The Helen Kegie Collection is a historical record of the Child, Sargent, Barton and Quinton families


Biography - Alfred Quinton BartonPhotos - Alfred Quinton Barton

Alfred Quinton Barton – During World War 1

Alfred Quinton Barton (1889 – 1956) was a registered pharmacist and living at 5, The Broadway, Twickenham when - according to his Certified Copy of Attestation - he enlisted for the Royal Army Medical Corps as a dispenser on 10th December 1915. He was 26 years and 8 months.


Sergeant Barton (number 86815) begins his diary on 29th April, 1917, the day he sailed for France on the ship ‘Austerlind’, arriving at Le Havre on Monday 30th April. After a few days he travelled on to St. Omer and spent the next few weeks erecting the hospital tents of the 58th Scottish General Hospital and setting up the dispensary, which was up and running by the end of May.

Alfred in his uniform as a Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps

Figure 1: Alfred in his uniform as a Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps

In his diary entries, Alfred gives us a detailed picture of his daily routine in the dispensary, describing all the frustrations and irritations that he experienced, due mainly to a lack of organisation and effective leadership. He also tells us about how he spent his free time and his social life, both in the camp and in the nearby town of St. Omer. On 7th July, he and a friend were the first on the scene to assist a British pilot following his plane crash, after he had given a flying exhibition earlier in the day to the King who was there on a visit.

Alfred and a fellow sergeant, Bernard, became friendly with some of the sisters and nurses from the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs) when they arrived at the camp, in particular the VADs Nurse Weir (‘Spiff’) and Nurse Thomson (Tommy). Other nurses he mentions are Sister Cameron, Nurse Morrison, Nurse Coles and Sister Milne.

On the night of 30th September 1917, German aircraft bombed the 58th Scottish Hospital and four of these nurses, among others, were killed, including Sister Milne, Nurse Thomson (Tommy) and Nurse Coles (all of whom are mentioned by Alfred in his diary). Alfred was deeply affected by the horrors of that night and in his diary he describes it as “HELL – DANTE’S DEEPEST” and writes “God curse the brains who invented & put into practice this type of warfare” and “Still feeling unutterably sad. Poor little Tommy laid to rest yesterday. We shall miss her tremendously. This place can never be the same again!

He was particularly upset by the death of ‘Tommy’ and went to the British Cemetery and found her grave on 21st October, having failed to find it the day before.

Alfred captures the horror of this night and its aftermath in his drawing ‘A NIGHT AT ST.OMER AND AFTER’ and as a result of this raid patients and staff were evacuated to the Caves or as Alfred calls them, ‘THE BETTER ‘OLE’ as depicted in another drawing (both found in Alfred’s documents). Within six days of this raid, many of the allied patients were evacuated from the hospital and recently-wounded German prisoners of war (POWs) were admitted, many in a “very bad state”. At one point there were 700 German POWs in the hospital.

Alfred became friendly with one German POW, Karl Martens, who came regularly to the dispensary to give him German lessons. Alfred described him as a “bank clerk in civil life & seems a decent fellow”. Long after the war in 1927, Karl Martens wrote to Alfred as he was travelling home from Lisbon where he worked in a bank and his ship was putting in at Southampton before sailing on to Hamburg. In his letter (which we have found among Alfred’s’s papers) he writes that he would like to meet up again.

From Alfred’s diary entries we get a clear picture of the town of St. Omer and its environs – les jardins publiques, the river with its rowing boats, the cafes on the Rue de Calais and the Rue de Cloisteries as well as shops on the Rue de Dunquerque. Alfred got to know some of the French inhabitants of the town and liked nothing better than practising his French conversation with them. He was clearly looked upon as a friend by the family at the shop in the Rue de Cloisteries and when the father of the family died in December 1917, Alfred received a personal notice of the funeral details of Monsieur Mathieu – Joseph Breban (this too is among Alfred’s papers). On New Year’s Day, 1st January 1918, Alfred and his friend Jock were invited into ‘la cuisine’ and “given a cup of coffee en famille”, afterwards drinking “their health in Benedictine”.

The entries are written in the 1917 edition of Wellcome’s Pharmacist Diary, which offered only limited space for each date in the pocket diary. Accordingly, the writing is very small and cramped, creating some difficulties with transcription. The transcript is illustrated by other material from the collection, including near-contemporary portraits, documents and images from two booklets of postcards that show Saint Omer at the time Alfred was there. These postcard sets for Saint Omer are among several brought back by Alfred after the War.

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The diary

April 1917

Sunday 29th April 1917

Arrived Station Docks 8am after fairly comfortable journey via Oxford. Spent the day ‘picnicking’ in the docks. Very interesting & unique. Embarked for France at 5pm & got underway at 6.30pm. Passing Cowes quite close. Saw San Down very distinctly. So near & yet so far. Picked up ‘escort’- 2 destroyers outside Spithead. Our vessel the ‘Austerlind’. Put i/c Rifle Party for voyage.

Monday 30th April 1917

Arrived at Le Havre Harbour at about 6am.after calm & unincidental voyage. French coast quite an impressive sight in early sun & mist. Slacked on board until 4.30 from when we marched down to Docks Rest Camp – abt. 3 mls. Met Moffat B & others. Worked on unloading fatigue 9.30pm – 3am. Arrived back at camp somewhat tired nearly 4am.

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May 1917

Tuesday 1st May 1917

Spent quite a slack day at ‘Docks Rest Camp’ sleeping, reading, writing – under canvas – 6 more Sergts.& S/Sergts. Managed to be quite happy on continued bully beef & biscuit rations & 2 blankets & boards.

Wednesday 2nd May 1917

Another fairly slack day. Spent whole time in cleaning tent boards & after. & ev. slacking & writing. Met several more of Regt in previous drafts. Lt. & QM Claire, Moulton etc.

Thursday 3rd May 1917

Started ‘work’ in extended meaning of term. Loading our equipment on drey wagons. Worked in 2 shifts day & night roughly 6.30am – 2pm and 9.30pm-3am. Heat intense – arrived at Rest Camp tired out.

Friday 4th May 1917

More loading operations – commenced 9.30am & completed job by 3pm. Rec’d orders to parade at 9pm, reached Gare Migrations 10pm & entrained abt 10.30. Finally left Le Havre at 12.30am under fairly comfy travelling conditions. 2nd Class. Very glad to leave dust & dirt behind.

Saturday 5th May 1917

Reached our destination – St. Omer at 6.30 am after fairly pleasant & interesting journey via Abbeville, Bologne, Calais (Etaples)- …… proceeding. Unloading operations commenced at once – help of 60 POW & 28 ASC wagons. Operations completed by about 12.30am. & dumped in barrack square accommodation & then inside barracks & 6 of us (Sgts.) turned in on sqre among bales.

La Gare (the railway station) in Saint Omer, where Alfred arrived

Figure 2: La Gare (the railway station) in Saint Omer, where Alfred arrived

Sunday 6th May 1917

Heard guns on Fr. Front distinctly during the night. Wakened feeling fairly fresh after 5 hours sleep in open. Did no work today for a change – spent time in writing & looking round the town – evidently permitted ad lib off duty … A very ancient town – looks as if it has been dug up.

Monday 7th May 1917

Apparently exact site of new hospital not selected so spent day in sorting, classifying our gear. Went further round the town in ev. Rather pleased with appearance & size of place – very quaint & Unenglish.

Tuesday 8th May 1917

Clicked for the job of Orderly Sergt. & as such had a fairly busy time - & now not anxious for it too often. Was C.B. in evg. in consequence. Getting a bit more comfortable in Napoleon Barracks- in same block as abt 800 German POWs.

Wednesday 9th May 1917

Spent mg. in cleaning our quarters- by no means an unnecessary operation. Our 1st pay parade took up most of the aftn – rec’d 16.0F = 11/- very acceptable. Had a walk round town with Shaw in ev. evidently heaps to interest an archaeologist. Managed to get a hot bath in a bucket in our room (the upper circle of sgts – very select only 6 of us).

A general view of Saint Omer

Figure 3: A general view of Saint Omer

Thursday 10th May 1917

Pitched and struck a hospital marquee during day for practice – would sooner get on with the real business instead of messing abt. in these barracks – men’s quarters very bad. Did some washing in ev. shirt, pants,towel,2prs socks &3 hankies!& felt quite pleased with myself. Short stroll with Shaw in town after.

Friday 11th May 1917

Marquee pitching exercises etc. Rec’d 3 letters in morng – Mother, Amy & Dorothy oil at last! Clicked for Guard Duty & Fire Piquet combined 24 hours commencing at 3pm. 18 men &2 corporals in 2 tents near dump (our stores).

Amy Child, who Alfred married in 1920.  Their first child - born in 1922 – was Helen Barton/Kegie.

Figure 4: Amy Child, who Alfred married in 1920. Their first child - born in 1922 – was Helen Barton/Kegie.

Saturday 12th May 1917

Had a decent night’s sleep on stretcher in open. Very little to do but lie about under trees and read. We managed to get in some French conversation with casual children & people. Glad to come off duty at 3pm. Met Nor in the town while taking a casual walk with Shaw after tea! He is leaving these parts tomorrow.

Sunday 13th May 1917

Church Parade at 10am in Ch. Army Hut. C.E. in the minority – mainly Presbyterians. Not a bad service. Had a walk round Les Jardins Publiques in aftn. Listening to an English Regtl. Band. Audience mainly Eng. Soldiers with sprinkling of French people. Quite a delightful place. Stayed in most of evg. writing.

Monday 14th May 1917

Put up store tent in mg. & commenced putting some of our stores in it in aftn. Apparently we are likely to be in this uncertain state awaiting further orders for some time yet. Meanwhile the 6 of us sharing small room manage to make ourselves pretty comfortable. Walk in evg.

Tuesday 15th May 1917

Continued checking operations & storing. Had a decent ‘country’ walk with Shaw in evening. Hope we stay near here so there is a good combination of town & country.

Wednesday 16th May 1917

Still lounging about at La Caserne de la Barre with little to do. Passed the day at squad drill combined with a little ‘swinging’. Weather much cooler & rain keeps most of us indoors during evening. Played whist & solo, read French etc.

Caserne de la Barre

Figure 5: Caserne de la Barre

Thursday 17th May 1917

Another weary day spent in marking time, listening to somewhat humorous orations of S/Sgt Pearson mainly! Went out with Sgts. Shaw, Hill, Woodley & Morgan (of the Elite) to make some purchases. Came in early &played Solo. As usual we were somewhat gay towards bedtime not under the influence of C2h5OH!

Friday 18th May 1917

Again took my turn as Orderly Sergt. - did not get too hard a time & found leisure to write a few letters. Of course the hardest part is staying in during evening.

