This diary describes the final journey of a trooper named William Dawbin, from Awahuri, who had his spine severed at Gaba Tepe (Anzac Cove). It comes not from William himself, but from his cousin Polly Burrough, who visited him often in Netley Hospital in Southampton. To read more about William, see his own Gallipoli Diary and In Memoriam, written by his family to provide context to Polly's diary. Te Manawa Museum kindly lent all of these resources to the Ian Matheson City Archives for the Window Into WW1 project.
JULY 1. "We received a wire from Netley about 5pm to say that 11/41 Trooper W. Dawbin, Wellington Mounted Rifles, is seriously ill here with a gunshot wound in the spine. We were haymaking in Blacklands and father was milking. He left it and went off at once (sent a copy of the wire by post to Littleton). It got there the same night, which was a great surprise to poor Willie, as he had only arrived there that day about noon, and did not know the wire had been sent. Father said to him, "You don't know me, do you, Willie?" (10.30pm) He looked a minute and said, "It's Uncle William," and wanted to know how he knew he as there. Father told him we had the wire and they had a nice chat for nearly an hour, quietly, as he could not talk very well, (breath bad and a very nasty cough) but he was pleased to see him. The night sister said it was a serious case. Father asked him if there was anything he would like that he could bring him in the morning. He asked for apples as he had not had one since he left New Zealand, and had a fancy for some. He also said he had a cable from Alexandria from home to know how he was. When he sent back rather a more favourable reply than he should have he felt he might be letting them think he would soon be alright. He drew Father's attention to the twitchings in his legs at times (could see the bed-clothes move) and when the doctor tapped him under the knee he could feel that which he said was a good sign. He was so hopeful of getting better, but had a nasty bed sore and was on a water bed."
JULY 2. "Father went next morning and saw the doctor who says there is very little hope or none. He was really afraid by the symptoms of how he was taken at first, but they would be using the x-rays. Then they would be able to tell better the nature of it, but his symptoms were very bad (they say he was paralysed up to the waist). He was wounded May 27, 1915. They had driven the Turks out of the trench and they had gone over the opposite side and had the range of it. He and his mate had a pick axe and shovel in the newly captured trench (Willie the latter) and were trying to dig themselves in, when it happened. He fell to the ground and felt he was sinking under. He took hold of his mates leg and said, "Save me, Bill". Gaba Tepe was the landing place with barbed wire entanglements all round the shore. They had to get on a launch and numbers were drowned, the Turks shelling them all the time. They found one sniper with 1y of our disks around his neck. He had been giving them a good bit of trouble and they could not find for a long time. At last they did and they turned the machine gun on him. He had a large store of food and ammunition, enough to last a month. They were driven back to the last line of the trenches close to the sea once by the Turks. He also enquired about and spoke of most of our own, and said what a good time his own people had when they were home. He hoped he would soon get well enough to come and see us all. He also said he thought the fresh place would be all right in time but would want a lot done to it. Father slept at a Mr Green's. He went and saw him next morning, left about 12, got home about 7pm, walked from Wincanton. There was one who worked on our place there was wounded in the foot in France. They called him Somerset but his real name was Green, so Willie asked him what part he came from. He said "Brunton" then he said someone was here last night from near there and asked him if he knew the name, which of course he did and came and had a chat with Father when he got there. Aunt Lilly went up after Father left and stayed the night at Mr Green's".
JULY 5. "Uncle Walter went up and stayed with him about 2 hours".
JULY 7. "Wrote to Aunt Dawbin. Uncle Walter and Aunt Lilly came up. They felt poor Willie would never, get over it and suggested someone going weekly".
JULY 8. "Walter and I went to Netley, left Templecombe 6.35 a.m., got there about 9 .30 a.m., (Had Flossie here the, night before to stay with Mother. Nurses came out between as well. Her accident occurred June 11, 1915 about 9p.m.). Took him a few raspberries, castor sugar and a huge bunch of roses and lavender from home. We went into the village first, had something to eat, got a few apple's chocolates and bananas, then went up to see poor Willie. He would not have known either of us, but we soon got to know one another. He enquired all about Mother and how she was getting on, and all the rest. Also spoke of what a surprise Father, gave him the first night. He noticed and recognised Auntie's greenstone brooch. I said that I should like to see the doctor and sister before I left. He looked at me sharp and said, "You want to find out all you can about me. Did you not get my letter?" I said "No" we had come away before the post, but he thought I might have had it the day before but it was a day and a half post then. He said Sister could tell me as much as the doctor, so when the dinner came around we went out to the corridor and saw Sister Sayers whom we asked if we could see the Doctor. She said she wished she had known before as the Doctor was just gone and would not be around again until 6 p.m. I did feel vexed as she could see, and as we were standing talking he came out of one of the wards such a long distance down. She told me to run so I raced to catch him up which I did and could scarcely speak for a while. I asked him if he was the Doctor for the Trooper W. Dawbin. He said he was and I told him I should like to know the result of the x-rays. He then asked if I was his nearest relation in England and what that was. I told him my mother and his mother were sisters and as she had met with an accident (to her knee, foot and leg) and was in bed I took her place and Father was up the first night he arrived there. He said, then, that it was a matter of time. I then said "Do you mean he will not get over it?". He said "Yes", and I wished to know then was there nothing possible that could be done. He said no, they had taken a little off at the end of the back bone but it would be no use toward recovery. I pleaded to him that he might get over it, or for a little hope. He half gave in to me, but I saw he did not mean it, so I said at once I wished to know the truth and how long he thought he might be spared. He said it might be 6, 7 or 8 weeks, but he should think it possible he latter, but one never knows. I spoke of his nasty cough and asked if it was anything to do with the bullet wound. When he said no I spoke of his parents and about cabling them as I felt it right for them to know, also about their all being home on a trip about 2 years ago and he was the only one of the family we had not seen since he was a little boy. I then came slowly back and I shall never forget in a measure my feelings, better felt than described. Saw Sister Sayers who wished to know what the Doctor said. I told her he said it was a hopeless case and that 8 weeks would be the longest. She said she knew it was a very sad case and did not wish us to tell him. While we were talking to the doctor she went in and made him as comfortable as she could. We went back to him again feeling I must endeavour to break the ice more as it were, and what I would have given for his dear mother to have taken my place. I told him I had 7 weeks in a nursing home not able to move or do scarce anything for myself most of the time so I knew a little about it. He looked surprised, when I told him what it was as near as I could he seemed quite interested. "I said how good Mabel was to me and it was nice to have any of your own at such times. I also asked him if he would like to see Auntie. He at first thought I meant Mother and said, "She. is not able to come, is she'!" I replied, "no, but I meant your mother". He said, "Yes, she is not, is she." I said "No, it is too far .away, isn't it! He said yes and in a few minutes told me about the cable he had from home and asked if we had sent it. I said no. "Has anyone else?" I told him they had not, it must have been the hospital authorities (which I knew) but he said they tell me they have not done it. I cannot quite understand it. He was quite smart and sharp on the least thing. He told me he had the choice of coming here or going to N.Z. but he thought perhaps he would get better attention here. Sister told me he could not have lived to have reached N.Z. There was a gramophone going someway down the ward. I said, "You are fond of music aren't you ". "I used to be, but Sister had it moved from just outside, as it seemed too much noise." He told me that for days after he was wounded and on the hospital ship, Gascon, he felt as if he was sinking; in the earth and could not get over the feeling he was about 9th on the ship and had to wait until it was filled. What he must have suffered, yet he was so hopeful. He did not realize he was as ill as he was and talked of coming to see us, but it would not be long, as soon as he would be well enough he supposed he should have to go back again, which I knew he did envy. He spoke of his horse and how sorry he was to leave it behind in Egypt. He would not likely see it again. One of the sisters brought him medicine. She spoke of the flowers and asked if I was his sister. I said I no, had not seen him since he was 9 years old at Plymouth Docks until then. After I asked him how often he had medicine = 3 times a day and once in the night - also what time they got washed - about 5 a.m. and then a sleep after. When I met him first I said, as he had not been to see us we were come to see him, and before leaving I said we had arranged for someone to come and see him every week. If there was anything I could· possibly do for him we should be only too pleased to be able to. After leaving him we went to the Garrison Room to ask particulars about a pass. The doctor told us to as we had a little bother in getting in. The one that was sent us was not stamped for Walter and being only cousins the policeman made a bit of a fuss at the gate and telephoned the enquiry office. They said they had sent us another the same day as the wire which we should have taken and that would admit bearer so we had no further trouble. It was pouring rain when we came out to go to the station, but we were well provided with cloaks as it was wet in the morning going to Templecombe. At the station I ordered the papers (Daily.Express) to be sent to poor Willie as I heard he would like them and could only get one by asking, and that he did not like troubling them to do. I tried to get some cream in Netley but could not, so when we got back to Salisbury at night we went to the Wilts United Dairies and ordered some to be sent on. We arrived home about 7p.m. and found the 2 nurses (Overshot) and Miss Sims here, also Willie's letter".
