Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes, Teheran Hospital Matron
The following is an excerpt from the diary of Matron, Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes, describing the arrival of Polish Refugees in Persia and the situation at the 34th British Commonwealth General Hospital in Teheran
Rumours began to spread that something was likely to happen concerning the Poles and Russians. The Poles were the prisoners of the Russians. The Germans by this time had arrived on Russian territory, and everyone was more or less wondering if the Germans would break through to the Caucasus. If this were to happen, we would be well surrounded and with a poor chance of escape. Then one evening I received a message warning me I might be wanted for a special mission in the west - probably not for some time, but to hold myself ready. Then in less than twenty-four hours I was on my way, complete with my little pal Judy, to join a convoy leaving Basrah at 5am. Transport arrived for me and my kit at 4am. In Basrah, I found hundreds of troops, lorries, ambulances and dispatch riders, also a matron and four nursing sisters. We checked on our water supplies and rations. It was all very exciting, especially with not knowing what it was all about. As it was a secret mission, the large convoy started out dead on time, to get away before the natives started to move about.
Our first call was at Ahwaz, after crossing over eight hundred miles of barren and unoccupied desert in terrific heat and through sandstorms. It was a lonely and dangerous journey. Quite a number of the troops expired en route through heat-stroke, and I wondered if we would make it. Two previous convoys had made this journey with the same results. Our transport for the trip was a canvas-covered ambulance and, arriving at Ahwaz at 6pm almost blind and deaf from sand, mouths and throats full, we could not speak until we had a drink. Feeling tired, dirty and sore with sitting for so long, we called at the military hospital for a wash and a rest. They thought we had dropped from the clouds, they were so surprised to see us! They gave a light meal and, best of all, a good cup of tea. They could not give us a proper meal, the rations being scarce.
Replenishing our water supply and rations from a depot, a train was waiting for us to take us to our destination - Teheran. The railway - a single line - was originally of German construction, to carry goods from the Port of Basra to Russia. We had been allowed two very comfortable carriages, with seats that would pull down to make bunk beds. This journey took forty-eight hours and we arrived at Teheran at ten o'clock in the evening. This railway was a wonderful engineering achievement, going through range after range of mountains and gorges which looked in the moonlight like some gigantic fairyland, in parts glowing and smoking witches' cauldrons formed by the continually burning disused oil wells, through mud villages and crossing the one hundred and sixty miles of Lucistan Desert. Valleys and trees were in full bloom.
This was March 1942. At ten o'clock on the first morning of the journey the climate began to get much colder and this meant diving into our kitbags for warmer clothing. There was a three-hour holdup on the track, a trainload of natives and cattle in front of us having crashed. There are no railway warnings, and the traveller just had to trust the Persian driver who thinks it is good luck on his part if he arrives at his destination safely. We were fortunate in having our driver under the observation of our guard, who took it in turn to travel on the engine. About a mile further on, looking over a high viaduct we could see the remains of an engine and coaches lying smashed.
Arriving in Teheran, it was bitterly cold with snow on the ground and we felt the change after coming from the heat of the desert. Strangers in a new land, with another language to get used to, we were feeling tired and our rations had finished. The people of the city resented us - they were unfriendly, scornful and looked on us with suspicion. They had no idea at this time what was going on or how near they were to being in danger. We were the first military nursing sisters they had seen. We did not know where to go, no instructions having been issued other than to make our way to Teheran. Having arrived unexpectedly, there was no one to meet us. By this time it was nearly midnight, so we sought accommodation for the night at one of the hotels, but they would not take us in. Eventually a patrol dispatch rider came on the scene and he received rather a shock to see us.
This part of Persia was officially out of bounds to the British, though many had tried to spend their leave here. They called it the Paris of the East. It is a gay, rowdy place with its night clubs, drinking palaces and gambling dens, and only seems to awaken at night. The dispatch rider went six miles out of Teheran to inform an Indian Colonel of our predicament. He had been waiting with a Casualty Clearing Station unit in this area for six weeks. They were getting tired of doing nothing and it did not take him long to get troops and transport to us. The Colonel was very surprised and thrilled to see us, and he turned out to be a Pukka Sahib. The officers and personnel of this Indian Army Medical Corps unit were all Indian.