Saturday 19th May 1917

Bath Parade at A.S.C. repair shop Rue St. Bertin, in morning. Came back and held short meeting which lasted until dinner time. At 3pm just thinking of going out when ordered to fall in. Spent rest of day on the ‘dump’ pitching store tents & getting canvas, bales etc under cover – the sequel of Ordnance Officer’s visit, I believe!

Sunday 20th May 1917

After Church Parade – over abt.11.30am – we all continued work at the dump. Knocked off at about 3pm having got all bales under cover. Took a stroll in Les Jardins Publiques with Sgts. Hill & Shaw & formed the opinion that there are some decent French girls here after all (i.e. in appearance). Short eveng. walk to St. Martin with Shaw.

Monday 21st May 1917

Finished off ‘dump’ in morng. Aftn. off for cricket match v. Charlies. Spent it in writing & in promenading in Les Jardins. Saw several English khaki girls – new arrivals. Cricket practice & walk in evening.

Tuesday 22nd May 1917

Rain kept us indoors all morning. Kit inspn. for men. Played Solo. Had walk round the locks in evg. with Sgt. Shaw. Fire alarm sounded as we were about to turn in – turned out but excitement due to a car catching fire.

Wednesday 23rd May 1917

Did stretcher drill all morning & aftn. until 3 pm when we got orders to get 6 HP marquees up – worked at it until about 7.30pm. Spent rest of evening playing Solo etc.

Thursday 24th May 1917

Worked all day in getting up & furnishing marquees more or less completed & more by 7 pm. Took a short walk in town on my own looking for an opticians as somebody broke my glasses in Ablution Shed in hosp.

La Place Victor-Hugo

Figure 6: La Place Victor-Hugo

Friday 25th May 1917

Was God. Sgt. for the day & as such had a fairly easy time. Wrote several letters. Meanwhile work of erecting hosp. continues under intensely hot conditions. Paraded for pay but nothing doing – too late at the bank. Lonely ev.

Saturday 26th May 1917

Reveille 5am! Breakfast 7.15. Bathing Parade 8.30 – came back to work & worked until 5pm with break for dinner. Very little talent for system & organisation shown in course of work – too many in charge. Spent a very pleasant evening in shopping with Sgts. Hill & Shaw. Decided to have some new glasses – similar pince-nez – no prisms.

Sunday 27th May 1917

Reveille again 5am. No church parade & carried on with tent pitching until 5pm. Took an evening walk towards Clairmarais & the marshes. Stopped at a bridge by a M.P. about 1ml. out where practised French on little French girl (treize ans).

View of Clairmarais with the boats

Figure 7: View of Clairmarais with the boats

Monday 28th May 1917

Rev. at 5am & finished work at 8pm. in aftn. walked to No.4 Stat. Hosp. at Arques to get my glasses rep’d. Distance there took me to Sgts. Mess & tea. Much better site than ours. Commenced getting our dispensary in order. Med. Board at 5pm (and officers) remained BTT.

Tuesday 29th May 1917

Worked all day in dispensary unpacking & getting things in order. Finished work at 5pm for a change. Had a walk with Sgt. Shaw in Les Jardins Publiques & like them more than ever. Many people off. actions.

Wednesday 30th May 1917

Worked in dispensary all day - things beginning to get a bit straight. Sisters arrived in evening but saw nothing of them. Worked until 7pm & after took a short walk in town with Sgt. Hill. Had another interesting conversation with the lady in the ‘Tabac’ shop, Rue de Dunquerque.

Thursday 31st May 1917

Reveille still at 5am. Worked in dispensary as before but able to take things more easily. Look forward to valuable and interesting experiences here. Should like half our stores as nucleus of a business! Short walk through gardens in evg.

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June 1917

Friday 1st June 1917

Continued working in disp. & invasion by sisters commenced giving us a busy time. Another short walk in gardens after tea – came home early & played Solo.

Saturday 2nd June 1917

Glad to be working on our special duties as apparently others still getting a rough time – taking down & putting up tents & prob. most will come down before the end! I imagine we shall have done work 3 times before end owing to lack of plan & systems. Lamentable! In evening went to Fr. Cinema with 3 others, saw some Fr. Films – not bad.

Sunday 3rd June 1917

Reveille at 5am as usual when we had all been looking forward to a bit of extra “bed”! Only a church parade in morning but worked again all aftn. Wrote letters until about 7pm when went for a stroll in gardens with Sgt. Shaw.

Monday 4th June 1917

Had a letter from Bert announcing arrival of a new niece! Worked in disp. all day – 5.30am – 8pm! Came in & prepared for bed – tired out. Watched a German aeroplane being shelled in early morning.

Tuesday 5th June 1917

Worked again 5.30am – 7.30pm. Unpacking & checking instruments (surgical) mainly – quite an interesting occupation. Did not go out – bed early.

Wednesday 6th June 1917

Had been promised conditionally a half day off but nothing doing! Had an extreme & heavy thunderstorm after tea – nearly got washed out of our tent – no attempt made to date to drain the place! Played Solo.

Thursday 7th June 1917

First parade at 8.45am. for a change & did not go back to work after tea. Tents still continue to come down to go up elsewhere! Did not go far in ev. just walked down to get my new glasses – cost £9 & 50 with case and chain. Seem to be quite satisfactory.

Friday 8th June 1917

Had notification of arrival of 1st convoy of wounded about an hour before it turned up! Did not see much of it as there was a consequent raid on dispensary. Mostly light cases from near Messines – opening of new offensive. About 270 cases. Kept at it till abt. 10pm.

Saturday 9th June 1917

Another busy day – no method on part of those responsible – everything done in a rush. Had no chance so far of speaking to the boys but have heard some from those who have. Left our quarters in barracks & got fixed up in a tent with Sgt. Shaw. Should be able to make ourselves comfy but still no sign of a Sgts mess. Got hard boards to lie on.

Sunday 10th June 1917

No Church Parade but duty instead for all but patients. Had most of aftn. off so had a walk in the Gardens – a decent French band brass & string playing. Shaw & I made a decent table & shelves for our tent with green baize cloth! Quite like a bed-sitting room! Had a hot bath at dispensary & washed clothes & consequently got to bed late – tired!

Monday 11th June 1917

Still manage to keep busy at dispensary – late hours. Camp beginning to look more fit to occupy with help of German POWs. Mess tents go up at last including one for Sgts. Cookstores & stores getting on & Op. Theatre (permanent- arrived in parts) commenced to erect.

The entrance gate to the 58th Scottish General Hospital  (We are grateful to Catherine Howard-Dobson and Gordon Buttle for cleaning this very poor-quality photograph)

Figure 8: The entrance gate to the 58th Scottish General Hospital (We are grateful to Catherine Howard-Dobson and Gordon Buttle for cleaning this very poor-quality photograph)

Tuesday 12th June 1917

Beginning to forget what the town is like – was working in disp. until 7pm & then helped Shaw to trench our tent as a thunder shower nearly washed us out. Teeth troubling me.

Wednesday 13th June 1917

Sgts. Mess formally inaugurated & held our first meeting after tea. Things should be much more satisfactory now. Felt quite civilised again with real crockery again! Had a walk round the town with Shaw in ev. for a change – making some purchases. (Got one of my teeth filled at No.10 Stat. Hosp.)

Thursday 14th June 1917

Heard from the S.M. that the whole show may yet be coming down again to be repitched differently!! (Comment superfluous). Had RVP Band playing in Hosp. Grounds .. .. Was on duty so could not escape dispensary. Tablecloths for meals & some of us show signs of remembering our table manners.

Friday 15th June 1917

Nothing very exciting to record. Had the evening off & spent the whole time playing croquet on “some course”!- the set is the gift of the C.O. to our mess. The guns quieter tonight. Have been blazing away esp. at night for 8 or 9 days now. (Many more P.O.W. in a day or two are the sequel.)

Saturday 16th June 1917

Duties at Disp. begin to take on definite form – was off duty in ev.- show on. More croquet! Short walk in gdns & town with Sgt.Grogan (……) About 50 VAD ladies arrived in co. but saw nothing of them – pleasure (I hope) in store. Weather gets hotter than ever. Apparently nothing on record to rebuild hosp.

Sunday 17th June 1917

The men still working on tent pitching etc. on Sundays as on other days. Very few available now since a good number have gone to wards & other duties, & most of the remainder as batsmen. P.O.W.s have helped us a lot – pitching & trenching & decorating! Seem good workers. My turn for duty so did not go far from Disp. Still very hot – finished up with lovely cold bath.

Monday 18th June 1917

Still seen practically nothing of the VAD ladies. Heard today that S/Sgt Vallons is definitely leaving us soon. Sorry he is going for most reasons. Had a terrific thunderstorm (tornado). Mess & other store tents blew down but managed to save disp. (Did some shopping on my own in ev.)

Tuesday 19th June 1917

Thunderstorms and heavy rains with fine intervals the order of the day. Plenty of mud & water about the camp – but refreshing to have it a bit cooler. On duty again tonight as Cohen is in hosp. Spoke to one of the VAD nurses (in disp. for first time- quite a decent little girl).

Wednesday 20th June 1917

Are by no means overworked in disp. so far, gives us an opportunity of getting things straight. Spent my evening off duty improvising a bee hive out of cask - …… optimizing & tin plates etc.! Managed to get a stray swarm been about a day or two inside. Penalty – 1 Sting on little finger used rubber dressing gloves & gas helmet.

Thursday 21st June 1917

Settling down to routine in dispensary. Spent my evening on duty in elaborating my bees’ hive – made an outer frame & covered it with roofing material – op. theatre!

Friday 22nd June 1917

Miserably wet day – pas bon pour les abeilles – so thought it best to buy them some food – managed to get a stick of ‘sucre de pommes’ (2F30) after trying barley sugar. Had a great evening at a café in Rue de Calais – 6 of us (strawberries rice etc. – and jolly fine girls!

Saturday 23rd June 1917

Finer and warmer again. Today bees working strong. Most of our V.A.D. ladies departed to other hospitals for temp. duties – sad! My turn for duty again. Did my laundry & wrote letters in aftn. & evn.

Sunday 24th June 1917

Sundays here do not seem such. There are Church Parades but very few of us can attend owing to duty. Was off duty in aftn. & evn. & utilised former for writing letters etc. In evn. went in Gardens with Sgts. Hill & Wordley & listened to very good R.F. (2nd Army ) band. Finished up with fruit supper in our Rue de Calais restaurant. (Shall have to go easy till next pay day !)

