After four years of stalemate on the Western Front, four years living underground and fighting over the same few square miles of cratered earth, the Allied armies were on the move, pushing back the German armies toward the border. The Americans, recent arrivals, joined the movement.
That included U. S. Army nurses.
“…all you need to do if you want to tour the world is join the army and you will have [a] chance to travel in every kind of thing imaginable from a truck to a parlor car. Ha! Ha!” wrote American nurse Elizabeth Lewis on September 18, 1918, from a location she was not allowed to reveal even if she had been able to identify it.
She went on to describe the events of the day before. She and her surgical team of two doctors, two nurses and an anesthetist, had received orders to depart at once on a new assignment. They threw their belongings into bags and boarded a motor ambulance for the trip. After forty-five-minutes on the road, they reached Base Hospital No. 45, only to be redirected to a different hospital. Arriving late in the evening, Lewis and her partner nurse went right to work and continued through the night. They retired to their quarters at dawn. Lewis’s roommate chose to unpack, but Lewis, exhausted, went straight to bed. Anyway, she joked, they might be moving again before she woke up–which was exactly what happened!
A few hours into her sleep, Lewis was wakened by a loud commotion outside their quarters. “I’ll be darned if orders hadn’t come to move this evacuation hospital somewhere else.” From then on, the two nurses rarely unpacked. “The army consists in continual moving.” Lewis decided. “It’s a regular tramp’s life.”
Luciano, Lorraine and Jewell, Casandra. Army Nurses of World War One: Service Beyond Expectations. Carlisle, PA: Army Heritage Center Foundation, 2006.