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Postscript.—An expert—one of England’s greatest experts—who has read the above tells me that I have not done justice to the old professional army men of Mons and the Aisne. When wounded and in our hospital they did want to go back to fight. But their sole reason, given with frankness, was that they considered they were needed: the new army, in training, was not ready: it would be murder to send the new army out, unprepared, to such an ordeal.
This authority, who has interviewed many thousands of convalescents, further remarked: “The wounded man who has been under shell fire and who professes to be eager to go back, whether ordered or no, is a liar. On the other hand, the scrim-shankers who try to get out of going back, when they should go back, are an amazingly small minority.”
A number of oddly unmasculine duties fell to the lot of the R.A.M.C. orderly prior to the time when “V.A.D.’s” were allowed to take his place (at least to some extent) throughout our English war-hospitals. One of my first tasks in the morning was the collecting and classification of my ward’s dirty linen. The work cannot be called difficult. It would be an exaggeration to say that it demands a supreme intellectual effort. But to the male mind it is, at least, rather novel. The average bachelor has perhaps been accustomed to scrutinise his collars, handkerchiefs and underclothes before and after their trips to the laundry. He has seldom, I think, had intimate trafficking with pillow-cases, sheets, counterpanes and tablecloths. In the reckoning of these he is apt to make mistakes and to lapse into a casualness which, in a woman familiar with household routine, would be improbable. “Sister’s” sharpest reproofs were called forth by errors made in connection with this daily exchange of clean for dirty linen.
A form, of course, had to be filled in. (The army provides a form for everything.) This form presents a catalogue of eighty-one separate items, from “Blankets” ("Child’s,” “Infant’s”—I do not know what is the difference between them, and I never had to deal with either—“G.S.”—whatever that may be—and “White”) to “Waist-coats, Strait.” It distinguishes between ten kinds of “Cases”—pillow-cases, paillasse-cases, and the like: for example, there are “barrack” bolster-cases and “hospital” bolster-cases; and you must not confound “hospital” mattress-cases with “officers’” mattress-cases. You are misled if you imagine that the heading “Cases” has exhausted the possibilities which appeared to be latent in that noun; for, in addition to the ten unqualified “Cases” there are seven more, defined as “Cases, slip.” Can you wonder that the orderly, presented with a bin-full of confused and crumpled objects ready for the wash, and told to count them and enter their numbers in