Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, April, May June, 1917

Sunday 8 April

“The company is discovering (as trained men on the front will do very quickly) that the officers in charge of us do not know their work very well. They are not masters of their subjects and this instruction is therefore rather halting. Our COs chief wish is that we should play games and clean our leather gear with “kiwi” (an ox-blood polish which turns the leather a horrible purplish colour!) and that seems to weigh more with him than anything else!”

Saturday 19 May

“Rations are gradually getting shorter and shorter and with all our brain and body work it means that more often than not we go hungry – one hard boiled egg, a spoonful of hard hardly cooked peas, 2 spoonfuls of rice and a piece of bread are hardly a decent lunch for a healthy man.”

“A little while back there were some German submarines in the firth and two ships from somewhere fell victims just after they had left the harbour one day.”

Sunday 3 June

“We have the loss of the field behind the hospital to which I referred last year as being one glorious case of Viper’s Bugloss, Lichen vespertine and poppies – this is now become a training ground where hoarse voiced Sergeants case and drill the unfortunate Tommy and when they can think of no more objectives wind up with saying, “Well, thank God we got a navy.”

Sunday 10 June

“Today I’ve had my first bathe and very nice it was.”

Wednesday 20 June

“Battalion sports on Saturday – i’m not very keen although in the others that were held three months ago I came second in the bomb throwing with 43 1/2 yards and so I am obliged to enter for the event again.”

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Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, January, February, March 2017

Saturday 6 January

“A marvel? Yesterday three of us were told we were going to England tomorrow. And so behold me writing this in Etaples station waiting for a train which as usual is some hours late. It seems a kind of dream and difficult to realise that I here have got so far towards a commission.”

Monday 8 January

“Ever since leaving Etaples and in fact just before, I have had a heavy head cold and cough and all this constant standing about in wet and draughty spots for hours at a time is not going to improve it.”

Saturday 10 February

“One of the men in the barrack room was saying that he once saw an 8 inch shell pitch within a yard of a man and fail to burst.”

“Today I have been on fatigue partly to help the res make a road – so behold me wielding pick and shovel like a blooming navy.”

Thursday 1 March

“Since Monday I have been on the seaside doing nothing except go for short route marches morning and afternoon. Blackpool is a much bigger place than I expect – one mass of lodging houses and vulgar places of amusement – one redeeming feature is that the confectionist’ shops, of which there are dozens, are really excellent with a large and varied display of delicious cakes.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume IV, October, November, December 1916

Friday 6 October

“My second birthday out here! Somewhat unexpected in old days but now we seem almost to feel as though one were settled down here for life.”

Wednesday 18 October

“Since my birthday a change has happened and for the last 10 days or so I have found myself attached to the x-Ray Dept. The cardiograph business having so greatly developed.”

Friday 27 October

“A little time back in the theatre, had a very bad night for there were three emergency operations, two of which were amputations and the third ended in death on the table!”

Wednesday 8 November

“The immediate future seems fraught with possibilities for the S.M came to me the other day to my great surprise and asked me if I was still of the same mind as regards a transfer! I could hardly gasp out a reply as I was so flabbergasted, but the upside of it all is that I and Sergeant Pronse have each signed the necessary form of application for transfer to the machine gun corps and we now hope for the best – wonders will never cease!”

Thursday 9 November

“A little late in the day perhaps but I have only just got the figures for the hospitals work for one year, from the day it opened September 5th 1915 to September 5th 1916: officers admitted – 193

NCOs and men – 9231

operations done – 1218

amputations (including feet and hand but not fingers and toss) Arms – 7, Legs – 70 Eyes removed – 38

Deaths – 160.”

Friday 17 November

“This is written in England where I am on leave! This happened all of a sudden last Saturday night.”

Thursday 23 November

“I pass my stay at home and pick up the thread again on the 20th when I left at 7.00pm for London. Spent a night at a very second rate hotel near Victoria and duly caught the 7.53am train to Folkestone.”

Tuesday 28 November

“Today I have handed in my form application for commission and only hope that I’m doing the right thing.”

Saturday 2 December

“Have been interviewed and after a few questions about my previous military experience (easily answered) and as to my ability to see without glasses, he said that he would send it on with a recommendation that I should have a three weeks preliminary course before going to the cadet battalion.”

Friday 8 December

“Have managed to get hold of one of the Sergeant Majors at No.1 training camp and he is giving Pronse and I lessons on the rifle which are invaluable to me – I’ve already learned the different parts and how to load and unload and tomorrow we go onto a machine gun.”

Friday 15 December

“I had filled various roles in this hospital besides my ordinary work I have been interpreter for French visitors, I have made copies of the builders’ plans of the hospital and wards for the OC, but now I have the job of all! I am nothing less than letter writer in chief and translator into French of lovesick patients!”

