My War Experiences in Two Continents
by Sarah Macnaughtan
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Transcriber's note:

The unique headers on the odd numbered pages in the original book have been reproduced with [Page Heading: ] tags. They have been inserted in front of the paragraph or letter to which the heading refers.

There are several inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation in the original. A few corrections have been made for obvious typographical errors; these, as well as some doubtful spellings of names, have been marked individually in the text. All changes made by the transcriber are enumerated in braces, for example {1}; details of corrections and comments are listed at the end of the text.

Text in italics in the original is shown between underlines.




Edited by Her Niece, Mrs. Lionel Salmon (Betty Keays-Young)

With a Portrait

London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1919






CAPTAIN LIONEL SALMON, 1st Bn. the Welch Regt. CAPTAIN HELIER PERCIVAL, M.C., 9th Bn. the Welch Regt. CAPTAIN ALAN YOUNG, 2nd Bn. the Welch Regt. CAPTAIN COLIN MACNAUGHTAN, 2nd Dragoon Guards. LIEUTENANT RICHARD YOUNG, 9th Bn. the Welch Regt.





















In presenting these extracts from the diaries of my aunt, the late Miss Macnaughtan, I feel it necessary to explain how they come to be published, and the circumstances under which I have undertaken to edit them.

After Miss Macnaughtan's death, her executors found among her papers a great number of diaries. There were twenty-five closely written volumes, which extended over a period of as many years, and formed an almost complete record of every incident of her life during that time.

It is amazing that the journal was kept so regularly, as Miss Macnaughtan suffered from writer's cramp, and the entries could only have been written with great difficulty. Frequently a passage is begun in the writing of her right, and finished in that of her left hand, and I have seen her obliged to grasp her pencil in her clenched fist before she was able to indite a line. In only one volume, however, do we find that she availed herself of the services of her secretary to dictate the entries and have them typed.

The executors found it extremely difficult to know how to deal with such a vast mass of material. Miss Macnaughtan was a very reserved woman.{1} She lived much alone, and the diary was her only confidante. In one of her books she says that expression is the most insistent of human needs, and that the inarticulate man or woman who finds no outlet in speech or in the affections, will often keep a little locked volume in which self can be safely revealed. Her diary occupied just such a place in her own inner life, and for that reason one hesitates to submit its pages even to the most loving and sympathetic scrutiny.

But Miss Macnaughtan's diary fulfilled a double purpose. She used it largely as material for her books. Ideas for stories, fragments of plays and novels, are sketched in on spare sheets, and the pages are full of the original theories and ideas of a woman who never allowed anyone else to do her thinking for her. A striking sermon or book may be criticised or discussed, the pros and cons of some measure of social reform weighed in the balance; and the actual daily chronicle of her busy life, of her travels, her various experiences and adventures, makes a most interesting and fascinating tale.

So much of the material was obviously intended to form the basis for an autobiography that the executors came to the conclusion that it would be a thousand pities to withhold it from the public, and at some future date it is very much hoped to produce a complete life of Miss Macnaughtan as narrated in her diaries. Meanwhile, however, the publisher considers that Miss Macnaughtan's war experiences are of immediate interest to her many friends and admirers, and I have been asked to edit those volumes which refer to her work in Belgium, at home, in Russia, and on the Persian front.

Except for an occasional word where the meaning was obscure, I have added nothing to the diaries. I have, of course, omitted such passages as appeared to be private or of family interest only; but otherwise I have contented myself with a slight rearrangement of some of the paragraphs, and I have inserted a few letters and extracts from letters, which give a more interesting or detailed account of some incident than is found in the corresponding entry in the diary. With these exceptions the book is published as Miss Macnaughtan wrote it. I feel sure that her own story of her experiences would lose much of its charm if I interfered with it, and for this reason I have preserved the actual diary form in which it was written.

To many readers of Miss Macnaughtan's books her diaries of the war may come as a slight surprise. There is a note of depression and sadness, and perhaps even of criticism, running through them, which is lacking in all her earlier writings. I would remind people that this book is the work of a dying woman; during the whole of the period covered by it, the author was seriously ill, and the horror and misery of the war, and the burden of a great deal of personal sorrow, have left their mark on her account of her experiences.

I should like to thank those relations and friends of Miss Macnaughtan who have allowed me to read and publish the letters incorporated in this book, and I gratefully acknowledge the help and advice I have received in my task from my mother, from my husband, and from Miss Hilda Powell, Mr. Stenning, and Mr. R. Sommerville. I desire also to express my gratitude to Mr. John Murray for many valuable hints and suggestions about the book, and for the trouble he has so kindly taken to help me to prepare it for the press.








On September 20th, 1914, I left London for Antwerp. At the station I found I had forgotten my passport and Mary had to tear back for it. Great perturbation, but kept this dark from the rest of the staff, for they are all rather serious and I am head of the orderlies. We got under way at 4 a.m. next morning. All instantly began to be sick. I think I was the worst and alarmed everybody within hearing distance. One more voyage I hope—home—then dry land for me.

We arrived at Antwerp on the 22nd, twenty-four hours late. The British Consul sent carriages, etc., to meet us. Drove to the large Philharmonic Hall, which has been given us as a hospital. Immediately after breakfast we began to unpack beds, etc., and our enormous store of medical things; all feeling remarkably empty and queer, but put on heroic smiles and worked like mad. Some of the staff is housed in a convent and the rest in rooms over the Philharmonic Hall.

23 September.—Began to get things into order and to allot each person her task. Our unit consists of Mrs. St. Clair Stobart, its head; Doctors Rose Turner, F. Stoney, Watts, Morris, Hanson and Ramsey (all women); orderlies—me, Miss Randell (interpreter), Miss Perry, Dick, Stanley, Benjamin, Godfrey,{2} Donnisthorpe, Cunliffe, and Mr. Glade. Everyone very zealous and inclined to do anybody's work except their own. Keen competition for everyone else's tools, brooms, dusters, etc. Great roaming about. All mean well.

25 September.—Forty wounded men were brought into our hospital yesterday. Fortunately we had everything ready, but it took a bit of doing. We are all dead tired, and not so keen as we were about doing other people's work.

The wounded are not very bad, and have been sent on here from another hospital. They are enchanted with their quarters, which indeed do look uncommonly nice. One hundred and thirty beds are ranged in rows, and we have a bright counterpane on each and clean sheets. The floor is scrubbed, and the bathrooms, store, office, kitchens, and receiving-rooms have been made out of nothing, and look splendid. I never saw a hospital spring up like magic in this way before. There is a wide verandah where the men play cards, and a garden to stump about in.

The gratitude of our patients is boundless, and they have presented Mrs. Stobart with a beautiful basket of growing flowers. I do not think Englishmen would have thought of such a thing. They say they never tasted such cooking as ours outside Paris, and they are rioting in good food, papers, nice beds, etc. Nearly all of them are able to get out a little, so it is quite cheery nursing them. There is a lot to do, and we all fly about in white caps. The keenest competition is for sweeping out the ward with a long-handled hair brush!


I went into the town to-day. It is very like every other foreign town, with broad streets and tram-lines and shops and squares, but to-day I had an interesting drive. I took a car and went out to the second line of forts. The whole place was a mass of wire entanglements, mined at every point, and the fields were studded with strong wooden spikes. There were guns everywhere, and in one place a whole wood and a village had been laid level with the ground to prevent the enemy taking cover. We heard the sound of firing last night!

* * * * *

To Mrs. Keays-Young.

RUE DE L'HARMONIE 68, ANTWERP, 25 September.


It was delightful getting your letter. Our wounded are all French or Belgians, but there is a bureau of enquiry in the town where I will go to try to hear tidings of your poor friends.

We heard the guns firing last night, and fifty wounded were sent in during the afternoon. In one day 2,500 wounded reached Antwerp. I can write this sort of thing to-day as I know my letter will be all right. To show you that the fighting is pretty near, two doctors went for a short motor drive to-day and they found two wounded men. One was just dying, the other they brought back in the car, but he died also. In the town itself everything seems much as usual except for crowds of refugees. Do not believe people when they say German barbarity is exaggerated. It is hideously true.

We are fearfully busy, and it seems a queer side of war to cook and race around and make doctors as comfortable as possible. We have a capital staff, who are made up of zeal and muscle. I do not know how long it can last. We breakfast at 7.30, which means that most of the orderlies are up at 5.45 to prepare and do everything. The fare is very plain and terribly wholesome, but hardly anyone grumbles. I am trying to get girls to take two hours off duty in the day, but they won't do it.

Have you any friends who would send us a good big lot of nice jam? It is for the staff. If you could send some cases of it at once to Miss Stear, 39, St. James's Street, London, and put my name on it, and say it is for our hospital, she will bring it here herself with some other things. Some of your country friends might like to help in a definite little way like this.

Your loving SARAH.

—— is going to England to-night and will take this.

* * * * *

27 September.—Yesterday, when we were in the town, a German airship flew overhead and dropped bombs. A lot of guns fired at it, but it was too high up to hit. The incident caused some excitement in the streets.


Last night we heard that more wounded were coming in from the fighting-line near Ghent. We got sixty more beds ready, and sat up late, boiling water, sterilising instruments, preparing operating-tables and beds, etc., etc. As it got later all the lights in the huge ward were put out, and we went about with little torches amongst the sleeping men, putting things in order and moving on tip-toe in the dark. Later we heard that the wounded might not get in till Monday.

