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  A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

Bits Of Blighty

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Blighty meant life,--life and happiness and physical comfort. What we had left behind over there was death and mutilation and bodily and mental suffering. Up from the depths of hell we came and reached out our hands with pathetic eagerness to the good things that Blighty had for us.

I never saw a finer sight than the faces of those boys, glowing with love, as they strained their eyes for the first sight of the homeland. Those in the bunks below, unable to move, begged those on deck to come down at the first land raise and tell them how it all looked.

A lump swelled in my throat, and I prayed that I might never go back to the trenches. And I prayed, too, that the brave boys still over there might soon be out of it.

We steamed into the harbor of Southampton early in the afternoon. Within an hour all of those that could walk had gone ashore. As we got into the waiting trains the civilian populace cheered. I, like everybody else I suppose, had dreamed often of coming back sometime as a hero and being greeted as a hero. But the cheering, though it came straight from the hearts of a grateful people, seemed, after all, rather hollow. I wanted to get somewhere and rest.

It seemed good to look out of the windows and see the signs printed in English. That made it all seem less like a dream.

I was taken first to the Clearing Hospital at Eastleigh. As we got off the train there the people cheered again, and among the civilians were many wounded men who had just recently come back. They knew how we felt.

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The first thing at the hospital was a real honest-to-God bath. In a tub. With hot water! Heavens, how I wallowed. The orderly helped me and had to drag me out. I'd have stayed in that tub all night if he would have let me.

Out of the tub I had clean things straight through, with a neat blue uniform, and for once was free of the cooties. The old uniform, blood-stained and ragged, went to the baking and disinfecting plant.

That night all of us newly arrived men who could went to the Y.M.C.A. to a concert given in our honor. The chaplain came around and cheered us up and gave us good fags.

Next morning I went around to the M.O. He looked my arm over and calmly said that it would have to come off as gangrene had set in. For a moment I wished that piece of shrapnel had gone through my head. I pictured myself going around with only one arm, and the prospect didn't look good.

However, the doctor dressed the arm with the greatest care and told me I could go to a London hospital as I had asked, for I wanted to be near my people at Southall. These were the friends I had made before leaving Blighty and who had sent me weekly parcels and letters.

I arrived in London on Tuesday and was taken in a big Red Cross motor loaned by Sir Charles Dickerson to the Fulham Hospital in Hammersmith. I was overjoyed, as the hospital was very near Southall, and Mr. and Mrs. Puttee were both there to meet me.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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