The first-hand account of Red Cross volunteer nurses and aid workers in the First World War
The Call and the Answer by Laurence Binyon
When war broke out in 1914, Laurence Binyon was over-age for military service. Wanting ‘to be made use of’ in some way, he volunteered to serve as a medical orderly in a military hospital near Verdun.
In 1917 the Red Cross invited Binyon to write an account of its activities on the Western Front. He spent a month touring the war zone, visiting numerous hospitals, ambulance stations and field canteens. He talked to the men and women serving as volunteer nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, ‘canteeners’ and medical orderlies like himself, in order to get their story first-hand. Many of them worked in conditions of extreme hardship and at great personal risk. This is Binyon’s account of that extraordinary journey and their remarkable heroism.
Originally published as For Dauntless France in 1918. This centenary edition, slightly abridged and with an introduction by Llorenç O’Prey, makes their story available for the first time since initial publication.
It was on this same day that I watched the battlefield, sinister with all the science of desolation, and heard the guns blankly echo about the flayed and barren hills. Barrenness and destruction triumphed there, as if men’s one desire were to disnature earth, to blast the tree, choke the spring, shrivel the grass, and most of all to break, maim, blind, and utterly destroy the body into which their souls were born.