The work of this place goes on unceasingly. We all get on well, but I have not got the communal spirit, and the fact of being a unit of women is not the side of it that I find most interesting. The communal food is my despair. I can not eat it. All the same this is a fine experience, and I hope we'll come well out of it. There is boundless opportunity, and we are in luck to have a chance of doing our darndest.

28 September.—Last night I and two orderlies slept over at the hospital as more wounded were expected. At 11 p.m. word came that "les blesses" were at the gate. Men were on duty with stretchers, and we went out to the tram-way cars in which the wounded are brought from the station, twelve patients in each. The transit is as little painful as possible, and the stretchers are placed in iron brackets, and are simply unhooked when the men arrive. Each stretcher was brought in and laid on a bed in the ward, and the nurses and doctors undressed the men. We orderlies took their names, their "matricule" or regimental number, and the number of their bed. Then we gathered up their clothes and put corresponding numbers on labels attached to them—first turning out the pockets, which are filled with all manner of things, from tins of sardines to loaded revolvers. They are all very pockety, but have to be turned out before the clothes are sent to be baked.

We arranged everything, and then got Oxo for the men, many of whom had had nothing to eat for two days. They are a nice-looking lot of men and boys, with rather handsome faces and clear eyes. Their absolute exhaustion is the most pathetic thing about them. They fall asleep even when their wounds are being dressed. When all was made straight and comfortable for them, the nurses turned the lights low again, and stepped softly about the ward with their little torches.

A hundred beds all filled with men in pain give one plenty to think about, and it is during sleep that their attitudes of suffering strike one most. Some of them bury their heads in their pillows as shot partridges seek to bury theirs amongst autumn leaves. Others lie very stiff and straight, and all look very thin and haggard. I was struck by the contrast between the pillared concert-hall where they lie, with its platform of white paint and decorations, and the tragedy of suffering which now fills it.

At 2 a.m. more soldiers were brought in from the battlefield, all caked with dirt, and we began to work again. These last blinked oddly at the concert-hall and nurses and doctors, but I think they do not question anything much. They only want to go to sleep.


I suppose that women would always be tender-hearted towards deserters. Three of them arrived at the hospital to-day with some absurd story about having been told to report themselves. We got them supper and a hot bath and put them to bed. One can't regret it. I never saw men sleep as they did. All through the noise of the wounded being brought in, all through the turned-up lights and bustle they never even stirred, but a sergeant discovered them, and at 3 a.m. they were marched away again. We got them breakfast and hot tea, and at least they had had a few hours between clean sheets. These men seem to carry so much, and the roads are heavy.

At 5 o'clock I went to bed and slept till 8. Mrs. Stobart never rests. I think she must be made of some substance that the rest of us have not discovered. At 5 a.m. I discovered her curled up on a bench in her office, the doors wide open and the dawn breaking.

2 October.—Here is a short account of one whole day. Firing went on all night, sometimes it came so near that the vibration of it was rather startling. In the early morning we heard that the forts had been heavily fired on. One of them remained silent for a long time, and then the garrison lighted cart-loads of straw in order to deceive the Germans, who fell into the trap, thinking the fort was disabled and on fire, and rushed in to take it. They were met with a furious cannonade. But one of the other forts has fallen.

At 7 a.m. the men's bread had not arrived for their 6 o'clock breakfast, so I went into the town to get it. The difficulty was to convey home twenty-eight large loaves, so I went to the barracks and begged a motor-car from the Belgian officer and came back triumphant. The military cars simply rip through the streets, blowing their horns all the time. Antwerp was thronged with these cars, and each one contained soldiers. Sometimes one saw wounded in them lying on sacks stuffed with straw.

I came down to breakfast half-an-hour late (8 o'clock) and we had our usual fare—porridge, bread and margarine, and tea with tinned milk—amazingly nasty, but quite wholesome and filling at the price. We have reduced our housekeeping to ninepence per head per day. After breakfast I cleaned the two houses, as I do every morning, made nine beds, swept floors and dusted stairs, etc. When my rooms were done and jugs filled, our nice little cook gave me a cup of soup in the kitchen, as she generally does, and I went over to the hospital to help prepare the men's dinner, my task to-day being to open bottles and pour out beer for a hundred and twenty men; then, when the meat was served, to procure from the kitchen and serve out gravy. Our own dinner is at 12.30.

Afterwards I went across to the hospital again and arranged a few things with Mrs. Stobart. I began to correct the men's diagnosis sheets, but was called off to help with wounded arriving, and to label and sort their clothes. Just then the British Minister, Sir Francis Villiers, and the Surgeon-General, Sir Cecil Herslet, came in to see the hospital, and we proceeded to show them round, when the sound of firing began quite close to us and we rushed out into the garden.

[Page Heading: A TAUBE OVERHEAD]

From out the blue, clear autumn sky came a great grey dove flying serenely overhead. This was a German aeroplane of the class called the Taube (dove). These aeroplanes are quite beautiful in design, and fly with amazing rapidity. This one wafted over our hospital with all the grace of a living creature "calm in the consciousness of wings," and then, of course, we let fly at it. From all round us shells were sent up into the vast blue of the sky, and still the grey dove went on in its gentle-looking flight. Whoever was in it must have been a brave man! All round him shells were flying—one touch and he must have dropped. The smoke from the burst shells looked like little white clouds in the sky as the dove sailed away into the blue again and was seen no more.

We returned to our work in hospital. The men's supper is at six o'clock, and we began cutting up their bread-and-butter and cheese and filling their bowls of beer. When that was over and visitors were going, an order came for thirty patients to proceed to Ostend and make room for worse cases. We were sorry to say good-bye to them, especially to a nice fellow whom we call Alfred because he can speak English, and to Sunny Jim, who positively refused to leave.

Poor boys! With each batch of the wounded, disabled creatures who are carried in, one feels inclined to repeat in wonder, "Can one man be responsible for all this? Is it for one man's lunatic vanity that men are putting lumps of lead into each other's hearts and lungs, and boys are lying with their heads blown off, or with their insides beside them on the ground?" Yet there is a splendid freedom about being in the midst of death—a certain glory in it, which one can't explain.

A piece of shell fell through the roof of the hospital to-day—evidently a part of one that had been fired at the Taube. It fell close beside the bed of one of our wounded, and he went as white as a ghost. It must be pretty bad to be powerless and have shells falling around. The doctors tell me that nothing moves them so much as the terror of the men. Their nerves are simply shattered, and everything frightens them. Rather late a man was brought in from the forts, terribly wounded. He was the only survivor of twelve comrades who stood together, and a shell fell amongst them, killing all but this man.

At seven o'clock we moved all the furniture from Mrs. Stobart's office to the dispensary, where she will have more room, and the day's work was then over and night work began for some. The Germans have destroyed the reservoir and the water-supply has been cut off, so we have to go and fetch all the water in buckets from a well. After supper we go with our pails and carry it home. The shortage for washing, cleaning, etc., is rather inconvenient, and adds to the danger in a large hospital, and to the risk of typhoid.


4 October.—Yesterday our work was hardly over when Mrs. Stobart sent a summons to all of us "heads" to come to her bureau. She had grave news for us. The British Consul had just been to say that all the English must leave Antwerp; two forts had fallen, and the Germans were hourly expected to begin shelling the town. We were told that all the wounded who could travel were to go to Ostend, and the worst cases were to be transferred to the Military Hospital.

I do not think it would be easy to describe the confusion that followed. All the men's clothes had to be found, and they had to be got into them, and woe betide if a little cap or old candle was missing! All wanted serving at once; all wanted food before starting. In the midst of the general melee I shall always remember one girl, silently, quickly, and ceaselessly slicing bread with a loaf pressed to her waist, and handing it across the counter to the men.

With one or two exceptions the staff all wanted to remain in Antwerp. I myself decided to abandon the unit and stay on here as an individual or go to Ostend with the men. Mrs. Stobart, being responsible, had to take the unit home. It was a case of leaving immediately; we packed what stores we could, but the beds and X-ray apparatus and all our material equipment would have to be left to the Germans. I think all felt as though they were running away, but it was a military order, and the Consul, the British Minister, and the King and Queen were leaving. We went to eat lunch together, and as we were doing so Mrs. Stobart brought the news that the Consul had come to say that reinforcements had come up, the situation changed for the better, and for the present we might remain. Anyone who wanted to leave might do so, but only four did.

We have since heard what happened. The British Minister cabled home to say that Antwerp was the key to the whole situation and must not fall, as once in here the Germans would be strongly entrenched, supplied with provisions, ammunition, and everything they want. A Cabinet Council was held at 3 a.m. in London, and reinforcements were ordered up. Winston Churchill is here with Marines. They say Colonel Kitchener is at the forts.

The firing sounds very near. Dr. Hector Munro and Miss St. Clair and Lady Dorothy Fielding came over to-day from Ghent, where all is quiet. They wanted me to return with them to take a rest, which was absurd, of course.

Some fearful cases were brought in to us to-day. My God, the horror of it! One has heard of men whom their mothers would not recognise. Some of the wounded to-day were amongst these. All the morning we did what we could for them. One man was riddled with bullets, and died very soon.

It is awful work. The great bell rings, and we say, "More wounded," and the men get stretchers. We go down the long, cold covered way to the gate and number the men for their different beds. The stretchers are stiff with blood, and the clothes have to be cut off the men. They cry out terribly, and their horror is so painful to witness. They are so young, and they have seen right into hell. The first dressings are removed by the doctors—sometimes there is only a lump of cotton-wool to fill up a hole—and the men lie there with their tragic eyes fixed upon one. All day a nurse has sat by a man who has been shot through the lungs. Each breath is painful; it does not bear writing about. The pity of it all just breaks one's heart. But I suppose we do not see nearly the worst of the wounded.

