The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Typhoid fever, then to the hills

With the disbanding of the Machine Gun Corps, Walter re-joined his original unit, 2nd Lincolnshires in Poona. But nothing ever seemed to run a smooth course for him, and in September he was struck with typhoid fever:

I was getting settled down nicely, when, in September, I [was] taken ill with Typhoid Fever. I was rushed to the hospital where I languished in bed with nothing to eat for days, as I was unable to eat owing to the state of my stomach. I used to have plenty of drinks and custards, egg flips, Bovril, etc. I used to have a blanket bath each morning, with a rubbing of talcum powder and methylated spirits, which was very refreshing. I was too weak to write to May, as I knew she would be anxious about me. She was advised to apply to rejoin me in Poona.

I began to feel better, and more cheerful in myself. The male nurse used to come and attend to my wants and I asked him for a piece of bread, as I felt so hungry. I touched a soft spot in him, and he told me to be careful in chewing it before swallowing it. I enjoyed it very much. The Matron came around on her daily visit. She stopped at my bed, and asked how I was getting on? I told her. I felt much better! Then she asked me if I had had anything to eat? I casually said no, but she said, what are these breadcrumbs doing on your sheet?” I felt so guilty, and it was no good for me to make excuses. “Now Sergeant Wildgoose! You have been very ill, and you had a very corroded lining to your stomach. A new lining has now taken its place, and if you are going to aggravate it by eating solid food, all our good work will have been in vain. So please bear that in mind.” I believe the male nurse got a wigging afterwards.

I was put on light foods with a sherry occasionally and I was able to get up and sit in a chair on the verandah. It was a change to lying in bed. The months were slipping by, and it is now November, and I had been here two months. The doctor came around next morning and gave me a thorough examination and he was quite pleased, as he told me he was sending me to the Convalescent Camp in Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills near Bangalore. My friend Sgt. Allen undertook to look after my little terrier dog called Gyp. I arrived in Wellington, among the eucalyptus trees in the hills. It was very cool just like English spring.

Let's see. Walter's medical adventures to date include diphtheria, leg injury at Le Cateau, toe injury/amputation at 2nd Ypres/Clopton War Hospital, quinsy, and now typhoid fever. Of course, we already know the result of all of this - he lives to the ripe old age of 91!
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posted by MaryB @ 8:36 AM  


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