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ance made by the War Office. Since that decision
was arrived at, those who have visited any of the
hospitals have had ample demonstration of the
fact. One of the first things to be done, therefore,
was to devise some scheme for raising a fund
which could be used to supply such additional



comforts and extra care as should be considered

It was perfectly clear that, in view of the many
appeals which were being made throughout the
country, the fund would have to be provided
from purely local sources, and to that end an
influential committee, representative of every part
of Kent, was called into being under the gracious
presidency of the Marchioness Camden. This
Committee soon gave evidence that it was on
business bent, and a most propitious start was

As we have before stated, a large and enthusi-
astic meeting was held in Bromley during the
second week in August, when the fund was
formally launched and an appeal made for £10,000.
Mr. J. W. Wheeler-Bennett started the campaign
with a handsome donation, and made a stirring
appeal to the people of Kent, pointing out that
the V.A.D. hospitals were legitimately entitled to
a share of their generosity and benevolence.

It was soon found the right note had been
sounded and that Kent was fully alive to its
responsibilities in this matter. Everyone seemed
so willing to give in money, service, or kind that
at one time it seemed that there would be over-
lapping and confusion. This, however, was happily
prevented by the circulation of an appeal from


the Right Honourable the Lord Harris, Deputy-
Lord-Lieutenant of the County, asking that all
these most patriotic offers of financial and other
assistance should be made through the Kent
Voluntary Aid organisation, so that they could be
directed into those channels whence the greatest
good could be secured for the greatest number.

This appeal had the desired effect. Funds and
stores were collected, and arrangements were made
for the careful and systematic distribution of the
gifts received. The readiness with which people
gave showed that they were proud of their
county, of their England, standing at the greatest
crisis in all its splendid and romantic history.
They remembered that our gallant sons had gone
across the water not only to maintain the prestige
of the " Union Jack," but also to fight under a
banner on which are emblazoned in letters of gold
the words " International Righteousness, Freedom,
and Honour." Under these circumstances, the
least that they could do was to put forth strenuous
efforts for making adequate provision for the
reception and treatment of the sick and wounded.

It was not long before the Executive Committee
realised that the sum of £10,000 would be in-
adequate if the hospitals were to be maintained in
their state of high efficiency and if the patients
were to continue to receive those extra creature


comforts which were the gifts of a generous public
When this sum had been collected, therefore, the
Executive Committee, with their customary pru-
dence and foresight, decided to make an appeal
for additional donations to the County Fund,
in which endeavour the Marquis Camden gave a
generous lead. The fund is being wisely adminis-
tered ; and those who can see their way to assist-
ing, can rest assured that the money available will
continue to be profitably expended.

Photo by Grout Engraving Co.


County Secretary, British Red Cross Society.

Chief of Staff, Kent Voluntary Aid Detachments.



It is a matter for cheerful reflection that we are
necessary to the well-being and harmony of things,
if this conviction can be reconciled with the per-
suasion that the sort of work we turn out is com-
mensurate with a mighty need. Such reflections
can be legitimately indulged in by the members
of the Kent Voluntary Aid Detachments.

Let us remember that the success which is
attendant upon their work is not the result of a
few weeks' or months' activity. It is rather
attributable to the fact that for years past many
hundreds of women have been toiling unceasingly
and heroically in an endeavour to obtain that
degree of efficiency in nursing which should make
their services valuable in the hour of their country's

Such women are the salt of the earth. If they
were to sit still and fold their hands the wheels
of the universe would seem to drag heavily.

When they were undergoing their course of
training there were many onlookers who regarded
c 33


it all as a huge joke and thought that they were
but spinning worthless cobwebs for the remorseless
housewife Oblivion to sweep away. But time
alone can show the value of work and whether it
has a worth beyond the occupation, stimulus, and
interest which it furnishes to the minds of the

People may make grand spasmodic sacrifices,
but to maintain constancy without flaw or damage
as the V.A.D. members did under the trial of
criticism and sometimes ridicule is the best proof
of fidelity. The dignity of their labours and the
conviction of utility, coupled with the sedative
and consoling reflection that at any rate they
would be prepared for any emergency that might
arise, enabled them to cling with unflinching
tenacity to the task which they had set them-
selves. Having put their hand to the plough they
would not turn back and indulge the world with
the scandal of a deserted cause. This constancy
and devotion to self-appointed duties compel
everyone to admit that these noble women are
unquestionably serving their generation to-day,
and England is reaping the reward of their exer-

