"One feels a fool when one ostentatiously attacks a quite irreproachable counterpane."
Lady Cynthia Asquith, 26th December 1916
Great adventure! I did a day’s nursing at Winchcomb Hospital from eight to eight. I went in some trepidation, but I hadn’t realised the tremendous psychological effect of a uniform. Directly I stepped into the war I felt an entirely new being—efficient, untiring, and quite unsqueamish—ready to cut off a leg, though generally the mere sight of a hospital makes me feel faint. It’s wonderful how right it puts one with the men, too. I feel so shy as a laywoman, but was absolutely at me ease as ‘Nurse Asquith’. I loved hearing myself called ‘nurse’ and would certainly go on with it if I were free. I felt all the disciplined’s fear of the Sister and the experienced V.A.D., and most terribly anxious to acquit myself well.
First I was put down to wash an oilskin table. It looked so clean at first, and appeared dirtier and dirtier under my attentions. Then I washed all the lockers, etc., etc. The morning in my memory is a long blur of mops, taps, brooms, and plates. The unpleasant moments are when one can’t find anything to do. One cant bear to stand idle and yet one feels a fool when one ostentatiously attacks a quite irreproachable counterpane. My most serious breach of etiquette was that I spoke to a soldier while the doctor was in the ward. We had a meal of cocoa and toast and butter at 9.30, to which I brought a ravenous appetite. It seemed an eternity to 12.30 when we had our lunch.
There really wasn’t enough to do. Most of the cases were trench feet—quite raw, a horrible sight. I assisted at the dressing of them, feverishly obeying curt orders. The men were delightful. Made lots of beds after tea, tidied up lockers, etc., etc. Only got tired in the last hour. Got home at 8.30 feeling excited, and wound up, and very well. Far less tired than after an ordinary London day.
Lady Cynthia Asquith, Diary, quoted in The Assassin’s Cloak