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

an Australian, and Sir Alfred Fripp were the two principal surgeons. Miss Stretch, who was also an Australian, was the Matron and one of the dearest of the nurses who looked after me was Miss Churnside, who was a V A D and came from a very well known Melbourne family. I was critically ill with septicaemia and in due course a crisis of opinion arose as to whether I could keep my leg. The surgeons were faced with the problem of whether to fight to preserve it, when it was clearly killing me, or whether to take the drastic step of a high amputation with me in such an extremely debilitated state. They decided that I should keep my leg, and both Sir Douglas Shields and Sir Alfred Fripp took personal care of me and at times dressed my leg themselves. The nursing was beyond praise. I was nearly 12 months in that hospital, and one nurse, Miss Ingram, was allocated for nearly the whole period especially to look after me. My father left his work in Lancashire and took on the duty of doorkeeper. My mother helped with the linen, so that both my parents were practically always available throughout the whole of my stay in hospital. I certainly received very special treatment, but we had a dreadful and prolonged struggle. I cannot convey adequately my admiration and gratitude to the two surgeons and all the nurses. Life was never dull in that hospital. I remember being plucked out of bed in the middle of a night air raid by Nurse Ingram and carried in her arms from the fifth floor to safety. In normal health I weighed about 10 stone. Nurse Ingram was a tiny woman, so that gives you some idea of the state of debility I had been reduced to. King George V took a personal interest in the hospital, sending us wine and providing huge motorcars to take us for drives in the park. He paid a visit while I was there, but alas I was too ill at the time to see him. General Carton de Wiart was a patient in a nearby room, suffering from wounds received in action against the ‘Mad Mullah’ (Muhammad Abdullah Hassan) in British Somaliland. He used to come to see me and tell me about his adventures in Africa. Little did I think then that I myself would be going out to spend ten years in Somaliland. I could write a book about the hospital itself, but I must not spend too much time on it. I will recall one more interesting item. I had leeches applied to my temples and I remember the nurses touching them with salt, so that they fell off full of my blood into a basin of water. In due course I was discharged in 1916, with a stiff leg and a dropped foot, and went to my home for a period of rest. I eventually went in front of the board and was found permanently unfit for further active service and appointed on light duties to the staff of a Territorial Highland Brigade, under General Scott-Kerr. We were based at Holt in Norfolk, and I lived at Brigade Headquarters with the general, his brigade major and a staff captain. The brigade consisted of battalions of the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Gordons and the Cameron Highlanders, and curiously enough, when dining one night with the Cameron Highlanders, I found myself sitting next to an officer who was the son of the owner of the general store at Strath in Wester Ross. He had been a boy in the village when I used to go up there, for my summer holidays. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting each other.
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