When war was declared in August, 1914, and
everyone's thoughts naturally turned to the dread
possibility of long casualty lists being issued, it


was considered a very debatable point as to
whether the services of the Voluntary Aid Detach-
ments would be called upon to any great extent.
But everything was prepared in readiness. Two
months passed by, and then came the summons
which brought home to the people of Kent more
forcibly than anything before the fact that England
was at war.

It was the night of Tuesday, October 13th.
The day had been a particularly busy one at the
headquarters of the Kent organisation, and the
staff there were contemplating retirement to a
well-earned rest, when a little after ten o'clock
came the already well-known sound of the telephone
bell. Slowly word by word the following startling
telegram was transmitted from the General Post
Office, London, and copied down to ensure ac-
curacy : —

" Mobilise all your hospitals at once. Notify
names of places, stations, and number of beds
available at each to transport officers, Folke-
stone. Large number of wounded arrive to-
night. Authority Director-General, A.M.S.

" Colonel Wilson, S.M.O."

No longer could thoughts of sleep be enter-
tained. The call had come, and over one hundred


commandants had to be communicated with and
told to summon their detachments into activity at
once. How was it to be done ?

A list of those officers who had the telephone
installed at their houses, or who had arranged to
receive messages through neighbouring houses so
provided, were promptly dealt with. That night
was a busy one at the Bromley Exchange, and
great credit is due to the operator there for the
splendid assistance which he rendered.

In some cases friends were sent in motor-cars
to waken the people, and in this respect Mr. J. W.
Wheeler-Bennett rendered a signal service. One
of the first arrivals on the scene, he went off
cheerfully with a long list of people in his possession
to whom the order had to be made known. It is
curious to note that at one house this well-known
and highly esteemed magistrate was suspected of
being a burglar, and it was some time before the
occupants could be convinced of their mistake.

Where direct telephonic communication was
not available the police authorities were called
upon, and they, too, did their utmost to ensure
the safe and prompt transmission of the message.
The replies which were received gave evidence in
many cases of the lateness of the hour. Consider-
able surprise was also evinced, and some of the
conversation was of sufficient interest, not un-


tinged with a degree of humour, to make it worthy
of record here.

" Mobilise the Detachment ? Oh, yes, I will do
it the very first thing in the morning." — " But
you must do it now." — " What ! to-night ? " —
" Yes, without fail."

" I'll let the Commandant know early in the
morning." — " But you must notify her at once."
— " But this is the vicarage." — " Very well, sir,
then I know everything will be in order."

" Yes, but I shall want a written order." — " A
written order, when wounded may now be on their
way ? " — " Is that so ? Then we will proceed at

" Do you really mean to-night ? " — " Yes." —
" All right ; you can rely on us."

" But everyone is in bed ! " — " Very well, go
round and pull them out."

" Oh ! I thought it would come in the middle
of the night. That's always the way. — But I'll be
out and about in a jiffy ! "

" What will the neighbours say ? But what-
ever they say, I will get the car out and have all
our folk up forthwith. Good-bye."

" Who is it wants me at this time of night ? " —
" Dr. Yolland." — " Yes, Doctor ? " — " Mobilise


your detachment and prepare your hospital." —
"Eh? What? Mobilise at once?"— "Yes, im-
mediately." — " Right you are, Doctor, I'll get
round to them." The wire was responsible for a
prolonged yawn being distinctly heard. This,
doubtlessly, was the preliminary step.

As we have already seen, everything had been
prepared in intelligent anticipation of mobilisation ;
but, with so urgent and far-reaching a call, it
seemed possible that, even with Kent's wellnigh
perfect organisation, some of the wounded men
might arrive before all the beds were ready.
Wonders were wrought, however, well within the
margin of the strictly limited notice given to the
detachments, which, under the Mobilisation Order,
comprised those of the British Red Cross Society, the
St. John Ambulance Association, and the Territorial
Force Association throughout the county.