Monday 25th June 1917

Sgt. Cohen still away from pharm. But came out of hosp. today. Again on duty in co. Had a game of croquet after tea. Had a hot bath in disp. – after which got quite busy. (10 – 10.30pm).

Tuesday 26th June 1917

S/Sgt. Vallons left for Blighty at mid-day today. Have heard unofficially that I shall be in charge of disp. but apparently nobody cares how we carry on. Took new boy James away to be S/M’s batman. Generally fed up. Shaw & I left our tent & fitted up our quarters in the store of disp.

Wednesday 27th June 1917

I think our new abode will be a success. We have a hospital bed each to sleep on & our comfort of cases lined with doorways from hosp. marquees – very cosy! Saw S/M Reid about our unsatisfactory positions in disp. & got some satisfaction. Posted in orders tonight with i/c of dispensary – have asked for rank of S/Sgt!

Thursday 28th June 1917

Had a rather busy & trying day – no vestige of system in whole place – people running in & out of disp. at all hours for things in a hurry. Drew up set of rules to submit to C.O. Indoors all ev. – too wet and busy to go out.

Friday 29th June 1917

Had a letter from Mother enclosing one from Payments at Woking explaining why M is only receiving 18/11 per week (effected 1916). Showed it to Jack Mc Donald , our Pay Sgt. & he satisfied me that it is in accordance with govt. regs. Dirty trick all the same! Busy all day & on duty in ev.

Alfred in uniform with his mother, Emma Quinton/Barton

Figure 9: Alfred in uniform with his mother, Emma Quinton/Barton

Saturday 30th June 1917

Had some P.O.W.s at work in disp. yesterday trenching & putting flooring down to stand bales of dressings on. Got them to put us a floor in our ‘abode’ which was great success. They appear to be thorough workers. Nasty, cheerless, wet kind of day – so did not move far from disp. & mess. This latter quite an elaborate place now with smoking room & arm chairs - & I must say has wonderfully improved since Sgt. Lent is i/c.

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July 1917

Sunday 1st July 1917

Still had plenty of dispensing to do until tea time & shall be heartily glad when some of the officers & aides get more accustomed to Military Hospitals & active service. Sgt. Cohen on duty. Went out into the gdns to hear band, being fed up with being in so long. Had a café et gateau at our Rue de Calais restaurant with the six sergeants.

Monday 2nd July 1917

Again kept at it all day. Was on duty in evg. & working at scripts etc. until over 8.30. Managed to get a decent hot bath afterwards with help of 2 primus stoves. Things seem to be pretty slow in getting into shape. I imagine I shall have to swallow a good deal in my new sphere.

Tuesday 3rd July 1917

Went for a short stroll round town in co. Sgts. Hill & Grogan. Saw traction engine & tender of firm of McAlpine London, with Glasgow 1st of hosp.; also several of their men about – evidently work of replacing c….. (for …….. to proceed forthwith).

Wednesday 4th July 1917

Weather has rather improved again during last few days. Still pretty busy in disp. Would be better if things were better organised generally. Did my washing after tea & then went for stroll in town with Sgt. Shaw. Few hands of ‘Solo’ in mess.

Thursday 5th July 1917

Spent another rather trying day – mainly owing to lack of sense or organisation in other depts. On duty in ev. & was kept at it until 9.30 – no time to attend to any private matters. Another of our ‘silly’ mess meetings after tea & SM. Batchelor in chair!

Friday 6th July 1917

Still busy all day in disp. with little time left to get things cleared up & in decent order. Managed to get out for nearly an hour in ev. to visit the café in Rue de Calais – 2 eggs!! All dressed up in my new suit issued a week or two ago!

Saturday 7th July 1917

Had a slacker aftn. & evening for a change. Shaw & I took a walk & got as far as the Aerodrome for first time. Witnessed a flying accident for first time. Softly, the pilot who earlier in the day gave exhibition flying before H.M. King (here on a visit) & complimented personally by him came down when only about 30’ up just after starting owing to engine trouble. Apparently not much hurt but machine smashed. S & I first on scene.

Sunday 8th July 1917

On duty all day. Sunday with us very much the same as any other day – never got a chance to attend church parade. Found time in evening to write to Mother & am sending letter in green envelope – the first one that has been issued to us! Still a bit fed up with things but think experience shd. be worth carrying on with.

Monday 9th July 1917

Again not quite as busy in dispensary but am still waiting to see the adjt. Nothing has come of plan I submitted to him. Had a very ‘great’ evening with Sgt. McDonald (Jock). Started at ‘our’ café (ices.cherries,coffee & biscuits) quite admire the girls there. Finished up with a walk getting lost among the ditches & moats. Got into Public Gardens and back out at last at 9pm (closes at 8pm!).

Tuesday 10th July 1917

The Pathologist ( Lt. McGowan ) getting his lab into working order, hoping to keep on right side of him and pick up some bacteriology. Went for short walk towards Clairmarais with Shaw in evening – had supper in mess & after a game of Solo.

View of Clairmarais

Figure 10: View of Clairmarais

Wednesday 11th July 1917

Weather which has been much cooler & wetter of late, much improved today. Saw today plan of new dispensary included in administrative building now being commenced – rather small. On duty in ev. Wrote to Glad. & S. & had a bath later. Getting no letters lately – sad!

Alfred’s youngest sister, Gladys (Rosalie) Barton, who had married Stewart Child in 1916.  In 1920 Alfred married Stewart’s sister Amy.

Figure 11: Alfred’s youngest sister, Gladys (Rosalie) Barton, who had married Stewart Child in 1916. In 1920 Alfred married Stewart’s sister Amy.

Thursday 12th July 1917

Slacker again today. Submitted another plan to registrar for regulation of traffic etc in dispensary, this time via S/M Whittington. Learned that they are asking for another S/Sgt. Dispenser! Shall probably try for a com. if it comes off. Played croquet most of ev.

Friday 13th July 1917

Settled, warm weather has ret’d in earnest. Went for a walk in gdns. & after in town with Sgt. Shaw. Visited the little ‘Tabac’ shop in Rue de Dunquerque for 1st time for about 2 weeks (since I thanked Mme. for the rose) & they appeared much upset about it! Mme Gr. told me she thought of me every day!

Saturday 14th July 1917

Tried to get some turmeric in town for Mr. McGowan (Pathologist) but nothing doing. Tried to extract some from ‘piccalli’ & ether – but must wait till tomorrow to see if successful! On duty in co. did my washing and wrote to Culley. Still waiting to hear result of new attempt of getting things in order.

Sunday 15th July 1917

Spent a very ordinary day- like most lately. Finished off my turmeric paper from pickles & I think will be a success but stain betrays its origin by its odour! Wait Mr. McGowan’s report. Spent most of aftn. reading ‘Le Mauvais Juge’ which I find a bit interesting if a bit weak. Heard band in park for an hour or so & returned & wrote rpt.

Monday 16th July 1917

Good news today – heard that my (& Shaw’s) 6 sh per day dispensing pay has been granted from 9th ult. Not getting such a busy time in dispensary. Played croquet most of ev & was in fine …. Got to bed rather late through listening to gramophone records.

Tuesday 17th July 1917

Seem to be getting a much slacker time although the scheme submitted a second time still ignored – shall get my back up soon. (on duty in ev. played croquet before & after 6-8pm. & Solo after supper. Am wasting too much time at frivolities.

Wednesday 18th July 1917

Still being put off & statements to effect that my scheme is either being or going to be considered but am getting tired of this & feel there is some ulterior reason. Played croquet until 6.30pm. when rain came on & went in & read ‘Le Mauvais Juge’.

Thursday 19th July 1917

Got a fair amt. of new stuff in today – including apparatus for Carrell – Dakin’s treatment of wounds. After playing 3 games of croquet went down to No. 10 Stat. Hosp. & got formula for Dakin’s Solution from dispensary there. Came back & had some fun at tug of war in which officers joined – sgts. beat them! Some amusing solos from Strong & Uncle Willie!

Friday 20th July 1917

Spent a good deal of time in cleaning up dispensary for a “big .ossy” whose visit is expected tomorrow. Had a big row with ‘Quarter bloke’ who threatened to take me to the O.R. I never liked anything about him. On duty in ev.

Saturday 21st July 1917

Saw nothing of the mighty one in our dept. although things were quite in order. Had two games of croquet after tea & went out ‘all dressed up’ with Fred & Jimmy. Sat on banks of canal for a time & then went up into town. Bought a cushion cover for Auntie Joy’s sofa. (23F) & had a very long & enjoyable conversation with the Madamoiselle in the shop.

The canal at Saint Omer

Figure 12: The canal at Saint Omer

Sunday 22nd July 1917

Off duty in aftn. & evening. Filled in former time in reading C.H. & writing my weekly budget to Mother – used my 2nd green envelope. After tea went in gardens with Sgt. Shaw to hear band & mingled with the crowds. Later visited the café in Rue de Calais & had pineapple & coffee etc. Returned & commenced a letter to Mrs Munt.

Monday 23rd July 1917

We have taken to giving a free afternoon to the blighter who is down for evening duty – as it was my turn today I took opp. of writing or finishing my letter to Mrs Munt. Wrote to Dorothy in ev.- after played croquet till dark. Disturbed last night by anti aircraft guns & the usual heavy ones up line – they are blazing away now & for several nights.

Tuesday 24th July 1917

Had fairly busy morning but slack aftn - the hosp. being evacuated in prepn. for rumoured big push. Played croquet after tea & then went for a stroll, came back & had a game of chess with Jim & got beaten – after fairly even game.

Wednesday 25th July 1917

Again a slack day – hospital getting emptied – very little doing at all in aftn. Played croquet all evening 5.30 – 9pm! & got quite fed up towards end. Must really try to utilise my spare time usefully.

Thursday 26th July 1917

More convinced each day of the unfairness of my rank compared with positions & responsibilities. If anyone could speak one’s mind to those cowards who shelter themselves behind the impenetrable defences of rank. Spent ev. at croquet, reading, writing & chess.

Friday 27th July 1917

Not busy at all with ordinary ward work but had a somewhat exacting day in completing lists of shortages & breakages etc. in mrng. & in aftn. dispaying all stock of surg. instrs. to Sister Brown – new theatre nearly ready. Had to clear up in ev. Did not go out but did some reading.

Saturday 28th July 1917

Had plenty of stuff in today & spent most of aftn. in checking it & packing it away. Spent an enjoyable & novel evening with Shaw in a boat on the marshes – reached the canal from Estaminet towards Calais Rd. Evening inc. drinks cost us 80 centimes!

Sunday 29th July 1917

Things don’t improve. Can’t get any response to my attempts to get things in order. The new order that M.O. has to sign for everything is going to make things much worse for us – feel like chucking my hand in. On duty aftn. & ev. Started to get things ready for making Dakin’s soln. Wrote to Mother in ev. & last thing had a bath.

