Le Dixième Sanitaire - Eric Mason
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Le Dixième Sanitaire
[ My great-uncle wrote this poem during World War I. He was a medical orderly with the British Army. I assume that he was with No. 10 Ambulance Train, which he here calls "Le Dixième Sanitaire". The No. 10 Ambulance Train was presumably first put into action in November 1914 (Ambulance Trains - Scarlet Finders (opens new window)). Eric mentions "November Eighth" in the poem, so it is likely that he joined the train at that time.
Two town or village names are disguised, presumably to satisfy the censor. The first, "Bé — ne", is presumably Béthune. The second, "Ber —", might be Berles, short for Berles-au-Bois. Both are in the Pas-de-Calais region of France.
On 28 January 1915:
"1 CCS [Casualty Clearing Station] at Bethune had been shelled and everyone hurriedly had to retreat to Chocques. All patients were conveyed away in 10 Ambulance Train under fire." War Diary 1915 - Scarlet Finders (opens new window)
If this is the shelling referred to in Eric's poem, perhaps the poem was written in 1915. I have not yet been able to find a reference to bombing near Berles.
The poem is written on fine heavy paper with no visible watermark. There is a water stain blurring the title and the first two lines. I have not adjusted the inconsistent punctuation. The original disguised signature is E. C. N. The parenthesized signature Eric Mason, which may have been added later, is in the same hand and ink. The explanatory underlining of the letters E, c, and n appears slightly different and may have been done later still. ]
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