The lights are all off at eight o'clock now, and we do our work in the dark, while the orderlies hold little torches to enable the doctors to dress the wounds. There are not half enough nurses or doctors out here. In one hospital there are 400 beds and only two trained nurses.


Some of our own troops came through the town in London omnibuses to-day. It was quite a Moment, and we felt that all was well. We went to the gate and shook hands with them as they passed, and they made jokes and did us all good. We cheered and waved handkerchiefs.

5-6 October.—I think the last two days have been the most ghastly I ever remember. Every day seems to bring news of defeat. It is awful, and the Germans are quite close now. As I write the house shakes with the firing. Our troops are falling back, and the forts have fallen. Last night we took provisions and water to the cellars, and made plans to get the wounded taken there.

They say the town will be shelled to-morrow. All these last two days bleeding men have been brought in. To-day three of them died, and I suppose none of them was more than 23. We have to keep up all the time and show a good face, and meals are quite cheery. To-day, Tuesday, was our last chance of leaving, and only two went.

The guns boom by day as well as by night, and as each one is heard one thinks of more bleeding, shattered men. It is calm, nice autumn weather; the trees are yellow in the garden and the sky is blue, yet all the time one listens to the cries of men in pain. To-night I meant to go out for a little, but a nurse stopped me and asked me to sit by a dying man. Poor fellow, he was twenty-one, and looked like some brigand chief, and he smiled as he was dying. The horror of these two days will last always, and there are many more such days to come. Everyone is behaving well, and that is all I care about.

7 October.—It is a glorious morning: they will see well to kill each other to-day.

The guns go all day and all night. They are so close that the earth shakes with them. Last night in the infernal darkness we were turning wounded men away from the door. There was no room for them even on the floor. The Belgians scream terribly. Our own men suffer quite quietly. One of them died to-day.

Day and night a stream of vehicles passes the gate. It never ceases. Nearly all are motors, driven at a furious pace, and they sound horns all the time. These are met by a stream of carts and old-fashioned vehicles bringing in country people, who are flying to the coast. In Antwerp to-day it was "sauve qui peut"! Nearly all the men are going—Mr. ——, who has helped us, and Mr. ——, they are going to bicycle into Holland. A surgeon (Belgian) has fled from his hospital, leaving seven hundred beds, and there seem to be a great many deserters from the trenches.


The news is still the same—"very bad"; sometimes I walk to the gate and ask returning soldiers how the battle goes, but the answer never varies. At lunch-time to-day firing ceased, and I heard it was because the German guns were coming up. We got orders to send away all the wounded who could possibly go, and we prepared beds in the cellars for those who cannot be moved. The military authorities beg us to remain as so many hospitals have been evacuated.

The wounded continue to come in. One sees one car in the endless stream moving slowly (most of them fly with their officers sitting upright, or with aeroplanes on long carriages), and one knows by the pace that more wounded are coming. Inside one sees the horrible six shelves behind the canvas curtain, and here and there a bound-up limb or head. One of our men had his leg taken off to-day, and is doing well. Nothing goes on much behind the scenes. The yells of the men are plainly heard, and to-day, as I sat beside the lung man who was taking so long to die, someone brought a sack to me, and said, "This is for the leg." All the orderlies are on duty in the hospital now. We can spare no one for rougher work. We can all bandage and wash patients. There are wounded everywhere, even on straw beds on the platform of the hall.

Darkness seems to fall early, and it is the darkness that is so baffling. At 5 p.m. we have to feed everyone while there is a little light, then the groping about begins, and everyone falls over things. There is a clatter of basins on the floor or an over-turned chair. Any sudden noise is rather trying at present because of the booming of the guns. At 7 last night they were much louder than before, with a sort of strange double sound, and we were told that these were our "Long Toms," so we hope that our Naval Brigade has come up.

We know very little of what is going on except when we run out and ask some returning English soldiers for news. Yesterday it was always the same reply "Very bad." One of the Marines told me that Winston Churchill was "up and down the road amongst the shells," and I was also told that he had given orders that Antwerp was not to be taken till the last man in it was dead.

The Marines are getting horribly knocked about. Yesterday Mrs. O'Gormon went out in her own motor-car and picked wounded out of the trenches. She said that no one knew why they were in the trenches or where they were to fire—they just lay there and were shot and then left.


I think I have seen too much pain lately. At Walworth one saw women every day in utter pain, and now one lives in an atmosphere of bandages and blood. I asked some of the orderlies to-day what it was that supported them most at a crisis of this sort. The answers varied, and were interesting. I myself am surprised to find that religion is not my best support. When I go into the little chapel to pray it is all too tender, the divine Mother and the Child and the holy atmosphere. I begin to feel rather sorry for myself, I don't know why; then I go and move beds and feel better; but I have found that just to behave like a well-bred woman is what keeps me up best. I had thought that the Flag or Religion would have been stronger incentives to me.

Our own soldiers seem to find self-respect their best asset. It is amazing to see the difference between them and the Belgians, who are terribly poor hands at bearing pain, and beg for morphia all the time. An officer to-day had to have a loose tooth out. He insisted on having cocaine, and then begged the doctor to be careful!

The firing now is furious—sometimes there are five or six explosions almost simultaneously. I suppose we shall read in the Times that "all is quiet," and in Le Matin that "pour le reste tout est calme."

The staff are doing well. They are generally too busy to be frightened, but one has to speak once or twice to them before they hear.

On Wednesday night, the 7th October, we heard that one more ship was going to England, and a last chance was given to us all to leave. Only two did so; the rest stayed on. Mrs. Stobart went out to see what was to be done. The —— Consul said that we were under his protection, and that if the Germans entered the town he would see that we were treated properly. We had a deliberately cheerful supper, and afterwards a man called Smits came in and told us that the Germans had been driven back fifteen kilometres. I myself did not believe this, but we went to bed, and even took off our clothes.

At midnight the first shell came over us with a shriek, and I went down and woke the orderlies and nurses and doctors. We dressed and went over to help move the wounded at the hospital. The shells began to scream overhead; it was a bright moonlight night, and we walked without haste—a small body of women—across the road to the hospital. Here we found the wounded all yelling like mad things, thinking they were going to be left behind. The lung man has died.

Nearly all the moving to the cellars had already been done—only three stretchers remained to be moved. One wounded English sergeant helped us. Otherwise everything was done by women. We laid the men on mattresses which we fetched from the hospital overhead, and then Mrs. Stobart's mild, quiet voice said, "Everything is to go on as usual. The night nurses and orderlies will take their places. Breakfast will be at the usual hour." She and the other ladies whose night it was to sleep at the convent then returned to sleep in the basement with a Sister.


We came in for some most severe shelling at first, either because we flew the Red Cross flag or because we were in the line of fire with a powder magazine which the Germans wished to destroy. We sat in the cellars with one night-light burning in each, and with seventy wounded men to take care of. Two of them were dying. There was only one line of bricks between us and the shells. One shell fell into the garden, making a hole six feet deep; the next crashed through a house on the opposite side of the road and set it on fire. The danger was two-fold, for we knew our hospital, which was a cardboard sort of thing, would ignite like matchwood, and if it fell we should not be able to get out of the cellars. Some people on our staff were much against our making use of a cellar at all for this reason. I myself felt it was the safest place, and as long as we stayed with the wounded they minded nothing. We sat there all night.

The English sergeant said that at daybreak the firing would probably cease, as the German guns stopped when daylight came in order to conceal the guns. We just waited for daybreak. When it came the firing grew worse. The sergeant said, "It is always worse just before they stop," but the firing did not stop. Two hundred guns were turned on Antwerp, and the shells came over at the rate of four a minute. They have a horrid screaming sound as they come. We heard each one coming and wondered if it would hit us, and then we heard the crashing somewhere else and knew another shell was coming.

The worst cases among the wounded lay on the floor, and these wanted constant attention. The others were in their great-coats, and stood about the cellar leaning on crutches and sticks. We wrapped blankets round the rheumatism cases and sat through the long night. Sometimes when we heard a crash near by we asked "Is that the convent?" but nothing else was said. All spoke cheerfully, and there was some laughter in the further cellar. One little red-haired nurse enjoyed the whole thing. I saw her carry three wounded men in succession on her back down to the cellar. I found myself wishing that for me a shot would come and finish the horrible night. Still we all chatted and smiled and made little jokes. Once during that long night in the cellar I heard one wounded man say to another as he rolled himself round on his mattress, "Que les anglais sont comme il faut."

At six o'clock the convent party came over and began to prepare breakfast. The least wounded of the men began to steal away, and we were left with between thirty and forty of them. The difficulty was to know how to get away and how to remove the wounded, two of whom were nearly dead. Miss Benjamin went and stood at the gate, while the shells still flew, and picked up an ambulance. In this we got away six men, including the two dying ones. Mrs. Stobart was walking about for three hours trying to find anything on wheels to remove us and the wounded. At last we got a motor ambulance, and packed in twenty men—that was all it would hold. We told them to go as far as the bridge and send it back for us. It never came. Nothing seemed to come.

The —— Vice-Consul had told us we were under his protection, and he would, as a neutral, march out to meet the Germans and give us protection. But when we enquired we heard he had bolted without telling us. The next to give us protection was the —— Field Hospital, who said they had a ship in the river and would not move without us. But they also left and said nothing.

