11 A.M. On way up again to Béthune. Sharp frost, fog becoming denser as we get nearer Belgium. A howling mob of reinforcements stormed the train for smokes. We threw out every cigarette, pipe, pair of socks, mits, hankies, pencils we had left; it was like feeding chickens, but of course we hadn’t nearly enough.
Everyone on the train has had a card from the King and Queen in a special envelope with the Royal Coat of Arms in red on it. And this is the message (in writing hand) –
“With our best wishes for
May God protect you and
bring you home safe.
Mary R. George R.I.”
That is something to keep isn’t it?
An officer has just told us that those men haven’t had a cigarette since they left S’hampton, hard luck. I wish we’d had enough for them. It is the smokes and the rum ration that has helped the British Army to stick it more than anything.
After all we are not going to Béthune but to Merville again. This is a very slow journey up, with long indefinite stops; we all got bad headaches by lunch time from the intense cold and a short night following a heavy day. At lunch we had hot bricks for our feet and hot food inside which improved matters, and I think by the time we get the patients on there will be chauffage.
The orderlies are to have their Xmas dinner to-morrow, but I believe ours is to be to-night, if the patients are settled up in time. Do not think from these details that we are at all miserable; we say “For King and Country” at intervals, and have many jokes over it all, and there is the never-failing game of going over what we’ll all do and avoid doing after the war.
7 P.M. Loaded up at Merville and now on the way back; not many badly wounded but a great many minor medicals. We may have to fill up at Hazebrouck, which will interrupt the very festive Xmas dinner the French Staff are getting ready for us. This lot of patients had Xmas dinner in their Clearing Hospitals to-day. Here they had oranges and bananas and hot chicken broth directly they got in.
12 Midnight – still on the road. We had a very festive Xmas dinner, going to the wards which were in the charge of nursing orderlies between courses. We had many toasts in French and English. The King, the President, Absent Friends, Soldiers and Sailors ….. We got up and clinked glasses with the French Staff at every toast, and finally the little chef came in and sang to us in a very sweet musical tenor. Our great anxiety is to get as many orderlies and N.C.O.’s [non-commissioned officers] as possible through the day without being run in for drunk … We are wondering what the chances are of getting to bed to-night.
4 A.M. Very late getting into B.; not unloading till morning. Just going to turn in now. End of Xmas Day.