Church halls, parish rooms, and other build-
ings, all somewhat desolate - looking on a mid-
October night, were one by one transformed
into cheery, warm, and extremely comfortable
wards. The rooms were brightened with flowers
and with the smiles and smart uniforms of the
ladies, who had, in company with scores of willing
workers, toiled unceasingly from the moment of
the summons.

Chairman, Finance Committee, Kent County War Fund.


Among those who most generously gave up
their homes, wholly or in part, for use as hospitals,
and who, in many instances, are also contributing
the whole or a large portion of the cost of main-
tenance, are Lady Hillingdon, Lady Sargant,
Mrs. Ashley Dodd, Mrs. Coombe Baker, Mrs. Vining,
Lord Darnley, Mr. T. C. Dewey, Sir Robert
Laidlaw, Dr. Ireland, Mr. Wythes, Sir Everard
Hambro, Mr. Bennett Goldney, m.p., Mr. H. M.
Rogers, Mr. A. H. Squire, Mr. Boyd, Mr. Gurney
Preston, Mr. George Marsham, and Major Powell-

In the result, long ere the hospital-trains
steamed into their respective stations, everything
was more than ready. Thus, one of the greatest
triumphs of voluntary civil organisation was
completed to the very last detail.


" Train being dispatched with about 150 wounded
men to-night — arrive before twelve. — Disembarka-
tion Officer, Dover."

It was at seven o'clock on Sunday, November
6th, 1914, that this telegram was received. Plenty
of time to arrange everything, for we had a
possible 200 beds in view. The telephone was kept
going for about an hour ; by then our friends had
promised us cars in plenty — our commandants
were giving the finishing touches to new wards or
completing the making up of further beds in wards
not too full. The stretcher-bearers were mustered
at the station by ten-thirty, fires were lit in the
waiting-rooms. It was an awkward station from
an ambulance man's point of view, steep flights of
stairs led from the platforms with sharp turns
right and left at the top of the flights into a glassed-
in corridor. Then another turn into the booking-

Many discussions went on as to the best way of



negotiating these obstacles to quick and safe
transport. The members of the men's detach-
ment opened and closed stretchers, opened them
again and, after the orthodox testing of each
opened stretcher, coaxed light-weight members
to become temporary patients. These, duly-
blanketed, were carried not over-solemnly up and
down the steps ; sometimes the patient was carried
head first, other times legs first — according to the
imaginary wounds.

Nurses arrived with more blankets, alighting
from cars in which were tea-urns, huge jugs of
coffee, bottles of Bovril. These were lifted in, and
further debate arose as to the best possible spot
for the creation of an impromptu canteen. The
ladies settled the matter by deciding to be on the
end of the up platform, near by the foot of those
still unlovely stairs. " The train must come in on
this platform and we shall be able to look after
every patient as he passes by." The station-
master said that the train might draw up on the
down platform. You never knew, and it was
Sunday night, and the down road was open. If
there were other hospital trains for London,
following ours, the up road would have to be clear.

" They'll have to be switched on to the down
line, and then switched back again when they're
past us," decided the Commandant — which the


station-master agreed was a reasonable plan. He
decided to enquire at the signal-box.

Twelve o'clock drew nigh ; then left us, still
patient. A thin rain, driven by easterly winds,
began to find out weak spots in the detachments.
A sharp stretcher-drill was given to the men by a
keen quartermaster : up and down the platform
— never mind the rain ! The ladies decided to
move the canteen a tiny bit nearer the platform
waiting-room, where a brisk fire burned in the
grate. The motor-car owners and chauffeurs
assembled in the booking-hall, stamping their feet
and rubbing their hands together. " Any news of
the train ? "

The station-master, returning from the signal-
box, answered with a shake of his head : " Nothing
yet, sir. I'm afraid it hasn't started."

" But it's nearly one o'clock ! "

" Great deal of dislocation at the Dover end,
sir. They're sure to wire."

Irrepressible member of the stretcher-bearers
sees his chance. " You don't wire dislocations,
station-master. You have to deal with the joint
first. Get it back through the capsule "

" Fall in, there ! " snapped the ubiquitous quarter-
master, suddenly lighting on these two. " Section-
leaders have their men on the platforms, for foot
drill. Fall in, sharp."


