14th August 1915

Off Hebburn. My first thoughts when I arose this morning was of a fellow who was very very unhappy that time last week. Thank goodness I have not got to go through another such week as this past one has been.

The three of us had a very busy forenoon indeed, something like thirty cases having to see the Doctor. The Petty Officer who went to Church with me last Sunday is today going down to the Hospital at South Shields for an operation. He spoke to me about it last Sunday when we were going on board after Church. This P. O. was a coastguardsman at Torquay when the war broke out and altho’ 46 years of age, was called out and sent to our ship. He has a son in our staff and the old chap said this afternoon when I said goodbye to him “If ever my boy comes to a ship with you, do look after him”. The old fellow said it so seriously too. Of course I promised to do my best in the event of his coming under me. Leave was given from 1 p.m. until 8-30 p.m. so I thought I would take the opportunity – probably a last one as the ship may sail any day now – to have some recreation. I thought I would go up to Newcastle and go to the Empire where Sir Herbert Tree and company were acting in “Trilby” – a condensed form of the original “Trilby” written by the late Gerald du Maurier. The matinee was timed to start at 2-30 p.m. but I did not arrive at Newcastle until 2-35 p.m. and at the Empire 2-45 p.m.

“Standing room only” was the order as I had expected, but I got a good viewpoint in the Circle and didn’t mind having to stand. The second turn was just finishing as I arrived on the scene. “Trilby” took up half the programme and the other turns had to be rushed to get the play along in good time. The first scene is a studio in Paris where a Scotchman, Welshman, Englishman and Irish girl (Trilby O’Farrel) are blossoming forth as artists. In an adjoining room lives Svengali, an eccentric Italian musician who possesses hypnotic influence and one of his victims is “Trilby”. Svengali can influence trilby to do anything. Ordinarily she is no singer but under his influence she becomes one of the greatest songsters in Europe. He takes her away by hypnotic influence from Billy – a young English artist who is madly in love with her and she has consented to be his wife, until Svengali uses his influence and takes her away from Paris to make her the greatest singer of all time. The third and last scene is the hall of the Cirque les Bashi-Bazoucks, at which place – 5 years after her exit from Paris – she is to sing, now as Madame Svengali. On this particular night the three chums of the Paris studio – Taffy, Scotty and Billy – happen to come to see the show. They see Svengali in the front with his eyes fixed on Svengali – the now Queen of Song. She sings grandly under the influence of her husband. She leaves the stage and with Svengali returns to the hall where are the three chums. They recognise Trilby but she – under Svengali’s influence – does not know them. This raises “Billy’s” ire and he abuses Trilby for her past conduct in leaving him in Paris. She only answers his abuse and assertions with an hysterical laugh. During this time the theatre proprietor – a Yankee – comes to escort Madame Svengali to the stage for her second song. She goes, but Svengali is kept back by the three chums. Without his influence Trilby (Madame Svengali) is unable to sing and makes the most awful noise possible. Svengali hears the change and is unable, through great weakness brought about by his hypnotic influence, to assist her and the shock kills him. Trilby is hooted off the stage and returns to the hall to find Svengali. She is not under Svengali’s influence now and recognises Billy, Taffy and Scotty. She asks for Svengali – whose body has been covered by the chums so that Trilby could not see it. Billy replies to her question, “Svengali has gone – home”. He then takes Trilby by the arm and leads her away – his bride-to-be.

Svengali is played by Sir H. Tree and the way he speaks the broken English throughout is grand and a marvellous bit of conception. Miss Enid Bell (who I once saw at Wyndham’s Theatre, London) as Trilby was very good and had the Irish brogue off “pat”. The parts of Taffy, Scotty and Billy were ably taken. After seeing Sir Herbert in a sketch like this, one wonders what he must be like in such a play as Henry VIII and other of his plays. A very fine musical turn was provided by the Ligeuner Quartette – an Anglo-Belgian-Dutch combination – including Miss Jacques Presbury, the Australian Prima Donna. I much enjoyed the “show” and there was only one thing that I required to make it a most happy occasion – and that was you. I did feel envious of some of the happy couples seated in the Circle and my thoughts went back to a night we had at the Palace.

