Kathryn lives near Chicago, USA but is a self-confessed Anglophile with a particular interest in writing about remarkable women from history. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn writes about the extraordinary feats of courage and selfless acts of heroism shown by daring girls and women from around the world (including the USA, UK, France, Russia, Belgium, Romania and Australia) during World War One. Biographical profiles featured are brought to life through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, document and diary excerpts.
Although Women Heroes of World War I is primarily aimed at the young adult market (12+) it will also appeal to the budding adult historian looking for a solid introduction to aspects of this complex period in world history. Parents of young adults will also enjoy reading this book.
The book is divided into four sections, ‘Resisters and Spies’, ‘Medical Personnel’, ‘Soldiers’ and ‘Journalists’. Women featured include: Edith Cavell; Louise Thuliez; Emilienne Moreau; Gabrielle Petit; Marthe Cnockaert; Louise de Bettignies; Elsie Inglies; Olive King; Helena Gleichen; Shirley Millard; Maria Bochkareva; Flora Sandes; Marina Yurlova; Ecaterina Teodoroiu; Mary Roberts Rinehart and Madeleine Zabriskie Doty.
On 12th October this year, it will be the 100th anniversary of the death of British nurse Edith Cavell (1893-1916). When war broke-out in 1914, Edith went to Belgium and treated injured soldiers whether they were British, French or German. She even hid nearly 200 British, Belgian and French soldiers from the Germans by keeping them safe at the nursing school and clinic where she lived.
Edith also ran a secret ‘underground’ group that helped Allied soldiers escape capture by the Germans and receive a safe passage to neutral Holland. She hid her private diary by sewing it into a cushion to prevent the secret of the hidden soldiers from getting out. Edith’s activities were eventually uncovered. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn Atwood describes Edith’s arrest:
On the afternoon of August 5, officers from the German secret police – Pinkhoff and Mayer – arrived at the clinic and, after a thorough search, found a letter from Edith’s mother in England that had been transmitted after the occupation of Brussels through the agency of the American Consul. It was not much, but they used it as grounds for arrest. After unleashing a lengthy tirade intended to terrify everyone within hearing, the police took Edith to Saint-Gilles prison, where she was kept in a tiny cell and interrogated on three separate occasions. When she admitted that she had used the clinic to hide healthy Allied soldiers, the Germans realized that Edith was eligible for the death sentence. Under the German penal code, “conducting soldiers to the enemy” was considered treasonous and a capital offense.
(Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review , pp.30-1)
Ten weeks later, on October 7th, 1915, Edith was tried and sentenced to the death. In the early morning of October 12th, 1915, she was executed at the Belgian national shooting range, Tir National.
Although some of the stories in Women Heroes of World War I are well-known, like Edith Cavell and Gabrielle Petit’s for instance, many are not quite so familiar to us, for example:
17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau (1898-1971) assisted the Allies as a guide and set- up a first-aid post in her home;
Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva (1889-1920) who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918), was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front;
American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty (1877-1963) risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth;
Surgeon Elsie Inglis (1864-1917) founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service and bravely stood up to the invading Germans while caring for sick and wounded in Serbia;
Flora Sandes (1876-1956) the only British woman to serve as a soldier in World War One. She enlisted in the Serbian army after working in the ambulance service that was the first volunteer unit to leave Britain. The Serbian army was one of the few in the world to accept women. She became a Corporal and then a Sergeant-Major.
Kathryn’s research is impeccable, the text is written with care, precision and flare, carrying the reader along on an enthralling historical and biographical journey. Drawing upon original sources, for example, documents, personal diaries, photographs and direct quotes, providing a glimpse into the lives of this pioneering group of women, a number of whom had a relatively short lifespan.
Each chapter contains background information panels providing further detail on key historical events referred to within the text (see below). A clever idea to embed this information within each relevant chapter, saves research time whilst you are reading. At end of each chapter is a ‘Learn More’ resources section with useful websites and suggestions for further reading. Readers will also find a useful ‘Glossary’ at the back of the book.
Interview With Kathryn J. Atwood – April 2015
What first inspired you to write about this incredible group of women?:
Actually, it was my editor at the Chicago Review Press, Lisa Reardon, who first suggested I write a sort of prequel to my first book, Women Heroes of World War II. I initially dragged my heels on the idea because the only heroines of World War One that initially came to my mind were nurses and while I was certain they’d been exceptional human beings, I didn’t want to write an entire book on women who played a single role.
But then one of our sons gave my husband an interesting Christmas gift: Flyboys, a film about some American pilots who flew for the French during World War One before the U.S. became officially involved. While it’s not exactly the Saving Private Ryan of World War One films, the excellent period details made me want to more thoroughly understand the war.
Then one night, after I’d initiated my search for women’s stories, I turned on the television to see Matthew Crawley [Downton Abbey] in that amazing replica of the Western Front. It was the first time I’d encountered Downton Abbey and it fuelled my determination to write the book. It also turned me into a Downton fan … although in my opinion that second season has remained by far the most compelling!
Whose story did you first discover?
I already knew the outline of Edith Cavell’s story but the second woman I decided to include was Gabrielle Petit. I discovered her through a query to the Ypres Great War Museum when one of their knowledgeable volunteers, Freddy Rottey, sent me a packet of English-language articles about Petit.
He admitted that most of it was hagiography, written shortly after the war, but reading between the exaggerated lines, I could tell there was a great story there. So I purchased more recently written French-language biographical materials and handed them to my Francophile husband for translation.
Why do you think so many of these stories have remained untold for so long?
Women’s history is like an iceberg: when a particular era has passed into history, all that’s showing above water, so to speak, are the roles that men played. Studying women’s roles lets one see what’s underwater, the entire mountain of ice, the entire time period.
And if the heroines of World War Two are hardly remembered, those of the first have been completely snowed under. World War Two is generally considered a more compelling study because of its element of good vs. evil. However, the World War One was fought and supported by young people of such noble aspirations and calibre, it’s not only shameful that their lives were destroyed in such devastating numbers but that their stories are not more widely known. I hope my book might help remedy that situation!
Which individual’s story has touched/inspired you the most and why?
Gabrielle Petit. Her early life was so chaotic and difficult she tried to end it. But while working for British Intelligence during the war, her passionate nature found a focus which resulted in a patriotism, so winning it resonated for decades afterwards.
She was beloved and mourned by Belgians of various ethnicities who generally couldn’t agree on much else. She also directly inspired Belgian resistance during World War Two: so many flowers appeared at the foot of her statue in Brussels that the Germans posted a sentry there! And Brussels native Andree de Jongh, having grown up on stories of both Petit and Cavell, created an escape network that rescued hundreds of Allied airmen during World War Two.
What would you say are the key character qualities that all of the women you have written about have in common?
The women in my World War One and World War Two collective biographies were compelled into action by powerful conviction and they had the courage to follow their instincts in order to find a way to do what they thought needed to be done.
If you could invite 5 of the women you have written in Women Heroes of World War I to a dinner party, hosted by your good self, who would you choose and why?
For elegant conversation, initially reserved, perhaps, but eventually taking a fascinating turn, I would invite Edith Cavell, Louise de Bettignies, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Helena Gleichen, and Madeleine Zabriskie-Doty. For a more animated, visceral conversation I’d choose Gabrielle Petit, Maria Bochkareva, Louise Thuliez, Elsie Inglis, and Olive King. I might decide to sit between the latter two as Olive King left the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, founded by Elsie Inglis, because she felt inhibited by the many regulations!
If all these women were alive now, what life lessons do you think they would impart to their female counterparts in 2015?
I find it quite astonishing that they enthusiastically supported the wartime causes of nations who were at that moment denying them equal rights and accepting their services simply because there was no one else to do the job! Perhaps they would have a collective message about seizing windows of opportunity and following one’s conscience.
What does history mean to you and why is it so important, do you think, to keep the past alive for future generations, particularly young adults, to discover?
While technology and societal norms change, human nature doesn’t. That’s why “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” A positive variation of that thought, and what I try to accomplish with my books is this: those who admire the heroes of the past just might become heroes themselves.
History is full of stories of people who made courageous choices in the midst of difficulty, who gave their time and effort – and sometimes their lives — for something higher than themselves. That’s inspiring no matter what one’s age but it’s particularly important for young people in search of something that matters.
I was recently interviewed by BBC Inside Out (26.1.15 – 16 mins 10 secs in) for a segment to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) death. Inside Out explored what Kent meant to Churchill as well as how he affected the lives of local people who worked for and met him. Churchill brought Chartwell, Westerham, Kent in 1922, the house became his lifelong family home.