The rain passed away, the air grew appreciably
more chill. A luggage-train jolted along the down
road, banging and groaning. Laden with equip-
ment, khaki-coloured field guns — all manner of
unusual goods : " You're not supposed to see any
of these things," said the station-master. " They'll
go through all night, now they've started. A
regular procession of them." A dim notion of
England's stupendous need — her supreme adven-
ture, came to us.

" Last Sunday night I couldn't get to sleep for
the din," opined one of the bearers, taking
advantage of a brief " stand at ease — stand

" It was the Russians going through, I expect."
This from the Irrepressible.

" We shan't be able to use the down road now.
You gentlemen will have to be quick when the
train comes."

" When is it coming, Station-master ? "

" No news yet, sir."

Nearly two o'clock. Past two o'clock. Very
much " fatigue " parties required to make up the
fires. Porters busy in the porters' room, behind
closed doors. " And I don't blame them, either,"
decided the Irrepressible, annoyingly wide-awake.
" I never want any sleep ; but if I did "

" You could go to sleep unloading wounded


from hospital trains ? " asked the quartermaster

Half-past two. Some of the ladies more than
quiet in the waiting-room beside the again brisk
fire. Three o'clock. " Any news, Station-master ? '

" Just had a wire to say she's left Dover, sir."

Lightning calculations on the part of those
whose brains were yet active : ' That means
nearly five before she arrives."

" Left Dover at 2.49, sir, the wire says."

" It'll be five all the same," declared a pessimist
suddenly assertive.

" You're always on the cheerful side, you are.
I remember what you used to say about the Red
Cross. Broomstick Brigade, you called us. Jolly
glad to come in when we'd let you, though."

" I always said that, given certain eventualities,
the Red Cross was a splendid movement," com-
plained the pessimist, unmistakably hurt. ' Of
course, I didn't expect the Germans would fight
us, after all."

" When I remember the splendid spade-work
done by our Chief of Staff — done unselfishly, un-
sparingly, at all seasons for the last five years —
and when I remember how he has been supported
by the Red Cross women of Kent, who have made
themselves able to do the work they're doing so
splendidly. When I remember the gratitude of

notos by 1 1 . Palfi ey Han

Refreshment whilsl Detraining.
Loading the Cars.


the poor chaps we've already brought in, and how
they've been cared for and nursed and rewarded
in some little way for all that they've done for us,
and when I recollect that some people used to
laugh at our Chief — not openly, because they were
too polite — but laughing really, and regarding him
as a good fellow utterly mistaken — you know

what I mean "

The speaker checked himself. " I get carried
away when I get a view of what duffers some of
us were. How blind ! Never thought the Germans
would fight us after all, eh ? Wasn't it lucky one
of us could see ! Lucky one of us could have the
nerve to go on. Just think what Kent is already
doing, and imagine what Kent will do, now that
our organisation is perfected. A crusade, indeed !
I'm humbly grateful not to be too old to take part
in it. Do you fellows know that some of these
men here, these stretcher-bearers, have paid for
others to take their duty so as to be able to attend
drills and lectures ? In peace time, too ! Drawn
from all ranks ; they're postmen, gardeners,
clerks, employers, big City men. Some of them
come to drill in their motors, others with their
tools in a bag across their shoulders. Fall in !
They're all comrades at once. And the women !
God bless them — as the soldiers bless them, for all
their love, and tenderness, and patience, and cheer-


fulness. Merry hearts that go all the way. They
didn't ' fall in ' in their present order without
having trained, and studied, and kept at it for
years past. See them working in the hospitals,
see them down here losing their night's rest — but
going on duty to-morrow, despite all that. No

The speaker seemed quite ashamed after this
outburst. But there was nothing to be ashamed
about. He had talked it " off his chest " — and
felt better. Everybody agreed with him — and he
had lightened the weary waiting. So we forgave
him magnanimously for being a — man of Kent !