We got dinner for the men, and then the strain began to be much worse. We had seven wounded and ourselves and not a thing in which to get out of Antwerp. I told Mrs. Stobart we must leave the wounded at the convent in charge of the Sisters, and this we did, telling them where to take them in the morning. The gay young nurses fetched them across on stretchers.

[Page Heading: FLIGHT]

About 5 o'clock the shelling became more violent, and three shells came with only an instant between each. Presently we heard Mrs. Stobart say, "Come at once," and we went out and found three English buses with English drivers at the door. They were carrying ammunition, and were the last vehicles to leave Antwerp. We got into them and lay on the top of the ammunition, and the girls began to light cigarettes! The noise of the buses prevented our hearing for a time the infernal sound of shells and our cannons' answering roar.

As we drove to the bridge many houses and sometimes a whole street was burning. No one seemed to care. No one was there to try and save anything. We drove through the empty streets and saw the burning houses, and great holes where shells had fallen, and then we got to the bridge and out of the line of fire.

We set out to walk towards Holland, but a Belgian officer got us some Red Cross ambulances, and into these we got, and were taken to a convent at St. Gilles, where we slept on the floor till 3 a.m. At 3 a message was brought, "Get up at once—things are worse." Everyone seemed to be leaving, and we got into the Red Cross ambulances and went to the station.

9 October.—We have been all day in the train in very hard third-class carriages with the R.M.L.I. The journey of fifty miles took from 5 o'clock in the morning, when we got away, till 12 o'clock at night, when we reached Ostend. The train hardly crawled. It was the longest I have ever seen. All Ostend was in darkness when we arrived—a German airship having been seen overhead. We always seem to be tumbling about in the dark. We went from one hotel to another trying to get accommodation, and at last (at the St. James's) they allowed us to lie on the floor of the restaurant. The only food they had for us was ten eggs for twenty-five hungry people and some brown bread, but they had champagne at the house, and I ordered it for everybody, and we made little speeches and tried to end on a good note.

10 October.—Mrs. Stobart took the unit back to England to-day. The wounded were found in a little house which the Red Cross had made over to them, and Dr. Ramsey, Sister Bailey, and the two nurses had much to say about their perilous journey. One man had died on the road, but the others all looked well. Their joy at seeing us was pathetic, and there was a great deal of handshaking over our meeting.


Miss Donnisthorpe and I got decent rooms at the Littoral Hotel, and brought our luggage there, and had baths, which we much needed. Dr. Hanson had got out of the train at Bruges to bandage a wounded man, and she was left behind, and is still lost. I suppose she has gone home. She is the doctor I like best, and she is one of the few whose nerves are not shattered. It was a sorry little party which Mrs. Stobart took back to England.



12 October.—Everyone has gone back to England except Sister Bailey and me. She is waiting to hand over the wounded to the proper department, and I am waiting to see if I can get on anywhere. It does seem so hard that when men are most in need of us we should all run home and leave them.

The noises and racket in Ostend are deafening, and there is panic everywhere. The boats go to England packed every time. I called on the Villiers yesterday, and heard that she is leaving on Tuesday. But they say that the British Minister dare not leave or the whole place would go wild with fear. Some ships lie close to us on the grey misty water, and the troops are passing along all day.

Later.—We heard to-night that the Germans are coming into Ostend to-morrow, so once more we fly like dust before a broom. It is horrible having to clear out for them.

I am trying to discover what courage really consists in. It isn't only a lack of imagination. In some people it is transcendent, in others it is only a sort of stupidity. If proper precautions were taken the need for courage would be much reduced—the "tight place" is so often the result of sheer muddle.

This evening Dr. Hector Munro came in from Ghent with his oddly-dressed ladies, and at first one was inclined to call them masqueraders in their knickerbockers and puttees and caps, but I believe they have done excellent work. It is a queer side of war to see young, pretty English girls in khaki and thick boots, coming in from the trenches, where they have been picking up wounded men within a hundred yards of the enemy's lines, and carrying them away on stretchers. Wonderful little Walkueres in knickerbockers, I lift my hat to you!

Dr. Munro asked me to come on to his convoy, and I gladly did so: he sent home a lady whose nerves were gone, and I was put in her place.


13 October.—We had an early muddly breakfast, at which everyone spoke in a high voice and urged others to hurry, and then we collected luggage and went round to see the General. Afterwards we all got into our motor ambulances en route for Dunkirk. The road was filled with flying inhabitants, and down at the dock wounded and well struggled to get on to the steamer. People were begging us for a seat in our ambulance, and well-dressed women were setting out to walk twenty miles to Dunkirk. The rain was falling heavily, and it was a dripping day when we and a lot of English soldiers found ourselves in the square in Dunkirk, where the few hotels are. We had an expensive lunch at a greasy restaurant, and then tried to find rooms.

I began to make out of whom our party consists. There is Lady Dorothy Fielding—probably 22, but capable of taking command of a ship, and speaking French like a native; Mrs. Decker, an Australian, plucky and efficient; Miss Chisholm, a blue-eyed Scottish girl, with a thick coat strapped around her waist and a haversack slung from her shoulder; a tall American, whose name I do not yet know, whose husband is a journalist; three young surgeons, and Dr. Munro. It is all so quaint. The girls rule the company, carry maps and find roads, see about provisions and carry wounded.

We could not get rooms at Dunkirk and so came on to St. Malo les Bains, a small bathing-place which had been shut up for the winter. The owner of an hotel there opened up some rooms for us and got us some ham and eggs, and the evening ended very cheerily. Our party seems, to me, amazingly young and unprotected.

St. Malo les Bains. 14 October.—To-day I took a car into Dunkirk and bought some things, as I have lost nearly all I possess at Antwerp. In the afternoon I went to the dock to get some letters posted, and tramped about there for a long time. War is such a disorganizer. Nothing starts. No one is able to move because of wounded arms and legs; it seems to make the world helpless and painful. In minor matters one lives nearly always with damp feet and rather dirty and hungry. Drains are all choked, and one does not get much sleep. These are trifles, of course.

[Page Heading: WOMEN AT THE FRONT]

To-night, as we sat at dinner, a message was brought that a woman outside had been run over and was going to have a baby immediately in a tram-way shelter, so out we went and got one of our ambulances, and a young doctor with his fiancee went off with her. There was a lot of argument about where the woman lived, until one young man said, "Well, get in somehow, or the baby will have arrived." There is a simplicity about these tragic times, and nothing matters but to save people.

15 October.—To-day we went down to the docks to get a passage for Dr. Munro, who is going home for money. A German Taube flew overhead and men were firing rifles at it. An Englishman hit it, and down it came like a shot bird, so that was the end of a brave man, whoever he was, and it was a long drop, too, through the still autumn air. Guns have begun to fire again, so I suppose we shall have to move on once more. One does not unpack, and it is dangerous to part with one's linen to be washed.

Yesterday I heard a man—a man in a responsible position—say to a girl, "Tell me, please, how far we are from the firing-line." It was one of the most remarkable speeches I ever heard. I go to these girls for all my news. Lady Dorothy Fielding is our real commander, and everyone knows it. One hears on all sides, "Lady Dorothy, can you get us tyres for the ambulances? Where is the petrol?" "Do you know if the General will let us through?" "Have you been able to get us any stores?" "Ought we to have 'laissez-passer's' or not?" She goes to all the heads of departments, is the only good speaker of French, and has the only reliable information about anything. All the men acknowledge her position, and they say to me, "It's very odd being run by a woman; but she is the only person who can do anything." In the firing-line she is quite cool, and so are the other women. They seem to be interested, not dismayed, by shots and shrapnel.

16 October.—To-day I have been reading of the "splendid retreat" of the Marines from Antwerp and their "unprecedented reception" at Deal. Everyone appears to have been in a state of wild enthusiasm about them, and it seems almost like Mafeking over again.

What struck me most about these men was the way in which they blew their own trumpets in full retreat and while flying from the enemy. We travelled all day in the train with them, and had long conversations with them all. They were all saying, "We will bring you the Kaiser's head, miss"; to which I replied, "Well, you had better turn round and go the other way." Some people like this "English" spirit. I find the conceit of it most trying. Belgium is in the hands of the enemy, and we flee before him singing our own praises loudly as we do so. The Marines lost their kit, spent one night in Antwerp, and went back to England, where they had an amazing reception amid scenes of unprecedented enthusiasm! The Government will give them a fresh kit, and the public will cheer itself hoarse!


I could not help thinking, when I read the papers to-day, of our tired little body of nurses and doctors and orderlies going back quietly and unproclaimed to England to rest at Folkestone for three days and then to come out here again. They had been for eighteen hours under heavy shell fire without so much as a rifle to protect them, and with the immediate chance of a burning building falling about them. The nurses sat in the cellars tending wounded men, whom they refused to leave, and then hopped on to the outside of an ammunition bus "to see the fun," and came home to buy their little caps and aprons out of their own slender purses and start work again.

I shall believe in Britishers to the day of my death, and I hope I shall die before I cease to believe in them, but I do get some disillusions. At Antwerp not a man remained with us, and the worst of it was they made elaborate excuses for leaving. Even our sergeant, who helped during the night, took a comrade off in the morning and disappeared. Both were wounded, but not badly, and two young English Tommies, very slightly wounded, left us as soon as the firing began. We saw them afterwards at the bridge, and they looked pretty mean.

