At the age of 98 Elise Mauger could still vividly recall the horror and suffering of the Great War when she nursed the wounded and dying in France. Interviewed in 1993 for Jersey Now magazine, she said that after the war broke out she travelled to London and was offered a nursing position in the Voluntary Aid Division.
Father called up
Her father, a French-born grower from the Le Marquand family who lived in Jersey with his wife and Elise and her sisters, had been called up by France to serve in the war.
'My mother hadn't liked the idea of me going to England was relieved to know I was going to nearby France, where she naively thought my father would be able to keep an eye on me,' she said in her interview.
She recalled travelling across the Channel to France aboard a battleship.
'The Tommies were singing songs like It's a long way to Tipperary,' she said. They were driven to Abbeville and then to Le Treport, where seven huts served as wards, with around 30 beds in each one and no screens to give the injured men privacy.
'Depending on the wind, we could hear the fighting. There was great suffering. Men were carried in straight from the trenches covered in mud and lice,' she said.
On one occasion she was commended by the matron for carrying out the correct procedure when a man was haemorrhaging. 'You saved his life', the matron told her.
Recalling the intense suffering which she witnessed on the wards, she said:
- 'It was frightening sometimes. Men were choking from the gas attacks. One dey we buried eight soldiers and I cried all the way back from the cemetery until I fell asleep'.
She did not return to the island again for five years, and did not see her father once during her time in France, even though he was a relatively short distance away in St Lo.
Return to England
After three years nursing the wounded and the dying in France she developed a virus in her neck. Following two operations it was thought that treatment in England would be more successful, and so she returned there. Once she had recovered she applied to go back to France, but by then it was too dangerous because of the mines in the Channel. She spent the remaining two years of the war working at Leeds Hospital nursing wounded soldiers.
- 'It wasn't as horrific as France and everyone used to make a fuss of me because of the Active Service badge on my sleeve,' she said.
In 1919 Elise received a certificate of service and two medals for her nursing care of men on the battlefront. She died in May 1995 aged 100.