed books to us, and when I did succeed in
getting some long-suffering person to translate them to me, the news was
naturally chiefly of the doings of the Russian side. Later on I had
English papers sent out to me which kept me in touch with the western
front, and also by that time, too, I could make out the substance of the
Russian papers; but just at first it was very trying not to know what
was going on. We had had tea and had read of an Anglo-French success
near Ypres and returned rested and cheered to the hospital to find
Sister Superior asking for us. She had had a message from the Red Cross
Office that we were to go to Lodz next day, and were to go at once to
the Hotel Bristol to meet Prince V., who would give us full particulars.

We went off at once to the Bristol and saw Prince V., but did not get
any particulars--that was not the Prince's way. He was sitting reading
in the lounge when we arrived, a very tall, lean, handsome man with kind
brown eyes and a nose hooked like an eagle's. He greeted us very kindly
and said he would take us to Lodz next day in one of the Red Cross
automobiles, and that we must be ready at 10 A. M. I think we
earned his everlasting gratitude by asking no questions as to where and
how we were going to work, but simply said we would be ready at that
time and returned to hospital to pack, fully realizing what lucky people
we were to be going right into the thick of things, and only hoping that
we should rise to the occasion and do the utmost that was expected of

We were now officially transferred from the hospital to the Flying
Column, of which Prince V. was the head. A flying column works directly
under the head of the Red Cross, and is supposed to go anywhere and do
anything at any hour of the day or night. Our Column consisted of five
automobiles that conveyed us and all our equipment to the place where we
were to work, and then were engaged in fetching in wounded, and taking
them on to the field hospital or ambulance train. The staff consisted of
Prince and Princess V., we two English Sisters, with generally, but not
always, some Russian ones in addition, an English surgeon, Colonel S.,
some Russian dressers and students, and some sanitars, or orderlies. The
luggage was a dreadful problem, and the Prince always groaned at the
amount we would take with us, but we could not reduce it, as we had to
carry big cases of cotton-wool, bandages and dressings, anæsthetics,
field sterilizer, operating-theatre equipment, and a certain amount of
stores--such as soap, candles, benzine and tinned food--as the column
would have been quite useless if it had not been to a large extent
self-supporting. Our Column was attached to the Second Army, which
operated on the eastern front of Warsaw. The Russian front changes so
much more rapidly than the Anglo-French front, where progress is
reckoned in metres, that these mobile columns are a great feature of
ambulance work here. Our front changed many miles in a week sometimes,
so that units that can move anywhere at an hour's notice are very
useful. The big base hospitals cannot quite fulfil the same need on such
a rapidly changing front.
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It took us a long time to get to Lodz, though it is not much more than
200 kilometres away. Russian roads are villainously bad anyhow, and the
Germans, though their retreat had been hasty, had had time to destroy
the roads and bridges as they went. Another thing that delayed us were
the enormous reinforcements of troops going up from Warsaw to the front.
It was very interesting to watch the different groups as we passed,
first a Cossack regiment going up, then an immense convoy followed with
about 200 wagons of forage. Just ahead of that we passed the
remounts--sturdy, shaggy Siberian ponies. They are the most delightful
creatures in the world, as tame as a dog, and not much bigger, and many
of them of a most unusual and beautiful shade of golden cream. They have
been brought from Siberia by the thousand, and most of the little
things had never seen a motor-car before, and pranced and kicked and
jumped, and went through all kinds of circus tricks as we passed.


As we grew nearer to Lodz it was sad to see a good many dead horses
lying by the roadside, mostly killed by shell-fire. The shells had made
great holes in the road too, and the last part of our journey was like a
ride on a switchback railway. It began to get dark as we came to
Breeziny, where a large number of Russian batteries were stationed. It
looked very jolly there, these large camps of men and horses having
their supper by the light of a camp-fire, with only the distant rumble
of the guns to remind them that they were at war. Two hours later we
jolted into the streets of Lodz.

Lodz is a large cotton manufacturing town--sometimes called the
Manchester of Poland--but now of course all the factories were closed,
and many destroyed by shell. I should not think it was a very festive
place at the best of times; it looked squalid and grimy, and the large
bulk of its population was made up of the most abject Jews I have ever

We had to make a long detour and get into the town by an unfrequented
country road, as Lodz was being heavily bombarded by the German guns. We
were put down at a large building which we were told was the military
hospital. Princess V., Colonel S., and a Russian student were working
hard in the operating-room, and we hastily put on clean overalls and
joined them. They all looked absolutely worn out, and the doctor dropped
asleep between each case; but fresh wounded were being brought in every
minute and there was no one else to help. Lodz was one big hospital. We
heard that there were more than 18,000 wounded there, and I can well
believe it. Every building of any size had been turned into a hospital,
and almost all the supplies of every kind had given out.

The building we were in had been a day-school, and the top floor was
made up of large airy schoolrooms that were quite suitable for wards.
But the shelling recommenced so violently that the wounded all had to be
moved down to the ground floor and into the cellars. The place was an
absolute inferno. I could never have imagined anything worse. It was
fearfully cold, and the hospital was not heated at all, for there was no
wood or coal in Lodz, and for the same reason the gas-jets gave out only
the faintest glimmer of light. There was no clean linen, and the poor
fellows were lying there still in their verminous, blood-soaked shirts,
shivering with cold, as we had only one small blanket each for them.
They were lucky if they had a bed at all, for many were lying with only
a little straw between them and the cold stone floor. There were no
basins or towels or anything to wash up with, and no spittoons, so the
men were spitting all over the already filthy floor. In the largest ward
where there were seventy or eighty men lying, there was a lavatory
adjoining which had got blocked up, and a thin stream of dirty water
trickled under the door and meandered in little rivulets all over the
room. The smell was awful, as some of the men had been there already
several days without having had their dressings done.

