Sunday, 9 November 2014

Base Hospital 13 and a Casino Lucky for None

The Casino at Boulogne

Monday 9th November 1914: We hear that the 2nd Battalion is now stood to arms in brigade reserve on the road from Ploegsteert to Messines in case of another German attack. The 1st Battalion has, again, seen some action. The adjutant has told us that Sergeant Mart, assisted by Corporal Cyster[1] succeeded in creeping up to a trench occupied by enemy, where two machine guns had been lost in the attack on 7th. The intrepid pair found only one German actually with the guns, though an adjoining trench, a few yards away was occupied. Sergeant Mart shot the German and the guns were safely brought back.

Mart and Cyster then also found a wounded soldier found in trench also. He was brought back by Mart assisted by Second Lieutenant Garrod and others. Mart, who was wounded, and Garrod in turns facing the enemy to keep their heads down by accurate fire at a few yards range[2].

The Battalion has been thanked in a wire from the Corps Commander. It has lost twenty seven men killed (including two officers) and seven wounded during the day. One of those killed is Sergeant Robert Burnage who wrote a letter home in October.

Our officer who has been wounded has reached a base hospital: "Arrived at Boulogne at about 6.30 am and we were dragged out of the carriage windows and put onto the platform. All my kit had been taken from me when we got in at Poperinghe and now cannot be found".

They were put into ambulances for the journey to hospital; "We bumped around there and the shaking on the cobblestones bounced my stretcher off its runners on one side, heaving me hanging dangerously at an angle. Luckily four other fellows who were only sitting cases in the ambulance were able to readjust me, there being no orderly".

On reaching the hospital they were told there was no room and they were despatched to Number 13 General Base Hospital, resident in a former casino. There he was put in a passage and "howled for something to eat. A tiny morsel eventually came along".

"The passage was very draughty and screens were placed round the door which opened right on to the street. On my right, nearest the door, was a poor fellow who had lost his legs and every time the door opened the screens blew down and fell on top of him. This happened pretty frequently and no one seemed to be in a hurry to put them up again, least of all the orderlies who did nothing".

"When a German wounded officer was brought in and placed just at the foot of my bed while they went to find accommodation for him, these orderlies crowded round him and laughed at all his jokes. This raised our wrath so much that we nearly got out of bed and slew them all. It is a awful hospital and vilely under-staffed. the unfortunate nurses who are the only people who try to do anything, are simply overworked".

"Eventually one of the sisters got a doctor to come and try to do my dressing. He looked at the arm and didn't know what to do, so went away and fetched another and so on until a fairly sensible one arrived as the sixth and he attempted a dressing. they all seem to think it is useless to try and save it and hint that I am destined for the theatre for amputation".

We get a certain amount of amusement out of watching anxious patients who keep on swarming in and accidentally knocking the screen down. Our other "amusement" is watching the unfortunate fellows who have just died in the place being carried out through the door".

Sources: X550/2/7; X550/3/wd

[1] Probably the Corporal James Harry Walter Cyster who died of wounds on 18th September 1916 and is buried in Chalfont Saint Giles [Buckinghamshire]
[2] This may well be a wounded British soldier left over from the 7th November attack.

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