A Surgeon in Belgium
Henry Sessions Souttar

Part 2 out of 3

part of the town that the shelling had been most severe, but a large
number of the shells must have fallen harmlessly in the brickfields, as
only a house here and there was damaged. If, however, the object of
the Germans was to clear the town of inhabitants, they had certainly
succeeded, for there was not a man, woman, or child to be seen
anywhere. It is a strange and uncanny thing to drive through a
deserted town. Only a few days before we had driven the same way,
and we had to go quite slowly to avoid the crowd in the streets. This
time we crept along slowly, but for a very different reason. We
distrusted those empty houses. We never knew what might be hiding
round the next corner, but we did know that a false turning would take
us straight into the German lines. It was the only way by which we
could reach our destination, but we were beyond the main Belgian
lines, and our road was only held by a few isolated outposts. After a
mile or so we came upon a small outpost, and they told us that we
should be safe as far as Rumps, about three miles farther, where their
main outpost was placed. An occasional shell sailed over our heads
to reassure us, some from our own batteries, and some from the
enemy's. We only hoped that neither side would fire short.

At Rumps we found the headquarters of the regiment, and several
hundred troops. At the sight of our khaki uniforms they at once raised
a cheer, and we had quite an ovation as we passed down the street.
At the Etat Majeur the Colonel himself came out to see us, and his
officers crowded round as he asked us anxiously about the British
arrivals. He pulled out his orders for the day, and told us the general
disposition of the British and Belgian troops. He told us that the road
to Duffel was too dangerous, and that we must turn northwards to
Contich, but that there might be some wounded in the Croix Rouge
station there. He and his men were typical of the Belgian Army--
brave, simple men, defending their country as best they could, without
fuss or show. I hope they have come to no harm. If only that army had
been trained and equipped like ours, the Germans would have had a
hard struggle to get through Belgium.

We turned away from the German lines northwards towards Contich.
Our road lay across the open country, between the farms which mean
so much of Belgium's wealth. In one field a man was ploughing with
three big horses. He was too old to fight, but he could do this much
for his country. Surely that man deserves a place in his country's Roll
of Honour. Shells were falling not four fields away, but he never even
looked up. It must take more nerve to plough a straight furrow when
the shells are falling than to aim a gun. I like to think of that man, and
I hope that he will be left to reap his harvest in peace. A little farther
on we came upon the objective of the German shells--a battery so
skilfully concealed that it was only when we were close to it that we
realized where it was. The ammunition-carts were drawn up in a long
line behind a hedge, while the guns themselves were buried in piles
of brushwood. They must have been invisible from the captive balloon
which hung over the German lines in the distance. They were not
firing when we passed, and we were not sorry, as we had no desire to
be there when the replies came. An occasional shell gives a certain
spice to the situation, but in quantity they are better avoided.

As we approached Contich a soldier came running up and told us that
two people had just been injured by a shell, and begged us to come to
see them. He stood on the step of the car, and directed us to a little
row of cottages half a mile farther on. At the roadside was a large
hole in the ground where a shell had fallen some minutes before, and
beside it an unfortunate cow with its hind-quarters shattered. In the
garden of the first cottage a poor woman lay on her back. She was
dead, and her worn hands were already cold. As I rose from my knees
a young soldier flung himself down beside her, sobbing as though his
heart would break. She was his mother.

Behind the cottage we found a soldier with his left leg torn to
fragments. He had lost a great deal of blood, and he was still bleeding
from a large artery, in spite of the efforts of a number of soldiers
round who were applying tourniquets without much success. The
ordinary tourniquet is probably the most inefficient instrument that the
mind of man could devise--at least, for dealing with wounds of the
thigh out in the field. It might stop haemorrhage in an infant, but for a
burly soldier it is absurd. I tried two of the most approved patterns,
and both broke in my hands. In the end I managed to stop it with a
handkerchief and a stick. I would suggest the elimination of all
tourniquets, and the substitution of the humble pocket-handkerchief.
It, at least, does not pretend to be what it is not. Between shock and
loss of blood our soldier was pretty bad, and we did not lose much
time in transferring him to our car on a stretcher. The Croix Rouge
dressing-station was more than a mile farther on, established in a
large villa in its own grounds. We carried our man in, and laid him on
a table with the object of dressing his leg properly, and of getting the
man himself into such condition as would enable him to stand the
journey back to Antwerp.

Alas! the dressing-station was destitute of any of the most elementary
appliances for the treatment of a seriously wounded man. There was
not even a fire, and the room was icy cold. There was no hot water,
no brandy, no morphia, no splints, and only a minute quantity of
dressing material. A cupboard with some prehistoric instruments in it
was the only evidence of surgery that we could find. The Belgian
doctor in charge was doing the best he could, but what he could be
expected to do in such surroundings I do not know. He seemed
greatly relieved to hear that I was a surgeon, and he was most kind in
trying to find me everything for which I asked. From somewhere we
managed to raise some brandy and hot water, and a couple of
blankets, and with the dressings we had brought with us we made the
best of a bad job, and started for home with our patient. Antwerp was
eight miles away. It was a bitterly cold evening, and darkness was
coming on. It seemed improbable that we could get our patient home
alive, but it was perfectly certain that he would die if we left him where
he was. It seemed such a pity that a little more forethought and
common sense could not have been expended on that dressing-
station, and yet we found that with rare exceptions this was the
regular state of affairs, whether in. Belgium or France. It seems to be
impossible for our professional brethren on the Continent to imagine
any treatment apart from a completely equipped hospital. Their one
idea seems to be to get the wounded back to a base hospital, and if
they die on the way it cannot be helped. The dressing-stations are
mere offices for their redirection, where they are carefully ticketed, but
where little else is done. Of course, it is true that the combatant forces
are the first consideration, and that from their point of view the
wounded are simply in the way, and the sooner they are carried
beyond the region of the fighting the better; but if this argument were
carried to its logical conclusion, there should be no medical services
at the front at all, except what might be absolutely necessary for the
actual transport of the wounded. I am glad to say that our later
experiences showed that the British influence was beginning to make
itself felt, and that the idea of the wounded as a mere useless
encumbrance was being modified by more humanitarian considerations.
And in a long war it must be obvious to the most hardened militarist
that by the early treatment of a wound many of its more severe
consequences may be averted, and that many a man may thus
be saved for further service. In a war of exhaustion, the ultimate
result might well depend on how the wounded were treated in the field.

The road was crowded with traffic, and it was quite dark before we
reached Antwerp. Our patient did not seem much the worse for his
journey, though that is perhaps faint praise. We soon had him in our
theatre, which was always warm and ready for cases such as this.
With energetic treatment his condition rapidly improved, and when we
left him to go to dinner we felt that our afternoon had not been entirely

XII. The Bombardment--Night

We had had plenty of notice that we might expect a bombardment. On
Saturday a boat had left with most of the English Colony. On Tuesday
morning the Germans sent in official notice that they intended to
bombard the city, and in the evening the Government and the
Legations left by boat with the remainder of our countrymen who lived
in Antwerp. We had faced the prospect and made every preparation
for it, and yet when it did come it came upon us as a surprise. It is
sometimes fortunate that our capacities for anticipation are so limited.

It was almost midnight on Wednesday, the 7th of October, and two of
us were sitting in the office writing despatches home. The whole
building was in absolute silence, and lit only by the subdued light of
an occasional candle. In the distance we could hear the dull booming
of the guns. Suddenly above our heads sounded a soft whistle, which
was not the wind, followed by a dull thud in the distance. We looked
at one another.

Again it came, this time a little louder. We ran up to the roof and
stood there for some moments, fascinated by the scene. From the dull
grey sky came just sufficient light to show the city laying in darkness
around us, its tall spires outlined as dim shadows against the clouds.
Not a sound arose from streets and houses around, but every few
seconds there came from the south-east a distant boom, followed by
the whistle of a shell overhead and the dull thud of its explosion. The
whole scene was eerie and uncanny in the extreme. The whistle
changed to a shriek and the dull thud to a crash close at hand,
followed by the clatter of falling bricks cutting sharply into the
stillness of the night. Plainly this was going to be a serious business,
and we must take instant measures for the safety of our patients.
At any moment a shell might enter one of the wards, and--well,
we had seen the hospital at Lierre. We ran downstairs and told
the night nurses to get the patients ready for removal, whilst
we went across to the gymnasium to arouse those of the staff
who slept there. We collected all our stretchers, and began
the methodical removal of all our patients to the basement.
In a few minutes there was a clang at the front-door bell, and our
nurses and assistants who lived outside began to arrive. Two of
the dressers had to come half a mile along the Malines road,
where the shells were falling thickest, and every few yards they
had had to shelter in doorways from the flying shrapnel. The
bombardment had begun in earnest now, and shells were fairly
pouring over our heads. We started with the top floor, helping
down those patients who could walk, and carrying the rest on
stretchers. When that was cleared we took the second, and I think we
all breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that the top floor was
empty. We were fortunate in having a basement large enough to
accommodate all our patients, and wide staircases down which the
stretchers could be carried without difficulty; but the patients were all
full-grown men, and as most of them had to be carried it was hard

I shall never forget the scene on the great staircase, crowded with a
long train of nurses, doctors, and dressers carrying the wounded
down as gently and as carefully as if they were in a London hospital. I
saw no sign of fear in any face, only smiles and laughter. And yet
overhead was a large glass roof, and there was no one there who did
not realize that a shell might come through that roof at any moment,
and that it would not leave a single living person beneath it. It made
one proud to have English blood running in one's veins. We had 113
wounded, and within an hour they were all in places of safety;
mattresses and blankets were brought, and they were all made as
comfortable as possible for the night. Four were grave intestinal
cases. Seven had terrible fractures of the thigh, but fortunately five of
these had been already repaired with steel plates, and their transport
was easy; in fact, I met one of them on the staircase, walking with the
support of a dresser's arm, a week after the operation! Some of the
patients must have suffered excruciating pain in being moved, but
one never heard a murmur, and if a groan could not be kept back, it
was passed over with a jest for fear we should notice it. It was a
magnificent basement, with heavy arched roofs everywhere, and
practically shell-proof. The long passages and the large kitchens
were all tiled and painted white, and as the electric light was still
running and the whole building was well warmed, it would have been
difficult to find a more cheerful and comfortable place. Coffee was
provided for everyone, and when I took a last look round the night
nurses were taking charge as if nothing had happened, and the whole
place was in the regular routine of an ordinary everyday hospital.

Upstairs there was an improvised meal in progress in the office, and
after our two hours' hard work we were glad of it. It is really wonderful
how cheerful a thing a meal is in the middle of the night, with plenty of
hot coffee and a borrowed cake. It is one of the compensations of our
life in hospital, and even shells are powerless to disturb it. After that,
as we knew we should have a heavy day before us, we all settled
down in the safest corners we could find to get what rest we could.
The staircase leading up to the entrance hall was probably the safest
spot in the building, covered as it was by a heavy arch, and it was
soon packed with people in attitudes more or less restful. A ward with
a comfortable bed seemed to me quite safe enough, and I spent the
night with three equally hedonistic companions. At first we lay
listening to the shells as they passed overhead, sometimes with the
soft whistle of distance, and sometimes with the angry shriek of a
shell passing near. Occasionally the shriek would drop to a low howl,
the note of a steam siren as it stops, and then a deafening crash and
the clatter of falling bricks and glass would warn us that we had only
escaped by a few yards. But even listening to shells becomes
monotonous, and my eyes gradually glued together, and I fell asleep.

