In Her Words

Letter from Major Lucille Spalding, October 20, 1944

Lucille S. Spalding, 1944
Major Lucille S. Spalding, en route from Italy to France, 1944

Many nurses in the 21st General Hospital were graduates of the Washington University School of Nursing. The unit’s chief nurse and others maintained a correspondence with their friends and associates at the Nursing School to keep them abreast of news from the army unit. Some of the letters were published in the School’s Nurses Alumnae Association Bulletin.

Excerpts of this letter, dated October 20, 1944, were reprinted in “The Cherry Tree,” the Alumnae Bulletin of the Washington University School of Nursing, in December 1945.

In this letter, Lucille Spalding, chief nurse of the 21st General Hospital, relates some details of the unit’s new facilities in France.

I hardly know where to start. We have arrived at our new hospital site and it promises to be finer and larger than we have ever had before. We hope to house all of our patients and personnel in buildings – and heated ones at that. If it works out as planned, it should be a wonderful place for our men to receive medical care. We are in an isolated spot, but after our African set-up, the distances should not be too great a handicap. We are really in the country – acres of farmland and woods around us. The country is simply beautiful but the weather is terrific – cold, rainy and mud up to our ankles. But fortunately we have plenty of warm clothing. Since the heat is not yet available, we dress in heavy slacks, high-top boots, flannel shirts and field jackets – all this over heavy long underwear.

When we travel, we take with us our suitcase or duffel bag and a bedding roll. It is amazing how much we can pack and how well it comes through in spite of being tossed out of trains and down holes of ships.

We have one mess hall for all personnel at the moment and we stand outside it in long lines with our mess kits and sit on boxes inside to eat our meals. Afterward we stand in long lines again to wash our mess kits. Much of our food in dehydrated but we do get fresh potatoes and cabbage and some fresh meats. We had frozen chicken the other night and have been promised pork chops for tonight.

We are living generally in a primitive state just now but it will not be long before we will have a great amount of comfort. Our interests and energies right now are directed toward getting ready to receive patients.

I am delighted with the fact that all of our nurses can be in one building. It is large enough to make it a very happy place for all. As soon as we can get partitions built, we plan to divide it up into smaller rooms.