Dear Cousin Polly,
I got your post card last night. I was under the x-rays 2 days ago, and last night the doctor gave me the result as far as he knew. It seems the bullet went right past the backbone chipping off a piece of bone, and is now somewhere in my right side. They cant see how much the backbone is injured as the place is covered with congealed blood. How is Aunty getting on? I hope she is recovering from her fall. Aunt Lilly came, to see me the night after Uncle William and yesterday Uncle Walter came. Must wind up now.
With best love to all from Willie.
JULY 9. "I wrote to Aunt Lilly and told her the doctor's report and asked what they thought of cabling to Auntie. We thought they would be better to know it".
JULY 13. "I wrote to Auntie and told her all I could. I enclosed the wire we received from Netley and letter poor Willie wrote and told us he was wounded. Father went to Littleton after dinner to hear about cabling and who was going to see poor Willie this week. Mabel had written to say she would like to go if anyone could go with her, so it was decided for Aunt Kate and her to go Thursday, leaving cabling until after then. I had a p.o from Willie from Netley hospital".
I hope you and Walter got home all right the other day. Thank you for the daily paper also that pot of cream. Hope Auntie is better by now. I am still about the same although I am eating better.
Love to all,
JULY 14. "Flossie cycled up about the pass (Mrs Blake and a friend of hers was here, who had been nursing a spine case, an officer. We felt anxious to here what we could. She did say some spine cases get over it but very rarely; If the doctor gave no hope they generally knew). Father had arranged with Kate to meet them at Cary Station with it but as they had thought of going Sherborne Fair intended taking it down to Lotisham. I had a letter by the nights post".
Dear Cousin Polly
Your letter with home ones enclosed arrived this morning. Thank you for sending them. They seem to bring home nearer. I am glad to hear Auntie is getting better if only slowly. The bottle of eau de cologne also came today. It is good of you to send along these luxuries. Well Cousin Polly I am still about the same, will let you know at once if there is any change. Will close now, with best love to all,
JULY 15. "Walter and I drove to Cary Station to see Mabel and Aunt Kate on their return and hear what we could. (It was 10.30pm Miss Cosh was here with Mother. Aunt Kate came back with us). Mabel said Sister should say he is fond of new laid eggs, and some soft pillows would be acceptable. He put his arm and hand up to the pillows and first drew her attention to it. She said, "Has he not told you? It's no use having friends and not making us of them." When they were out in the corridor Mabel thanked Sister for letting them know and asked if there was anything else. She first said she hoped they did not mind as the living there was none too good, not like what he had been used to, also that he might be spared for 8 weeks. Another Sister said sometimes they were for 6 or 7 months, but Sister Sayers did not at all think so in this case".
JULY 16. "Mabel sent off by train 2 dozen eggs and a pillow put in a 6 dozen egg box. Aunt Kate went home and said what we thought about Auntie's knowing it, and if they did not do it we would so Aunt Lilly wrote back the same night for us to do it".
JULY 17. "Cabled the doctor's report. Doctor gives Willie 7 weeks. At about 12.40 pm, sent off pillows, chocolates and indelible pencil which we marked the pillow with. I forgot to say Mabel let me have poor Willie's diary, which I copied the next morning and sent on to Mabel. Aunt Kate said anyone could have it from me and she felt it was not necessary for it to go to Littleton. I was glad to get it and told Mabel before how I should like to have had it and brought it home to read quietly, but hardly liked then to say so when he showed it to us. I suggested his keeping it up, as I felt how nice it would have been for his mother to have. He told me he could not write but a few words at a time as his hands gave out and his letter writing was all he could do. Also he never knew what illness was before this, he said when I asked him if he was generally healthy, as I did not understand the deep trying cough".
July 19. "Wrote to poor Willie and sent on some letters we received from Auntie".
June 11, 1915
My dear Pollie,
Yesterday we received the following from the Minister of Defence. Regret to inform you the cable received this day reports Trooper William Dawbin wounded. Please accept my sympathy and hope for a speedy recovery. Now my dear Pollie imagine if you can how we feel and yet can do so little. Ada ran to the back with the cable as Dad and Walter were away there. Bessie got herself and bike ready and as soon as possible was off to Feilding and sent off a cable for further information and paid for a reply. It may be weeks before we hear again, in some cases we hear it has been, so I trust it will not be in ours or it will be terribly hard to bear. We do so want to know where and how much he is hurt. He must have gone with the infantry we think. We saw numbers were going and felt sure he would be amongst them. The slaughter at the Dardanelles has been very cruel. When our very own are amongst it brings it RIGHT HOME. Dad and Walter are gone to Feilding and I am longing to know if there is any further account, but fear not. Thank you dear Polly for the nice letter, also one with that sweet sachet, it retains its smell beautifully. It was kind of you to think of me. I know you will all feel with us in our trouble and forgive my short letter this time. I hope your mother has quite recovered before this and what about yourself are you still keeping as bonny as where were home? I hope so. I will conclude now. Your Uncle William, Bessie, Ada and Walter join me in kindest love to one and all, believe me, dearest Polly.
Your loving Auntie,
P.s. Dad and Walter are back; no fresh news about Willie. Goodnight.
On the back of the envelope when returned - July 24:
Dear Cousin Polly,
Thanks very much for sending these along. I can imagine the state poor Mother would be in when that wire came, but I know she soon got another which relieved her. Love to all, Willie.
July 20. "Aunt Lilly had a p.c. to say poor William was not so well from Sister Parkinson, but no immediate danger. She went the same say but found him, Sister said, rather brighter, [but] had been a bit low".
July 21. "Uncle and Aunt Boon went to Glastonbury and up from there, had a long day's travelling. Sister told them he was brighter than when Aunt Lilly was there. They took up a small bottle of cider as he wished to have some. He told Father he should like it, but forgot to ask if we might take it up until Mabel and Aunt Kate went up".
July 23. "Sent off some Easter Cakes, chocolates and cream, as when I told him what we sent to Alexandria Hospital he said they would have been acceptable there (the food was very bad, had niggers for orderlies. They did bring a thick piece of bread and a bit of butter for you to have or leave (not very appetising for one so ill). I enclosed the Gleaner, Sower and Friendly Companion, though perhaps on Tuesday he might have a look at them, a little reminder of home".
July 24. "Received cable about 12 pm "Both coming Orontes, Dawbin." I wrote to Sister for Trooper W Dawbin in War 34 B Surgical, and told her. I said Father would be up on Wednesday when he could let him know. In the evening, we got a letter from him".
Netley, July 23
I am very sorry to hear by Cousin Polly's letters that you are not getting on as well as they would wish, You must have had a very nasty fall, and then lying so long would make it worse. What a pity they can't use X-rays on you and find out the real cause of the trouble. I sincerely hope the next letter I get will be better news. Thank you very much for sending on the soft pillow. It, with Cousin Mabel's will make it a lot more comfortable. I am still about the same, can't see much difference wither way so am waiting patiently like doctor tell me. Now Auntie, I must close. Hoping you will have changed for the better before now. With best love from,
Your Loving Nephew,
This letter came when he returned the ones send on the 19th.
JULY 27. "Received the following letter from Sister Sayers".
Sisters' Quarters, Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, 26.7.15
Dear Miss Burrough,
Thank you for your letter. I am very sorry to tell you Pte. Dawbin is not improving. Yesterday his cough was so very troublesome. He had a better night and is brighter today but his condition is not better. I do sincerely hope he may be spared to see his parents but it will be weeks before they could arrive. I do feel for them in their sorrow. We are anxious that he may live to see them once more. We have had much pleasure in doing what we can for him which after all is so little. I do think it advisable you should not mention their coming to him as he is so hopeful about getting better. Surely it is better not to open his eyes to his condition. It will come in time without telling. At any time I shall be pleased to write to any of his friends so do not mind asking me. We cannot do too much for our brave soldiers who have done and are doing so much for us. In haste.
With kindest regards
JULY 28. "Father went from Templecombe with some apples, cream, eggs and a quart of cider. Poor Willie was very much altered for the worse, cough very bad and could say but little. Father told him I was coming next week, was there anything he would like? He said some green foods, lettuce, onions, etc. He got back about 7pm".
