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Warlencourt Casualty Clearing Station World War One
The diary extracts of Nursing Sister Kate Luard QAIMNSR during the second phase of the Battle of Arras from April 23rd to June 3rd 1917. She was sister in charge of a casualty clearing station at Warlencourt, an army camp about six miles from the Front, where she arrived on 3 March 1917. As Sister-in-Charge she organised the lay-out and supplies in difficult and bitterly cold conditions.
On Sunday, April 22nd, 1917, she wrote "No one knows when we shall fill up again but it can't be far off with this din". The following day the wounded come flooding in - but when there is a lull in the taking in, nursing and evacuating of the wounded Kate goes for a ramble in a nearby wood beside a stream to revive herself both physically and mentally.
Casualty Clearing Station ward by J Hodgson Lobley
Monday, April 23rd, 10 p.m. We have filled up twice. The men say our guns are so thick that they're wheel to wheel; the earth-shaking noise this morning did its work; the wounded Germans tell me there are a great many dead. I've been looking after 100 stretcher cases in the tents to-night; they are all ready for evacuation.
Tuesday, 10.30 p.m. It has been a pretty sad day, 12 funerals, including four officers, all fine brave men. One mother wrote thanking me for writing to tell her about her son, but "it would relieve the news somewhat if she knew which son it was, as she has three sons in France".
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Two given-up boys whom no effort of yesterday or last night would revive - after more resuscitation are now bedded in one of the Acute Surgicals, each with a leg off and a fair chance of recovery. The others, with torn kidney and spleens and brains, are no good, I'm afraid. The people who have been coming in all day are left-outs since Monday, starved, cold, and by some miracle still alive, but not much more. This last 300 has taken 16 hours to come in. It is piercingly cold again and looks like rain.
Monday, April 30th. We have had a whole week without snow or rain - lots of sun and blue sky. I went for a ramble yesterday to a darling narrow wood with a stream at the bottom, a quarter of an hour's walk from here. Two sets of shy, polite boys thrust their bunches of cowslips and daffodils into my hand. Also banks of blue periwinkles like ours and flowering palm; absolutely no leaves yet anywhere and it's May Day to-morrow. Very few left in the wards to-day, but what there are, nearly all tragedies.
May Day and a dazzling day and very little doing. Celebrated the occasion by going to the woods in the morning, starry with anemones and never a leaf to be seen, but blue sky and fresh breezes and clear sunshine. It is all a tremendous help, both physically and psychically.
My boy with both legs off is safe now and a man dragged back from imminent death from a femoral haemorrhage has begun to live again. (Died later). A Suffolk farmer boy is dying to-night, who has hung on for a week. (Died on Wednesday). Another boy on the extreme edge of dying of shock and internal haemorrhage ….
Thursday, May 3rd, 11.30 p.m. They went over the top this morning and have been pouring in all day. We are now taking in for the third time - to-day …
Saturday, May 5th. A boy was brought in to-day with his leg blown off - "I wonder what Mother'll say when she hears of this," he said. "It's only a little thing really, losing your leg in this War, but she won't think that". A poor old Boche with the lower part of his face missing came in this morning (no tongue or lower jaw) …
Tuesday, May 8th. I am engaged in a losing battle with gas gangrene again. I believe the general toxaemia begins long before they operate. When they have been lying out long, G.G. is practically a certainty.
Wednesday, May 9th. And what do you think we've been busy over this morning? A large and festive picnic in the woods, far removed from gas gangrene and amputations … on a slope of the wood, above the babbling brook, literally carpeted with periwinkles, oxlips and anemones.
Saturday night, May 12th. … nothing outside the Hospital for miles but shell-holes, dug-outs, old trenches, old wire, unexploded shells and bombs, blackened tree-stumps and not a leaf to shade under.
Gommecourt trench 1917
Monday, May 14th. The view from the Corps Main Dressing Station is a vast desert of treeless waste, cut up by trenches and shell-holes ….
Friday, May 25th. There is a boy in with his spinal cord exposed, lying on his face, who was wounded on Sunday and not picked up till Thursday morning. He was in a shell-hole crying to four other wounded in it all the first night. They took no notice and in the morning he saw they had all died.
Monday, May 28th. Still taking in slowly. We have five badly wounded officers. One is coming round now but not quite out of the wood. He has lost one eye and one leg, besides other severe wounds.
Tuesday, May 29th. We are Taking in, Evacuating, Detaining and Packing up all at once. The C.O. had another message to-day to "prepare to move to another Area at short notice".
Friday, June 1st. We are rather full just now, but shall be left with only four unfit to travel after the Evacuation this afternoon.
Sunday, June 3rd. The last patient cleared yesterday and there are only the huts left standing. The tents are packed and waiting by the siding. We are off to-morrow.
Read Kate's diary extracts for the British offensive at the commencement of The Battle of Arras and at NO 32 CCS Brandhoek - The Battle of Passchendaele - The Third Battle of Ypres.
Read more about Kate at kateluard.co.uk
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