One panel of the cartoon "The Push"—in Three Chapters. By one who's been "Pushed", by Bruce Bairnsfather, published in Fragments from France.
Honi soit qui mal y pense
Dorothy Bradridge, VAD, No. 2 Red Cross Hospital, Rouen
The Roses of No Man's Land, Lyn MacDonald, 1980
I was working on the brass-hat ward, which meant that there was no rank lower than a major and they were all in separate rooms. Bruce Bairnsfather was one of my patients - or rather he was a patient while I was there, because VADs were only allowed to do very humble tasks in that ward. He was the cartoonist who invented the famous character of Old Bill, and on the wall of his room he had drawn a lifesize cartoon of a VAD sweeping dust about and raising great clouds of it with some gusto. She had a very plain face to my mind, because we actually considered ourselves to be a very goodlooking lot of VADs. I was foolish enough to ask him why he hadn't drawn a pretty VAD. 'A pretty VAD?' he exclaimed. 'Well, that's probably because I've never seen one.' It served me right for fishing for compliments! However, I always liked to feel that I got my own back on him at mealtimes because I always left his tray until last, and I left his bell unanswered as long as I dared. Needless to say, he was not a surgical or a serious case, so he was able to spend quite a time decorating the walls.* [Footnoted: Captain Bruce Bairnsfather was suffering from mild shellshock.]
Qhen Mary, during the First World War.
The patients were fond of drawing on the bare walls, and nobody minded because it cheered the place up a bit. This led to an embarrassing occasion once when we had a royal visit. Queen Mary came with the Prince of Wales and a whole entourage of brass-hats. We knew she was coming and there had been tremendous 'spit and polish' for days beforehand. I think perhaps she had not been expected to go into this particular room because it had rather a risque drawing on the wall. It was a stockinged female leg with a garter at the top - very shapely and seductive-looking. But just at the side of the garter a large mirror was hung, so that when anyone glanced at it they naturally assumed that the rest of the picture was hidden behind the mirror. Needless to say, everyone pushed the mirror sideways to see what was underneath. That is exactly what the Queen did, and like everyone else she saw that there was no continuation of the picture but simply the words Honi soit qui mal y pense. She was not amused! Her face simply froze, so none of the other people who were following her could laugh either. Walking behind the Prince of Wales as part of an unofficial 'Guard of Honour' I could see the effort he was making not to laugh aloud. His shoulders were absolutely shaking!