14th Aug 1915. Experiences of a Rugby Red Cross Nurse

EXPERIENCES OF A RUGBY RED CROSS NURSE IN A LARGE BASE HOSPITAL.

“ SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE.”

The first intimation that I was to be sent to work abroad was received on Friday, May 7th. The telegram read: “ Wanted for France, Tuesday. Wire if available.” Having replied by a wire in the affirmative, I next day received orders to report myself by noon on Monday at Devonshire House (the headquarters of the British Red Cross Society) previous to proceeding “ somewhere in France ” on the following day.

I left Rugby early Monday morning, and arrived at Devonshire House, and found 29 other V.A.D’s assembled there, all for the same purpose. We then want to 83 Pall Mall, where Lord Onslow issued our Army certificates, brassards, identity discs and numbers ; then a visit to the War Office, where we signed many forms and documents, and received final instructions to be at Victoria Station next morning at 7.30 a.m. On arrival we had to register our luggage and have camp kit served out to us from the War Office.

A special saloon had been reserved on the Folkestone train, and thus on a glorious May day a party of 30 V.A.D’s left London for an unknown destination in charge of a military sister.

Our embarkation at Folkestone and arrival at Boulogne were full of interest. Being “ Army Medical Service,” and not mere civilians, we did not undergo a Customs examination, but were conveyed from the station by motor ambulances to a hotel, where we spent the night. We soon realised that we were in a country where war was raging. A convoy of wounded was being conveyed to a hospital ship in the harbour. Some of the men looked quite cheerful, while others bore unmistakable traces of pain and hardship.

The night was spent in Boulogne—one cannot say in peace. One’s advice to any other nurse contemplating active service is to provide oneself with a supply of Keating’s powder. Indeed, I feel sure that Keating’s Company would be pleased to supply it free of change did they know what a boon it would be !

At Boulogne our party of 30 became divided, some going one way and some another. The part to which I belonged left next morning at 7 a.m, and our destination was reached at 3.30 p.m. You can tell how quickly we had travelled when I tell you that we had only come about 60 miles. At the station we were met by one of the sisters from the hospital and two motor ambulances. Our party again became divided, six of us going to a large hotel converted into a hospital, which stands on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea, and the other six to a hospital under canvas.

When shown our quarters, which were large and empty, we set to work and unpacked our camp kit, putting up our chairs and bedstead. I have now learnt to sleep on my bed, which seemed very narrow at first.

Our duties began next moving. The daily programme (including Sundays) is :-Reveille at 6.30 a.m, breakfast at 7 a.m, on duty on the wards 7.30 a.m. The first duty on entering the wards is to tidy the beds and lockers ; then boil the instruments and have everything ready for the medical officer when he appeared at 9 a.m. The dressings are then begun, and these go on all the morning, the V.A.D waiting on the medical officer and sister. Some at the small dressings and fomentations are done by the V.A.D herself, but the extent of this naturally depends on the number of patients in the ward at the time. In the surgical ward where I work there are 101 beds and a staff of two sisters and myself.

When the hospital is very full dressings go on practically all day. In the evening the V.A.D has to make the beds, take the temperatures, make lemonade and beverages, wash the dressing bowls and instruments, while the sister does the dressings.

Dinner is at 8.10 p.m. and lights out at 10.30. When in a heavy ward with serious cases the mental and physical strain is considerable. Sisters out here say that the V.A.D’s have stood the sights remarkably well, and not one of them has fainted at a dressing yet !

One has not time to get tired of any particular dressing, as patients go to England immediately they are fit to stand the journey, unless the wound is slight enough for them to pass on to a convalescent camp en route for the front. It is rather disappointing not seeing the results of an interesting case, but the men are so pleased to be going to “ Blighty ” (as England is called by the Tommies) that one can but rejoice with them.

From what I have heard, on the whole the V.A.D is a success out here. There is so much in the way of cutting dressings, making gowns as well as ward work that can be done just as well by V.A.D as a trained nurse, and relieves a sister for doing the dressings and other important work that only she can do.

A V.A.D signs on for six months’ service abroad, in addition to one month on probation. This can be extended at the expiration of the time. The conditions governing her employment are the same as for the Q.A.I.M.N.S.

LOCAL WAR NOTES.

Lance-Corpl G S Rowbottom, younger son of Mr C H Rowbottom, of Lawford Road, Rugby, has been promoted to acting corporal. He is in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, and enlisted in August last year. He has been at the front about three months, and was with the regiment during the heavy bombardment in the neighbourhood of Ypres, so has experienced a good amount of modem warfare.

