Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Amongst the Wounded -another article from Lady Randolph Churchill


BEFORE the first fortnight of August, 1914, was over there appeared in the morning paper a modest little paragraph announcing that first Army Nursing Unit had left for the Front. Ten surgeons, ten dressers, and twenty nurses garbed in grey with that dash of red upon the shoulder capes, formed the detachment which under Sir Alfred Keogh, left London for Belgium "for general service with the Allied troops."
Since then the Red Cross Society has been sending detachments to the Front, grappling with all the horrors that spring upon an army in modern warfare.
Not one of the nurses of the Red Cross Society and St. John Ambulance Corps, or a member of any War-Nursing Community, asked in such time of the nation’s need for a tribute of gratitude from anyone—least of all from the wounded warrior himself! Lady Norman, writing from Auxiliary Base Hospital under the British Cross in Northern France, put it in this way: "one thing we cannot stand is their gratitude. Fancy being grateful for what is, after all, an absolute right—to be looked after when they fall. And they never complain, they are never anything but good and patient and thankful.

I do not know how a man can be good and patient and thankful with only one leg for the rest of his life and all that this crippled condition means. Yet they are, and one learns to know from them what bravery is."
"What we do is nothing," said a Red Cross worker the other day, and the ring in her voice was almost fierce. "You begin to know just a little of what war means when you see those heroes brought in and laid on the grey receiving blanket, their clothes all torn and muddy and covered with smears and splashes of blood; when you hear them call to each other in semi-delirium, as if they were still in the trenches; when you see how they smile and thank you while they are twisted by cruel pain. Is not this the very least we can do for these wonderful men who are doing much more than laying down their lives for us? Why, the horrors of war are unspeakable, and those brave fellows romp through it all as if it were a picnic."
The speaker was a young girl, and her outlook on life had assumed a new and marvellous focus. For one of the first lessons the Red Cross worker learns is that Courage and Gaiety have a way of travelling hand in hand, and this lesson well learnt does much to relieve the inevitable tension of hospital work.
Take, for example, the description written by Miss Cicely Hamilton, the authoress. Nothing could be more amusing reading than her account of her experiences in the making of a Red Cross Hospital. With entire good humour she tells first of countless skirmishes with red tape officials down on both sides of the Channel. Then she racily narrates how one numbers, packs, and registers in bales and cases the entire hospital equipment and resignedly says good-bye to it while it certainly makes the "Grand Tour," finally arriving when and how it feels inclined, and not in the least when you arranged or expected it! The bales are then checked off and search parties sent out after the "missing," for items such as bedsteads, drugs, and instruments will be found still to be enjoying the pleasures of the "Grand Tour."
Miss Hamilton goes on to tell how the hospital staff finds the plumbing incomplete, and how many other inconveniences, not usually thought trifling, crop up to hinder the great work. And which the ordinary householder would be holding up hands of horror, these brave women work away, with smiles and joking comments, establishing a thoroughly efficient hospital in the midst of what seemed to the mere onlooker only hopeless chaos.
There are some who hold that only fully trained professional nurses should be allowed to assist in the care of the wounded, and we gladly pay our tribute to women like Dr. Mary Garrett Anderson, Dr. Flora Murray, Dr. Elsie Inglis, and many other splendid women surgeons and doctors, and fully qualified and certificated nurses. At the same time, we must recognize that the Red Cross Societies of the Allied Nations have found it possible to make use of personal service from girls and women of the leisured classes who have worked sufficiently to form an invaluable National Nursing Service.