Monday 30th July 1917

Had an official visit of inspection etc. from O.C. who seemed fairly satisfied with things in general. A dirty, uncomfortable day – did not go out in ev. reading ‘City of Beatific Nonsense’ by E. Temple Thurston most of time like it much.

Tuesday 31st July 1917

Hosp. now nearly empty in preparation for big push which we hear has successfully commenced. Little ward work doing but manage to keep busy. Dirty evening but went for stroll in gdns. & town with Sgt. Shaw.

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August 1917

Wednesday 1st August 1917

A convoy of nearly 400 from the lines came in today – have seen nothing of them. Were to have arrived during last night & most of unit waited up for them. Wettest day since we left Blighty. On duty in ev. – did washing.

Thursday 2nd August 1917

Wet day again – camp turned into a mud lake – lovely prospects for winter! Were busy again in dispensary & again feel need of regulation – new orders that require M.O.’s signature to everything makes things worse. Spent ev. in reading.

Friday 3rd August 1917

Wet continues incessantly. Get more fed up each day with the place & the people in it – i.e. a good many of them. Dressed up in ev. & waded out of hospital into town – had a pleasant hour or so at the café – forgot all troubles for the time.

Saturday 4th August 1917

Much finer again for a change – but incessant rain must have hampered or modified new offensive. On duty in ev. but had Wrote to Ada & nearly completed one to Amy. Suppose we shall settle down to inconveniences & put up with anything for the sake of the peace.

Sunday 5th August 1917

The old type of weather returned again for which we are truly thankful. Went into Gdns. To hear band in aftn. & evening with Sgt. Cohen . Got in to conversation with two little demoiselles in ev. one of whom quite keen on speaking English. Had ‘cafe et biscuits’ at the café.

Monday 6th August 1917

Colonel paid us a visit & I spoke to him about scheme for running dept. & he promised consideration & consent. So shall prepare a final effort. Dressed up & went out in ev. with Sgt. Shaw. Made some purchases & sat in park.

Tuesday 7th August 1917

Much busier again since we filled up. Was on duty in ev. but was busy in pharmacy all aftn. making extension glue etc. Wrote in ev. when not working but had nice little chat with Sister W…. who is quite a sport.

Wednesday 8th August 1917

Usual daily routine - rise about 7.45am! Open 9am. Close for dinner 12.30 – 2pm & for tea 4.30 – 6pm. Off for ev. (from 4.30pm) if not on duty. Was going for walk with Sgt. Cohen but thunderstorm prevented. Mended trousers instead. Bed abt.10.30pm.

Thursday 9th August 1917

Submitted yet another scheme to C.O. for working dispensary in accordance with new order respecting M.O.’s signatures. Heavy rain again but went for stroll with Sgt. Shaw in ev. & had quite a long chat with Madame of tabac shop.

Friday 10th August 1917

Quite a fine day & evening but was on duty. Spent most of aftn. in doing clerical work making out new ledgers of stuff on charge. First concert in YMCA tent now opened – quite enjoyable – surprising talent among the men.

Saturday 11th August 1917

Learned that C.O. has approved my latest scheme & that copies are being typed! Adjt. Is away ill which may account for it? Find we have to supply Hants.Regt. & RFC 9th Wing & had ‘some’ indent from latter. Had a walk out to flying grounds with Sgt. Cohen in ev.

Sunday 12th August 1917

Read the typed copies of disp. timetable from officer. ‘Everything comes to him that waits’. Busy with indents & issues until 3pm. Took a stroll in park & listened to band. Repeated visit in ev.Saw the two little French girls but had to be content with smiles. Went to café with Bernard, Billy, Jim & S/S Peace- Cohen was very gracious.

Monday 13th August 1917

Was on duty in evening. Attended a meeting (the 2nd) of those interested in the formation of a Vaudeville troupe etc. Not much done. Had a bath later.

Tuesday 14th August 1917

Rather a new departure tonight – went to a cinema show at the M.S.C.M.T. Theatre – which (or a concert of some kind) I’m told takes place 3 times weekly during the winter. Enjoyed the change but films mostly of the broadly impossible type.

Wednesday 15th August 1917

First day of operation of new scheme to ‘run’ the dept. Sh’d be much more satisfactory if there are not too many exceptions to the rule – the MO’s are mainly the trouble I believe. In ev. attended ‘same’ concert of MT in Munro Institute with Shaw & we finished up with walk.

Thursday 16th August 1917

Seems to be always plenty on hand in pharmacy – esp. since we lost James. Scrubbed tables etc. myself. Shall speak to CO when opp. arises. Found time in aftn. to write to Dorothy. On duty in ev. did my laundry.

Dorothy Child, wife of Graham, the oldest of the Child siblings and brother to Stewart and Amy.  This portrait was taken in 1918 in Marseilles when Graham was working in a bank there.  His sister Amy visited them there in 1920, shortly before she married Alfred.

Figure 13: Dorothy Child, wife of Graham, the oldest of the Child siblings and brother to Stewart and Amy. This portrait was taken in 1918 in Marseilles when Graham was working in a bank there. His sister Amy visited them there in 1920, shortly before she married Alfred.

Friday 17th August 1917

A tiresome kind of day when everything gets in a mess. First we have to do all stock dispensing for Hants! Had a stroll with P.C. in ev. – went for a P.O. & got P.O. for B.F.C. Air raid warning about 9.30pm but came to nothing.

Saturday 18th August 1917

Had the pleasantest time I’ve had since left Blighty. Nurse Weir & Thompson (VADs) on river after tea with Sgt. Shaw who entertained us to a tea picnic – in a cornfield on the banks …. Spread. Lovely evening! Both girls jolly decent & sporting & gave us a topping time – which was alas – all too short! Reached camp 9.0pm. Another air raid warning.

Sunday 19th August 1917

Was on duty all day & had a busy time. Have to do work (scrubbing, washing & cleaning generally) that no man sh’d do since James was taken from us whereas important clerical work proceeds so slowly. Had another row with Major Lee who is the limit. Third successive warning of aircraft approaching but nothing doing as usual.

Monday 20th August 1917

Things seem to be working fairly well in dispensary – but we miss our man to do the odd work. Went out to post my letter ‘green envelope’ in ev. & came back for concert given mainly by sisters – very good but warning of air raid cut it short – came to 0 as usual.

Tuesday 21st August 1917

Sgt. Shaw left us for a week’s temporary duty at No.3 ADM Stores & I find he has to take meals & sleep there. So here I am alone! Had a decent time on marshes with Nurse Weir. Could not get a boat at first but managed one from private house! Changed it for one at usual place later. (Quite a decent wee lassie for a companion & quite sporting.)

Wednesday 22nd August 1917

Learned that Nurse Weir is to be put on night duty tomorrow – for two months! Which I imagine will put an end to our little trips. A little more excitement after usual raid warning given. Saw a plane in searchlight for a moment. Bomb dropped probably within 1 or 2 kilometres.

Thursday 23rd August 1917

Plenty to do with Bernard but managed to get through it with PC. Band in gdns. Where met Bernard & after we took a walk down to canal to see damage done by lst night’s raid. One or two houses (flimsy) demolished & many badly damaged. There were several casualties. Tommy & Weir commencing night duty for 2 months.

A view of the canal

Figure 14: A view of the canal

Friday 24th August 1917

Don’t like being on duty every 2nd night. Spent a very busy & rather strenuous day & shall be glad to see Bernard back – whom I miss in evngs. too. Just saw Miss Weir when she was going on duty but only for a moment. Strolled around with Sgt. Cohen but nothing doing.

Saturday 25th August 1917

Rec’d. B.P.C. yesterday – quick work! Shall find it very useful. No time to do any clerical work. Some of wards still giving some trouble as to times (of sending orders) but on the whole scheme works pretty well. Went to ASC Cinema with Sgt. Shaw in evg. & managed to get a decent chat with Nurse Weir before & after supper. Raid warning 9.40 did not materialise.

Sunday 26th August 1917

On duty for 2nd successive Sunday. Was working hard until nearly 7pm after which found time to write to Mother & later …..Very wet evening so was unable to see Miss Weir. Am getting a bit fed up with working dept. with 2 of us only.

Monday 27th August 1917

A very wet day all day & evening so could not make any use of my evening off duty to go out. Hoping to get Bernard back tomorrow & shall be very glad. Wrote to Rene.

Irene Alice Barton/Lock, one of Alfred’s sisters

Figure 15: Irene Alice Barton/Lock, one of Alfred’s sisters

Tuesday 28th August 1917

Had an exciting morning – while was at breakfast one side of dispensary tent blew in (which or something worse I had been expecting all night). Surprisingly little damage done but quite a mess made. Quieter towards ev. Bernard still away. At 9.15 went up to G Ward to have a chat with Nurse Weir.

Wednesday 29th August 1917

Wind somewhat abated but still high. Had quite a decent walk on my own after tea – 8 or 9 miles cross country to Tatingen – Longueness flying ground etc. Had a nice little chat with Spiff & Spoff later. Bernard still at stores – goes to Calais tomorrow.

Thursday 30th August 1917

Had Bernard back again tonight – he is full of his visit to Calais. Very glad to see him back. On duty again in ev. & was busy until dark. I was preparing ac/ of stuff to be taken off charge. Had a decent chat with Spiff after 9.30pm. & finished up with a bath.

Friday 31st August 1917

Busy with end of month returns most of day. In ev. had a stroll with Bernard round town & to Union Sportive ground. Concert by RVP in YMCA tent later – quite good. Saw Spiff after 10.30pm & had a cup of tea.

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September 1917

Saturday 1st September 1917

Arranged to see ‘Spiff’ at 5.30pm. & go for a walk but no luck! Learned later that all night sisters had shifted their quarters into town & she had not got back until late. Met Sgt. Cohen in park – listened to a decent band and had a good meal of eggs & cakes at the Café Leon. Quite a long chat with Spiff & Spuff after 9.45.

Sunday 2nd September 1917

Was on duty all day – the 3rd Sunday in succ’n. 3 bands played in gardens too! ‘Some’ air raid at night. The 1st time I have had the feeling of being under fire. Noise of our own shells approaches to something horrifying. Casualties soon commenced coming in from town – civilians & soldiers. Saw some ghastly sights in theatre. Several died in night. Got to bed at about 2am. & slept quite well.

Monday 3rd September 1917

Bernard & I saw ‘Spiff’ & ‘Spuff’ about 6pm. & had a very enjoyable walk across fields – ended too soon - at 7.15! After walked in to town to view fairly extensive damage done near centre – off Rue de Dunquerque. Another alarm siren about 9pm. – but until now (11.30pm) has not developed seriously this way.

