We always had two orderlies on at night, and at 12 o’clock one of them was supposed to go over to the kitchen and have his supper, and when he came back at 12.30 the other went. On this particular occasion they had both gone together. Sister had also gone over at 12 to supper, so I was left absolutely alone with the fifty patients.
None of the men at that time were particularly bad, except No. 23, who was delirious and showed a marked inclination to try and get out of bed. I had just tucked him in safely for the twentieth time when at 12.30 I heard the throb of an engine. Aeroplanes were always flying about all day, so I did not think much of it. I half fancied it might be Sidney Pickles, the airman, who had been to the Hospital several times and was keen on stunt flying. This throbbing sounded much louder though than any aeroplane, and hastily lowering what lights we had, with a final tuck to No. 23, I ran to the door to ascertain if there was cause for alarm. The noise was terrific and sounded like no engine I had ever heard in my life. I gazed into the purple darkness and felt sure that I must see the thing, it seemed actually over my head. The expanse of sky to be seen from the yard was not very great, but suddenly in the space between the surgical side and the Cathedral I could just discern an inky shadow, whale-like in shape, with one small twinkling light like a wicked eye. The machine was travelling pretty fast and fairly low down, and by its bulk I knew it to be a Zeppelin. I tore back into the ward where most of the men were awake, and found myself saying, “Ce n’est rien, ce n’est qu’un Zeppelin” ("It’s nothing—only a Zeppelin"), which on second thoughts I came to the conclusion was not as reassuring as I meant it to be. By this time the others were on their way back across the yard, and I turned to give 23 another tuck up.
Such a long time elapsed before any firing occurred; it seemed to me when I first looked out into the yard I must be the only person who had heard the Zepp. What were the sentinels doing, I wondered? The explanation I heard later from a French gunnery lieutenant. The man who had the key to the ammunitions for the anti-aircraft guns was not at his post, and was subsequently discovered in a drunken sleep—probably the work of German spies—at all events he was shot at dawn the following day. In such manner does France deal with her sons who fail her. As soon as the Zepp. had passed over, the firing burst forth in full vigour to die away presently. So far, apparently, no bombs had been dropped. I suggested to Pierre we should relight one or two lamps, as it was awkward stumbling about in complete darkness. “Non, non, Miske, he will return,” he said with conviction. Apparently, though, all seemed quiet; and Sister suggested that after all the excitement, I should make my way across the yard to get some supper. Pierre came with me, and at that moment a dull explosion occurred. It was