To-night at dinner some officers came in when the food was pretty well finished, and only some drumsticks of chicken and bits of ham were left. I am always slow at beginning to eat, and I had a large wing of chicken still on my plate. I offered this to an officer, who accepted it and ate it, although he asked me to have a little bit of it. I do hope I shall meet some cases of chivalry soon.

Firing ceased about 5 o'clock this afternoon, but we are short of news. The English papers rather annoy one with their continual victories, of which we see nothing. Everyone talks of the German big guns as if they were some happy chance. But the Germans were drilling and preparing while we were making speeches at Hyde Park Corner. Everything had been thought out by them. People talk of the difficulty they must have had in preparing concrete floors for their guns. Not a bit of it. There were innocent dwelling-houses, built long ago, with floors in just the right position and of just the right stuff, and when they were wanted the top stories were blown off and the concrete gun-floors were ready. There were local exhibitions, too, to which firms sent exhibition guns, which they "forgot" to remove! While we were going on strike they were making an army, and as we have sown so must we reap.

One almost wonders whether it might not be possible to eliminate the personal element in war, so constant is the talk about victorious guns. If guns decide everything, then let them be trained on other guns. Let the gun that drives farthest and goes surest win. If every siege is decided by the German 16-inch howitzers, then let us put up brick and mortar or steel against them, but not men. The day for the bleeding human body seems to be over now that men are mown down by shells fired eight miles away. War used to be splendid because it made men strong and brave, but now a little German in spectacles can stand behind a Krupp gun and wipe out a regiment.


I suppose women will always try to protect life because they know what it costs to produce it, and men will always try to protect property because that is what they themselves produce. At Antwerp our wounded men were begging us to go up to the hospital to fetch their purses from under their pillows! At present women are only repairers, darning socks, cleaning, washing up after men, bringing up reinforcements in the way of fresh life, and patching up wounded men, but some day they must and will have to say, "The life I produce has as much right to protection as the property you produce, and I claim my right to protect it."

There seems to me a lack of connection between one man's desire to extend the area he occupies and young men in their teens lying with their lungs shot through or backs blown off.

19 October.—Our time is now spent in waiting and preparing for work which will probably come soon, as there has been fighting near us again. One hears the boom of guns a long way off, and always there is the sound of death in it. One has been too near it not to know now what it means.

Yesterday I went to church in an empty little building, but a few of our hospital men turned up and made a small congregation. In the afternoon one or two people came to tea in my bedroom as we could not make our usual expedition to de Poorter's bunshop. The pastry habit is growing on us all.

We went to the arsenal to-day to see about some repairs to our ambulances. I saw a German omnibus which had been captured, and the eagles on it had been painted out with stripes of red paint and the French colours put in their place. The omnibus was one mass of bullet-holes. I have seen waggons at Paardeberg, but I never saw anything so knocked about as that grey motor-bus. The engines and sides were shattered and the chauffeur, of course, had been killed. We went on by motor to the "Champs des Aviateurs." We saw one naval aeroplane man, who told us that he had been hit in his machine when it was 4,000 feet up in the air. His jacket was torn by a bullet and his machine dropped, but he was uninjured, and got away on a bicycle.

The more I see of war the more I am amazed at the courage and nerve which are shown. Death or the chance of death is everywhere, and we meet it not as fatalists do or those who believe they can earn eternal glory with a sacrifice, but lightly and with a song. An English girl at Antwerp was horribly ashamed of some Belgians who skulked behind a wall when the firing was hottest. She herself remained in the open.

It has been a great comfort to me that I have had a room to myself so far on this campaign. I find the communal spirit is not in me. The noisy meals, the heavy bowls of soup, the piles of labelled dinner-napkins, give me an unexpected feeling of oppressive seclusion and solitude, and only when I get away by myself do I feel that my soul is restored.

Mr. Gleeson, an American, joined his wife here a couple of days ago: it was odd to have a book talk again.

21 October.—A still grey day with a level sea and a few fishing-boats going out with the tide. On the long grey shore shrimpers are wading with their nets. The only colour in the soft grey dawn is the little wink of white that the breaking waves make on the sand. This small empty seaside place, with its row of bathing-machines drawn up on the beach, has a look about it as of a theatre seen by daylight. All the seats are empty and the players have gone away, and the theatre begins to whisper as empty buildings do. I think I know quite well some of the people who come to St. Malo les Bains, just by listening to what the empty little place is saying.

Firing has begun again. We hear that our ships are shelling Ostend from the sea. The news that reaches us is meagre, but I prefer that to the false reports that are circulated at home.

[Page Heading: WE GO TO FURNES]

This afternoon we came out in motors and ambulances to establish ourselves at Furnes in an empty Ecclesiastical College. Nothing was ready, and everything was in confusion. The wounded from the fighting near by had not begun to come in, but the infernal sound of the guns was quite close to us, and gave one the sensation of a blow on the ear. Night was falling as we came back to Dunkirk to sleep (for no beds were ready at Furnes), and we passed many motor vehicles of every description going out to Furnes. Some of them were filled with bread, and one saw stacks of loaves filling to the roof some once beautifully appointed motor. Now all was dust and dirt.

All my previous ideas of men marching to war have had a touch of heroism, crudely expressed by quick-step and smart uniforms. To-day I see tired dusty men, very hungry looking and unshaved, slogging along, silent and tired, and ready to lie down whenever chance offers. They keep as near their convoy as they can, and are keen to stop and cook something. God! what is heroism? It baffles me.

22 October. Furnes.—The bulk of our party did not return from Furnes yesterday, so we gathered that the wounded must be coming in, and we left Dunkirk early and came here. As I packed my things and rolled my rugs at 5 a.m. I thought of Mary, and "Charles to fetch down the luggage," and the fuss at home over my delicate health!

A French officer called Gilbert took us out to Furnes in his Brooklands racing-car, so that was a bit of an experience too, for we sat curled up on some luggage, and were told to hang on by something. The roads were empty and level, the little seats of the car were merely an appendage to its long big engines. When we got our breath back we asked Gilbert what his speed had been, and he told us 75 miles an hour.

There was a crowd of motors in the yard of the Ecclesiastical College at Furnes, engines throbbing and clutches being jerked, and we were told that all last night the fighting had gone on and the wounded had been coming in. There are three wards already fairly full, nothing quite ready, and the inevitable and reiterated "where" heard on every side.

"Where are the stretchers?" "Where are my forceps?" "Where are we to dine?" "Where are the dead to be put?" "Where are the Germans?"

No one stops to answer. People ask everybody ten times over to do the same thing, and use anything that is lying about.


There are two war correspondents here—Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Ashmead Bartlett—and they told me about the fighting at Dixmude last night. I must try to get Mr. Gibbs's newspaper account of it, but nothing will ever be so simple and so dramatic as his own description. He and Mr. Bartlett, Mr. Gleeson and Dr. Munro, with young Mr. Brockville, the War Minister's son, went to the town, which was being heavily shelled. Dixmude was full of wounded, and the church and the houses were falling. The roar of things was awful, and the bursting shells overhead sent shrapnel pattering on the buildings, the pavements, and the cars.

Young Brockville went into a house, where he heard wounded were lying, and found a pile of dead Frenchmen stacked against a wall. A bursting shell scattered them. He went on to a cellar and found some living men, got the stretchers, loaded the cars and bade them drive on. In the darkness, and with the deafening noises, no one heard his orders aright, the two motor ambulances moved on and left him behind amongst the burning houses and flying shells. It was only after going a few miles that the rest of the party found that he was not with them.

Mr. Gleeson and Mr. Bartlett went back for him. Nothing need be said except that. They went back to hell for him, and the other two waited in the road with the wounded men. After an hour of waiting these two also went back.

I asked Mr. Gibbs if he shared the contempt that some people expressed for bullets. He and Mr. Gleeson both said, "Anyone who talks of contempt for bullets is talking nonsense. Bullets mean death at every corner of the street, and death overhead and flying limbs and unspeakable sights." All these men went back. All of them behaved quietly and like gentlemen, but one man asked a friend of his over and over again if he was a Belgian refugee, and another said that a town steeple falling looked so strange that they could only stand about and light cigarettes. In the end they gave up Mr. Brockville for lost and came home with the ambulances. But he turned up in the middle of the night, to everyone's huge delight.

23 October.—A crisp autumn morning, a courtyard filled with motors and brancardiers and men in uniform, and women in knickerbockers and puttees, all lighting cigarettes and talking about repairs and gears and a box of bandages. The mornings always start happily enough. The guns are nearer to-day or more distant, the battle sways backwards and forwards, and there is no such thing as a real "base" for a hospital. We must just stay as long as we can and fly when we must.

About 10 a.m. the ambulances that have been out all night begin to come in, the wounded on their pitiful shelves.

"Take care. There are two awful cases. Step this way. The man on the top shelf is dead. Lift them down. Steady. Lift the others out first. Now carry them across the yard to the overcrowded ward, and lay them on the floor if there are no beds, but lay them down and go for others. Take the worst to the theatre: get the shattered limbs amputated and then bring them back, for there is a man just dead whose place can be filled; and these two must be shipped off to Calais; and this one can sit up."

[Page Heading: A WOUNDED GERMAN]

I found one young German with both hands smashed. He was not ill enough to have a bed, of course, but sat with his head fallen forward trying to sleep on a chair. I fed him with porridge and milk out of a little bowl, and when he had finished half of it he said, "I won't have any more. I am afraid there will be none for the others." I got a few cushions for him and laid him in a corner of the room. Nothing disturbs the deep sleep of these men. They seem not so much exhausted as dead with fatigue.

