News was brought to us of the torpedoing of the “Sussex,” and the terrible suffering the crew and passengers endured. It was thought after she was struck she would surely sink, and many deaths by drowning occurred owing to overcrowding the lifeboats. Like the “Zulu,” however, when day dawned it was found she was able to come into Boulogne under her own steam. After driving some cases over there, I went to see the remains in dry dock. It was a ghastly sight, made all the more poignant as one could see trunks and clothes lying about in many of the cabins, which were open to the day as if a transverse section had been made. The only humorous incident that occurred was that King Albert was arrested while taking a photo of it! I don’t think for a moment they recognized who he was, for, with glasses, and a slight stoop, he does not look exactly like the photos one sees, and they probably imagined he was bluffing. He was marched off looking intensely amused! One of the French guards, when I expressed my disappointment at not being able to get a photo, gave me the address of a friend of his who had taken some official ones for France, so I hurried off, and was lucky to get them.
The weather became atrocious as the winter advanced and our none too water-tight huts showed distinct signs of warping. We only had one thickness of matchboarding in between us and the elements, and, without looking out of the windows, I could generally ascertain through the slits what was going on in the way of weather. I had chosen my “cue” looking sea-ward because of the view and the sunsets, but then that was in far away Spring. Eva’s was next door, and even more exposed than mine. When we happened to mention this state of affairs to Colonel C., he promised us some asbestos to line the outer wall if we could find someone to put it up.
Another obliging friend lent us his carpenter to do the job—a burly Scot. The fact that we cleaned our own cars and went about the camp in riding breeches and overalls, not unlike land-girls’ kit, left him almost speechless.
The first day all he could say was, “Weel, weel, I never did”—at intervals.
The second day he had recovered himself sufficiently to look round and take a little notice.
“Ye’re one o’ them artists, I’m thinkin’,” he said, eyeing my panthers disparagingly. (The hunting frieze had been taken down temporarily till the asbestos was fixed.)
“No, you mustn’t think that,” I said apologetically.
“Ha ye no men to do yon dirty worrk for ye?” and he nodded in direction of the cars. “Scandalizing, and no less,” was his comment when he heard there were not. In two days’ time he reported to his C.O. that the job was finished, and the latter overheard him saying to a pal, “Aye mon, but A’ve had ma outlook on life broadened these last two days.” B. ’phoned up hastily to the Convoy to know what exactly we had done with his carpenter.