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, 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”

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.