Feeding the Wounded

Autumn Term 1914

In our desire to help our wounded soldiers, our thoughts, most naturally, turn to nursing; but there are many other ways in which their sufferings may be eased by those on the spot. The wounded have to undergo many hardships in their transit from the fighting line to the base; many hours must often elapse before they can be picked up; then comes the hasty dressing at the field hospital and their removal to the Red Cross train. This train has accommodation for five hundred wounded, and has to wait in a siding till that number is complete, the earlier arrivals thus having a long and weary wait before the train leaves. These trains are not allowed to travel more than two miles an hour, so that many, many hours are spent amidst much discomfort before the base is finally reached.

During the whole of this period the wounded men are entirely dependent on the kindness of the people at the various stations for any food or drink they may get. The effect of this lack of necessary nourishment on men already weak and exhausted, and frequently enduring the most terrible agony, can well be imagined. The kind-hearted French people do their best for them, but what can private individuals do when frequently thousands pass through in the day? The value of a hot and nourishing drink to these men on their painful journey cannot be overestimated, both from its point of view of saving life and alleviating suffering. The Red Cross, though admitting the necessity of some such organisation, are unable to undertake it. Whatever could be done in this direction would have to be organised privately, though with official recognition. Having seen all this, my cousin, Alice Workman (St. Margaret’s), and her sister, determined to undertake this most necessary work. Another cousin gave them a motor kitchen, so that they could travel quickly from place to place. Amongst friends they quickly collected several hundred pounds, and they were able to make arrangements whereby they could give the men hot soup, cocoa, milk, and bread and butter at the various stopping places. It costs about £6 to feed a train-load of 500 men, and the kitchen is now in full working order, travelling between Rouen and a few miles of the Front.

Isabel Newson, St. Margaret’s.