Pat (Catherine) Beauchamp (1892–1972)
Above: Women ambulance drivers, WWI
“I had been up since 5 and was taking a lorry-full of stretchers and blankets past a French Battery to the E.M.O.’s. It was about midday and there was not a cloud in the sky. Then suddenly my heart stood still. Somehow, instinctively, I knew I was “for it” at last. Whole eternities seemed to elapse before the crash. . . I felt myself being hurled from the car into the air, to fall and be swept along for some distance, my face being literally rubbed in the ground. The stretcher bearer in behind had been killed instantaneously, but fortunately I did not know of this till some time later. . .
The French soldiers were down from their Battery in a trice, all great friends of mine to whom I had often thrown ration cigarettes. Gaspard (that was not his name, I never knew it, but always called him that in my own mind after Raymond’s hero) gave a cry and was on the ground beside me, calling me his ‘ little cabbage,’ his ‘ poor little pigeon,’ and presently he half lifted me in his arms and cradled me as he might a baby. I remained quite conscious the whole time. . .
The pain was becoming rapidly worse and I began to wonder just where my legs were broken. As I could move neither I could not discover at all, and presently I gave a gasp as I felt something tighten and hurt terribly. It was a boot lace they were fixing to stop the haemorrhage (boot laces are used for everything in France). The men stood round, and I watched them furtively wiping the tears away that rolled down their furrowed cheeks. One even put his arm over his eyes as a child does. I wondered vaguely why they were crying; it never dawned on me it had anything to do with me.”
Pat (Catherine) Beauchamp lost a leg in WWI, while serving as an ambulance driver in France, with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). She was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. I read a selection from her 1919 book Fanny Goes to War for the LibriVox First World War Centenary Prose Collection
Other memoirs and poems from WWI:
The Night Patrol, France, March 1916, by Arthur Graeme West
Gallipoli Diary, by John Graham Gillam
The Journal of Submarine Commander George-Günther von Forstner