The Germans were at this time shelling Stalingrad and the unit realized that a hospital was about to be formed, but the officers were very worried and kept reiterating they were not equipped for a large scale hospital, also that the unit was in tents on the plain under the Caucasus. Colonel Tandon soon realized that the British sisters were tough and used to active service conditions, so after pleading with him he gave in, and all except the matron and one sister, for whom he found hotel accommodation, proceeded on our journey. He issued orders for sleeping tents to be put up at once though we said we would manage until the morning. The officers got a meal of coffee and sandwiches for us and invited us to share their breakfast in the morning: it was a real Indian breakfast. When our tents had been pitched by a fatigue party, down went our camp beds and we lay down fully dressed as it was too cold to sleep and we had no lights. How glad I was to see daylight breaking! During the night there had been a sandstorm, and in the morning we found there was no water for us to wash with. The surrounding mountains were covered with snow.
The place selected for the tented hospital was called Dosham Tapu, a really salty plain lying under the shadow of the Caucasus. For several days we had to exist on Indian rations with only the tough flat cake called chapatti, these being freshly made each day by the Indian cooks. After breakfast we got busy, I asked the Colonel for more tents to be put up, some old oil tins and charcoal for lighting fires to warm us up, and a cook and servants to look after us. Here the quarter-master came to the rescue and found us bearers from the IAMC unit. By the evening of that day we had got ourselves dug in, even our rations, but as they were all in tins they would do until someone was able to get to the shops. The Indian officers could not get over the way we worked so hard, and said they had seen nothing like it, but they were to know us better in a few days!
The reason why we had been sent "up the line" was that the Russians had decided they could not support the Poles taken prisoner by them in the autumn of 1939, so, by arrangement, the British Government undertook to look after the Poles who numbered somewhere in the region of 120,000. In the spring of 1942, the Germans had advanced well into Russian territory. The prisoners - men, women and children of all ages - had been working as prisoners of war in the north of Archangel, in the west, in parts of Siberia and in most of the intermediate countries. Some, in scattered parties, had worked in mines and forests, also making roads, and some were from concentration camps. These Polish prisoners received rations in varying quantities, according to the work they did. Some had been practically starved, and many beaten if they could not do the work and resulted in either no food or half a slice of black bread. Their drinking water had been obtained from polluted streams or ditches, hence the diseases that hundreds were dying from daily.
The hospital prepared for five hundred patients and we were told they would not arrive for some time. News leaked out that they would be transported to the shores of the Caspian Sea and shipped over at their own responsibility by the Russians to Pahlevi, a Persia port on the south-western shores of the Caspian Sea. At this point the British Government would take over. One big difficulty that our people had to contend with was that although the Russians were most anxious for us to take over the prisoners, they would not tell us how many to expect at a time, when they were likely to arrive, or what condition they were in. Owing to the bad weather it was considered fairly certain that we could not expect them before April 1942. The mountain roads in northern Persian are almost unpassable until late March. Thinking this would give us plenty of time, and with the help of the unit, we started unpacking equipment and putting up beds, preparing necessary drinks, nourishments and rations. All this had to be done by the Indian personnel and though it was new to them they soon got to understand what was wanted. They worked night and day; so did we. By this time a mobile bath unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps had arrived complete with officers and men, also a disinfector - not knowing what to expect, it was better to play safe.
Camel convoys were the chief means of transport in the mountains, which were still covered with snow and with narrow, deep ravines on either side, making the road difficult and dangerous, but the Royal Army Medical Corps units got through to Pahlevi and started to unpack in readiness. Before the day was out, someone looking vaguely through the blizzard spotted three ships approaching - if you could call them ships: they were not fit for the use of human beings or cattle - across the Caspian Sea. The vessels anchored and rapidly disgorged their contents of humanity on the beaches.
What a shock for everyone - this sight would never be forgotten! The smell was too awful to describe. There were thousands of both sexes of all ages, packed like sardines, and they could not lie down or even sit. They were emaciated, being skin and bone only, filthy and lousy, the dead and the dying all mixed up together, sent over without food or drink, no sanitary arrangements, and with the weak trying to hold each other up. They were dressed in bits of old, dirty rags, some almost naked, with no shoes, and crawling with bugs. Practically every disease in medical history was evident there - typhus of the worst type, dysentery, malaria, tuberculosis, frostbite, some with limbs almost dropping off with disease. There were just a handful of the fairly healthy mixed up with the typhus cases. They had received no medical attention, the kiddies' bodies naked but covered with embedded lice under the skin. Tuberculosis was at its worst among the children under four years of age, their little tummies all blown up, limbs and faces all shriveled up and outlining only the bone formation, and they were too ill and weak to cry.