Tuesday 4th September 1917

Spoke too soon last night for guns started as soon as had finished writing & again about 2am. Got up then but appar. nothing dropped. In ev. went in to park expecting to see Spiff & S. but did not turn up. No raid warning tonight so far- 9.45pm.

Wednesday 5th September 1917

Visitors turned up a bit later & we had bombs dropped quite as near as I want to see them – about six (must have been quite small) dropped just outside hospital – abt. 50 yards. from where Bernard & I were standing. Felt very excited when I heard them falling. Had a look round just after – not much damage done. Only one casualty (soon fatal). Guard Duty 5 the sentry M.T. A.S.C. brought to G Ward.

Thursday 6th September 1917

Came again later & saw a plane in search light – quickly made off. Spent most of time of raid in a new ‘G’ ward where Spiff is on duty. W.A.A.C. concert in Y.M.C.A. tent commenced at 7pm. so only saw end – not bad. Weather threatened stormy so we only got two warnings of raids which did not materialise.

Friday 7th September 1917

Had a good sleep & did not wake until 4.43 although was out of bed abt. 4.30pm to try to catch rain water during heavy storm. Commenced making sketches and plans for new disp. which only lacks fittings now. Is rather wet in ev. so do not expect any visitors.

‘Uncle Willie’ busy all day staining parts – he has made a mess of our white disp. No air raid warning last evening so had another good long sleep. PC & I met S2 in evening & had a very pleasant stroll through the fields as before. Sat down this time on a bank & ate a peach each – sent by Bernard (on duty). Went up the lines later & had another enjoyable chat.

Saturday 8th September 1917

Late up again – did not wake until 8.15am! Sat up last night darning socks to wear! Had another quiet night & have the prospect of one tonight. Everyone seems more reassured as preparations for defence seem to be more complete & there are supposed to be more battle planes in the area. Spent a day of usual routine – was on duty in ev. Wrote two letters. Just returned from a decent ‘chat’ with Spiff, Spuff & Sister Cameron (Spiff’s Charge sister).

Sunday 9th September 1917

1st Sunday off duty for a month! Went with Bernard in aftn. to Union Sportive & watched RFC Sports for a time – all these seem to be held on Sundays. In ev. went to listen to band – quite good - spoke to Spiff & Nurse Morrison for a time & afterwards had a square meal of eggs at the café. Evening again quiet so far – 10.43pm. Had usual chat with Spiff & Tommy who is not feeling fit.

Monday 10th September 1917

Have been getting a bit slacker time lately. Weather fine. Had a German plane over this evening which we watched being shelled. Also had another warning about 9pm. but nothing doing. Visited dispensary of 59th G.H. with Sgt. Cohen in ev. Have a fine place there.

Tuesday 11th September 1917

We are still sticking to Whittaker who came when Bernard went to No. 3 A.D.M.S. although he was taken to skin rabbits a day or two ago. On duty in ev. Another warning at 9.30 pm. which came to 0. Saw Spiff as usual.

Wednesday 12th September 1917

Bernard got up with a temp. of over 101 degrees so went back to bed again. P.C. away in aftn. so was on my own again. Brought O.Off. to see Bernard – fed him on aspirin & eggs & milk. Arranged to go on river with S2. Went down alone but they did not turn up. Learned later that owing to more moving they did not get to bed till midday. Had a long enjoyable row on my own.

Thursday 13th September 1917

Bernard spent most of day in bed but is decidedly better. Do not like our tents since they have been darkened & hope to sort & get out better fittings being made here. On duty in ev. Weather too rough for visitors tonight. Finished up with a bath.

Friday 14th September 1917

Saw fittings being made for disp. Uncle Willie quite hopeless - & can get no satisfaction out of him. Feeling decidedly fed up most of day – in ev. went to R.V.P. concert in Munro Inst. – getting too used to their programme. Saw S2 as usual.

Saturday 15th September 1917

Find that shall have to make new plans for new disp. as they are sticking up fixtures just where we don’t want them & without consulting those whom it concerns most closely. Shall wait until they have finished before troubling further. Took duty again in ev. did my laundry. Strolled round camp after supper but nothing doing for a change.

Sunday 16th September 1917

Quite an uneventful day. Was off duty in aftn. but did not go out. Listened to short open air service by Very Rev’d Wallace Williamson, high dignitary of Scottish church, outside disp. at 4pm. Went for a lovely stroll in ev. through St. Martin along Calais Road & then paid lonely visit to the café. Saw Spiff for a short time. Wrote to Mother & Else.

Monday 17th September 1917

Got 3 POWs & one of our own men i/c from Fred & commenced moving operations – got all the Wool C.A. across & unpacked & stacked, & few other things. Spent all the evening in the new store commencing constructions of some racks which I find I shall have to make myself or go without.

Tuesday 18th September 1917

Quite an ordinary kind of day. RVP gave a concert (which as far as I could judge a repetition of last Friday’s at the Masons) in Y.M.C.A. tent but as usual lately I was on duty. Did a bit more to making racks at new store after 7.45 pm.

Wednesday 19th September 1917

Got racks finished off by a P.O.W. so had the ev. free for a change. Took a stroll in town on my own – was in at Mons. Germain’s for some time bought 2 serviette rings. Air raid warning occurred while there but came to nothing. Rain later so saw nothing of 2S.

Mathurin et le Pont Levis

Figure 16: Mathurin et le Pont Levis

Thursday 20th September 1917

Continued moving dressings. Find racks hold more than I anticipated & we should have sufficient room esp. when we get stocks down a bit. Band (R.V.P.) outside disp. in ev. after which Bernard & I took a sharp walk round lanes to near Longueness & back through St. Martin. It looks rainy again although day is fine.

Friday 21st September 1917

Continued moving stock & stores but shall have to wait until other room is ready before doing any more. A lot of talk about peace at an early date about last few days but am not too optimistic. Had a very enjoyable walk with Spiff P.C. & Spuff) & saw them again later on as usual. Bernard took duty for me. Lovely ev. but no raid warning to 10.20pm.

Saturday 22nd September 1917

Hung up with removals on account of fittings of new place not being ready. Slogget – The D.G.M.S. round the hosp. this afternoon but of course did not come near dispensary. Bernard & I went to ASC pictures in evening which were poor. Saw S2 up the line.

Sunday 23rd September 1917

Spent quite an ordinary & uneventful day. Was busy all mg. with indents & invoices mainly. Wrote to Mother & Emmie Ward. Realised the other day that I am making no use of my opportunities to pick up some bacteriology here – must see to it as soon as we get settled in new place. Had a bath last thing.

Monday 24th September 1917

Had a visit – from one (or two) German aeroplanes at midday flying at great height. Also had a warning at 9pm. but ‘all clear’ a few mins. later. Rather surprised we are not getting more attention now moon is getting larger & weather fine. Had a walk in ev. with P.C. round country lanes & towards Tatinghem.

Tuesday 25th September 1917

Had a very decent row on river in ev. with Bernard. Went up further than before – where stream was clear & deep. Very interesting watching crowds of fish on the plants on bed of the stream. Fritz over at midday when we heard shrapnel or shells falling near us – but could not find any. Two warnings tonight so far (10.15pm.) seemed to get near 2nd time but cleared off. Saw S2 again for a change.

Wednesday 26th September 1917

Aided by the enemy, ‘they’ carried out a raid on our store tent & home so that this no longer exists for us. Advantage in this procedure is obscure. B. & I transferred our beds to disp. On duty in ev. saw S.& S.

Thursday 27th September 1917

Seem to be getting things more our own way at new place & was actually consulted in placing of fittings etc. Went out & bought Guide to St. Omer & a Larousse in ev. Another raid warning which lasted more than one and a half hrs. but came to nothing – 11.25am.

Friday 28th September 1917

Rec’d the news at midday that disp. tent has to come down tomorrow. Uncle Willie quite come round to my ideas & we are getting quite a lot more done than expected. Moved to new Sgts. Mess. B. & I went to concert in Masons Inst. No raid warng.

Saturday 29th September 1917

Disturbed at 8am in middle of our ablutions by crowd of P.O.W.s etc ready to begin clearing us out. Finished ward work by 11.30am for day & got all stuff in new place. Tent was down by 4pm. Worked getting things in order at new place with Bernard & Whittaker until abt. 8.30pm. when we got raid warning – which is still on 10.30

Sunday 30th September 1917

8.30 It was HELL – DANTE’S DEEPEST to the tenth power – this night.

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October 1917

Alfred records the horrors of the bombing raid on 30th September.

Figure 17: Alfred records the horrors of the bombing raid on 30th September

Monday 1st October 1917

The memory of last night must always be hideous. Tommy is gone. Nurse Coles is gone. Sister Milne is going. GOD curse the brains who invented & put into practice this type of warfare. Everything is desolate – seems to be under a curse & one has to make an effort to work towards improving this place. Poor little Spiff! At night all patients (lying) evacuated & rem’d & personnel repaired to cave in gdns. Fritz over again & continued his cursed work – nothing dropped very near our disp.

Nurse Coles

Figure 18: Nurse Coles

Tuesday 2nd October 1917

Found one of 59th building hit last night – few casualties as patients placed in cellar. Got little sleep last night – lack of organisation. Went outside as soon as all clear. Very busy in continuing our work of getting new place in order but lack interest & zest.

Wednesday 3rd October 1917

Spent 2nd night in caves but little doing although at least one plane was over. Had to go inside cave at 3am owing to rain – got home at 5am. Slept till 8.45! Still feeling unutterably sad – poor little ‘Tommy’ laid to rest yesterday. We shall miss her tremendously. This place can never be the same again.

Thursday 4th October 1917

Last was a rough night with some rain later. Patients & most of personnel went to caves but I came back to camp about 10.30. Had a peaceful night. Carry on with getting new place in order but still lack interest & zest. Wet all day & people feeling more confident in consequence.

Friday 5th October 1917

No exodus tonight. Writing to Amy until 11.30. Continue to get a bit straighter. Understand we are to have a visit from an inspector of stores etc. shortly. Heard this eveng. that we are to have a large convoy of German wounded – one of the many ironies of war. Not arrived yet after noise & prep’n this ev. Now 10.30pm.

Saturday 6th October 1917

Most of our own patients evacuated & many of sisters inc. Spiff going on leave tomorrow! Wounded Germans commenced to arrive about 5pm. & many walking cases in very bad state. Not all in yet 11.15pm. Total to be 450. Sisters leave seems to be doubtful. Rec’d visit of inspection from H. Co who seemed to be very well pleased on whole. Spent evening in trying to make improvements in dispensary.