This was the state in which the hospital had been handed over to us. It
was a military hospital whose staff had had orders to leave at four
o'clock that morning, and they handed the whole hospital with its 270
patients over to us just as it was; and we could do very little towards
making it more comfortable for them. The stench of the whole place was
horrible, but it was too cold to do more than open the window for a
minute or two every now and then. It was no one's fault that things were
in such a horrible condition--it was just the force of circumstances and
the fortune of war that the place had been taxed far beyond its possible

All night long the most terribly wounded men were being brought in from
the field, some were already dead when they arrived, others had only a
few minutes to live; all the rest were very cold and wet and exhausted,
and we had _nothing_ to make them comfortable. What a blessing hot-water
bottles would have been--but after all there would have been no hot
water to fill them if we had had them. But the wounded _had_ to be
brought in for shelter somewhere, and at least we had a roof over their
heads, and hot tea to give them.

At 5 A. M. there came a lull. The tragic procession ceased for
a while, and we went to lie down. At seven o'clock we were called
again--another batch of wounded was being brought in.

The shelling had begun again, and was terrific; crash, crash, over our
heads the whole time. A clock-tower close to the hospital was demolished
and windows broken everywhere. The shells were bursting everywhere in
the street, and civilians were being brought in to us severely wounded.
A little child was carried in with half its head blown open, and then an
old Jewish woman with both legs blown off, and a terrible wound in her
chest, who only lived an hour or two. Apparently she suffered no pain,
but was most dreadfully agitated, poor old dear, at having lost her wig
in the transit. They began bringing in so many that we had to stop
civilians being brought in at all, as it was more than we could do to
cope with the wounded soldiers that were being brought in all the time.

At midday we went to a hotel for a meal. There was very, very little
food left in Lodz, but they brought what they could. Coming back to the
hospital we tried everywhere to get some bread, but there was none to be
had anywhere--all the provision shops were quite empty, and the
inhabitants looked miserable and starved, the Jewish population
particularly so, though they were probably not among the poorest.

On our way back a shell burst quite close to us in the street, but no
one was hurt. These shells make a most horrible scream before bursting,
like an animal in pain. Ordinarily I am the most dreadful coward in the
world about loud noises--I even hate a sham thunderstorm in a
theatre--but here somehow the shells were so part of the whole thing
that one did not realize that all this was happening to _us_, one felt
rather like a disinterested spectator at a far-off dream. It was
probably partly due to want of sleep; one's hands did the work, but
one's mind was mercifully numbed. Mercifully, for it was more like hell
than anything I can imagine. The never-ending processions of groaning
men being brought in on those horrible blood-soaked stretchers,
suffering unimagined tortures, the filth, the cold, the stench, the
hunger, the vermin, and the squalor of it all, added to one's utter
helplessness to do more than very little to relieve their misery, was
almost enough to make even Satan weep.

On the third day after our arrival a young Russian doctor and some
Russian sisters arrived to relieve us for a few hours, and we most
thankfully went to bed--at least it was not a bed in the ordinary sense,
but a wire bedstead on which we lay down in all our clothes; but we were
very comfortable all the same.

When we woke up we were told that the military authorities had given
orders for the patients to be evacuated, and that Red Cross carts were
coming all night to take them away to the station, where some ambulance
trains awaited them. So we worked hard all night to get the dressings
done before the men were sent away, and as we finished each case, he was
carried down to the hall to await his turn to go; but it was very
difficult as all the time they were bringing in fresh cases as fast as
they were taking the others away, and alas! many had to go off without
having had their dressings done at all. The next afternoon we were
still taking in, when we got another order that all the fresh patients
were to be evacuated and the hospital closed, as the Russians had
decided to retire from Lodz. Again we worked all night, and by ten the
next morning we had got all the patients away. The sanitars collected
all the bedding in the yard to be burnt, the bedsteads were piled high
on one another, and we opened all the windows wide to let the clean cold
wind blow over everything.

We had all our own dressings and equipment to pack, and were all just
about at our last gasp from want of food and sleep, when a very kind
Polish lady came and carried princess, we two Sisters, and Colonel S.
off to her house, where she had prepared bedrooms for us. I never looked
forward to anything so much in my life as I did to my bed that night.
Our hostess simply heaped benefits on us by preparing us each a hot bath
in turn. We had not washed or had our clothes off since we came to Lodz,
and were covered with vermin which had come to us from the patients; men
and officers alike suffer terribly from this plague of insects, which
really do make one's life a burden. There are three varieties commonly
met with: ordinary fleas that no one minds in the least; white insects
that are the commonest and live in the folds of one's clothes, whose
young are most difficult to find, and who grow middle-aged and very
hungry in a single night; and, lastly, the red insects with a good many
legs, which are much less numerous but much more ravenous than the other

After the bath and the hunt, we sat down to a delicious supper, and were
looking forward to a still more delicious night in bed, when suddenly
Prince V. arrived and said we must leave at once. We guessed instantly
that the Germans must be very near, but that he did not wish us to ask
questions, as it seemed very mean to go off ourselves and leave our kind
hosts without a word of explanation, though of course we could only obey
orders. So we left our unfinished supper and quickly collected our
belongings and took them to the hotel where our Red Cross car should
have been waiting for us. But the Red Cross authorities had sent off our
car with some wounded, which of course was just as it should be, and we
were promised another "seechas," which literally translated signifies
"immediately," but in Russia means to-day or to-morrow or not at all.