The bath unit and disinfector could not be used for all the cases, many being too ill and the numbers too great to be dealt with. Our chief anxiety was to get them to the hospital at Dosham Tapu for immediate treatment, so we sorted out those able to make the journey. The language question was a drawback at first, having an all Indian staff and the patients Polish and a few Russians, but this was soon overcome, being only a minor detail. Over one thousand were admitted to the hospital on the first day. We had only five hundred beds, so the remainder, as a temporary measure had to lie on folded blankets on the ground. The fatigue party put up more tents where the patients lay. With only four of us to cope with the nursing side, we tried to get some of the not so ill to help with the washing and feeding. At first they refused, for after seeing so many of their compatriots die, they were terrified of catching typhus. This went on for four days and in the end they had to be compelled to help.
We had to work day and night with practically no rest, taking only a hurried meal and, when that was over, getting back to find hundreds more lying about on the ground waiting for attention. An improvised operating theatre was set up under canvas, with two pieces of board on trestles forming the table. Instruments were few, field ambulances equipment only, and these were boiled up in old tins on charcoal first to deal with the cases of gangrene and frostbite. This work was done at night as the numbers arriving during the day was so great and it took time to get them settled.
The hospital now had 1,500 patients desperately ill and dying. More refugees began to come over the frontier, so a camp had to be organized nearby to accommodate them. Often they had to look after themselves. This camp eventually held 250,000, a daily visit being paid by the medical officer to attend to those reporting sick.
This Indian hospital was called the 34th British Commonwealth General Hospital, I was told there was a 500 bedded hospital in the stores at Teheran Station waiting for a British hospital to come up the line if it was necessary, but when Headquarters in Baghdad heard what was happening they realized this hospital to us, HQ then sent several officials over by plane, these including Sir Edward Quinan and Sir Henry Maitland Wilson the C-in-C. At nine o'clock the following evening the Principal Matron in Persia arrived, also a matron from one of the large hospitals in Shaiba. We did not expect them and no preparations had been made for them. I could not stop to welcome or speak to them as there was so much work to do. These ladies immediately donned gowns, masks and gloves, and worked alongside us throughout the night. The matron, who was supposed to be in charge of the hospital, had not been seen and did not know of the arrivals until we went to our mess for a break and well-earned cup of tea at 6am. It was during this break I was able to give details of what had been going on, but we were almost too tired to talk. They remained with us and helped for a week. The Principal Matron sent a signal for immediate reinforcements, and twelve QA Sisters arrived within forty-eight hours.
The authorities were afraid of sending too many along at this time as it was too dangerous, the Germans shelling Stalingrad and expected over the Caspian Sea. The few Sisters sent gave us time for a short break and reorganization of the hospital routine. The mountains surrounding the valley were from 5000ft to 18000ft high and by now it was beginning to get very warm. The brass hats visiting us were amazed at the amount of work being done.
Before the Principle Matron returned to Baghdad she informed me I had to take charge of the Teheran area and camps. This was a terrific undertaking and responsibility which rather took my breath away. I was now Acting Principle Matron with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but I got down to the duties. The previous matron was posted to the Middle East.
Each section of the hospital in the field was made self-contained and adopted its own plan of action, even to the kitchens. This was done to prevent cross infection, which we were able to avoid in spite of difficulties, shortage of water and bad sanitation, which was by means of specially dug pits. Some of the first tents put up were found to be infected with lice, so they had to be disinfected by a special squad and replaced by clean ones. By this time a specially large tent was put up to receive all new admissions, where all heads and bodies had to be shaved before leaving to go to the nursing tents. There was now a shortage of mattresses, so Poles from the camp had to be recruited to stuff bags with straw, these being destroyed when finished with.
Amongst the refugees we found Polish medical officers and some nursing staff from Polish hospitals, and after feeding them up and giving them clothes which had been collected from various people - even the Americans sent hampers over to clothe the women - they were put on duty in the hospital. This was a great beginning and we felt the work was progressing, they being able to speak the same language and looking after their own people. They turned out to be very good workers, several students working as nursing orderlies, and grateful for being given the chance to help. The hospital uniform these people had been put into were white Sepoys suits with slings to cover their hair. A few weeks later more patients began to arrive. More beds had to be made, women and children from the camp helping to make mattresses with straw collected from packing cases. The hospital now had two thousand patients.
