L’Hôpital Militaire Belge de Bonsecours, 1919

Molly Evans left the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Dunkirk on 27 Dec 1918 and transferred to Rouen to L’Hôpital Militaire Belge also known as the Anglo-Belgian Hospital where she served for a further three months until 20 Mar 1919.

Travelling via Boulogne where she stayed the night, she arrived at midnight in Rouen the following day and found her hostel, run by a Miss Crowdy. She then spent the Sunday meeting matron and 50 other VAD nurses, before starting work on Monday 30 Dec 1918. It is clear from her diaries that there were a number of new nurses transferred in like her – perhaps replacing others who had opted to go home.

A number of exhibits in her scrapbook illustrate the period. The hospital itself was in Bonsecours on a hill above Rouen.

L'Hôpital Militaire Belge de Bonsecours on the hill top above Rouen, 1919

L’Hôpital Militaire Belge de Bonsecours on the hill top above Rouen, 1919

The diary would indicate that there was a much different atmosphere in the hospital compared with the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Dunkirk. There were far more creature comforts, more hot water, a nurses’ sitting room and nurses tea clubs in town. However, there is clearly a lot more bickering and complaining going on. Molly names a lot of different nurses, notably Pilkington,  but she made no long standing friendships with any of them. She worked a lot of nights.

On 10 Feb 1919 she mentions that ‘Captain Royse’ was at the Cavalry Depot and she walked with him into town. He was not well. Later on 3 Mar she mentions that ‘Padre Royse‘ came looking for her. It would seem that this was indeed her Godmother‘s husband but it is difficult to see how he came to be in Rouen.

She saw a performance of ‘The Mikado’ on the evening of the 6 Mar 1919.

Pictures in her scrapbook record a royal visit by Princess Mary, but Molly herself does not appear on any of the pictures nor does she mention it in her diary. It appears that the visit took place on Friday 22 Nov 1918 before Molly’s arrival and is described in great detail in the Princess’s Biography.

She finally left the hospital on 20 Mar 1919, travelling overnight from Le Havre to Southampton. Molly had travelled home on leave some half dozen times during the war, but this was her real homecoming. Her diary records her voyage home as follows:

21 March 1919

Quiet Crossing. My fellow cabiner got up at 5.30. Lay still in my bunk & talked to her. Nice Woman. Mrs Allen home from India after five years. Breakfast nice, but feel conspicuous on board General Allenby. Usual wait on quay – crush, passport, permit, luggage, claimed and found it easily. Many offers of assistance. Ferrying up to London, 2 Danes, got taxi, collected luggage, Paddington, lunch, train, nice people [?], walked at Oxford, tea at Worcester, walked up from Hagley Station in howling snow storm. Great welcome, dinner, luggage, Rector, talk, bath, bed.

On the 24 Mar 1919 three days later the Diary continues with ‘Engaged!’

… met Noel. Pedmore Post Office. Lovely evening. Crunching over snow. Decision to announce our ‘engagement’ in wood. Told family! Noel came down afterwards & talked to us all. Said his family quite pleasant! No-one amazed! Bed

Molly Evans and Noel Downing were married on 29 Jul 1919.