22nd May 1916 Monday

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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.”


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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