I found quite a number of well educated women amongst the campers. They also came along to help in the hospital kitchens, but before these women were able to work, clothes had to be found as they had only dirty rags on. Some of these refugees were fully trained matrons and sisters from Polish hospitals who had been taken as prisoners. Their bodies were covered with welts, scars and cuts, and they had sore feet from tramping many miles. The American Embassy in Teheran gave us wonderful assistance in getting things, as also did the Indian Red Cross. As prisoners, it appeared the higher the class the worse the treatment given. These ladies had been made to clean public lavatories, sweep roads and help the men to cut down trees.
One day I approached some of their medical officers, including Colonel Anders (later General) asking them to give Red Cross lectures, and this was done. They were very keen, the classes ending with over two hundred students. I had some of my RAMC lectures with me and these were interpreted into their own language. On examination they passed out with good marks and eventually they were dressed in khaki and given the same grading and pay as the soldiers. They soon picked up in health after receiving good food and treatment. As the men got discharged from hospital they reorganized a unit and started training again. How they dreaded this time. It was pathetic to see them go because the training was for active service.
I found a matron - a very experienced woman - amongst a batch of refugees. She had been in charge of a large medical training school in Cracow and had remained behind until her hospital had been evacuated. She had also been very badly treated. I took her under my wing as an assistant matron and trained her how to organize and run a field hospital. When the patients started to get their discharges in fairly large numbers, the Polish Government began to open up hospitals of their own in the Middle East. The Polish matron was appointed their matron-in-chief, and the nurses trained at 34th CGH also went.
The removal of the dead was a problem. The Nursing Sepoys would not touch them - it was their religion, and considered unclean. The lower caste Indians called Sweepers had this duty to perform. There were hundreds of dead among the new batches arriving, and due to the climate and diseases, their bodies had to be buried within a few hours. Wild animals prowling around would often carry the bodies away. A large tent was erected to receive the bodies and this was guarded day and night. In the shadow of an 18,000 foot mountain, the Polish refugees dug a large common grave, quite a number having to be buried as unknown. One morning several bodies had been removed from the hospital tents but had not arrived at the special tent. The fact was reported, and on investigation the Sweepers were found in a hollow dug in the sands playing a game of shove-a-penny with the dead bodies lying on the ground beside them. They said they had got tired of doing this sort of work, so, as a punishment, this fatigue soon had another job given them where they had to work very hard.
More QAs and Indian assistant nurses arrived, making the number up to thirty. The Indian Government had sent sisters and nurses over to help. I was fortunate in having the loyalty of all my staff, which included British, Indian and Polish, one hundred and seventy in all, and, through good team work, there was no illness amongst the staff. I think that working and sleeping in open tents kept everyone fit. The staff having been increased, we were able to take proper off-duty time with a clear conscience. This time was spent going into the city for shopping and sightseeing. In the early days the city was out of bounds to British sisters as we had been threatened with death, the Persians accusing us of bringing diseases to Teheran, but as nothing happened they began to realize we would do them no harm and they would benefit by our shopping. The shops were full of wonderful things, but much too expensive for us to buy, though by this time our garments sadly needed replenishing. Stockings could not be bought for less than £5 a pair in Persian money, shoes being £6 to £20. After appealing to HQ in Baghdad, an officers' shop was opened in the town, to where British male and female uniforms were sent by plane. Even our shoes were past repairing.
German paratroopers had been seen coming down, some having been captured in the Caucasus, so in July 1942 British and American troops began to arrive in the north to meet what they thought was going to be a grave situation, The enemy was advancing and was expected to cross the Caspian Sea or come over the mountains. Guns and bombing could be heard in the distance. The authorities thought the work, as far as the Poles were concerned, had finished. So the 34th CG Hospital began to pack up. British and American hospital units began to come up the line. They were very lucky in taking over a half-finished modern German hospital that had every luxury. They were horrified to find that a large Indian hospital was under canvas on the plain and remaining through heavy snows and heat, but I would not change my life for the comfort of bricks. My British staff were redrafted to their own units, but the Indian nurses remained with me.
Refugees were still coming through at the rate of 5,000 a day. By April 6th, 19,000 Poles had been moved, and when the number reached 44,000 we thought the movement had finished. News came through that it was possible a second evacuation would take place later, though by now only a skeleton staff remained.
