In August 1914, the diarist left England for Havre, on the staff of a general hospital. She gives a detailed record of her experiences, including days at Havre waiting for orders, work on ambulance trains bringing wounded from Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, and St. Eloi, and later, duty with a field ambulance, involving frequent movings and alarms, and billets in towns that were under shell-fire.
re is a cheering article in Saturday's 'Times' about it all. The news is posted up at the Préfeture (dense crowd always) several times a day, and we get many editions of the papers as we go through the day.
Tuesday, August 25th.--We bide here. No.-- G.H., which is also here, has been chopped in half, and divided between us and No.-- General, the permanent Base Hospital already established here. So we shall be two base hospitals, each with 750 beds.
The place is full of rumours of all sorts of horrors,--that the Germans have landed in Scotland, that they are driving the Allies back on all sides, and that the casualties are in thousands. So far there are 200 sick, minor cases, at No.--, but no wounded except two Germans. We have no beds open yet; the hospital is still being got on with; our site is said to be on a swamp between a Remount Camp and a Veterinary Camp, so we shall do well in horse-flies.
It is a fortnight to-morrow since we mobilised, and we have had no work yet
What happened to her? Well, her name was Katherine Evelyn Luard for starters. She published a second book after the war called Unknown Warriors but this time, not anonymously. She had also seen service as a nurse in the Boer war.
She wanted to continue at the front and go into Germany with the occupying army in 1918 but her father"s ill health meant she had to retire in 1918 as the allied advance was underway.
This book is what the title suggests. It is certainly a diary written in a form you would expect, although it is also clear it is written for someone other than the writer herself. It gives a shorthand description of her day to day life and work in various hospitals or field stations - including a spell of weeks on an ambulance train.
Her ability to keep a real emotional distance from the men (and sometimes women) under her care was, I believe, her defence from simply succumbing to the ever increasing horror of seeing - over the period - thousands of young men who, simply a few days or indeed hours before she met them, had been in the full vigour of health and youth and were now smashed into human rags or worse. Left to spend lives in states not much better.
It is also propaganda. The Brits are good, the Germans are bad. One would hardly expect anything else from such a diary, written at such a time. It did not stop her caring for wounded German sodiers with the same clinical detachment as the men from 'her' side. For me the questions are; who was she? why is there no more diary than less than the first year? what became of her? Certain asides hint of a catholic faith, possibly an Irish connection and previous war service (in Africa) making her I guess around 30 to 35 at the time of this diary. But will one ever know?
oh my god this was absolute bollocks