"Let us come into the hotel and get a meal while we wait," suggested the
Prince, mindful of our uneaten supper, and we followed him to the
restaurant--still mourning those beautiful beds we had left behind us,
and so tired we didn't much care whether the Germans came or not.
Nothing can express utter desolation much more nakedly than a Grand
Hotel that has been through a week or two's bombardment. Here indeed
were the mighty fallen. A large hole was ripped out of the wall of the
big restaurant, close to the alcove where the band used to play while
the smart people dined. An elaborate wine-list still graced each little
table, but coffee made from rye bread crusts mixed with a little chicory
was the only drink that a few white-faced waiters who crept about the
room like shadows could apologetically offer us. We sat there till
nearly 3 A. M., and Colonel S., utterly worn out, was fast
asleep with his head on the little table, and there was no sign of any
car, or of any Germans, so we went to lie down till morning.

In the morning things began to look cheerful. The Germans had still not
arrived, our own car turned up, and best of all the Prince heard
officially that every wounded man who was at all transportable had now
been successfully got out of Lodz. It was a gigantic task, this
evacuation of over 18,000 wounded in four days, and it is a great
feather in the Russian cap to have achieved it so successfully.

It was a most lovely day with a soft blue sky, and all the world bathed
in winter sunshine. Shelling had ceased during the night, but began
again with terrific force in the morning, and we started off under a
perfect hail of shells. There were four German aeroplanes hovering just
above us, throwing down bombs at short intervals. The shells aimed at
them looked so innocent, like little white puff-balls bursting up in the
blue sky. We hoped they would be brought down, but they were too high
for that. The bombs were only a little diversion of theirs by the
way--they were really trying to locate the Russian battery, as they were
evidently making signals to their own headquarters. Danger always adds
a spice to every entertainment, and as the wounded were all out and we
had nobody but ourselves to think about, we could enjoy our thrilling
departure from Lodz under heavy fire to the uttermost. And I must say I
have rarely enjoyed anything more. It was simply glorious spinning along
in that car, and we got out safely without anyone being hurt.

We passed through Breeziny, where the tail-end of a battle was going on,
and the Prince stopped the car for a few minutes so that we could see
the men in the trenches. On our way we passed crowds of terrified
refugees hurrying along the road with their few possessions on their
backs or in their arms; it reminded me of those sad processions of
flying peasants in Belgium, but I think these were mostly much poorer,
and had not so much to lose. Just as the sun was setting we stopped for
a rest at a place the Prince knew of, half inn, half farm-house. We
looked back, and the sky was bloody and lurid over the western plain
where Lodz lay. To us it seemed like an ill omen for the unhappy town,
but it may be that the Germans took those flaming clouds to mean that
even the heavens themselves were illuminated to signal their victory.

Some bread and some pale golden Hungarian Tokay were produced by our
host for our refreshment. The latter was delicious, but it must have
been much more potent than it looked, for though I only had one small
glass of it, I collapsed altogether afterwards, and lay on the floor of
the car, and could not move till the lights of Warsaw were in sight. In
a few minutes more we arrived at the Hotel Bristol, and then the Flying
Column went to bed at last.
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The Grand Duchess Cyril happened to be staying at the Hotel Bristol too.
Like most of the other members of the Russian Royal Family, since the
beginning of the war she has been devoting her whole time to helping
wounded soldiers, and is the centre of a whole network of activities.
She has a large hospital in Warsaw for men and officers, a very
efficient ambulance train that can hold 800 wounded, and one of the best
surgeons in Petrograd working on it, and a provision train which sets up
feeding-stations for the troops and for refugees in places where food is
very scarce, which last is an indescribable boon to all who benefit by
it. The Grand Duchess's hospital in Warsaw, like every other just at
this time, was crammed to overflowing with wounded from Lodz, and the
staff was inadequate to meet this unexpected need.

The Grand Duchess met Princess V. in the lounge just as we arrived from
Lodz, and begged that our Column might go and help for a time at her
hospital. Accordingly, the next day, the consent of the Red Cross Office
having been obtained, we went off to the Grand Duchess's hospital for a
time to supplement and relieve their staff. They met us with open arms,
as they were all very tired and very thankful for our help. They only
had room for fifty patients and had had about 150 brought in.
Fortunately the Grand Duchess's ambulance train had just come back to
Warsaw, so the most convalescent of the old cases were taken off to
Petrograd, but even then we were working in the operating-theatre till
twelve or one every night. They hoped we had come for two or three weeks
and were very disgusted when, in five days' time, the order came for us
to go off to Skiernevice with the automobiles. The hospital staff gave
us such a nice send-off, and openly wished that they belonged to a
flying column too. I must say it was very interesting these startings
off into the unknown, with our little fleet of automobiles containing
ourselves and our equipment. We made a very flourishing start out of
Warsaw, but very soon plunged into an appalling mess of mud. One could
really write an epic poem on Russian roads. At the best of times they
are awful; on this particular occasion they were full of large holes
made by shells and covered with thick swampy mud that had been snow the
week before. It delayed us so much that we did not get to Skiernevice
till late that night.

