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A Quaker letter to the front

Letter from a woman living in London with a Quaker family who responded to a letter from Pte Billy Goode, a soldier who had written to her. The two correspondents were otherwise strangers to one another.

(circa) 1 February 1915

You amused me when you said I was ‘un-Quakerish’ but you were right, and therefore in my ignorant I have grinned when Quakers have been mentioned. I never came in contact with them till I went to Dunkirk, or rather to Malo, and there, my good friend, I learned to know Quakers. My pen is too weak to express what I think of them. I will try and describe to you these people, these MEN. There are men and jolly noble specimens too – a lot of fresh healthy -looking youngsters, filed with the joy of life, most of them quite well off monetarily, giving up their time, their lives, to helping, to attending to the sick and wounded, to performing operations, giving physic, driving cars, picking up (under fire) solders, to washing pots and pans, sweeping and scrubbing floors, really helping: men who have come straight from Oxford and Cambridge in many instances. They don’t clamour or squabble to be sent to the firing line for the fun and excitement, but they say ‘right-o’ when they are ordered to go. They don’t say – ‘My God, this is too hot for me, and after all I am not a soldier, why should I put myself in the zone of danger’ when they are sent, as so many other Red Cross men do. I have heard them with my own ears. They are there (the Quakers) to help, and quietly and unostentatiously they are helping. They are wonderful, and I give you my work without any gush or exaggeration, I feel better for having come in contact with them.

This opinion, which I am so poorly expressing, is unanimous. Amongst them there is no jealousy such as exists in many other hospitals in France as to who shall be head, or who is to do this or that: all they want is to help, and every second they are doing it.

Had I time I could tell you little instance, trifling in themselves, but tremendous in their effect, that occur amongst them in their every day life, of a sick doctor or orderly in the hospital, how one or other of these Quaker lads will saunter in with a fresh egg in his pocket (a great luxury in Malo, I assure you) or a cup of cocoa made at midnight, or some small kindness that necessitated a sacrifice on the part of the giver, even if it is only to disturb his own hard-earned rest, and stand in the bitter cold to make cocoa, or cook the egg. I love them .. and not one of them getting a sou for all this: in fact many of them contributing to the funds. Bless them.
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