2,000,000 HOSPITAL BAGS.
LADY SMITH-DORRIEN'S WORK FOR THE WOUNDED.At first sight a cretonne bag with its flowery design seems too feminine a possession to be associated with the war, yet since April, 1915, over two million of these little bags have been sent out by Lady Smith-Dorrien to the clearing stations, the hospitals at the front, and the hospital ships. Their purpose is to safeguard the valuables of the officers and men admitted to the clearing stations. Yesterday, at 26, Pont-street, the headquarters of the Hospital Bag Fund, there were 20 bales waiting for the parcel-post collector. They were nearly all "standing orders," and were urgently needed at the casualty clearing stations. The usual demand is for 100,000 a month but 10,000 extra have been now asked for by the Director of Medical Services in France, and it is for this reason that Lady Smith-Dorrien is busy speeding up her helpers, of whom there are over 80,000 on the carefully kept files.
What is now a great and business-like undertaking, with branches and centres in every part of England, in Scotland and Ireland, in America, Canada, Spain, Trinidad, Jamaica, and the most out-of-the-way places, started in quite a simple way. A military nurse, known to Lady Smith-Dorrien in Aldershot, wrote to her from the front in the early days of the war saying that the men's possessions were emptied out of their pockets under their beds at the clearing stations and frequently got lost, and the nurses were often blamed for the loss. So Lady Smith-Dorrien made a couple of hundred bags and sent them out to her. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, then in command of the Second Army, was much struck by the idea, and asked his Surgeon-General if they would be useful to him. The reply was a request to "send out 50,000 as quickly as possible." Then Sir Alfred Keogh approached Lady Smith-Dorrien and asked her to undertake supplies for the whole of the fighting forces. The work had been carried on at her own house, but it became necessary to move, and Lady Susan Gordon-Gilmour lent 5, Belgrave-place. When that house was sold Mr. Cox, of Cox's Bank, lent 26, Pont-street, where the work is now carried on with the minimum of expense and the aid of 14 efficient voluntary workers. The biggest item of expense is the hessian for packing.
PLAIN BAGS THAT GET LOST.The bags are every colour of the rainbow, but coloured they must be, and with flowers—roses for preference. This has become apparent as little incidents in the distribution came to the knowledge of headquarters. A wounded man was heard grumbling as he looked at a useful stout holland bag that held his little treasures and compared it with a flowered one proudly displayed by his companion in the next bed. "He's an Australian, that's why he got a bag with roses on it," he was saying; but was satisfied by the gift of an even more brilliantly coloured one. On one of the hospital ships where there was a distribution of bags, some plain and some flowered, it was found that the plain ones mysteriously disappeared through the portholes and the "losers" applied for others. But the men are not the only ones who delight in colours; two young subalterns, home on sick leave, called at 26, Pont-street, last week to see the bags en masse, and explained with some diffidence that theirs had meant a good deal to them, having kept all their valuables intact and were so cheering after the drabness of khaki everywhere. "They reminded us of the cushions and covers at home," they said.
Yesterday the post brought a letter enclosing 10s. for materials. The sender was the mother of a boy killed two years ago, and she sent it in memory of a little chintz bag that meant a great deal to her. "He was shot through the head and never recovered consciousness," she wrote, "but having about his neck a small bag with his permanent address they sent me many little treasures, and above all a diary containing his notes since the first day of the war. This is the greatest treasure I could have, and I am sure without the little bag it would never have been sent to me." Many letters like this find their way to 26, Pont-street. The men never give the bags back, and an attempt to meet the shortage by collecting them at the home hospitals would be deeply resented.
On the roll of helpers are the names of duchesses, busy women in the suburbs, eager school girls, and the myriad workers at the surgical aid societies. Beside each one's name in the files is the record of the number of bags she has made and the intervals at which she has sent them. Elderly ladies are wonderful workers, but some of them have an inveterate love of embroidering something on each bag. One bag picked up in an ambulance train and sent to headquarters "for luck" by the finder has a woolly black cat with red and white and blue ribbons on it.
Lady Smith-Dorrien buys the chintz in bales, getting 50,000 yards at a time. Anyone sending 7s. 4d. can obtain sufficient cretonne, tape, and labels for 30 bags, carriage free. Bags, when finished, should measure 12 by 14in. They can be made, of course, of unbleached calico, or any new strong washing material, but cretonne is preferred by the wounded. A sample bag is always sent to show the correct method of making. It is suggested that people who have not time to make bags should send money, as there are many workers who can give the time for making, but who cannot afford to give cash. Four thousand bags a day are needed.