Skiernevice is a small town, important chiefly as a railway junction, as
two lines branch off here towards Germany and Austria north-west and
south-west. The Tsar has a shooting-box here in the midst of beautiful
woods, and two rooms had been set apart in this house for our Column.

We arrived late in the evening, secretly hoping that we should get a
night in bed, and were rather rejoiced at finding that there were no
wounded there at all at present, though a large contingent was expected
later. So we camped in the two rooms allotted to us: Princess, Sister
G., and myself in one, and all the men of the party in the other. No
wounded arrived for two or three days, and we thoroughly enjoyed the
rest and, above all, the beautiful woods. How delicious the pines smelt
after that horrible Lodz. Twice a day we used to go down the railway
line, where there was a restaurant car for the officers; it seemed odd
to be eating our meals in the Berlin-Warsaw International Restaurant
Car. There was always something interesting going on at the station. One
day a regiment from Warsaw had just been detrained there when a German
Taube came sailing over the station throwing down grenades. Every man
immediately began to fire up in the air, and we ran much more risk of
being killed by a Russian bullet than by the German Taube. It was like
being in the middle of a battle, and I much regretted I had not my
camera with me. Another day all the débris of a battlefield had been
picked up and was lying in piles in the station waiting to be sent off
to Warsaw. There were truck-loads of stuff; German and Russian
overcoats, boots, rifles, water-bottles, caps, swords, and helmets and
all sorts of miscellaneous kit.

We often saw gangs of prisoners, mostly Austrian, but some German, and
they always seemed well treated by the Russians. The Austrian prisoners
nearly always looked very miserable, cold, hungry, and worn out. Once we
saw a spy being put into the train to go to Warsaw, I suppose to be
shot--an old Jewish man with white hair in a long, black gaberdine,
strips of coloured paper still in his hand with which he had been caught
signalling to the Germans. _How_ angry the soldiers were with him--one
gave him a great punch in the back, another kicked him up into the
train, and a soldier on the platform who saw what was happening ran as
fast as he could and was just in time to give him a parting hit on the
shoulder. The old man did not cry out or attempt to retaliate, but his
face was ashy-white with terror, and one of his hands was dripping with
blood. It was a very horrible sight and haunted me all the rest of the
day. It was quite right that he should be shot as a spy, but the
unnecessary cruelty first sickened me.

There were masses of troops constantly going up to the positions from
Skiernevice, and as there was a short cut through the park, which they
generally used, we could see all that was going on from our rooms. On
Sunday it was evident that another big battle was pending. Several
batteries went up through our woods, each gun-carriage almost up to its
axles in mud, dragged by eight strong horses. They were followed by a
regiment of Cossacks, looking very fierce in their great black fur
head-dresses, huge sheep-skin coats, and long spears. There was one
small Cossack boy who was riding out with his father to the front and
who could not have been more than eleven or twelve years old. There are
quite a number of young boys at the front who make themselves very
useful in taking messages, carrying ammunition, and so on. We had one
little boy of thirteen in the hospital at Warsaw, who was badly wounded
while carrying a message to the colonel, and he was afterwards awarded
the St. George's Cross.

There were enormous numbers of other troops too: Siberians, Tartars,
Asiatic Russians from Turkestan, Caucasians in their beautiful
black-and-silver uniforms, Little Russians from the south, and great
fair-haired giants from the north.

The little Catholic Church in the village was full to overflowing at the
early Mass that Sunday morning with men in full marching kit on their
way out to the trenches. A very large number of them made their
Confession and received the Blessed Sacrament before starting out, and
for many, many of these it was their Viaticum, for the great battle
began that afternoon, and few of the gallant fellows we saw going up to
the trenches that morning ever returned again.

That afternoon the Prince had business at the Staff Headquarters out
beyond Lowice, and I went out there in the automobile with him and
Monsieur Goochkoff. We went through Lowice on the way there. The little
town had been severely bombarded (it was taken two or three days later
by the Germans), and we met many of the peasants hurrying away from it
carrying their possessions with them. You may know the peasants of
Lowice anywhere by their distinctive dress, which is the most
brilliantly coloured peasant dress imaginable. The women wear gorgeous
petticoats of orange, red and blue, or green in vertical stripes and a
cape of the same material over their shoulders, a bright-coloured shawl,
generally orange, on their heads, and brilliant bootlaces--magenta is
the colour most affected. The men, too, wear trousers of the same kind
of vertical stripes, generally of orange and black. These splashes of
bright colour are delicious in this sad, grey country.

The General of the Staff was quartered at Radzivilow Castle, and I
explored the place while the Prince and Monsieur Goochkoff did their
business. The old, dark hall, with armour hanging on the walls and
worm-eaten furniture covered with priceless tapestry, would have made a
splendid picture. A huge log fire burning on the open hearth lighted up
the dark faces of the two Turkestan soldiers who were standing on guard
at the door. In one corner a young lieutenant was taking interminable
messages from the field telephone, and under the window another
Turkestan soldier stood sharpening his dagger. The Prince asked him
what he was doing, and his dark face lighted up. "Every night at eight,"
he said, still sharpening busily, "I go out and kill some Germans." The
men of this Turkestan regiment are said to be extraordinarily brave men.
They do not care at all about a rifle, but prefer to be at closer
quarters with the enemy with their two-edged dagger, and the Germans
like them as little as they like our own Gurkhas and Sikhs.

The next day the wounded began to arrive in Skiernevice, and in two
days' time the temporary hospital was full.