Filmed on location at Hever Castle, Kent, I spoke to presenter Natalie Graham about society in 1965 Britain as well as Churchill’s painting legacy. We also discussed his friendship with John Jacob Astor V (1886-1971), 1st Baron Astor of Hever, a fellow politician, neighbour and owner of Hever Castle, one of the many Kent locations Churchill depicted in his art. Churchill encouraged Astor to paint, even giving him an easel as a gift. The easel, along with a paint-box and some of Astor’s artworks are on public display at Hever.
Occasionally with media interviews, one’s content is cut to the core and context of contribution gets lost in the editing suite. This article puts forward some of the fascinating points discussed during my original interview which sadly did not make it into the final edit. These omitted observations provide us with a fascinating glimpse into what society was like in Britain 50 years ago. Churchill’s death marked the end of the old guard and a turning point in the social history of modern Britain.
‘Churchill’s Funeral: World In Remembrance’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
On 30th January, 1965, Sir Winston Churchill’s State Funeral took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Churchill was the only commoner of the twentieth century to be given a State Funeral. Fifty years ago, many thousands of people, from banker to hippie, lined the city streets on a freezing cold Saturday. Millions more watched the event at home on their black and white television. Viewing this event as a grainy image would have only added to the general atmosphere of sombre reflection displayed by the viewing public.
In January 1965, there were 17.3 million televisions in private domestic households in Britain (Source: BARB), the same year approximately 16 million licences were issued. Television ownership had significantly increased since the previous televised civic event, the Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June, 1953. In that year, 13 million television licences had been issued.
A family watch television in their sitting-room. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
It was estimated that 350 million people worldwide watched the live broadcast of Churchill’s funeral. In the United States, although there was live television coverage, it had no sound. Viewers had to wait for the videotape to be flown back to New York where it was immediately transmitted to the public in full.
Twenty-four hours before the funeral, London appeared rather subdued, although underground trains were still running, there were no visible signs of an impending civic event. Unlike today where barriers are erected, roads cordoned off and a heavy police presence is the norm. In January, 1965, everything continued as normal with only a few exceptions, flags were flown at half-mast and lights in Piccadilly Circus were turned out after the funeral, a similar gesture to when Churchill’s death had first been announced a week before.
The window of Boots the Chemist in Piccadilly Circus, London, with the London Pavilion opposite, 20th April 1965. (Photo by Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images)
After the service, Churchill’s coffin was taken by barge (the Havengore) along the Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier then onto Waterloo Station. The coffin continued its journey by train to Churchill’s final resting place, the Parish Church at Bladon, Oxfordshire. The interment was a private, family, affair.
People watch from their garden at Winston Churchill’s funeral train. 1965. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)
The carriage that transported Churchill to Oxfordshire was a 1931, Southern Railway luggage van (n. 2464). It is now on display in the National Railway Museum, York to mark this 50th Anniversary. What interests me most about this carriage is, like Churchill, it had a long service history. During World War Two it transported vegetables and newspapers across the country. At the end of its life, this humble work horse was redeployed to perform one more public duty, perhaps the most important in its history, to deliver Churchill to his final destination on life’s journey.
Churchill’s coffin being loaded onto a train at Waterloo Station, London, before travelling to Blenheim Palace and Bladon after his State Funeral, London, 30th January 1965. The train was pulled by a Battle-of-Britain-Class locomotive named ‘Winston Churchill’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
28th January 1965: Two members of the Womens Voluntary Service serving free cups of tea to the crowds of people queuing to see Churchill lying in state at Westminster Hall in London. The sign reads: ‘You’ve got a long wait. Free Tea! Or give what you can’. (Photo by Philip Townsend/Express/Getty Images)
My stepfather, who was working in Westminster at the time, paid respects to Churchill at Westminster Hall during his lying in state period. Dad told me that he and his work colleagues were expected to visit Westminster Hall, it was their civic duty, despite the tedium of queuing for hours on end, “at least we were given free tea whilst we waited!”, he remarked.
Many thousands of people also made the pilgrimage to London to pay their respects to a man who was so instrumental in freeing Europe from Nazi tyranny. In sixties Britain, a new generation of young people were now able to enjoy the benefits of living in a free and liberal society thanks to the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents during World War Two.
My mother, a baby boomer, came of age in 1965. She remembers her family, neighbours and friends all watching the funeral on a black and white Bush television that had been purchased for the occasion. A number of the shops in her home town closed their shutters and a few shopkeepers put black crepe ribbons around their windows. Some employers also gave their staff the morning off of work to watch the funeral.
My mother recalls several older members of her parents’ generation wearing a black armband as a mark of respect, a tradition that had pretty much fallen out of favour with the public since George VI’s death in 1952 when this practice was commonplace.
Like so many who watched Churchill’s funeral on that wintry day in 1965, my mother particularly remembers the image of cranes along the Thames lowering their arms as the coffin, on board the Havengore, passed by. Although, this scene was orchestrated and paid for by the state rather than being a spontaneous heartfelt gesture from the ‘working man’. The dock workers who operated the cranes were actually paid to perform this manoeuvre. Some refused to do it as a point of political and personal principle.
‘A Year In Our Time’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
Churchill’s death marked the end of the old order and everything it represented, particularly Victorian conservatism. 1965 was the year that modern Britain began. Educational reforms gathered pace, new secondary modern comprehensives were created to provide a fairer system of learning for all. In hindsight, some educationalists acknowledge that the comprehensive system didn’t really work, it simply created a greater social divide within the secondary sector.
Labour MP Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) became Home Secretary in 1965. Jenkins immediately began to push forward with new legislation such as the abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion.
The contraceptive pill first came to Britain from the United States in 1961 but until 1964 it was only available to married women for the sole purpose of regulating menstrual problems. In 1964/65 right through until the early 1970s ‘the pill’ revolutionised women’s (and men’s!) sexual freedom thanks to restrictions being lifted on the medical conditions for which the pill could be prescribed. Women could now take charge of their family planning, putting childbearing ‘on hold’ in order to pursue careers and educational opportunities if they should so wish. It wasn’t until 1974 that, controversially, ‘the pill’ became available to all women, for free, at family planning clinics.
‘The Pill’, 1965. A photograph showing a factory line of women packing boxes containing the contraceptive pill, taken by Chris Barham in 1965 for the Daily Herald newspaper. 8 million birth control pills were produced weekly at G.D. Searle’s High Wycombe pharmaceutical firm. This particular brand has the trade name ‘Ovulen’. The contraceptive pill was first distributed in Europe in 1961- recommended solely for regulating menstrual disorders in married women. By the late 1960s, however, ‘the Pill’ had come to symbolise social change, sexual liberation and women’s fight for equal rights. This photograph has been selected from the Daily Herald Archive, a collection of over three million photographs. The archive holds work of international, national and local importance by both staff and agency photographers. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
28th September 1965: US actress Raquel Welch in London, in front of a poster promoting her latest film ‘One Million Years BC’. (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
‘Matchbox Cars’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
The Beatles go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs, London, 1965. Film by British Pathe. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014.
In popular and consumer culture, 1965 was a landmark year. The Beatles film Help! debuted in London and The Sound of Music , directed by Robert Wise, was released. Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt from her shop Bazaar on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. Sony marketed their ‘CV-2000’, the first home video tape recorder. Children’s toy ‘Spirograph’, developed by British engineer, Denys Fisher (1918-2002), was first sold.
Sony CV-2000 half-inch reel-to-reel videotape recorder. In 1965, Sony launched a domestic videorecorder, the CV2000, which would record a 30 minute monochrome 405-line tv programme on a reel of tape. It was very expensive (several thousand pounds in today’s terms) and complicated to use so it never caught on for home use. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images).
1965: A high street supermarket with shelves laden with tinned food. (Photo by Jackson/Central Press/Getty Image.
The 1960s was when supermarkets first appeared on British high streets. Customer self-service replacing shopkeepers in taupe overcoats (a la Arkwright) who individually selected and wrapped your purchases for you. Asda opened its first supermarket in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1965. Some might say that the supermarket concept, which began in this decade, altered the retail landscape of our high streets forever.
New range of central heating boilers, 1965. In a studio photograph, a model adjusts her new Autostat 502 model central heating boiler from the Victory range of gas-fired domestic heating boilers. (Photo by Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images)
c.1965: A housewife places a plate on the ledge between the kitchen and the dining room while her husband sits at a table in the dining room, England. The woman stands behind a stove. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Popular restaurant group PizzaExpress, founded by Peter Boizot, opened its first restaurant in London’s Wardour Street in 1965. Boizot was inspired by a trip to Italy and brought back to London a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily. Also this year, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened an outlet in Preston’s Fishergate, the first American fast food chain to open in Britain.
The scene outside Wandsworth prison the day after Ronald Biggs, one of the Great Train Robbers, escaped with three other prisoners. Biggs made his escape by jumping through a hole in the roof of the furniture van shown here, onto mattresses, and then out of the back of the van into a waiting car. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images).
