War Memories of Lt. W L Heape East Lancashire Regiment 1914-1919

Eventually I reached a First Field Dressing Station. Was it at La Gorgue? I cannot recall. I remember a ride in an ambulance, but whether that was after or before I reached the dressing station I cannot be certain. I was attended to at once by a medical officer who was very sympathetic. He said, “You poor young fellow. What a dreadful state you are in. How long have you had the tourniquet on?” I told him all day and that I had taken morphine to ease the pain. He chalked a white ‘M’ on my forehead. They operated very soon and cut out a large piece of shell casing from inside my knee. I have it mounted as a paperweight on my desk as I write. I remained several days in a stretcher, because there were no available beds, and I was very uncomfortable. The nurses were simply magnificent. There in the Front Line, terribly pressed by the floods of wounded men, they did everything humanly possible for us, as I am sure the surgeons did, but it is the nurses who remain always in my mind. Captain Arnott, our adjutant, lay very badly wounded near me and one nurse encouraged me to copy his outstanding fortitude. A Church of England chaplain asked me if I wanted Communion. I could only think about myself and of getting home alive. I simply replied, “No thank you,” and never saw him again. The Roman Catholic padre, however came to me every day. He wrote seven letters to my mother, reporting on my condition, sending my messages and encouraging her by telling her that I would get home safely. Mother kept those letters in her writing desk all her life, but to my great regret they disappeared in the confusion after her death. Father Piper must have been quite exceptional. He never once tried to worry me about religion. He helped me in the most practical way and was the greatest possible comfort to me through that awful time. I owe him eternal gratitude. In due course I got into a hospital train and with a back splint on my left leg I was much easier and really enjoyed the journey, with the windows of the coach wide open in lovely weather and champagne to drink in small quantities. As soon as I got to No.7 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, they operated again. Gas gangrene had developed in my left leg. They cut numerous large incisions in my thigh to release the poison, and I came out of the anaesthetic in dreadful pain, surrounded by white screens, to see the distraught face of my father peering round the corner. Yes, parents were permitted in those days to go out to France to see their sons if they were on the danger list. My father came to see me every day while I lay in that hospital. You can imagine what a comfort he was to me. In about a month Mr Graham Jones, the surgeon, decided that if I did not get away to England at once I never would. I had a comfortable crossing in a swung cot in the hospital ship, but the inevitable jolting on the hospital train was very trying. Then a drive on a glorious evening from Victoria Station to No. 17 Park Lane, with the back of the ambulance wide open so that I could see the flowers and the trees in the park. I became relaxed and happy that I had reached home after all. I was extremely fortunate to be admitted to the magnificent nursing home at No. 17, Park Lane, which had been taken over by the government for the care of wounded officers. It had an Australian foundation, and was called the Harold Fink Memorial Hospital. Alas, it has now been pulled down. The late Sir Douglas Shields, who was
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