Monthly Archives: May 2016

28th May 1916 Sunday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

As May was coming to a close fighting had intensified and the hospital was kept busy, especially during the night. Sunday morning came with a stroll through the town.

“On Sunday 28th May I witnessed a very pretty sight. A procession of children to church. The little girls were clad in white and the boys wore bowler hats and carried white wands. It was their first communion.

A German Aeroplane flew over during the progress of the procession through the main street and a ‘dud’ anti-aircraft shell (British) fell into a field close to the church. The excitement was terrific. The children and their admiring parents and friends scattered in panic. It was pitiful to see them and many of the little girls were knocked down and their pretty dresses ruined. Order was soon restored and there were many laughs amongst the scared Frenchmen at the fright they had got.

One day one of the captive balloons (sausages) broke loose and drifted over our heads and away over the Bosche lines. The two occupants jumped out with parachutes and we were very relieved to see them land safely and unhurt”.

captive balloon

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26th May 1916 Friday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

After reporting for duty on his arrival in France back in December, it was Colonel Morgan who took Douglas in his car to meet his new colleagues in the 130th (St.John) Field Ambulance. Now though word spread quickly throughout the local units that Douglas had been denied compassionate leave to attend his father’s funeral. Colonel Morgan must have had his reasons for such an apparently heartless decision, but resentment grew amongst the men. Douglas received this letter of support from D’arcy Edwardes the son of the theatre impresario George Edwardes, famous at that time for his production of musical comedies.

D’arcy Edwardes was a regular soldier who had enlisted in 1907. He was promoted to Major towards the end of 1915 and so it is interesting that he doesn’t understand Colonel Morgan’s decision. Although he was a senior officer when signing off the letter he doesn’t add the prefix Major, indicating that he regarded Douglas as a friend. Sadly D’arcy Edwardes met his own end at Memetz on the Somme a few weeks later on 10th July 1916.

A letter of support from D'arcy Edwards

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Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

24th May 1916 Wednesday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Telegram saying father is dying

“On Wednesday 24th May I got a telegram to say that my father had died on the 22nd. It was a great shock to me. Everybody was most sympathetic. I immediately applied for leave to go home, but it was refused by Colonel Morgan, the A.D.M.S. and no reason was given. I asked to be allowed to appeal personally to the General commanding the division, but wasn’t allowed to see him. It was a nasty blow. I could have been allowed home for a day or two quite easily as there was no ‘push’ going on and there were any number of medical officers with little or nothing to do. Feeling ran high amongst all ranks on this incident and Colonel Morgan wasn’t at all popular. Lieut. Elliot, the wild Irishman, was a good friend to me and did his utmost to cheer me up, taking me to tea at Estaires and then on to Hazebrouck in his friend Croker’s car. We dined excellently at the Hotel des Trois Chevaux.”

Father dead

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Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

22nd May 1916 Monday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

As May passed, Douglas had a rather peaceful time of it although he was kept busy with less terrifying events than he had seen in the recent past.

“I had a trip to Hazebrouck 12 miles distant, one day in an ambulance with a French girl who had a tubercular wrist. We went via Merville and it was a delightful run on a fine, sunny day. It was very pretty in the Foret de Nieppe. Hazebrouck was a fine clean town, with a fine large square and town hall. The civil hospital was in a monastery and the ward I took the little patient to was full of French people. I met the French doctor and countess who were both very gracious. I had a walk around the town and made a few purchases. There were a lot of New Zealanders, Australians and Indian Cavalry about.”

Combat de coq

“One Sunday afternoon Capt. Anderson and I walked into Estaires to see a cock-fight. It was held in the back yard of the Hotel de Ville and admission was 3 francs. There was a big crowd present, consisting of French civilians and British officers, including many staff officers. The cocks fought in a railed and raised platform in the centre of the yard. We saw five fights. Each cock had a long steel spur fixed on to its legs. It was a cruel sport and didn’t raise any enthusiasm except amongst the Frenchmen who laid bets freely.”

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Cock fighting has been popular all over the world particularly in Central Asia since at least 524 BC but gradually the appetite for blood sports has slowly decreased. Now banned in many countries it is also a crime these days in France, with some exceptions. In some regions where it is held to be an important tradition cock fighting is still permitted.  Nord Pay de Calais region, where Douglas and Capt. Anderson witnessed the event is today one of the last areas that can hold the sport legally. In the present day there are 12 “gallodromes” that host regular contests where locals and enthusiasts from across the nearby border with Belgium, where it is outlawed, attend the contests. Specially bred cocks known as “Comabattant de Nord” are reared in the area for the purpose.

Cockfighting was banned in England in 1835, but survived another 60 years in Scotland until 1895 when Douglas was one year old.

“On May 22nd I gave a demonstration with six men of the new Rogers trench stretcher before General Pike, a high (ranking) French officer and other staff officers. General Pike was greatly pleased and thanked us profusely. The Frenchie was also highly delighted and took one of the new stretchers away with him!”

Stretcher bearer Trench stretcher

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Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

4th May 1916 Thursday

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

Douglas was pleased to be allowed a little relief as his unit was relieved from the front line and they moved back to relative safety.

“I found La Gorgue to be quite a pleasant little town with good houses and clean streets. It was untouched by shell fire and crowded with civilians. It was fine to be billeted in such a spot after dug-outs and unfurnished ruined houses for so long. My billet was in a lovely, well furnished and airy room above a boot shop, the best billet I’ve had in France. Our hospital was in a large building and we had accommodation for over a hundred patients.

I saw my first Zeppelin on May 4th when one passed over us at night and dropped a bomb close to us. It didn’t do any harm.”

Laventie Trench Map (courtesy of http://130thstjohnfieldambulance.co.uk )

Laventie Trench Map (courtesy of http://130thstjohnfieldambulance.co.uk )

Are you a new reader?

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

 The author of this blog Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.

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