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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, August 9, 1890   By:

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PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.

VOLUME 99.

August 9, 1890.

FIRST AID TO TOMMY ATKINS.

Sir, I visited the Military Exhibition the other day according to your instructions, my bosom glowing with patriotic ardour. If anything besides your instructions and the general appropriateness of the occasion had been necessary to make my bosom glow thus, it would have been found in the fact that I formerly served my country in a Yeomanry Regiment. I shall never forget the glorious occasions on which I wore a cavalry uniform, and induced some of my best friends to believe I had gone to the dogs and enlisted. However, to relate my Yeomanry adventures, which included a charge by six of us upon a whole army, would be to stray from my point, which is to describe what I saw at the Military Exhibition. I was lame (oh, dear no, not the gout, a mere strain) and took a friend, an amiable young man, with me to lean upon.

[Illustration]

"There's one place I really do know," he had said to me, "and that's this bally place."

I therefore felt I was safe with him. We arrived. We entered. "Take me," I said, "to the battle pictures, so that I may study my country's glories."

"Right!" he answered, and with a promptitude that does him immense credit, he brought me out into a huge arena in the open air with seats all round it, a grand stand, and crowds of spectators. The performance in the arena so deeply interested me that I forgot all about the pictures. I saw at once what it was. Detachments of our citizen soldiers were going through ambulance drill. The sight was one which appealed to our common humanity. My daring, dangerous Yeomanry days rose up again before me, and I felt that if ever I had had to bleed for my QUEEN I should not have bled untended. Even my companion, a scoffer, who had never risen above a full privacy in the Eton Volunteers, was strangely moved. There were, I think, ten detachments, each provided with a stretcher and a bag containing simple surgical appliances. All that was wanted to complete the realism of the picture was the boom of the cannon, the bursting of shells, and the rattle of musketry. In imagination I supplied them, as I propose to do, for your benefit, Sir, in the following short account.

It was a sultry afternoon; the battle had been raging for hours; the casualties had been terrible. "Dress up, there, dress up!" said the Sergeant in command, addressing detachment No. 2, "and you, JENKINS, tilt your forage cap a leetle more over your right ear; BROWN, don't blow your nose, the General's looking; God bless my soul, THOMPSON, you've buckled that strap wrong, undo it and re buckle it at once." With such words as these he cheered his men, while to right and left the death dealing missiles sped, on their course. "Stand at ease; 'shon! Stand at ease! 'shon!" he next shouted. A Corporal at this point was cut in two by a ball from, a forty pounder, but nobody paid any heed to him. Stiff, solid, and in perfect line, stood the detachments waiting for the word to succour the afflicted. At last it came. In the midst of breathless excitement the ten bent low, placed their folded stretchers on the ground, unbuckled and unfolded them, and then with a simultaneous spring rose up again and resumed their impassive attitude. "Very good," said the Sergeant, "very good. THOMPSON you were just a shade too quick; you must be more careful. Stand at ease!" and at ease they all stood.

But where were the wounded? Aha! here they come, noble, fearless heroes, all in line, marching with a springy step to their doom.

One by one they took their places, in line at intervals of about ten yards, and lay down each on his appointed spot to die, or be wounded, and to be bandaged and carried off. But now a terrible question arose. Would there be enough to go round? I had only counted nine of them, which was one short of the necessary complement, but at this supreme moment another grievously wounded warrior ran lightly up and lay down opposite the tenth detachment... Continue reading book >>


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