On 7th January, 1965, identical twin brothers, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (1933-1995 & 2000) are arrested on suspicion of running a protection racket in London. On 8th July, Great Train Robber, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Biggs (1929-2013), escaped from Wandsworth Prison having only served 15 months of his 30 year sentence. Biggs scaled the prison wall with a rope ladder and dropped down into a waiting removal van. He fled to Brussels by boat, then on to Paris where he had plastic surgery and obtained new identity papers. The following year Biggs arrived in Australia where he lived until 1970 when he fled once more, this time to Brazil, a country which did not have an extradition treaty with Britain. He didn’t return to Britain until 2001 where he was re-arrested and imprisoned but released on compassionate grounds, 6th August, 2009.
A search is carried out on Saddleworth Moor for missing children Keith Bennett (top right), Pauline Reade (bottom left) and John Kilbride (bottom right), October 1965. All three were the victims of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Moors murderers, Ian Brady (1938- ) and Myra Hindley (1942-2002) carried out their gruesome crimes between July, 1963 and October, 1965. Their victims were five children aged between 10 and 17 – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The pair were arrested on the morning of 7th October, 1965. Their trial was held over 14 days beginning on 19th April 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.
On 8th November, 1965, The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment for murder in England, Scotland and Wales, for five years in the first instance, replacing it with a mandatory sentence for life imprisonment. When sentencing Brady and Hindley in 1966, the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment, the public were outraged.
Entertainment, Personalities, London, 29th June 1965, Five hopeful young women about to start rehearsals for West End roles in ‘Passion Flower Hotel’, L-R: Karin Fernald, Jean Muir, Jane Birkin, Francesca Annis and Pauline Collins (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
14th February 1965: Pop singer, pirate radio station operator and would-be member of parliament, Screaming Lord Sutch (David Sutch) dancing at the Black Cat Club in Woolwich. (Photo by Pace/Getty Images)
7th October 1965: Actress Britt Ekland sitting on the Mini her husband Peter Sellers (1925 – 1980) bought for her birthday, at the Radford Motor Company showroom, Hammersmith, London. (Photo by David Cairns/Express/Getty Images)
‘Diane Westbury is Miss Great Britain’ (1965) film by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
‘Avengers Fashion Show in 1965 – “Dressed To Kill”‘ by British Pathe. Uploaded by Vintage Fashions Channel, You Tube, 9.9.2011.
In October 1964, in the Evans’ small Blackheath home, Mary clambered onto a stool to reach the top shelf of a clothes cupboard in order to retrieve an engraving for the BBC. By this time, every last corner of their home was stuffed full of the antiquarian books, prints and ephemera that were the personal passion of Mary and her husband Hilary, and became the foundation of Mary Evans Picture Library; thus valuable engravings were forced to share a home with Hilary’s casual wear.
The library grew rapidly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 1975 was a key year when Hilary and Mary were founder members of both the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), the industry’s trade organisation, and the Picture Research Association. In the same year they published the first edition of The Picture Researcher’s Handbook, which ran to eight editions.
Hilary and Mary’s daughter, Valentine, joined the company in 1992 and her three young children are frequent visitors to the library.
This year, Mary Evans Picture Library celebrates its 50th anniversary. Earlier in the Summer I received an invitation to attend an Open Day at the Library’s premises in Blackheath, London. Such a wonderful opportunity to visit this unique, family-owned, historical picture library whose core philosophy since opening, in 1964, has been:
to make available and accessible all the wonderful images created for people to enjoy over the centuries which were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints.
The Library have more than half a million images currently available online and five hundred new images are added every week. A quick glance at the end credits of a documentary or pictures featured in an editorial will reveal Mary Evans Picture Library to be one of the main contributors.
The building that now houses this priceless collection was formerly the Parish Hall of All Saints’ Church on Blackheath. It is designed in the Arts and Crafts style by architect Charles Canning Winmill (1865-1945).
There is something really quite special about the Library. Upon entering you are immediately transported into a maze of corridors and staircases leading to room after room of historic treasures. This vast collection is presided over by a team of friendly, knowledgeable staff who are passionate about the priceless ephemera they are custodians of:
Few working offices feature desks surrounded by a fine collection of coronation mugs, a melted wax fruit display, an original Edison Phonograph and a broomstick in full flight suspended above the heads of staff.
The set-up of our office is unashamedly individual, and the archive of postcard folders, rare books, boxes of ephemera and racks of bound magazines is as integral to the working space as the computers and desks, squeezed, as they are, into the last available corners.
The main room downstairs will always be known as Mary’s office…. Conducting a tour of the library invariably involves squeezing past colleagues, step ladders, Missie the dog, someone preparing lunch or a private researcher hidden behind five large volumes of Illustrazione Italiana from the 1880s.
(Fifty; 50 Pictures for our 50th Birthday , 2014, Mary Evans Picture Library)
Mary Evans Picture Library also manage a number of private collections. At the Open Day I was thrilled to meet some of these contributors which included:
Fashion artist Anne worked for a range of prestigious clients during the 1980s and ’90s. Anne studied fashion and design at the University of Brighton (1970-73), St Martins School of Art (1975-1976) where she was trained by Elizabeth Suter and Colin Barnes. In 1993 Anne studied at the Royal College of Art, London, undertaking a Research Degree by project. During her long and high-profile career Anne’s clients have included Harrods of Knightsbridge, Fortnum and Mason, Garrards Crown Jewelers, Burberrys, the Sunday Times, Vogue, Cosmopolitan Magazine and more.
The archive of the LFB (The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority) is managed exclusively by the Mary Evans Picture Library. The collection contains extensive documentation of the fire service in London from the nineteenth century to the present day. Subjects covered by the images include: World War Two, the Blitz, 1936 fire at Crystal Palace, fire-apparatus from Selfridges Department Store (1966), historic fire-fighting equipment and vehicles.
For more information about the LFB archive, click here.
Grenville Collins’ collection comprises over ten thousand images, mostly from before World War One. Grenville has one of the world’s most comprehensive selection of postcards depicting Turkey and the late Ottoman Empire. In the 1960s, Grenville managed rock band, The Kinks, following which, in the 1970s, he lived near Bodrum in Southern Anatolia, Turkey. Included in his collection are several books of postcards by Max Fruchtermann who published Turkey’s first commercial cards in 1895. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Grenville, his collection is outstanding.
Browse the Grenville Collins postcard collection managed by Mary Evans Picture Library, click here.
Oakley was known as ‘the man with the magic scissors’ who began cutting silhouettes aged just seven years old. He trained at the Royal College of Art. During World War One, he served with the Yorkshire Regiment, the Green Howards, transferring to the 96th (Lancashire) Brigade in May, 1918. Oakley contributed silhouettes and drawings to the trench newspaper, The Dump. His work also appeared in The Bystander (8th March, 1916, ‘Trench Life in Silhouette’).
‘The Man with the Magic Scissors: Oakley of The Bystander‘s Western Front in silhouette’, by Luci Gosling (Mary Evans Picture Library), published 27.8.2013, click here.
Mary Evans’ lifelong passion for dogs influenced her collecting habits which has resulted in an eclectic mix of books, objects and assorted ephemera. Mary eventually acquired the Thomas Fall Archive in 2003;
The library represents some of the best historical sources of material from around the world. They have exceptionally detailed coverage of the history of many countries, with notably large collections from Germany, France, the United States, Spain and Italy;
In October, 1965, London Life, launched. Although the magazine only lasted fifteen months (closing, Christmas Eve, 1966), it is a wonderful record of swinging sixties London. The library has a complete run of London Life, in five volumes. Each publication reads like a who’s who from the world of sixties music, fashion, media and photography (Terence Donovan, Twiggy, Gerald Scarfe, Jean Shrimpton, Terence Stamp, Ian Dury, Vidal Sassoon, Joanna Lumley, Celia Hammond, Peter Akehurst, the list goes on). These iconic individuals helped shaped London as a vibrant cultural hub during one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic decades. London Life was edited by Mark Boxer, founder of the Sunday Times magazine, the managing editor was David Puttnam (now Lord Puttnam).
The Illustrated London News (ILN), launched on 14th May, 1842, is one of the library’s high profile collections. Although the ILN Picture Library (which also includes The Graphic, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Bystander, The Sketch, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, The Illustrated War News and Britannia & Eve) remains under the ownership of Illustrated London News Ltd, the back catalogue of publications are housed at the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath. Due to the importance of this world-class collection, it was once known as the ‘Great Eight’.
Hilary Evans was a world-renowned authority on paranormal phenomena. The library has an excellent selection of images on this topic in addition to Hilary’s own publications in this field: Seeing Ghosts: Experiences of the Paranormal (2002), Panic Attacks: The History of Mass Delusion (2004), and Sliders: the Enigma of Streetlight Interference (2011).
