[This letter is typewritten]
No.4 Canadian General Hospital,
Dear Mrs. Clare:
Was so glad to receive your nice long letter yesterday. I am sure some of your letters must be lying at the bottom of the sea as I never allow one of the precious home letters to go unacknowledged. Still I think it wonderful that so few are lost. However when I hear of any being lost I am so annoyed about it. You have indeed had your trials with the measles. I sincerely hope all traces of them have disappeared. I remember when I had them I was five years old, and after the first day or two I thought I had the best kind of a time. Of course I did not realize what work it brought upon the household. Am glad you liked your little collar. It was bought in Paris Plaze, France; also Miss MacNamara’s handkerchief. Miss Shand’s boudoir cap was purchased in Boulogne, France. I have just received a paper from Mrs. Forster in which are the pictures of our fair girls. I am more than pleased to think they were accepted. I wonder now if Miss Emily Gilbert is not sorry she did not finish. She has seen that Elsie has been the gainer by possessing our diploma. I saw “Omar the Tentmaker” last winter with Miss Shand, and enjoyed it very much. Major McVicar is looking fine. He looks better than I have ever seen him. The orchids carried without being broken, and please thank Mr. Strickland for me. Tell him they remind me of the ball. I wonder if you are having one this winter. I shall be anxious to hear all about it if there is one. I am sorry you forgot to message about the cat. You know it might have been very important. I gave Miss Dickinson your message, and she said she intended writing soon. I don’t think she is looking as well as she might. I understand that her brother has been invalided home as unfit for further service. Yes “Grandma” is greatly taken with the wee Emma Davis. Was rather disappointed myself she was not a wee David Davis. We heard the other day that No.1 Stationary Hospital had landed here. Miss Johnson is with that unit so I may see her again. I believe they are locating on the other side of the Town. We expect to be over there soon as we are beside a large marsh which swarms with mosquitos in the warm weather, and they are the kind which gave malaria. In fact we are partly packed up now to go but in military life you never know what is going to be done until you see it in writing. The army is the worst place for rumors I have yet seen. We simply live on them. I think sometimes the officers vie with one another to see who can start the wildest rumor. I am on night duty now, and have only one more week of it. I have fifty eight patients with one orderly to help me. Thank goodness the orderly is a married man consequently he is well trained and very obedient. My men are in eight different tents strung along in a row. When the moon is not up I have many a narrow escape over those old guy ropes trying to locate the various groans and moans. Last night I said to a new patient “where is the break in your leg”. He said it is not a break Sister, it is a fracture. No common terms for that gentleman. However the English “Tommie” is the best kind of a patient I have yet met. It is surely a pleasure to do anything for them. When a patient stays with us until recovery and ready for the firing line once more I feel so resentful to see them marching off again with their pack slung over their shoulder. I can’t bear to think of their going back to those dreadful trenches only to be a target. But never a word you hear from them. Last Sauturday night we were favoured by a visit from some of the members of a Highland Regiment camping in our vicinity. They came to give a Scotch concert to our patients. They were fortunate in having for their leader a man who had been a musical director all his life, and the selections were really second to none you might hear in Massey Hall. They carried their own little travelling piano with them, only its notes were more like the notes of a harp than a piano. The doctors and nurses who attended enjoyed it quite as much as the patients. Our friends (?) of the air have not succeeded for several days in getting over us, but it is not their fault they don’t. We have had the extreme pleasure several times lately of seeing them being driven back. One of the day raids was most interesting to us. An Allied and a German airship had a scrap directly above us, and one of the shells came down through the roof of the Nurses’ mess tent, smashing table, bench, and going several inches into the ground. Fortunately it was eleven o’clock in the morning and no nurses were there. Two bombs fell inside the camp that day and one on the road. It is not curious the simple things which impress themselves on your mind in a crisis of that kind. There were some olf Greek labourers digging a ditch beside the tent where I was. I remember most distinctly these two old men down on their faces in the ditch calling “Allah, Allah” to the utmost capacity of their lungs. I think Allah must have heard them as we all remained unharmed with the exception of one man who was only slightly wounded. In the case of future raids we are supposed to repair to our dug-outs which are supposed to be the last word in their line. At present they are filled with rats and mice, and it is a question whether all the Sisters can be induced to enter even in the face of great danger. It has been suggested that the orderly officer for the day be detailed to first rid the dug-outs of these savage animals before allowing the Sisters to enter. Now that the Dardanelles affair is a thing of the past I suppose there is no harm in speaking of my experiences there. The twenty four hours I spent in Sulva Bay, Gallipoli, I count among the most wonderful of my experiences. With the field glasses we could even distinguish the men in the trenches, and could see and hear the shells exchanged between the Turks and our own men. Then a Dreadnaught pulled up beside us near enough for us to count the men on the deck. She opened fire and the explosions made our ship tremble and fairly deafened us. The shells were supposed to carry between fifteen and sixteen miles. The Turks wasted a few shots on old Spitfire but soon gave it up as a bad business, as the shells all splashed in the water. At this place we took on six hundred and fifty patients of the most wretched looking men I have yet seen. All spirit completely gone. I suppose only the men who have endured the place will be the only ones to realize what it has been. From what we could see on the boat it looked like a great desolate pile of sand and rocks without a tree or house in sight. For their water supply they were forced to depend on boats bringing it from England or some other port on the way. The patients were brought out to us in large row boats, several being roped together, and hauled along by a ting tug. Those who were able to walk at all climed up the steps slung over the side of our boat. Those who could not walk were placed in a box, and lifted up with ropes worked by a little engine on our vessel. After the wards had been filled there still remained two rows on the long, broad decks. I shall never forget how greedily they drank water. Some of them had been without drink of any kind for three days. Those who were not too ill to be put in a bath-tub seemed to think they were in Heaven. Before the boat pulled out of Sulva Bay the Sisters bought out the little store on boardship of ginger ale, chocolate, cigarettes etc., and sent it over to the soldiers on shore. We had these patients for one week. We had in that time twelve burials at sea. What a blunder that whole affair seemed to be.
Well I must stop writing as I shall surely weary you. With kind regards to Dr. Clare, Miss S. and Miss Mac.,
Most sincerely yours,
Lena A. Davis.
I know Dr. Clare will be interested in hearing of Dr. Mallach. I think he is falling off in flesh but seems perfectly well. He is a great friend of the Sisters, and they think he is just about right.