Friday, February 21, 2014

Shirley Millard: American Nurse in France

American nurses on their way to France
Copyright Steve Hooper
...When Shirley and the unit arrived in France, 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.

            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.

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