Vintage fashion is well-represented in the library’s collection with a number of rare publications. They have: a six-volume Le Costume Historique by A.Racinet; Strutt’s Dress and Habits of the People of England; French fashion journals, Gazette du Bon Ton and Art, Goût, Beauté, both with pochoir fashion plates. The library also represents designers Hardy Amies (1909-2003) and Victor Stiebel (1907-1976).
Ninety plus volumes of A & C Black colour books, published between 1901 and 1921, are held in the collection. These books have distinctive cover designs which are decorated in gilt and inside, plates have been produced by adopting a three-colour process which was popular at the time.
Mary collected several hundred different editions of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, including a first edition.
The Lost Generation is a beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched softback publication which tells the story of World War One from a British perspective. Although the guide is aimed at young students (Key Stages 3 & 4), it also offers an excellent introduction, to such a complex period in world history, for the budding adult historian wanting to ‘dip their toe’ into this topic.
Regular readers of Come Step Back in Time will know that so far this year I have written many articles on World War One. I wish I had discovered The Lost Generation earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time (although never wasted!) ploughing through numerous academic tomes on the subject. What I really needed in the beginning was a straightforward introduction to inspire me continue on my research journey. The guide covers the war’s origins, as played out in a far-flung corner of Europe, right through to its bloody and bitter conclusion.
Inside The Lost Generation, are 62 pages, over 70 photographs/illustrations and a fold-out map on the back cover – ‘Taking Sides: A Europe Divided’ – illustrating a fractured Europe divided into allied powers, central powers and neutral countries. The text is well-written and the layout is user-friendly. Some of the World War One topics Martyn covers include:
Motives for war;
Assassination of the Archduke and Archduchess, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, in Sarajevo;
Writing about The Lost Generation, Martyn comments:
A century has now passed since the outbreak of ‘the war to end all wars’ in 1914. The fertile fields of France and Belgium, where millions died, are no longer muddy, pock-marked quagmires. Nearby, row after row of white headstones mark the spot where men (and often boys) made the ultimate sacrifice… a practice repeated in many other countries across the globe.
Providing a guide to the First World War for today’s generation has been a challenge. The Lost Generation offers an overview of the war as it progressed, as well as a series of features that help flesh out the story. It has not been possible to cover every single battle and event, but I’ve tried to include the most significant from Britain’s perspective.
(p. 4, Teachers’ Resource Guide by Martyn Barr, 2014, Out of The Box Publishing Limited)
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martyn about his work as an author:
Why did you decide to write The Lost Generation?
“Although I am not an expert on this topic, I have always been interested in World War One and because 2014 is the 100th anniversary of its outbreak, it seemed like the right time to publish a book on this topic. It felt like a big responsibility at times, tackling such a complex topic. I wanted to write a guide, told from the British perspective which had depth and challenged the reader but didn’t go into a huge amount of detail.
I am not a teacher or a historian. I am an author with a background in writing and design. I understand how important book design is in publishing. Design layout in a book impacts upon the reader experience, it needs to be cohesive and engaging.”
Although The Lost Generation is aimed at the younger student of history, do you think it also has wider appeal?
“Yes, very much so. I always consider my readership carefully. I ask myself ‘what would they want to see inside a history book about World War One’? Modern generations of youngsters do not want to read lots and lots of text, they prefer snippets. I also wanted to produce a publication that appealed to both teenagers and adults.”
Do you offer on-line resources for teachers to accompany your publications?
“Yes we do. Supporting educational material is available to teachers after they have purchased their publication(s). We then provide password details so that they can access the relevant Resource Guide on-line. Material included in these guides is cross-curricular.”
Tell me a little bit more about your unique concept of corporate sponsorship to facilitate the publication process?
Many of our publications are sponsored by companies. As part of their package, we provide each sponsor with 500 copies of the book they have helped to publish. It is entirely up to the company concerned what they choose to do with these publications. In the case of The Lost Generation, which was sponsored by Fenwick Limited, they have decided to distribute their copies, for free, to local schools in Kent.”
Fenwick Limited chose to sponsor The Lost Generation to mark Group Trading Director Hugo Fenwick’s term as High Sheriff of Kent, 2014. He says:
I was pleased to lend my support to this project to ensure that the current generation recognises the huge sacrifices made by their forebears 100 years ago to secure their freedom. The government has pledged to fund an educational programme to create an enduring legacy and I think this book supports that admirably.
Martyn presents a brutally honest account of the First World War, and has pitched it perfectly for a teenage audience. He has managed to achieve this without dumbing down the material in any way, so I’m sure adults will enjoy reading it too.
The Lost Generation has been well-received by both the general public and historians alike. Dr Will Butler from the University of Kent at Canterbury, who also fact-checked the book prior to publication, comments:
This book is a valuable guide for a youth audience, or anyone approaching this subject for the first time. It is richly illustrated, covers a significant amount of detail, and avoids those well-trodden myths of the First World War, to provide a concise history of the topic.
Amber Rudd MP for Hastings and Rye writes:
A detailed and well-written book and resource to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Martyn has succeeded in producing a fitting tribute to all those who bravely gave their lives for our freedom.
Martyn has written a Teachers’ Resource Guide to accompany The Lost Generation. Packed full of useful support material. Upon purchase of The Lost Generation, password details to access the on-line guide can be found on p.51, it is the last word that appears on that page. Generous educational discounts are also offered to schools and colleges, depending on quantities purchased. Details of these offers together with details of how to purchase individual copies, click here.
Remembering World War I will be at the centre of this year’s event; examples from the rich collections at the Cathedral Archives will be on display to tell the story of life in the Cathedral City between 1914-1918. The exhibition will feature manuscripts, photographs and patient records illustrating the Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals; a series of documents relating to the War Work Dept; letters from soldiers from the front; the diary of a cavalry officer and WWI pilot; artefacts relating to HMS Kent; details of how the casualties of the war were remembered, and the construction of the memorials in the Cathedral and in the City. Activities for children will include making a remembrance poppy and lavender bag.
Canterbury Cathedral holds these open evenings annually but this year’s event commemorates World War One. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at a number of skilled crafts including applying gold leaf, carving stone, and brass rubbing. Free guided and audio tours will be on offer and there will be visits to the private chapels, the Bell Tower, the organ loft, and the choir practice room. For further information about this event, click here.
Earlier this summer, I attended a superb illustrated talk on women’s fashion in World War One given by History Wardrobe’s Lucy Adlington and hosted by Lymington Library. Lucy is a writer, actress and costume historian with an insatiable appetite for bringing the past alive, making it accessible to a modern audience.
Lucy also gives illustrated talks on many other aspects of fashion history, including: Gothic; Art Deco; 1700s and the Georgian era; swimwear; Jane Austen; silk; Titanic; suffragettes; 1950s; bridal; World War Two and the 1930s.
Details of her wide range of presentations can be found here.
Details of her 2014-2015 programme of talks can be found here.
Lucy delighted in showing us inside her impressive ‘history wardrobe’ packed full of original and replica clothing, accessories and printed ephemera. Her witty banter was peppered with plenty of fascinating anecdotes from contemporary sources. Lucy explained that it wasn’t only women’s clothing styles that changed between 1914 and 1918, their lives did too, as many embraced new roles in order to support the effort :
Leisured ladies stepped down from their privileged positions to volunteer in many demanding branches of work, as well as running committees and tirelessly fundraising. Titled ladies swapped their silks for flame-retardant overalls in munition factories. Society girls muffled up in furs and goggles as motorbike despatch riders or ambulance drivers.
British Pathé, silent film, ‘Women Railway Workers’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14;
Film clip (July, 2014), Lucy discusses with Michael Portillo, women’s role in the railway war effort in BBC2’s ‘Railways of The Great War’. Click here for clip.
Many of the items featured in Lucy’s collection are rare originals, others are high-quality reproductions. For example, a pair of replica khaki socks for soldiers has been made by World War One knitting expert, Melanie Towne. Melanie is adept at interpreting knitting patterns from this period, which are known for being rather tricky to follow.
One of the many unusual facts I learned from Lucy’s talk was that pyjamas, or ‘slumber suits’, for women, first appeared during this period. A precursor to the 1940’s ‘siren suit’ and modern-day ‘onesie’. Pyjamas became popular with a number of women in World War One because of their practicality (ease of movement and modesty) during the event of a night-time air raid. In her collection, Lucy has a charming pair of delicate, peach silk and lace pyjamas which would have been worn with a matching boudoir cap and wrapper. Apparently, there were reports of women willing a bombardment just to show off a new pair of pyjamas!
In Britain, aerial bombardments from German Zeppelins began on the 19th January, 1915. Parts of the Norfolk coastline were first to come under attack, followed by the south-east and the North Sea coast over the following months. By the end of the war, Britain had been subjected to fifty-one bombing raids, five hundred and fifty-seven people lost their lives and another one thousand three hundred and fifty-eight were injured.