The Tsar had a private theatre at Skiernevice with a little separate
station of its own about 200 yards farther down the line than the
ordinary station, and in many ways this made quite a suitable hospital
except for the want of a proper water-supply.

The next thing we heard was that the Russian General had decided to fall
back once more, and we must be prepared to move at any moment.

All that day we heard violent cannonading going on and all the next
night, though the hospital was already full, the little country carts
came in one after another filled with wounded. They were to only stay
one night, as in the morning ambulance trains were coming to take them
all away, and we had orders to follow as soon as the last patient had
gone. Another operating- and dressing-room was quickly improvised, but
even with the two going hard all night it was difficult to keep pace
with the number brought in.

The scenery had never been taken down after the last dramatic
performance played in the theatre, and wounded men lay everywhere
between the wings and drop scenes. The auditorium was packed so closely
that you could hardly get between the men without treading on some one's
hands and feet as they lay on the floor. The light had given out--in the
two dressing-rooms there were oil-lamps, but in the rest of the place we
had to make do with candle-ends stuck into bottles. The foyer had been
made into a splendid kitchen, where hot tea and boiling soup could be
got all night through. This department was worked by the local Red
Cross Society, and was a great credit to them.

About eight o'clock in the morning the first ambulance train came in,
and was quickly filled with patients. We heard that the Germans were now
very near, and hoped we should manage to get away all the wounded before
they arrived.

The second train came up about eleven, and by that time a fierce rifle
encounter was going on. From the hospital window we could see the
Russian troops firing from the trenches near the railway. Soon there was
a violent explosion that shook the place; this was the Russians blowing
up the railway bridge on the western side of the station.

The second train went off, and there were very few patients left now,
though some were still being brought in at intervals by the Red Cross
carts. Our automobiles had started off to Warsaw with some wounded
officers, but the rest of the column had orders to go to Zyradow by the
last train to leave Skiernevice.

The sanitars now began to pack up the hospital; we did not mean to leave
anything behind for the enemy if we could help it. The few bedsteads
were taken to pieces and tied up, the stretchers put together and the
blankets tied up in bundles. When the last ambulance train came up about
2 P. M. the patients were first put in, and then every portable
object that could be removed was packed into the train too. At the last
moment, when the train was just about to start, one of the sanitars ran
back and triumphantly brought out a pile of dirty soup plates to add to
the collection. Nothing was left in the hospital but two dead men we had
not time to bury.

The wounded were all going to Warsaw and the other Russian Sisters went
on in the train with them. But our destination was Zyradow, only the
next station but one down the line.

When we arrived at Zyradow about three o'clock we were looking forward
to a bath and tea and bed, as we had been up all night and were very
tired; but the train most unkindly dropped us about a quarter of a mile
from the station, and we had to get out all our equipment and heavy
cases of dressings, and put them at the side of the line, while Julian,
the Prince's soldier servant, went off to try and find a man and a cart
for the things. There was a steady downpour of rain, and we were soaked
by the time he came back saying that there was nothing to be had at all.
The station was all in crumbling ruins, so we could not leave the things
there, and our precious dressings were beginning to get wet. Finally we
got permission to put them in a closed cinema theatre near the station,
but it was dark by that time, and we were wet and cold and began once
more to centre our thoughts on baths and tea. We were a small
party--only six of us--Princess, we two Sisters, Colonel S., a Russian
dresser, and Julian. We caught a local Red Crosser. "Where is the
hotel?" "There is no hotel here." "Where can we lodge for to-night?" "I
don't know where you could lodge." "Where is the Red Cross Bureau?"
asked Princess, in desperation. "About a quarter of an hour's walk. I
will show you the way."

We got to the Red Cross Bureau to find that Monsieur Goochkoff had not
yet arrived, though he was expected, and they could offer no solution of
our difficulties, except to advise us to go to the Factory Hospital and
see if they could make any arrangement for us. The Matron there was
_very_ kind, and telephoned to every one she could think of, and finally
got a message that we were expected, and were to sleep at the Reserve.
So we trudged once more through the mud and rain. The "Reserve" was two
small, empty rooms, where thirty Sisters were going to pass the night.
They had no beds, and not even straw, but were just going to lie on the
floor in their clothes. There was obviously no room for six more of us,
and finally we went back once more to the Red Cross Bureau. Princess
seized an empty room, and announced that we were going to sleep in it.
We were told we couldn't, as it had been reserved for somebody else; but
we didn't care, and got some patients' stretchers from the depot and lay
down on them in our wet clothes just as we were. In the middle of the
night the "somebody" for whom the room had been kept arrived, strode
into the room, and turned up the electric light. The others were really
asleep, and I pretended to be. He had a good look at us, and then strode
out again grunting. We woke up every five minutes, it was so dreadfully
cold, and though we were so tired, I was not sorry when it was time to
get up.

We had breakfast at a dirty little restaurant in the town, and then got
a message from the Red Cross that there would be nothing for us to do
that day, but that we were probably going to be sent to Radzowill the
following morning. So we decided to go off to the Factory Hospital and
see if we could persuade the Matron to let us have a bath there.

Zyradow is one very large cotton and woollen factory, employing about
5000 hands. In Russia it is the good law that for every hundred workmen
employed there shall be one hospital bed provided. In the small
factories a few beds in the local hospital are generally subsidized, in
larger ones they usually find it more convenient to have their own. So
here there was a very nice little hospital with fifty beds, which had
been stretched now to hold twice as many more, as a great many wounded
had to be sent in here. The Matron is a Pole of Scottish extraction, and
spoke fluent but quite foreign English with a strong Scotch accent.
There are a good many Scotch families here, who came over and settled in
Poland about a hundred years ago, and who are all engaged in different
departments in the factory. She was kindness itself, and gave us tea
first and then prepared a hot bath for us all in turn. We got rid of
most of our tormentors and were at peace once more.

