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Monday, May 18, 2015

Nurse Marian Brehaut at Base Hospital 46: "We May Get Home for Christmas Dinner Yet"

With the approach of the November 11, 1918 Armistice and the passing of the worst of the influenza epidemic, staff at Base Hospital 46 continued their work but hoped for a return home by the winter holidays. The Oregon Journal published excerpts from Unit 46 nurse Marian Brehaut's letter home, apparently written just before the Armistice. Her letter reflects both the continuing work with wounded men and the hope of returning home. She gives details of what it was like to be on night duty in the face of air raids.

"Portland Nurse Writes of Duties in Camp Hospital," Oregon Journal, November 25, 1918, 3.

Marian Brehaut, who trained at Winnepeg General Hospital Training School for Nurses, wrote to her sister, Mrs. David Pattullo in Portland:

"Our hospital is full. As soon as the wounded men are able to be moved we ship them south and get new patients, some of whom are fresh from the battlefield, that is they have only been at the field dressing station before they come to us. Frequently we have them for only a day or two, when they are evacuated to make room for newly wounded men. A convoy came in tonight bringing men with the worst wounds we have yet had. It seems so barbarous to have these fine chaps all cut to pieces.

"The news looks extremely good and, if it is true, we may get home for Christmas dinner yet. The medical corps, as you know, is the last to leave the field.

"I am on night duty for the next two weeks. Night work is as hard as day duty in camp hospitals. We have been furnished stoves so we can keep warm. After the lights go out we can use coal oil lamps or lanterns except when there is an air raid, when, of course, we must extinguish all the lights. You can imagine what it means to take care of 50 patients in the dark. On rainy nights we are never troubled with air raids. The Germans prefer the bright moonlight nights.

"One of the boys of our unit, Dr. Coffey's son, has gone home on account of poor health. You will probably see him. You can ask him any questions you want to know about our work over here.

"We have had a lot of Oregon boys lately. Their division was pretty well shot to pieces, we hear, but you of course will have the word sooner than this.

"It rains about five days a week--very much like Oregon fall only colder.

"The best things the Red Cross gave us were our sleeping bags, which are wooly and warm. We night nurses sleep out in a tent. It is quiet out there and we all enjoy it."