July 17, 1918
[Editor’s Note: The beginning part of this letter was censored and cut out.]
…letter to you. I hope that this time I can get one finished and sent away. Just yesterday I received two letters from Mother, number 8 & 9. I have received all of her letters up to now. [Censored] …delivery we had so I suppose that there are several more letters on the way to me. I am glad to know that you have begun to receive my letters and that they get to you so quickly. You will be likely to get my letters pretty regularly now. That depends on my writing regularly and partly on its not being delayed or lost in transit. I try to write you at least once a week and oftener if possible but it has been two weeks now since my last letter to you. The reason is that we have been working constantly and almost without any rest. We have the privilege of serving behind the most active sector on the front and for several days we have been flooded with patients. For several days we worked until the entire company was worn out. Then the division headquarters sent us 100 artillerymen and 50 medicals and we let some of our men off for a 24 hour’s rest.
Every day we receive more patients than we can take care of and we have to send them on to some other hospital without having anything done for them. Patients come in a steady stream as fast as we can write them on our books. We operate on them and send them on by train to a base hospital. [Censored] That will give you some idea of the amount of work we are doing. Patients come to us from the front in ambulances or trucks and it keeps sixteen men busy unloading them and taking them to wards. The operating room is constantly rushed [Censored] …tables going all the time. The surgeons have to work until all the cases are cleared out. A few days ago I was called to give anesthetics. We started at one in the afternoon and worked straight through without any interruption until seven the next morning. I worked with the same operating team all the time. The last couple of weeks I have been working nights, in charge of the receiving ward. That is a hard job when we are busy but not so bad when things are slow. I rather like the night work. I am off at 7 a.m. and sleep till the middle of the afternoon. Then I can practice or write some and go back to work at 7 p.m. Since we have been so busy I have not had regular hours. Both the day and night shifts have been working nearly all the time.
You can’t have any idea of what the war is until you are close to it. Of course we are not on the firing line but we can hear the guns and know when there is anything going on at the front. Our work is a constant procession of suffering. There are patients with wounds of all kinds and degrees, men choking and burning with gas, men who are mental and nervous wrecks from shell-shock. A lot of men who go through here are almost insane from their sufferings and experiences. When we are busy we can do little for the comfort of the patients. Some of them have not eaten for two or three days and we can’t even feed them as they have to be sent out to make room for others. Of course patients who stay with us a day or so are fed but we sometimes get men who are not severely injured and we send them right away. We can really feel that we are doing our bit here. We may not get the physical suffering that these men do but this hospital does a great work and we are all a part of it.
Our force now consists of about [Censored] men and nurses and still we haven’t enough. The nurses are fine. They seem to be capable and they do work hard. It is pretty hard for them as they have to live just as the soldiers do. There is no time for social affairs, or at least there isn’t now.
On the Fourth of July all France declared a holiday and the towns had celebrations. The town near here had a concert in the afternoon and all the town turned out. I played a couple of numbers on the program. All the rest was by the French soldiers. On the 14th which is France’s holiday they had another celebration and I helped out there, too. The French appear to like the Americans and are very cordial to them. They like thier money, too, and charge them double price for things. We are about due for a pay day soon. We haven’t had any pay for nearly three months. I had some money when I left the states so I have managed all right.
The only thing we spend our money for is for things to eat. The army food is not very good, and besides that it isn’t well cooked so we go to town every few days and get a meal. Things are expensive but we think it is worth the money to have an enjoyable meal now and then.
It has been quite cool ever since we came. We have had two or three warm days but that is all. Up to two weeks ago we had no rain but lately it has rained quite a bit. The weather changes quickly and on a clear day it may start to rain within a few minutes.
We can’t receive any packages from the states now because of lack of shipping space. I don’t know whether Mr. Mallam can receive things or not, he is not in the army. There isn’t anything I need right now but I might want a pair of those shoes in a few months. We get only the heavy hob-nailed ones over here and they hurt my feet. If Mr. Ballam stays perhaps they could be sent to him and he send them on to me.
It is nearly time for me to go back to work and I must get my supper first so I must plan on writing again in a couple of days. We are all as well as can be and I hope everything is going well with all at home.
© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.