When I awoke it was early morning, and daylight had just come. The
shells were still arriving, but not so fast, and mostly at a much greater
distance. But another sound came at intervals, and we had much
discussion as to what it might mean. Every three and a half minutes
exactly there came two distant booms, but louder than usual, and
then two terrific shrieks one after the other, exactly like the tearing of
a giant sheet of calico, reminding us strongly of the famous scene in
"Peter Pan." Away they went in the distance, and if we ever heard the
explosion it was a long way off. They certainly sounded like shells
fired over our heads from quite close, and at a very low elevation, and
we soon evolved the comforting theory that they were from a pair of
big British guns planted up the river, and firing over the town at the
German trenches beyond. We even saw a British gunboat lying in the
Scheldt, and unlimited reinforcements pouring up the river. Alas! it
was only a couple of big German guns shelling the harbour and the
arsenal; at least, that is the conclusion at which we have since
arrived. But for some hours those shells were a source of great
satisfaction and comfort. One can lie in bed with great contentment, I
find, when it is the other people who are being shelled.

XIII. The Bombardment--Day

We were up early in the morning, and our first business was to go
round to the British Headquarters to find out what they intended to do,
and what they expected of us as a British base hospital. If they
intended to stay, and wished us to do likewise, we were quite
prepared to do so, but we did not feel equal to the responsibility of
keeping more than a hundred wounded in a position so obviously
perilous. From shrapnel they were fairly safe in the basement, but
from large shells or from incendiary bombs there is no protection. It is
not much use being in a cellar if the house is burnt down over your
head. So two of us started off in our motor to get news.

The Headquarters were in the Hotel St. Antoine, at the corner of the
Place Verte opposite to the Cathedral, so we had to go right across
the town. We went by the Rue d'Argile and the Rue Leopold, and we
had a fair opportunity of estimating the results of the night's
bombardment. In the streets through which we passed it was really
astonishingly small. Cornices had been knocked off, and the
fragments lay in the streets; a good many windows were broken, and
in a few cases a shell had entered an attic and blown up the roof.
Plainly only small shells had been used. We did not realize that many
of the houses we passed were just beginning to get comfortably
alight, and that there was no one to put out the fires that had only
begun so far to smoulder. A few people were about, evidently on their
way out of Antwerp, but the vast bulk of the population had already
gone. It is said that the population of half a million numbered by the
evening only a few hundreds. We passed a small fox terrier lying on
the pavement dead, and somehow it has remained in my mind as a
most pathetic sight. He had evidently been killed by a piece of
shrapnel, and it seemed very unfair. But probably his people had left
him, and he was better out of it.

We turned into the Marche aux Souliers, and drew up at the Hotel St.
Antoine, and as we stepped down from the car a shell passed close to
us with a shriek, and exploded with a terrific crash in the house
opposite across the narrow street. We dived into the door of the hotel
to escape the falling debris. So far the shells had been whistling
comfortably over our heads, but it was evident that the Germans were
aiming at the British Headquarters, and that we had put our heads
into the thick of it, for it was now positively raining shells all round
us. But we scarcely noticed them in our consternation at what we
found, for the British Staff had disappeared. We wandered through
the deserted rooms which had been so crowded a few days before,
but there was not a soul to be seen. They had gone, and left
no address. At last an elderly man appeared, whom I took to be
the proprietor, and all he could tell us was that there was no one
but himself in the building. Of all the desolate spots in the world
I think that an empty hotel is the most desolate, and when you have
very fair reason to believe that a considerable number of guns are
having a competition as to which can drop a shell into it first, it
becomes positively depressing. We got into our car and drove
down the Place de Meir to the Belgian Croix Rouge, where we
hoped to get news of our countrymen, and there we were told
that they had gone to the Belgian Etat Majeur near by. We had
a few minutes' conversation with the President of the Croix Rouge,
a very good friend of ours, tall and of striking appearance, with
a heavy grey moustache. We asked him what the Croix Rouge
would do. "Ah," he said, "we will stay to the last!" At that very
moment a shell exploded with a deafening crash just outside
in the Place de Meir. I looked at the President, and he threw
up his hands in despair and led the way out of the building. The
Belgian Red Cross had finished its work.

At last at the Etat Majeur we found our Headquarters, and I sincerely
hope that wherever General Paris, Colonel Bridges, and Colonel
Seely go, they will always find people as pleased to see them as we
were. They very kindly told us something of the situation, and said
that, though they had every intention of holding Antwerp, they advised
us to clear out, and they placed at our disposal four motor omnibuses
for the transport of the wounded. So off we drove back to the hospital
to make arrangements for evacuating. It was a lively drive, for I
suppose that the Germans had had breakfast and had got to work
again; at any rate, shells were coming in pretty freely, and we were
happier when we could run along under the lee of the houses.
However, we got back to the hospital safely enough, and there we
held a council of war.

It was in the office, of course--the most risky room we could have
chosen, I suppose--but somehow that did not seem to occur to
anyone. It is curious how soon one grows accustomed to shells. At
that moment a barrel-organ would have caused us far more
annoyance. We sat round the table and discussed the situation. It
was by no means straightforward. In the first place several members
of the community did not wish to leave at all; in the second, we could
not leave any of our wounded behind unattended; and in the third, it
seemed unlikely that we could get them all on to four buses. After a
long discussion we decided to go again and see General Paris, to ask
for absolute instructions as a hospital under his control, and if he told
us to go, to get sufficient transport. And then arose a scene which will
always live in my mind. We had impressed into consultation a retired
officer of distinction to whose help we owed much, and now owe far
more, and whom I shall call our Friend. Perhaps he wished to give us
confidence--I have always suspected that he had an ulterior motive
--but he concluded the discussion by saying that he felt hungry and
would have something to eat before he started, and from his
haversack he produced an enormous German sausage and a large
loaf of bread, which he offered to us all round, and he said he would
like a cup of tea! The shells could do what they liked outside, and if
one of them was rude enough to intrude, it could not be helped. We
must show them that we could pay no attention to anything so vulgar
and noisy. At any rate, the effect on us was electrical. The contrast
between the German shells and the German sausage was too much
for us, and the meeting broke up in positive confusion. Alas that
sausage, the unparalleled trophy of an incomparable moment, was
left behind on the table, and I fear the Germans got it.

General Paris had been obliged to shift his headquarters to the
Pilotage, on the docks and at the farthest end of the city from us. He
was very considerate, and after some discussion said that we had
better leave Antwerp, and sent Colonel Farquharson with us to get six
buses. The Pilotage is at the extreme north end of the Avenue des
Arts, which extends the whole length of Antwerp, and the buses were
on the quay by the Arsenal at the extreme south end, so that we had
to drive the whole length of this, the most magnificent street of
Antwerp, and a distance of about three miles. It was an extraordinary
drive. In the whole length of that Avenue I do not think that we passed
a single individual. It was utterly deserted. All around were signs of
the bombardment--tops of houses blown off, and scattered about
the street, trees knocked down, holes in the roadway where shells
had struck. On the left stood the great Palais de Justice, with most of
its windows broken and part of the roof blown away, and just beyond
this three houses in a row blazing from cellar to chimney, the front
wall gone, and all that remained of the rooms exposed. As I said, only
small shells had been used, and the damage was nothing at all to that
which we afterwards saw at Ypres; but it gave one an impression of
dreariness and utter desolation that could scarcely be surpassed.
Think of driving from Hyde Park Corner down the Strand to the Bank,
not meeting a soul on the way, passing a few clubs in Piccadilly
burning comfortably, the Cecil a blazing furnace, and the Law Courts
lying in little bits about the street, and you will get some idea of
what it looked like. The scream of the shells and the crash when
they fell near by formed quite a suitable if somewhat Futurist

But the climax of the entertainment, the bonne bouche of the
afternoon, was reserved for the end of our drive, when we reached
the wharf by the Arsenal, where the British stores and transport were
collected. Here was a long row of motor-buses, about sixty of them,
all drawn up in line along the river. Beside them was a long row of
heavily loaded ammunition lorries, and on the other side of the road
was the Arsenal, on our left, blazing away, with a vast column of
smoke towering up to the sky. "It may blow up any minute," said
Colonel Farquharson cheerily, "I had better move that ammunition." I
have never seen an arsenal blow up, and I imagine it is a
phenomenon requiring distance to get it into proper perspective; but I
have some recollection of an arsenal blowing up in Antwerp a few
years ago and taking a considerable part of the town with it. However,
it was not our arsenal, so we waited and enjoyed the view till the
ammunition had been moved, and the Colonel had done his best to
get us the motor-buses. He could only get us four, so we had to make
the best of a bad job. But. meanwhile the Germans had evidently
determined to give us a really good show while they were about it, for
while we waited a Taube came overhead and hovered for a moment,
apparently uncertain as to whether a bomb or a shell would look
better just there. A flash of tinsel falling in the sunlight showed us that
she had made up her mind and was giving the range. But we could
not stay, and were a quarter of a mile away when we looked back and
saw the first shells falling close to where we had been two minutes
before. They had come six miles.

The bombardment was increasing in violence, and large numbers of
incendiary shells were being used, whilst in addition the houses set
on fire during the night were now beginning to blaze. As we drove
back we passed several houses in flames, and the passage of the
narrow streets we traversed was by no means free from risk. At last
we turned into our own street, the Boulevard Leopold, and there we
met a sight which our eyes could scarcely credit. Three motor-buses
stood before our door and patients were being crowded into them.
Those buses and our own lives we owe to the kindness of Major
Gordon. Without them some at least must have remained behind. The
three were already well filled, for our friends thought that we had
certainly been killed and that they must act for themselves. We sent
them off under the escort of one of our cars, as it seemed foolish to
keep them waiting in a position of danger. On our own four we packed
all our remaining patients and all the hospital equipment we could
remove. One does not waste time when one packs under shell fire,
and at the end of three-quarters of an hour there was not a patient
and very little of value in the hospital. I took charge of the theatre as I
knew where the things went, and I think the British working man
would have been rather astonished to see how fast the big sterilizers
fell apart and the operating-tables slid into their cases. The windows
faced shellwards, and I must confess that once or twice when one of
them seemed to be coming unpleasantly near I took the opportunity to
remove my parcels outside. How the patients were got ready and
carried out and into the buses in that time is beyond my
comprehension. But somehow it was managed. I took a last look
round and drove out the last nurse who was trying to rescue some
last "hospital comfort" for a patient, and in the end I was myself driven
out by two indignant dressers who caught me trying to save the
instrument sterilizer. The buses were a wonderful sight. Inside were
some sixty patients, our share of the whole hundred and thirteen, and
on top about thirty of our staff, and the strangest collection of
equipment imaginable. The largest steam sterilizer mounted guard in
front, hoisted there by two sailormen of huge strength, who turned up
from somewhere. Great bundles of blankets, crockery, and
instruments were wedged in everywhere, with the luggage of the staff.
At the door of each bus was seated a nurse, like a conductor, to give
what little attention was possible to the patients. It was a marvellous
sight, but no cheerier crowd of medical students ever left the doors of
a hospital for a Cup-tie.

XIV. The Night Journey

There was only one way out--by the bridge of boats across the
Scheldt. It was a narrow plank road, and as vehicles had to go across
in single file at some distance apart, the pressure can be imagined.
For an hour and a half we stood in the densely packed Cathedral
square watching the hands of the great clock go round and wondering
when a shell would drop among us. We had seen enough of churches
to know what an irresistible attraction they have for German artillery,
and we knew that, whatever may be the state of affairs in Scotland,
here at any rate the nearer the church the nearer was heaven. But no
shells fell near, we only heard them whistling overhead.

