Life is nothing if not varied, so here I am within 16 hours’ notice in camp for a fortnight with an Indian regiment: “The 1st Battalion of King George’s Own Light Cavalry” as their Medical Officer. The stay here will be one of novelty for me but for Tess it means still another separation in a strange country: I can however get into Lucknow during the day often as the camp is only 11 miles out. Tess is driving the car out for me this morning.
The camp is laid out over a wide area “roads” and paths laid out neatly by lines of whitewashed stones. There are about 200 Indian cavalry troops with their horses and about 8 Officers (7 English and 1 Indian) who live in a double row of single tents and being India, in addition to camp furniture, bring a chest of drawers and easy chair from the bungalow and a few rugs. We dine in a “mess” – three tents run together where full meals are served up by our own personal servants waiting at table. In the mess one gets the daily paper, the latest post edition of the Times, Tatler etc.
My job is, first, to see the “morning sick” – chiefly minor cuts and wounds from falls, and to evacuate by ambulance to hospital in Lucknow more serious cases; to dope the water supply with Chlorine to make it safe; to do a daily sanitary inspection to see that waste is disposed of and that flies are not breeding. In addition yesterday, a chap kept following me with half-a-dozen goats on a string – why I couldn’t at first find out – until at last I found I had to say whether they were sound in flesh and limb before slaughter for the pot. This lends variety to the work of an eye specialist.
These, however, are routine jobs, and from tomorrow I shall go out on horseback with the squadron across-country, and learn just what a medical officer has to do on such an outing: decide on an imaginary dressing-station for imaginary wounded and so on. It sounds rather like play, indeed most of soldiering in India – bar the frontier – is a kind of play, although a very necessary one and none the less efficient. The British Cavalry Officer in India is not the snob Punch would make him out to be – at least not if one lives with them. They are exceedingly pleasant. They are specialists of course – on horses and cavalry tactics – and their lighter interest centres chiefly round polo, but they recognize I’m a Doctor first and don’t expect me to know their specialty too.
This morning, the other officers having gone out with most ten men and horses for an exercise on which I was not required, I got hold of an Indian Havildor (equivalent of Sergeant) and asked for a horse, and as I have not been on one for some months, not a Kharab-wala (“bad-un”). At last he got one a “bilkul siohawala” (“absolutely straight one” – whatever that means). It was another officer’s charger and seemed very much rested and ready for a run! However I managed to control it fairly reasonably.
Last week before coming to Camp, Tess and I had quite a gay week. We attended our first Government House Ball given by Sir Harry and Lady Haig, Governor of United Provinces. It, too, was quite an experience. The trees in the large park grounds are lit up with hundreds of coloured electric bulbs, and hundreds of policeman were out directing the halfmile long stream of cars with guests, which were allowed to stop about ½ minute to disgorge passengers before moving on. Inside the men were all in the Evening Dress uniforms of their regiment or unit (I don’t think you’ve seen mine) and the ladies in full evening dress with long white gloves.
During the first dance there was a pause, The National Anthem, flunkeys made a passage way with red cord down the middle of the hall and His Excellency and Lady Haig preceded by two very self-conscious ADC’s passed down to a “march” tune to a dais on which there were two thrones. The more distinguished guests were called up in turn to talk with them, the first being some Indians. Now that Indianization is proceeding in every service, there were quite a big number present and more mixing is beginning to take place. There were eats and drinks galore.
The other event was a Fancy Dress Ball in an old Palace of the King of Oudh (the last moghul King). I went in my kilt, and Tess had spent a week making a Victorian Costume. On both outings we were out to dinner before the dance.
This camp has entirely upset our posting of Christmas presents so I am sorry yours and Jeans will not arrive till January.
Cheerio to both.