As we left the hospital we met three footsore soldiers whose boots were
absolutely worn right through. They were coming up to the hospital to
see if the Matron had any dead men's boots that would fit them. It
sounded rather gruesome--but she told us that that was quite a common
errand. The Russian military boots are excellent, but, of course, all
boots wear out very quickly under such trying circumstances of roads and
weather. They are top boots, strong and waterproof, and very often made
by the men themselves. The uniform, too, is very practical and so strong
that the men have told me that carpets are made from the material. The
colour is browner than our own khaki--and quite different both from the
German, which is much greyer, and the Austrian, which is almost blue. I
heard in Belgium that at the beginning of the war German soldiers were
constantly mistaken for our men.
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The next morning we went up to Radzivilow. It is the next station to
Skiernevice, and there was very heavy fighting going on there when we
went up. We were told we were going up on an armoured train, which
sounded very thrilling, but when we got to the station we only found a
quite ordinary carriage put on to the engine to take us up. The Russian
battery was at that time at the south of the railway line, the German
battery on the north of it--and we were in the centre of the sandwich.
At Zyradow these cannon sounded distant, but as we neared Radzivilow the
guns were crashing away as they did at Lodz, and we prepared for a hot
time. The station had been entirely wrecked and was simply in ruins, but
the station-master's house near by was still intact, and we had orders
to rig up a temporary dressing-station there.

Before we had time to unpack our dressings, a messenger arrived to tell
us that the Germans had succeeded in enfilading a Russian trench close
by, and that they were bringing fifty very badly wounded men to us
almost at once. We had just time to start the sterilizer when the little
carts began to arrive with some terribly wounded men. The machine guns
had simply swept the trench from end to end. The worst of it was that
some lived for hours when death would have been a more merciful release.
Thank God we had plenty of morphia with us and could thus ease their
terrible sufferings. One man had practically his whole face blown off,
another had all his clothes and the flesh of his back all torn away.
Another poor old fellow was brought in with nine wounds in the abdomen.
He looked quite a patriarch with a long flowing beard--quite the oldest
man I have seen in the Russian army. Poor Ivan, he had only just been
called up to the front and this was his first battle. He was beautifully
dressed, and so clean; his wife had prepared everything for him with
such loving care, a warm knitted vest, and a white linen shirt most
beautifully embroidered with scarlet in a intricate key-pattern. Ivan
was almost more unhappy at his wife's beautiful work having to be cut
than at his own terrible wounds. He was quite conscious and not in much
pain, and did so long to live even a week or two longer, so that he
might see his wife once again. But it was not to be, and he died early
the next morning--one of the dearest old men one could ever meet, and so
pathetically grateful for the very little we could do for him.

The shells were crashing over our heads and bursting everywhere, but we
were too busy to heed them, as more and more men were brought to the
dressing-station. It was an awful problem what to do with them: the
house was small and we were using the two biggest rooms downstairs as
operating- and dressing-rooms. Straw was procured and laid on the floors
of all the little rooms upstairs, and after each man's wounds were
dressed he was carried with difficulty up the narrow winding staircase
and laid on the floor.

The day wore on and as it got dark we began to do the work under great
difficulties, for there were no shutters or blinds to the upstairs
windows, and we dared not have any light--even a candle--there, as it
would have brought down the German fire on us at once. So those poor men
had to lie up there in the pitch dark, and one of us went round from
time to time with a little electric torch. Downstairs we managed to
darken the windows, but the dressings and operations had all to be done
by candle-light.

The Germans were constantly sending up rockets of blue fire which
illuminated the whole place, and we were afraid every moment they would
find us out. Some of the shells had set houses near by on fire too, and
the sky was lighted up with a dull red glow. The carts bringing the men
showed no lights, and they were lifted out in the dark when they arrived
and laid in rows in the lobby till we had time to see to them. By nine
o'clock that evening we had more than 300 men, and were thankful to see
an ambulance train coming up the line to take them away. The sanitars
had a difficult job getting these poor men downstairs and carrying them
to the train, which was quite dark too. But the men were thankful
themselves to get away, I think--it was nerve-racking work for them,
lying wounded in that little house with the shells bursting continually
over it.

All night long the men were being brought in from the trenches. About
four in the morning there was a little lull and some one made tea. I
wonder what people in England would have thought if they had seen us at
that meal. We had it in the stuffy dressing-room where we had been
working without a stop for sixteen hours with tightly closed windows,
and every smell that can be imagined pervading it, the floor covered
with mud, blood and débris of dressings wherever there were not
stretchers on which were men who had just been operated on. The meal of
milkless tea, black bread, and cheese, was spread on a sterilized towel
on the operating-table, illuminated by two candles stuck in bottles.
Princess sat in the only chair, and the rest of us eased our weary feet
by sitting on the edge of the dressing-boxes. Two dead soldiers lay at
our feet--it was not safe just at that moment to take them out and bury
them. People would probably ask how we _could_ eat under those
conditions. I don't know how we could either, but we _did_ and were
thankful for it--for immediately after another rush began.