A most noticeable feature of the new season’s suits is the preponderance of dressy, semi-tailored styles. These more frequently take the form of three-piece garments, and are particularly graceful and attractive in appearance. The skirts, as those of the dresses, are both short and voluminous, and present a great variety of style.
In many of the more extreme productions, flounced and draped effects, especially over the hips, are frequently shown, while in the simpler forms the desired fullness is obtained by circular and semicircular effects gathered to the waist, or by the employment of gores and sun-ray, knife and box pleatings either finished by a belt or mounted on a full gathered yoke.
A dainty finish is given to many of these garments by a narrow edging of white or light coloured silk showing just below the hem. Finely kilted white lace is employed by one of the leading designers for this purpose with marked effect. While a normal waistline may be said to be the general rule some models show a waist slightly above the natural line.
(All the above quotes are from Spring Fashions, 1916, Debenham & Company)
One positive aspect of the war was a tendency to be more tolerant of slightly shabby or out-of-date clothes. All classes and all ages were caught up in the daily struggle to make ends meet; to focus on war work before fashion.
Any woman who by working helps to release a man or to equip a man for fighting does national war service. Every woman should register who is able and willing to take employment….Every woman employed will be paid at the ordinary industrial rates. The pay ranges from 32s, a week including overtime in some of the munition factories to 8s. and 10s. a week in agriculture. There is immediate need for women workers in munition and other factories, in offices and shops, as drivers of commercial motor vehicles, as conductors of cars, and above all in agricultural employment….It is recognized that in many instances it will be desirable that women of the same class shall be employed together, and efforts will be made to organize ‘pals’ battalions’ of labour.
(Daily Mail, 18th March, 1915)
If the full fighting power of the nation is to be put forth on the battlefield, the full working power of the nation must be made available to carry on its essential trades at home…And this is where women who cannot fight in the trenches can do their country’s work, for every woman who takes up war service is as surely helping to the final victory as the man who handles a gun in Flanders. With a fortnight’s training women can fill thousands of existing vacancies, and also take the places of thousands of men anxious to join the fighting forces but at the moment compelled to keep in civil employment.
(Daily Mail, 18th March, 1915)
I have curated a Pinterest board featuring ‘Women’s Fashion in World War One’, click here.
British Pathé, silent film, ‘Women War Workers In A Piggery’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14.
British Pathé, silent films, ‘Women Munitions Workers’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14.
British Pathé, silent film, ‘Women’s Army’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14.
British Pathé, silent film, ‘Women Agriculturalists’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14.
British Pathé, silent film, ‘Glasgow’s Pageant of Women War Workers’ (1914-1918). Published on You Tube: 13.4.14.
Eighty years ago, on the 25th July, French perfumier François Coty (born Joseph Marie François Spoturno) died in Louveciennes, France. Coty, a charismatic entrepreneur, transformed the French beauty industry with his bold strategy of creating attractively packaged products, at a range of price points, aimed at the mass market. Coty promised to:
Give a woman the best product to be made, market it in the perfect flask, beautiful in its simplicity yet impeccable in its taste, ask a reasonable price for it, and you will witness the birth of a business the size of which the world has never seen.
Born on 3rd May, 1874, Ajaccio, Corsica, Coty claimed to be a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte’s aunt, Isabelle. Orphaned at the age of seven, Coty was sent to live with his great-grandmother, Marie Josephe Sporturno and after her death, his grandmother, Anna Maria Belone Sportuno, who lived in Marseille. His childhood was blighted by poverty which gave him the impetus to make a better life for himself as an adult. He achieved this ambition and went on to become France’s first billionaire. By 1928, he was the 5th richest person in the world.
In 1900, Coty married Yvonne Alexandrine Le Baron and they had two children together, Roland Alphée (b. 1901) and Christiane (b. 1903). However, Coty loved women and showered them with expensive gifts. He had many mistresses as well as illegitimate children, including five with one of his former shopgirls, Henriette Daude. Coty became a celebrity but also found himself the topic of gossip columns.
He often travelled with a large entourage, the Hotel Astoria in Paris was a particular favourite of his. He would take over an entire floor when staying there and liked to have his mistresses stay with him too. Despite his seemingly flamboyant public life, Coty was actually something of a recluse and didn’t like crowds. He enjoyed the finer things in life and money afforded him the opportunity of amassing a large collection of cars, art, property and racehorses.
In 1929, Yvonne, tired of his extra-marital activities, divorced Coty and married inventor and industrialist, Leon Cotnareanu. Yvonne’s substantial divorce settlement, as well as the Wall Street Crash of 1929, resulted in a period of economic hardship for Coty. Yvonne was eventually granted ownership of a sizeable chunk of Coty’s perfume and newspaper empire (Figaro and L’Ami du Peuple). She subsequently sold Coty Inc. to Pfizer in 1963 and in 1992 they sold it on to German company Joh.A.Benckiser GmbH.
Les Grands Magasins du Louvre, a department store in Paris, France, 1955. The store where it all began for Coty. (Photo by R. Gates/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Coty The Perfumier
Coty studied with François Antoine Léon Chiris (1839-1900) at his factories in Grasse, France. In 1904, Coty returned to Paris and took his first fragrance, La Rose Jacqueminot, (developed whilst training in Grasse), to department stores and boutiques.
The story goes, that Coty took a small vial of La Rose Jacqueminot to Les Grands Magasins du Louvre, whilst there he collided with a woman and the vial broke. A number of customers in the vicinity were so enamoured with the fragrance that they wanted to purchase a bottle. The store immediately gave Coty a featured window display as well as an initial order for sixty thousand francs to supply the fragrance. La Rose Jacqueminot was an instant hit, selling-out straightaway.
In 1904, aged just twenty-nine, Coty founded his company in Paris (which is now Coty Inc., based in New York City) and in 1908/9, he transformed a Parisian residential villa into a vast industrial complex which became known as ‘Perfume City’ (La cité des Parfums). Perfume City had nine thousand employees and manufactured nearly a hundred thousand bottles of scent a day. Business boomed, resulting in subsidiaries opening-up in New York and London.
Coty Cosmetic Display at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, Illinois, June 4, 1941. (Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)
Coty’s policy of creating attractive packaging for his products meant he employed the best artisans of the time to help achieve his vision. This included glass designer René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) and the Glassworks of Baccarat. Lalique designed stunning perfume bottles for Coty’s early and very popular fragrances, L’Effleurt (1908), Ambre Antique and L’Origan. The labels on the bottles were printed on a gold background and had raised lettering designed to give the overall packaging ‘a touch of luxury’. During his lifetime, Coty launched thirty fragrances and at the peak of his career had a turnover of ten million bottles of perfume a year.
In the 1920s, Coty purchased gardens in France and Italy, planting in them orange blossom and jasmine thus avoiding having to purchase these essences from suppliers in Grasse. In taking control of this aspect of his business, he saved a fortune and profit margins increased.
Coty Cosmetic Display at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, Illinois, May 23, 1942. (Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images).
Coty’s Business Booms in World War One
In 1914, Coty joined the Nineteenth Infantry Regiment of Ajaccio but unfortunately was medically discharged in December, 1914, due to an astigmatism in his left eye. This condition eventually resulted in the loss of his sight in that eye in 1920. It is thought that the astigmatism may have been caused by a thrombosis of a central vein in the retina.
Despite being unable to serve his country in a military capacity, Coty contributed toward the war effort in other ways. He financed the transporting of wounded soldiers to his residence at Le Château D’Artigny which he had turned into a military hospital. Coty’s delivery vans were used to transfer wounded soldiers from the train station at Saint-Pierre-des-Corps to the Chateau. Coty’s mother-in-law, Virginie Dubois Le Baron, ran the hospital because she was unable to cross the Atlantic during wartime.
In January, 1917, Coty developed Le Jouet de France. This welfare initiative employed war wounded in a newly created atelier in L’ile de Puteaux, amongst Coty’s factories. Coty continued to develop his business interests despite the war. In 1917, Maison Coty launched a twenty-eight page catalogue showcasing their product range which included: cologne; toothpaste; soaps; sachets; powders; brilliantines; lotions and powders.
In 1917, Coty released one of his most famous fragrances, Chypre de Coty which had basenotes of sandalwood, bergamot, oakmoss, iris amber and jasmine. Coty described it as: ‘a perfume of amber froth emanating at certain hours from the woods and the forests.’ The ‘forests’ that Coty referred to were those from his Corsican childhood. Chypre inspired Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Chanel’s Pour Monsieur but was discontinued in the 1960’s then re-launched in 1986. Other perfumes launched during World War One included: Jacinthe (1914); Lilas Pourpre (1914); La Violette Ambrée (1914) and L’Oeillet France (1914).