JULY 29. "Sent off lettuce, onions and cucumber by first post. Miss Cook took it to Brunton. I wrote a few lines for Auntie to get at Suez as well as we felt it was right for her to know, although we did not know if she would get it as the shipping company said port would be the first place to get a letter. I wrote and told Aunt Lilly."
JULY 30. "Uncle Walter came in My Reynolds motor car this afternoon, said they had a wire from Netley to say poor Willie was critical and he was going up, so it was decided for me to go with him. Mr Reynolds took back a note from Mabel asking for Flossie to come as I was going to Netley, poor Willie being much worse. Flossie came off at once and was here before we left. Father drove us to Wincanton and we got to Netley at about 10.30pm. The night sister told us he had had a sleeping draft and was sleeping a little, but was very ill and she should not have been surprised to come on duty any night and find the bed empty. We said we had come such a long distance and should so much like to see him but not to disturb him. We spoke of his parents on their way home from NZ and wished he could have been spared to see them, so in a few minutes she just walked in round and told him he had visitors, came out and said we could go in for a short time but not to stay long. We asked him if he knew who it was. He said “Cousin Polly and Uncle Walter. Why did you come at this time of night? Did they write and tell you I was going to die?” I mistook it and thought he said, “Have you got my diary?” and he had asked father for it on the Wednesday and I had been trying to get it to take back. He also said “Do the trains run so badly at this time of night?” We said they did, and we were a long time getting here. He seemed very, very ill, bolstered upright and his feet in a cradle (the latter was the first time we saw him). He could only talk with difficulty so we left him and said we would come in the morning. He asked us what time and we said any time he liked, and he said 8 o’clock. We came out into the corridor and had a talk with Sister and decided for me to stay the night in case he might like to see either of us. Uncle went down to Mr Green’s, and I remained in the corridor for about 2 hours. It was a lovely dry light night. Sister told be poor Willie was most sensitive to everything, she never knew anyone like it and they had to be very careful what they said. She should think, in his health, he must have been an exceedingly nice fellow and he had one of the sweetest smiles she ever saw, but he very rarely treated them to it. She said he had a very bad wound which she was sure would never heal, but he did not realize he was as ill as he was and would do everything possible for himself and would not give up. Sometimes he would say “I cannot hold the cup very well.” I enquired if he ever said anything about his own people. She said no. One time he showed her some photos of his own family but said nothing more. After an hour or so I heard her telling him I was outside if he would like to see me but he said she was to tell me he had had an extra strong sleeping draught and he was so sleepy, unless I was in her way. She said she would take care of me and not to let that worry him. She came out and told me, and said how sweet it was of him to think of her, but that was just like him. I did not tell her I heard most of it, but before this the Medical Officer of Health went round and I heard them talking to him as well, but not what was said. Then about 1am Matron walked through with a sister. The night sister went to meet them. Sometime after the sister had a fire alight in a small room and I went in there to an easy chair and I was not sorry as it was draughty in the corridor, and I could hear the poor soldiers groaning and talking in their sleep. She asked me if I would like a drink of milk and brought a few of poor Willies biscuits but I did not feel up to either just then. She brought me some books and papers to look at and put a kettle over on the gas burner and I saw no more of her for a long time. She came back with a cup and saucer, teapot and bread and butter and made me a cup of tea, which was most acceptable. I asked her if she was not going to have one. She said no, she had just had something. They were not allowed to take anything, only in their own quarters and I asked where that was. She said some distance away from here, but it made quite a nice break in the night. I did not know I had been left to myself apart from the orderlies and poor wounded soldiers in that large place, or for a long distance down the corridor I should say, but after I was in the little room, I did not hear much, nor yet wished to, the kettle made such a noise. I have thought since it might have been put on purpose. After I had had some tea and some bread and butter, she suggested my having a blanket and lying down on a bed in an empty ward if I would like, which I did. She went with me, asked if there was anything I wanted, tucked me in, said she would just leave the door ajar and would be outside, I need not fear anything. She also wished to know if I’d like the light left burning. I said I did not mind in the least as there was a light in the corridor, so after a little while she came in softly and lowered it. Strange to say the Saturday before I was staying with Mother and dozing on the little bed when I dreamed a nurse should come and tuck me in telling me I was to rest contented as there was nothing to worry about. After that a man seemed to come and stand at the foot of the bed but did not speak. I felt it was William Dawbin. It upset me and I told Mother next morning. I remained in the ward until 5.30am but not on the bed all the time. I had a walk round and had a look out of the window but I certainly felt a bit rested when Sister came in with a cup of tea and bread and butter, and told me I better get up now and go up round the huts or I should be having the orderlies in with me. She was just going to was and do for Dawbin who had a good night for him and would be all the better for it, which I was very glad to hear. Just as I was ready to leave the orderlies came in so I took a stroll out round the grounds and down by the Pier. There was no one but the sentries about and the transports had been going off. I heard them blowing their fog signals in the early morning. It did feel so solemn, knowing how many, many suffering souls were inside that large building. I got back just before 8 am and had to wait a short time before I could go in. There were two screens round the bed and poor Willie was coughing and gasping for breath, at times death seemed stamped on his face. I said “You are not so well”. He replied “I am better than I was.” The perspiration rolled of his face, neck and arms, it was painful to watch. How I wished I could have shared it with him. His pillows were quite wet. I turned them twice for him (he had cotton wool on his chest) put some eau de cologne on his handkerchief and wiped them off for him. He said “That’s good,” and wanted to know, bad as he was, how I had got on in the night. Not very comfortable he did not expect. I told him I did all right. Sister was very kind to me. The brought him some fried bacon and boiled egg from breakfast. I offered to cut up the bacon for him. At first he would not let me but afterward he did and I shelled his egg, but he ate scare anything of it, and said how different it would be in an egg cup with a spoon and some nice thin bread and butter. (I sent him a spoon and carried an egg cup next time with some mustard mixed in it). When Sister Sayers came on duty she took away one of the screens and said “Dawbin, you need a little more fresh air,” and gave him some oxygen. I left about 10 am as Uncle Walter thought of coming in then. I went out into the corridor and had a talk with Sister Sayers. She said she had quite meant to have written to me, but she did not like to alarm anyone unnecessarily. She would not be surprised to see anything happen at any time but he was certainly a trifle better. I asked how his wound was. I did not know but the night sister referred to the bullet wound (but it was the bed sore) and I asked her if she thought it would heal and whether they could trace the bullet with the x rays. She then said they could not tell at all where it was as it would move about, but that was quite healed. He had a bed sore which he told her when he came there was through neglect but that was not so, as no one could help it. I told her he had not said anything to me about neglect, but he told Father the first night he was there on a water bed and he had a bed sore but never spoke of neglect. She said “He did to me at first, and no one could have helped it the second time”. She also told me she was leaving soon for Egypt. I then went on through the corridor to meet Uncle Walter. I told him death seemed stamped on his face and he was having oxygen. I should not be surprised to see anything happen any time, so he suggested my staying until Monday, he smiled (and I thought of what the night sister said). So uncle wished him goodbye and said he wanted his mother to tuck him in – the sheets were pinned on to the pillow. “Yes” he said “I want her for a lot of things.” How I wished I could have told him she was on the way, or better still to have brought her there. When we came out we went to the Garrison Room and asked particulars then to the station and I went on as far as Southhampton with Uncle Walter. I had something to eat and took my return ticket back to Netley, and he went by tram to Southhampton West. I got back to the hospital at about 3 pm and found poor Willie asleep, I hardly knew what to make of him, his breathing was so bad, but Sister Rice just came and smoothed his hair when he woke up and wanted to know how long I had been there. When I told him I had been to Southhampton with Uncle Walter and he spoke of his landing there, and coming by the beach on a motor ambulance to Netley. He seemed so different to the morning and the night before. We had quite a nice little chat. He ate two poached eggs on toast for tea which he seemed to enjoy, and tea made with milk. I asked him where it was the bullet went. He said just below his left shoulder, and unfastened his shirt and told me I could put my hand in and feel the place if I liked, which I did. It was a hollow with curly skin round but was quite healed up. When I was doing up his shirt and placing the sheets round I heard the rattle of his chest and said, “That’s looser.” He replied, “Yes, I could not go much longer if not altered,” and from then he seemed much easier and brighter. I went out just after tea to get some lodgings, as Uncle Walter advised me to get something different if I could from where Father and he had been. I tried 7 or 8 places. All were full up and they told me it was not likely I would get a bed in Netley but would have to go to Southhampton, which several did. At last I went to Mr Green’s. He said he could not possibly put me up and asked if I had come to see Pte. Dawbin with a Mr Boon the night before. I said yes, then he advised me to go to Mrs McLean (the chemist shop) which I did. She said she might give me a single bed but could not undertake to cook or wait on anyone. I did not mind that so long as I had a bed, and then I spoke of breakfast, it being Sunday and the shops would be closed. But after that I did not mind in the least, as I could get something, if only some bread and cheese and eat it out in the grounds. Mr and Mrs McLean then homely said, “You do not object to a soldier’s life.” I replied, “No, not in the least, in a case like this.” She took me up to a small room and showed me the bed (and thankful I was to be able to get it after all). After a little chat I felt quite at home with her, and she wished me to have tea as they were just going to have it on the lawn. I shall never forget her kindness to me at that time. She seemed more like a mother than anything else. Her disposition is too generous and kind for her own good. Before I left she told me she would like me to come there for meals on the Sunday as she would be cooking, and I was very glad to accept. I got back to the hospital about 6 pm and stayed until about 8.30 pm. I took the night sister a bottle of eau de cologne. As I did not see her I asked Willie if he would mind giving it to her as she was so kind to me the night before, I asked him if he liked her. He said, “Fairly well, but a little bit rough,” which I was not surprised at at all though after I had a talk with her she was as nice as possible. I wished I had brought a bottle for Sister Sayers and said to Willie did he think she would object to it. He replied, “No fear.” I told him Sister Sayers said she was going to Egypt shortly. He said, “Yes, I have heard that several times, but she has not gone yet. I expect she would wish herself back here.” But he would be sorry to lose her as he would miss her and she was good at doing things for him. I arrived back in Netley about 9pm got a few special biscuits in a tin to take to poor Willie. Mabel had sent some and they were finished. He said when he could not eat the food he went back to them and the Easter cakes I sent him. I went into a restaurant, had a bottle of soda water, then back to Mrs McLean’s. I had a few words with her then went to bed and was glad to get there. I heard her about until morning".
