Free Classics: Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front

Every Friday, Marilyn Knapp Litt, who blogs at ClassicKindle.com, brings us her recommendation of a free classic book to discover (or rediscover) on Kindle. Find more of Marilyn’s recommendations at her blog, ClassicKindle.com, a guide to the best free and inexpensive classic literature for the Kindle. You can also get Marilyn’s blog on Kindle and I recommend that you “Like” the Classic Kindle Facebook page as well so you don’t miss anything. Here’s Marilyn’s post:

Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915, is a memoir published in 1915 by Anonymous. She was with British forces and little is known beyond what she left us with this account. However, I did a little digging and found the author is thought to be Kathleen Luard. Fitting perhaps that her dates are 1892 – ?

Diaries and works by women who served during WWI are very rare, so it is great to find this free treasure.

We are to rest to-day, to be ready for another train to-night if necessary. The line from the front to Rouen—where there are two General Hospitals—is cut; hence this appalling over-crowding at our base. When we got back this morning, nine of those we took off the trains on Sunday afternoon had died here, and one before he reached the hospital—three of tetanus. I haven’t heard how many at the other hospital at the Jesuit school—tetanus there too. Some of the amputations die of septic absorption and shock, and you wouldn’t wonder if you saw them.

The carnage on the battlefield and field hospitals is directed via train to these hospitals.

Taking 480 sick and wounded down to St Nazaire, with a junior staff nurse, one M.O., and two orderlies.

That is one nurse with four aides, caring for almost 500!

Just been feeding them all at Angers; it is a stupendous business. The train is miles long—not corridor or ambulance; they have straw to lie on the floors and stretchers. . . . I’ve been collecting the worst ones into carriages near ours all the way down when we stop; but of course you miss a good many. Got my haversack lined with jaconet and filled with cut-dressings, very convenient, as you have both hands free. We continually stop at little stations, so you can get to a good many of them, and we get quite expert at clawing along the footboards; some of the men, with their eyes, noses, or jaws shattered, are so extraordinarily good and uncomplaining. Got hold of a spout-feeder and some tubing at Angers for a boy in the Grenadier Guards, with a gaping hole through his mouth to his chin, who can’t eat, and cannot otherwise drink. The French people bring coffee, fruit, and all sorts of things to them when we stop.

Medical staff are often stress casualties after a war. They are in a position of never having to contemplate until the long years after. I would like to know more about Kathleen Luard.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

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