Lance-Corpl W E Wiggins, of the Northants Yeomanry, son of Mr W Wiggins, of Rochbierie, Hillmorton, Road, has this week visited his home on short leave after nine months in the trenches. Lance-Corpl Wiggins, who returned to the front on Thursday, states that his regiment has been in a number of warm corners, notably, at Neuve Chapelle, but has given a good account of itself ; and, except for the engagement mentioned, has suffered very few casualties.

George College, eldest son of Mr W W College, 48 Church Street, Rugby, enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in June last, and is with the 3/2nd North Midland Brigade. As he showed great proficiency at mathematics, he was quickly promoted to be corporal, and he has now been made quartermaster-sergeant, and ranks as a warrant officer. Not bad for a recruit of three months’ standing, and he and his parents are to be congratulated on his quick promotion. He is an old Murray School boy.

During the past week a rumour—which has since been found to be baseless—to the effect that Sergt George Fiddler (son of Mr and Mrs F Fiddler, 15 Plowman Street, and brother of Rifleman H Fiddler, whose death we announced recently) had been killed, was freely circulated in the town. Sergt Fiddler, who enlisted in the 7th K.R.R early in the war, has written to his wife stating that he is in hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown, and the report doubtless arose from the fact that a number of letters and parcels had been returned.

SAPPER E R LADBROOK WOUNDED.

Sapper Ernest Roland Ladbrook, of the Royal Engineers, has written to his parents, Mr and Mrs J W Ladbrook, of 377 Clifton Road, Rugby, stating that he was wounded in the right leg and foot during a fierce bombardment on July 30th. An operation was performed on Sunday, August 1st, and the unfortunate young man is now an inmate of the General Hospital, Etaples, France, Sapper Ladbrook, who is 22 years of age, enlisted at the commencement of the war, previous to which he was employed by Messrs Willans & Robinson as a turner and fitter.

ANOTHER BILTON SOLDIER KILLED.

Mr and Mrs J Goadby, Magnet Road, Bilton, received the sad information from an officer of the King’s Royal Rifles that their son, Pte George Goadby, was killed in action on Saturday, August 7th. Pte Goadby, who was a bricklayer by trade and 24 years of age, joined Kitchener’s Army in September, and, with a number of other young men from this neighbourhood, became attached to the K.R.R’s. Much sympathy is felt in the village with Mr and Mrs Goadby and family in their loss.

He was a member of the Club, of which for a time he also acted is secretary ; also the Cricket Club and the Working-Men’s Club, and was generally respected in the village. He went out with his regiment to France a little more than three months ago, and since then he has been invalided and spent a month in hospital at the base, from which he was discharged only a short time before he met his end.

RUGBY FOOTBALLER WOUNDED.

Lance-Corpl Albert Ashworth, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, has been wounded in the knee and sent to an English hospital. His mother, who lives at 355 Clifton Road, Rugby, received a card, posted at Dover on Wednesday, in which he stated he had fine time crossing the Channel, and hoped soon to be all right. According to information supplied by a comrade, the injury was caused by the bursting of a “ Trench mortar,” part of the exploded shell striking the knee, but the relatives have not received any direct information as to the nature of the wounds. Previous to enlisting Lance-Corpl Ashworth played full back for Rugby 2nd XV.

HOME FROM THE TRENCHES.

Sergt W J Bryant, of the Rugby Infantry Company, is at his home in York Street on a few days’ leave. He left the trenches on Sunday, and arrived in Rugby on Tuesday, but has to return almost immediately. He says that the Rugby Territorials are now occupying trenches taken from the Germans by the French, and are contriving to make themselves as comfortable as possible. The men, though almost constantly under fire, are reported to be fit and well. Their trenches are in places 10ft deep, and, in addition, there are dug-outs, which have been made bomb proof, and bear evidence of much time and effort in their preparation.

A UNIQUE ADDRESS.

Mr James Renshaw, of the Black Horse Inn, Castle Street, has recently received a postcard from the front bearing a unique address. The card, which is from an Old Rugbeian, Quarter-Master-Sergeant A J Dodd, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, bears Mr Renshaw’s name, under which is drawn a black horse, followed by the word “ Inn,” and then a “ Castle ” Street ; the last line being taken up by the representation of a Rugby football, across which is written “ Rugby, Warwickshire, England.” The writer states that the address was “ drawn in the trenches under hellish shell fire,” and the ingenious and well-executed design is a remarkable illustration of the way in which the gallant lads at the front relieve the monotony of their long spells in the trenches.

RECRUITING AT RUGBY.

Recruiting has been somewhat slack in Rugby during the past week, and the following have been attested :—R G Webster and C W Kirtland, R.A.M.C ; H T Cross, C Berry, and A E Turner, Rifle Brigade ; F W Reynolds, Northants Regiment ; C W Davenport, Coldstream Guards.

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