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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1918

Soldiers' Letters

page 20

Soldiers' Letters

No. 3 Brit. Gen. Hospital, Le Treport, 17/4/'17.

To the Editor, "Spike."

Dear "Spike,"—Just a line to thank you for your last issue, which I received about a month ago. Shortly after receiving it I had a brief but not uninteresting meeting with the wily Hun, since then I have been in the land of the V.A.D., seemingly as a semi-permanent picture.

Poor old Dan Bowler went West the day I was hit, and Karl Strack about a week before.

They broke my leg rather successfully, so since then I have been out of the game. Previous to that we had a busy time round the battle area, helping to make history and trying to dodge bombs.

Dodging bombs is a thing to which much interest attaches—for in that lies the difference between the quick and the dead. We listen with envy to the tales of fellows back from leave who have acted the gallant hero to fainting maidens and the like. One of our fellows who happens to have one or two bits of ribbon on his coat tells us that he was at a dance when the Gothas came one night. One or two of the Cuthberts suffered from the wind vertical; this chap swears he was quite cool and all the girls in room rushed him for protection. He had to deliver lectures on bombs till the raid was over. This story may be true, but———

Our own method of meeting these attacks is different. If Fritz comes over with bombs in the daylight your dignity stays where it is, while the rest of you takes a flying leap into the nearest or best hole. Bombs have a sound peculiarly of their own—the best place to hear them from, being with your ear to the ground and the rest of you in line. In wet weather one usually stands up for the first shot, but not if it's near.

We were living in tents in this area—this being considered more picturesque—but we had a nice earth-bank all round the sides. The arrival of an aeroplane at night is heralded by three whistles, when every light for miles around goes out, and if he's visiting you, you lie down flat on the floor. Next morning you rise, count the holes in your tent, and then go and swap lies with your neighbors.

Curiosity is a bad thing here. A new arrival got up to look at the planes one night, and we buried him next day.

I have seen only one bomb burst near me—this was not my fault as I was searching for a better 'ole at the time. I heard the next one, but did not see it—having found the hole.

Father Barclay arrived here the other day—I felt as if I hadn't done my Latin when I saw him. I remember he used to be considered a very useful member of society—or at any rate of the Latin class.

By the way, I was in Paris last August—ah! but I forgot "The Spike" is still a family magazine, so I will close with best wishes and a discreet tongue.—Yours sincerely,

Hubert H. Daniell

* * * *

No. 1 N.Z. Gen. Hospital, Brockenhurst, 22nd January, 1918.

Dear "Spike,"—There is a din of many voices, raised in expostulation, in argument of I know not what, and by some curious twist, my memory turns to you. Have you ever heard hospital auction bridge played? It is divided into three stages—"before," "during," and "after." "During" is played along the lines of ordinary auction, "before" is mainly advisory, "after" Abusive. There are two games going on at present, go you can imagine what the noise is like. Over in France it was comparatively peaceful playing even close to the line, but in hospital———

You will gather by this that I am still in the land of the V.A.D.

Talking of V.A.D.'s, one sees almost as many varieties here as one sees at the "March past" at the notice boards during the first week. In one hospital in France there were two V.A.D.'s, who, in the language of our brothers in Egypt, "stood about sixteen hands." They handled me like a babe in arms. One of them was Scotch and had a red nose and a cheerful page 21 disposition—she was the hard-hearted brigand who woke me remorselessly every morning and washed me long before even the early bird had got busy. Her comrade in arms (I speak metaphorically) was English, but was really quite decent when we became better acquainted. There is a misconception prevalent in some circles that V.A.D. stands for voluntary and delightful—but this is not necessarily correct. I remember one that hailed from the North of Ireland and had red hair—she would make a splendid librarian. It seemed to us she knew all the rules of the hospital by heart, especially those beginning: "Patients will not——." In justice to them I must say that they carried out their work in an excellent manner, but if one read the magazines it would seem that hospitals were a sort of subalterns' Heaven with the V.A.D.'s filling the angels' rôle