A French boy of sixteen is a favourite of mine. He is such a beautiful child, and there is no hope for him; shot through the abdomen; he can retain nothing, and is sick all day, and every day he is weaker.

I do not find that the men want to send letters or write messages. Their pain is too awful even for that, and I believe they can think of nothing else.

All day the stretchers are brought in and the work goes on. It is about 5 o'clock that the weird tired hour begins when the dim lamps are lighted, and people fall over things, and nearly everything is mislaid, and the wounded cry out, and one steps over forms on the floor. From then till one goes to bed it is difficult to be just what one ought to be, the tragedy of it is too pitiful. There is a boy with his eyes shot out, and there is a row of men all with head wounds from the cruel shrapnel overhead. Blood-stained mattresses and pillows are carried out into the courtyard. Two ladies help to move the corpses. There is always a pile of bandages and rags being burnt, and a youth stirs the horrible pile with a stick. A queer smell permeates everything, and the guns never cease. The wounded are coming in at the rate of a hundred a day.

The Queen of the Belgians called to see the hospital to-day. Poor little Queen, coming to see the remnants of an army and the remnants of a kingdom! She was kind to each wounded man, and we were glad of her visit, if for no other reason than that some sort of cleaning and tidying was done in her honour. To-night Mr. Nevinson arrived, and we went round the wards together after supper. The beds were all full—so was the floor. I was glad that so many of the wounded were dying.

The doctors said, "These men are not wounded, they are mashed."

I am rather surprised to find how little the quite young girls seem to mind the sight of wounds and suffering. They are bright and witty about amputations, and do not shudder at anything. I am feeling rather out-of-date amongst them.

* * * * *


Letter to Miss Macnaughtan's Sisters.



I think I may get this posted by a war correspondent who is going home, but I never know whether my letters reach you or not, for yours, if you write them, never reach me. I can't begin to tell you all that is happening, and it is really beyond what one is able to describe. The tragedy of pain is the thing that is most evident, and there is the roar and the racket of it and the everlasting sound of guns. The war seems to me now to mean nothing but torn limbs and stretchers. All the doctors say that never have they seen men so wounded.

The day that we got here was the day that Dixmude was bombarded, and our ten ambulances (motor) went out to fetch in wounded. These were shoved in anywhere, dying and dead, and our men went among the shells with buildings falling about them and took out all they could. Except where the fire is hottest one women goes with each car. So far I have been doing ward work, but one of the doctors is taking me on an ambulance this afternoon. Most of the women who go are very good chauffeurs themselves, so they are chosen before a person who can't drive. They are splendid creatures, and funk nothing, and they are there to do a little dressing if it is needed.

The firing is awfully heavy to-day. They say it is the big French guns that have got up. Two of our ambulances have had miraculous escapes after being hit. Things happen too quickly to know how to describe them. To-day when I went out to breakfast an old village woman aged about 70 was brought in wounded in two places. I am not fond of horrors.

We have been given an empty house for the staff, the owners having quitted it in a panic and left everything, children's toys on the carpet, and beds unmade. The hospital is a college for priests, all of whom have fled. Into this building the wounded are carried day and night, and the surgeons are working in shifts and can't get the work done. We are losing, alas! so many patients. Nothing can be done for them, and I always feel so glad when they are gone. I don't think anyone can realise what it is to be just behind the line of battle, and I fear there would not be much recruiting if people at home could see our wards. One can only be thankful for a hospital like this in the thick of things, for we are saving lives, and not only so, but saving the lives of men who perhaps have lain three days in a trench or a turnip-field undiscovered and forgotten.

As soon as a wounded man has been attended to and is able to be put on a stretcher again he is sent to Calais. We have to keep emptying the wards for other patients to come in, and besides, if the fighting comes this way, we shall have to fall back a little further.

We have a river between us and the Germans, so we shall always know when they are coming and get a start and be all right.

Your loving S. MACNAUGHTAN.

* * * * *

25 October.—A glorious day. Up in the blue even Taubes—those birds of prey—look beautiful, like eagles wheeling in their flight. It is all far too lovely to leave, yet men are killing each other painfully with every day that dawns.

I had a tiresome day in spite of the weather, because the hospital was evacuated suddenly owing to the nearness of the Germans, and I missed going with the ambulance, so I hung about all day.

26 October. My birthday.—This morning several women were brought in horribly wounded. One girl of sixteen had both legs smashed. I was taking one old woman to the civil hospital and I had to pass eighteen dead men; they were laid out beside some women who were washing clothes, and I noticed how tired even in death their poor dirty feet looked.


We started early in the ambulance to-day, and went to pick up the wounded. It was a wild gusty morning, one of those days when the sky takes up nearly all the picture and the world looks small. The mud was deep on the road, and a cyclist corps plunged heavily along through it. The car steered badly and we drove to the edge of the fighting-line.

First one comes to a row of ammunition vans, with men cooking breakfast behind them. Then come the long grey guns, tilted at various angles, and beyond are the shells bursting and leaving little clouds of black or white in the sky. We signalled to a gun not to fire down the road in much the same way as a bobby signals to a hansom. When we got beyond the guns they fired over us with a long streaky sort of sound. We came back to the road and picked up the wounded wherever we could find them.

The churches are nearly all filled with straw, the chairs piled anywhere, and the sacrament removed from the altar. In cottages and little inns it is the same thing—a litter of straw, and men lying on it in the chilly weather. Here and there through some little window one sees surgeons in their white coats dressing wounds. Half the world seems to be wounded and inefficient. We filled our ambulance, and stood about in curious groups of English men and women who looked as if they were on some shooting-party. When our load was complete we drove home.

Dr. Munro told me that last night he met a German prisoner quite naked being marched in, proudly holding his head up. Lots of the men fight naked in the trenches. In hospital we meet delightful German youths.

Amongst others who were brought in to-day was Mr. "Dick" Reading, the editor of a sporting paper. He was serving in the Belgian army, and was behind a gun-carriage when it was fired upon and started. Reading clung on behind with both his legs broken, and he stuck to it till the gun-carriage was pulled up! He came in on a stretcher as bright as a button, smoking a cigar and laughing.

[Page Heading: POPERINGHE]

Late this afternoon we had to turn out of Furnes and fly to Poperinghe. The drive was intensely interesting, through crowds of troops of every nationality, and the town seemed large and well lighted. It was crowded with people to see all our ambulances arrive. We went to a cafe, where there was a fire but nothing to eat, so some of the party went out and bought chops, and I cooked them in a stuffy little room which smelt of burnt fat.

After supper we went to a convent where the Queen of the Belgians had made arrangements for us to sleep. It was delightful. Each of us had a snowy white bed with white curtains in a long corridor, and there was a basin of water, cold but clean, and a towel for each of us. We thoroughly enjoyed our luxuries.

28 October.—The tide of battle seems to have swung away from us again and we were recalled to Furnes to-day. The hospital looked very bare and empty as all the patients had been evacuated, and there was nothing to do till fresh ones should come in. Three shells came over to-day and landed in a field near us. Some people say they were sent by our own naval guns firing wide. The souvenir grafters went out and got pieces of them.

[Page Heading: DUNKIRK]

2 November.—I have been spending a couple of nights in Dunkirk, where I went to meet Miss Fyfe. The Invicta got in late because the Hermes had been torpedoed and they had gone to her assistance. No doubt the torpedo was intended for the Invicta, which carries ammunition, and is becoming an unpopular boat in consequence. Forty of the Hermes men were lost.

Dunkirk is full of people, and one meets friends at every turn. I had tea at the Consulate one afternoon, and was rather glad to get away from the talk of shells and wounds, which is what one hears most of at Furnes.

I saw Lord Kitchener in the town one day; he had come to confer with Joffre, Sir John French, Monsieur Poincare, and Mr. Churchill, at a meeting held at the Chapeau Rouge Hotel. Rather too many valuable men in one room, I thought—especially with so many spies about! Three men in English officers' uniforms were found to be Germans the other day and taken out and shot.

The Duchess of Sutherland has a hospital at our old Casino at Malo les Bains, and has made it very nice. I had a long chat with a Coldstream man who was there. He told me he was carried to a barn after being shot in the leg and the bone shattered. He lay there for six days before he was found, with nothing to eat but a few biscuits. He dressed his own wound.

"But," he said, "the string of my puttee had been driven in so far by the shot I couldn't find it to get the thing off, so I had to bandage over it."

I went down to the station one day to see if anything could be done for the wounded there. They are coming in at the rate of seven hundred a day, and are laid on straw in an immense goods-shed. They get nothing to eat, and the atmosphere is so bad that their wounds can't be dressed. They are all patient, as usual, only the groans are heartbreaking sometimes. We are arranging to have soup given to them, and a number of ambulance men arrived who will remove them to hospital ships and trains. But the goods-shed is a shambles, and let us leave it at that.[1]

[1] It must not be thought that in this and in subsequent passages referring to the sufferings of the wounded Miss Macnaughtan alludes to any hardships endured by British troops. Her time in Flanders was all spent behind the French and Belgian lines.—ED.

Mrs. Knocker came into Dunkirk for a night's rest while I was staying there. She had been out all the previous day in a storm of wind and rain driving an ambulance. It was heavy with wounded, and shells were dropping very near. She—the most courageous woman that ever lived—was quite unnerved at last. The glass of the car she was driving was dim with rain and she could carry no lights, and with this swaying load of injured men behind her on the rutty road she had to stick to her wheel and go on.

