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A Diary without Dates by Enid Bagnold
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A Diary without Dates (1918)

by Enid Bagnold

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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664254,011 (3.62)38
  1. 10
    Not so quiet : stepdaughters of war by Helen Zenna Smith (juliette07)
    juliette07: Based on the diary of Winifred Young, an ambulance driver at the French front during WW1. It was published in 1930 and believed to be a reply to All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. 10
    Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War by Anne Powell (juliette07)
    juliette07: A collection of diary entries from women of the First World War.
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» See also 38 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
Enid Bagnold volunteered as a nurse for the V.A.D. during WWI and this diary was written during that period. It’s heartbreaking in its simplicity and in the way the stories of the maimed and injured returning soldiers are told with Enid unable to hold back both her contempt for the administrators of the hospital and her compassion for the injured men. So rigorous was her criticism that the administration managed finally to arrange for her dismissal. She then went on to volunteer as an ambulance driver in France.

Her diary reveals the neglectful, almost passive treatment afforded the injured soldiers at the hands of those doling out the care and H. G. Wells has called it “the most human book” written about the war. She refers to the Sisters as being in charge so I can just assume she means religious sisters. They were very officious and made sure everything was done according to the rules and paid little or no attention to the humanity they were working with.

”"An antitetanic injection for Corrigan," said Sister. And I went to the dispensary to fetch the syringe and the needles.

"But has he any symptoms?" I asked. In the Tommies' ward one dare ask anything; there isn't that mystery which used to surround the officers' illnesses.

"Oh, no," she said, "it's just that he hasn't had his full amount in France."

So I hunted up the spirit-lamp and we prepared it, talking of it.
But we forget to talk of it to Corrigan. The needle was into his shoulder before he knew why his shirt was held up.

His wrath came like an avalanche; the discipline of two years was forgotten, his Irish tongue was loosened. Sister shrugged her shoulders and laughed; I listened to him as I cleaned the syringe.
I gathered that it was the indignity that had shocked his sense of individual pride. "Treating me like a cow" I heard him say to Smiff - who laughed, since it wasn't his shoulder that carried the serum.”


A short book that opens up an unknown area of beliefs (at least to me), Bagnold shines a light on the difficulties the returning soldier faced, in addition to his war injuries. Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote brenzi | May 15, 2014 |
Enid Bagnold was in her mid-twenties when she served as a VAD during World War One. Published in 1917 (and getting her fired), Diary Without Dates is her description of life in a hospital for severely wounded soldiers. The diary is loosely written, more like musings or meditations on what she observes. It is beautiful and bitter at the same time.

Bagnold was no dewy-eyed youngster like Vera Brittain when she became a VAD. She had lived an independent life, lost her virginity to Frank Harris, studied art with Sickertt. As an intelligent and clear-thinking woman she was critical of many things she saw in the hospital. "Were the VAD's there to help the patients or to help the Sisters?" is one of the problems she constantly picks at.

Her hospital is not near the front lines. It is located in a suburb of London and most of her patients are long-time sufferers. They will either die or be moved to convalescent homes; they will not recover. Again and again she see how the rigid routine of the hospital makes the existence of the soldiers even more stressful. A young soldier cannot be given a morphine shot because he is scheduled for 8PM and it is too early, even though his gangrene-ridden arm is driving him mad. "He must grin and bear it," the duty Sister says as she drinks her tea and eats a cake. The beds in the ward are strictly arranged so that the patients cannot see the nurse's station (lest they keep trying to catch the eye of the staff). This means that some patients are constantly looking at a brick wall when a slight shift could place a window in their view.

And then there is the discrepancy in treatment between the Officer's Ward and the Boys Ward (the Tommies or enlisted men). Flowers decorate the officer's room. Bagnold absolutely hates the 17 fern plants in their brass and china pots and suspended from the ceiling near the door. They had to be carted out every morning to be watered and, she deduces, the plants were placed there so that the wealthy woman who volunteered to visit the men would have a suitable background for their tea tables. And so it goes....

Bagnold holds onto her humanity by identifying with the pain the men are suffering. She won't be falsely cheerful and lets the men speak of their suffering rather than tell them that it will soon be better. It won't. She escapes into nature and marvels at the beauty of the moon and patterns of shadow on her night walks back to her room. Even the cabbage patch because beautiful with the white butterflies fluttering above the leaves.

This is a very short book worth reading for yet another view of the disaster that was World War One. ( )
  Liz1564 | May 10, 2014 |
One of my favourite things about LibraryThing is how I can have several hundred unread books in my house but still be compelled to find LT recommendations at the library on the very next trip. Yesterday I borrowed A Diary without Dates because of Urania's review (see below).

I can't think of the last time I read a library book within 18 hours of finding it, but this one was short and very very good.

Enid Bagnold was 25 at the start of World War One and volunteered as a VAD (voluntary aid detachment) nurse in a hospital for injured soldiers. In 130 pages, she describes life in the hospital for the nurses and the patients. If you've read Regeneration or All Quiet on the Western Front, you'll probably like this book. The prose is less lyrical but the hopelessness and waste of life is just as plain. And the lack of pain relief is eye-watering:

"Six inches deep the gauze stuck, crackling under the pull of the forceps, blood and pus leaping forward from the cavities as the steady hand of the doctor pulled inch after inch of the gauze to the light. And when one hole was emptied there was another, five in all". And no pain relief because they couldn't find an anaesthetist.

Bagnold vividly describes (and bitterly) the hierarchy within the nursing staff (qualified sisters vs. VADs) and the class distinction between the officers (who get lemonade) and the soldiers (water with a squeeze of lemon if they're lucky).

Recommended if you can find it and if you like WW1 books. Virago republished this book in 1978. ( )
7 vote cushlareads | Oct 16, 2009 |
As Jane Potter notes in Boys in Khaki, Girls in Print, much of the war-related fiction and nonfiction published during WWI glorified or sentimentalized the war. The horrific toll on human bodies and spirits goes for the most part unnoticed in the literature of the period. A Diary without Dates is one of the few exceptions. Published while the war still waged, Enid Bagnold’s diary presents the war from a V.A.D.’s perspective—and an unflinching perspective at that. No rose-colored glasses for her.

Read the rest of this review at Club Balzac. ( )
22 vote urania1 | Oct 14, 2009 |
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Enid Bagnoldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dickens, MonicaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To that friend of mine who, when I wrote him endless letters, said coldly, "Why not keep something for yourself!"
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I like discipline. I like to be part of an institution. It gives one more liberty than is possible among three or four observant friends.
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