31st July 1916 to 5th August 1916
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“We entrained at Doullens at 6.20pm and reached Poperinghe in Belgium at 1.30am on July 31st. It was a tedious journey. After detraining we marched about 8 miles out of Belgium into France to a little village named Houtkerque – a pretty little place, where I established a Medical Inspection Room in a deserted butcher’s shop.
Here we rested for a couple of days, and then trekked five miles to a hut encampment in a wood near Poperinghe – quite a pleasant spot. We had four days of rest here, but I was kept busy attending to the health of the troops – baths, foot inspection, inoculations etc, – and the camp sanitation.
Poperinghe – 4 miles distant – I visited one day. It was quite a large-sized town, but damaged a good deal by shell-fire. The shops weren’t very good. Dinner at “Skindles” was very good, however.
The Divisional Baths were very meagre, and were erected by the Guards Division. The Prince of Wales had a bath there only a week ago.”
Poperinghe as it was spelt during WW1 is now Poperinge, but in those terrible years it was called “The last stop before Hell”. Although Poperinghe was never in German hands it was occasionally subject to heavy German shelling, but represented a comparative safe haven to British and allied troops. Today on Gasthuisstraat you can still see the building that during the Great War was a café or club, popular with officers called “Skindles”.
Skindles like so many places on the Western Front was an anglicised nickname given to a local place to make the men feel more at home. It was named after a famous hotel on the bank of the Thames in Maidenhead. To Douglas and his comrades it was to become a regular haunt. Meanwhile the rest of Poperinghe, provided many other places of essential respite like shops, restaurants, cafes or estiminets, cinemas and concert halls and not a few brothels.
Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here