Dollie [sister-in-law] and Bettie arrived Friday night from Havre; it was very nice to see them. The Prince de Mahé drove me up in his car to meet them and we drove them to the Hotel de France where I left them. To-day they did some of the Churches in the morning.
It is easy enough to live cheaply in the trenches, but on the Lines of Communication life is very dear and prices rise.
A very cold night and a very hard frost – un-heated railway carriages concentrate cold and are really colder than the air outside. Lunch in the town. Left at 5.30 as a passenger to Rouen, Ward taking the trains – 12 nurses in my carriage. Nice nurses, very amiable, had only tea to give them. Arrived Darnétal 8 a.m. Havre 9 a.m.
Arrived Chocques at 8.30 a.m. After being up all night getting people on and off at Aire, Arques, Berguette, and Lillers. Right in the thick of war again, the Germans are shelling Béthune just alongside and the guns are thundering. We have had to get our wounded out from there and the station is full of woe-begone looking fellows on stretchers. Aeroplanes, our own and the French, buzzing busily over head, Motor cars, ambulance wagons, and Supply Lorries tearing about – quite like old times. The Germans are pushing us hard here and have caught us napping, taking a lot of our trenches, most of which, but not all, we have retaken. Brought up Capt. Pearson, an English American for Maxim-gun officer, 2nd Battn K.R.R. a good fellow – in business – tells us he knows he will be killed, has made up his mind to it, but quite cheery. Also a wounded Black Watch officer, retiring after a bullet in his head – Captain Redie. Went into Béthune – the people have plenty of sang-froid, the very café that was shelled was filled with people and the town seemed quite natural bar broken glass in the streets – A beautiful old Church – good stained glass – not old. Left Chocque and reached Boulogne 10.45 p.m.
Arrived Serqueux about 11 p.m. nothing doing. Abbeville 4.10 a.m. cold, but fine night and blue sky, had some difficulty getting men off, the train daren’t wait long, and they sleep like corpses. Arrived Boulogne 7.30 a.m., snowing hard – I have a heap of officers and men as passengers and 25 trucks of ammunition and supplies. Had to stay all day in Boulogne at the Bassin Loubet, took a long walk out to the very end of the big breakwater, which is right out to sea. I saw the French passenger steamer which the German submarine torpedoed – sunk in harbour, but on sand and quite repairable. Saw the Channel boat leaving and it caused me no extra heart-beats because Daisie is this side of the Channel, and that’s all I care about. These trips are very expensive. I have to pay for any food and guests, meanwhile I pay for my food and lodging at Rouen all the time, for Daisie’s food and lodging at Havre (she certainly is not extravagant) for Leo at school, Galfrid at Ridley House – then interest on debts, premiums on policies – Thank goodness my pay just now is liberal enough to cover it all. The stores accumulated here at Boulogne, are enormous and if the Germans did push us back we should have to destroy them. Our Naval Victory yesterday sinking of the Blucher, was grand. I expect the Germans will try something tremendous to-morrow, because it is the Kaiser’s birthday. it may never snow enough to need them, but I see heaps of steam snow-ploughs and bob-sleighs – foresight.
I hear Kitchener has given an order that all wives are to leave France whether employed or not. Taking a train up the line to see how things are working. I took the busiest train of course. Ramassage [collection, or pick-up] B. left Rouen 7.45 p.m. Lt. Col. Carter R.A. and Lt. Col. Stewart R.A. (Ordnance) as passengers. I took the Prince de Mahé’s carriage and gave him a rest looking after my office.
The family seemed so keen about the theatre that I am taking them both to-morrow to see L’Aigle. The War Office will not give me the number of men I want for my Corps d’Elite, the Train Conducting Officers – I want at least 40 more. The work is hard and after 5 months of it they are going sick one by one. Time bustles along anyway and some day the war will be a thing of the past. The Zeppelins were over England on Thursday and their efforts were quite futile. Trouble with the War Office they cannot understand who on earth T.C.O.’s are nor who on earth I, the O.C. T.C.O. [Officer Commanding, Train Conducting Officers] can be. I have been very cross about it, but now I see the War Office are right. I invented the whole thing and my own importance, and step by step have had myself recognised – it now remains to make the War Office understand the importance of myself and my Corps d’Elite. In the first place we were “Interpreters”, then we were put on supply trains and called Railway Conductor Officers, I did not like this stupid term and moreover the abbreviation R.C.O. was too much like R.T.O., Railway Transport Officer, so in all correspondence I invented the good term T.C.O. which gradually became known and adopted out here, then I got our badge made T.C.O. which fixed it and then, being in charge of all these officers, I called myself O.C., T.C.O. and there you are, but no wonder the War Office wonder who on earth we are. I think the Director of Railways ought to regularize us by explaining to the W.O. However I am pleased and feel important, I shall feel more so when I get the War Office recognition. Our sphere is humble, but it is something new in Military Organisation in the world’s greatest War.
Daisie left by the 7.17 p.m. train which was one hour late and I was rather anxious about her arriving so late in Havre with new people.