You may have read that the city of Antwerp surrendered on October 10th. The Germans gave notice that they were going to bombard the city on October 6th. The Belgian government left and general evacuation took place the following day.
It had been thought that the British Marines were coming to the rescue and confidence had risen, particularly when on October 4th Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was observed taking lunch in the Hotel St. Antoine. Henry Souttar commented:
“Surely nothing can inspire such confidence as the sight of an Englishman eating… and certainly on this occasion I found the sight more convincing than a political speech.”
Sadly, it turned out that this confidence was misplaced and the Marines were unable to get to them in time. We understand that Henry’s patients were evacuated by bus! They struggled to get everyone on the four buses provided. Nonetheless, they made their escape to Ghent,
“…utterly tired out, though personally I had slept a sort of nightmare sleep on the top of a bus which boldly announced its destination as Hendon.”
Henry is now in France. He has set up another Field Hospital, this time in Furnes, 15 miles east of Dunkirk. He has been visited by Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, the discoverer of two elements (polonium and radium).
“One of our most distinguished and most welcome visitors was Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium. She brought her large X-ray equipment to Furnes for work amongst the wounded, and we persuaded her to stay for a week.
One of our storerooms was rapidly fitted up as an impromptu radiographic department, the windows painted over and covered with thick paper, a stove introduced and a dark-room contrived with the aid of a cupboard and two curtains. Electric current was obtained from a dynamo bolted on to the step of a twenty-horse-power-car, and driven by a belt from the flywheel of the engine. The car stood in the courtyard and snorted away, whilst we worked in the storeroom alongside…
Madame Curie was an indefatigable worker, and in a very short time had taken radiographs of all the cases which we could place at her disposal…
Mademoiselle Curie developed the plates and produced photographs of the greatest utility to us.”
Marie Curie is determined to bring X-ray facilities to as many hospitals as possible. At her own expense she has converted a number of vans (nicknamed ‘Petites Curies’) and trained radiographers to operate them. Whilst not all hospitals have not taken advantage of her expertise, Henry has welcomed her with open arms.
Now it is possible for surgeons to see more of the shrapnel, bullets and other materials that need removal in the operating theatre. Prior to this it was often necessary to open up a patient a number of times, when infections revealed the existence of further foreign bodies.