On Christmas Day 1918 an accident occurred at No 50 British General Hospital in Salonika in northern Greece. The accident was, luckily, slight in its consequences but could have been much more serious and would surely have resulted in a telegram to Walter Godfrey in East Maitland to notify him that his daughter, Staff Nurse* Leila Godfrey, had been injured.
The injury was nothing to do with enemy action. In filling out the Report of Accidental or Self-Inflicted Injuries Leila stated that “at Christmas dinner while off duty I was burnt on the face, slightly, by blazing spirit which fell from the plum pudding.”[i] Christmas dinner in 1918 must have held a special significance for everyone on both sides of the conflict. An Armistice had been in force for six weeks on the Western Front – several weeks longer in Salonika where Leila was based – and there was reason to hope that the fighting was over and that next Christmas they would all be back home.
Perhaps the celebrations got a little boisterous. We can imagine Leila making a grand entrance to the brightly decorated Sisters’ Mess. She is carrying the pudding aloft, ablaze with the burning brandy, perhaps a little careless in her excitement, perhaps even affected by a tipple from the brandy bottle! In the commanding officer’s opinion no one was to blame and a commission of enquiry was not necessary. Leila was lucky that the burns were not more serious.
[i] NA-Aust B2455 GODFREY L B
* Leila was not promoted to the rank of Sister until after this incident.
© Christine Bramble 2013