AUGUST 1. "Had breakfast about 9 am. Miss Bell and I washed up, I did my bedroom and left for the hospital as soon as possible. I took the eau de cologne for Sister Sayers, biscuits and a little pot of jelly Mrs McLean gave me for Willie. He said, “You are later this morning,” and wished to know how I had got on, how tired I must have been, what sort of food I had, and if I had a key to wind my watch as the day before it had run down. I said I had got on splendidly, had all my wants supplied and felt quite comfortable with Mrs McLean, so clean homely and kind. She was at one time living here at the hospital, so knew all the rules and regulations of the place. It was doubly nice getting in with such a person. She did not know how to do the work so I did what little I could to ease her. She wished me to come in and out and do just as I liked which was kind of her. Willie did seem so much better and able to talk and answer any questions, he did not seem in the least fatigued. Of course it was in a very quiet way. He wished me to look over his things in the locker. I brought it to him and we did it together. He kept what he wished to, the other he wished me to destroy as it would not do for him to keep all his letters and did I mine? I said no, only Auntie’s and a few more but eventually they went out too. In a cardboard box he had a ticket with a red boarder that was fastened to him by the doctor after he was wounded as it was about ½ hour before he was taken on a stretcher. They were told to hold the trenches at all costs. He said it was a terrible sight where the dead had been lying for a month, and had he not, been inoculated as well as vaccinated he should have been left out there. He was looking at his watch and chain, said the chain was dirty and I offered to wash it at Mrs McLean's, and bring it back to him at night. He then asked if it was Uncle Walter who gave him the chain. I said it was and he said his memory was bad at times. He gave me a little thumb book with a text, for everyday in the year if I cared to have it. I was only too pleased with it from him. He had a silk handkerchief that was not clean which I took back and washed for him. He was, I know, glad to have it done, said Sophie gave it to him before he left England. We had a chat about her and I took her address. She had sent him some eggs and apples. I also looked for a Turkish bullet which he brought there but could not find it anywhere. He said I thought as much, that it was gone and you have to look out for what you have got. He also said he had left £5 worth of things he supposed he should never see again. When I said "Why did you not send it home?" his answer was the head ones would have been suspicious and you had to be very careful. I spoke of going to Southampton in the evening but did not know where it was; so got the Sower I sent him out of his locker and had a look at it for a few minutes. He did not say anything so I felt I would not go, as I thought perhaps he did not wish me to. He said he was not feeling very comfortable and when the doctor was gone he would ask Sister Sayers to do it. He was watching all the time and as she was just going with the Medical Officer of Health he called her. She called another sister to help her move the pillows and he held my arm as well. You could plainly see how very painful it was for him but he did not say anything. You could not but admire and respect his manner with the sisters and orderlies. He seemed to command respect in such a nice way from all around him, ill as he was. After they were gone he said, “Had I not called I may not have seen her for some time.” Afterwards she asked him if he would like a mutton chop for dinner. He said they were so hard he could not eat them, and his mouth was so tender. The first few he had, he said, were very good. He had some bread and butter and sardines. I left him just after 1 pm and decided to come back about 4, but Sister Sayers came out to me in the corridor and asked me not to come back until at least 6 pm. I was rather surprised as we had been having such a nice time and said to her did he say he did not want me to come before? She said most likely he would be getting his dressing done just before then so I walked around the grounds and got to Mrs McLean’s just before 2 pm. She told me in the morning they would be having dinner about 2, as Mrs McLean went into Southampton in the morning and up to the Soldiers Home in the evening. In the afternoon I wrote some p.c and put them in the post, and had a short rest. Mrs McLean said she would be going round the Red Cross Hospital after tea and would take me if I would like which I was most pleased to do, but 6 pm was the time I could see my cousin and I did not wish to lose any time I could have with him while I was there. She does take such an interest in some of the patients at the hospital. So after tea I walked up and made arrangements where to meet, and she came on with her bicycle and scones and cake wrapped up in different parcels with their names marked on for who she meant them for, and a bunch of flowers. She picked out two nice smelling roses for me to give to my cousin, and suggested putting them in my coat sleeve as some of the other patients might envy them. I went with her as long as possible and she showed me quite a nice lot in a short time. When I got back to poor Willie he was asleep. I waited about 10 minutes when the matron and another sister came in, opened the window close to him and woke him up. She said, “What a shame to disturb you, how are you this evening?” He replied, “All right” and when leaving the bedside she looked around and said quietly to me, “A very sad case for one so young.” I do not think he heard it and as soon as they were gone he wished me to close the window close to him and open the other which I did. He then asked how long I had been there and what Sister said to me when she came out. I told him I was not to come back before 6 pm. He very quickly said she told him 5. I gave him the roses from Mrs McLean, he said they smelt sweet. I told him I had been over to the Red Cross Hospital and how I got on and what I had seen. He spoke of Bessie going for nursing but did not think she would be strong enough for it. Ada might as she was very healthy and strong. He also spoke of Walter and I asked him when he had written home last. He said the last week was the first he had missed and he did not feel they would think he had neglected them for he had always written when able. I then asked if he would like me to write for him. He hesitated a moment and said, “Whatever would Mother think. If you did it she would know I should not be able.” I believe he realized a little of how ill he was. He asked if the war had in any way interfered with us. I told him not really, only a horse Walter had he was very sorry to part with, but still that was not much. “No,” he said “it’s better to lose your horse than your life.” He asked me my age and Walter’s, saying he was 6 years younger. I think I could read his thoughts then and I must say I was glad to hear him speak like it. I could not help feeling it was right he should know it, and I know he did not always express his feelings in words. I asked him if he had seen any royalty there. He said, yes, Princess Beatrice came and spoke to him one day and wished to know if he felt lonely at all away from his own land. He told me they had to wear helmets in the fighting line but he lost his. It did hurt his head as it was a little broader than some. He asked me what I would like him to call me. It seemed to go through me, as I felt he would not be here long. I said I do not mind in the least (dear), whatever you like (and coloured a little I felt). “What would you wish me to?” I then said “Polly”, that was short and when anyone was grown up that sounded best, but with little children it was a different thing. I could plainly tell by his manner he wished to know my mind. The doctor came on about 8.30pm to do the last dressing for the night. He just spoke to me (it was not the one I saw the first time) and said “I expect Dawbin, you are glad to have company.” We had a talk for a few minutes when I said I would like to see him in the morning as he was busy now. But he said now was the best time so I wished Willie goodbye, and he walked with me out of the ward. In the corridor he told me it was quite impossible for him to get over it. He could not last long, but he was a trifle better than last week, but he would not be surprised at anything. He was such a nice fellow, everyone seemed to take to him. I said how I wished he could be spared to see his parents as I felt so much for his mother, knowing how she would be so longing to see him. He asked how long it would be before they could get here. When I told him he said he was afraid it would be too long. I wished to know if it would not be best to let him know as I believed it would brighten him up. He did not think so and said, “You have not told him, have you?” I said no. He did not think he could last and it would be such a disappointment to him, and he would realize how ill he was. I then came on with the watch and chain wrapped up in the silk handkerchief, his suggestion, and the little text book I had forgotten to take in the morning. I got the box and was going to take the chain off when he said, “Let me have it.” I passed it to him. He took off the case and had a good at it then handing it to me said, “I have taken care of it through all up to now and it has been with me through everything. Now I would like you to take care of it for me.” I said, “Do you mean for me to take it home?” He said, “Yes, as I’m sure things go here.” I met Mrs McLean out in the grounds looking for someone she knew. She said she had just given away a scone and cake she had put in a bag for my cousin, and had meant to bring it to him while I was there but had forgotten to ask me the number of the ward, so knew it was no use trying to find out. I then walked slowly back. Mrs McLean was in first with Miss Bell. We had supper and went to bed".