However, it was at the end of World War One that business really boomed. On 6th April, 1917, America declared war on Germany. In October, 1917, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) began active service on the Western Front. On 2nd June, 1918, General John J. Pershing (1860-1948), supreme commander of the AEF in France, attended the Supreme War Council in Versailles. US servicemen and civilians soon began to pour into France, particularly around Paris, at one point in time there were two million Americans, a large number of whom did not leave France until August, 1919.
Nicknamed ‘The Doughboys’, this influx of Americans boosted the local economy. Restaurants, shops and hotels were, once again, thriving. Coty installed displays of his products in hotel foyers which complimented his fully stocked stores in Paris, Nice and Bordeaux. He had cornered the market in beautifully packaged, affordable beauty at a time when currency was scarce. Demand for his products was high. Soldiers returning home in 1919, took back with them perfume, toiletries and metal compacts (a particular favourite!) as gifts for their wives and girlfriends. A majority of beauty products brought at this time, came from Coty’s stores. Women fell in love with Coty and demand for the brand overseas was high. This post-war sales boom made Coty, France’s first billionaire.
During this period, Coty Inc. had a store in New York at 714 Fifth Avenue which was decorated by Lalique. Benjamin Levy was Coty’s Sole Agent in New York, overseeing expansion of his business interests Stateside. At the beginning of World War One, Coty Inc. sold thirty thousand metal compacts a day in America, after the war this figure rose to ninety thousand.
Coty’s Property Portfolio
In 1906, Coty brought Georges Haussmann’s (1809-1891) home, Château de Longchamp near the Bois de Boulogne. Longchamp was remodelled by Coty who installed a laboratory where his fragrances, bottles, packaging and advertisements were designed. Lalique designed a glass dome at the property and Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) designed a stone tower there.
On 30th July, 1912, Coty continued to expand his perfume empire and purchased Le Château D’Artigny (now a luxury hotel) located near Tours, in the Loire Valley. He pulled down the existing structure and built a castle in the eighteenth century style, set in twenty-five hectares of parkland. Bespoke kitchens were installed with copper sinks and white marble work surfaces, there was also a pastry room in pink and green marble.
One of Coty’s most famous acquisitions was Pavillon de Louveciennes which once belonged to the mistress of Louis XV France (1710-1774), Madame du Barry (1743-1793). Coty brought the property in 1923 and added five bedrooms in the attic area, a perfume laboratory in the basement, kitchens and a swimming pool. Coty spent the end of his life at Louveciennes, where he died on 25th July, 1934, following complications after an aneurysm as well as a bout of pneumonia.
Emma, the Editor of Come Step Back in Time, reads ‘A Letter From Folkestone by Miss Moneypenny’, written in August 1914 and reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald (30.9.1914) – A snapshot of life on the home front in Folkestone, at the beginning of World War One.
Monday 4th August, 2014, marked the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One. A hundred years ago the coastal town of Folkestone became one of Britain’s most important front-line locations. A gateway to France and the Western Front, eight million troops passing through there during the war.
In undying memory of the many million officers and other ranks, both men and women forming The Naval, Military, Air and Red Cross Services of the King’s Imperial and Colonial Forces who crossed the seas in 1914-1919 to defend The Freedom of The World (dedication taken from the Harbour Canteen books).
(Inscription on one of the memorial plaques close to Folkestone’s Memorial Arch)
I visited Folkestone on Monday to witness the day’s commemorative events which had been organised by Folkestone-based educational charity, Step Short. His Royal Highness Prince Harry unveiled a steel Memorial Arch on The Leas, alongside Folkestone’s seafront, as well as laying a wreath at the nearby war memorial.
WW1 At Home Remembers: World War One At Home – BBC (2014)
In the car park of Folkestone Harbour, a tented complex formed part of BBC World War One At Home’s Live Event. For more information about this BBC initiative, which is currently touring the UK until the end of September, CLICK HERE. I took the opportunity of visiting the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) cabin which is also part of this BBC heritage pop-up. The IWM’s ‘Lives of The First World War’ project is an excellent idea, allowing members of the public to research life stories of those who served in Britain and the Commonwealth on both the home and fighting fronts. These individual stories can be from your own family or somebody you wish to research and be remembered. The researcher then has the opportunity to contribute their findings to the project’s vast on-line public database.
My great grandfather was a Corporal in the Royal Engineers during World War One and I had hit a bit of a block with my research. On Monday, access to public records was free to search in the IWM’s mobile exhibit and I was able to view my ancestor’s medal record as well as obtain his correct service number. I am looking forward to moving my research to the next level. For more information about this interactive IWM project, CLICK HERE.
On Monday, I also met-up with Kent director, Samuel Supple, whose World War One experimental documentary, Time Bleeds (2013), was filmed on location in and around Folkestone using a cast of local people. The film was shown on giant screens throughout the town as part of the day’s events.
Samuel also participated in a series of live panel Q & A’s organised by BBC Radio Kent in conjunction with BBC World War One At Home. Afterwards he took me on a tour of Folkestone pointing out various locations that had provided him with inspiration to create Time Bleeds. Mr Supple certainly knows his World War One local history!
During World War One, the above property situated on The Leas, Folkestone and now private flats, was Manor House Hospital. Samuel told me that it was a chance conversation with a librarian about a former VAD at Manor House, that begin his creative journey to Time Bleeds. An extraordinary diary/scrapbook belonging to VAD, Dorothy Earnshaw, has survived and can be viewed on-line HERE.
When Samuel looked at the album, several years ago, he was struck by the level of detail contained in the document. This artefact provides us with an insight into the intense emotional bond that exists between carer and patient as well as being a snapshot of life in a home front hospital during wartime. Samuel remarked: ‘The album reminded me of how we use Facebook and social media today to record our daily lives, leaving comments for our friends and loved ones. Documenting our thoughts, hopes and activities. There is a convergence of time and in that moment the idea came to me for Time Bleeds.’
Time Bleeds is an experimental documentary inspired by real-life wartime events in Folkestone and the aim of the project was to reconnect its participants with their own World War One heritage. Samuel also drew inspiration from contemporary works such as ‘The War Game’ (1965) by Peter Watkins and ‘Self Made’ (2010) by Gillian Wearing. Time Bleeds is a collection of interwoven stories drawn from either personal archives or local public records and explores the questions: “What if we forget?”; “What happens if these stories are lost forever?” and “What would happen if 1914 Folkestone became Folkestone in 2013 – would time bleed?”
Time certainly did appear to ‘bleed’ on Monday in Folkestone. Khaki clad living history groups mingled with royalty, civic dignitaries, war veterans and members of the general public wearing rain coats and clutching umbrellas. A heady mix of uniforms and casual attire, time had merged, for just one historic, but important, day.
Listen to Director, Samuel Supple, discussing Time Bleeds in 2013, with BBC Radio Kent host, Dominic King.
I have myself become very interested in Folkestone’s many fascinating home front and military World War One stories. Regular readers may remember an article I wrote earlier this year about the infamous White Feather Campaign (featured in Time Bleeds) which began in Folkestone. A notorious and controversial wartime Campaign, the brainchild of conscriptionist Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald (1841-1921). On 30th August, 1914, Penrose-Fitzgerald galvanized into action thirty women in Folkestone, many of whom were holidaying there, encouraging them to hand-out white feathers to men not in uniform.
The importance of Folkestone as a centre of military intelligence in World War One is another topic that has dominated my reading this year. I assisted with research on BBC Inside Out documentary, The Spies Who Loved Folkestone presented by writer Anthony Horowitz whose Alex Rider series of spy novels have captivated a whole generation. This drama documentary was Produced by Samuel Supple.
Because of its location, Folkestone was an ideal target for German spies. The town provided a point of entry and departure to Britain. Not long after war was declared in 1914, Germany lost its entire network of spies in Britain and was keen to re-establish its espionage infrastructure. If you were caught and convicted of spying, death by bullet in The Tower of London was the most likely outcome.
Spy-mania in Folkestone, as well as across the rest of Britain, was rife. Local newspapers were full of stories of suspected spies. Local Kent hoteliers, Mr and Mrs Wampach, (proprietors of Wampach Hotel, 33, Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone), were victims of persecution. Their hotel was requisitioned for war service between 1914 and 1918 and the couple were subsequently treated unjustly by the authorities. The Wampachs were actually from Luxemburg and had themselves lost a son (Cyril Constant Julian) in the war. The distrust of non-British subjects was not just a national obsession, it became one’s patriotic duty to ‘weed-out the aliens’, otherwise you could find yourself the subject of suspicion.