"What a marvellous sisterhood this Red Cross makes!" exclaimed a Japanese nurse, through her interpreter, on her arrival at Liverpool with the Japanese Red Cross Unit; and this remark has been frequently echoed during the later phases of the war.
The President of the British Red Cross Society, as everyone knows, is Queen Alexandra, and magnificent devotion is being shown not only by Japansese Red Cross nurses, but by Her Majesty’s Imperial Service Sisters and Naval Nurses.
For in days of peace, as ardently as now, the Queen Mother has given to the nursing efforts of England’s Women an earnest, sincere, and whole-hearted interest. Nothing that Her Majesty could do to further the growth of this public service has been left undone.
When the new King George V Red Cross Hospital was fitting up a mortuary chapel, Queen Alexandra sent a brass cross and two beautiful vases for the altar, with a few tender words as an accompanying message. It is these little watchful kindnesses which so endear the Queen to the hearts of the people. She never needs to be told what is wanted.
"How did she know? " is not an uncommon exclamation where Queen Alexandra is concerned; committees and private individuals are alike astonished. "A heart at leisure from itself" gives true intuition.
Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, has rendered splendid service to the nation during the war. In August, 1914, the "Millicent Sutherland Ambulance" began its work at Namur in Belgium. It consisted of only eight trained nurses and one surgeon, Mr. Oswald Morgan, of Guy’s Hospital, who has remained as head of the Unit ever since.
During six weeks of German occupation one hundred wounded French and Belgian soldiers were tended in the Convent of Notre Dame. In time the wounded were removed to Germany, and the Ambulance was sent by the German Director of Medical Services to Maubeuge, and after many vicissitudes passed safely to England through Holland at the end of September, 1914.
At the end of October the Duchess went to Dunkirk with some Ambulance cars. She arrived at the height of the Yser fighting, when thousands of wounded French and Belgians were pouring through the town. The hospitals were filled to overflowing, and the Duchess was asked to start an auxiliary hospital in a building at Malo-les-Bains, close to the sea. This she consented to do, and, after many difficulties and owing entirely to the generosity of British and American friends, funds were secured to run a hospital of 100 beds which was added to the convoy of seven Ambulance cars, already at work day and night.

The whole Unit retained its original name of the "Millicent Sutherland Ambulance," and hospital continued its work at Malo until the third bombardment of Dunkirk in the spring of 1915, when it was considered wise to move wounded to Bourbourg, some twelve miles outside of Dunkirk.
At Bourbourg the hospital became a Tent Unit, was well known as the Camp in the Oat Field " It excited a great deal of interest, as the wounded were largely treated in the open airand so remarkably well.
During a whole year leading members of the British Army Medical Service have visited the hospital, and British physicians have occasionally come from the Front in consultation. All have expressed great approval of its organization and efficiency.
The Duchess herself has acted as Directress in station to all matters of supplies and the pecuniary import of the hospital, which has been recognized by the British Red Cross since last April.
The Duchess of Westminster, another hard-working Duchess, started a hospital at Le Touquet in October, 1914, where it has been running ever since in the Casino. Originally equipped for 250 men and 10 officers in May, 1915, the officers’ accommodation was increased to forty beds, and in August, by request of the Army Medical Authority, it was converted entirely into an officers’ hospital. Up to the time of the conversion 8800 men and 286 officers passed through, and since then 985 officers have been tended there. This hospital is thought to be one of the best in France, and the Duchess has superintended it entirely herself.
Lady Wimborne’s house in Arlington Street is made the first Head-quarters of the Allies’ Field Ambulance Corps.. The new Viceroy of Ireland and his beautiful young wife are very interested in ambulance work. Before they [left] to take up their duties in Ireland, fleets of these wagons of mercy, each with its Red Cross sign on the grey canvas cover, could be seen daily in the courtyard before their house.
The leaders of the nursing service do not forget the kitchen in these days of sound, practical common sense. The new "flying kitchen" goes on to the field of battle with each ambulance convoy. Hot beef-tea, soup, coffee, cocoa, and milk are given to the wounded and exhausted men, and the huge water tank and boiler that form part of each "kitchen" are invaluable when new dressings are needed on the way to the clearing hospital. These kitchens are of necessity costly things. The car must be prepared to face near unceasing work and very hard wear, and consequently the cost of each works out at £ 600. Lady Wantage presented one such car to the Red Cross Society, and the Duchess of Devonshire gave another. The women of various counties clubbed together to meet the expense of providing others, Hampshire and Shropshire being among the first to lend help in this very practical direction.

It was Lady Limerick who had the brilliant idea of planning a Free Refreshment Buffet for travelling soldiers and sailors at London’s Bridge Station, and helped to start the Buffet with funds raised on Shamrock Day. Here the travelling soldier or sailor can get a free al at any hour between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.—hot tea, coffee, or cocoa, sandwiches, cake, and cigarettes, and for those who are going to the Front letter paper and pencils are provided.
An average of 1200 men or more are thus fed per day. The authorities are immensely pleased with this scheme, as the men are kept away from the public-house, and the men also greatly appreciate the interest shown in them by the thirty or forty lady workers.
These canteens arc now being established at most of our big railway stations, and are doing invaluable work.

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