It seemed good to look out of the windows and see the signs printed in English. That made it all seem less like a dream.
I was taken first to the Clearing Hospital at Eastleigh. As we got off the train there the people cheered again, and among the civilians were many wounded men who had just recently come back. They knew how we felt.
[Illustration: CORPORAL HOLMES WITH STAFF
NURSE AND ANOTHER
PATIENT, AT FULHAM MILITARY HOSPITAL, LONDON, S.W.]
The first thing at the hospital was a real honest-to-God bath. In a tub. With hot water! Heavens, how I wallowed. The orderly helped me and had to drag me out. I’d have stayed in that tub all night if he would have let me.
Out of the tub I had clean things straight through, with a neat blue uniform, and for once was free of the cooties. The old uniform, blood-stained and ragged, went to the baking and disinfecting plant.
That night all of us newly arrived men who could went to the Y.M.C.A. to a concert given in our honor. The chaplain came around and cheered us up and gave us good fags.
Next morning I went around to the M.O. He looked my arm over and calmly said that it would have to come off as gangrene had set in. For a moment I wished that piece of shrapnel had gone through my head. I pictured myself going around with only one arm, and the prospect didn’t look good.
However, the doctor dressed the arm with the greatest care and told me I could go to a London hospital as I had asked, for I wanted to be near my people at Southall. These were the friends I had made before leaving Blighty and who had sent me weekly parcels and letters.
I arrived in London on Tuesday and was taken in a big Red Cross motor loaned by Sir Charles Dickerson to the Fulham Hospital in Hammersmith. I was overjoyed, as the hospital was very near Southall, and Mr. and Mrs. Puttee were both there to meet me.
The Sister in charge of my ward, Miss Malin, is one of the finest women I have met. I owe it to her care and skill that I still have my good right arm. She has since married and the lucky man has one of the best of wives. Miss Malin advised me right at the beginning not to submit to an amputation.
My next few weeks were pretty awful. I was in constant pain, and after the old arm began to come around under Miss Malin’s treatment one of the doctors discovered that my left hand was queer. It had been somewhat swollen, but not really bad. The doctor insisted upon an X-ray and found a bit of shrapnel imbedded. He was all for an operation. Operations seemed to be the long suit of most of those doctors. I imagine they couldn’t resist the temptation to get some practice with so much cheap material all about. I consented this time, and went down for the pictures on Lord Mayor’s Day. Going to the pictures is Tommy’s expression for undergoing an anesthetic.
I was under ether two hours and a half, and when I came out of it the left hand was all to the bad and has been ever since. There followed weeks of agonizing massage treatments. Between treatments though, I had it cushy.