I was waiting for orders when news came through and within a few days another large Indian hospital was coming up the line with equipment for 1,000 beds (this ended up with 2,000 beds). I had to take charge of this, so up went the tents, this time further into the plain. This was the 18th Indian General Hospital, being for wounded soldiers as well as disease. A few Russians were amongst the soldiers, but they had to be kept separate, being deadly enemies. These men were a pitiful sight, their uniforms filthy rags of all shapes and sizes, covered with lice and bugs, and suffering from gangrenous wounds, more typhus and dysentery, malaria, and emaciated, caked with mud and blood. Luckily this hospital had been sent from India well and fully equipped, this making the work much easier. They also sent me more nursing staff, and I was the only British matron in charge of the Indian hospitals. The British hospitals only looked after their own troops.
Some of the new arrivals had walked across the country from Siberia, many high-ranking officers amongst them. They had been Russian prisoners. They were given no food, but just turned adrift and told to make their own way. The Russians were too busy defending their own lines. Only a few survived the ordeal. Hundreds dying before they reached the frontier, all ranks helping each other along. It was hard to believe they were human beings. A few Polish women joined them on the walk, these women showing their marks of ill-treatment. Most of the females were able to go straight to the camp. I found several pregnant, but arrangements were made for their own women to deal with them.
Just at this time the Duke of Gloucester visited Teheran. A garden party was given in his honour at the British Embassy in Teheran, so that he could meet the officials. I was introduced to him, then I presented some of my nursing staff. He was very interested in the work that had been done under such conditions and was full of appreciation. Mr Wilkie, the American Ambassador, also visited us when on his way to Russia. Mr Winston Churchill's plane also arrived on the runway alongside our hospital, and I thought he looked ill. General Sir Edward Quinan was the Indian Army commander-in-chief for Teheran. Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson was also in the area, and it was he who gave the Indian 10th Army the Elephant as a tag, of which they were very proud. General Wavell also paid us a visit.
The winter season was coming on with snow on the plains many feet thick, being crisp and hard to walk on, and the air was like champagne. A fatigue party had to be detailed to go around periodically to knock the snow off the tents, even those the staff slept in, to prevent the weight from collapsing them. The winds in the Persian hills were bitterly cold. The hospital was now very busy. German troops continued to advance and Stalingrad was invaded. They were pushing down towards the Caucasus, hoping to penetrate to the river Araxes in the North of Persia.
Air squadrons began to arrive. They had to have a long fat space to take off and return. As this space was too near our tents for safety, and they had to be given priority, this meant moving the hospital. So tents and equipment were packed up. The Persian Government gave us the use of grounds and a huge gun factory that was not in use at the time. The machinery for making guns stood in the center of the great building and were railed off for safety. Placing the beds all around the room, it was found that only five hundred patients could be accommodated inside, so tents for another four hundred had to be erected in the open. Though it was getting bitterly cold, the only heat available was from Valor stoves dotted about, Primus stoves being used for sterilizing instruments, etc.
More Indian sisters arrived straight from India to be trained for field work, but some had to be sent back to Shaiba as they could not stand the cold. I had to send a signal to Headquarters asking for warmer clothing for the few that remained, what they had brought with them being unsuitable for the cold climate. The authorities down the line had no idea of the bitter weather in the north. The hardened campaigners were used to it, having already sampled two winters, but we also were given warm lambs-wool coats, headgear and knee-high boots lined with wool. The Indian Red Cross looked after their sisters very well and often sent me parcels of warm under-garments and other articles for their use. They did not forget them at Christmas time either.
Settled in once more, my patients improved sufficiently for quite half their number to be transferred to the camp to be looked after by Polish nurses who had been trained in the hospital. At this stage it was feeding-up that they wanted, and their own cooks gave them the kind of food they were used to. Doing the rounds of inspection in the kitchens, I was amazed at some of the queer concoctions, though it smelt good. And how these poor creatures could eat, even those in the hospital, and at any time they went around at night and found a patient quiet, to have a good look at him in case he had expired.
General Sikorski and General Anders gave a banquet at their new Persian HQ to meet all the high-rankers of their own army. The Colonel and myself were invited as honoured guests. It was a wonderful dinner, all Polish, and what intrigued me most was that they started their courses where we leave off - they ended with soup. This was the first time for me to taste vodka, but was not impressed. After this, a letter in Polish was sent from HQ Evacuation Base, Polish Army in East:-
To Colonel Senior Officer Commanding 18th Indian Hospital, Matron A Hughes and all Doctors and British Sisters working at 18th Ind Hospital for their hard and devoted work saving sick Polish soldiers, for their careful cure and friendly reference, we beg to send our very cordial thanks. "For truth and strictness" Borycki, Colonel.