AUGUST 2. "Bank Holiday. I got to the hospital about 10 am, took some tooth picks made of quills, cakes, tarts and chocolates. While waiting outside I had a talk with some wounded soldiers and gave away some of the tarts and chocolates as poor Willie could not eat much at a time and liked them fresh. I was going by the 3.30 pm train and thought to have the last 2 hours with him and 2 hours in the morning. But Sister Sayers asked me what train I was going by and said he would want some sleep after dinner. When I told Willie of it he said he did not think he should sleep, so I stayed until 2 pm as he did not seem tired and the longer I was with him the more sorry I was to leave. He said, “How nice it would be if you could have a week here.” I should have much liked to as far as I was concerned, but felt that as Mother was so ill, my duty was at home, much as I would have liked to have stayed. When he said, “I suppose so,” I wished he was nearer so I could see him oftener, still it was nice he was where we could get to him. Had he been left in Egypt we should perhaps never have seen or known him. He smiled at that. I asked him if he knew the place he was wounded at, as it was not in his diary. He said Gabe Tepe. There was a massage sister in the ward when I went in first. After she had finished her patient she came up and spoke to Willie and did every day when she came into the ward. She had been to Feilding so they both had a talk about it. The little knife I took him was on the table. She looked at it and said how much better it was than that huge one (everyone seemed to pass remark on it) and she should know where to come and have her pencils sharpened, but he thought it would be nice to keep it for best. Strange to say she knew our part and asked if I came from Somerset as she knew it quite well. When I told her what part she said she had visited her uncle and Yarlington House (Rogers). I told her I knew him quite well and said his father built on a room in our house when he lived there. We also spoke of Yeovit Yetminster and Dorchester. It seemed nice to meet someone who knew our part. She finished off by saying, “I must be off. My patients will be waiting for me.” For dinner poor Willie had some jelly Mrs McLean sent up and some cream the hospital found. They did let him have some now, he said. It was not much for his dinner. How I wished I could have got him something better. He could not eat the meat it was so hard and it was have it or go without. A little before I was leaving I asked him if there was anything he would like me to do. He said, “Take on my cold and throw it out the carriage window.” I wished I could have as I was far better able to bear it than him, which I told him, as I felt most likely I would never see him alive again, although he was much better than when I got there. The time came for me to leave. I wished him goodbye, and said had he thought of anything I could do for him. He said he wanted some p.c. envelopes. I also said, “Is there a message for Mother?” I could not seem to help it. He said no, and his face puckered up. I kissed him again goodbye. I did so badly want a message, but it hurt me to see him feel it so, although it was only natural. After leaving him I went to the Garrison Room and particularly wished them to let us know if there was any difference in him, but was glad he seemed better than when I came up Friday night. I then went to the station with the egg box (poor Willie watched me right out of the ward with it and said he did not like me to have the trouble, but that, I said, was nothing, only pleasure). It was raining in torrents back to the Post Office. I wired home for them to meet me at Wincanton and sent off the envelopes by post. I called in at Mrs McLean’s for a thing or two and she would make me have something to eat. She asked for my address and put down poor Willie’s number and ward, said she should go and see him when she could and let me know how he was getting on. I did feel it was so kind of her to take such an interest being perfect strangers. I got to Wincanton about 7 pm. Father met me. I wrote in Wincanton Post Office a p.c. to Aunt Lilly, Mabel and Uncle Walter, as Father had seen him in Evercreech that day and promised to let him know on my return, as he wished to go then. I heard from Aunt Lilly that he and Willie went on the Wednesday".
AUGUST 3. "I wrote to Sister Sayers as I did not see her on leaving. I sent her a box of carnations and asparagus fern and said if it was not troubling her too much how glad I should be to hear in a few days or any time. Father would be up next week, and I hoped to have the week after and was so glad to have been able to have a little time with him. I wrote and told Adolphus about it as he had written before and asked the best way to get there, how he could get in and what he could take him. I suggested his coming here the night before, have our horse drive to Templecombe, and catch the 6.35 am train up. Then he could get back in time to catch the last train home. So he wrote by return saying he would be coming up Thursday and go Friday if he could, which he did".
AUGUST 5. "Found him very weak, he could not take his left arm from under the bed clothes or did not, so I knew he was worse again. We sent some Easter cakes (as the ones we sent before were nearly gone) black currant jelly and cucumber. Aldophus took some plums, cream and apples, but he was so ill he scarce took any notice of it, which was unlike him. The cucumber he gave to the sister to give to others as he could not eat it, his mouth was so tender. I sent a large bunch of flowers to Sister Sayers and a few choice ones for Willie, also a note for Sister asking about a bed jacket, but she did not think it necessary as they could find one there. Poor Willie said he would like some lettuce and radishes so when Aldophus came we sent out to Mrs Hannam for some and sent them on the same night. I wrote and told Aunt Lillie about Aldophus’ visit".
AUGUST 8. “Received a letter from Sister Sayers.
Sisters’ Quarters, R.V.H, Netley, Sunday.
Dear Miss Burroughs
Thank you very much for the flowers. Trooper Dawbin keeps about the same. There is very little change in his condition during the past week. Forgive the short note. I am very busy.
Aunt Lilly went up and found him very ill the first night but seemed better the next day. She stayed until Wednesday when she made the apple pie boiled at Mrs McLeans”.
AUGUST 11. "Father went to Bridford Fair and back there for a couple of hours. He found him so much better and chatty, could even peel himself a pear that Father brought. He said he had been looking out for him before, when Father told him came as soon as the train would bring him, it being a bit late. He had a letter from Vera Sherrin saying there was a rumour that his parents were on the way home. “I know you know if this is right.” When Father said, “You would like to see them wouldn’t you,” he replied, “Shouldn’t I.” So then he said, “Yes it is true.” He told him the boat they were coming on was the ‘Orontes,’ and was due here September 12, 1915. He spoke of the submarines on the sea, of the danger it was, and how would they be able to leave things at home. Father said they would manage that all right and the cruisers were cleared from the seas. Then he said, “You would have gone and not told me.” Father replied, “We wished to give you a surprise.” He then said, “That would have been one.” He ate a nice tea, two eggs and toast and finished up with black currant jelly and cream. He said the jelly was nicer than any you could buy and wanted father to taste his egg and toast, also tea made with milk, which he did. Father asked him if there was anything he would like as I was coming up next week. He said some German sausage and mustard mixed up, to cook them at home and bring them cold. Father said he did not know if he could get them but our butcher made very good sausages, so he said they would do as well. I had forgotten to say when I was up on August 2, he was glad I stayed a few days as I could see and know how things were there. Mr Sherrin and Mr B Bryant motored up between my seeing him and Aunt Lilly coming, August 2 to 8".
