The Royal Visit
"The fact that the King and Queen were coming to see us was kept very quiet indeed and it was only at the last moment, when all the preparations had been made for their reception, that we were let into the secret. We were overjoyed at the prospect of seeing the King and Queen. We gave three hearty cheers when we saw the Royal Party entering the hospital.
They were first shown over the wards where they halted before the cots of some of our chums who are unable to move hand or foot. With each man their Majesties talked, and their behaviour was so informal that everybody felt quite at home. They showed a real sincere sympathy with each of us. They heard many stories of deeds which have never been reported in newspapers, and the King, especially, was amazed at some of the tales told him. I saw the Queen with tears in her eyes as she looked at one poor figure, a sailor chap, hardly twenty years of age, without hands or feet, and completely paralysed.
We were marched in single file through the long hall and now and then the King would cry a halt and speak to one of us. It was when we had finished a ‘run’ that His Majesty spoke to me. “How do you feel, my good man ?” he asked. "Very well, Your Majesty", I answered. Then he inquired when and how I came to lose my arms. When I had finished my story the King said, “I am very sorry for you. Be assured of my deep sympathy." His Majesty then said good-bye.
After this the King and Queen saw us doing a little work, and went through the various workshops. He stopped at the billiard room for a long time and joked with the players, marvelling at their skill in being able to pot the red with a dummy right hand.
When the time came for the King and Queen to leave the hospital we were all very sorry, and some of us couldn’t help crying a little. I shall never forget that visit and, as long as I live, I shall treasure the handshake of the King.
I don’t know that I am different from any of the other lads. We have all been well 'through the hoop’ as they say in Shelltown. It was in the vicinity of Ypres that I got my first wound, and I shall never forget the moment when we made our attack against a great force of Germans. The Princess Pats (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) were only a handful yet we gave them a rare hiding although we had a large number of casualties. They came down on us like so many bees and there seemed no end to the long line of grey.
When it came to bayonet work we were too smart for them. It is an old story how the Germans dislike the steel and they certainly did not relish the bayonet work of the Pats. We ploughed through them and for every Canadian who went down at least three or four Germans fell afterwards. They made the usual cries for “Mercy Kamarada", but we didn’t take any notice of them for they didn’t spare our boys. We went at them shouting "Remember Canada". That was the only battle cry we had. I got a slight wound from a Lieutenant’s bayonet in my left thigh, but I paid him back with a revolver shot.
The next attack in which I took part was more like an inferno than a battlefield. Both sides sustained tremendous losses but our machine guns did some terrible work amongst the enemy. There was any amount of hand to hand fighting, and it was not an unusual thing to see a British Tommy tackle five and six Germans single handed. It didn’t always come off but, as a rule, at least three Germans went under before the Tommy gave in.
The night I lost my arms and leg the artillery had been going all day long. It was a grueling experience and my nerves were practically shattered. In fact I didn’t know what I was doing. We were paving the way for a surprise move when suddenly a huge shell exploded in my trench. I saw my pals blown asunder. But it was my turn next. Another shell came thundering along and we thought we could dodge it, but we were not quick enough.
That’s the story of my little bit in the war. I feel fairly well now and can get about as if nothing was wrong. There is, of course, occasional pain, but the worst is over. I am able to do most things for myself, though it is not easy to use a knife and fork at the table. Still, I get on all right."
Postcard is a group photograph showing the matron and nurses on the steps of the Queen Mary's Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital, Roehampton during WW1.
It is because of the suffering of those in the World Wars that has forced us and other countries to develop prosthetics and treatments which improves the lives of those effected by the loss of limb. Those in 1915 were pioneers.
After a lady called Mary Eleanor Gwynne Holford visited a military hospital during the early part of WW1, and met amputees, she said she would "work for one object, and that is to start a hospital whereby all those who had the misfortune to lose a limb in this terrible war could be fitted with the most perfect artificial limbs human science could devise.” Less than 6 months later in June 1915, with Queen Mary as patron, she founded the 200 bed Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton and they opened their doors to the first 25 patients.
The reputation of the hospital grew and it quickly became known as one of the world’s leading limb fitting and amputee rehabilitation centres. It provided not only treatment but also provided training opportunities to patients which could improve their employment prospects.
Three years later there were 900 beds and a waiting list of over 4,000.