Sunday 7th October 1917

Very rough, wet & unpleasant day – which has obvious compensations. Glad to be safely installed in new place & appreciate luxuries of fire, electric light etc. Did not go out until 7.30 when B. & I went to usual café but found it closed. Went to another but not so good. Over 150 more Germans came in during ev. Had a bath not before it was time!

Monday 8th October 1917

Commenced putting up barbed wire fences round wards with Germans & we shall soon look like a concentration camp. Fine until late aftn. Very rough ev. Was on duty & wrote till 10pm. Turned in early as have got hold of a nasty cold.

Tuesday 9th October 1917

Finer again today & quite a clear & calm evening. Our latest patients shd. protect us from bombs. Dispensing out towards little else but lotions & dressings. Dressed in ev. & went out with P.C. called in shop in Rue de Cloisteries. Had over an hour’s French conversation! Wrote to Mrs Munt later.

Wednesday 10th October 1917

About 500 Germans now in this hosp. Hear all kinds of reports as to bad state they are in – many having multiple wounds. Stock of wool & dressing rapidly diminishing. Went out in ev. & paid a few visits – all helps to improve my French.

Thursday 11th October 1917

Opened my bees this afternoon & was very disappointed at result. Only occupied about a third of the hive & have been robbed prob. by ants. Have very little honey & do not expect them to survive winter. On duty in evg. so wrote to Ada.

Friday 12th October 1917

Very rough & wet day so did not go further than the mess. Getting quite used to our new quarters but are still many improvements to carry out. Stuff req’d for wards, mainly dressings since P.O.W.s came in. Wrote to Else & did washing in evening. Heard from Glad.

Saturday 13th October 1917

Another horribly wet & uncomfortable day. Place begins to remind me of Codford! Weather must hamper operations up line a good deal – which have promised big things lately. Commenced erection of ward hut a day or two back – but few men on the job. Dinners at mess much improved since Parkhill became our cook. Went out in ev. with Bernard & bought pair of slippers & got my glasses repaired. Did in 21 of my 40 F rec’d Thurs.

Sunday 14th October 1917

A lovely day for a change – but alas! I was unable to obey the call of the country as I was on duty all day. Our windows have been frosted over too! Spent a busy aftn. & early ev. so was only able to write Mother’s letter before getting to bed – at about 10.45pm. band in park this aftn. – first time for seven Sundays.

Monday 15th October 1917

Another fine day. We find it difficult to keep pace with demand for lotions esp. Eusol as facilities for making are so inadequate. Disp. soon gets choked up with bulky dressings etc. when orders come in. Had an air raid warning about 7pm – given on new siren in town – Terrifying! All clear given in about 10 mins. But good deal of ‘wind up’ & most of British patients went to caves.

On 15th October Alfred produced this remarkable drawing of the patients and troops seeking shelter in the old fortifications.  This appears to be a print from a publication but the details are not known.  The family was previously unaware of this talent and amazingly, Alfred concludes this diary on 1st January 1918 with the extraordinary statement “Did a little sketching (attempt!) after getting home – V.A.D. P.P.C. but decide I have no talent in that direction”.

Figure 19: On 15th October Alfred produced this remarkable drawing of the patients and troops seeking shelter in the old fortifications. This appears to be a print from a publication but the details are not known. The family was previously unaware of this talent and amazingly, Alfred concludes this diary on 1st January 1918 with the extraordinary statement “Did a little sketching (attempt!) after getting home – V.A.D. P.P.C. but decide I have no talent in that direction”.

Tuesday 16th October 1917

Fine most of day but cloudy & damp ev. so have escaped air troubles so far 10.30. Went with Bernard to Revue given by 358th Cpy. ASC MT ent. Oh! I Say. (not same as London piece). No pains spared in production which was really good & went well. Had some good laughs & enjoyed it except for certain portions meant to appeal to baser passions of nature.

Wednesday 17th October 1917

Had Fritz over at midday prob. only out for photographs as usual. Cloudy & rough early part of ev. but clearer now 10pm but nothing doing so far. Prep’ns made for exodus to caves as soon as warning given. The whole thing being better organised now. On duty in ev. & spent time putting up splash board asbestos over sink. Everybody nearly seems out for having a row with us!

Thursday 18th October 1917

Another fine day & ev. but cold. No signs of air raid yet. First hut erected facing disp. but McAlpine’s men have left & work is at a standstill. Heard today that Spiff is leaving us (with others) for Le Havre tomorrow. Cannot be sorry as ‘twould be too selfish. Spent most of ev. improving disp. but lack tools.

On 18th October Alfred produced the second drawing of events at the camp.  This one is titled ‘A NIGHT AT ST.OMER AND AFTER’ and vividly illustrates the tragic events of 30th September.

Figure 20: On 18th October Alfred produced the second drawing of events at the camp. This one is titled ‘A NIGHT AT ST.OMER AND AFTER’ and vividly illustrates the tragic events of 30th September

Friday 19th October 1917

I suppose Spiff went away today but saw nothing of her – had a message from her last ev. saying too busy to call but would drop me a p.c. This place still seems desolated & if rumours are true it will be more so later. Stroll in town with Bernard in evening.

Saturday 20th October 1917

Another lovely day – of which I took advantage with my aftn. off duty & went for a decent if lonely walk – round aerodrome. Went to British Cemetery there. Quite a forest of simple wooden crosses marking last resting place of remains of those ‘Qui sont morts pour la patrie’ – little distinction of rank in death. Could not find little Tommy’s grave. On duty in ev. & wrote to Glad. Would give much to get home on leave.

Sunday 21st October 1917

A lovely day. Took a walk in aftn. with P.C. – exactly the same route as yesterday. Succeeded in finding the graves of the four nurses who were killed in air raid 3 weeks ago – apart from the crowd by themselves. Had a sudden warning of raid in ev. (when I was writing Mother’s letter) in form of bombs dropping in town. Hurried exodus to caves. More firing a bit later but I slept at caves with good many more.

Staff Nurse Climie, who also died on 30th September

Figure 21: Staff Nurse Climie, who also died on 30th September

Monday 22nd October 1917

I’m told that most of bombs fell yesterday near canal at bottom of Rue de Dunquerque. Some casualties but don’t know how many. Whittaker in thick of it. Most of us went to vaults abt. or before 6.30pm as it was fine taking beds. Warning given about 10pm. but did not materialise. Do not like caves but managed to get fair amt. of sleep.

Tuesday 23rd October 1917

Wet morning – but cleared up towards ev. Hospital visited by some Scotch civil dignitaries but not interested in disp! Arrangements at cave modified – none of personnel are allowed in until warning given. P.C. took duty there for me so I slept in disp. Best night I’ve had for a few nights.

Wednesday 24th October 1917

About half of our sisters & V.A.D.s have left us & everything seems quite a washout. Our mess S/M (Shepheard) in place of S/M Reid (who left us last week) seems a bit hot stuff i.e Regtl. Wet ev. – attended whist drive in personnel’s mess room & after tried to learn bridge.

Thursday 25th October 1917

Rather annoyed at statement as to morale of hosp. personnel in orders & decide to give caves a wide berth in future. (no building going on but erections of barbed wire fences & sandbagging marquees etc also private dugouts). Clear night. Got warning at about 9.40pm & ‘all clear’ abt.10.0pm. Stayed in disp. as nothing doing.

Friday 26th October 1917

Another alarm sounded about midnight but we did not get up. No firing & ‘all clear’ came abt. 10 mins. after. Not clear yet what is going to happen to hosp. rations rumours – to Italy, Scotland etc. Wet day but fine in late ev. but nothing doing yet 10.30pm. Had a bath earlier in evening.

Saturday 27th October 1917

Had some excitement at about 1am last ev. planes over & some firing. B. & I stuck to our beds & ‘shook’ esp. when we heard plane distinctly. Nothing seems to have been dropped at St. Omer but large fire reported quite near. Fine day & ev. got a warning of abt. half hr. duration at about 8.30pm but nothing going. Strolled over to gdns. with B. but kept clear of cave. Going to turn in now 10.10pm.

Sunday 28th October 1917

Got a second alarm just after in bed last night but nothing came of it & we stuck to our beds. Lovely day today – wrote to Mother in aftn. & abt. 3.30 went into park with Bernard & listened to band. Went to the café to get tea but too crowded so we came away. Everyone (remembering past experiences) expecting serious raid tonight – but only a short warning so far – now 10.45pm. Moon obscured by light clouds.

Monday 29th October 1917

Another convoy of over 100 Germans in today – only about 20 or so British patients left. On duty in ev. (P.C. takes permanent duty at caves) did a whole pile of laundry including some part worn stuff issued at general distribution of winter clothing yesterday. Warning of raid at 8.45pm & all clear at 10.15pm. did not touch St. Omer but seemed to be getting it just a bit to north. B. & I stayed within reach of camp.

Tuesday 30th October 1917

Wet all day but quite fine this ev. so expect trouble later on (now 9.30pm). Getting a slack time on the whole in disp. as patients all surgical (nearly). In ev. went to an affair of Munro Debating Society – election of a councillor for Munro Borough. Quite enjoyed it & shall hope to go again.

Wednesday 31st October 1917

Fine day & ev. Short alarm with nothing doing just over 10.50pm. One of our own planes manoeuvring in searchlights early in ev. gave rise to cry of ‘lights out’ which promptly put wind up whole hosp. & most took shelter in vaults! Spent ev. reading Guide to St. Omer & played bridge later.

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November 1917

Thursday 1st November 1917

Heard a few days ago that we are to have 100 German orderlies here so one can imagine what will soon happen to our unit! Spent most of evening in helping with Admin. Dept’s dugout in which concern B.& I have got ourselves included. After supper played some hands of bridge which I am newly learning. Resolve to try to pick up some German while here. Damp out so expect quiet night.

Friday 2nd November 1917

Clerical work in disp. has increased since visit of Lieut. Short & was busy most of day stocktaking & compiling totals of dressings etc. used for month. Worked on dugout for 2 hours after tea & after supper played Bridge. Misty so Fritz is giving us a rest.

Saturday 3rd November 1917

Weather continues cloudy or misty & damp so we are forgoing Fritz’s attentions. Spent most of ev. at various shops in the town trying to get on with my French. After supper played several hands at Bridge, but knocked off before 10pm & came across to bed.

La Rue Carnot

Figure 22: La Rue Carnot

Sunday 4th November 1917

Forgetting the existence of ‘Fritz’ these days which have been somewhat misty & damp. Last night & tonight sky has cleared with moon’s rising but until now we have been left in peace. I think our P.O.W.s are a great protection to us. Was on duty all day & had a thick aftn. on my own inc. a long visit from Nunkey. Worked at dugout for 2hrs. or so after 7.30. Sapped about four feet from btm. of new shaft since night before last.