AUGUST 17. "I went up from Wincanton to the station about 11 o’clock (raining in torrents) and got to the station just before 3 o’clock. I took up the sausages and some sausage rolls I made in the morning, also stewed plums, a piece of cake, 1 ½ pints of cider, and a bit of cheese. He said when I was up last he had only had some once and he liked it. Nurse came and stayed with Mother and Flossie came in the afternoon. I found poor Willie asleep. Sister Rice was there. I gave her most of the flowers but kept a few of the best carnations, asparagus fern and lavender for him on his table. As he did not wake up for a time I went and had a chat with Pt. Eddie, a Canadian, about the 4th bed down. He said his cough had quite left him for a day or two but it was coming on again. I thought he looked better in his sleep. I had a letter from Auntie the night before, written to Mother just as they heard the sad news of his being at Netley and seriously ill with a gunshot wound to his spine. I said we had heard from “home” and supposed he had. He looked rather surprised and said no, so I said, “You will be sure to get one as they were writing to you, but it might have been delayed”. I took up my text book feeling how much I would have liked his handwriting the same as the rest, but did not ask him as I felt it would have given him a pain and I should never like to have seen it. I also took the map of the boat Orontes and times of sailing but did not show it to him. Just after he woke up I told him I thought I should have to earn a pair of gloves in his sleep. He had a drop of cider and said it was good. I put it in a port wine bottle and it was fresh. He ate one of the sausage rolls with a bit of mustard and said they had had some since Father was up. He wished me to have some of his lemonade which I did and spilled some on the cloth, which I was sorry for, and he knew it. He said, “Nevermind, they will think I have done it,” but I told him I was not going to let him bear the blame and told Sister when I saw her. While I was there a man came into the ward, he said he was the parson (one from N.Z.), and they get plenty of them here. When I asked would he like me to go he said to wait and see. So he came up and had a few words with Willie and said that as he had a visitor he would come another time. He then asked me if I had ever been to N.Z. I said not and that the last time I had seen my cousin was as a little boy 9 years old on Plymouth Docks. His reply was, “You see him now a fine and smart man,” (poor Willie turned his face to one side as if to say ‘far from that’) and if laid low was an honour and credit to his country. So he went off in a few minutes and two more ladies arrived on the scene. He looked up, smiled and said, “I should think they knew you were here today.” They brought reading books for the patients but did not stay long, had a few words for us both then took their departure. He told the night sister had brought him a crab. He was so pleased with it I could see, and I said it was kind of her, and he agreed. He had his tea, ate two of the sausages and quite enjoyed them, and said how nice they were. Sister Rice warmed them for him. He did not wish to give her the trouble, but she said they would be much better hot and I said so as well. He told me that when he had his mind on anything he seemed to long for it until he had it. He spoke of the flowers in his ward and on his table, asked if I had brought them. Nothing seemed to escape his eye. He also told me how weak he had been, worse than he was now, since I was there last. He had to use his right arm to lift his left one. I was waiting to hear him speak of his father and mother coming, but as he did not mention it I brought it up and asked if he was not pleased they were coming. He looked at me with such an inquiring look and wished to know if we were writing for them to hear at the ports. I told him we were but Port Said would be the first place they would hear. I asked him what Vera Sherrin had said which he told me, and I also asked if Joe Sherrin had said anything. He said no. He came there in a motor. After a little time he passed me a letter of Auntie’s to read that was on the table. After I had read it I asked him if he would like to see the one Mother got last night. “Yes, if you have got it, and will you read it,” he asked when I gave it to him."
Hillside, Makino, Feilding, July 17, 1915
My dear Sister and all,
Long before this you will have heard about our poor Willie being in Netley Hospital seriously ill from a gunshot wound in spine. It came as a terrible shock to us all, poor boy, all away there and none of us could be near him. We feel very sad over it, fearing the worst sometimes and again trying to hope for the best. I know the spine is a vital part, at the same time there ARE cases where they recover, and we all do earnestly pray, it may be so in this case. You will have heard, I expect, we cabled off to him at once, also to his Uncle Walter, wishing him to go, which he must have done at once. I shall ever feel grateful for his kindness. In less than 24 hours we got a reply saying he had seen Willie, who was about the same, and had every attention, and how much we had to be thankful for that he was in such good hands. Everybody says Netley Hospital is the best place he could have been taken, but how much the poor boy must have suffered during his voyage there. Oh, we all so wish we could be with him in this his hour of suffering. It will be doubly hard for him having to lie still, for he was always on the move, such an active turn of mind. I wonder if any of the rest have seen the poor boy by the time this reaches you in England. How welcome some home faces would be to him all away from us all. I wrote to Walter and Lilly last night and Dad to Willie this morning. I was trying to do so but quite broke down and I was so glad his Dad did it instead. I had been to Palmerston yesterday to see Bessie. Walter took me down in his side-car. I felt I could not write or wire, I wanted to soften the blow a little bit. She like us felt very upset and wished me to send him her love and hope truly for his recovery, as indeed we all do. I believe Bessie is getting on alright at the hospital, plenty of work you may be sure. Now my dear sister I wonder how you are keeping, none too well at best I know but hope no worse than usual, also Uncle, Polly and Walter well. With kindest love from each from all,
Your loving sister,
P.S. I am quite hoping some of you will have been to see our poor boy. Fondest love, goodbye.
"After I had read a little ways he sobbed and said, “Poor Mother.” I cannot describe how I felt, but said, “Do be brave and bear up,” when he said, “I do try so hard.” I replied by saying, “I know you do,” and felt so too. I then went on and finished it, saying “I hardly knew whether I had better read it to you, but you do not wish to be deceived do you.” “No,” he said, “I don’t.” I went on, “I am so glad to see you looking better than last time I saw you, and you know we felt it was right for your own people to know as well as us, for why should we all know it here and not them.” He said “Yes,” and sobbed again. I said “Don’t, don’t, or they won’t let me come near you.” So he tried, I feel sure, his very best to stop it, which he did, and said, “Its poor Mother travelling, how will she get on?” When I said, “I hope to meet her and bring her here,” he said, “Do. It’s the 12th that they are coming, isn’t it.” I said, “Yes, but they may be a day or two late.” “Yes,” he said, “I know.” An orderly then came on, moved the screen and got the table ready with the things on it for the dressing. I asked him how his bed sore was. He said, “They tell me it is getting on all right.” I hardly knew how to bear seeing him sob, but felt I must be firm or he could not have stopped. He was pleased I was staying the night and I asked him if there was anything I could bring him in, in the morning. He said, “I should think you have brought me enough now.” I went into a restaurant and had some tea (late), just went in and saw Mrs McLean. She said she had seen poor Willie on Sunday and spoke of an apple pudding aunt Lilly made there that he did enjoy. He told me, Mrs McLean had sent him up a baked one that morning. She went rather late on Friday and Sister Sayers said it was too late to have visitors, and she was not to mention anything about his parents. The doctor had wished it kept from him and someone had told him. She said, certainly not, she knew Miss Burrough had not told him and that was a relation. She should not think of such a thing. I then went for a quiet walk on the beach until nearly dark, when I thought I had better return, being in a strange place. I picked up two pebbles on the beach which I am keeping, my thoughts being all the time on the one I had left behind and his dear mother. I shall never forget that walk wondering if I had done wrong in telling him what I did, but somehow I felt I could not deceive him. When I got back to Mrs McLean’s she asked me if I would mind sleeping with her as the one that had slept in the bed the night before had come back, saying she could not possibly get a bed anywhere, and I heard later that several had had to go to go to Southampton. If she did not mind certainly I did not, only I did not like for her to sleep on the couch. I would much rather, but she would not hear of that. She did not come up before 1 am. We got up about 8 am and had breakfast."
