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"Only With Honour"



Saturday 3rd July.

Made a journey in car to Gunners Farm for wounded, shell burst on our right otherwise things are quiet. Had some games of tennis in afternoon with jack. Still very out of practice especially on forehand strokes, serve not so bad considering. Chaps look amusing playing in khaki and funnier still playing in kilts!


Tues 6th July.

All officers including Colonel Dunn turned out for riding lesson. I had Sergeant Major Down. We all careered around the field. The whole business was rather absurd and to my mind no useful result was reached seeing that no individual instruction was given. We are to have a course of these lessons daily. Very hot, lay on stretcher in garden under trees.

After lunch Jack away as orderly officer. Read some theosophy. Made tea on Jacks return. Feel rather despondent as it is obvious I am wasting my time here. There is nothing to do, the hospital work is a mere make believe, a perfect farce. And all the time I feel I might be doing useful work in my practice in Dalton. All the while I am slacking here  Dr Cross writes to say he has had 29 confinements in three weeks and done it single handed, the locum having left.

I have just returned from trenches, one of the bits of work one is called upon to do. Had coffee with Doctor Hackett in Gunners Farm, while there the Essex open fire, what a noise!!


(*Correspondence on running practice*)


Thursday 8th July.

Had our riding school as usual. I tried a fresh horse which Bartholomew thought might be more comfortable than my own which has a very uncomfortable trot, but the brute had a playful way of kicking, also stumbled very badly and I was not impressed to find myself completing a somersault through the air landing without taking any harm. I shall make the best of my own horse. Dangerous game, this war.

We enjoyed a bit of German hate this evening when they began to throw shells into this end of the town. I was walking home at the time and when I got in I heard one coming over and it burst fairly close to our home. Forgen had a narrow shave while taking the ambulance up to Ploegstert, a shell burst on the road not 20 yards away, stones hit him but otherwise no harm.


Friday 9th July.

Not much going on and number of casualties reduced. Colonel not quite so fussy, though bad enough and apt to lay down the law about some of my cases of illness in a way which is extremely annoying. The old chap is (from what I can see) extraordinarily deficient in medical knowledge as one might expect seeing that his experience has been confined to the rough and ready treatment of the "Tommy" for the last 30 years.

But one must bow to his military rank which enables him always to have the last word in the discussion of a case and gives him the right to pronounce a final diagnosis without one dissentient voice being raised.

Then again, he is old and I look young and he probably forgets or does not know that I have been in practice for nearly ten years. No, so often the army from a medical standpoint does not appeal to me when "red tape" confronts one at every turn, and, when the army rule of shifting your responsibility with all speed onto someone else's shoulders is reflected in one's  treatment of medical cases in such a way as to make the whole thing a perfect farce.


(*Day to day correspondence on running his practice from the front line*)


Tuesday 13th July.

Had a close shave this morning, Jack and I were sitting in the garden at 12:45 just after morning hospital, when suddenly we heard a shell screaming towards us. I shouted "my god its coming"! and flung myself on the ground and Jack did the same and it burst with a terrific roar on the road the other side of our garden wall exactly on a line with our seat in the garden. We at once ran into the house and had scarcely got in when another came screaming over our garden and fell on the top of the house on the other side of our street, leaving a hole through the roof and through the two floors.By an extraordinary chance neither of the shells injured anyone, five others completed this piece of "hate". We visited the house and brought away the nose of the shell still almost to hot to hold.


Wednesday 14th July.

This has been an eventful day for me. I took the motor ambulance up to the trenches and when passing through Le Bizet a shell burst about 20 yards in front of the car, against the side of a house. A piece of shell penetrated my radiator causing a leak, another piece hit the iron screen above my head. We drove on to Headquarters Farm.

Then I had to make another journey to bring in an officer who had been hit in the trenches that afternoon. I took the car as far as it was safe, left it behind half shelled buildings. I then found that the officer was still in the trenches and so taking two men with me and led by a corporal we entered the trenches. In the meantime a terrific fusillade had started between the opposing lines and bullets swished over our heads and cut through the barley stalks like the sound of a sighing zephyr. At times the parapet was so low that we had to advance in a crouching attitude. After 20 minutes of this zigzagging we found ourselves in the second or support trench which was filled with troops.

Here the rattle of musketry and machine guns was tremendous, the whole scene was made weird by the star shells from the German lines. We were now rather to the right of the firing and in a trench which was in progress of being built and so shallow that one had to fairly grovel to keep below the parapet. Here we found the officer wounded through the lungs, it was well dusk and quite impossible to evacuate him by the trenches. We simply had to leave the trench and start away over the open. The slow progress caused by bearing a man on a stretcher and the stray bullets which passed us made one feel rather uncomfortable. i was considerably relieved when we eventually reached the farm where we gave the poor officer some hot soup through a catheter. I arrived home about 11:45pm.


*All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill (author)*





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