World War 1 French nurse during the Battle of Verdun
21st February 1916
My name is Raina Beauvais. I came as an assistant nurse in the Battle of Verdun. The main reason I came was because my brother signed up to fight in the war, and I wanted to be present to help him in case he was wounded in the battle. Today, the Germans finally made their first offense against us that has started with the heavy bombing on all sides of river Meuse and in Verdun causing great blood shedding. The night is totally lit by the firebombs, and the ground is trembling and shaking as if hit by an earthquake. It is my first day of service at the war clinic, and the number of casualties being brought in is overwhelming. I am scared for my brother and can only pray for his safety.
22nd February 1916
The German soldiers may have come out strongly, but our men have put up great resistance and even after all that offense they have only managed to capture the Bois d’Haumont. The casualties with torn limbs have reduced, but those with gunshots wounds seem to be more than yesterday’s. They tell us that the overwhelming force by the Germans is causing the French to retreat. The loss of lives being experienced in this place is overwhelming me as I find this war not necessary. What is worse is that the headquarters are not responding or offering reinforcement and do not seem to be taking the war seriously. Telephone lines have been destroyed and I have not heard from my brother since he went into the battlefield, and that scares me.
23rd February 1916
The heavy fighting is still going on, and more soldiers with casualties and injuries are being brought in by the minute. I have been forced to learn how to dress serious wounds, remove bullets and to identify which illnesses a person is ailing from in just two days as the soldiers being brought in by far exceed the nurses available. The camp is now almost full, but we are determined to save the lives of our compatriots. The news reaching us is that the Germans have captured Brabant, and we can still hear the war in Bois de I’Herbebois from here. At last, the headquarters is taking notice on the situation, after a great loss of lives! I hope they intend to send reinforcements and supplies because that is urgently needed.
24th February 1916
It is the fourth day since the battle begun, and it only seems to be getting worse. The Germans have reinforced and have managed to capture Cote 344, Bois de Fosses, the Bois de Chaume and Ornes. The level of loss of lives in the field keeps on increasing, and I am beginning to wonder whether we will eventually lose the battle. I finally get to hear from my brother and later on communicate to my father. I am glad to hear that both are fine although my brother sounds exhausted from all the fighting.
25th February 1916
From the attitude of the wounded soldiers at the camp, I can tell that their morale is declining. The number of dead bodies in the field is alarming, and the German offense is getting stronger. Alarmingly, they have taken hold of Fort of Douaumont! This Font was one of our best chances of winning this war and it will be difficult to win with it in German’s possession. I have a feeling that this will go down as the most terrible mistake that the headquarters made in this war. I have taken a keen liking to one particular soldier who I am treating for gunshot wounds. He goes by the name Antoine. Today he told me of the loss of his best friend in the field which seems to be crushing his spirit; I can only empathize and comfort him. My mind is always on my brother, as by dealing with the war casualties, I understand the danger that his life is in when in the battlefield.
26th February 1916
On this day, the war has proceeded to Bois de Hardoumont, but we have the upper hand, literally. Our troupes are situated on the hills surrounding the fortification of Hardoumont and have managed to stop further progress of the Germans. The Germans have lost many of their men too. To me, it does not matter which side one is on, life is precious, and this war makes light on the sanctity of life. As I go around the camp and see men losing their lives in defense of a nation, I begin to wonder whether the war is worth the prize of conquering an opponent. Unfortunately, it is hurting that the men at the battlefronts losing their lives for their nation are humble men making meager wages who do not get the great benefits of the winning the war.
27th February 1916
Today has to be the day where we have lost most men in the field since the war started. More than fifty percent of the troupe has been lost with a large fraction of the remaining being brought in for dressing and care provision. I do not know how much longer I can take seeing men losing their lives in my care. All I want is to go back home to a normal life, to work at my father’s bakery and to get a husband. Speaking of a husband, Antoine seems to have grown on me as I find myself spending more time at his bedside. I must admit, he is the reason I find the strength to continue serving those in the field, as seeing him getting better because of the medical care I have been giving him gives me satisfaction. I hope that, despite this being a sorrowful occurrence, he might be my gem in the sand.