Security, particularly in ports such as Folkestone, was extremely tight. The area was populated with Civil Police, custom officers, Aliens officers, Embarkation officers and Military Police. If you travelled by car from Folkestone to London in 1914, you would liable to be stopped by Special Constables no less than twenty-four times during your seventy mile journey. The arteries of subterfuge were well and truly blocked (or so the authorities thought!).
The British Intelligence Services were established in 1909. During World War One, Folkestone was full of British counter-intelligence officers. The town became HQ of a tripartite bureau, including French and Belgian intelligence officers and was under the control of Colonel George Kynaston Cockerill (1867-1957). The British section was based at 9, Marine Parade, and headed-up by the notorious renegade spy, Captain (later Major) Cecil Aylmer Cameron (1883-1924).
Spy-mania found a fertile soil in unbalanced brains. A girl of sixteen would confess to her mistress that she had fallen into the toils of a master-spy, who would beckon to her through the kitchen window with gestures that could not be disobeyed, and she would go out for the night, returning with a wonder story of gags and blindfolding, of a black motor-car and a locked room in a distant suburb, and the discovery of a soldier’s gloves in her box, did nothing to shake her story.
(‘Truth About German Spies: How They Came To England’, The World’s News, 12.7.1919)
BBC Radio 4’s major new drama series, Home Front, began transmission on Monday 4th August, 12 noon. This is by far BBC radio’s most ambitious production to date. The show’s Editor is Jessica Dromgoole. There are six hundred episodes, across fifteen seasons and these will continue to air until 2018. Although the stories are fictional, they are rooted in historical truth. The first season is set in World War One Folkestone. CLICK HERE;
For more information about Viola Films, CLICK HERE;
For more information about BBC’s World War One At Home initiative, CLICK HERE.
By Henry Chappell
YOU boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,
And now the Day has come.
Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,
Little you reck of the numbing ball,
The blasting shell, or the “white arm’s” fall,
As they speed poor humans home.
You spied for the Day, you lied for the Day,
And woke the Day’s red spleen.
Monster, who asked God’s aid Divine,
Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;
Not all the waters of the Rhine
Can wash thy foul hands clean.
You dreamed for the Day, you schemed for the Day;
Watch how the Day will go,
Slayer of age and youth and prime,
(Defenceless slain for never a crime),
Thou art steeped in blood as a hog in slime,
False friend and cowardly foe.
You have sown for the Day, you have grown for the Day;
Yours is the harvest red.
Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?
Can you see the heap of slain that lies,
And sightless turned to the flame-split skies
The glassy eyes of the dead?
You have wronged for the Day, you have longed for the Day
That lit the awful flame.
‘Tis nothing to you that hill and plain
Yield sheaves of dead men amid the grain;
That widows mourn for their loved ones slain,
And mothers curse thy name.
But after the Day there’s a price to pay
For the sleepers under the sod,
And He you have mocked for many a day —
Listen, and hear what He has to say:
“VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.”
What can you say to God?
Henry Chappell (1874-1937), known as the ‘Bath Railway Poet’, found fame after the above propaganda poem, about suspected German atrocities during the war, was published in the Daily Express, 22nd August, 1914. The poem was subsequently published in an anthology of his work in 1918, The Day and Other Poems.
The Parish Church of St. Katherine in the New Forest village of Exbury, contains a stunning memorial dedicated to two local brothers who lost their lives in World War One, John and Alfred Forster. Their parents, Lord and Lady Forster of Lepe, commissioned sculptor Cecil Thomas to design the monument. During the war, Cecil had been a patient at the same hospital in London as Alfred. Over a four month period, the two young men became firm friends.
The monument is housed in a Chapel extension, built 1927/8, which is also dedicated to other Exbury parishioners who lost their lives during the war:
George Dobson (Private) 11th Bn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.) – Died 27th September 1916;
William Warn (Able Seaman) Merchant Marine Reserve, H.M. Yacht Goissa – Died 25th April 1916;
Frederick John Toms (Private) 10th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 7th September 1915;
Edwin Wellstead (Private) 2nd Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 13th August 1915;
George Toms (Able Seaman) HMS Narborough R.N. – Died 12th January 1915;
Cyril John Fairweather (2nd Lieut.) 4th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 22nd March 1918;
John Forster (2nd Lieut.) 2nd Bn. Kings Rifle Corps – Died 14th September, 1914, aged 21;
Alfred Henry Forster (Lieut) 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) – Died 10th March 1919, aged 21.
The Forster Family
In 1890, Lord Henry Forster – 1st Baron Forster GCMG PC DI (1866-1936) married the Hon. Rachel Cecil Douglas-Scott-Montagu GBE (1868-1962). Lady Forster was the daughter of 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, Hampshire. The Forsters originally lived at Southend Hall, Bromley until 1914 when Lord Forster found the new, noisy trams unbearable and decided to move away. He leased his home to Brittania Film Company on 17th August, 1914 and it became a thriving film studio.
In addition to John and Alfred, the Forsters had two daughters. Emily Rachel (1897-1979), who married Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966), the grandson of Archaeologist, Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) and founder of Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Emily became a stage and screen actress using the name, Mary Hinton. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to her in St. Katherine’s Church. Emily also had a sister, Dorothy Charlotte Forster (1891-1983).
One of Emily’s three sons, Michael (1917-1999), gained notoriety in the 1950s when he was put on trial charged with homosexual offences. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. Michael later became instrumental in the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Image above from 7th June 1965. Hungarian born actress Eva Bartok (1927-1998) pictured with Mary Hinton (left) in a scene from the London play ‘Paint Myself Black’ at the New Theatre.
Lord Forster was an ambitious gentleman who enjoyed a long and successful political career both as a Conservative M.P. and later as 7th Governor-General of Australia (1920-25). Following the general election in 1892 he became M.P. for Sevenoaks. In 1901, he took-up office as Deputy Lieutenant of Kent then 1902-05, he was Junior Lord of the Treasury. Between 1902 and 1911, he was the Conservative whip.
During World War One, Lord Forster was assigned to the War Office. Between 1915 and 1919 he acted as their Financial Secretary. In 1918-19, he represented Bromley in the House of Commons and in 1919, was given a peerage, 1st Baron Forster of Lepe in the County of Southampton. Lord Forster became Governor-General of Australia on 7th October, 1920, a post he held until 1925 when he moved back to England. Lord and Lady Forster resided at Exbury House, near Southampton, until Lord Forster’s death in 1936, aged seventy.
Because the Forsters had no surviving sons, the barony became extinct upon Lord Forster’s death. Sadly, this was an all too common occurrence for many aristocratic families after the war who were left with no male heir(s) to inherit either property or title.
John Forster – (1893-1914)
John Forster was born on 13th May, 1893. Educated at Eton, John was commissioned in September, 1913 and served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. On 14th September, 1914, at 3am, John’s battalion advanced in thick mist and driving rain to attack the ridge above the River Aisne (Chemin des Dames), the first Battle of The Aisne. When they reached the crest, they were unable to continue further and found themselves pinned down by enemy fire coming from the occupied sugar factory at the crossroads above Troyon.
Alfred Henry was born on 7th February, 1898. Educated at Winchester College (1911-1915), then RMC Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the 2nd Dragoons Guards (Royal Scots Greys) on 19th July, 1916. The following February he went to France and was promoted to Lieutenant on 19th January, 1918. On 17th October, 1918, Alfred fell, seriously wounded, near Le Cateau. He was transferred to Gerstley-Hoare Hospital for Officers at 53 Cadogan Square, Belgravia, London, where he spent five months.
The Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was set-up by Louise Hoare, cousin of politician Samuel Hoare (1880-1959). Louise had joined the British Red Cross as a V.A.D. and together with her wealthy friend, Mrs Adele Gerstley, established the Hospital in January, 1916. It was a Class A Hospital with twenty-five beds, there were three trained nurses, five full-time and twenty part-time V.A.D.s. Mrs Gerstley was the administrator and Miss Hoare the Commandant.
Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was affiliated with Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank, London and admitted casualties direct from the front rather than via a military hospital, as would normally be the case. The Hospital closed in April, 1919 and during just over three years of service, treated five hundred and fifty servicemen only two of whom died, Alfred was one of them. He died of his wounds on 10th March, 1919.
During his time at Gerstley-Hoare, Alfred met the sculptor Cecil Thomas (1885-1976), also a patient, the two became great friends. Alfred is buried at St. Katherine’s Church. Cecil designed the stunning tomb dedicated to Alfred which is in the Church’s Memorial Chapel. Such is the quality of the bronze figure that it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924. The Chapel’s Hanging Lamp, presented by Miss Amy Fergusson, was also designed by Cecil. A model of the tomb is in the V&A, London.
