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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Lines Of Communication

page 18

Lines Of Communication.

One cold, clear morning in Nar Nar Goon, Mrs Roberts received a letter from the Defence Department informing her (with the Minister's sympathy) that her son, Trooper James Roberts, had been wounded before Gaza, and was being sent to the base hospital at Cairo; "further particulars would follow," etc. She went white and sat down heavily in a chair, staring stonily before her. When the power of coherent thought returned, she sent for her husband, and then fell to wondering where and how her poor boy was. She need not have been too anxious, though, for at that moment Jimmy was looking up into the face of an Australian sister, and forgetting the pain of his wound in the sunshine of her smile.

* * * * * *

Trooper Jimmy Roberts was going about his business on a dusty May day, when he suddenly got the hurried impression that three or four horses had kicked him at once; and he knew no more for some time. He had a confused recollection of being carried some distance, of crying out with the pain in his leg, someone sticking a needle into his arm, and then a jogging, rattling journey in a sandcart to Railhead. Here, with others, he was hoisted on a stretcher into the train, and didn't remember much more till he was taken out again, and someone told him they were at Belah. At the hospital there a doctor had a look at him, pronounced the one word "anaesthetic," and passed on. So what little of his senses Jimmy still had about him was taken away; his broken leg was set in solid splints and the rough edges were taken off the wound. His leg felt heaps better when he came round, and he was able to sit up and take notice on the train journey to El Arish.

The train arrived at about 17.00, and Jimmy was excited when he heard that it was an Australian Clearing Station to which he was going There was a busy scene when the unloading got well under way, the ramp being lined with waiting "walkers" while the stretcher cases were being disposed of. Gradually the big marquees swallowed up the wounded, and Jimmy found himself, with other more seriously injured men, being carried up to a big sandbagged ward facing the sea. He was met at the door by a perspiring youth with an Aussie hat and a cheerful face, who glanced at his card and sang out to an equally cheerful-looking young gentleman sitting at a table, "G.S.W., left high, fractured femur, left—where shall I put him?" The second chap murmured something which sounded like "Rotten Row," and Jimmy was deposited, stretcher and all, on a big bed in the corner. The orderly and a couple of assistants lifted him bodily, the stretcher was whipped away, and he was in bed with the clothes over him before he had time to think.

The ward was full of bandaged figures—a few walking about, but the majority helpless in bed. Jimmy's leg was confortably packed up with pillows and long sand-bags, and his temperature was taken. After a cup of hot cocoa and something to eat, he began to think that the world wasn't such a bad place after all. When tea was finished, the M.O. came round and examined each case by the light of a hurricane lamp. He asked questions and left instructions, and as he passed from one patient to another an orderly would clap on the dressing and make the chap "comfy" for the night. About some wounds, including Jimmy's, the M.O. would say "Comfortable, laddie?", and receiving an affirmative answer, remark, "I'll see him in the morning." At last he got his round finished and retired, the orderlies following as soon as the dressings were done.

Somehow Jimmy couldn't sleep for a bit. The night orderly had shaded the lamp with the Red Page of "The Bulletin," and things were quiet except for the uneasy groaning of a badly wounded Tommy in the corner. After awhile,

the orderly injected something into this chap's arm, and he quietened down. Jimmy was thinking of home, how his mother would be feeling, what his father would say about him, and how things in general were at Nar Nar Goon. Yes, dear, old, sleepy Nar Nar Goon—yes, sleepy— sleepy, that was it. The light seemed to be getting slowly dimmer, Jimmy's eyes wouldn't keep open, and soon he slept.

He awoke early in the morning, with his leg feeling pretty sore. There was a scene of great bustle, for immediately after breakfast nearly all the patients went away, and the staff got busily to work preparing for their quota of wounded from the train at night. Later on the M.O. came in, eased the splint off Jimmy's leg, and tied it up nice and snug again.

All that dav Jimmy lay looking dreamily out over the Mediterranean. He felt like a commercial traveller eyeing some casual passengers in a railway train, when the fresh load of patients came in.

A Hospital Study. Fred Coleman 1916

A Hospital Study.
Fred Coleman 1916

Next morning, early, he was put on the train, and to a cheery "Good-bye and good luck, Jimmy" from the hospital boys, he continued his journey. He spent that night at Kantara, slept well, and was sent on his journey to Cairo on the morrow.

"Any Australians here?" asked a Sergeant on the station.

"Yes, one here," sang out the chap who had been looking after his carriage, and Jimmy was lifted out on his stretcher and placed in a waiting motor ambulance. He was whirled away to Abbassia, placed on the hospital verandah, and in due course labelled "Ward D3," and carried off to bed. Jimmy sank contentedly into the soft bed, and went to sleep.

* * * * * *

The "further information" which Mrs Roberts received from the Defence Department was, that her son was "much improved."