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 I, December 1915

Wednesday December 1

“tomorrow Hartley goes into a ward and Nicholls takes his place – so our happy little family is broken up – fortunately Nicholls is a good chap (a man from Hitchin) and we shall get on all right together”

Thursday December 2

“an unusual thing happened today – we had two very easy operations simultaneously – one a secondary haemorrhage which lead to the arm and punctuation of the leg – this seemed a nasty wound in the back punctuating the pleural cavity. We extracted bits of rib and a piece of army shirt – as would naturally be expected, practically all gunshot wounds contain bits of clothing”

Saturday December 11

“I fear that this diary has of late become rather dull and I expect that in places I have repeated myself but it is difficult always to remember what one has already written or to make ones ordinary work appear rather attractive in black and white”

Wednesday December 15 

“Vol. II of my diary! Where shall I be when this book is finished! I don’t think I ever really contemplated reaching into a second volume”

Friday December 17

“more trouble in the barrack rooms – the major came round the other day and complained that they were not sufficiently tidy – hence everything except one small box for cleaning tackle is to be or has been swept away to our disgust”

“I also had the worst case of trench foot that I have so far seen – at the top joints of the legs on the right foot having mortified and so might be cut off”

Saturday December 18

“afternoon off today so went with Evelyn to Beauton – we got a lift in a passing cart driven by a man whose home was at La Bassee – his wife and children were in the hands of the Germans and he had heard nothing of them since October 9th!”

Saturday December 25

“how today – X-Mas day – we have a breathing space with no operations. As such a landmark in the year comes round the feeling of ___ , being in a horrible dream strikes one afresh. What am I out in France as an orderly in a hospital for? Why am I doing it?”

“I will tell the story of the sergeant’s turkey : Lounds, the x-Ray man, was going down to the barrack rooms and saw the sergeant’s orderly carrying the cooked turkey in a dish across the road – a wet night and tarred road did the rest! The turkey landed heavily on the road. The orderly stooped down and lifting the bird by one leg, examined it all over. Then, glancing around and thinking himself to be alone, drew out of his pocket a handkerchief and carefully removed the mud! The turkey was replaced on the dish and so far we have not heard that the sergeant complained of his meal!”

 

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume I, November 1915

3Friday November 5

“we have just got over our 200th operation since the hospital opened”

Thursday November 18

“I had the chance of seeing a human heart and brain this morning in the lab, as the result of a postmortem – both healthy. The man had died from a bullet passing through his skull and splintering some bone which had injured the brain”

Tuesday November 23

“in some cases we use adrenaline and 10percent cocaine. I have been told that we have what is necessary for the storaine-billon treatment but it had not been needed yet – sister tells me that she is glad this is so because it frequently brings about subsequent paralysis”

“hydrogen peroxide (4 1/2 oz) we use very little in the theatre but a good deal in the wards”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume I, October 1915

Saturday October 3

“we were just in the middle of a fairly simple operation when Major Maynard-Smith came in to say that he must have me in theatre for a sudden haemorrhage of the common carotid artery! This was clearly tricky to operate and we got to work as soon as possible – 4 doctors on the job with myself helping one to give an intravenous saline injection – we fought hard for a long time but it was not to be”

Wednesday October 6

“the second operation was a good deal more interesting as it consisted of the extraction of a bullet which had situated itself over the left eyebrow, passed through the skull at the base of the nose and lodged on the inner side of the right orbit, immediately behind the right eye”

Wednesday October 13

“Pt. Dawson of the Northumberland Fusiliers was operated upon. The operation was successful for the patient and so. Back to the ward with what appeared to be a good clean wound – by 11.00 the next morning to lunchtime dressing was done, it was found badly gangrenous! On October 13 he had to have his leg amputated”

Stephen Warner Diaries Volume I, September 1915

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Wednesday September 1

“the first batch of sisters arrived this afternoon – among them Miss Meadows who was acting matron at Beachborough when Miss Machmahon left. She was surprised to see me and was quite pleasant – but I could not forget that time when I had nicknamed her ‘sour face'”

Friday September 3

“Lovett was depressed this evening so to cheer him up I offered to give him the satisfaction of beating me at draughts – however I beat him twice so that the cure was not effected!”

Sunday September 5

“5.00pm official notice given to authorities that hospital was ready to receive patients – I am detailed for night duty in ward JH”

Thursday September 9

“Pt. Raine who had a bullet go through the back of his head in a line with the tops of his ears. Brain matter came out under tension and portions of bone were removed. He seems to be trifle better though still only semi-conscious”

“what a thing it is to be soldier! Talking of food, a staple diet with no ____ is machanochie’s rations (a restch firm) these rations are tinned meat and vegetables which came to the table in the form of a messy stew”

Sunday September 12

“some of the nurses had letters from home today saying that a zeppelin has found London to some purpose at last and has done some damage to Liverpool Street and in Threadneedle Street”

Wednesday September 15

“today just as we were about to start upon a simple operation of incisions for drainage of some shell wounds, the other orderly was suddenly called for and brought back back a man from ward F (this ward so far had had the largest number of operations and most of them serious) suffering from a surrounding haemorrhage – the original truth was a gun shot wound in the thigh just above the right knee resulting in a contaminated fracture of the femur”

Monday September 20

“we received a visit from the Queen of Portugal (the widow of King Carlos) 47 – Thursday September 23 “some of them were so delighted at the thought of going to England many were on stretchers and some were so young to be returning home with only one leg or one arm as the case may be”

Saturday September 25

“rumour has it that all the hospitals in the neighbourhood have been asked to take in, if possible, more than they are supposed to have. If this be so, then the struggle at the front must be titanic”

Wednesday September 29

“what grand news from the front! The 3rd German army corps surrounded – but at a great cost”

Stephen Warner Diaries, Volume I, August 1915

  Monday August 2, 1915

“hurry up old chappie, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up old chappie, hurry up, HURRY UP – this is chanted in a kind of  a sing-song by the Canadians when they are waiting for something and are getting impatient”

Tuesday August 3 , 1915

“this evening Lovett and I walked along the Calais Road about 2 1/2 minutes to the village of Francq, the extreme limit of where we may go without a pass. We entered the first little sorta minuet we saw and I introduced him to to a glass of vin du pays which he was anxious to taste. He chose red and I white and as a result I think he is less enthusiastic than I was!”

Wednesday August 3, 1915

“a year ago today England declared war and the mention of this fact is sufficient to bring to mind a thought of all the suffering and misery that has been caused during this time”

Sunday August 8, 1915

“the graves were about 8ft deep, two bodies being put in each grave with 2 wooden crosses on the head each bearing a strip of thin lead punched with the man’s number, rank, name, regiment and date of death – above in each case is another little strip of lead bearing the letters RIP. There are not many graves there yet but it is filing up only too rapidly”

Tuesday August 10, 1915

“no loitering is allowed in Etaples – the place stinks in the nostrils not only of the casual visitor but more unfortunately still in those of the military authorities. Reports have it that the Canadians got on the rampage there and what with one thing and another the place is now banned  and banned by those in command”

Thursday August 12, 1915

“today about 5 of the nurses arrived including the matron (Miss Todd) and assistant matron – among the other three was Miss Macmahon who was matron at Beachborough when I wrist went there. She remembered me and was very pleasant, so that maybe it will stand me in good stead later on!”

Saturday August 14, 1915 

“5.30am reveille (revally as it is usually called), 6.00am parade for early fatigue duty – whether it may be there are various parties made up for various duties, 7.15am breakfast, tidy up beds and kit, 8.30am parade for fatigue duty, 12.15pm dinner and leisure until 2.00pm parade for afternoon fatigue, 5.15pm tea, 6.00pm parade for next day’s orders, 9.00pm roll call in dormitories, 9.30pm last post and 9.45pm lights out”

Monday August 16, 1915

“8.45pm finished a kind of plum tipsy caked secreted with in my billy can as the result of the kind of officers – an excellent little meal for which we are very grateful and he had just brought in part a bottle of lemon squash so that he is a true friend to us”

Tuesday August 17, 1915

“I don’t mind washing my own body but I dislike doing the same for my own shirts, pants and handkerchiefs – but it has to be done, so I arm myself with sunlight soap and wrestle in the wash house with the said garments in a basin much to small for the job”