“Blighty for you, son.” I had a piece of shrapnel or something through the right upper arm, clearing the bone and making a hole about as big as a half dollar. My left shoulder was full of shrapnel fragments, and began to pain like fury. More tea. More rum. More fags. Another faint. When I woke up the next time, somebody was sticking a hypodermic needle into my chest with a shot of anti-lockjaw serum, and shortly after I was tucked away in a white enameled Red Cross train with a pretty nurse taking my temperature. I loved that nurse. She looked sort of cool and holy.
I finally brought up in General Hospital Number 12 in Rouen. I was there four days and had a real bath,—a genuine boiling out. Also had some shrapnel picked out of my anatomy. I got in fairly good shape, though still in a good deal of dull pain. It was a glad day when they put a batch of us on a train for Havre, tagged for Blighty. We went direct from the train to the hospital ship, Carisbrook Castle. The quarters were good,—real bunks, clean sheets, good food, careful nurses. It was some different from the crowded transport that had taken me over to France.
There were a lot of German prisoners aboard, wounded, and we swapped stories with them. It was really a lot of fun comparing notes, and they were pretty good chaps on the whole. They were as glad as we were to see land. Their troubles were over for the duration of the war.
Never shall I forget that wonderful morning when I looked out and saw again the coast of England, hazy under the mists of dawn. It looked like the promised land. And it was. It meant freedom again from battle, murder, and sudden death, from trenches and stenches, rats, cooties, and all the rest that goes to make up the worst of man-made inventions, war.
It was Friday the thirteenth. And don’t let anybody dare say that date is unlucky. For it brought me back to the best thing that can gladden the eyes of a broken Tommy. Blighty! Blighty!! Blighty!!!
BITS OF BLIGHTY
Blighty meant life,—life and happiness and physical comfort. What we had left behind over there was death and mutilation and bodily and mental suffering. Up from the depths of hell we came and reached out our hands with pathetic eagerness to the good things that Blighty had for us.
I never saw a finer sight than the faces of those boys, glowing with love, as they strained their eyes for the first sight of the homeland. Those in the bunks below, unable to move, begged those on deck to come down at the first land raise and tell them how it all looked.
A lump swelled in my throat, and I prayed that I might never go back to the trenches. And I prayed, too, that the brave boys still over there might soon be out of it.
We steamed into the harbor of Southampton early in the afternoon. Within an hour all of those that could walk had gone ashore. As we got into the waiting trains the civilian populace cheered. I, like everybody else I suppose, had dreamed often of coming back sometime as a hero and being greeted as a hero. But the cheering, though it came straight from the hearts of a grateful people, seemed, after all, rather hollow. I wanted to get somewhere and rest.