Feb 07

Notes From a Field Hospital VIII

August 8th, 1916

I found the matron and asked her if I could go on leave, and she agreed! I leave on a train to Fort-Mahon-Plage, where I will take a ferry back to Brighton (on the coast of lovely England), and then I will take a train home to North Yorkshire. Before I leave I must set my affairs in order, and that includes writing letters to Mother, Beatrice, Edwin, and Edwin’s mother. I have done this, and it brought me such joy to tell them that I am coming home. 

I feel more like myself now, though the days are still grey and lonely, but they are numbered. I leave only a week after Sophie, and I will be able to make conversation with Dorothy and the others for that long. I am able to conduct myself in a more cheerful manner, and I am sure that this helps the soldiers and nurses alike. If we are cheerful and optimistic it rubs off on the soldiers, which helps to heal them. 

Rereading this entry shows that I sounded as if I had abandoned my grief about the horror that befell Frederick. This is not so. He rarely leaves my mind, and I still dream horrible dreams about that day that keep me awake. At least he is in a better place now, and soon I will be too (Though not the same better place, I hope). Frederick has broken my heart. I wonder how Mother and Beatrice are taking this. It was a month ago yesterday that he died. The remembrance is still fresh every day.

September 1st, 1916

Sophie left today. She has only been gone a few hours, and I miss her already. I leave in a week! I will see all my family and my dear friends soon. I believe that I will probably not write until I reach home, so here is where I leave my journal.

September 8th, 1916

I boarded a train to Fort-Mahon-Plage very early this morning, and the train is where I am now. It has been terribly boring with no one to talk to, so I will talk to myself in writing. If I try to sleep I am haunted by images of war, and the soldiers who came to St John’s Hospital. I often reflect upon all that has happened, but it makes me melancholy and weepy, so I cannot continue. It is best if I keep my memories in their places, and move forward with my chin held high. I will be with Edwin soon, and though he cannot know how I feel about Frederick, for he was my brother and not Edwin’s, he will understand what the war was like, and so neither of us will have to explain what happened. 

    I have decided that while I may no longer be a nurse (I was honorably discharged from the nursing services, like Sophie), I will find ways to help the war effort from home. I can knit, and sew, so I think I could make clothing, like scarves and mittens, for all the soldiers still stuck in the wet. I will find war work as well, perhaps as a secretary, or as someone who packs medicine for the Red Cross. The future is unwritten.

    Once I reach Fort-Mahon-Plage, I will have an hour or two to explore the town before my ship to Britain leaves the port. I will find a cafe, I think, and sit there for a while. I will walk, and enjoy the buildings that I see, and try to forget the war. I do not have much money, so I shall not be shopping. 

    The conductor has just announced that we will arrive in a few minutes, so I must pack up now. I will continue writing when I reach a quiet place where I may sit.

I am now sitting near the front of a small cafe, looking out from the window onto the street. Fort-Mahon-Plage is quite charming--I walked about in it for a while before settling down in this cafe. The buildings are few, but they are lovely looking, and the ocean is breathtaking. The war has not reached this place yet. The ferry to England is leaving in about an hour, so I will leave this cafe in half an hour. For now I will rest by the window, and drink my coffee. The ferry will take five hours, and the train will take three. I will be home in North Yorkshire at 8:00 o’clock tonight! I fear spilling coffee on my journal (It has managed to stay well-kept thus far), so I will discontinue this account and begin again once I am on the ferry.  

I am on the ferry! I will write no more, for it is windy and difficult, but I am very excited! Almost home, and to Edwin. 

I am on the train now, for I had no time to write beforehand. I had to rush to the train station, as my ferry was later than I expected. The ferries must be wary now, as the German submarines could be near those waters. But I am only three hours away from home! The view is interesting, so I will not write for fear of missing things.

The conductor has announced that we will be arriving in North Yorkshire in five minutes. I cannot wait one more second!