I am not going to batter your feelings or mine by describing the details of that thousand-year night. Anything agonising you have ever seen in the emergency room of a big city hospital is what we saw, and worked on, that night. Compound fractures, limbs shattered to uselessness, burns - horrible burns. If the burns weren't too bad we slathered them with a gel that would not be seen here for centuries, put dressings over the affected areas, and had them carried outside by civil defence stretcher bearers. The worst cases were carried in the other direction by Cas and Pol - behind that curtain, through a Burroughs-Carter-Libby gate, to Ira Johnson Hospital in Boondock, and (for burn cases) shifted again to Jane Culver Burroughs Memorial Hospital in Beulahland, there to spend days or weeks in healing, then to be returned to Coventry at ‘All Clear' this same night.
All of our casualties were civilians, mostly women, children, and old men. www.o-rarity.ru The only military (so far as I know) around or in Coventry were Territorials manning AA guns. They had their own medical set-up. I suppose that in London a first-aid station such as ours would probably be in the underground. Coventry had no tube trains; this aid station was merely sandbags out in the open but it was safer, perhaps, than it would have been in a building - one that might burn over it. I'm not criticising. Everything about their civil defence had a make-do quality about it, a people with their backs to the wall, fighting gallantly with whatever they had.
In our aid station we had three tables, operating tables by courtesy, in fact plain wooden tables with the paint scrubbed right off them between raids. Father was using the one nearest the entrance; Woodrow was using the one nearest the curtain; the middle one was used by an elderly Englishman who was apparently a regular for this aid station: Mr Pratt, a local veterinary surgeon, assisted by his wife, ‘Harry' for Harriet. Mrs Pratt had unkind things to say about the Germans during the lulls but was more interested in talking about the cinema. Had I ever met Clark Gable? Gary Cooper? Ronald Colman? Having established that I knew no one of any importance she quit trying to draw me out. But she agreed with her husband when he said it was decent of us Yanks to come over and help out. .. but when were the States going to come into the War?
I said that I did not know.
Father spoke up. ‘Don't bother the Sister, Mr Pratt. We'll be along a bit late, just like your Mr Chamberlain. In the meantime please be polite to those of us who are here and helping. '
‘No offence meant, Mr Johnson. '
‘And none taken, Mr Pratt. Clamp! '
(Mrs Pratt was as good an operating nurse as I've ever seen. She was always ready with what her husband needed without his asking for it - long practice together, I suppose. She had fetched the instruments he used; I assume that they were the tools of his animal practice. That might bother some people; to me it made sense. )
Mr Pratt was at the table that we had expected would be used by Jubal and Jill. (Our research on fine details was less than perfect, since it came from questioning people after the War was over. ) So Jubal went out into the anteroom where the wounded waited and worked on triage, tagging the cases Cas and Pol were to carry through to Boondock - the ones who would otherwise have been allowed to die untreated, as being beyond hope. Jill gave a hand to both Dagmar and me, especially with anaesthesia, such as it was.
Anaesthesia had been a subject of much discussion at our Potemkin Village drill. It was bad enough to show up in the twentieth century with anachronistic surgical instruments. .. but Boondock anaesthetic gear and procedures? Impossible!
Galahad decided on pressure injectors supplying metered amounts of ‘neomorphine' (as good a name as any - a drug not available in the twentieth century). Jill moved around the station and the anteroom, injecting the damaged and the burned and thereby left Dagmar and me with our hands free for surgery assistance. She made one try at helping Mrs Pratt but was waved away - Mrs Pratt was using something I had not seen since 1910 or thereabouts: a nose cone with drops of chloroform.
The work went on and on. I wiped our table between patients, until the towel I was using was so soaked with blood that it was doing more harm than good.
Gretchen reported a spotty kill on the second wave - sixty bombers attacked, forty-seven shot down. Thirteen bombers dropped at least one stick before being hit. Gretchen's girls were using particle beams and night-sight gear; the usual effect was to blow up the planes gasoline tanks. Sometimes the bombs went off at the same time; sometimes the bombs exploded on hitting the ground; sometimes the bombs did not explode, leaving a touchy problem for bomb-disposal experts the next day.
But we saw none of this. Sometimes we would hear a bomb drop nearby and someone would remark, ‘Close, ' and someone would answer, ‘Too close, ' and we would continue working.
A shot-down plane makes a different sort of an explosion from a bomb. .. and a fighter from a bomber. Mr Pratt said that he could tell the crash of a Spitfire from the crash of a Messerschmidt. Probably he could. I could not.
The third wave broke into two formations, so Gretchen reported, and came in from southwest and southeast. But her girls now had practice in using what was essentially an infantry weapon against targets they were not used to, under conditions where they must be sure that they had bombers in their sights, not Spitfires. Gretchen described this one as a ‘skeet shoot'. I made a note to ask her what that meant, but I never did.