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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Researching the #2 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Le Touquet France

I'm pacing. I don't like this. It's been a few weeks since Charley's last letter.  I can only imagine how his family must have felt in 1915.

In more than a few of Charley's letters he remarks to his Mother that they must not be getting a lot of his letters, and his mail too seems to go missing or to come in bundles all at once. He speaks of writing at least twice a week. I'm quite certain that the 88 letters I inherited are not the complete collection.  Perhaps other letters exist somewhere in a distant cousins attic and perhaps not. Regardless, I treasure this collection of letters and I am humbled to find myself with them 100 years on.   

It'll be another full week till we hear from Charley again. In the meantime; as of February 1915, Charley's hospital (The #2 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Le Touquet, France) is fully operational.  

I was excited to find this sketch by Cristina Casali, the production designer for the BBC production of The Crimson Field. The show lasted only one season much to the chagrin of many viewers and tells the story of a WW1 Army Hospital in France. The total of six one-hour episodes can be ordered on DVD so I think I will have to do that. For the time being, Ms Casali's lovely sketch is my screen saver. 


I just finished a book that dropped me smack dab into the middle of Charley's life. It was a disturbing and heartbreaking read and a fascinating glimpse into Charley's world.  The author describes his tale as "thinly coated with the sugar of fiction". 

The  fellow who wrote it worked in Charley's hospital and the whole scene was the subject of his book.  

Of course I hungrily looked for some mention of Charley within the pages and although I did not find him, I learned about the people he spent those years with, the conditions under which they lived, and I understand much better what Charley's days must have been like.


The book is titled " The First Canadians in France, The Chronicle of a Military Hospital in the War Zone . By F. McKelvey Bell.  Copyright 1917 
I found this mention of Major Bell in the official War Diary of the #2 Stationary Hospital. 


His book can be found here and freely downloaded.   

In his dedication the author writes:
"The efficient fulfillment of onerous duties by all, have given to the Canadian Medical Service a status second to none in the Empire: The sick and wounded soldier has been made to feel that a Military Hospital may be not only a highly scientific institution—but a Home."
and in his preface the Major writes:
"In glancing through these pages, now that they are written, I realize that insufficient stress has been laid upon the heroism and self-sacrifice of the non-commissioned officers and men of the Army Medical Corps—the boys who, in the dull monotony of hospital life, denied the exhilaration and stimulus of the firing line, are, alas, too often forgotten. All honour to them that in spite of this handicap they give of their best, and give it whole-heartedly to their stricken comrades."

I believe Charley falls in this latter category.  In my research it is not difficult to find a good deal of information about nurses and doctors, stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers and front line medics who served in WW1 but I have yet to find almost any mention of a pharmacist or medical dispenser save for 'my Charley' and his letters. 

Charley's next letter home is written on the 14th of February 1915.