Monday 5th November 1917

Noticed that according to today’s orders Lt. Green is appointed as O i/c dispensary. Strange are the ways of the army! Worked at dugout from 6 – 9pm & we made good progress with second sap. Shd. meet first in a day or two.

Tuesday 6th November 1917

So many nights ago that there was anything doing in air-raid line that we are forgetting the possibility of them (some of us as many still sleep at caves – pass req’d!) Made B.I.P. this morning and still bear evidence on me. B. & I attended debate on ‘The Best Age to Marry’ & after gave our names to become members of Ch. Army Munroe Soc. Played Bridge after supper.

Wednesday 7th November 1917

The rumour that we are going to Italy still seems persistent but I am very sceptical. Heard today that huts are to be carried on with in near future. Had a bath & hair cut & made some purchases in town in aftn. On duty in ev. & worked at dugout later until 10.30pm. Ends did not meet.

Thursday 8th November 1917

Day of usual routine. Spent spare time in morng. in adding to our Picture Gallery in dispensary! Wet evening after fine day but carried on with tunnelling in dugout (my first experience at sapping) & were rewarded in our efforts by meeting two ends. Played Bridge after supper.

Friday 9th November 1917

Another large convoy in today & some cases put into our one hut. Mostly in a very bad state. We must have over 700 cases here now. Worked at dugout after pay parade & later finished off a letter to Stewart.

Stewart Child, who married Alfred’s sister Rosalie (Glad) in 1916 and was also brother to Amy Child, who Alfred married in 1920.

Figure 23: Stewart Child, who married Alfred’s sister Rosalie (Glad) in 1916 and was also brother to Amy Child, who Alfred married in 1920.

Saturday 10th November 1917

We are not exactly overworked these days. Shd. prefer more to do. According to tonight’s eque’, We ‘attacked again this morning at dawn’ & we have tonight (& this aftn.) what seems to be the inevitable consequence …. Rain. On duty in ev. Wrote to Amy & did my laundry.

Sunday 11th November 1917

A very wet morning following a wetter night. The mud about the hospital & town is rotten to have to put up with. Wrote to Mother in aftn. & part of ev. Went to the café in Rue de Calais with Jock who stood treat. Some time since I have been there as they close so early. Went for short walk round St. Martin afterwards. Got an air raid warning while writing this for a change but only lasted 10 mins. or so with nothing doing. ‘All clear’ sounding now.

Monday 12th November 1917

Got a second warning last night soon after 1st but carried on with getting into bed & did not find it necessary to move. Whittaker ‘sick’ so had a busy day esp. as monthly supply of stores arrived. Helped in the messy job of tidying ground at top of old shafts of dugout in ev. – some mud & sandbags.

Tuesday 13th November 1917

Was on duty in ev. so dressed up in ‘square bashing’ order & went into town in aftn. Got my glasses that were for repair (new arm 6.00F). Had a raid warning about 6pm. but nothing followed. Read ‘Beatrice of Venice’ until supper time & afterwards played at Bridge.

Wednesday 14th November 1917

Heard today that ‘Spiff’ (& Sister Thompson & the Matron – who is not returning to us) are awarded the M.M. for conduct on 30/9/17. I congratulate them on being selected from a considerable no. of candidates. Never heard a word from ‘Spiff’. Went to pictures in Munroe hut in ev. with P.C., best show I have seen here yet. Played Bridge later. Rainy early part of ev. clear now.

Thursday 15th November 1917

‘Nunkey’ is about to leave us & today he brought the new Q/M (Lt. Thompson) to see us. I am sorry in a way that he goes as he means well enough. Spent much of evening at dugout helping to match board the walls mainly. Later read ‘Beatrice of Venice’ by Max Pemberton.

Friday 16th November 1917

On duty in ev. so made the best of aftn. – walked to Arques with Jock & Cpl. Allen & had tea there – of omelette & scones. Walked back along canal bank which was new to me. Wrote to Mrs Munt in ev. & after supper had a few hands at Bridge – but too cold to enjoy it much.

The canal bank

Figure 24: The canal bank

Saturday 17th November 1917

Went to weekly whist drive of Munro Debating Society in ev. & spent an enjoyable evening. Not in the running for prizes as scored only 127. Top was about 144. Am turning in early tonight, being very tired – now 9.45pm. – had been much too late of late.

Sunday 18th November 1917

Listened to a band (R.B.’s) in Park in aftn. Quite a decent programme including ‘Gipsy Love’, ‘Carmen’, ‘Il Trovatore’ etc. Audience mainly in khaki . B. with me & we then went to the café for tea –‘some’ tea too – 2 omelettes each - & cakes etc – cost us 11.80F! Too extravagant but it was a good meal. Wrote to Mother in evening.

Monday 19th November 1917

Had aftn. off, being my turn for ev. duty. Had a bath & afterwards went round town looking up some of the places Described in Tourists’ Guide Book. Shall be able to find interesting occupations then during dark days of winter. Did washing & wrote to Elsie in ev. Also played Bridge.

Tuesday 20th November 1917

Made a shelf in front one of windows of dispensary to display my famous ‘Ye olde chemists signs’ in shape of liqueur bottles filled with coloured liquids. Attended debate of Munro Society. Subject ‘Which is the most Popular Art ?’ Spoke for the first time & was complimented by Padre who was chairman. Played Bridge after supper.

Wednesday 21st November 1917

Day of usual routine. Whittaker, our man, still off duty. Went to picture show at Munro in ev. but programme rotten – also the atmosphere. Played Bridge after supper. Hear there is news of a big British Advance bet. St. Quentin & S…… but we have had no official equc. Tonight. Good news confirmed by today’s consequence.

Thursday 22nd November 1917

Over 3000 prisoners counted – & advance of 5 miles on wide front – ‘That’s the correct stuff to give ‘em’. Hear today that some promotions are impending – inc. Sgt. Palmer to S/Sgt.! Ye gods! What a pile of old women for head soldiers here! Walked out in town with Jock this aftn. Duty in ev. Carried on with German & French. Bridge later.

Friday 23rd November 1917

Went to O/C this morning & asked for permission to put in for a commission – can never be happy here with the creeping, underhand, old womanish clique at head of N.C.O.s here. Promised his consideration! Went to pictures again in ev. as feeling fed up & unsettled. 105 German Orderlies arrived Wed. (21st) & departure of many of our personnel is imminent.

Saturday 24th November 1917

Shall spend as much time as I can while here to my own advantage. Here as elsewhere in the army it does not pay to be conscientious in industry. Have lost Whittaker who has been put on another job – but get I of S/M’s batman an hour or two during day. Slack at present. Went to Munro Whist Drive in ev. – not in the running -132 – 152.

Sunday 25th November 1917

First batch of about 70 other ranks left this morning for Boulogne with Jim Grogan, Cpl. Allan, Sgts. Ward, McIntosh & Kent (now Pte.) among the N.C.O.s – ( 5 in no.) Sorry to lose Jim & Cpl. Allan. Only travelling accommodation found for Boulogne party so others returned! Went for a walk in morng. for a diversion nearly to Clairmarais. High cold wind blowing. On duty rest of day. Wrote long letter to M. & read Guide to St. Omer etc.

Monday 26th November 1917

Day of usual routine – still very little doing in dispensary but fill in time reading German etc. Went into town in ev. & bought some Xmas cards & an ornamental calendar which cost in all 20F! Sgt. Shaw’s brother looked him up & as his pals have not called for him as expected he is turning in with us for night.

Tuesday 27th November 1917

Saw the O.C. again this mng. & obtd. permission to put in for a comm’n although I do not intend to do so unless the result of sitting of Pharm. & War Office Committee is disappointing. The new S/M still seems bent on worrying us objecting to our sleeping in disp. Saw Adjt. & asked for his ruling. No debate tonight. Stayed in.

Wednesday 28th November 1917

Spent a good deal of morning in putting on doors of cupboards of our dispensing counter (which has never been completed) with canvas hinges. Went for stroll round town in aftn., looking at Xmas displays in shops mainly. On duty in eveng. – read Guide to St. Omer.

The Hotel de Ville

Figure 25: The Hotel de Ville

Thursday 29th November 1917

Rotten luck! (selfishly regarded). Bernard warned to start for Marseilles tomorrow. We all envy him but are sorry to lose him. S/M Shepherd making more fusses – this time because disp. is left during meal times with C.O.’s orders. Had a lesson in German from a German P.O.W. (bank clerk in civil life & seems a decent fellow) with Fred Moillie .

Friday 30th November 1917

Bernard left at 8.30am. Have felt rotten & at a loose end all day. Patsy has taken up his abode in disp. – he has still been sleeping in caves! Spent a fairly busy day – end of the month business. Went to pictures on my own at Munro Inst. in ev. have now been reading & noting Tourists’ Guide to St. Omer.

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December 1917

Saturday 1st December 1917

Spent another busy messy day in pharmacy – more clearing out of disused wards & in addition got a lot of loose R.C. Stores dumped on to us which had to be packed away in order. On duty in ev. Shall not mind as a rule getting it every 2nd day as I shall be more likely to use the time usefully. Wrote to RAR to ask him to sign certificate of moral character in my commission papers. Just going to have a bath – now 9.45pm.

Sunday 2nd December 1917

Went out in aftn. with intention of going to museum but found it closed inexplicably. Went for a short walk – very cold & looked like snow. Went to evening service at Munro Inst. – for first time since we commenced taking patients! Rather good sermon – on ‘The Peace of Jerusalem’. Wrote, or finished writing to Mother later. Am missing Bernard very much.

Monday 3rd December 1917

Very fine but cold day. Went for sharp walk in aftn. about 3pm. round St.Martin & west side of town. Cohen & I shall manage to get an hour or two off in aftn. when on duty in ev. while we are so slack. In ev. wrote to Jones & read.

Tuesday 4th December 1917

Had two air raid alarms last night – first about 12.20am. & second before 1am. Nothing doing so I did not get up & did not hear 2nd all clear. Patsy got up (so cold!) & finished night at caves – whither he has gone tonight & I am alone. B Ward turned out today! Had good lesson in German from Martens in ev. & read guide book later.

Wednesday 5th December 1917

Quiet last night. Weather very cold & frosty & during last few days. Went for short walk round town with Jock towards end of aftn. Raid warning at 5.45pm but nothing followed. Spent evening doing my laundry & sewing AQB on various articles of clothing. P.C. again at caves – where he has spent all evg.

