The Great War, I was there - Part 2

fire lit up the darkening northern sky just beyond some trees. Down the centre of the road on the other side of which I had left my regiment were coming streams of wounded—hop­ ping, crawling, walking or being carried— but the dry ditches on either side of the road just outside my “dress- ing-station ”were full of whispering shadows. “What’s the matter with you all there?” I demanded. There was no reply from the huddled informs the darkness of the ditch. I was really too weary to be indignant, but I pretended to be. “If you don’t immedia­tely rejoin your regiments in the firing line, I’ll take every man’s name and regiment and send him to his adjutant. You know what that means— court martial for desertion in the face of the enemy! ”There was a silence, and then a few, only a few, of the huddled forms sullenly emerged with their rifles and walked with slow, depressed step back towards that pink glow and that“ holly-bush ’’crackling beyond the trees. z'" ivi'TiNG suddenly alarmed at all the possibilities, I hurriedly collected my gear, and we mounted, leaving, alas !many wounded, some partly and others quite unattended. I left them in charge of a senior non-commissioned officer of infantry who was only slightly wounded. I reminded him of the most simple forms of tourniquets, and giving him an armful of dressings, advised him when the carts came back to move all the rest of the wounded to Thulin, the village about half a mile back on the road behind us. This I think he did, for carts with wounded began arriving while I was at­tending to those already in the town hall there. This was not the only time in which i twas quite impossible to fulfil my duty to my unit and to the wounded of other units. LULL BEFORE THE STORM The first units of the British Expeditionary Force arrived at Mons on August 21, and for two days the little town was a drowsy haven of peace under the summer sun In the top photograph some British Tommies are taking a siesta on the road beside the Mons-Conde canal, where they were soon to fight. A French interpreter stands on the grass verge, and on the left is the bascule of one of the canal bridges typical of this part of Belgium. In the lower photograph, men off duty are fraternizing with the people of Mons who, with them, were soon to face the terrors of war Mona Museum We entered the little town of Thulin in darkness and silence indeed, I was rather surprised how silent every­thing had suddenly become. There was but one building that had any light in it. As we passed it I was besieged by ii party of Belgian priests and nuns.“ M’sieur is a doctor ?Please income at once— inhere !There are many English wounded !There are no doctors !We do not know what to do!”T dismounted and entered what was evidently the Maine or town hall. The steps were thronged with a jostling crowd of wounded. Many excited Belgian peasants and Sisters of Mercy 53 were carrying in mattresses, straw, jugs of water and old sheets for bandages. The scene inside was one with which I was soon to be only too familiar. It. was packed with wounded, lying down, crouching or standing the stairs were blocked with sitting cases, the passages with loaded stretchers. There were several whose hastily applied tourniquets had evidently slipped, lying in a dead faint from loss of blood. Everywhere lights and confusion and a babel of tongues —Cockney “French,” Flemish, and broken English. I spoke but little French, and getting hold of the most responsible priests and the older Catholic sisters, 1 urged them to keep the badly wounded cases on the ground floor, and send all the slightly wounded cases up to the rooms on the upper floors of the building they had started doing the very reverse \“But why, m’sieur ?”“Because casein of fire you will never get the stretcher cases down again in time, if you carry them up those narrow stairs.” “Fire! But why should there be afire ?The bad cases will be more comfort­able upstairs. Besides there are far too many slight cases to put up in the small rooms above. And some of the upper rooms are locked— half full of the town’s records.” “Never mind,” I said. "Burst the doors open. Let all the wounded who can walk go up and leave the stairs and passages free. They can sit down on the floor in the upstairs rooms.” Wo began gradually to get the place in some sort of order. The palliasses and mattresses which were being brought in we arranged in rows. Straw had been putdown where there were no mattresses, much too much straw— the harvest was just beginning. The sisters were giving the men cigarettes. 1 tried to dissuade fhem. " Don’t encourage them to smoke here, or you will soon have all this straw on fire.” Soldiers !Poor English soldiers !Not smoke! After such a brave battle! "They gazed me,at astonished. I might as well have ordered them to stop the men breathing. Soon I was terribly busy with the worst cases. Only two can I remember
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