“Most unexpectedly I have just had a pleasant half hour of archaeology. Captain Gordon has just been in to show me some Roman coins (mostly pennies and 3 silver, moderate preservation) found close by the hospital.”

Saturday 23 December

“The call has come at last and I reported at No.2 training camp for accommodation, we are only 5 at least at present – three canny Scots and another RAMC man, rather a poor specimen in my humble opinion.”

Sunday 24 December

“6 hours a day seems to be as much as we are going to put in – but there is no more today and none tomorrow! So down I came to the hospital to pick up odds and ends and have tea with Sister Weston.”

Monday 25 December

“Christmas day again at last? But not so happy as the last. To begin with Mr Jocks returned from Paris Plage yesterday seeming rather the worse for liquor and the other RAMC man distinctly drunk.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume III, August 1916

Friday 4 August

“We ended by doing 204 cases in the month of July which of course has broken all records.” They have been working up to 8:30pm and 9:00pm every night. He talks of sleepless nights. When talking about some of the patients, he writes “That is the thing to break your heart!”

“Today that blessed north wind is blowing strongly again so things are somewhat fresher”

To commemorate the declaration of war two years ago there was a ceremony. Detachments from the hospitals were present to put down wreaths. There were also pipers. He writes “Heaven hopes that we do not have such an anniversary to celebrate again next year.”

“Incidentally this last month has been very expensive for the hospital. A bill of £42 for gauze and £10 for gloves.” 03

Thursday 10 August

He talks about finding no new plants but describes the ones he does find as “a renewal of acquaintance with old friends.”

Walked home via St Fabriel Place – “ruined Hotel is getting more ruinous”

Saw the new railway rising “they’ve made a foot of a sand cliff about 10 – 100ft high.” He also writes that he believes they “collect the sand” which is “needed for filling the sand bags for the trenches.”

An order was given that all fat was to be preserved and not thrown away with “other refuse” It was used in artillery and he writes that it perhaps gives an idea of the “enormous quantity of materials of all sorts needed to meet the demands of the artillery.”

He talks about Sister Weston and expresses that he wishes she “had not for red hair!”. Sister Weston is described to “possess an expansive smile”. She feeds him with sandwiches and the two of them discuss plants.

Tuesday 15 August

Arthur Kaye is mentioned. Arthur has to do a variety of things for the Government depot. He writes that he has been told that they feed a number of men “averaging about 75000” per day. He then goes on to say he is not surprised when he remembers the “hundreds and hundreds of tents and huts” he has built up there.

The more I see Bob Lounds (X-ray) the more I like him in the more ways – rather rough and a speaker out of his mind, which rather upsets the Sisters sometimes but sticking stuff at the bottom – good at his work.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume II, July 1916

3Sunday 2 July
“last night a convoy of 79. Today another convoy of 302!! So all of a sudden we are up to the eyes in it! 5700 casualties, so they say. The result was their having operated in the morning, we started again at 8.30pm with eight cases, getting into bed at 3.00am.”
Saturday 8 July
“a most painful thing has happened both yesterday and today namely that a patient died in the theatre apparently in each case from heart failure – once is unpleasant enough but the same occurrence the following day is too much.”
Tuesday 11 July 11
“bad news from England today about father – it irks so that one cannot get away home at once to him and at my application for short leave has been refused by the commandant point blank.”
Friday 14 July
“tonight I shall have been a year in the army! How much longer is this nightmare going on? News from the front is good on the whole and we are certainly pushing them back to a certain extent – but at a great cost.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume II, June 1916

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Wednesday 7 June

“we hear that the Russians are performing more than favourably – again that Lord Kitchener is unexpectedly drowned off the coast of the Orkneys and so the tide of this war ebbs and flows.”
Wednesday 28 June

“the hospital is still being kept empty and as the people say that our artillery is very active, I suppose we may reckon on an advantage being made shortly and then no doubt we will be busy.”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume II, May 2016

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Thursday 11 May

“a few days ago there was a bomb accident in the training camp at the back amongst the Australians and New Zealanders – the sergeant instructor was killed outright and 5 others wounded. We were sent for with stitches and brought them down here where two died from their wounds.”

Monday 15 May

“another bomb accident – last Saturday! An officer was brought into us straight onto the operating table with his cart hood artery almost completely severed. We did our best but to no purpose and he died an hour after – terrible.”

“I have been worrying lately because I am here! I am 35, unmarked, with no dependants and recently passed by one of our doctors and the local eye specialist as fit for service – I therefore ask myself: ‘Why am I here at the base?’ ‘Am I not fulfilling all the conditions for a man to be at the front?’ My conscience amounts that I am and I ought therefore to be at the front.”
Thursday 18 May

“today we have had a visit from General Sir Douglas Haig – the Commander-In-Chief – but he did not come to the theatre. A handsome looking man between 50 and 60, I suppose with a pleasant type of face.”