The scene around us was extraordinary, and indeed these were the
remains of the entire population of Antwerp. The whole city had
emptied itself either by this road or by the road northwards into
Holland. Crowds of people of every class--the poor in their working-
clothes, the well-to-do in their Sunday best--all carrying in bundles
all they could carry away of their property, and wedged in amongst
them every kind of vehicle imaginable, from a luxurious limousine to
coster's carts and wheelbarrows. In front of us lay the Scheldt, and
pouring down towards it was on the left an endless stream of
fugitives, crossing by the ferry-boats, and on the right an interminable
train of artillery and troops, crossing by the only bridge. At last there
was a movement forwards; we crept down the slope and on to the
bridge, and slowly moved over to the other side. Perhaps we should
not have felt quite so happy about it had we known that two men had
just been caught on the point of blowing up the boats in the centre,
and that very shortly after the Germans were to get the range and
drop a shell on to the bridge. At five o'clock we were across the
bridge and on the road to Ghent.

Of all the pitiful sights I have ever seen, that road was the most utterly
pitiful. We moved on slowly through a dense throng of fugitives--
men, women, and little children--all with bundles over their
shoulders, in which was all that they possessed. A woman with three
babies clinging to her skirts, a small boy wheeling his grandmother in
a wheelbarrow, family after family, all moving away from the horror
that lay behind to the misery that lay in front. We had heard of
Louvain, and we had seen Termonde, and we understood. As
darkness came down we lit our lamps, and there along the roadside
sat rows of fugitives, resting before recommencing their long journey
through the night. There was one row of little children which will live
for ever in my memory, tiny mites sitting together on a bank by the
roadside. We only saw them for an instant as our lights fell on them,
and they disappeared in the darkness. Germany will have to pay for
Louvain and Termonde. It is not with man that she will have to settle
for that row of little children.

We had a few vacant seats when we left Antwerp, but they were soon
filled by fugitives whom we picked up on the road. Strangely enough,
we picked up two of our friends in Antwerp with their families. One
was the doctor who had taken all our radiographs for us, and to whom
we owed a great deal in many ways. He had left his beautiful house,
with X-ray apparatus on which he had spent his fortune, incomparably
superior to any other that I have ever seen, and here he was trudging
along the road, with his wife, his two children, and their nurse. They
were going to St. Nicholas, on their way to Holland, and were
delighted to get a lift. Unfortunately, by some mistake, the nurse and
children left the bus at Zwyndrecht, a few miles from Antwerp, the
doctor came on to St. Nicholas, and his wife went right through with
us to Ghent. It took him three days to find the children, and when we
last heard from him he was in Holland, having lost everything he had
in the world, and after two months he had not yet found his wife. And
this is only an instance of what has happened all over Belgium.

We reached St. Nicholas about eight o'clock, having covered thirteen
miles in three hours. It was quite dark, and as we had a long night
before us we decided to stop and get some food for ourselves and
our patients. There was not much to be had, but, considering the
stream of fugitives, it was wonderful that there was anything. We
hoped now to be able to push on faster, and to reach Ghent before
midnight, for it is only a little over twenty miles by the direct road. To
our dismay, we found that Lokeren, half-way to Ghent, was in the
hands of the Germans, and that we must make a detour, taking us
close to the Dutch border, and nearly doubling the distance. Without
a guide, and in the dark, we could never have reached our
destination; but we were fortunate enough to get a guide, and we set
out on our long drive through the night. Twenty minutes later a
German scouting party entered St. Nicholas. It was a narrow margin,
but it was sufficient.

We were rather a downhearted party when we set out northwards
towards the Dutch frontier, for we had been told that the three buses
we had sent on in advance had gone straight on to Lokeren, and had
undoubtedly fallen into the hands of the Germans, who had made
certain of holding the road by destroying the bridge. We hoped that
they might have discovered this in time, and turned back, but we
could not wait to find out. We knew that the enemy were quite close.
At first we used our lights, but a shrapnel whistling overhead warned
us that we were seen, and for the remainder of the night we travelled
in darkness. These were minor roads, with a narrow paved causeway
in the centre, and loose sand on each side. Long avenues of trees
kept us in inky darkness, and how the drivers succeeded in keeping
on the causeway I really do not know. Every now and then one of the
buses would get into the sand; then all the men would collect, dig the
wheels clear, and by sheer brute force drag the bus back to safety.
Twice it seemed absolutely hopeless. The wheels were in the loose
sand within a foot of a deep ditch, and the least thing would have sent
the bus flying over on to its side into the field beyond; and on both
occasions, while we looked at one another in despair, a team of huge
Flemish horses appeared from nowhere in the darkness and dragged
us clear. Think of an inky night, the Germans close at hand, and
every half-hour or so a desperate struggle to shoulder a heavily
loaded London bus out of a ditch, and you may have some faint idea
of the nightmare we passed through.

As we crept along the dark avenues, the sky behind us was lit by an
ever-increasing glare. Away to the south-east, at no great distance, a
village was blazing, but behind us was a vast column of flame and
smoke towering up to heaven. It was in the direction of Antwerp, and
at first we thought that the vandals had fired the town; but though the
sky was lit by many blazing houses, that tall pillar came from the great
oil-tanks, set on fire by the Belgians lest they should fall into German
hands. A more awful and terrifying spectacle it is hard to conceive.
The sky was lit up as if by the sunrise of the day of doom, and thirty
miles away our road was lighted by the lurid glare. Our way led
through woods, and amongst the trees we could hear the crack and
see the flash of rifle-fire. More than once the whiz of a bullet urged us
to hurry on.

At Selsaete, only a mile from the Dutch frontier, we turned southwards
towards Ghent, and for an interminable distance we followed the bank
of a large canal. A few miles from Ghent we met Commander
Samson, of the Flying Corps, and three of his armoured cars. The
blaze of their headlights quite blinded us after the darkness in which
we had travelled, but the sight of the British uniforms and the machine
guns was a great encouragement. The road was so narrow that they
had to turn their cars into a field to let us pass. We had just come up
with a number of farm waggons, and the clumsy Flemish carts, with
their huge horses, the grey armoured cars, with their blazing
headlights, and our four red motor-buses, made a strange scene in
the darkness of the night. At last we reached Ghent utterly tired out,
though personally I had slept a sort of nightmare sleep on the top
step of a bus which boldly announced its destination as Hendon. It
was five o'clock, and day was breaking as we got our patients out of
the buses and deposited them in the various hospitals as we could
find room for them. To our unspeakable relief, we found that the rest
of our party had come through by much the same road as we had
taken ourselves, but they had reached Ghent quite early the night
before. Their earlier start had given them the advantage of clearer
roads and daylight. With good fortune little short of miraculous, we
had all come so far in safety, and we hoped that our troubles were
over. Alas, we were told that though Germans were expected to enter
Ghent that very day, and that all British wounded must be removed
from the hospitals before ten o'clock. There was nothing for it but to
collect them again, and to take them on to Ostend. One had died in
the night, and two were too ill to be moved. We left them behind in
skilled hands, and the others we re-embarked on our buses en route
for Bruges and Ostend.

The First Act in the story of the British Field Hospital for Belgium was
drawing to an end. Our hospital, to which we had given so much
labour, was gone, and the patients, for whom we had grown to care,
were scattered. Yet there was in our hearts only a deep gratitude that
we had come unharmed, almost by a miracle, through so many
dangers, and a firm confidence that in some other place we should
find a home for our hospital, where we could again help the brave
soldiers whose cause had become so much our own.

XV. Furnes

A week after we had reached London, we were off again to the
front. This time our objective was Furnes, a little town fifteen
miles east of Dunkirk, and about five miles from the fighting-line.
The line of the Belgian trenches ran in a circle, following the
course of the River Yser, the little stream which has proved
such an insuperable barrier to the German advance. Furnes
lies at the centre of the circle, and is thus an ideal position for
an advanced base, such as we intended to establish. It is easy
of access from Dunkirk by a fine main road which runs alongside
an important canal, and as Dunkirk was our port, and the only
source of our supplies, this was a great consideration. From
Furnes a number of roads lead in various directions to Ypres,
Dixmude, Nieuport, and the coast, making it a convenient
centre for an organization such as ours, requiring, as we
did, ready means of reaching the front in any direction, and
open communication with our base of supplies.

We crossed from Dover in the Government transport, and
arrived at Dunkirk about ten o'clock on Tuesday morning. There
we met Dr. Munro's party, the famous Flying Ambulance Corps,
with whom we were to enter on our new venture. They had not
come over to England at all, but had come down the coast in
their cars, and had spent the last few days in Malo, the seaside
suburb of Dunkirk. The Belgian Government very kindly lent us
a couple of big motor-lorries in which to take out our stores, and
with our own motors we made quite a procession as we started
off from the wharf of Dunkirk on our fifteen-mile drive to Furnes.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached our new home. It
was a large school, partly occupied by the priests connected
with it, partly by officers quartered there, and one of the larger
classrooms had been used as a dressing-station by some Belgian
doctors in Furnes. For ourselves, the only accommodation
consisted of a few empty classrooms and a huge dormitory
divided into cubicles, but otherwise destitute of the necessaries
for sleep. Several hours' hard work made some change in the
scene, mattresses and blankets being hauled up to the dormitory,
where the nursing staff was accommodated, while straw laid
down in one of the classrooms made comfortable if somewhat
primitive beds for the male members. Meanwhile, in the kitchen
department miracles had been accomplished, and we all sat down
to dinner with an appetite such as one rarely feels at home, and for
which many of our patients over in England would be willing to pay
quite large sums. The large room was lit by two candles and a
melancholy lamp, there was no tablecloth, the spoons were of
pewter, with the bowls half gone, and the knives were in their
dotage. But the scales had fallen from our eyes, and we realized
what trifles these things are. Madame, the genius who presided
over our domestic affairs, and many other affairs as well, and
her assistants, had produced from somewhere food, good food,
and plenty of it; and what in the world can a hungry man want more?
Truly there are many people who require a moral operation
for cataract, that they might see how good is the world in which they live.

Next day we proceeded to unpack our stores, and to try to
make a hospital out of these empty rooms, and then only did
we discover that an overwhelming misfortune had overtaken
us. By some extraordinary circumstance which has never been
explained, we had lost practically the whole of the surgical
instruments which we had brought out of Antwerp with such
trouble and risk. They were tied up in sheets, and my own
impression is that they were stolen. However that may be, here
we were in as ludicrous a position as it is possible for even a
hospital to occupy, for not only had we none of the ordinary
instruments, but, as if Fate meant to have a good laugh at us,
we had a whole series of rare and expensive tools. We had no
knives, and no artery forceps, and not a stitch of catgut; but we
had an oesophagoscope, and the very latest possible pattern of
cystoscope, and a marvellous set of tools for plating fractures. It
reminded one of the costume of an African savage--a silk hat,
and nothing else. Some Belgian doctors who had been working
there lent us a little case of elementary instruments, and that
was absolutely all we had.

