Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (14)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

23rd October 1918

Mrs Conn has returned. Her son [Leonard Hasler] died in one of the hospitals at Boulogne. He was badly wounded by a jagged piece of shrapnel in the upper part of the temple, and had he lived he must probably have been mentally affected. Mrs Conn found him scarcely conscious, but he recovered sufficiently to tell her that a shell burst close to where he was on Oct 6th and that he had some distance to be carried to a dressing station. All treated her with the greatest consideration. She was of course astonished at the vast scale on which everything was ordered.

The whole town seemed crowded with soldiers. “One could scarcely move for them”. There was marching everywhere, and by day and night there seemed to be ships and trains arriving and departing.

The “Hospitals” were principally temporary huts and tents, and that in which Leonard was staffed with Canadian nurses. There were, of course, many affecting scenes, some poor mothers and relatives arriving at the end of their journey only to find that they were too late. Many of the soldiers greeted Mrs Conn cheerily as “Mother”, and seemed pleased to see a countrywoman again, and to have tidings first-hand of “Blighty”, which is their familiar name for the old country. Everything was high-priced in the market-place, and she paid 1/8 for a single pear for her sick lad, and sevenpence for a banana!

He was not, however, to live long, and died within a week of her arrival. It went to her heart to see the hundreds of sad cases, nearly all young lads of 19 or 20: cases of amputated arms and legs, bad head wounds etc etc. Leonard was buried with five other soldiers, with military honours. Mrs Conn herself and one other English woman being the only near relatives present. The day previously the funeral service had been read over 60 poor fellows at one time. These are the harrowing accompaniments of the war. Up and down the neighbourhood we are constantly hearing of sad losses.

Next entry: 27th October 1918

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