Sisters’ Quarters, University House, Birmingham
June 13th 1915
My own dear Cyril
If you really are going tomorrow I hope that this will reach you before you start, just to wish you God-speed.
I have a bad headache today so when I have finished this I am going to lie down and try to sleep.
The convoy of 600 that was reported to be coming had dwindled to 260 when they arrived, the others I imagine having been sent to other hospitals. It is a very sad sight when they all come in together. The streets were lined with people cheering them. A great number are from the Dardanelles. After Neuve Chapelle the Sisters here say they had a huge convoy of wounded, and a great many of the Sisters broke down and cried when they saw them. The wounded themselves are very cheerful considering all they have been through. The men who are back from the Dardanelles are very proud of the “landing” they have made for the troops who are going out. “We’ve made a lovely landing for the boys, Sister,” they said this morning to me when I went in - and I blessed them in my heart for your sake, darling. They say that no one will allow themselves to be taken prisoner by the Turks if they have got any ammunition to shoot themselves first, as the barbarities that are practiced on the prisoners are beyond description. The men believe that the officers are not subjected to such treatment but they do not really know.
I wish I could come out with you to Alexandria – I believe it is a fine place. (Of course it is the place I want to see, not you!!!). Up to the present, nurses have not been allowed beyond Alexandria – the men say they are badly needed but it was too risky at first.
I shall be able to picture you all the way out as I have so often been through the Mediterranean. How shall I address my letters? I might be able to write in time to catch you at stopping places – if the mails go overland they will travel quicker than you.
You will like to hear I expect that the men in the ward I am in call me the “non-screaming” nurse, which means that there is no need for them to scream out when their wounds are dressed! One sister is called “the bricklayer’s daughter” – she is awfully good to the patients but seems naturally clumsy and when I do her work when she is off duty, the men say, “Now, boys, this is ‘non-screaming morning’.” I am glad to feel that I am of some use and that my work is appreciated.
Being engaged has something to do with it, in an indirect way. I seem able to understand the men. Some girls seem so hopelessly tactless. And another thing, they make a lot of fuss and pet and spoil their favourites, and think stroking their heads etc is appreciated. As a matter of fact, the men feel as I would and I am sure you would yourself, that it is only one woman’s privilege to fondle or caress them, and they just lie there and put up with it because they cannot do anything else. I believe in treating them as individuals with souls, whose lives are their own, sacred to them alone, unless they have a wife. Some of them get dreadfully homesick, poor fellows.
One of the patients has been out in India a lot and been to some of the places I know. He talks Hindustani which I try to recall for his benefit. I will finish this later on, perhaps this afternoon on duty if we are not very busy. We are allowed to do this on Sundays.
I had a nice rest this morning – my head still feels a bit “light” but expect I shall feel better tomorrow. The wards are very hot and not very well ventilated. They are very lofty and the windows are long with kind of portholes at the top which open but the rest of the window doesn’t.
I believe I am to get a day off about the 20th or thereabouts. There is a rumour that the War Office expects us to travel first-class on these occasions but will pay our fares one way. The system of payments is very muddling. We have to pay out for several things and the War Office is supposed to be going to refund it but one is not told when. Some are very skeptical about being repaid at all and others say we shall probably get it at the end of the war!
I am hoping you will have time to answer my last letter today. I felt a bit uncertain after I’d sent it whether I ought to have written as I did – not that I thought you would misunderstand me but that perhaps you might find the subject just as difficult as I do and be unable to solve the questions I put. This will be our last chance of thrashing the matter out as I shall be very guarded in my letters once you’ve left England.
The fact that (if you get promotion) our marriage is not as remote as we’ve been accustomed to think will be a great spur to me in my work and help me to realize that I must try and keep well and happy for your sake so that when you do come home to claim me as your wife, the time we may have together before you have to return to the front may be one of pure joy and happiness. Even if you don’t get promotion, say after a year’s campaigning, and if you want me very much, I shall be quite willing to marry then because I can work for myself just the same, when you go back. But of course I leave this to you. All I want to impress on you before you go is that I want to be yours entirely very much and will be here waiting for you until such time as you come to claim me.
I shall have perfect trust and confidence in you all the time you are away. I want you to know this because so often I have wounded you by suggesting that all men are inconstant. I do not think it would be possible now for you to cease to care for me even if I grow old and ugly from hard work. The fact that I have written to you so frankly in my last letter proved to you that I trust you from the bottom of my heart.
Au revoir, Sweetheart, I will not say goodbye, because we shall meet again. God bless you and have you in His keeping. Bon voyage. I hope you’ll have a nice cabin companion who is a good sailor. (It is a good thing we are not going for our honeymoon by the Mediterranean – you wouldn’t like me at all at sea!)
All my heart’s love. Let me know how to address letters and where to. I shall be following you in thought all the way.
Ever your devoted
PS – Some of the soldiers write to the Nurses after they leave. But I discourage it with myself, partly because I’m not keen myself and also I feel you would rather I didn’t. I saw some of the wounded officers yesterday.