AUGUST 18. "I helped wash up, did the bed room and went round to the post office where I got a box to put poor Willie’s letters in. There was not room in his case and were loose in his locker, and I knew he wished them put together. I tried to get some new laid eggs but could only get foreign ones and I did not like to have those. I did wish I had known so I could have taken some up, but Father said he should say he had plenty, so I concluded he had some brought, or sent him. Otherwise I knew he would be getting short and told Father to make enquiries. I got to the hospital just after 10 am. I could see he was expecting me and I asked him what sort of a night he had had, but he did not really tell me. Sometime after he told me he had had rather a bad night. I did not think it was so typical of him to tell me in the way and manner he did. I knew then he did not wish to mislead me and he felt he could tell me. He said he had had some letters from home and one from Mother that which I could read. I took up Ada’s, Uncle’s, and Walter’s when he said, “That’s not Mother’s,” but I was to read them. I believe he kept his family affairs, weak and all as he was, to himself. I do not mean us, but those around him, by several trifling things I heard he had not told them. When I took up his Mother’s letter I said I am so glad she has written. He kept his eyes on me while I was reading it and when finished I said, “It is a nice letter, Willie.” “Yes, it is.” The way and manner he said it meant far more than words. I was packing them up together when he wished me to keep his mother’s by itself so he could easily take his table in front of him. By his manner you could see how highly he prized it, which I do not easily forget after what passed between us the night before. He spoke of the troop ship, “Royal Edward,” being torpedoed in the Aegean Sea. Walter, Adolphus and Bertha saw it launched at Avonmouth by the late King Edward. I told him where I had been for a walk the night before. He could remember quite well coming on the motor ambulance by the beach and spoke of it, saying he should have thought I would be tired. I asked him how his bed sore was. He said, “They tell me all right,” but by the way he spoke I believe he doubted it, and right enough it proved. I also asked if he had had any oxygen lately. He said, “No, not for some time, and glad I am not to have it.” I said if he felt he needed it for the breath he should by all means have it if he could. Sister Rice came and asked me if I would mind going outside for a few minutes, which I did but she soon came out and said I may go back now. I asked her to see Sister Sayers as I had not seen her. She came, but did not seem herself. I asked her how she thought my cousin was getting on. When I told her of how poor Willie had heard of his parents coming, she then said, of course when he put it to Father in the way he did he could not do otherwise. But before she heard how it was she said, “It’s no use for us to try to do anything, as it was the doctor’s wish for him not to know it.” I do feel Father was to blame not telling her before he came away, as they had had a chat together. When I went back he wished me to bring his letters in the locker and writing case so as to know what was there, which I did with his instructions. Those he received about his being wounded (with an elastic band round)were kept with a few others. The rest he told me to bring home and destroy as he did not like keeping them about. Part of a letter from Bessie to Daisy and Nora Dyer he wished me to return to Daisy, which I did. Sister Sayers brought some champagne while we were doing it and I said, “We are just looking over a few things.” “Yes,” she said, “a good thing, for Dawbin gets such a lot of letters and parcels.” I took him up some greengages and a couple of soft pears, but there was an apple on the table which she lifted up and said, “These are no use to him, he can only give them away.” He wanted something tender such as soup or chicken. I said that we had some nice little chickens that I could send him. When she said that would be nice he thought half would be enough and Auntie could have the other half. I spoke of the eggs and said I was sorry I had not brought any, but did not know he was out of them. I also asked her if there was anything else she could think of, when he looked up and said he would like some potted meat, something tasty. As soon as Sister was gone he said, “You will stuff the chick, won’t you.” I then said, “Would you like herbs or sausages?” He said herbs. I told him I would try to get the eggs off by the first post next morning. I would endeavour to get an egg box at Salisbury that night. He said not to trouble to do that. It would be a change not to have them for a day or two, but I told him they were good for him and I wished him to have them as they were strengthening. I inquired what it was that Sister gave him. We then went on and finished what we were doing and by that time he seemed quite done up. I felt so sorry to see him, he said he was so weak. The day before he asked me to wash some pocket handkerchiefs for him again. He had not forgotten the others and spoke of the silk one I sent him that was soft, also the little knife I got for him. He said, “I have put that away for another day as the things go here and I do not want to have that taken. This big one is not likely to, as not one takes a fancy to it”. I told him I should use and enjoy that which I liked best, but he wished to keep the other, he said. He had the two NZ papers sent to him which had in them that he was wounded, and would like me to take care of them and bring them home. Quartermaster came up just before dinner and told him they had been having exercises and asked him if he had had his morning sleep. He smiled and said, “I have postponed that till later.” He had his sausages for dinner and seemed to enjoy them. I then left him to have a rest and saw Sister Sayers out in the corridor where I told her I was going by the last train, 5.30pm, and would be back about 3.30pm so that he could have a little rest. She said she had not yet done for him today but would be able to get it done in the time and he has a rest as well. I went to the restaurant and had something to eat. I got the potted meat round to the Post Office as it was early closing, also had some cards, two view books and two little ornaments with Netley Hospital on them. I then went up round the church and on to the Abbey, then back to the restaurant again. Sister Rice came and spoke to me there. I did not recognise her in private clothes until she spoke. I had some thin white and brown bread and butter cut for poor Willie, as the night before he had had some but it was thick, not very appetising. I asked who cut it. He said Sister Sayers had before she went away. He felt he should like some brown bread and butter. The butter was not good and he asked what ours was like. I said it was not so extra good but theirs at Hatch was very good. I just called at Mrs McLean’s to wish her goodbye. She was out but Mr McLean said she would be back in a minute or two which she was. She came up as far as Southhampton Gate with me, and told me at any time she would take me under her roof, if she could not give me a bed. When I arrived at the ward in the hospital where poor Willie was I could see the screens around the bed, so knew they were doing for him and did not go in. I waited a time and then a sister came out. When I asked if I might go in, as I had not much time before my train would be going, she thought I could but would see first. She came out and said they were not quite ready, but very soon after they came out and said I could go in. Poor Willie looked up and said, “You have been kept waiting some time, haven’t you.” (I saw he looked a bit worried and felt the time was going, as well as myself.) I said, “No, not long. It did not matter at all.” I told him where I had been and showed him some post cards of it. When Sister Sayers came up and asked what he would have for tea she saw the bread and butter, also the potted meat which she took off and spread the meat between. She brought the tray back with a tray cloth on it, and teapot and cup and saucer, tea made with milk. She said, “It is not my fault you have been kept waiting, Dawbin gets so many visitors. A gentleman has been here all afternoon trying to make him say what he what he would like. You never saw anything like it, he wants nothing. I only wish he asked me. I would have given him a long list,” and went off laughing. When I asked if it was Mr Butt he said, “Yes. I have never seen him before. He has been here all the afternoon. He can talk. He wished to send me something and would not take no for an answer. He had his pencil and book out to take orders, so at last I said he could send me on a pipe and some tobacco, could think of nothing else.” (How he would like to be able to enjoy a pipe again but through his mouth being so tender he could not smoke.) Money was to be no object, but he said he was coughing most of the time and it was a nuisance. When I inquired if he had had any sleep he said no. I felt so sorry after keeping away so long on purpose. He said so too but said, “Never mind, I may have a better night , having had a bad night and no sleep today." He seemed to be coughing much more. I held the cup for him and wiped his poor mouth, it was so tender. I looked into the cup and say nearly a 1/4 pt. When I asked how long he had been throwing up this he said, "Only this afternoon. It's better for coming up," which was quite right, but I felt it would be better not there. He was so weak and glad to have it done for him I could tell. He asked me what I thought of a certain person but I said I had not seen him and wished to know what he meant. He goes on so about religion and makes such gestures, his eyes looking up. Did I think there was anything in it. I replied, "It's not the outward show that does it and he, I feel sure, thought the same. He was so weak with coughing then. I was standing by his pillow and will always regret not saying more as I feel sure he would have liked me to, or at least I thing so by his manner. I looked at my watch and said, "Ten minutes more." He replied by saying I should come every week if I could, and if nearer, more days if I could get away. He said, " I wonder you care to come and see a poor coughing boy like me." I said it would give me greater pleasure to come and see him when I knew he was here than any day's pleasure anyone could give me , and really meant it as well. I packed up the few things he wished me to, his eyes watching me all the time. He said, "You have a bundle of rubbish to take away." I wished him goodbye, saying by now I think he knew me well enough to know that if there was anything I could possibly do for him I should be only to pleased to if he would let me know, and if no one was up Sister Sayers would willingly write for him. I again wished him goodbye for the last time, feeling so sorry to leave him, neither should I, had I known that Flossie was staying the night with Mother, and it made me feel worse after, being the last time as well. I was so in hopes then that he would have been spared to see his parents. I came away and had to rush to the station or I should have lost the train. On my way home I wrote some post cards and put them in the box at Salisbury, also Daisy Dyer's letter. I lost my ticket in the rush, but told the officials before I left Salisbury. When I got to Templecombe they had a wire to say they had found it. Father met me at the station (Cole) about or just before 10pm (very later) and found Flossie here to my surprise. I had arranged for Miss Cosh to come for the night, earlier, as I thought Flossie would have been gone. I did not wish to keep her longer than necessary as Mabel did not know how to spare her. I put poor Willie's handkerchiefs soaking then got up and washed them before breakfast, dried and ironed them and sent them off with the eggs for Flossie to get a box and post them off at once (shops being closed at Salisbury)."
AUGUST 19. Sent off the chicken.
AUGUST 23. “I had a letter from Aunt Lilly to say they had a wire from Netley to say poor Willie was worse, and if he was still alive someone would go up in the morning. If not, they would wire to us, which they did, and came up for an hour or two. Mabel came just after they were gone, they met on the way. I had the following letter from Sister Sayers in the evening.”
R.V.H, Netley, August 22, 1915
Dear Miss Burrough
Words are very poor at a time like this, but I feel I must send you a line to express my deep and sincere sympathy for you all at this time of sorrow. Poor Dawbin, he has been such a good patient, it’s been a real pleasure for me to wait upon him during his very trying illness. I cannot tell you how sorry I am you were not sent for in time but his death was sudden at the last. If we had known his end was so near you would have been wired before. When the wire was sent you we thought you would have been in plenty of time. I cannot express in words what I feel for his poor, poor mother, he was so fond of her. I thought perhaps she would like a note from me. I will write and forward it to you and will you please hand it to her when she arrives. But there is so little one can do to comfort a mother’s sorrowing heart over the loss of her son. I would like her to know we have ALL done what we could for his comfort. I hoped, but always feared, her would not live to see her. I leave tomorrow for Egypt.
