Newfoundland and Labrador In The First World War

Frances Cluett Letter 3


Sunday night

Dear Mother,

It is now about 5 minutes past ten. I have just got into bed and am scribbling this lying down. I wish you could take a peep into my cubicle. I have a candle lit on the chair, and a small oil stove lit to warm water or to wash myself before going to sleep: this oil stove is very small, yet it heats the room splendidly. Almost every-body has one in her cubicle.

VAD Members Serving a Meal, Christmas, 1916
VAD Members Serving a Meal, n.d.
Identified as Sheila, Beth, Evelyn Kaye, Ellinor Dorothy Cordes, Nancy, Ruby, and Ismay.

From the Ruby Ayre Album, p 31. Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections (Coll-322 1.01), QE II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

I usually wash my face and hands at night, so that in the morning I can just show my face to the water. Needless to say, I have very little time for any thing else, as many a time the 7 o'clock breakfast bell rings and I am lying comfortably in bed. You can imagine mother, how I get out with a hop skip and a jump: I dress in ten minutes; but you see I have only twenty minutes for my breakfast; not that, to be punctual, for I am supposed to be on my wards at 7:30 am; my bed has to be made before 7:30 too. I tell you mother, we do not let the grass grow under our feet.

VAD Members at Table, n.d..
VAD Members at Table, n.d.
Identified as Noel Lacy (left) and Margaret Sameson (right).

From the Ruby Ayre Album, p 8. Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections (Coll-322 1.01), QE II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL.

Oh Mother! I am so sleepy in the mornings. When I get home, I shall have to stay in bed until dinner time for a week.

I am still in G3 Ward, kept rather busy, but pushing heavy. You see it is a local ward, therefore the patients are slightly hurt; Convoy patients direct from the front line, of course are exceedingly heavy, such as amputated legs, and arms; gun shot wounds in the head, and all over the body practically: most horrible sights.

I do G3 myself, but of course if Sister Lucas is about, she does the rounds with the M.O. (Medical Officer) but if she chanced to be out to Matrons' office, or 9:30 lunch, it falls to me to go through the ward with him. It is very laughable some times, for the M.O. orders things I never heard of before; so I wonder to myself how in the world am I going to write that down in the Dispensary book: Ah mother, there is a funny side to it sometimes...

... Today we have 21 patients, tomorrow we may be filled. These patients have been up the line previously; but are now no longer fit for front line; so they get work at the base.

These dressing have to be done before I go to my dinner, in addition to the general tidying of the ward, the Diet sheet to fill in, the Diet Book to write, Dispensaries to send for, the Treatment Book with No. of beds, Patients' Temperatures, Diagnosis, Treatments to fill in; the dressing bowls and instruments to be sterilized. I wish you could take a peep in the ward. G3 has no white counter panes: but just the dark brown blankets. Matron says she may give me counterpanes. The canvas is old and dirty. Sometimes the stove smokes abominably...

I have not said anything about poor V- . I got a letter from his mother and R- ; and will answer both shortly. Tell Aunt Sarah I shall do my best for her. Did she get my letter. I used to think that perhaps V- and I would spend our vacation together. I think of him when I see the drafts go up the line, headed by the Officers. I knew when he was sick that he must be more than slightly wounded, as he never once wrote me, otherwise I should have had a very long letter. It was the battle of Cambrai, he was wounded in. All our boys got knocked out. Gas was used a lot. Poor V-'s wound was gassed as well. I cannot for a minute realize that he is dead.

Good Night Mother. From your loving daughter Fannie.

Letter Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives
(Frances Cluett Collection 174), Queen Elizabeth II Library,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland