Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Great War, Volume 2: Chapter 7-3

 Wrapping up Chapter 7 with this installment.  The next chapter will focus on Jozef.  

I did a bit more looking at dress designs from 1910-1915 as I was thinking about what the present Natalie receives in this installment might look like.  I think it looks a lot like this 1912 vintage mourning dress, but it's a deep red color rather than black.  (source)

Terespol. Aug 2nd, 1915. Before the war, Russian Poland had stretched out as a peninsula, the westernmost part of the Russian Empire, surrounded by Germany to the north and west, and Austria-Hungary to the south. Through the summer offensives of 1915, that peninsula was being gradually eaten away. Not only was Warsaw now at the extreme western end of this peninsula, but it was under assault from both the north and south.

Much closer to where the field hospital and Third Army were in the fortress of Terespol, at the end of July, a mixed force of German and Austro-Hungarian forces commanded by Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen successfully captured the main southern railroad line which connected Brest-Litovsk and the rest of Russian Poland with Kiev.

Warsaw had not yet fallen, and in Brest it was yet another heavy summer day with the enemy still in the distance, but the men who moved pieces on maps at the Russian central command consulted their rail maps and their unit strengths and determined that it was necessary to begin moving resources out of Poland lest they be cut off and lost to the enemy.

These map men wrote up a strategic note. That note was turned into a set of army group orders. The army group orders were turned into orders for divisions, regiments, and battalions and support formations, and on Monday afternoon Doctor Kalyagin called the field hospital’s key staff together and announced, “We have orders to leave the city.”

This led, naturally, to an explosion of questions. Where were they going? Would they take the patients with them, send them back to the nearest base hospital, or leave them behind? How soon would they leave? Why were they leaving when things seemed relatively peaceful?

To most of these Doctor Kalyagin had no answer, so he answered those he did: They were to board a train for Bialystok, well to the north, within 48 hours. They would indeed take their patients and their supplies with them. The process of packing and moving must be as orderly as possible. This was no panicked move. Nothing should be abandoned which could be used. But with the Germans advancing and Warsaw about to fall, the front would be split and the field hospital would be serving the northern half of the Russian forces as they fell back. No one was to see this as a defeat or as hopeless in any way. They were falling back in an organized fashion. Surely the generals and the Tsar knew what they were doing. Anyone who had read of 1812 knew that Russia knew how to defend through the depths of her territory. Soon the Germans would be as confounded as Napoleon had been in his time.

Many of the orderlies and sisters were still asking questions about why they were leaving and the military situation. Natalie’s mind was already on what needed to be done in the next two days in order to move the field hospital. The patients were to come with them, but even so it would be as well to assess all of them and send any who would eventually need to go to the base hospitals off now. Were there medical stores in Brest which they could take with them in order to avoid shortages later? Could they replace some of the cots which they had lost in their sudden retreat earlier in the year?

She recognized a similarly thoughtful look on Sister Travkin’s face, and together the two of them stepped aside from the press of staff and began making plans, speaking in the half completed phrases and cryptic nicknames which are the language of people who have long worked together.

As with so many aspects of her hospital service, it caused a moment’s shock to think that this familiarity with packing up the hospital and getting it onto the road was the product of only three months’ experience, since the hammer blows of the May offensive had started Third Army’s long retreat from southern Galicia to this point. Three months and two hundred and fifty miles, which had left them feeling like seasoned veterans of maintaining a hospital on the road. Just as the time before the war seemed a lifetime away, it now seemed that the hospital had always been on the move. And Doctor Kalyagin had only been with them on the last, though admittedly longest, of these moves. Here was an area where they were expert while he was still comparatively new.

The doctor finished speaking to the staff and approached the two of them, with Sister Gorka following in his wake. “I’ve already told the regimental transport unit that we require wagons or trucks to move the patients to the rail depot. It’s difficult because we don’t yet have our train schedule assigned. But I’ve made it clear that we must have the absolute highest priority. We must make sure that we have a clear plan for what goes in each load, what goes first, and who is to oversee both here and at the rail depot.”

Natalie could see Sister Travkin’s mouth tightening into a thin line and resolved to deflect the doctor before an argument broke out. “We were just saying, Doctor, that this journey by train offers us an opportunity which our previous movements have not. If you could review all the patients and determine which ones could be returned to duty with another week or two of care, and thus should remain with us, and which should be sent back to a permanent hospital for longer term care, we could arrange for the long term cases to be transported immediately and we would have fewer patients to care for on the journey to Bialystok. After all, there’s no sense in carrying a patient all the way north only to send him off on a hospital train a day or two later.”

Doctor Kalyagin hesitated. Natalie hoped she had been sufficiently diplomatic in directing him. Assessing the patients and determining their course treatment was rightfully a task for a doctor, and in this sense he should not wish anyone else to do the work. But it was also quite clearly his work. It would keep him occupied while the nurses and the housekeeping sisters organized their own domains without his interference.

“Of course,” the doctor said at last. “The patients must be assessed. That first of all. I will prepare the list of which cases should be transported. Send an orderly or a runner to regimental transport and ask when they can provide a couple of cars on a train for Minsk or Vilnius so we can dispatch the patients who won’t be staying with us.” With this resolved, he strode away with purpose, his footsteps echoing on the floorboards.

Continue Reading...

No comments: