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Monday 22 April to Sunday 5 May 1918

WEEKS 200-201: RATHER WOBBLY IN THE LEGS

Monday 22 April to Sunday 5 May 1918

The German advance during the Battle of the Lys had been spectacular but it was not the victory it appeared to be. It was plagued by the same logistical problems that had beset the Germans during March by leaving them incapable of resupplying their troops at the crucial time in the battle. In spite of their desperate situation, the British Army mounted a stiff resistance long enough for French reinforcements to arrive. The German Forces, despite suffering another 250,000 casualties, failed to make a tactical breakthrough, and Operation Georgette was called off on 29 April 1918. In the meantime, the conscription crisis gathered momentum in Ireland, where a General Strike and hundreds of protest meetings were held on 23 April. Trains and trams did not run, post was not delivered, and there were no newspapers or even bread in the shops on the day. Thousands of striking workers signed a pledge to resist conscription, while women vowed not to take up positions vacated by men who enlisted or were conscripted. An article published in The Nation on 27 April 1918 declared with a sting of irony that Lloyd George had in a single fortnight made a united Ireland against himself.

Tuesday 23 April

jess__diary_cameoThe doctor came in the morning, & said my throat wasn’t any better, so he said he would have to open it, so he did it then, at once. I thought I was going to be quite alright afterwards, & then I suddenly fainted! After he went I lay on the sofa for a bit, as I felt rather wobbly in the legs! After lunch I lay down upstairs, & then I heard a crash outside, & it was an accident. Two drunken men had run their trap into a coal cart, & the two men had been thrown out, but were only a little cut. Muz, Heppie & Ione went out to them & then two other men came up, but they were all drunk, & they all went home in one cart! I stayed up in my room for the rest of the evening, & Muz brought me up my dinner, & afterwards brushed my hair. She is still sleeping with Heppie.

They were all drunk!

Thursday 25 April

jess__diary_cameoMuz & I went out for a walk in the morning, the first time I had been out since Tuesday. We went & sat in the big field near the house, & it was lovely & warm. We picked nettles to have cooked for the dogs, & got in for lunch, then I lay down for a bit afterwards, & after tea Muz & I went out again, & went up near the sanatorium, & sat on the hill for a bit, in the sun, then it began to thunder, so we came home, & just got in before it began to team with rain. Then I lay down again, & read for a bit. It rained & thundered the rest of the afternoon.

Friday 26 April

jess__diary_cameoMuz’s birthday. Tom & I gave Muz a blue Coalport coffee set for her birthday, & Ione gave her a petticoat bodice she made herself. Dr Ede was to come in the morning, so we waited in, & then Muz had to go & see a sick woman, so he followed us, & caught us up on the road. Muz stayed with the sick woman, till Baker called for her in the trap, & I walked home, & had lunch in the garden, & when Muz came back we drove in to Malvern, it was lovely & hot. We took Wipers with us in the trap. Mrs Reynolds made a cake for Muz’s birthday, & I put some flowers round it! Then Baker drove Muz off to the woman again & he brought back a message, to ask Heppie to go for her at nine, so Heppie went, & then came back here again to tell us Muz wouldn’t be back till late, so Mrs Reynolds went back with Heppie, & they didn’t come to bed till nearly one, I was awake when they came back.

Happy birthday Mus!

Saturday 27 April

jess__diary_cameoDus & I went out after breakfast, & sat in the wood, & I read for a bit. Then the pump was to be cleaned so after lunch we drove to Upton, the others went in to do some shopping & Tom & I got out on the road, & read in a wood, till the others came back, we got back here at about 6-30, & Tom, & I got out at the corner, & they went on & got our clothes, & Tom, Heppie & I drove to Mrs Bayliss’s, as we are going to stay there for the night, we had dinner almost at once, & went to bed at about 9-30, & we had a room to ourselves.

Sunday 28 April

jess__diary_cameoWe walked about Mrs Bayliss’s farm, & saw all the chickens etc: Then Baker drove Muz round, to call for us, & then we went for a drive, round by Upton, & met Lady Ripley on the road! She is nursing at a hospital. I mended most of the afternoon, Ione worked at her trousseau & Tom is making a petticoat bodice. Muz & Heppie went to church.

Advertisement for a trousseau set

Monday 29 April

jess__diary_cameoMrs Reynolds cleaned our bedrooms out, & moved the small bed room to the other sitting room, so Ione is going to sleep there, & I am going to sleep by myself. I wrote letters & Ione sewed all day. Muz wrote letters, & then we wrote again in the afternoon, & then I sewed, & finished off Tom’s petticoat bodices for her. We went to bed at about 9-30. Went for a walk after lunch.

Tuesday 30 April

jess__diary_cameoTom & I went out, & picked cowslips in a field quite close, for her to send to Jack. Then I did some mending. After lunch Muz & I walked across the fields, to Bakers, & I sat outside until she came out. It was quite hot all day. My throat seems a wee bit better today, for the first time, but the swelling hasn’t gone down yet. I was rather tired when we got in, & lay down for a wee while, & then read all afternoon. Ione worked at her trousseau. Went to bed at about 9-30. Finished reading “Beatrice of Venice”1 by Max Pemberton.

Friday 3 May

jess__diary_cameoWent for a ride on Tom’s bicycle, & went to the field with the stream, & I watched a thrush collecting worms, for ages, & then had a great search for her nest, & at last, found it, on the other side of the stream, but I didn’t disturb her. It was very hot. After lunch, we all drove in to Malvern we had wired to Nitter to meet us, but she couldn’t! Mike arrives back at school today, but his train doesn’t come in till late, or we were going to wait & see him. Left my bicycle to be mended. Lay down for a bit when we got in, & went to bed soon after dinner. Muz brought me up a banana in cream.

Jess and Nitter

Saturday 4 May

jess__diary_cameoI was feeling rather tired, so didn’t go for a walk. I sat out in the garden, & read all morning. Muz wrote letters, & cooked the dogs’ food. Ione worked at her trousseau, & Tom stayed in bed. Muz wrote after lunch, & I read again. After tea Muz & Heppie walked to see the milkman’s baby, & I cut out a nightcap for Ione, & the pattern, & Tom read.

Letter from Elizabeth Gee, 254 Links Road, Tooting SW 17, to Mrs Armstrong [undated but written at around this time]

“Robert is out of danger”

Dear Mrs Pat

This is a wee note to tell you Robt is out of danger and going on fine: the Drs are more than pleased of course he is extremely weak and in such pain still, but got 5 hours sleep the surgeon said it was the stiffest operation he has ever done – 3 of them were working at him at once – there were 2 large ulcers & it was a wonderful affair I believe – they said Robt must have led a clean healthy life or he would never have stood the shock – he has read all your letters & telegram now & was so pleased – & smiled – for the first time & said isn’t she a brick – always thinking of others – just like Pat, I am just off to see him once more I seem to “live” there but the sisters are so sweet nothing too much trouble & so patient they think he is a wonder. I will write again after I have seen him today & Monday – he should have made great headway by then – he is only given the smallest quantities of whey champagne & Bayer’s food – every two hours – but that’s something – and I have much to be thankful for – especially as he is in such good hands – on the 9th day they take off the bandages & he leaves the surgical ward – & goes upstairs, he is sitting almost upright propped up & tied up – not allowed to lay down yet – well I know you will like to get this, but I must end with kindest regards.

Yours very sincerely

Lizzie Gee


Footnotes

  1. Beatrice of Venice (1904), a romance set in Venice at the time of Napoleon’s Italian campaign by the prolific British adventure and mystery novelist Sir Max Pemberton (1863-1950).

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