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”

The Stephen Warner Diaries

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In 2014 Lowewood Museum marked 100 years since the start of the First World War with an exhibition displaying objects and stories connected to the Borough of Broxbourne.

Exhibits included a collection of diaries written by Stephen Warner, the great grandson of John Warner of Hoddesdon. During the War, Stephen served initially as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but after a time there he felt that he could not let others bear the brunt of the battle and so became 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Essex Regiment where he was served with distinction and was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war, he wrote and illustrated a number of books, many of which are now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. He died on 24 June 1948, leaving his wife Winifred Warner. They had no children.

The diaries which are part of the Museum’s collection provide an insight into an individual’s experience of the First World War. For the first time these diaries will be shared online.

Follow the blog page and Lowewood Museum’s Twitter page to read extracts from the diaries and follow Stephen Warner’s journey through the First World War.