Scarcely had we made this terrible discovery, when an
ambulance arrived with two wounded officers, and asked if we
were ready to admit patients. We said, "No," and I almost think
that we were justified. The men in charge of the ambulance
seemed very disappointed, and said that in that case there was
nothing for it but to leave the wounded men on their stretchers
till an ambulance train should come to take them to Calais,
which they might ultimately reach in two or three days' time.
They were badly wounded, and we thought that at least we
could do better than that; so we made up a couple of beds in
one of the empty rooms, and took them in. Little did we dream
of what we were in for. An hour later another ambulance
arrived, and as we had started, we thought that we might as
well fill up the ward we had begun. That did it. The sluice-gates
were opened, and the wounded poured in. In four days we
admitted three hundred and fifty patients, all of them with
injuries of the most terrible nature. The cases we had seen at
Antwerp were nothing to these. Arms and legs were torn right
off or hanging by the merest shreds, ghastly wounds of the
head left the brain exposed. Many of the poor fellows were
taken from the ambulances dead, and of the others at least half
must have died.

For four days and four nights the operating theatre was at work
continuously, till one sickened at the sight of blood and at the
thought of an operation. Three operating tables were in almost
continuous use, and often three major operations were going
on at the same time; and all the instruments we had were two
scalpels, six artery forceps, two dissecting forceps, and a finger-
saw. Think of doing amputations through the thigh with that
equipment! There was nothing else for it. Either the work had to
be done or the patients had to die. And there was certainly no
one else to do it. The rapid advance of the Germans had swept
away all the admirable arrangements which the Belgian Army
had made for dealing with its wounded. The splendid hospitals
of Ghent and Ostend were now in German hands, and there
had not yet been time to get new ones established. The cases
could be sent to Calais, it was true, but there the accommodation
was so far totally inadequate, and skilled surgical assistance
was not to be obtained. For the moment our hospital, with its
ludicrous equipment, was the only hope of the badly wounded.
By the mercy of Heaven, we had plenty of chloroform and
morphia, and a fair supply of dressings, and we knew by
experience that at this stage it is safer to be content with the
minimum of actual operative work, so that I think it was we,
rather than our patients, who suffered from the want of the
ordinary aids of surgery. In the wards there was a shortage,
almost as serious, of all the ordinary equipment of nursing, for
much of this had been too cumbrous to bring from Antwerp;
and though we had brought out a fair supply of ordinary
requirements, we had never dreamt of having to deal with such
a rush as this. Ward equipment cannot be got at a moment's
notice, and the bulk of it had not yet arrived. We only
possessed a dozen folding beds, in which some of the worst
cases were placed. The others had to lie on straw on the floor,
and so closely were they packed that it was only with the
greatest care that one could thread one's way across the ward.
How the nurses ever managed to look after their patients is
beyond my comprehension, but they were magnificent. They
rose to the emergency as only Englishwomen can, and there is
not one of those unfortunate men who will not remember with
gratitude their sympathy and their skill.

During these first days a terrific fight was going on around
Dixmude and Nieuport, and it was a very doubtful question how
long it would be possible for the Belgian and French troops to
withstand the tremendous attacks to which they were being
subjected. The matter was so doubtful that we had to hold
ourselves in readiness to clear out from the hospital at two
hours' notice, whilst our wounded were taken away as fast as
we could get them into what one can only describe as a portable
condition. It was a physical impossibility for our wards to hold
more than a hundred and fifty patients, even when packed
close together side by side on the floor, and as I have said,
three hundred and fifty were dealt with in the first four days.
This meant that most of them spent only twenty-four hours
in the hospital, and as we were only sent cases which could
not, as they stood, survive the long train journey to Calais,
this meant that they were often taken on almost immediately
after serious operations. Several amputations of the thigh,
for example, were taken away next day, and many of them
must have spent the next twenty-four hours in the train, for
the trains were very tardy in reaching their destination. It is not
good treatment, but good surgery is not the primary object of
war. The fighting troops are the first consideration, and the
surgeon has to manage the best way he can.

One of the most extraordinary cases we took in was that of the
editor of a well-known sporting journal in England. He had
shown his appreciation of the true sporting instinct by going out
to Belgium and joining the army as a mitrailleuse man. If there
is one place where one may hope for excitement, it is in an
armoured car with a mitrailleuse. The mitrailleuse men are
picked dare-devils, and their work takes them constantly into
situations which require a trained taste for their enjoyment. Our
friend the editor was out with his car, and had got out to
reconnoitre, when suddenly some Germans in hiding opened
fire. Their first shot went through both his legs, fracturing both
tibiae, and he fell down, of course absolutely incapable of
standing, just behind the armoured car. Owing to some mistake,
an officer in the car gave the order to start, and away went the
car. He would have been left to his fate, but suddenly realizing
how desperate his position was, he threw up his hand and caught
hold of one of the rear springs. Lying on his back and holding
on to the spring, he was dragged along the ground, with both
his legs broken, for a distance of about half a mile.

The car was going at about twenty-five miles an hour, and how
he ever maintained his hold Heaven only knows. At last they
pulled up, and there they found him, practically unconscious,
his clothes torn to ribbons, his back a mass of bruises, but still
holding on. It was one of the most splendid examples of real
British grit of which I have ever heard. They brought him to the
hospital, and we fixed him up as well as we could. One would
have thought that he might have been a little downhearted, but
not a bit of it. He arrived in the operating theatre smiling and
smoking a cigar, and gave us a vivid account of his experiences.
We sent him over to England, and I heard that he was doing well.
There is one sporting paper in England which is edited by a
real sportsman. May he long live to inspire in others the courage
of which he has given such a splendid example!

XVI. Poperinghe

For a long week the roar of guns had echoed incessantly in our
corridors and wards, and a continuous stream of motor-lorries,
guns, and ammunition waggons had rumbled past our doors;
whilst at night the flash of the guns lit up the horizon with an
angry glare. The flood of wounded had abated, and we were
just beginning to get the hospital into some sort of shape when
the order came to evacuate.

It had been no easy task transforming bare rooms into
comfortable wards, arranging for supplies of food and stores,
and fitting a large staff into a cubic space totally inadequate to
hold them. But wonderful things can be accomplished when
everyone is anxious to do their share, and the most hopeless
sybarite will welcome shelter however humble, and roll himself
up in a blanket in any corner, when he is dead tired. For the first
few days the rush of wounded had been so tremendous that all
we could do was to try to keep our heads above water and not
be drowned by the flood.

But towards the end of the week the numbers diminished, not
because there were not as many wounded, but because the
situation was so critical that the Belgian authorities did not dare
to leave any large number of wounded in Furnes. Supplies
were coming out from England in response to urgent telegrams,
and, through the kind offices of the Queen of the Belgians, we
had been able to obtain a number of beds from the town, in
addition to twenty which she had generously given to us herself.
So that we were gradually beginning to take on the appearance
of an ordinary hospital, and work was settling down into a
regular routine. The sleepy little town of Furnes had been for
some weeks in a state of feverish activity. After the evacuation
of Antwerp and the retirement of the Belgian Army from Ostend,
it had become the advanced base of the Belgian troops, and it
was very gay with Staff officers, and of course packed with
soldiers. The immense Grand Place lined with buildings, in
many cases bearing unmistakable signs of a birth in Spanish
times, was a permanent garage of gigantic dimensions, and the
streets were thronged day and night with hurrying cars. We in
the hospital hoped that the passage of the Yser would prove
too much for the Germans, and that we should be left in peace,
for we could not bear to think that all our labour could be thrown
to the winds, and that we might have to start afresh in some
other place. But one of the massed attacks which have formed
such a prominent feature of this terrible war had temporarily
rolled back the defence in the Dixmude district, and it was
deemed unwise to submit the hospital to the risk of possible

We were fortunate in having Dr. Munro's ambulance at our
disposal, and in rather over two hours more than a hundred
wounded had been transferred to the Red Cross train which lay
at the station waiting to take them to Calais. An evacuation is
always a sad business, for the relations between a hospital and
its patients are far more than professional. But with us it was
tragic, for we knew that for many of our patients the long
journey could have only one conclusion. Only the worst cases
were ever brought to us, in fact only those whose condition
rendered the long journey to Calais a dangerous proceeding,
and we felt that for many of them the evacuation order was a
death warrant, and that we should never see them again. They
were brave fellows, and made the best of it as they shook
hands with smiling faces and wished us "Au revoir," for though
they might die on the way they preferred that to the danger of
falling into the hands of the Germans. And they were right. They
knew as well as we did that we are not fighting against a
civilized nation, but against a gang of organized savages.

Three hours later we were mingling with the crowds who
thronged the road, wondering with them where our heads would
rest that night, and filled with pity at the terrible tragedy which
surrounded us. Carts, wheelbarrows, perambulators, and in fact
any vehicle which could be rolled along, were piled to overflowing
with household goods. Little children and old men and women
struggled along under loads almost beyond their powers, none
of them knowing whither they went or what the curtain of fate
would reveal when next it was drawn aside. It was a blind flight
into the darkness of the unknown.

Our orders were to make for Poperinghe, a little town lying
about fifteen miles due south of Furnes, in the direction of
Ypres. For the first ten miles we travelled along the main road to
Ypres, a fine avenue running between glorious trees, and one
of the chief thoroughfares of Belgium. Here we made our first
acquaintance with the African troops, who added a touch of
colour in their bright robes to the otherwise grey surroundings.
They were encamped in the fields by the side of the road, and
seemed to be lazily enjoying themselves seated round their
camp-fires. At Oostvleteren we parted company with the main
road and its fine surface, and for the next six miles we bumped
and jolted along on a bad cross-road till our very bones rattled
and groaned.

There was no suggestion now of the horrors of war. Peaceful
villages as sleepy as any in our own country districts appeared
at frequent intervals, and easy prosperity was the obvious
keynote of the well-wooded and undulating countryside. We
were in one of the great hop districts, and the contrast with the
flat and unprotected country round Furnes was striking. One
might Almost have been in the sheltered hopfields of Kent. Little
children looked up from their games in astonishment as we
rolled by, and our response to their greetings was mingled with
a silent prayer that they might be spared the terrible fate which
had befallen their brothers and sisters in far-off Lou vain. The
contrasts of war are amazing. Here were the children playing by
the roadside, and the cattle slowly wending their way home, and
ten miles away we could hear the roar of the guns, and knew
that on those wasted fields men were struggling with savage
fury in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

In the great square of Poperinghe the scene was brilliant in the
extreme. Uniforms of every conceivable cut and colour rubbed
shoulder to shoulder; ambulance waggons, guns, ammunition
trains, and picketed horses all seemed to be mixed in inextricable
confusion; while a squadron of French cavalry in their bright
blue and silver uniforms was drawn up on one side of the
square, waiting patiently for the orders which would permit
them to go to the help of their hard-pressed comrades. It seemed
impossible that we could find shelter here, for obviously every
corner must have been filled by the throng of soldiers who
crowded in the square. But we were quite happy, for had we
not got Madame with us, and had her genius ever been known
to fail, especially in the face of the impossible? Others might
go without a roof, but not we, and others might go to bed
supperless, but in some miraculous way we knew that we should
sit down to a hot dinner. We were not deceived. The whole nursing
staff was soon comfortably housed in a girls' school, while the men
were allotted the outhouse of a convent, and there, rolled up in our
blankets and with our bags for pillows, we slept that night as soundly
as we should have done in our own comfortable beds in England.

There was ample room in the courtyard for our heavily laden
ambulances, for we had brought all our stores with us; and a
big pump was a welcome sight, for grime had accumulated
during the preceding twelve hours. By the side of the friendly
pump, in a railed-off recess, a life-size image of Our Lady of
Lourdes, resplendent in blue and gold, looked down with a
pitying smile on a group of pilgrims, one of whom bore a little
child in her arms; whilst a well-worn stone step spoke of the
number of suppliants who had sought her aid.