Thursday 6th December 1917

Alarm at 6.15am. this morning but did not find it necessary to get up earlier than usual – 7.50am.! Our 2nd hosp. hut is nearly completed but no more to be built & tents are being taken away. Tents are being rearranged to fit plan of hosp. (hutted) which keeps us busy. Had another lesson in German from Karl Martens in ev. & later played Auction Bridge.

Friday 7th December 1917

Recd. this morning a pcl. of cakes & apples from Theydon Bois – which is much appreciated. Went for walk with Jock this aftn. outside south side of town. Recd. 2 green envelopes at pay parade for 1st time & regard it as a Red Letter day! On duty in ev. – read Guide Book most of time making notes. Wet evening & much milder.

Saturday 8th December 1917

Recd. a letter from Bernard this morning. He reached Marseilles last Sunday & spent most of Saturday in Paris. He appears to have got a decent job – with a native servant to wait on him. He is in i/c of disp. & theatre at the Indian Hosp. where he is. Went to variety concert at 358 Compy.ASC Theatre this ev. – ‘Fusee Springs’ name of company. Was on my own but quite enjoyed the show. Shall turn in early tonight – now 10pm.

Sunday 9th December 1917

Has been a very wet day & mud has reappeared about the camp as if on the least pretext. Have been on duty all day & have even been congratulating myself on that account. Have done little though, but wrote to Mother & Bernard. Got into argument with Sgt. Liebermann this ev. & so am later than I had intended to be – 10.40pm.

Monday 10th December 1917

Had a meeting of Sgts. mess to hear report of committees apptd. to see to our Xmas programme. Quite an elaborate dinner proposed & we all paid 5F to defray expenses. Had another lesson in German this ev. Have not been feeling up to the mark all day so am turning in early – now only 8pm.! Much colder again.

Tuesday 11th December 1917

Had a raid warning at just past 8pm. last night with some firing so for 1st time made use of our dugout. ‘All clear’ just before 9pm. don’t think any eggs were laid here. This aftn. Jock, Fred & I went into town making Xmas purchases & had an enjoyable time. This ev. wrote to Amy enclosing lace handbag. Also packed up calendar for Mrs Munt. Recd. (in common with all stores men) a shortcake from Nunkey. Raid warning at 10.30pm. but nothing doing – now 11.20.

Wednesday 12th December 1917

Still getting a slack time in spite of fact that Bernard has left us. Another lesson in German from Martens this evening – but do not spend much time at it during the day. Did some writing later. Not troubled so far tonight (10.30pm)

Thursday 13th December 1917

Spent a much busier day in disp. More dispg. to do. A very red letter day – recd. 20 green envelopes! Got a decent walk with Jock in aftn. round Longueness & the aerodrome – gathered some broom as Dec. Secparii is being prescribed. Finished up in Rue des Cloisteries shop where I bought some wares. On duty in ev. - had Martens in talked Chemistry. Commenced a letter to Glad. Quiet ev.

Friday 14th December 1917

Made some more CLO Emulsion this morning but, with our meagre facilities for making any quantity here I hope it won’t become too popular. Had another German lesson this ev. Recd. pcl. from Else today – hankchfs. Kenilworths & booklet ‘The Joys of Friendship’ – gave me much pleasure. Finished off Glad’s letter & wrote one to Else & Bridge Supper & am very late in consequence – 12.50am.

Saturday 15th December 1917

Went out on my own in aftn. & watched f’ball match bet. 59th G.H. & 26th F.A. score 1-1. Had Martens in disp. in ev. but did not do much German as Capt. Duncan came in & yarned. Afterwards did my washing, played Bridge in mess & wrote to Blyov. So am again late to bed – 11.30pm.

Sunday 16th December 1917

Had a very enjoyable walk with Jock beyond Arques by the canal – quite the longest I have had in France. Saw L’Ascenseur des Fontinettes also the seven locks which were quite worth a visit. Came back to mess for tea as we were both stoney. Spent evening in writing to Mother & Ada – from whom I have not heard for three months.

Le Canal d’Arques et ’Ascenseur de Fontinette

Figure 26: Le Canal d’Arques et ’Ascenseur de Fontinette

Monday 17th December 1917

Went out for stroll round town with Jock in aftn. & finished up at our friends in Rue de Cloisteries where we had plenty of practice in French. Martens came in again tonight. Had raid warning about 7pm. Recd. & ansd. a letter from Spiff today.

Tuesday 18th December 1917

A very bright & frosty day – & one of usual routine as far as work is concerned. Had an air raid warning of about an hour’s duration at Ratimon – much heavy firing seemly beyond Arques – but did not find it necessary to dive into dugout. Spent ev. in studying my French & German. Preparing for bed at 10pm.

Wednesday 19th December 1917

Assuredly the coldest day & night we’ve had here to date. Lovely weather & I much enjoyed sharp short lonely walk I got this aftn. round toward Longueness. Have spent most of ev. in writing to Mrs Munt & Auntie Gina & U. George, the latter on the occasion of their approaching silver wedding.

George Fielder Quinton (brother to Alfred’s mother Emma) and his wife Georgina.  This photo from 1923-4 was taken when he was the Mayor of Newport in the Isle of Wight.

Figure 27: George Fielder Quinton (brother to Alfred’s mother Emma) and his wife Georgina. This photo from 1923-4 was taken when he was the Mayor of Newport in the Isle of Wight.

Thursday 20th December 1917

Day of routine – still manage to keep just occupied only. Have again lost our part–time man (Paul) who has taken Dowdnell’s place (to hosp. 59th ? appendicitis) as cycle orderly. Spent a tres bon evening with Jock at a new café in Rue de Calais (bottom). Am turning in early 10pm.

Friday 21st December 1917

Recd. Xmas pcl. from Mother yesterday with strict instructions not to open it until Xmas Day. Our friends in Rue de Cloisteries lost their father early this morning –wrote them a short note of condolence as they were closed when I went out this aftn. Recd. 60F at pay parade & went out & bought A. Jean & U. George vase for silver wedding present. More German in ev. from Martens (in disp.) Auction later.

Saturday 22nd December 1917

Spent a busy & messy day – consignment of goods in (2 weeks late owing to RSM’s office staff) & others to pack up – no man to help. Did not go out in ev. was working until 7pm after which I wrote & played Auction.

A photo of hospital office staff apparently from No 69 general Hospital, but it is not clear who these people are or why Alfred had their photo.

Figure 28: A photo of hospital office staff apparently from No 69 general Hospital, but it is not clear who these people are or why Alfred had their photo.

Sunday 23rd December 1917

Rather feel being on duty every other Sunday when the weather is just right for walking. Colder than ever today but bright & fine. Recd. letter from Thelle & another from Amy today – shall keep the letter until Xmas Day before opening. Spent most of ev. in writing to Mother – busy all aftn.

Ethel Grace Barton, one of Alfred’s sisters

Figure 29: Ethel Grace Barton, one of Alfred’s sisters

Monday 24th December 1917

Recd. another from Amy which came as a surprise – so opened & read yesterday’s & found two snaps of her enclosed. Saving today’s to open tomorrow. Got hold of an Allemand to do some scrubbing for us today as place was getting in a mess. In aftn. went round town with Jock & had tea at new café in Rue de Calais – good time. Spent a ‘loose end’ kind of an ev. messing about – mended my trousers.

Tuesday 25th December 1917

Opened my pcl. from home. Spent morning as usual. Aftn. was on duty but little doing – started letter to Amy in ansr. to her 3. Had a great dinner of 8 courses which was well served & cooked. Had a boissons afterwards. Retd. to disp. at 10.30pm. Beneath 2 ins. of snow! Finished Amy’s letter – 11 pages! Turning in now 1.10am.

Wednesday 26th December 1917

Morning – comme d’habitude. Snowed much during night & several heavy squalls during day with bright intervals. Went for a very enjoyable walk with Jock & S/M Shepheard in aftn. round Tatinghem & Longueness. Snow 9 inches or more deep in parts but dry. Jock & I went to café in lower Rue de Calais in ev. – enjoyed it more than yesterday’s affair! Had much practice at French conversation with decent wee lassie there.

Thursday 27th December 1917

On duty all day as we have changed the arrangement which gave us some time off in aftn. when on ev. duty. Mended Sgt. Dewar’s mackintosh – they all bring their little troubles to the dispensary! Spent ev. in screeninf off my sleeping quarters. Just going to bath.

Friday 28th December 1917

Have spent quite a happy day on whole. This aftn. went for a walk with Jock & S/M Shep. & were invited by some R.F.C. Officers to try our hand at tobogganing – near aerodrome. Some fun! Visited the Mademoiselles in Rue de Cloisteries who have recently lost their father – who seemed quite pleased to see us (Jock & I). Supper at new café! Very enjoyable time again talking more with lassie there.

Saturday 29th December 1917

On duty all day. Shall get used to new arrangements & perhaps like them better than the old. Our 4B Hand Cream goes well – even the officers ask for it! Spent ev. in doing my washing & studying Guide to St. Omer. Turning in early 10.25 have been too late last few days.

Sunday 30th December 1917

Went out for a walk in aftn. with Jock & S/M Shepheard & we trailed a sleigh behind us all the way out to beyond Longueness in the hope of getting some toboganning – but no great success as a thaw had already set in since last ev. Left the thing out there. Had a bit of a row with Q.M.C. Batchelor at tea time over his lack of manners ( …. Making!). Jock & I had supper at our café & I wrote to Mother later. Now 11.15pm.

Monday 31st December 1917

Find I get very little spare time during the day since Bernard left – since there is always some job waiting to be done. My German makes no progress at all of late. On duty all day. Spent evening in reading Sunday’s Observer, Guide to St. Omer etc. & am about to turn in early (10.15pm) to continue reading ‘The White Company’. It is freezing again & bed is the most comfortable place. Did nothing to celebrate New Year’s Eve except to eat last of Mother’s Xmas pcl. of cakes which were much enjoyed & appreciated. Shall have to go to the mess in future if I want any supper & I’m not keen!

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January 1918

Tuesday 1st January 1918

Went out in aftn. with Jock & visited our friends in Rue de Cloisteries. We were asked into ‘la cuisine’ & given a cup of coffee ‘en famille’ – also we drank their health in Benedictine. Evidently we were expected to honour the French custom on New Year’s Day of embracing all round but I suppose we were too shy when it came to the point – but afterwards (in the shop in departing) we were accused of not being ‘gentil’. We wished we had been braver. In ev. Jock being on duty, I went alone to see ‘Aladdin’ at A.S.C. Theatre. Could only get a 0.5 F seat & did not enjoy it a great deal although it was well got up. Did a little sketching (attempt!) after getting home – V.A.D. P.P.C. but decide I have no talent in that direction.

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