Friday, 10 March 2017

A Very British Romance, part 12: Treatments

More from Connie by Margaret...
St Peter's Anglicn Church, Chateau D'Oex, by Andi G (public)
St Peter's Anglicn Church, Chateau D'Oex, by Andi G (public)
‘March 9. 1917. 12.30am, in bed’ Connie is replying to a letter she has received from her mother with all its home news, 'which is very very welcome. Angus chaffs me, when I am quiet, that I am homesick, I often think of you both.'

Miss Selby spent a day with them, she was doing exquisite crochet work, but Connie has been busy too, preparing for a concert. 'Lately we have had no time for anything but making our stage hangings. The sewing machine which we borrowed from Madame Haldi has gone wrong, so we are having everything to do by hand.' Angus is spending his time between the joiner's shop and the electric wires... rigging up footlights, and a spotlight with different colours. 'It is going to be a great show, I assure you. I will send a programme later on.'

I hope she kept the programme, and the cushion with the Durham Light Infantry crest, along with that first little silver cup.

The concert is planned for a fortnight's time and they are practising hard every night after dinner from 9pm to 11pm. Then they make a cup of tea in their salon, on the electric ring.

The previous day they were all asked to an organ dedication and recital, at the Reverend Lampen's (Anglican) church (Miss Selby's uncle). Afterwards, there was a reception at the Hotel Rosa in Chateau d'Oex. They accepted but it was an awful day and never stopped snowing, which Connie found very annoying as they were hoping that, as the snow had about gone off the south slopes, it would let them play tennis soon.

That afternoon Connie donned skis again and went off to the other side of the valley to try her luck with Captain Jackson and Muriel, Ningh Singh (the Indian Officer), and little Bernard, Captain Reynold's son. Connie wrote earlier that she was told after the event that little Bernard had upset his tea in the excitement of Connie's arrival, and his mother chastised him and banished him to his room; there had been a mad scramble to re-lay the table before she arrived.

They left Angus at the local joiner's shop with ‘umpteen’ plans. 'I enjoyed myself immensely, tumbled all over the show, but the snow was very soft on top, the worst of it was it stuck to one's breeks, (I had a skirt on but it is usually round one's neck), but I had two pairs on and my boots are top hole.'

We can all sympathise with Connie; snow does stick in big clumps to woolly mittens, so the clumps on two pairs of breeks must have been very hard to shake off.

Connie goes on to refer to trouble that she has mentioned previously at the local hospital, the Soldanelle. 'Not a Nurse allowed in the place only men orderlies, and not one of them trained men, like the orderlies in the RVI [Newcastle] and yet these men do the dressings. There have been a great many complaints about the place and I believe influential people are working quietly, but there was a bust up between the officers there and the Swiss doctor this week, it is too long a story to tell… but the result is that Mr Shannon, whom I mentioned we had visited in a previous letter, defied all the rules, and although he got leave to go to Montreux from the Authorities before he left Chateau d'Oex it was cancelled, he didn't care, and drove in a sleigh to Rossiniere so that they would not catch him getting into the train at the station, he took the train to Montreux from here. It was a mad thing to do, but he is a hot headed Irishman and also I believe his nerves were strung up to such a pitch he didn't know quite what the consequences would be likely to be. We are all now waiting to hear, I do hope it is nothing drastic such as being sent back to Germany. He was going to Montreux to get other advice about his leg, the wound is still unhealed.'
Hotel Soldanelle, Chateau D’Oex, being used as a hospital for internees, from the commemoration website of St. Peter's church, Château d'Oex
Hotel Soldanelle, Chateau D’Oex, being used as a hospital for internees, from the commemoration website of St. Peter's church, Château d'Oex

The trouble the men are experiencing with the Swiss Doctor in Chateau d'Oex is being investigated by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Philip Picot and his findings are detailed in his report. The Soldanelle was not initially set up to perform operations; a local emergency operation prompted an operating theatre to be set up and funded by the British Legation of the Red Cross Organisation. It was called the 'Kitchener Theatre.' The Swiss doctors had been instructed to delay operating for a few weeks until the new regime of food and fresh air etc. had had a beneficial effect. The British were naturally impatient to begin their treatment, they felt the delay was due to neglect and consequently lost faith in the Swiss doctor.

However, operations performed too soon on French internees had resulted in fatalities caused by 'recrudescent purulent outbreaks'. Lieutenant Colonel Picot requested that a highly regarded British doctor should be sent out from home to investigate and report his findings. Colonel Robert Jones, Military Inspector of Orthopaedics in Edinburgh arrived to evaluate the medical arrangements. He was favourably impressed with the treatment the men were receiving, and he and Picot were able to reassure the men. However, Picot did have a quiet word with Colonel Hauser to suggest that perhaps the rules were being applied at Soldanelle with a little too much rigour, considering the ordeal the men had been through and the ragged state of their nerves. Their condition was far worse than the Swiss Army patients the doctors were used to treating and therefore the same rigid rules should not be applied.

Picot points out that the Swiss doctors thought the statistics were a good measure of the efficacy of their methods; out of a total of 2000 British internees treated there were only 14 fatalities and they were mainly caused by tuberculosis, pneumonia or accidents. The marked improvement in the condition of the first contingent of Internees when paraded with the new arrivals was also used as a measure of the efficacy of their treatment by the Swiss doctors.

Connie has to stop writing and go to sleep, as it is one o'clock. 'Heaps of love and kisses to Dad and you. Today has been a meatless day, I always feel more stodged on these days, we seem to get so much of "filling" stuffs.'

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