We had fasted for many hours, and while we were doing our
part in unpacking the small store of food which we had brought
with us, Madame, with her usual genius, had discovered on the
outskirts of Poperinghe an obscure cafe, where for a small sum
the proprietor allowed us to use his kitchen. There we were
presently all seated round three tables, drinking coffee such as
we had rarely tasted, and eating a curiously nondescript, but
altogether delightful, meal. There were two little rooms, one
containing a bar and a stove, the other only a table. Over the
stove presided a lady whose novels we have all read, cooking
bacon, and when I say that she writes novels as well as she
cooks bacon it is very high praise indeed--at least we thought
so at the time. Some genius had discovered a naval store in the
town, and had persuaded the officer in charge to give us
cheese and jam and a whole side of bacon, so that we fed like
the gods. There was one cloud over the scene, for the terrible
discovery was made that we had left behind in Furnes a large
box of sausages, over the fate of which it is well to draw a veil;
but Madame was not to be defeated even by that, and a wonderful
salad made of biscuits and vinegar and oil went far to console
us. And that reminds me of a curious episode in Furnes. For
several days the huge store bottle of castor oil was lost. It was
ultimately discovered in the kitchen, where, as the label was
in English, it had done duty for days as salad oil! What is
there in a name after all?

We had not been able to bring with us all our stores, and as
some of these were wanted two of us started back to Furnes
late at night to fetch them. It was a glorious night, and one had
the advantage of a clear road. We were driving northwards, and
the sky was lit up by the flashes of the guns at Nieuport and
Dixmude, whilst we could hear their dull roar in the distance. All
along the road were encamped the Turcos, and their camp-
fires, with the dark forms huddled around them, gave a picturesque
touch to the scene. Half-way to Furnes the road was lit up
by a motor-car which had caught fire, and which stood blazing
in the middle of the road. We had some little difficulty in passing
it, but when we returned it was only a mass of twisted iron by
the roadside. There was no moon, but the stars shone out
all the more brilliantly as we spun along on the great Ypres
road. It was long after midnight when we reached the hospital,
and it was not a little uncanny groping through its wards in the
darkness. There is some influence which seems to haunt the
empty places where men once lived, but it broods in redoubled
force over the places where men have died. In those wards,
now so dark and silent, we had worked for all the past days amid
sights which human eyes should never have seen, and the
groans of suffering we had heard seemed to echo through the
darkness. We were glad when we had collected the stores
we required and were again in the car on our way back to Poperinghe.

Next morning we called at the Hotel de Ville in Poperinghe, and
there we learnt that the Queen, with her usual thoughtfulness,
was interesting herself on our behalf to find us a building in
which we could make a fresh start. She had sent the Viscomtesse
de S. to tell us that she hoped to shortly place at our disposal
either a school or a convent. On the following day, however,
we heard that the situation had somewhat settled, and an order
came from General Mellis, the Chief of the Medical Staff,
instructing us to return to Furnes. A few hours later found
us hard at work again, putting in order our old home.

There was one rather pathetic incident of our expedition to
Poperinghe. Five nuns who had fled from Eastern Belgium--
they had come, I think, from a convent near Louvain--had
taken refuge in the school in Furnes in which we were established.
When we were ordered to go to Poperinghe, they begged to
be allowed to accompany us, and we took them with us in the
ambulances. On our return they were so grateful that they asked
to be allowed to show their gratitude by working for us in the
kitchen, and for all the time we were at Furnes they were our
devoted helpers. They only made one request, that if we left
Furnes we would take them with us, and we promised that we
would never desert them.

XVII. Furnes Again

The position of the hospital at Furnes was very different from
that which it had held at Antwerp. There we were in a modern
city, with a water-supply and modern sanitary arrangements.
Here we were in an old Continental country town, or, in other
words, in medieval times, as far as water and sanitation were
concerned. For it is only where the English tourist has
penetrated that one can possibly expect such luxuries. One
does not usually regard him as an apostle of civilization, but he
ought certainly to be canonized as the patron saint of continental
sanitary engineering. As a matter of fact, in a country as flat as
Belgium the science must be fraught with extraordinary difficulties,
and they certainly seem to thrive very well without it. We were
established in the Episcopal College of St. Joseph, a large
boys' school, and not badly adapted to the needs of a hospital
but for the exceptions I have mentioned. Our water-supply
came, on a truly hygienic plan, from wells beneath the building,
whilst we were entirely free from any worry about drains. There
were none. However, it did not seem to affect either ourselves
or our patients, and we all had the best of health, though we took
the precaution of sterilizing our water.

We were now the official advanced base hospital of the Belgian
Army, and not merely, as in Antwerp, a free organization
working by itself. The advantage of this arrangement was that
we had a constant supply of wounded sent to us whenever
there was any fighting going on, and that the evacuation of our
patients was greatly facilitated. Every morning at ten o'clock
Colonel Maestrio made the tour of our wards, and arranged for
the removal to the base hospital at Dunkirk of all whom we
wished to send away. It gave us the further advantage of
special privileges for our cars and ambulances, which were
allowed to go practically anywhere in search of the wounded
with absolute freedom. Formerly we had owed a great deal to
the assistance of the Belgian Croix Rouge, who had been very
good in supplementing our supply of dressings, as well as in
getting us army rations for the patients. This, of course, had all
come to an end, and we now had to rely on our own resources.

Our personnel had undergone considerable alteration, for while
several of our original members had dropped out, we had
joined forces with Dr. Hector Munro's Ambulance Corps, and
four of their doctors had joined our medical staff. Dr. Munro and
his party had worked in connection with the hospitals of Ghent
till the German advance forced both them and ourselves to
retreat to Ostend. There we met and arranged to carry on our
work together at Furnes. The arrangement was of the greatest
possible advantage to both of us, for it gave us the service of
their splendid fleet of ambulances, and it gave them a base to
which to bring their wounded. We were thus able to get the
wounded into hospital in an unusually short space of time, and
to deal effectively with many cases which would otherwise have
been hopeless. Smooth coordination with an ambulance party
is, in fact, the first essential for the satisfactory working of an
advanced hospital. If full use is to be made of its advantages,
the wounded must be collected and brought in with the minimum
of delay, whilst it must be possible to evacuate at once all who
are fit to be moved back to the base. In both respects we were
at Furnes exceptionally well placed.

We were established in a large straggling building of no
attraction whatever except its cubic capacity. It was fairly new,
and devoid of any of the interest of antiquity, but it presented
none of the advantages of modern architecture. In fact, it was
extremely ugly and extremely inconvenient, but it was large.
Two of the largest classrooms and the refectory were converted
into wards. At first the question of beds was a serious difficulty,
but by the kind intervention of the Queen we were able to
collect a number from houses in the town, whilst Her Majesty
herself gave us twenty first-class beds with box-spring
mattresses. Later on we got our supplies from England, and we
could then find beds for a hundred patients. Even then we were
not at the end of our capacity, for we had two empty classrooms,
the floors of which we covered with straw, on which another fifty
patients could lie in comfort until we could find better accommodation
for them. We could not, of course, have fires in these rooms,
as it would have been dangerous, but we warmed them by the
simple plan of filling them with patients and shutting all the windows and
doors. For the first few nights, as a matter of fact, we had to sleep
in these rooms on straw ourselves, and in the greatest luxury. No
one who has slept all his life in a bed would ever realize how
comfortable straw is, and for picturesqueness has it an equal?

I went into the Straw Ward on my round one wild and stormy
night. Outside the wind was raging and the rain fell in torrents,
and it was so dark that one had to feel for the door. Inside a
dozen men lay covered up with blankets on a thick bed of
straw, most of them fast asleep, while beside one knelt a nurse
with a stable lantern, holding a cup to his lips. It was a picture
that an artist might have come far to see--the wounded soldiers
in their heavy coats, covered by the brown blankets; the nurse
in her blue uniform and her white cap, the stable lantern throwing
flickering shadows on the walls. It was something more than
art, and as I glanced up at the crucifix hanging on the wall
I felt that the picture was complete.

Above the two larger wards was a huge dormitory, divided up
by wooden partitions into some sixty cubicles, which provided
sleeping accommodation for the bulk of our staff. They were
arranged in four ranks, with passages between and washing
arrangements in the passages, and the cubicles themselves
were large and comfortable. It was really quite well planned,
and was most useful to us, though ventilation had evidently not
appealed to its architect. Two rows were reserved for the
nurses, and in the others slept our chauffeurs and stretcher-bearers,
with a few of the priests. Our friends were at first much shocked
at the idea of this mixed crowd, but as a matter of fact it worked
very well, and there was very little to grumble at. The only real
disadvantage was the noise made by early risers in the morning,
convincing us more than ever of the essential selfishness of
the early bird. A few of us occupied separate rooms over in
the wing which the priests had for the most part reserved for
themselves, and these we used in the daytime as our offices.

But the real sights of our establishment were our kitchen and
our chef; we might almost have been an Oxford college. Maurice
had come to us in quite a romantic way. One night we took in a soldier
with a bullet wound of the throat. For some days he was pretty
bad, but he won all our hearts by his cheerfulness and pluck.
When at last he improved sufficiently to be able to speak, he
told us that he was the assistant chef at the Hotel Metropole
in Brussels. We decided that he ought to be kept in a warm,
moist atmosphere for a long time, and he was installed in the
kitchen. He was a genius at making miracles out of nothing,
and his soups made out of bacon rind and old bones, followed
by entrees constructed from bully beef, were a dream. He was
assisted by the nuns from Louvain who had accompanied us
to Poperinghe, and who now worked for us on the sole condition
that we should not desert them. They were very picturesque
working in the kitchen in their black cloaks and coifs. At meal-times
the scene was a most animated one, for, as we had no one
to wait on us, we all came in one after the other, plate in hand,
while Maurice stood with his ladle and presided over the
ceremonies, with a cheery word for everyone, assisted by the silent nuns.

The getting of supplies became at times a very serious
question. Needless to say, Furnes was destitute of anything to
eat, drink, burn, or wear, and Dunkirk was soon in a similar
case. We had to get most of our provisions over from England,
and our milk came every morning on the Government transport,
from Aylesbury. For some weeks we were very hard up, but the
officer in charge of the naval stores at Dunkirk was very good to
us, and supplied us with bully beef, condensed milk, cheese,
soap, and many other luxuries till we could get further supplies
from home. We used a considerable quantity of coal, and on
one occasion we were faced by the prospect of an early famine,
for Furnes and Dunkirk were empty. But nothing was ever too
great a strain for the resources of our housekeeper. She
discovered that there was a coal-heap at Ramscapelle, five
miles away, and in a few hours an order had been obtained
from the Juge d'Instruction empowering us to take the coal if we
could get it, and the loan of a Government lorry had been
coaxed out of the War Lords. The only difficulty was that for the
moment the Germans were shelling the place, and it was too
dangerous to go near even for coal; so the expedition had to be
postponed until they desisted. It seemed to me the most
original method of filling one's coal-cellar of which I had ever
heard. And it was typical of a large number of our arrangements.
There is something of the Oriental about the Belgians and the
French. If we wanted any special favour, the very last thing we
thought of doing was to go and ask for it. It was not that they
were not willing to give us what we asked for, but they did
not understand that method of approach. What we did was
to go to breakfast with the Juge, or to lunch with the Minister,
or to invite the Colonel to dinner. In the course of conversation
the subject would be brought up in some indirect way till the
interest of the great man had been gained; then everything
was easy. And surely there is something very attractive about
a system where everything is done as an act of friendship, and
not as the soulless reflex of some official machine. It is easier
to drink red wine than to eat red tape, and not nearly so wearing
to one's digestion.

