We usually had about three journeys with wounded; twelve stretcher cases in all, so that, say the train came in at nine and giving an hour to each journey there and back, it meant (not counting loading and unloading) roughly 1 o’clock a.m. or later before we had finished. Then there were usually the sitting cases to be taken off and the stretcher bearers to be driven back to their camp. Half of one head light only was allowed to be shown; and the impression I always had when I came in was that my eyes had popped right out of my head and were on bits of elastic. A most extraordinary sensation, due to the terrible strain of trying to see in the darkness just a little further than one really could. It was the irony of fate to learn, when we did come in, that an early evacuation had been telephoned through for 5 a.m. I often spent the whole night dreaming I was driving wounded and had given them the most awful bump. The horror of it woke me up, only to find that my bed had slipped off one of the petrol boxes and was see-sawing in mid-air!
THE RED CROSS CARS
“They are bringing
them back who went forth so bravely.
Grey, ghostlike cars down the long white road
Come gliding, each with its cross of scarlet
On canvas hood, and its heavy load
Of human sheaves from the crimson harvest
That greed and falsehood and hatred sowed.
“Maimed and blinded
and torn and shattered,
Yet with hardly a groan or a cry
From lips as white as the linen bandage;
Though a stifled prayer ‘God let me die,’
Is wrung, maybe, from a soul in torment
As the car with the blood-red cross goes by.
“Oh, Red Cross
car! What a world of anguish
On noiseless wheels you bear night and day.
Each one that comes from the field of slaughter
Is a moving Calvary, painted grey.
And over the water, at home in England
‘Let’s play at soldiers,’ the children say.”
The Prince of Wales was with the Grenadiers at Beau Marais when they came in to rest for a time. One day, while having tea at the Sauvage, Mademoiselle Leonie, sister of the proprietor, came up to me in a perfect flutter of excitement to say that that very evening the Prince had ordered the large room to be prepared for a dinner he was giving to his brother officers.
I was rather a favourite of hers, and she assured me if I wished to watch him arriving it would give her great pleasure to hide me in her paying-desk place where I could see everything clearly. She was quite hurt when I refused the invitation.
He was tremendously popular with the French people; and the next time I saw her she rushed up to me and said: “How your Prince is beautiful, Mees; what spirit, what fire! Believe me, they broke every glass they used at that dinner, and then the Prince demanded of me the bill and paid for everything.” (Some lad!) “He also wrote his name in my autograph book,” she added proudly. “Oh he is chic, that one there, I tell you!”