Some one said to her, "There is a doctor in such-and-such a farmhouse, and he has no dressings. You must take him these."

She demurred (a most unusual thing for her), but men do not protect women in this war, and they said she had to take them. She asked one of the least wounded of the men to get down and see what was in front of her, and he disappeared altogether. The dark mass she had seen in the road was a huge hole made by a shell! After steering into dead horses and going over awful roads Mrs. Knocker came bumping into the yard, steering so badly that they ran to see what was wrong, and they found her fainting, and she was carried into the house. At Dunkirk she got a good dinner and a night's rest.

Furnes. 5 November.—The hospital is beginning to fill up again, and the nurses are depressed because only those cases which are nearly hopeless are allowed to stay, so it is death on all sides and just a hell of suffering. One man yelled to me to-night to kill him. I wish I might have done so. The tragedy of war presses with a fearful weight after being in a hospital, and wherever one is one hears the infernal sound of the guns. On Sunday about forty shells came into Furnes, but I was at Dunkirk. This morning about five dropped on to the station.

[Page Heading: NIEUPORT]

To-day I went out to Nieuport. It is like some town one sees in a horrible nightmare. Hardly a house is left standing, but that does not describe the scene. Nothing can fitly describe it except perhaps such a pen as Victor Hugo's. The cathedral at Nieuport has two outer walls left standing. The front leans forward helplessly, the aisles are gone. The trees round about are burnt up and shot away. In the roadway are great holes which shells have made. The very cobbles of the street are scattered by them. Not a window remains in the place; all are shattered and many hang from their frames. The fronts of the houses have fallen out, and one sees glimpses of wretched domestic life: a baby's cradle hangs in mid-air, some tin boxes have fallen through from the box-room in the attic to the ground floor. Shops are shivered and their contents strewn on all sides; the interiors of other houses have been hollowed out by fire. There is a toy-shop with dolls grinning vacantly at the ruins or bobbing brightly on elastic strings.

In a wretched cottage some soldiers are having breakfast at a fine-carved table. In one house, surrounded by a very devastation of wreckage, some cheap ornaments stand intact on a mantelpiece. From another a little ginger-coloured cat strolls out unconcernedly! The bedsteads hanging midway between floors look twisted and thrawn—nothing stands up straight. Like the wounded, the town has been rendered inefficient by war.

6 November.—Furnes always seems to me a weird tragic place. I cannot think why this is so, but its influence is to me rather curious. I feel as if all the time I was living in some blood-curdling ghost story or a horrid dream. Every day I try to overcome the feeling, but I can't succeed. This afternoon I made up my mind to return to our villa and write my diary. The day was lovely, and I meant to enjoy a rest and a scribble, but so strong was the horrid influence of the place that I couldn't settle to anything. I can't describe it, but it seemed to stifle me, and I can only compare it to some second sight in which one sees death. I sat as long as I could doing my writing, but I had to give in at last, and I tucked my book under my arm and walked back to the hospital, where at least I was with human beings and not ghosts.

Our life here is made up of many elements and many people, all rather incongruous, but the average of human nature is good. A villa belonging to a Dr. Joos was given to our staff. It is a pretty little house, with three beds in it, and we are eighteen people, so most of us sleep on the floor. It wouldn't be a bad little place (except for the drains) if only there wasn't this horrid influence about it all. I always particularly dislike toddling after people like a little lost dog, but here I find that unless I am with somebody the ghosts get the better of me.

The villa is being ruined by us I fear, but I have a woman to clean it, and I am trying to keep it in order. It is a cold little place for we have no fires. We can, by pumping, get a little very cold water, and there is a tap in the bath-room and one basin at which everyone tries to wash and shave at the same time. We get our meals at a butcher's shop, where there is a large room which we more than fill. The lights of the town are all out by 6 o'clock, so we grope about, but there is a lamp in our dining-room. When we come out we have to pass through the butcher's shop, and one may find oneself running into the interior of a sheep.

We get up about 7 o'clock and fight for the basin. Then we walk round to the butcher's shop and have breakfast at 7.30. Most people think they start off for the day's work at 8, but it is generally quite 10 o'clock before all the brown-hooded ambulances with their red crosses have moved out of the yard. We do not as a rule meet again till dinner-time, and even then many of the party are absent. They come in at all times, very dirty and hungry, and the greeting is always the same, "Did you get many?"—i.e., "Have you picked up many wounded?"

One night Dr. Munro got bowled over by the actual air force created by a shell, which however did not hit him. Yesterday Mr. Secher was shot in the leg. I am amazed that not more get hit. They are all very cheery about it.

To-day we heard that a jolly French boy with white teeth, who has been very good at making coffee at our picnic lunches, was put up against a tree and shot at daybreak. Someone had made him drunk the night before, and he had threatened an officer with a revolver.


7 November. St. Malo les Bains.—Lady Bagot turned up here to-day, and I lunched with her at the Hotel des Arcades. Just before lunch a bomb was dropped from a Taube overhead, and hardly had we sat down to lunch when a revolver shot rang through the room. A French officer had discharged his pistol by mistake, and he lay on the floor in his scarlet trews. The scene was really the Adelphi, and as the man had only slightly hurt himself one was able to appreciate the scenic effect and to notice how well staged it was. A waiter ran for me. I ran for dressings to one of our ambulances, and we knelt in the right attitude beside the hero in his scarlet clothes, while the "lady of the bureau" begged for the bullet!

In the evening Lady Bagot and I worked at the railway-sheds till 3 a.m. One immense shed had 700 wounded in it. The night scene, with its inevitable accompaniment of low-turned lamps and gloom, was one I shall not forget. The railway-lines on each side of the covered platform were spread with straw, and on this wounded men, bedded down like cattle, slept. There were rows of them sleeping feet to feet, with straw over them to make a covering. I didn't hear a grumble, and hardly a groan. Most of them slept heavily.

Near the door was a row of Senegalese, their black faces and gleaming eyes looking strange above the straw; and further on were some Germans, whom the French authorities would not allow our men to touch; then rows of men of every colour and blood; Zouaves, with their picturesque dress all grimed and colourless; Turcos, French, and Belgians. Nearly all had their heads and hands bound up in filthy dressings. We went into the dressing-station at the far end of the great shed and dressed wounds till about 3 o'clock, then we passed through the long long lines of sleeping wounded men again and went home.

* * * * *

To Lady Clementine Waring.


I have a big job for you. Will you do it? I know you are the person for it, and you will be prompt and interested.

The wounded are suffering from hunger as much as from their wounds. In most places, such as dressing-stations and railway-stations, nothing is provided for them at all, and many men are left for two or three days without food.

I wish I could describe it all to you! These wounded men are picked up after a fight and taken anywhere—very often to some farmhouse or inn, where a Belgian surgeon claps something on to the wounds or ties on a splint, and then our (Dr. Munro's) ambulances come along and bring the men into the Field Hospital if they are very bad, or if not they are taken direct to a station and left there. They may, and often do, have to wait for hours till a train loads up and starts. Even those who are brought to the Field Hospital have to turn out long before they can walk or sit, and they are carried to the local station and put into covered horse-boxes on straw, and have to wait till the train loads up and starts. You see everything has to be done with a view to sudden evacuation. We are so near to the firing-line that the Germans may sweep on our way at any time, and then every man has to be cleared out somehow (we have a heap of ambulances), and the staff is moved off to some safer place. We did a bolt of this sort to Poperinghe one day, but after being there two days the fighting swayed the other way and we were able to come back.


Well, during all these shiftings and waitings the wounded get nothing to eat. I want some travelling-kitchens, and I want you to see about the whole thing. You may have to come from Scotland, because I have opened the subject with Mr. Burbidge, of Harrods' Stores. A Harrods' man is over here. He takes back this letter. I particularly want you to see him. Mr. Burbidge has, or can obtain, old horse-vans which can be fitted up as travelling-kitchens. He is doing one now for Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland; it is to cost L15, which I call very cheap. I wish you could see it, for I know you could improve upon it. It is fitted, I understand, with a copper for boiling soup, and a chimney. There is also a place for fuel, and I should like a strong box that would hold vegetables, dried peas, etc., whose top would serve as a table. Then there must be plenty of hooks and shelves where possible, and I believe Burbidge makes some sort of protection against fire in the way of lining to the van. Harrods' man says that he doesn't know if they have any more vans or not.

I want someone with push and energy to see the thing right through and get the vans off. The Invicta, from the Admiralty Pier, Dover, sailing daily, brings Red Cross things free.


The vans would have to have the Red Cross painted on them, and in small letters, somewhere inconspicuous, "Miss Macnaughtan's Travelling-Kitchens." This is only for identification. I thought we might begin with three, and get them sent out at once, and go on as they are required. I must have a capable person and a helper in charge of each, so that limits my number. The Germans have beautiful little kitchens at each station, but I can't be sure what money I can raise, so must go slow.

I want also two little trollies, just to hold a tin jug and some tin cups hung round, with one oil-lamp to keep the jug hot. The weather will be bitter soon, and only "special" cases have blankets.

Clemmie, if only we could see this thing through without too much red tape!... No permission need be given for the work of these kitchens, as we are under the Belgian Minister of War and act for Belgium.

I thought of coming over to London for a day or two, and I can still do so, only I know you will be able to do this thing better than anyone, and will think of things that no one else thinks of. I can get voluntary workers, but meat and vegetables are dreadfully dear, so I shan't be able to spend a great deal on the vans. However, any day they may be taken by the Germans, so the only thing that really matters is to get the wounded a mug of hot soup.