I remain, yours sincerely,
AUGUST 24. “I went to Netley by the 11 am train, as I longed to know if he said anything at the last, how he passed away, and anything I could hear. I arrived there about 4 pm, went straight to the ward and asked to see Sister Rice, as I knew Sister Sayers was gone. The quartermaster went and found Sister Parkinson. She took me to a little room not far from the ward where I spent part of the night once before. I asked if he spoke or said anything about anyone at the last. She told me his end was rather sudden at the last, and he did not himself think he was going as he had been like it times before and had rallied again. I said how I wished he had been spared to see his parents. She thought he was better off as he was and it would have been such a trial for his mother. “Oh,” I said, “she would have been brave enough to have borne it, I am sure.” I then asked if I could transfer the daily paper I had been sending my cousin to the 4th bed down in his ward. She said he was a Canadian when I asked for his number and name which she gave me on paper. She did not wish me to long with him as he was not quite so well that day, neither did I wish to. I just asked him how he was, told him about the papers and gave him a packet of chocolates. There were two ladies in the ward when I came back who came when I was with poor Willie last (lending books). They spoke so nicely to me and sympathised. They said Sister Sayers had said had thought so much of him and would so much like to have seen me before she went, but she would write a letter to his mother. I said how I wished he had been spared to have seen them, but she said no doubt it was for a wise purpose and she said Sister Sayers thought it would make it all the harder for them to bear. I did not think so as they would have been fully prepared for what was to come after what they had heard. I came from the ward with such a different feeling to what I had ever had before, it looked so empty, naked and desolate and not a flower to be seen. I felt I never wished never to go there again. I went to the Garrison room and heard all particulars, spoke of the few things he had asked, could I have them for his parents as I knew how much they would value the least little thing. It was not much, I knew, but it would be, to them, all the same. He had given me his watch and chain to take care of not the last time I was up but the time before. He looked surprised but said nothing except that everything he had was sent to the record office and we were to communicate with them. He also said, “His parents are coming are they not?” and by the way he spoke I considered that they would be given his things when they were here. He then showed me all the correspondence respecting it and said the remains left Netley Station at about 7 pm and should have arrived at Somerton that day about 12 noon. He was very nice with me about everything. I asked about the feather pillows. “Oh,” he said, “some special ones. You had better inquire of the sister in charge of the ward for them,” which I did. She said they were sent to be disinfected, when she would forward them on to me. I hurried up as I wished to see Mrs McLean which I did for just a few minutes. She asked me to have tea as she had it all ready. I said no, I wished to have a talk as I only had a few minutes to spare before the train would be going. By her manner and what she said I knew she had known it before and said, “Did you not get my letter,” which I had not. She said she had posted it early on Monday morning. I asked her if she had seen or heard anything about poor Willie. She said the sister that was with him when he died was in the shop that morning and said it was sudden at the last but in the morning they knew he was sinking. He coughed until he could cough no more, had not the strength to bear it and passed away about 2.30 pm. She said, “I felt sure you would have come up if no one else did.” I then said goodbye and thanked her the best way I could for her past kindnesses and caught the 5.35 pm train. I had to be fairly sharp to get it all in. The train was 1 ½ hours late in coming through the troops going or changing about. I got back home just after 9. Father met me at Cole. I found Mrs McLean’s letter here (Sun 10 pm)”.
Roselle, Netley 22.8.15
My dear Miss Burrough
I have heard daily by Corp. Fielding about your dear boy. Yesterday when he came round from the Soldier’s Home he said his cough was much worse and this morning when he went to see him at about 11 am he was getting weaker.
I went in the afternoon, got the last two roses (and thought of the two you took him) had a little pot of raspberry jelly, two homemade scones, also a dainty little plum tart in the hope he may enjoy one or the other of them. But alas, when I opened the ward door and saw the screens all around his bed I knew something was wrong, so I called a man to the door and asked if I could go in to see Mr Dawbin. You can imagine the shock I got when he said poor Dawbin passed away at 2.30 pm today, Sunday. So I said, “Can I just have a look at him before I go.” The man said he is not there. They have taken the body to the mortuary. “ So then I asked to see the sister. She came and was very nice. I felt it so much. The man and the sister both asked if I was a relation. I said no, but I knew some of Mr Dawbin’s friends. At the time my mind went back to his dear father and mother and you, for I do sympathize with you all.
For I could see how anxious you all were about him. Poor, dear boy, he is beyond it all now, but my heart goes out for his dear parents. I asked the sister if he had a great struggle. No, only it was the cough, but that he had had as bad a turn before and got over it, but today he had not got the strength to rally. May god bless and comfort you all. I saw many sad cases today. One poor widow came to bury her boy who had gone mad, and a very sad case it was.
Yours very sincerely in the bond of sympathy,
AUGUST 26. "Went to Cary and on to Lottisham. Flossie came with Mother.
AUGUST 27. "Walter came to Lottisham. Mabel and I went with him to poor Willie's funeral, cabled Auntie at Lydford for her to hear the sad news at Port Said. "Passed away letters received." Walter drove us back and he went home. I stayed until the following Monday. Went to Littleton Saturday evening with Adeline.
AUGUST 29. "Went to Chapel in the morning, in the evening Adeline, Julia and I went to Dunton, called on Julia White. Aunt Annie was there. We went up to the churchyard, back round to Compton Chapel."
AUGUST 30. "Went back to Lottisham in the morning. Ernest met me at the station and we cycled home."
SEPTEMBER 15. “Uncle and Auntie arrived at Plymouth.”
SEPTEMBER 16. “Reached Somerton, and the Littleton folk had a telegram to say they were there.”
SEPTEMBER 17. “Father and I drove down to see Auntie and Uncle when they both returned with us and stayed for a fortnight. Mother was so pleased, as well myself to have them here. Father, Uncle, Aunt Dawbin, Aunt Lilly and myself went up to Dundon Churchyard.”
SEPTEMBER 28. “Auntie, Uncle and myself went to Netley by the early train which left Temblecombe ¼ hour earlier than before. We saw the ward doctor, night nurse and Sister Rice who was with him when he passed away, also the quartermaster and some New Zealanders. It was raining in torrents, but we went round to the Red Cross Hospital, and back to Mrs McLean to tea. We left by the 5.35 train, arrived home and found Adolphus here, also a letter from Sister Rice, as I had written and told her we were hoping to come and would like to see her. “
Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley , September 26, 1915
My Dear Miss Burrough,
I have just received your letter and shall be on duty in B1 Surgical on Tuesday morning. I am not sure about the afternoon but I think I shall be on also from 1 o’clock until 5, so I hope not to miss Mr and Mrs Dawbin if they cannot come in the morning. I remember well your coming to see your cousin. Sister Anderson and I were with him until the last. Sister Sayers was not on duty but came back afterwards. It is terribly bad for his mother and father. I have often thought of them since and understand their wish to see the place where he spent his last days. He was such a favourite with all and so patient and good, if only we could have kept him with us a little longer until his people arrived.
EXTRACT FOR THE NEWSPAPER
Memorial To A Gallant Soldier – A handsome and valuable addition has recently been made to the picturesque churchyard of this village, in the shape of a unique headstone, erected by Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Dawbin in memory of their son, Trooper Wm. Dawbin, who was mortally wounded at Dardanelles in May last. The stone, which weighs a ton, is a massive slab of white marble, on which is carved a large shield, bearing the following inscription: W.M.R. N.Z. In ever loving memory of Trooper William Joseph Dawbin, Wellington Mounted Rifles, Makino, Feilidng, New Zealand, son of William and Juliana Dawbin, formerly of Compton Dundon, wounded at Gaba Tepe, Dardanelles, May 27th. 1915, died at Netley Hospital, August 22nd. 1915, aged 27 years. “In the midst of life we are in death.” “For Kind and Country!” At the top of the shield is engraved a wreath of laurels and a crown. In a panel above this stands a rider less horse, saddled and bridled. On the right side of the shield rest a pickaxe and shovel, over which droops a standard, and on the left rifle with a fixed bayonet is shown. Resting on the base is a Colonial hat and pair of spurs. Curbing surrounds the grave, and the whole is a fitting monument to perpetuate the memory of a gallant young soldier, who left his home in New Zealand to give his life for the mother country. The whole is certainly a great work of art.