I came out from the Empire at 4-30 p.m. and then went to a restaurant which I visited on a previous trip to Newcastle. I had a nice tea there and then went for a stroll but soon got sick of walking round the crowded streets and so went into a picture palace where Charlie was being shown. I had a set-back as soon as I entered the darkened hall for what should meet my gaze but Moll O’Hara sitting by the death-bed of her Mother. This picture you will remember is one of the early scenes of “The Straight Road” which we both saw at the Cinedrome during the 10 days leave, so you can guess how I was taken aback by the familiar scene, and my memory flashed back to our happy evening of a few weeks ago. A little later on “Grey Home in the West” was struck upon by the pianist as suitable for a certain picture, so you guess how once again I was memorised. Thanks to Charlie Chaplin I was soon taken “out of the dumps”, for one would have to be very miserable if they could sit and watch the comicalities of that comedian. He was extra good in this picture entitled “Charlie at the Sea”. Pimple was also shown and was not at all bad. I enjoyed the pictures and came out at 7-15 p.m.

I must not forget to mention two handy arrangements I saw in the picture place. One was an illuminated clock so that one need not struggle with their own time-piece in the dark or necessitate waiting until the lights went up. The other object was an illuminated programme indicator, by which a person could find out what number picture was being shown.

After leaving the pictures I went straight to the station and caught a train at 7-40 p.m. A lot of our men went down by the same train so I did not lack company. This was the most suitable train to allow of our getting to Hebburn in time to catch the boat at 8-30 p.m. Arriving at Hebburn I suddenly thought that I had better get something for supper, but the only thing I could get was some chipped potatoes.

My first enquiry on getting aboard and in the Sick Bay was whether a letter had arrived for I had expected one from you since yesterday. To my delight your letter had arrived during my absence. I sat down and read, marked, learned and inwardly digested the contents. The letter spoke volumes for the condition of the poor unhappy little girlie who was its writer. I think I must have let loose a great sigh of sympathy when I returned the letter to its envelope, for I felt really sorry for you, and you must have endured agony of heart during the past days. I have been bad enough goodness only knows, but your heart – a true woman’s – must have been awfully affected.

My thoughts of you were rudely disturbed by the entry of one of the S. B. A’s who had just returned from ashore. He came in exclaiming “The doctor wants a 2nd Steward aft to attend to a drowning case”. I looked at the fellow for I thoughthe was skylarking and saying that to try and get Pomroy or myself to run aft. However I soon came to the conclusion that he was serious and I being fully dressed made tracks for the Quarter-Deck as quickly as the darkness would permit. One has to go wary along the Upper Deck after dark as no lights are kept burning and there are plenty of obstacles to dodge. When I reached the Quarter-Deck I looked over the side and in a boat alongside the ship I could see the form of one of the Surgeons bending over a body on the bottom of the boat. I climbed down into the boat and passed a bottle of brandy (which I had brought with me) to the doctor. The man was in a pretty low condition and artificial respiration had to be used at first, followed by a hypodermic injection of Aether to stimulate the heart. I then returned to the Sick Bay to inform the other fellows about getting a blanket bed and hot water bottles ready. I also took a cot along in which to place the patient for hoisting on board. By the time the patient was got on board, in the Sick Bay, the bed etc was ready. We stripped the man, gave him a good hard rubbing to induce circulation and then put him between blankets and placed the hot water bottles in position. He was still unconscious, blue and swollen, and breathing fast. His pulse was fast but not weak. We decided to keep watch on him during the night in case he should become worse, and he may require some stimulants when he regains consciousness.

I am to go on watch at 1 a.m. so I am going to get a couple of hours rest before doing so. The fellow under our care is one of the buglers. He was in the Prince George with me and has always been a heavy drinker. As far as I can gather he was coming on board when he fell in the water. He had to get from the boat in which he came from shore into another boat laying alongside the gangway. Apparently whilst getting from the outer boat into the inner one he missed his footing – apparently he was intoxicated – and fell between the boats into the water, striking his head as he fell. The men in the boats and on the quarterdeck heard the splash and saw him floating on his back in the water. The outer boat immediately went to his aid and picked him up about 50 yards from the ship. He was unconscious. A Medical Officer had in the meantime been summoned and he got down into the boat as it came alongside. He started artificial respiration right away and got a lot of water away from the man’s lungs. The rest of the story I have already chronicled. It is rather a sad ending to my otherwise happy day.

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