June 23, 1918
Dear Mother and Father:
This is Sunday and I have planned to write a letter home every Sunday and during the week, too, if possible. If it had been yesterday my letter would not have been written.
Since I sent my last letter our mail has found us and we have had two deliveries. I was fortunate enough to receive ten letters out of both lots. It certainly made us feel good to hear from home. Home dosen’t seem so far off now that we have a connecting link. Five of the letters I received were from Mother. The last letter was numbered 6 so there is one still to be accounted for. As I look I see there are only four letters from Mother. In the first bunch there were tow letters dated May 15 and 18. The next one is dated the 30th and the next the 7th of June. It took the last one only 16 days to get to me. That is very good time. It will take my letters longer to reach you. They are put in here in the office and censored whenever the officer gets around to it. Then they are sent to the mail headquarters. I don’t know whether they are censored again there or not. After that they are sent to the states. Letters coming to us are not censored at all.
This is Wednesday morning and this letter has hardly gotten started. Sunday afternoon and evening there was a rush of patients and I had to lay aside letter writing and everything else. There must have been three or four hundred that came in that night because it was necessary to open more wards. I had four wards to look after and I was on duty in them from early Sunday morning until ten o’clock Monday night without any relief or sleep. I have had to do that twice in the last week. We are short of men and so we have to work long hours. We haven’t enough nurses to take care of the wards either. Every few days we get a few more so we have now either sixty or seventy, I am not sure which. They are very patient and hard working and do a lot of good for the poor fellows who are placed in our care. The privates who work in the wards don’t know a great deal about that work. They do the normal labor and the nurses and doctors do nearly all of the medical work. We are short of doctors, too. Some of them who are in the wards have nearly a hundred patients at times and it isn’t possible to give the necessary attention to so many. We are looking forward to receiving more men and probably doctors, too, so it will be better then.
The patients who came in Sunday night were mostly gassed. Some were burned and some had inhaled it. It is terrible stuff and causes more suffering than shot wounds. If they don’t get it badly they recover without any permanent injury but those who get much of it in their lungs either die or are left with weak lungs and throats.
This surely is a busy place. When we are rushed everybody has to work until the rush is over. In the operating room there are four tables going all the time, night and day. Sunday the receiving wards couldn’t take care of all the patients as they came in so they were laid out on the grass and the doctors and nurses worked on them there.
Every day or two we evacuate all the patients that are able to be moved. That is a big job, too, so between receiving and evacuating and taking care of the patients while they are here everybody is kept on the jump.
I was taken away from the ward work yesterday and put in the operating room giving anesthetics. It is six months since I did any of that and I feel pretty shaky. I got along fairly well, though, and gave ten in a little room over half a day. We worked straight through without any stop. As soon as one operation was through I started putting the next man to sleep so that he was ready by the time the doctors got their hands washed and were ready to begin. I was afraid that I might have to begin all over again getting used to the operating room but it didn’t bother me at all. The operations were all for removing bullets and pieces of shrapnel from all parts of the body. The wound itself may not be very big or painful, but it usually takes a lot of cutting to get the pieces out. We have some doctors with us who have been over here for some time doing this work. Most of the company doctors are in the wards.
Since writing you last I have received three lots of mail. There were about ten letters from Mother. Several of them were forwarded from Camp Merritt. I think I have received all that she has sent now. There were also two letters from Father, one of them was forwarded from Camp Merritt. Besides those I recieved letters from Gladys, Jessie Saunders, Miss Phipps and Mrs. Davis. Altogether I must have about thirty letters. I don’t know how I am ever going to answer them all. I suppose that by now I have received all the back letters that I have coming to me and from now on will get them as they are written. I will be able to answer them more regularly then, anyway.
I am rather surprised to hear of Felber going in the Navy. I suppose he knew he would be drafted and thought he would like that better than the Army. The Navy men are enlisted for four years but there may be some way to get out when the war is over.
I will drop Mr. Ballam a line. It is not likely that he will be around here. He probably is working at some supply depot which will be farther back.
Things are rather quiet around here today. We have sent most of our patients out and there dosen’t seem to be much doing at the front so we have a little breathing spell. We spent a part of the morning fixing our tent up. There are six of us in our tent. There is room for eight so we have a table to eat and write on. Over here the men are not allowed to have beds so they sleep on the ground. One of our boys speaks French and has been friendly with the caretaker of the estate and he has loaned us six of the countesses mattresses so we in this tent have soft, warm beds.
Our biggest problem is in regards to food. We are not situated where we can get food from the American Army. By arrangement we draw our supplies from the French Army and their stuff is not so good as ours, and there isn’t as much of it. All we can get from them is bread, coffee, fresh beef and sugar and occasionally a little flour. That dosen’t give us much variety. We get potatoes, too.
The weather has been very cool. At night it is really cold. I would like to have a little hot weather just for a change. Three nights this week German aeroplanes have flown over us on their way to bomb Paris. The anti-aircraft guns near here shoot at them a lot but I haven’t heard of their doing any damage. They haven’t bothered us and I don’t think they will.
We have about a dozen Germans in one of our wards. I think I shall have to go in and see them today. I don’t know who they are or where they are from. They are being taken care of just the same as our men are.
According to the new rules now it is impossible to send us packages of any sort. The Americans have been sending so much over for the soldiers that it took up a lot of shipping space and flooded the mail system over here. There isn’t anything that we are really in need of anyway so we can get along all right. The YMCA is going to open a little canteen here so we can buy chocolate and other things that we need.
Everybody here is well and happy and working pretty hard. We hope to be getting home someday but I expect that will be some time yet.I must pay up my letter debts this week and will try to write you again in a few days.
Best regards to all and
Love to you from
© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.