Bullard is in the same ward with me here, and the Frog and Salmond are next door. Fulton is the X-ray artist and takes photos of those parts of us that the doctor is most interested in for the time being. Dan Bowler was killed the day I was hit. Any information I can give of V.U.C. students would appear under the "Accidents and Fatalities" column, I'm afraid, and most of it you may have heard. S. A. Atkinson was in our battalion when he was killed last year. I had been with him a couple of hours before he was hit. Colonel R. St. J. Bere was also in the same battalion. This battalion had, at one time and another, quite a number of our ex-students. Those I can remember are: Colonel Beere, Capt. Bennett, Lieuts, (now Major) K. Caldwell (all wounded at various times), Lieut, Liardet (killed), Castle (killed), Norman Hogg (killed), Atkinson (killed), Bowler (killed), J. B. Parker (returned through illness), B. J. Jacobs (wounded), G. Morrie (wounded), J. D. Vernon, W. F. Hogg, and H. M. Keesing. In the ranks were Nevill Wright, and possibly others. As you know, the bulk of these were law students, so Professor Garrow would have been able to conduct a class with us. The better half [better half = that portion of the college that wears skirts] of College is also represented "here in England now," as Blanche of the "Bystander" has it. Last year I met Miss Larry Mac., and the Frog tells me that he met "Mary" recently—but, perhaps, dear "Spike," another generation has arisen that knows not—well, shall I say, that does not remember—the "hop floor on the top floor."

If I don't get on I'll be firing Omar and "the moving finger" at you.

The November number of "The Spike" has arrived in due course. One noticed a slight increase in the verse published, but I was sorry to see that most of the initials were still familiar. I'm not complaining of their longevity, but of the absence of new ones. If I may add a further criticism, the first number is better than the second, from which one would infer that exams, are still held at the end of the second term. Has the football team, that faded dream, quite lost its dash—or was the secretary late with his reports?

I see there is a proposal to erect a Memorial Building. It is a good idea, but I hope it originated with the students, as it sounds a little utilitarian to come from higher up. I know that we have a crying need for more room, but it would be a pity if we used the needs of a memorial as a sentimental appeal to the Government (which must, sooner or later, provide the room) for immediate cash.

Well, I seem to have written rather much; but you can put that down as a phase of my illness. Please address my next "Spike" to me at Mathon Lodge, Masterton, as I hope to be there by that time. Please thank the Students' Association for a pair of socks which duly arrived. They should last some time, as I will be able to wear only one at a time for another six months.

With best wishes for your next issue.—I am, yours sincerely,

Hubert H. Daniell. "Jerry."

Belgium, 18th February, 1918.

To the Hon Sec., Students' Association.

Dear Sir,—I wish to thank your Association for its kindness in forwarding me a pair of socks and a copy of "The Spike." I received both about a week ago, and I don't know which was the more welcome. While one was a comfort materially, the other was a spiritual solace, especially "Laconic Jenny." I would express my feelings at greater length, but I am page 22 somewhat handicapped by two things—time, and my inability to spell "sox"—I fancy "cks," but you will find somewhere about the year 1910 a capping song entitled "Sox"! and the good Lord only knows which is right.

By the way, it has occurred to me that "The Spike" people might run a competition, inviting its readers to send in guesses as to the date of the conclusion of the war, the nearest guesser to be given a prize only if he comes within twenty years of the true time. There is plenty of scope for the unruly ungraduate here, and it might prevent those numberless discussions which take place in odd corners of the College corridors to the greater disturbance of the serenity of one, Mr. Jas. Brooke. If you yourself happen to know when the war is going to end, I should be greatly obliged if you would send me a cable. I would willingly defray the expense. With many thanks again for the so(x) (cks) and "The Spike," and with the kindest regards to such of my contemporaries as may remember me.—Yours, sincerely,

P. A. Broad.

[I should like the students at the front to know how we welcome letters from them. It is our only method of hearing of the doings of many of the wandering sons of V.U.C. The more you write the better pleased we are, and you can give us much advice and as many suggestions as you like. We need it and them.—Ed.]