At eleven o'clock in the morning another ambulance train arrived and was
quickly filled. By that time we had had more than 750 patients through
our hands, and they were still being brought in large numbers. The
fighting must have been terrific, for the men were absolutely worn out
when they arrived, and fell asleep at once from exhaustion, in spite of
their wounds. Some of them must have been a long time in the trenches,
for many were in a terribly verminous condition. On one poor boy with a
smashed leg the insects could have only been counted by the million.
About ten minutes after his dressing was done, his white bandage was
quite grey with the army of invaders that had collected on it from his
other garments.

Early that afternoon we got a message that another Column was coming to
relieve us, and that we were to return to Zyradow for a rest. We were
very sorry to leave our little dressing-station, but rejoiced to hear
that we were to go up again in two days' time to relieve this second
Column, and that we were to work alternately with them, forty-eight
hours on, and then forty-eight hours off duty.

We had left Zyradow rather quiet, but when we came back we found the
cannon going hard, both from the Radzivilow and the Goosof direction. It
would have taken much more than cannon to keep _us_ awake, however, and
we lay down most gratefully on our stretchers in the empty room at the
Red Cross Bureau and slept. A forty-eight hours' spell is rather long
for the staff, though probably there would have been great difficulty in
changing the Columns more often.

I woke up in the evening to hear the church bells ringing, and
remembered that it was Christmas Eve and that they were ringing for the
Midnight Mass, so I got up quickly. The large church was packed with
people, every one of the little side chapels was full and people were
even sitting on the altar steps. There must have been three or four
thousand people there, most of them of course the people of the place,
but also soldiers, Red Cross workers and many refugees mostly from
Lowice. Poor people, it was a sad Christmas for them--having lost so
much already and not knowing from day to day if they would lose all, as
at that time it was a question whether or not the Russian authorities
would decide for strategic reasons to fall back once more.

And then twelve o'clock struck and the Mass began.

Soon a young priest got up into the pulpit and gave them a little
sermon. It was in Polish, but though I could not understand the words, I
could tell from the people's faces what it was about. When he spoke of
the horrors of war, the losses and the deaths and the suffering that had
come to so many of them, one woman put her apron to her face and sobbed
aloud in the tense silence. And in a moment the whole congregation began
sobbing and moaning and swaying themselves to and fro. The young priest
stopped and left them alone a moment or two, and then began to speak in
a low persuasive voice. I do not know what he said, but he gradually
soothed them and made them happy. And then the organ began pealing out
triumphantly, and while the guns crashed and thundered outside, the
choir within sang of peace and goodwill to all men.

Christmas Day was a very mournful one for us, as we heard of the loss of
our new and best automobile, which had just been given as a present to
the Column. One of the boys was taking it to Warsaw from Skiernevice
with some wounded officers, and it had broken down just outside the
village. The mud was awful, and with the very greatest difficulty they
managed to get it towed as far as Rawa, but had to finally abandon it to
the Germans, though fortunately they got off safely themselves. It was a
great blow to the Column, as it was impossible to replace it, these big
ambulance cars costing something like 8000 roubles.

So our Christmas dinner eaten at our usual dirty little restaurant could
not be called a success.

Food was very scarce at that time in Zyradow; there was hardly any meat
or sugar, and no milk or eggs or white bread. One of us had brought a
cake for Christmas from Warsaw weeks before, and it was partaken of on
this melancholy occasion without enthusiasm. Even the punch made out of
a teaspoonful of brandy from the bottom of Princess's flask mixed with
about a pint of water and two lumps of sugar failed to move us to any
hilarity. Our menu did not vary in any particular from that usually
provided at the restaurant, though we did feel we might have had a clean
cloth for once.



Gravy Soup.

Roast Horse. Boiled Potatoes.

Currant Cake.

Tea. Punch.

We were very glad to go up to Radzivilow once more. Our former
dressing-station had been abandoned as too dangerous for staff and
patients, and the dressing- and operating-room was now in a train about
five versts down the line from Radzivilow station. Our train was a
permanency on the line, and we lived and worked in it, while twice a day
an ambulance train came up, our wounded were transferred to it and taken
away, and we filled up once more. We found things fairly quiet this
time when we went up. The Germans had been making some very fierce
attacks, trying to cross the river Rawka, and therefore their losses
must have been very heavy, but the Russians were merely holding their
ground, and so there were comparatively few wounded on our side. This
time we were able to divide up into shifts for the work--a luxury we
were very seldom able to indulge in.

We had previously made great friends with a Siberian captain, and we
found to our delight that he was living in a little hut close to our
train. He asked me one day if I would like to go up to the positions
with him and take some Christmas presents round to the men. Of course I
was more than delighted, and as he was going up that night and I was not
on duty, the general very kindly gave permission for me to go up too. In
the end Colonel S. and one of the Russian Sisters accompanied us as
well. The captain got a rough cart and horse to take us part of the way,
and he and another man rode on horseback beside us. We started off about
ten o'clock, a very bright moonlight night--so bright that we had to
take off our brassards and anything that could have shown up white
against the dark background of the woods. We drove as far as the
pine-woods in which the Russian positions were, and left the cart and
horses in charge of a Cossack while we were away. The general had
intended that we should see the reserve trenches, but we had seen plenty
of them before, and our captain meant that we should see all the fun
that was going, so he took us right up to the front positions. We went
through the wood silently in single file, taking care that if possible
not even a twig should crackle under our feet, till we came to the very
front trenches at the edge of the wood. We crouched down and watched for
some time. Everything was brilliantly illuminated by the moonlight, and
we had to be very careful not to show ourselves. A very fierce German
attack was going on, and the bullets were pattering like hail on the
trees all round us. We could see nothing for some time but the smoke of
the rifles.

