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0105_001E A Yankee in the Trenches R. Derby Holmes

Bits Of Blighty

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The Sister in charge of my ward, Miss Malin, is one of the finest women I have met. I owe it to her care and skill that I still have my good right arm. She has since married and the lucky man has one of the best of wives. Miss Malin advised me right at the beginning not to submit to an amputation.

My next few weeks were pretty awful. I was in constant pain, and after the old arm began to come around under Miss Malin's treatment one of the doctors discovered that my left hand was queer. It had been somewhat swollen, but not really bad. The doctor insisted upon an X-ray and found a bit of shrapnel imbedded. He was all for an operation. Operations seemed to be the long suit of most of those doctors. I imagine they couldn't resist the temptation to get some practice with so much cheap material all about. I consented this time, and went down for the pictures on Lord Mayor's Day. Going to the pictures is Tommy's expression for undergoing an anesthetic.

I was under ether two hours and a half, and when I came out of it the left hand was all to the bad and has been ever since. There followed weeks of agonizing massage treatments. Between treatments though, I had it cushy.

My friends were very good to me, and several Americans entertained me a good deal. I had a permanent walking-out pass good from nine in the morning until nine at night. I saw almost every show in the city, and heard a special performance of the Messiah at Westminster Abbey. Also I enjoyed a good deal of restaurant life.

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London is good to the wounded men. There is entertainment for all of them. A good many of these slightly wounded complain because they cannot get anything to drink, but undoubtedly it is the best thing for them. It is against the law to serve men in the blue uniform of the wounded. Men in khaki can buy all the liquor they want, the public houses being open from noon to two-thirty and from six P.M. to nine-thirty. Treating is not allowed. Altogether it works out very well and there is little drunkenness among the soldiers.

I eventually brought up in a Convalescent Hospital in Brentford, Middlesex, and was there for three weeks. At the end of that time I was placed in category C 3.

The system of marking the men in England is by categories, A, B, and C. A 1, 2, and 3 are for active service. A 4 is for the under-aged. B categories are for base service, and C is for home service. C 3 was for clerical duty, and as I was not likely to become efficient again as a soldier, it looked like some kind of bookkeeping for me for the duration of the war.

Unless one is all shot to pieces, literally with something gone, it is hard to get a discharge from the British army. Back in the early days of 1915, a leg off was about the only thing that would produce a discharge.

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A Yankee in the Trenches
R. Derby Holmes

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