The faithful Jefke was still there stealing jam for the patients, spending a riotous Saturday night au cinema, going to Mass next morning, and then presenting himself in the Ward again looking as if butter would not melt in his mouth!
A new assistant orderly was there as well. A pious looking individual in specs. He worked as if manual labour pained him, and was always studying out of a musty little book. He was desperately keen to learn English and spoke it on every possible occasion; was intensely stupid as an orderly and obstinate as a mule. He was trying in the extreme. One day he told me he was intended for higher things and would soon be a priest in the Church. Sister Lampen, who was so quick and thorough herself, found him particularly tiresome, and used to refer to him as her “cross” in life! One day she called him to account, and, in an exasperated voice said, “What are you supposed to be doing here, Louis, anyway? Are you an orderly or aren’t you?” “Mees,” he replied piously, rolling his eyes upwards, “I am learning to be a father!” I gave a shriek of delight and hastened up to tea in the top room with the news.
We were continually having what was known as alertes, that the Germans were advancing on the town. We had boxes ready in all the Wards with a list on the lid indicating what particular dressings, etc., went in each. None of the alertes, however, materialized. We heard later it was only due to a Company of the gallant Buffs throwing themselves into the breach that the road to Calais had been saved.
There were several exciting days spent up at our Dressing Station at Hoogstadt, and one day to our delight we heard that three of the F.A.N.Y.’s, who had been in the trenches during a particularly bad bombardment, were to be presented with the Order of Leopold II. A daily paper giving an account of this dressing station headed it, in their enthusiasm, “Ten days without a change of clothes. Brave Yeomanry Nurses!”
It was a coveted job to post the letters and then go down to the Quay to watch the packet come in from England. The letters, by the way, were posted in the guard’s van of a stationary train where Belgian soldiers sorted and despatched them. I used to wonder vaguely if the train rushed off in the night delivering them.
There was a charm and fascination about meeting that incoming boat; the rattle of chains, the clang as the gangway was fixed, the strange cries of the French sailors, the clicking of the bayonets as the cordon formed round the fussy passport officer, and lastly the excitement of watching to see if there was a spy on board. The Walmer Castle and the Canterbury were the two little packets employed, and they have certainly seen life since the war began. Great was our excitement if we caught sight of Field Marshal French on his way to G.H.Q., or King Albert, his tall form stooping slightly under the cares of State, as he stepped into his waiting car to be whirled northwards to La Panne.