One of the books on my shelf is ‘Nurse at the Russian Front’ – the diary of Florence Farmborough who went to Russia as a teacher of English to a surgeon’s daughters and became a nurse with the Russian army through the 1914-18 conflict.
Her diary for this day – Monday 23rd August 1915 – tells us that they had halted and ….
‘Set up our dressing station. Loud explosions rent the air repeatedly, but the frame of mind of the soldiers proved more optimistic than was expected. Finger and hand cases came to the fore again; many of them had walked in themselves, despite the fact that they had been warned to apply for aid only at the divisional Unit, where the medical staff had its own harsh methods of treatment for self-inflicted wounds. One old soldier, with grey threads in his beard and pathetic brown eyes, held out a trembling, blood-stained hand; I washed it and, under the thick blood-coating, there was revealed the dark tell-tale stain of a wound received at close quarters. I looked at him and he knew that I knew, but nothing even akin to cowardice could be read in that haggard face; I saw in it only despair and a great exhaustion of mind and body.’