The Germans were only about a hundred yards away from us at this time,
and we could see the river Rawka glittering below in the moonlight. What
an absurd little river to have so much fighting about. That night it
looked as if we could easily wade across it. The captain made a sign,
and we crept with him along the edge of the wood, till we got to a
Siberian officer's dug-out. At first we could not see anything, then we
saw a hole between two bushes, and after slithering backwards down the
hole, we got into a sort of cave that had been roofed in with poles and
branches, and was absolutely invisible a few steps away. It was
fearfully hot and frowzy--a little stove in the corner threw out a great
heat, and the men all began to smoke, which made it worse.

We stayed a while talking, and then crawled along to visit one of the
men's dug-outs, a German bullet just missing us as we passed, and
burying itself in a tree. There were six men already in the dug-out, so
we did not attempt to get in, but gave them tobacco and matches, for
which they were very grateful. These men had an "ikon" or sacred picture
hanging up inside their cave; the Russian soldiers on active service
carry a regimental ikon, and many carry them in their pockets too. One
man had his life saved by his ikon. He showed it to us; the bullet had
gone just between the Mother and the Child, and was embedded in the

It was all intensely interesting, and we left the positions with great
reluctance, to return through the moonlit pine-woods till we reached our
cart. We had indeed made a night of it, for it was five o'clock in the
morning when we got back to the train once more, and both the doctor and
I were on duty again at eight. But it was well worth losing a night's
sleep to go up to the positions during a violent German attack. I wonder
what the general would have said if he had known!

We finished our forty-eight hours' duty and returned once more to
Zyradow. I was always loth to leave Radzivilow. The work there was
splendid, and there more than anywhere else I have been to one feels the
war as a High Adventure.

War would be the most glorious game in the world if it were not for the
killing and wounding. In it one tastes the joy of comradeship to the
full, the taking and giving, and helping and being helped in a way that
would be impossible to conceive in the ordinary world. At Radzivilow,
too, one could see the poetry of war, the zest of the frosty mornings,
and the delight of the camp-fire at night, the warm, clean smell of the
horses tethered everywhere, the keen hunger, the rough food sweetened by
the sauce of danger, the riding out in high hope in the morning; even
the returning wounded in the evening did not seem altogether such a bad
thing out there. One has to die some time, and the Russian peasants
esteem it a high honour to die for their "little Mother" as they call
their country. The vision of the High Adventure is not often vouchsafed
to one, but it is a good thing to have had it--it carries one through
many a night at the shambles. Radzivilow is the only place it came to
me. In Belgium one's heart was wrung by the poignancy of it all, its
littleness and defencelessness; in Lodz one could see nothing for the
squalor and "frightfulness"; in other places the ruined villages, the
flight of the dazed, terrified peasants show one of the darkest sides of

* * * * *

It was New Year's Eve when we returned to Zyradow, and found ourselves
billeted in a new house where there was not only a bed each, but a
bathroom and a bath. Imagine what that meant to people who had not
undressed at night for more than three weeks.

Midnight struck as we were having supper, and we drank the health of the
New Year in many glasses of tea. What would the lifted veil of time
disclose in this momentous year just opening for us?

It did not begin particularly auspiciously for me, for within the first
few days of it I got a wound in the leg from a bit of shrapnel, was
nearly killed by a bomb from a German Taube, and caught a very bad chill
and had to go to bed with pleurisy--all of which happenings gave me
leisure to write this little account of my adventures.

The bomb from the Taube was certainly the nearest escape I am ever
likely to have in this world. I was walking over a piece of open ground,
saw nothing, heard nothing, was dreaming in fact, when suddenly I heard
a whirring overhead, and just above me was a German aeroplane. Before I
had time to think, down came a bomb with a fearful explosion. I could
not see anything for a minute, and then the smoke cleared away, and I
was standing at the edge of a large hole. The bomb had fallen into a bed
of soft mud, and exploded upwards. Some soldiers who were not very far
off rushed to see if I were killed, and were very surprised to find that
I was practically unhurt. A bomb thrown that same afternoon that
exploded on the pavement killed and wounded nine people.

The wound was from a stray bit of shrapnel and was only a trifle,
fortunately, and soon healed. The pleurisy was a longer job and
compelled me to go to bed for a fortnight. I was very miserable at being
the only idle person I knew, till it occurred to me to spend my time in
writing this little book, and a subsequent short holiday in Petrograd
enabled me to finish it.

My enforced holiday is over now and I am on my way back to my beloved
column once more--to the life on the open road--with its joys and
sorrows, its comradeship, its pain and its inexplicable happiness--back
once more to exchange the pen for the more ready weapon of the forceps.

And so I will leave this brief account of what I have seen in this great
war. I know better than anyone can tell me what an imperfect sketch it
is, but the history of the war will have to be studied from a great many
different angles before a picture of it will be able to be presented in
its true perspective, and it may be that this particular angle will be
of some little interest to those who are interested in Red Cross work in
different countries. Those who are workers themselves will forgive the
roughness of the sketch, which was written during my illness in snatches
and at odd times, on all sorts of stray pieces of paper and far from any
books of reference; they will perhaps forget the imperfections in
remembering that it has been written close to the turmoil of the
battlefield, to the continual music of the cannon and the steady tramp
of feet marching past my window.
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