Four o'clock. Four - thirty. The continuous
procession of heavy, mysterious luggage trains had
almost ceased to interest. It was certainly a very
long night. Some of us yawningly fancied we
could distinguish dawn in the eastern sky ; others
declared for a late moon. But all disputing ended
with the vision of the station-master signalling
from down the line with his red lamp. " She's
coming — she's round the bend. Hear the brakes ?
Hurry them up with the coffee ; tell the bearers
to stand by. She's in — jingo ! mustn't the poor
beggars feel absolutely worn out ! "

Then a strange scene for this country platform,
under the flickering, sighing gas lamps. A sad
scene, one to make angels weep . . . the sweet


veil of early morning obscured the very worst. . . .
But the pity of it ! . . . " Jealousy cruel as the
grave " — never truer words in the Book of Books.
The outcome of bitter jealousy in this piteous
procession of yet living testimonies to a ferocity
far worse than that of beasts of prey. These our
brothers — behold them, shamefully wounded, foully
injured, scarce covered in their rags and mire ; their
homes, so laboriously builded, now a mass of red

and smoking ruins ; their wives and little ones

It does not bear remembering, the ending of our
vigil ; one of many, which, strange enough at the
outset, are now part of the ordinary routine. It
only bears remembering how, under Providence,
we were able, in our clumsy fashion, to comfort
them a little, and be, for once, men and women
less utterly unworthy of having been made in His



" You cannot understand the feeling one has
when the order comes for you to leave the trenches
to capture those of the enemy," said an iron-grey
Seaforth, discussing the eternal subject with the
Commandant of the cheerful little hospital in which
this quietly brave fellow had been a patient. He
was a Territorial, an old " London Scottish " who
had joined the 4th Seaforths immediately upon
the call. An " old bachelor " as he called himself ;
keen, well-educated, experienced — but in saying
he was thirty-nine one could not hurt his feelings.
Rather the contrary !

" To anyone of imagination it's rather awful,"
he went on. " I'm not a coward. At least, I have
never thought of myself that way until we had the
order. . . . You know then that it's Death who
may be whistling for you. You can't help fearing
that you're taking an odds on chance of being
smashed, of becoming unidentifiable, of being
flung into an anywhere grave. Nobody to know

any more about you, until Well, perhaps

never. Reported missing.



" Somehow, you find you're out of the trenches,
plunging forward over scarred, horrible ground,
not the sweet earth you've known, but the land of
a nightmare. The air about you full of bleak
noises — that deafen, yet don't take away your
sense of hearing. Some of this infernal row is
coming from yourself: you're screaming yourself
hoarse and don't know it. You see your pals shot
down either side of you, bullets go singing by your
ears — the big guns roaring behind are as dangerous
as those of the other fellow's. Your own artillery
— we had thirty fifteen-inchers, so they said — is
shelling the enemy's trenches for you, as a pre-
liminary. They're timed to cease fire just as
you re timed to arrive. Some of our men were a
bit too previous.

" Few things go exactly right, you know," he
added. "Young Elliott. . . . Well, it had far
better have been me. He's an only son, public-
school boy ; fine chances before that lad. And
he wasn't spoilt, nor likely to be. Things threw
us together whilst wc were at the depot at
Bedford, and afterwards, too, — ' Somewhere in
France.' He had put in for a commission, but,

after we got to know each other You see, I'm

too old for rank. ... A lovable chap who could

act like that

" We were side by side at the beginning of that



mad race ; then he drew ahead, younger legs and
a bigger courage. He was first man in the German
trenches at Neuve Chapelle. I like to talk about
that, although you've heard it often enough from
me. Then, one of our own shells came screeching.

" I got there, amid all the scrimmage and din.
Jumped down on top of a German who was stoop-
ing over something. He seemed to go out, like the
flame of a candle — blown out — puff ! I don't
recollect quite what happened, only that presently
we had cleared the trench. Three hundred in that
trench and only seventy-five were taken prisoners.
There was a kind of zigzag communication to the
next line of trenches ; our fellows — Fourth Army
Corps, you know — were being shot down fast as
they got to the opening. I saw one of ' Ours '
get through, at last ; then I got stuck in the
back — a flesh wound, but it stung ! Rotten luck !

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Online LibraryPaul CreswickKent's care for the wounded → online text (page 2 of 11)