The Polish Army had been greatly re-formed, having been put into khaki uniform given by the British Government, Even boys of fourteen had to join up as they were needed for further fighting, their one aim being revenge. They certainly appeared very bitter. I met many of their great generals and leaders who were very appreciative of all that had been done for them, and I received many letters from the men and women of Poland.
The British and American hospitals began to get busy dealing with the sick and wounded. Ours were thinning down and we began to pack up once more. The unit was awaiting orders for the next move. One morning, when I too was wondering where our next place would be, I met our Indian Colonel waving his hands over his head and in a terrific flap - they do get very excited when in a fix. The reason was that a ship had been sighted crossing the Caspian Sea. At first it was thought to be an invasion because no one expected any more refugees to come that way as it was too late to escape from Russia unless they tramped over the hills of Turkestan or the Wharf at Krasnovodsk. Already six Germans, including a wireless operator had landed by parachute about seventy miles south of Teheran, three more dropped near Mosul, and three landed in south-west Persia, so the military authorities blocked all frontiers leading into Persia and Iraq with troops. I think that between them they have about eight frontiers.
When the ship had anchored, we saw it was a very small vessel of the type we call a cattle boat. It was very old and one wondered how it made the crossing as it was certainly unseaworthy, but it just made it, though, actually, it was not meant to arrive. The sight of its cargo was again too awful to describe. It was supposed to have aboard one thousand babies from three months to ten years old. There was difficulty in getting to know their ages. The older children could not help us because they were strangers to each other and much too ill and weak to talk. With more than two hundred dead and many more dying, the stench was awful. They were naked and caked with filth, emaciated to skeletons and looked more like very old people. Their eyes could hardly be seen having sunk so far into their sockets. They had blown up tummies, suffering from abdominal tuberculosis, typhus and dysentery. There was no one looking after them on the journey, no food and no one to say when they had last had a feed. They had been in homes and orphanages, belonging to no one, some having been picked up on the streets in Russia where, probably, the parents had been killed. The older children looked at us with fear and terror and it took some time to convince them that we wanted to help them. The OC and his staff were concerned because they were babies and felt it was impossible to do anything for them but when were told they were my responsibility they sighed with relief.
I recruited some kind, motherly women from the camp and a few Polish nurses. There was also a children's hospital matron amongst them. I felt the children would feel more at home with their own people. A large building in the grounds was turned into a suitable place, with mattresses on the floor. They were taken there after they had been cleaned up and given nourishing fluids. Old sheets were collected and torn up to cover their wizened little bodies. I did not think they would survive, but given treatment and good attention from the very kind foster mothers it was amazing how they picked up, and only a few died. Then when the time came to get them up for a little while each day and teach them to walk, the question of clothes was again a problem. Our Red Cross could not help us, and I appealed to the American Red Cross. Through the kind and helpful wife of a British consul, within a few days large hampers arrived with lovely woollies, dresses and shoes, also little baby sets, all hand-knitted, having been flown over from America. All had a good rigout, and I don't think the little mites had ever seen or been clothed in such lovely things. Coats, shawls and bonnets also arrived, and it was a pleasure to see their faces. All the Polish women and nurses had a good cry over such kindness. These women are very good at needlework and they set to to make dresses to fit the older children.
The day arrived when we had to part with five hundred of them. They were sent to India to finish their convalescence and to be safe. The very poor women, to show how grateful they were, made a rag doll dressed in Polish national costume and presented it to me with an apology for not being able to give something more substantial, but I loved this little doll - the gift spoke more than words, it was the thought. I had the children for roughly six weeks, and here is a copy of the letter sent to me after they had left:-
The Matron of the Polish Civil Hospital sends her deepest gratitude to the Matron of the 18th Indian Gen. Hospital for her kindness to the Polish children during their stay at the 18th IGH.
In spite of the lack of the knowledge of the Polish language the Matron was always attempting to understand and assist the Polish children, for which we are ever so grateful.
The Polish people shall never forget the acts of kindness displayed at the 18th Indian Gen. Hospital.
Signed H. Wydecka
Courtesy of Boleslaw Makowski