...When Shirley and the unit arrived in
they were told they were to be rushed to an emergency hospital that had been
set up quickly close to the French defense line on the grounds of a chateau.
“We are all thrilled to have such luck,” Shirley wrote in her diary. “Real war
at last.” They arrived just as darkness was beginning to fall. Covering the
grounds of the chateau, outside the hospital barracks, were what appeared to be
sleeping men. Shirley soon discovered that these were the wounded who had been
transported from the battle and left alone on the grounds until someone could
help them or, in many instances, discover whether they were alive or dead. Many
of these men had already been waiting for hours—often, days—on the battlefield
and received only whatever simple treatment could be given to them in
rudimentary dressing stations directly behind the trenches. They had to wait
there until nightfall when it would be safer to drive to better-equipped
hospitals like the one Shirley had been assigned to. France
She never forgot the first moment she entered the hospital barracks and went on duty: “Inside, all was confusion, disorder and excitement. Only dim flickers from candles illumined the chaos. Nurses, doctors, orderlies, beds everywhere; yet not nearly enough to take care of the influx of wounded.
“Stretcher bearers perspired under their loads until the aisles of every ward were packed. And still the grounds outside were full to overflowing. In the darkness under the trees orderlies stumbled about, giving a hurried drink to parched lips that had cried for water for twenty-four hours."
Excerpt from "Shirley Millard: Nurse Armed with Enthusiasm" from Women Heroes of World War I.