I was able to go to Etaples early this month to celebrate our belated twentieth anniversary. Natasha is in better spirits though still weak from coughing. When back at the Ministry I was unable to help in her return to England, to the hospital in Brighton. This hospital, for Indian Army officers wounded at Neuve Chapelle and Aubers, also lets her convalesce away from the prying eyes of journalists. The Canadian doctor has been ‘limouged’ to Vancouver Island after a courts martial. The awkward political problem for our military has been resolved – especially the instruction that VAD nurses are forbidden to go into the front line.
Natasha has become a heroine to the Indian soldiers for having gone there. When Rose visited her she was soon made to be very proud of her mother and enjoyed the many compliments showered on both of them. As to Natasha, regaining full health to able to return to the VAD is uncertain. Meantime she is using her experiences of Picardy and Ypres to bring comfort to the men, some who are in the throes of dying from their wounds.
Last Sunday I drove the boys to see their mother. They were greeted enthusiastically by the men, who had been away for months from their own sons. Whereas for England the Channel is a ‘bridge’ that can be crossed in a day, for India the ‘bridge’ is two oceans long and weeks away.
On Gallipoli the British and French forces made advances at Krithia but had to pull back, no gains for large casualties. Later that day when General Gouraud refused to allow further senseless assaults, Hunter-Weston was livid. 17 days later French units did capture the formidable Haricot Redoubt above Keres Dere.
In France it has been a quiet month on the British sector, although the French sustained heavy casualties in Artois and the Argonne. Five million Frenchmen are now bearing arms showing the numbers of soldiers needed to carry their country’s rate of attrition. Steel helmets are being made to lessen head wounds from shells and snipers. A reversion to the technology of the Middle Ages, now defence from fast moving bullets, not swinging axes.
The news from the Eastern Front is still one of Russian retreat and surrender of fortresses. However German advances towards Riga have been halted, a Russian minelayer blocked the Gulf with mines so that enemy ships were unable to support their northern army. Sunk when returning to base only one officer survived with a dozen ratings. The loss of 300 lost seems small against Russia’s overall casualties on land. However British submarines are helping Russia prevent the Baltic becoming a German lake in which to sail their capital ships.
Inevitably our Government has introduced its National Registration Bill – the number of volunteers coming forwards is drying up. Two million to service all of our fronts will not be enough. Better management of this previous resource will ensure our country become a nation properly committed to defeating the Axis Powers.
Our department is planning ahead for the movement of men and materials needed for the proposed autumn offensive.