As we were fifteen miles from Dunkirk, and as everything had to
be brought out from there, transport was a serious problem.
Every morning one of our lorries started for our seaport soon
after nine, carrying the hospital mailbag and as many messages
as a village carrier. The life of the driver was far more exciting
than his occupation would suggest, and it was always a moot
point whether or not he would succeed in getting back the
same night. The road was of the usual Belgian type, with a
paved causeway in the middle just capable of allowing two
motors to pass, and on each side was a morass, flanked on
the right by a canal and on the left by a field. The slightest
deviation from the greasy cobbles landed the car in the mud,
with quite a chance of a plunge into the canal. A constant
stream of heavy army lorries tore along the road at thirty or
more miles an hour, and as a rule absolutely refused to give
way. It took a steady nerve to face them, encouraged as one
was by numbers of derelicts in the field on the one side and half
in the canal on the other. On one bridge a car hung for some
days between heaven and earth, its front wheels caught over
the parapet, and the car hanging from them over the canal--a
heartening sight for a nervous driver. It was rarely that our lorry
returned without some tale of adventure. The daily round, the
common task, gave quite enough occupation to one member of
the community.

XVIII. Work At Furnes

Our work at Furnes differed in many ways from that at Antwerp.
All its conditions were rougher, and, as we had to deal with a
number of patients out of all proportion to our size, it was
impossible to keep any but a few special cases for any length of
time. We admitted none but the most serious cases, such as
would be instantly admitted to any London hospital, and when I
mention that in five weeks we had just a thousand cases in our
hundred beds, the pressure at which the work was carried on
will be realized. There is no hospital in England, with ten times
the number of beds, that has ever admitted to its wards
anything like this number of serious surgical cases. We were
essentially a clearing hospital, with this important proviso, that
we could, when it was required, carry out at once the heaviest
operative work, and retain special cases as long as we thought
fit. Our object was always to get each patient into such a
condition that he could be transferred back to the base without
injury to his chances of recovery, and without undue pain, and I
believe we saved the life of many a patient by giving him a
night's rest in the Straw Ward, and sending him on next day
with his wound properly dressed and supported. The cases
themselves were of a far more severe type than those we had
at Antwerp. There, indeed, I was astonished at the small
amount of injury that had in many cases resulted from both
shrapnel and bullet wounds, and it was certainly worthy of note
that we had never once in our work there had to perform an
amputation. At Furnes, we drew our patients from the line
between Nieuport and Dixmude, where the fighting was for the
most part at close range and of a most murderous nature.
There were no forts, and the soldiers had little or no protection
from the hail of high-explosive shells which the enemy poured
upon them. In Nieuport and Dixmude themselves the fighting
was frequently from house to house, the most deadly form of
fighting known. The wounds we had to treat were correspondingly
severe--limbs sometimes almost completely torn off, terrible
wounds of the skull, and bullet wounds where large masses of
the tissues had been completely torn away. It was difficult to
see how human beings could survive such awful injuries, and,
indeed, our death-roll was a long one. Added to this, the men
had been working in the wet and the mud for weeks past. Their
clothes were stiff with it, and such a thing as a clean wound was
not to be thought of. Simple cases at Antwerp were here tedious
and dangerous, and they required all the resources of nursing
and of surgery that we could bring to bear upon them. Still,
it was extraordinary what good results followed on common-sense
lines of treatment, and we soon learnt to give up no case as
hopeless. But each involved a great amount of work, first in
operating and trying to reduce chaos to reason, and then in
dressing and nursing. For everyone all round--surgeons,
dressers, and nurses--it was real hard physical labour.

Our rapid turnover of patients involved a large amount of
manual labour in stretcher work, clearing up wards, and so on,
but all this was done for us by our brancardiers, or stretcher-bearers.
These were Belgians who for one reason or another could not
serve with the army, and who were therefore utilized by the
Government for purposes such as these. We had some eight
of them attached to our hospital, and they were of the greatest
use to us, acting as hospital orderlies. They were mostly
educated men--schoolmasters and University teachers--but
they were quite ready to do any work we might require at
any hour of the day or night. They carried the patients to the
theatre and to the wards, they cleaned the stretchers--a very
difficult and unpleasant job--they tidied up the wards and scrubbed
the floors, and they carried away all the soiled dressings and
burned them. They were a fine set of men, and I do not know
what we should have done without them.

Work began at an early hour, for every case in the hospital
required dressing, and, as we never knew what we should have
to deal with at night, we always tried to get through the routine
before lunch. At ten o'clock Colonel Maestrio arrived, with two of
his medical officers, and made a complete round of the hospital
with the surgeons in charge of the various cases. They took the
greatest interest in the patients, and in our attempts to cure
them. They would constantly spend an hour with me in the
operating theatre, and after any exceptional operation they
would follow the progress of the patient with the keenest
interest. Many of the cases with which we had to deal required
a certain amount of ingenuity in the reconstruction of what had
been destroyed, so that surgery had often to be on rather
original lines. What interested them most was the fixation of
fractures by means of steel plates, which we adopted in all our
serious cases. Apparently the method is very little used abroad,
and as an operation it is distinctly spectacular, for in a few
minutes a shapeless mass which the patient cannot bear to be
touched is transformed into a limb almost as strong as the
other, which can be moved about in any direction without fear of
breaking, and, when the patient recovers consciousness,
almost without discomfort. We almost always had an interested
audience, professional, clerical, or lay, for the chauffeurs found
much amusement in these feats of engineering.

In the afternoon we almost always had some distinguished
visitor to entertain, and it is one of my chief regrets that we
never kept a visitors' book. Its pages would one day have been
of the greatest interest. Twice every week the Queen of the
Belgians came round our wards. She came quite simply, with
one of her ladies and one of the Belgian medical officers, and
no one could possibly have taken a deeper interest in the
patients. Her father studied medicine as a hobby, and had,
indeed, become a very distinguished physician, and she herself
has had considerable training in medicine, so that her interest
was a great deal more than that of an ordinary lay visitor. She
was quite able to criticize and to appreciate details of nursing
and of treatment. She always spoke to every patient, and she
had a kind word for every one of them, Belgian, French, or even
German, for we had a few Germans. There was something deeply
touching in the scene. The dimly lit ward, with its crude furniture,
the slim figure in black, bending in compassion over the rough
fellows who would gladly have given their lives for her, and
who now lay wounded in the cause in which she herself had
suffered. The Germans may destroy Belgium, but they will never
destroy the kingdom of its Queen. Sometimes the King came
to see his soldiers--a tall, silent man, with the face of one who
has suffered much, and as simple, as gentle, and as kindly as
his Queen. It was good to see the faces light up as he entered
a ward, to see heads painfully raised to gaze after no splendid
uniform, but a man.

One of our most distinguished and most welcome visitors was
Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium. She brought her large
X-ray equipment to Furnes for work amongst the wounded, and
we persuaded her to stay with us for a week. One of our
storerooms was rapidly fitted up as an impromptu radiographic
department, the windows painted over and covered with thick
paper, a stove introduced, and a dark-room contrived with the
aid of a cupboard and two curtains. Electric current was
obtained from a dynamo bolted on to the step of a twenty-horse-power
car, and driven by a belt from the flywheel of the engine. The
car stood out in the courtyard and snorted away, whilst we
worked in the storeroom alongside. The coil and mercury
break were combined in one piece, and the whole apparatus
was skilfully contrived with a view to portability. Madame Curie
was an indefatigable worker, and in a very short time had taken
radiographs of all the cases which we could place at her
disposal, and, indeed, we ransacked all the hospitals in Furnes,
for when they heard of her arrival, they were only too glad to
make use of the opportunity. Mademoiselle Curie developed
the plates, and between them they produced photographs of
the greatest utility to us.

Considering its obvious utility, whether in war or in civil practice,
it has always been a source of wonder to me that there is no
such thing as a car designed and built with a view to radiography.
Perhaps it exists, but if so, I have never met It only means the
building into the frame of suitable dynamo, and the provision of
means for storing the rest of the equipment. It would place an
X-ray equipment at the disposal of ever cottage hospital, or
even of a country-house, and it would place the cottage hospital,
not to mention the country-house, at the disposal of the
enterprising radiographer.

As soon as our patients could be moved, we had to send them
on to their base hospitals--the Belgians to Calais and the
French to Dunkirk.

From Calais the Belgians were brought over the Channel, and
distributed all over England and Scotland. I had a postcard from
one of them from Perth. The French were taken on in hospital
ships to Cherbourg and other seaports along the coast. From
Furnes they were all carried in hospital trains, and the scene at
the station when a large batch of wounded was going off was
most interesting. Only the worst cases were ever brought to our
hospital; all the others were taken straight to the station, and
waited there until a train was ready to take them on. Often they
would be there for twelve hours, or even twenty-four, before
they could be got on, and the train itself would be constantly
shunted to let troops and ammunition go by, and might take
twelve hours to reach its destination. There were no proper
arrangements for the feeding of these men, all of whom were
more or less badly wounded; and at first, when we heard at the
hospital that a train was about to be made up, we took down all
the soup and coffee we could manage to spare in big pails and
jugs. But this was a mere makeshift, and was superseded very
soon by a more up-to-date arrangement. A proper soup-kitchen
was established at the station, with huge boilers full of soup and
coffee always ready, and after that it was never necessary for a
wounded soldier to leave Furnes hungry. All this was due to the
energy and resource of Miss Macnaughtan, the authoress, who
took it up as her special charge. She had a little passage
screened off, and in this were fitted up boilers for coffee and
soup, tables for cutting up meat and vegetables, and even a
machine for cutting up the bread. It was all most beautifully
arranged, and here she worked all day long, preparing for the
inevitable crowd of wounded which the night would bring. How it
was all managed was a mystery to me, for there was not enough
food in Furnes to feed a tame cat, let alone a trainload of famished
soldiers, and I am looking anxiously for her next book in the
hopes of finding the solution.

The trains themselves were well equipped, though nothing to
the hospital trains of England. The more severe cases were
carried in long cars on a double row of stretchers, and they
looked very comfortable on a cold night, with their oil-lamps and
a coke stove in the centre of each car. A stretcher is, perhaps,
not exactly a bed of roses for a wounded man, but when one
considers what pain is involved in moving a man who is badly
wounded, there is obviously a great advantage in placing him
on a stretcher once for all on the battle-field, and never moving
him again until he can be actually placed in bed in a hospital.
On the train the men were looked after by the priests, splendid
fellows who never seemed tired of doing all they could for the
soldiers. One found the Belgian priest everywhere--in the
trenches, in the hospitals, and in the trains--unobtrusive,
always cheerful, always ready to help. From the brave Archbishop
Mercier to the humblest village cure, regardless of their comfort
and careless of their lives, they have stood by their people in
the hour of their trial. May their honour be great in the hour of
Belgium's triumph!

XIX. Furnes--The Town

Like so many of the cities of Belgium, Furnes is a town of the
past. To stand in the great square, surrounded by buildings
which would delight the heart of any artist, is to travel back
through three centuries of time. Spain and the Renaissance
surround us, and we look instinctively towards the Pavilion for
the soldiers of Philip, or glance with apprehension at the door of
the Palais de Justice for the sinister form of Peter Titelmann the
Inquisitor. Around this very square marched the procession of
the Holy Office, in all the insolent blasphemy of its power, and
on these very stones were kindled the flames that were to
destroy its victims. But all these have gone; the priest and his
victim, the swaggering bravo and the King he served, have
gone to their account, and Furnes is left, the record of a time
when men built temples like angels and worshipped in them like

The immense square, with the beautiful public buildings which
surround it, speaks of a time when Fumes was an important
town. As early as the year 850 it is said that Baldwin of the Iron
Arm, the first of the great Counts of Flanders, had established a
fortress here to withstand the invasion of the Normans. After
that Furnes appears repeatedly with varying fortunes in the
turbulent history of the Middle Ages, until in the thirteenth
century it was razed to the ground by Robert of Artois. In the
next three hundred years, however, it must have entirely
recovered its position, for in the days of the Spanish Fury it was
one of the headquarters of the Inquisition and of the Spanish
Army, and there is no town in Belgium upon which the Spanish
occupation has left a greater mark. Since then, of no commercial
or political importance, it has lived the life of a dull country town,
and tradition says that there is plenty of solid wealth stored by
its thrifty inhabitants behind the plain house-fronts which line
its quiet streets.

From the centre of the square one can see all that there is to be
seen of Furnes. The four sides are lined by beautiful old houses
whose decorated fronts and elaborate gables tell of the
Renaissance and of Spanish days. Behind the low red roofs
tower the churches of St. Walburga and St. Nicholas, dwarfing
the houses which nestle at their base. In the corners of the
square are public buildings, small when compared with those of
Bruges and Ypres, but unsurpassed in exquisite detail of
design. Behind one corner rises the tall belfry without which no
Flemish town would be complete. On an autumn evening when
the sun is setting, when the red roofs glow with a deeper
crimson, and the tall churches catch the sun's last rays on their
old brick walls, there can be few more perfect pictures than the
square of Furnes.

The two oldest buildings in the square stand at the ends of the
eastern side. At the north end is the Pavilion des Officiers
espagnols, once the Town Hall, and, in the days of the Spanish
occupation, the headquarters of the army for the district. It is an
old Flemish building, solidly built, with high-pitched roof, and
windows framed in ornamental stonework, ending in a big
square tower with battlements and little turrets at its corners. A
short outside staircase leads up to the entrance. The whole
building gives the impression that in the days when it was built
the Town Hall was also the Fortress, and that the mayor had
duties more strenuous than the eating of dinners. At the other
end of the eastern side stands the old Halle aux Vins, where the
night-watchmen had their quarters, a fine old gabled house with
a loggia reached by a flight of steps in the centre, a row of plain
stone columns supporting the floors above.

Directly opposite is the north-west corner of the square, with the
Palais de Justice on the right and the Hotel de Ville on the left.
Both date from the Spanish occupation, but they are very
different in their style of architecture. The first is classical and
severe, the second has all the warmth of the Renaissance. The
Hotel de Ville is an elaborately decorated building, with two
exquisite gables and a steep roof surmounted by a little
octagonal tower. The loggia below, standing out from the
building and supporting a balcony above, is perhaps its most
charming feature, both for the beauty of its proportions and the
delicacy of its carved stone balustrades. Inside, the rooms are
as they were three hundred years ago, and the wonderful
hangings of Cordova leather in the council chamber are still
intact. Beside the Hotel de Ville the straight lines of the Palais
de Justice, with its pillars and its high narrow windows, form a
striking contrast. It was here, in the large room on the first floor,
that the Inquisition held its awful court, and here were the
instruments of torture with which it sought to enforce its will.
Behind the Palais rises the tall belfry, a big square tower from
which springs an octagonal turret carrying an elaborate
campanile. There is a quaint survival on this belfry, for upon it
the town crier has a little hut. He is a cobbler, and from below
one can hear the tap-tap of his hammer as he plies his trade.
But at night he calls out the hours to the town below, together
with any information of interest, concluding with the assurance
that he and his wife are in good health. The office has
descended from father to son from the earliest days of the
history of Furnes, and its holder has always been a cobbler. Till
early in last November the record was unbroken, but, alas the
fear of German shells was too much for the cobbler, and he is

Furnes is a town of contrasts, and though both its churches
were built by the wonderful architects of the fourteenth century,
there could hardly be two buildings more diverse. Behind the
line of red roofs on the east of the square rises the rugged
tower of St. Nicholas, a great square mass of old and weather-
beaten brick, unfinished like so many of the Belgian towers, but
rough, massive, and grand, like some rude giant. On the north,
behind the Palais de Justice and the belfry, stands St.
Walburga, with the delicate tracery of her flying buttresses and
her spire fine as a needle. There is something fitting in the
rugged simplicity which commemorates the grand old Bishop,
and in the exquisite fragility of the shrine of the virgin saint. The
double flying buttresses of St. Walburga, intersecting in mid-air,
and apparently defying the laws of gravity, are as delicate a
dream as the mind of architect could conceive, and they give to
the whole an airy grace which cannot be described. The church
was planned six hundred years ago on a gigantic scale, in the
days when men built for the worship of God and not for the
accommodation of an audience, and for six hundred years the
choir stood alone as a challenge to future generations to
complete what had been so gloriously begun. Only seven years
ago the transept was added, and to the credit of its builders it is
worthy to stand beside the choir. One wonders how many hundred
years may have passed before the vision of the first great architect
is complete. It is built for the most part of red brick, the rich
red brick of Belgium, which grows only more mellow with age.
Inside, the tall pillars of a dark grey stone support at a great
height a finely groined roof of the same red brick, lit by a
clerestory so open that one wonders how it can carry the weight
of the roof above. The tall windows of the transept, reaching
almost from the floor to the roof, with their delicate tracery,
carry on the same effect of airiness, while their light is softened
by the really beautiful stained glass which they frame. The richly
carved choir-stalls of dark mahogany and the fine organ furnish
an interior of which any town in England might well be proud.
And all this magnificence is in a little Flemish town of some
six thousand inhabitants.

One is brought suddenly face to face with the tremendous
difference which exists between the Protestant and the Catholic
conception of what a church is and what it is for. To the one it is
a place where men meet for mutual support and instruction, for
united worship; to the other it is a place where men meet God.
To the one some organized service is necessary; the other only
requires the stones on which to kneel. The one will only go to
church--in fact, he will only find his church open at certain
appointed times; for the other it is only closed with darkness. Of
course, I am using the words Protestant and Catholic to indicate
broad conceptions of religion, and not as defining definite
bodies of men; but even of those who call themselves by these
names what I have said is largely true. And this difference in
conception is reflected in the churches which they build. For the
one a simple building will suffice which will seat in comfort those
who may come; the other, though he alone should ever enter it,
will raise to heaven the mightiest temple which mortal hands
can frame.

Fumes still carries on a tradition of medieval times--the
strange procession which passes through its streets and across
the great square on the last Sunday in July. Its origin, in the
twelfth century, is unknown, though many legends are woven
around it. It is a long procession, in which are represented
many of the episodes in the story of the Christ, some in
sculptured groups of figures, some by living actors. Before each
group walks a penitent, barefoot and heavily veiled in black
gown and hood, carrying an inscription to explain the group
which follows. Abraham appears with Isaac, Moses with the
serpent, Joseph and Mary, the Magi, and the flight into Egypt.
Then come incidents from the life of Jesus, and the great
tragedy of its close. The Host and its attendant priests conclude
the procession. It is all very primitive and bizarre, but behind it
there is a note of reality by which one cannot but be moved. For
the figures concealed beneath the black hoods and dragging
along the heavy wooden crosses are not actors; they are men
and women who have come, many of them, long distances to
Furnes, in the hope that by this penance they may obtain the
forgiveness they desire.

XX. A Journey

The hospital had already been established in Furnes for ten
days, and even in that time we had once had to escape to
Poperinghe before the German advance, when, after a short
visit to England, I left London to rejoin my friends on the last
Friday in October. Crossing to the Continent is not at any time
pleasant, and the addition of submarines and mines scarcely
adds to its charms. But Government had certainly done their
best to make it attractive, for when we arrived at Dover on
Friday night we found a comfortable boat waiting to take us
over in the morning. We spent the night soundly asleep in her
cabins, without the anxiety of feeling that we might miss her if
we did not get up in time, and after an excellent breakfast we
felt ready for anything. We were late in starting, for the Anglo-
Belgian Ambulance Corps was going over, and their ambulances
had to be got on board. We watched them being neatly picked
up in the slings and planted side by side on deck. At half-past
eight they were all on board, and we started off.

There was a moderate sea running, but our three screws made
light work of it, and in an hour we were half-way over to our
destination, Dunkirk. We were sitting in our cabin talking when
suddenly the engines stopped, and there was considerable
commotion on deck. We looked out to see what was the matter,
and there met our eyes a sight which we are likely to remember
--a huge man-of-war sinking. She was down by the stern, so
far that every now and then the waves broke over her, and it
was evident that she would soon go under. A submarine had
attacked her an hour before, and struck her with two torpedoes.
The first destroyed her screws, and she was then an easy prey;
the second entered her saloon in the stern. She was the
Hermes, an old vessel, and of no great value at the present
day, but it was tragic to see a great cruiser expiring, stabbed in
the dark. Thanks to her buoyancy, she was only sinking slowly,
and there was ample time for the whole of her crew to escape.
Very different would be the fate of an unarmed vessel, for the
explosion of a torpedo would probably blow such a large hole in
the thin steel plates that she would go to the bottom like a
stone. To torpedo a merchantman simply means the cold-blooded
murder of the crew, for their chances of escape would be almost
negligible, whilst it is impossible to find words to describe the
attempts which have been made to sink hospital ships. About
the last there is a degree of callous inhumanity remarkable even
for Germany, for how could doctors and nurses make any efforts
to save their own lives when it would be impossible for them to
do anything to all at save the lives of their patients? And yet
these things are not the unconsidered acts of a moment; they
are all part of the .campaign of frightfulness which has been
so carefully planned for years, the consummation of the
doctrines which learned professors have proclaimed for so
long and with such astonishing success.

The order was given for our boats to be lowered, and down they
went all six of them, manned partly by the crew and partly by
the Ambulance Corps. We were surrounded by torpedo-boats,
British and French, and most of the crew of the Hermes had
already been transferred to them. A few minutes later there was
a cheer, and we saw the Captain step down into one of the
boats, the last man to leave his ship. Our boats had picked up
twenty or so of the men, and the problem now was to get them
on board again. A moderate sea was running, but it required all
the skill of our sailors to haul them up without mishap. Standing
by as we were, the ship rolled considerably, and several times
one of the boats was within an ace of being broken up against
her side. To get a boat out from a big liner in a heavy sea must
be an almost miraculous feat, whilst to get her back again must
be a sheer impossibility. As it was, it took us at least an hour to
get those six boats on board. All this time four torpedo-boats
were racing in circles round and round us, on the lookout for the
submarine, and ready to cut it down if it should appear. Indeed,
a report went round that a torpedo was actually fired at us, but
passed underneath the ship on account of her shallow draught.
Standing at rest, we would have been an easy target, and but
for our friends the torpedo-boats we should very likely have
been attacked. It is not a good plan to hang about in the
Channel just now.