Last night I was dressing wounds and bandaging at Dunkirk station till 3 a.m. The men are brought there in heaps, all helpless, all suffering. Sometimes there are fifteen hundred in one day. Last night seven hundred lay on straw in a huge railway-shed, with straw to cover them—bedded down like cattle, and all in pain. Still, it is better than the trenches and shrapnel overhead!

At the Field Hospital the wounds are ghastly, and we are losing so many patients! Mere boys of sixteen come in sometimes mortally wounded, and there are a good many cases of wounded women. You see, no one is safe; and, oh, my dear, have you ever seen a town that has been thoroughly shelled? At Furnes we have a good many shells dropping in, but no real bombardment yet. After Antwerp I don't seem to care about these visitors. We were under fire there for eighteen hours, and it was a bit of a strain as our hospital was in a line with the Arsenal, which they were trying to destroy, so we got more than our share of attention. The noise was horrible, and the shells came in at the rate of four a minute. There was something quite hellish about it.

Do you remember that great bit of writing in Job, when Wisdom speaks and says: "Destruction and Death say, it is not in me"?

The wantonness and sort of rage of it all appalled one. Our women behaved splendidly.

I'll come over to England if you think I had better, but I am sure you are the person I want.... If anything should prevent your helping, please wire to me: otherwise I shall know things are going forward.

Your loving, S. MACNAUGHTAN.

The vans should be strong as they may have rough usage; also, to take them to their destination they may have to be hitched on to a motor-ambulance.

One or two strong trays in each kitchen would be useful. The little trollies would be for railway-station work. As we go on I hope to have one kitchen for each dressing-station as well.


* * * * *

8 November.—This afternoon I went down to the Hotel des Arcades, which is the general meeting ground for everyone. The drawing-room was full and so was the Place Jean Bart, on which it looks. Suddenly we saw people beginning to fly! Soldiers, old men, children in their Sunday clothes, all running to cover. I asked what was up, and heard that a Taube was at that moment flying over our hotel. These are the sort of pleasant things one hears out here! Then Lady Decies came running in to say that two bombs had fallen and twenty people were wounded.

Once more we got bandages and lint and hurried off in a motor-car, but the civilian doctors were looking after everyone. The bomb by good luck had fallen in a little garden, and had done the least damage imaginable, but every window in the neighbourhood was smashed.


At night we went to the railway-sheds and dressed wounds. I made them do the Germans; but it was too late for one of them—a handsome young fellow with both his feet deep blue with frost-bite, his leg broken, and a great wound in his thigh. He had not been touched for eight days. Another man had a great hole right through his arm and shoulder. The dressing was rough and ready. The surgeons clapped a great wad of lint into the hole and we bound it up. There is no hot water, no sterilising, no cyanide gauze even, but iodine saves many lives, and we have plenty of it. The German boy was dying when we left. His eyes above the straw began to look glazed and dim. Death, at least, is merciful.

We work so late at the railway-sheds that I lie in bed till lunch time. Lady Bagot and I go to the sheds in the evening and stay there till 1 a.m.

11 November. Boulogne.—I got a letter from Julia yesterday, telling me that Alan is wounded and in hospital at Boulogne, and asking me to go and see him.

I came here this morning and had to run about for a long time before I started getting a "laissez-passer" for the road, as spies are being shot almost at sight now. By good chance I got a motor-car which brought me all the way; trains are uncertain, and filled with troops, and one never knows when they will arrive.


I found poor old Alan at the Base Hospital, in terrible pain, poor boy, but not dangerously wounded. He has been through an awful time, and nearly all the officers of his regiment have been killed or wounded. For my part, in spite of his pain, I can thank God that he is out of the firing-line for a bit. The horror of the war has got right into him, and he has seen things which few boys of eighteen can have witnessed. Eight days in the trenches at Ypres under heavy fire day and night is a pretty severe test, and Alan has behaved splendidly. He told me the most awful tales of what he had seen, but I believe it did him good to get things off his chest, so I listened. The thing he found the most ghastly was the fact that when a trench has been taken or lost the wounded and dying and dead are left out in the open. He says that firing never ceases, and it is impossible to reach these men, who die of starvation within sight of their comrades.

"Sometimes," Alan said, "we see them raise themselves on an arm for an instant, and they yell to us to come to them, but we can't."

His own wound was received when the Germans "got their range to an inch" and began shelling their trenches. A whole company next to Alan was wiped out, and he started to go back to tell his Colonel the trench could not be held. The communication trench by which he went was not quite finished, and he had to get out into the open and race across to where the unfinished trench began again. Poor child, running for his life! He was badly hit in the groin, but managed just to tumble into the next bit of the trench, where he found two men who carried him, pouring with blood, to his Colonel. He was hastily bound up and carried four miles on crossed rifles to the hospital at Ypres, where his wound was properly dressed, and after an hour he was put on the train for Boulogne.

Alan had one story of how he was told to wait at a certain spot with 130 men. "So I waited," he said, "but the fire was awful." His regiment had, it seems, gone round another way. "I got thirty of the men away," Alan said, "the rest were killed." It means something to be an officer and a gentleman.

Every day the list of casualties grows longer, and I wonder who will be left.

19 November. Furnes.—Early on Monday, the 16th, I left Boulogne in Lady Bagot's car and came to Dunkirk, where I was laid up with a cold for two or three days. It was singularly uncomfortable, as no one ever answered my bell, etc.; but I had a bed, which is always such a comfort, and the room was heated, so I got my things dry. Very often I find the only way to do this or to get dry clothing is to take things to bed with one—it is rather chilly, but better than putting on wet things in the morning.

The usual number of unexpected people keep coming and going. At Boulogne I met Lady Eileen Elliot, Ian Malcolm, Lord Francis Scott, and various others—all very English and clean and well fed. It was quite different from Furnes, to which I returned on Wednesday. Most of us sleep on mattresses on the floor at Furnes, but even these were all occupied, so I hopped about getting in where I could. The cold weather "set in in earnest" as newspapers say, and when it does that in Furnes it seems to be particularly in earnest.

* * * * *

To Lady Clementine Waring.



Forgive the delay in writing again. I was too sick about it all at first, then I was sent for to go to Boulogne to see my nephew, who is badly wounded. I can't explain the present situation to you because it would only be censored, but I hope to write about it later.

I shall manage the soup-kitchens soon, I hope, but next week will decide that and many things. The objection to the pattern is that those vans would overturn going round corners when hitched on behind ambulances. Some wealthy people are giving a regular motor kitchen to run about to various "dressing"-stations—this will be most useful, but it doesn't do away with the need of something to eat during those interminable waits at the railway-stations.


To-morrow I begin my own little soup-kitchen at Furnes. I have a room but no van, and this is most unsatisfactory, as any day the room (so near the station) may be commandeered. A van would make me quite independent, but I must feel my way. The situation changes very often, as you will of course see, and when one is quite close to the Front one has to be always changing with it.

I want helpers and I want vans, but rules are becoming stricter than ever. Even Adeline, Duchess of Bedford, whose good work everyone knows, has waited for a permit for a week at Boulogne, and has now gone home. When all the useful women have been expelled there will follow the usual tale of soldiers' suffering and privations: when women are about they don't let them suffer.

The only plan (if you know of any man who wants to come out) is to know how to drive a motor-car and then to offer it and his services to the Red Cross Society. I have set my heart on station soup-kitchens because I see the men put into horse-boxes on straw straight off the field, and there they lie without water or light or food while the train jolts on for hours. I wish I had you here to back me up! We could do anything together.

As ever, yours gratefully, SALLY.

The motor kitchens cost L600 fitted, but the maker is giving the one I speak of for L300. Everyone has given so much to the war I don't feel sure I could collect this amount. I might try America, but it takes a long time.



21 November.—I am up to my eyes in soup! I have started my soup-kitchen at the station, and it gives me a lot to do. Bad luck to it, my cold and cough are pretty bad!

It is odd to wake in the morning in a frozen room, with every pane of glass green and thick with frost, and one does not dare to think of Mary and morning tea! When I can summon enough moral courage to put a foot out of bed I jump into my clothes at once; half dressed, I go to a little tap of cold water to wash, and then, and for ever, I forgive entirely those sections of society who do not tub. We brush our own boots here, and put on all the clothes we possess, and then descend to a breakfast of Quaker oat porridge with bread and margarine. I wouldn't have it different, really, till our men are out of the trenches; but I am hoping most fervently that I shan't break down, as I am so "full with soup."


Our kitchen at the railway-station is a little bit of a passage, which measures eight feet by eight feet. In it are two small stoves. One is a little round iron thing which burns, and the other is a sort of little "kitchener" which doesn't! With this equipment, and various huge "marmites," we make coffee and soup for hundreds of men every day. The first convoy gets into the station about 9.30 a.m., all the men frozen, the black troops nearly dead with cold. As soon as the train arrives I carry out one of my boiling "marmites" to the middle of the stone entrance and ladle out the soup, while a Belgian Sister takes round coffee and bread.

These Belgians (three of them) deserve much of the credit for the soup-kitchen, if any credit is going about, as they started with coffee before I came, and did wonders on nothing. Now that I have bought my pots and pans and stoves we are able to do soup, and much more. The Sisters do the coffee on one side of eight feet by eight, while I and my vegetables and the stove which goes out are on the other. We can't ask people to help because there is no room in the kitchen; besides, alas! there are so many people who like raising a man's head and giving him soup, but who do not like cutting up vegetables.

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