I was up soon after dawn on the 29th, for our ambulance was to fetch us to the Quai at 7.45. We woke to a heavy snow-storm and a keen wind. The St. Andrew was being loaded up as hard as they could go. Stretcher after stretcher was carried from the train on to the boat by German prisoners…gently lifted on the lift which carried them smoothly and quickly to the deck below. This was the point I wanted to photograph. It was so dark I had to do it by flashlight…in the darkness it was hard to find anything to focus. When all was ready I called to them to stop the lift for ten seconds. The flash was slow to fire, and Major Kendall looked down the shaft and roared to the orderlies not to stop for anything, which meant me. However the flash went off, and so did I.
“I photographed the matron going round giving out cigarettes,” was Major Kendall’s parting shot; “You couldn’t do that.”
“No,” I meekly replied, “I only supplement.”
But he did not look so ferocious as he wanted to do, and I could not help laughing in his face.
[Back at Hotel Christol] I had the historic Post Office to do there by flashlight, and an Australian Commandant, Miss Fletcher.
Lady Norman looked in and said good-bye, for she was off by the 11 o’clock boat, whilst I had plenty to do until the sailing of the 5pm. We all felt very regretful that our interesting trip was over, although going at the pace we had done, I doubt whether we could have held out very much longer.
[That afternoon] the sun was shining and the morning’s storm was forgotten, so we had a delightful climb through the old town. The market place was full of flowers and buyers, and a very pretty sight… I got a lovely basket of mimosa and anemones to take home, as well as some camembert cheeses in boxes.
By the time we got to the quai the demobilized Army Sisters had already gone onto the boat, but I much preferred taking them there, and got a very pretty group arranged, with some of them sitting on a stairway.
This was my very last large plate, a fitting finish to the extraordinary varied set I had taken during this most eventful month, comprising surely of every kind of British worker who had set foot in France during this historic four years. Jolly, sporting, happy girls most of them were, though many of the older, however, bore marks of long and strenuous labour; but aged and tired as some of them undoubtedly were, I doubt if one of them would have foregone the privilege of working and toiling as they had done, and backing up “the boys” as they so splendidly had done.
So, we’ve reached the end at last. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these extracts from Edis’ journal as much as I have enjoyed choosing them. They are of course just short snippets of the full account, but I hope they give some idea of the character of the incredible Miss Edis.
I’m taking a short break from blogging now (I feel like I’ve just lived a month-long tour of Europe myself!), but I’ll be back soon to share more about her inspirational life and work. As always, comments, questions, suggestions are very welcome! Use the comment function on each post, or get in touch directly.
If you’ve just joined us, you can experience Edis’ tour of war-torn Europe from the very beginning by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the list. The entries were posted in date order so you’ll be working backwards from 2nd March.