Feb 07

Notes From a Field Hospital III

June 13th, 1916

I have received official word that I am leaving this hospital in five days, delivered by Nurse Stella (Thank goodness). But this means that I must leave Stella and Theodore and Margot and all the other VADs that I have met. Dorothy, however, is accompanying me to this new hospital, and so I will be able to stay friends with her. I received a letter from Frederick and a letter from Edwin yesterday (What luck!). They are both alive and out of the hospitals, and as always I do not know where they are. Frederick has mentioned that he has been training for some important action, but he did not say what it was. I believe that is where Dorothy and I may be moving. 

    Claire was unable to assign me to the sluice room today! Although it is not as horrible as what any of the soldiers have seen, the company of the other nurses, VADs and soldiers is what makes this job bearable, and being in the sluice room minimizes conversation. Because I was out of the sluice room, I was able to tend to Theodore as much as I liked. He is improving, and I think he will be well enough to move to a hospital back in Britain soon enough. His wounds are still many, and it hurts me to see him suffer so, but I am doing the best I can to help heal him. 

    While there are many elements of nursing in a field hospital that are not so terrible, like the other nurses, and most of the soldiers, the unpleasantness of it all is sometimes overwhelming. We are surrounded by death and pain, often covered in blood. We are required to own sixteen aprons, the most of any garment. This alone shows how messy the job is. I am not complaining, I am willing to do my part to help our soldiers, but I must write this down somewhere, else I might explode with the feeling of it. I am lucky that so far I have not sent anyone to the mortuary, and I am also lucky that I must not be the bearer of the bodies to the mortuary, for bringing someone that I knew to the room where they must wait to be buried is something I could not bear. I am also lucky that I am not the postmaster, and I do not deliver the crisp telegrams full of “we regret to inform you” and “your son died bravely and honorably.” While it may ease the pain of some to know that their child died with honor while serving his country, it does not change the fact that their child is dead. So many of the deaths are drawn out and slow, stuck in No Man's Land, waiting for rescue, some with their body parts scattered about, and their organs spilling from them. They cry for water and their parents, the soldiers say, and then just groan until they are hoarse and silent. I cannot imagine. War is a terrible business. It is a wonder to me that human beings have not discontinued its practice. 

June 14th, 1916

I write this entry by candle light, as I was playing Checkers with Dorothy during my break today. She is a lovely person, and while she may not be the most intelligent person I know, she makes up for it with kindness. If she were a flower she would be a daisy (Deciding what kind of flower the people I meet would be has become a new hobby of mine. It takes my mind off all the blood, and is quite entertaining besides. It also reminds me of being home, and in the garden in my yard. I spent much time there when I was little). I have decided that Frederick is a tiger lily, Edwin is a lilac, Beatrice is a primrose, and Mother a cornflower. I will decide upon myself and the others tomorrow. Tonight I am too tired to think of everyone I know. 

    Today I witnessed my first hemorrhage, which was a horrible sight to see. I wish I could unsee it, but that is life in the war. We see things we do not wish to see, hear things we do not wish to hear, smell things we do not wish to smell, and try to stop people from dying in the meantime. As I was saying, I witnessed a hemorrhage. This is when a wound has cut a vein in a person, or perhaps an artery, and there is a large and nearly unstoppable flow of blood out of the injured person. A small waterfall of red this one was, from the neck. A machine gun bullet had slashed the artery of a young man, and he died  from loss of blood soon after he arrived at the hospital. I never learned his name. 

    Theodore is much improved! He told me today that I looked very pretty, and so I asked him what the matter was, joking, of course. He said “The sun shines and I am about as well as I have ever been!” He spoke much today, and made me laugh quite a few times. I had no idea that he was so fond of puns! Theodore reminds me very much of my beloved Edwin, and now I miss him even more. They are both strong, smart, sweet as honey, and very, very brave. If we all return home when this war is through, I will seek Theodore out and introduce the two. I think they would be great friends. Theodore will survive this, I know he will. With such a sense of humor, and such strength in the face of indescribable horrors, how can he not? He is a bright orange marigold.

    The popular hope is that the war will be finished by Christmas, but that is what they said in 1914. It has been two Christmases since the beginning of this war, and still there is no end in sight. Of course there is not much news in sight at all when you are near the Front, but from what we have heard there is not any kind of truce in the making. I hope that we will not have to wait much longer for the leaders of our countries to come to their senses. Four days until I leave.

June 16th, 1916

Theodore died today.