An army hospital somewhere on the front

Sandy Vasko

    One hundred years ago the world was truly at war. The center of it all was in a faraway place that most would be lucky to find on a map, much less have seen.
    One young Wilmington man, Ronald Jardine, had enlisted early and found himself in the medical corps on his way to England for training. His letter home gives us a firsthand look at the “war to end all wars.”
    Set the wayback machine for June, 1917. Place? “Somewhere in France” - Wednesday, June 13, 1917.
    Dear Mother:
    Finished training and left for France Sunday night. Went through London. Were not allowed to leave the station though. Started across the English Channel Monday afternoon. We were well convoyed. No danger at all. We came into the hospital camp, were we are to be located, last evening. Our nurses and doctors were here ahead of us. The camp is a very large one. Our duties have not started as yet. We are not arranged as yet.
    After we had our tea last evening, the major brought out the first mail and I wish you could have seen the 150 stampede for their letters. Just like a bunch of hungry cattle. Every letter looked like a $5 gold piece. I got your letter and one from Bernice Strong, one she had sent to Evanston to bid me good-bye.
    I was craving for a letter and read both greedily. I got two more this morning; one from George and one from Miss McElin. She knew one of those two nurses. George said nothing about leaving in the service, but expressed his desire to get into a base hospital.
    That surely would be a fine thing for him, if he had to go. This place is very pleasant and I am sure I'll feel at home. There are four of us in one tent. The four of us that stayed at 730 Emerson managed to get together. We'll feel rather natural.
    Well, I have seen all sorts of British soldiers in different places. Have seen English, Welsh, Irish, Scotch (in their kilties) Canadians, Australians, Jamaicans, New Zealanders. Have talked with representatives of most all of them. The Scotchmen and their kilties surely amused me. They look as if they might freeze their legs in the winter time but they say they don't.
    A fife and drum corps marched us through the streets of a French town the other day to the popular American tune, “Are you from Dixie?” Quite a distinction, isn't it?
    My college roommate and I are sitting upon a hillside writing letters. Have been having fine food so far. Have had good old genuine black tea G.O.G., Scotch marmalade nearly every meal. Have a cot to sleep on and plenty of blankets. Have a floor in the tent, too.
    Well, I guess that's all this time. Be sure and write often, for I have told you what letters look like over here.
With much love,
    June 14, 1917
    Didn't get to send the letter. Am adding a little. We mail them ourselves so that they may be censored, I guess.
    Had a letter from Nell. She mailed it May 24. Takes a long time, doesn't it? Have been assigned to a hospital ward, and like the work fine so far. The hours are from 6 until breakfast, then 1 until 5 one afternoon and 5 to 8 the next. There is another fellow that alternates with me.
    Once a week I get the whole day off. Once a week the whole day on - of course have 3/4 hour for meals. The hospital has been going for a long time and is fully equipped. We are just stepping in to relieve the others.
    Only English-speaking patients are brought here. The English nurses and privates are staying a couple of days to show us where everything belongs and how everything goes.
    Am very glad I got into this work. It may be sickening at times, but I'll get used to it. Saw a X-ray taken tonight.
Private R. Jardine
Base Hospital No. 12
Army Postoffice, Section 18
British Expeditionary Forces