Meanwhile the Hermes was steadily sinking. By the time all her
crew were off her stern was awash, and in another half-hour
she had a very marked list to port. She slowly, almost imperceptibly,
listed more and more, and then the end came with startling
suddenness. With a slow and gentle roll she heeled over till
she was completely on her side and her great funnels under
water; she remained there for a moment, and then slowly turned
turtle and gradually sank stern first. For a long time about
twenty feet of her nose remained above water, then this slowly
sank and disappeared. It was all so quiet that it seemed like
some queer dream. The fires must have been drawn with great
promptness, for there was no explosion as her funnels went
under, though we were standing some way off to be clear of
flying fragments. She had been stabbed in the dark, and she
passed away without a murmur.

There is something very moving in the end of a great vessel. It
is so hard to believe that a thing of such vast bulk, and with
organs of such terrific power, should be so utterly helpless
because of a mere hole in her side. It is like watching the death
of a god. We make such a turmoil about the end of our puny
lives, and that great giant slides away into darkness without a
murmur. Ah, but you will say, a man is of far more value than a
ship. Is he? Is any single man in this world worth as much as
the Titanic? And if so, how? He can make wealth, but so could
she. He could bring happiness to others, and so could she. I
have yet to find any ground on which any man can be put up in
competition with that vessel in sheer worth to the world, and I
am not speaking in any low sense of values. For I suppose the
greatest man who ever lived might feel that his life was well
spent if he had brought two continents nearer together. It was
for that that she was created. The hard fact is that there are
very few indeed of us, in spite of all the noise we make, who are
worth to the world a thousand pounds, and if she could sell the
bulk of us for that she would be positively drunk with fortune.

But, you will say, a ship has no soul. Are you quite so sure
about that? Most people will maintain that their bodies contain a
soul, and then they proceed to build up these same bodies with
bread and bacon, and even beer, and in the end they possess
bodies constructed without any shadow of doubt out of these
ingredients. And if ten thousand men have toiled night and day,
in blazing furnace and in dark mine, to build a mighty vessel, at
the cost of years of labour, at the cost of pain and death, is not
that vessel a part of them as much as their poor bodies, and do
not their souls live in it as much as in their flesh and blood? We
speak of the resurrection of the Body, and superior people
smile at an idea so out-of-date and unscientific. To me the body
is not mere flesh and blood, it is the whole complex of all that a
man has thought and lived and done, and when it arises there
will arise with it all that he has toiled for on earth, all that he has
gained, and all that he has created by the sweat of his brow and
the hunger of his soul. The world is not the dust-heap of the
centuries, but only their storehouse.

It was late when we reached Furnes after a freezing drive in the
dark, but all our thoughts were overshadowed by the tragedy
we had seen. We felt that we had been present at the burial of
a god.

XXI. The Ambulance Corps

One of the most difficult problems for a medical service in war is
the recovery of the wounded from the field of battle and their
carriage back to hospital. In the old days men fought out a
battle in a few hours, and the field at the end of the day was left
to the conqueror. Then the doctors could go forward and attend
to the wounded on the spot without any special danger to
themselves. A man might lie out all night, but he would be
certain to be picked up next day. But in this war everything is
changed. It is one continuous siege, with the result that the
removal of the wounded is a matter of extraordinary difficulty
and danger. I have met with one officer who has been in a
trench out at the extreme front for two and a half months.
During the whole of that time he has never seen a German, and
the nearest German trench is just one hundred yards away!
Shell and shot have been pouring over his head all that time,
and to raise one's head above the ground would be to court
instant death.

Between the trenches the ground is a quagmire, and any
advance by either side is out of the question. But a time will
come when the ground is just solid enough for a man to stand,
there will be a desperate struggle for a few yards of ground,
again both sides will subside into new trenches; but now
between those trenches will lie perhaps some hundreds of
wounded, and how in the world are they to be got? This is the
problem with which an ambulance is everywhere faced--the
recovery of the wounded from disputed ground. It was to
grapple with difficulties like these that the rules of the Geneva
Convention were framed, so that men wearing a Red Cross on
their arms might be able to go where no combatant of either
side dare venture, and succour the wounded, whether they
were friend or foe, in safety both for themselves and for the
wounded. It is, after all, possible to fight as gentlemen.

Or at least it was until a few months ago. Since then we have
had a demonstration of "scientific" war such as has never
before been given to mankind. Now, to wear a Red Cross is
simply to offer a better mark for the enemy's fire, and we only
wore them in order that our own troops might know our business
and make use of our aid. A hospital is a favourite mark for the
German artillery, whilst the practice of painting Red Crosses on
the tops of ambulance cars is by many people considered unwise,
as it invites any passing aeroplane to drop a bomb. But the
Germans have carried their systematic contempt of the rules of war
so far that it is now almost impossible for our own men to
recognize their Red Crosses. Time after time their Red Cross
cars have been used to conceal machine-guns, their flags have
floated over batteries, and they have actually used stretchers to
bring up ammunition to the trenches. Whilst I was at Furnes two
German spies were working with an ambulance, in khaki uniforms,
bringing in the wounded. They were at it for nearly a week before
they were discovered, and then, by a ruse, they succeeded in
driving straight through the Belgian lines and back to their
own, Red Cross ambulance, khaki and all. The problems, then, that
have to be faced by an ambulance corps in the present war are
fairly perplexing, and they demand a degree of resource and
cool courage beyond the ordinary. That these qualities are
possessed by the members of the ambulance corps of which
Dr. Hector Munro and Lady Dorothie Feilding are the leading
members is merely a matter of history. They have been in as
many tight corners in the last few months as many an old and
seasoned veteran, and they have invariably come out triumphant.

They started in Ghent under the Belgian Red Cross with a party
of four surgeons, five women, and three men for the stretchers,
and two chauffeurs to drive the two ambulances. Now they have
grown into an organization which takes on a great part of the
ambulance work of the Belgian Army. At Ghent they were attached
to the big Red Cross hospital in the Flandria Palace Hotel,
and at first it was dull, for most of the fighting was around Antwerp,
and the wounded were taken there. We were in Antwerp just then,
and it was by no means dull. We shared Alost and Termonde
as a common hunting-ground, and we several times had a visit from
Dr. Munro in the Boulevard Leopold. In fact, we were discussing
the possibility of arranging to work together when the crash came and
Antwerp fell.

For the next few days the ambulance corps had enough work
and ran enough risks to satisfy even the members of that
notorious organization. The Germans were coming on with
great rapidity, and if there is one dangerous job, it is to pick up
the wounded of a retreating army. But here the interest for an
English ambulance was doubled, for the British Army was
covering the retreat of the Belgians and the French. On
Sunday, the 11th of October, they were asked to go out to
Melle, four miles south-east of Ghent, to help with some French
wounded, and, after spending some time there, they met the
British Staff, and were asked to help them in their retreat
through Zwynarde, a town on the Scheldt about four miles
south of Ghent and the same distance from Melle. It was a
dangerous undertaking, as the intention was to blow up the
bridge which crosses the Scheldt at Zwynarde and to fight a
retreating battle covering the retirement of our allies. The bridge
was to be blown up at ten o'clock that evening, and though it
was only four miles away, it was already dark and a mist was
rising from the river. The main roads were in the hands of the
Germans, and there was nothing for it but to get across by a
small side-road. They started off in the mist, and promptly lost
their way. It is a pleasing situation to be lost in the dark
somewhere very close to the enemy's lines when you know that
the only available bridge is just going to be blown up. A thick
mist had risen all around, and they were midway between two
batteries--British and German--engaged in an artillery duel.
The crash of the guns and the scream of the shells overhead
filled the darkness with terror. But there was nothing for it but to
go straight on, and though they must have gone right through
the German lines and out again, they reached the bridge just
ten minutes before it was blown into the air.

We all met at Ostend, and decided to join forces at Furnes, and
it worked out as a splendid arrangement for both parties.
Though our organizations remained entirely distinct, we worked
together, and they had the advantage of a hospital to which
they could always bring their patients, whilst we had the
services of the smartest ambulance corps on the Continent.
The qualities required for the satisfactory working of a hospital
and the successful running of an ambulance are so distinct that
I am sure that the ideal arrangement is to have two entirely
distinct organizations working in harmony.

The position of an ambulance up at the front is always a
delicate one, for as it moves about from place to place its
members have opportunities of picking up information about the
position and movements of the troops of a very confidential
nature. It was therefore a great advantage to Dr. Munro when
his party was joined by M. de Broqueville, the son of the
Minister for War; for it meant that they would have full
information as to where wounded were likely to require their
help, and that they possessed the full confidence of the Belgian
authorities. Their position and our own had been very greatly
affected by the fortunes of the war, for the Belgian Croix Rouge
and Army Medical Services were for the moment in abeyance,
and instead of obtaining from them the help which had hitherto
been so generously given, we had now to undertake their work
and to rely entirely on our own resources. We had not to wait
long for an opportunity to show what we could do. The Belgian
Army, supported by a certain number of French troops, made
its final stand on the line of the Yser, the little river which runs
from Ypres through Dixmude and Nieuport to the sea. From this
position they have never since been shaken, but they have
never had to withstand more desperate attacks than those
which took place in the end of October. The centre of these was
Dixmude, and here the Germans threw against the little remnant
of the Belgian Army forces which might have been expected to
shatter it at a blow. Their efforts culminated in one of the fiercest
and bloodiest engagements of the whole war, and at the height
of the engagement word came that there were wounded in Dixmude,
and that ambulances were urgently required to get them out.
Getting wounded out of a town which is being shelled is not
exactly a joke, and when the town is in rapid process of annihilation
it almost becomes serious. But this was what the Corps had
come out for, and two ambulances and an open car started
off at once. As far as Oudecappelle the road was crowded with
motor transport waggons carrying supplies of food and ammunition
to the troops, but beyond that it was empty, unless one counts
the shells which were falling on it in a steady hail.

Every now and then a Jack Johnson would fall and leave a hole
in which one could bury a motor, and, apart from the shells, the
holes made driving risky. There was over a mile of the road in
this unhealthy state, and entirely exposed to the enemy's guns,
before any shelter could be obtained; but the wounded must be
fetched, and the cars pushed on as fast as they dared to drive.
They were suddenly pulled up by an appalling obstacle. A
Belgian battery advancing along the road to the front only
twenty minutes before had been struck by a big shell. Several
of the gunners were horribly mangled; ten horses lay dead,
most of them in fragments; the gun was wrecked, and all its
equipment scattered about the road. It was some minutes
before the remaining soldiers could clear the road sufficiently for
the cars to pass.

Dixmude itself was a roaring furnace, and shells were pouring
into it in all directions. Practically every house had been
damaged, many were totally demolished, and many more were
on fire. The wounded were in the Town Hall on the square, and
shells were bursting all over it. The upper portion was
completely destroyed, and the church close by was blazing
furiously, and must have set fire to the Town Hall soon after. On
the steps lay a dead Marine, and beside him stood a French
surgeon, who greeted them warmly. The wounded were in a
cellar, and if they were not got out soon, it was obvious that
they would be burned alive. Inside the hall were piles of
bicycles, loaves of bread, and dead soldiers, all in gruesome
confusion. In the cellar dead and wounded were lying together.
The wounded had all to be carried on stretchers, for everyone
who could crawl had fled from that ghastly inferno, and only
those who have shifted wounded on stretchers can appreciate
the courage it requires to do it under shell fire. At last they were
all packed into the ambulances, and even as they left the
building with the last, a shell struck it overhead and demolished


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