Cecil Walter Thomas OBE FRBS (1885-1976)
Cecil was born 3rd March, 1885 at 24 Hedley Road, Shepherds Bush, London. His father had a gem engraving business in London and Cecil began his training there followed by Central School of Arts and Crafts, Heatherley School of Fine Art and then the Slade. Cecil enjoyed a long and very successful career as a sculptor, medallist, gem sculptor and seal engraver. In 1948, he designed a Seal for the British Transport Commission. Together with artist, Edgar Fuller, Cecil produced the reverse designs for the sixpence, two shillings and half crown. He also received commissions from Faberge.
Cecil designed a sculpture of Rev. Dr Philip Thomas Byard ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH, MC, DD. (1885-1972) a World War One Chaplain who, together with Rev. Neville Stuart Talbot (1879-1943), founded Talbot House. Located in Poperinge, Belgium, Talbot House (better known as Toc H, see images above and below), provided soldiers, fighting on the front lines around Ypres, with a tranquil haven for relaxation and private reflection. Soldiers of all ranks were welcomed. Cecil’s effigy of Rev. Clayton is in All Hallows By The Tower in the City of London where Clayton was vicar from 1922 until his retirement in 1952.
A soldier writing a letter in a World War One military hospital. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
During World War One, temporary military hospitals were set-up at key locations throughout Britain with a vast number established near to coastal ports. Their strategic positioning, ensured that journey times to and from the Western Front, for injured as well as rehabilitated soldiers, were kept to a minimum. Heritage properties, civic buildings, hotels, country estates and boarding houses were requisitioned by the War Office and transformed into fully equipped medical facilities for treating wounded service personnel. Some of the larger, private residences, served as convalescent homes.
c.1915: Patients in the garden at Mr and Mrs Martin Ranger’s hospital for wounded servicemen. Unknown location but likely to be a private residence in Britain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
When war broke-out in 1914, the tiny village of Brockenhurst in the New Forest, with its two thousand inhabitants, became an important hospital centre. This village location was chosen due to an abundance of country houses and large dwellings in the surrounding area. These properties provided suitable accommodation to be converted into medical centres. Brockenhurst railway station also offered excellent links to the Port of Southampton which, in August 1914, had been designated No.1 Military Embarkation Port. Wounded soldiers wheeled on luggage trolleys from Brockenhurst station to the local hospital(s) was a common sight throughout the war.
Interior view of an ambulance train ward car with three tiers of bunk beds. Ambulance trains were used during World War One in France and Belgium to transport wounded or sick soldiers to hospital. This train was on display in several stations in Lancashire and Yorkshire before being taken to the Western Front. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Another interior view of the same train. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
In World War One, both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotelswere fitted out as military hospitals. Initially, these buildings were part of The Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Indian Soldiers but later became sections of the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital. When the latter was operational, Balmer Lawn was used for Officers only. In 1915, Brockenhurst was officially designated by the War Office as a key hospital centre. Both King George V (1865-1836) and Queen Mary (1867-1953) visited Brockenhurst during the war. They were the first monarchs to have visited the New Forest since George III (1738-1820).
Lady Hardinge (1868-1914) was the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Charles Hardinge (1858-1944). Lady Hardinge had died suddenly of shock in a London nursing home, July 1914, a week after an operation to remove a malignant tumour. Further tragedy struck Lord Hardinge when in December 1914 his eldest son, Edd, died of wounds received whilst fighting in France.
21st August, 1933: L to R: Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, his son Major the Hon A Hardinge and Viscount Hardinge watching a cricket match held at Penshurst Castle, Kent. (Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem gave £10,000 to The Lady Hardinge hospital towards the cost of purchasing specialist equipment. In addition to the main hospital buildings, there were also a series of huts erected in the hotel grounds. Some of these temporary structures were used as Officers Quarters. Both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park sections combined, could accommodate two thousand five hundred Indian soldiers when it first opened.
The land on which Balmer Lawn and Forest Park stand, was donated to the war effort by Mrs Morant of Brockenhurst Park. Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club, on Sway Road, which opened in September 1915, was also created on land owned by the Morant Trustees. The Club and grounds were used in the war by military and convalescing officers. In March 1918, a large parcel of land from the golf course was donated by the Trustees for use by the Canadian Forestry Corps so that they could grow their own vegetables. A majority of this land was turned-over to soil to help the war effort and support food rationing.
Who were the Morant family? The Morants moved to Brockenhurst from Jamaica in 1759 and Edward Morant (1730-91) purchased a number of parcels of land in the village. In 1769, he brought Brockenhurst Park for the sum of £6,400. Edward continued to purchase more local land as well as property and in 1771 he brought the nearby Roydon Manor which still exists today.
Each successive generation of the Morant family acquired more and more land, by the time World War One began they owned nearly all of the parish. The family’s income came via ownership of a number of West Indian Estates including one of Jamaica’s largest sugar plantations. Port Morant, Morant Bay and Morant Lighthouse, in Jamaica, are all named after the family.
The town of Morant, Morant Bay, Jamaica, c1880. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Brockenhurst Park and Morant Manor, the adjoining country house, were close to St. Nicholas Church and not far from Brockenhurst station. The grounds were stunning thanks to extensive landscaping which began in 1865 when ornamental lakes and topiary gardens were created. In 1898, a fish pond, fishing house, rookery, pheasantry, dairy, menagerie, dog kennels, boat and engine houses were added. In 1910, an aviary was installed. The gardens were well-known and written about in Country Life, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) visited the estate on several occasions.
When the third John Morant (1825-99) remodelled the main house in 1857, he did so to designs by Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880) which were in the French Chateau style. A few years before World War One, the 1911 Census shows a substantial number of staff were employed to look after the Morant family and their estate. It was a grand Edwardian country house of Downton Abbey proportions. During World War One soldiers were allowed into the grounds and the house was used as a convalescent home, probably for Officers only.
The house was finally demolished in 1958 and a new building erected on the same site, designed by Harry Gordon. Some of the Park’s features still remain, for example, an avenue of trees, the Italianate lake, topiary, some statuary and a very elaborate French-style gatehouse. The estate is no longer owned by the family and is now in private ownership. Old photographs of the original estate and house can be found here.
There are a number of photographs in existence showing the grounds of Morant Manor during the war. These were taken by Sir Rex de Charembac Nan Kivell (1843-1977), a New Zealand born art collector, who was on staff at the No.1. New Zealand General Hospital from 1916-1919. Kivell enlisted, under the name ‘Reginald Nankivell’, into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 31st May, 1916 and was underage when he joined-up. He never saw action, although his collection does include many images of overseas military campaigns.
Nan Kivell’s extensive collection features many photographs of wartime Brockenhurst including portraits of local villagers as well as a snapshot of life in the military hospitals and convalescent homes there. His collection is now owned by the National Library of Australia (Nan Kivell Collection) and you can browse selected images, here. There is a rather splendid photograph of the Italianate lake at Morant gardens in Brockenhurst Park.
c.1916: British nurses making surgical dressings, filling them with pine dust, during World War One. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
On the Lyndhurst Road, which is the main artery into the village, there once stood Morant Hall also called New Forest Hall. During the war it was transformed into yet another medical facility. Whilst the Indian soldiers were being treated in Brockenhurst, Morant Hall was known as Meerut Indian General Hospital. When the New Zealand troops arrived, in 1916, the Hall became a British Red Cross Auxiliary facility (also known as a Convalescent Depot) called Morant War Hospital.
The Hall was managed by a committee of local citizens and could provide accommodation for up to one hundred and twenty patients. Local children also got involved and were sent to collect sphagnum moss and cotton grass for wound dressings, natural materials that could be found in the forest.
In the 1920s, the grounds and tennis courts behind Morant Hall, became the site of prestigious tournaments, warm-ups for Wimbledon. Brockenhurst Tennis Week was an important fixture in society’s social calendar. There is a rather stunning set of images, taken in the 1920s, of one of these Tennis Weeks and it can be viewed here.
c.1915: Injured Indian soldiers of the British Army at the Brighton Pavilion, converted into a military hospital. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In its early years, The Lady Hardinge Hospital in Brockenhurst treated soldiers from the Indian Army Corps (3rd Lahore and 7th Meerut). During this time, the short road that linked Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotels, was renamed Meerut Road in honour of the Corps and is still called thus today. By November 11, 1914, the hospital had treated more than a thousand Indian Soldiers. Protocol dictated that British nurses were not normally allowed to attend Indian Soldiers in any military hospital either at home or abroad. However, because The Lady Hardinge Hospital was funded by a private charity, an exception was made.
In 1915, the hospital’s Matron was Miss Edith McCall Anderson R.R.C, she was aided by nurses Miss I. Frodsham, Miss Ryland-Smith, her assistants and seventeen Sisters who all spoke Hindustani. One Sister looked after two wards and there were twenty-four patients to a ward along with two English orderlies and native servants. The Sisters’ quarters were spacious and comfortable. Matron had her own sitting-room.
In early March of the same year, a contingent of male and female dignitaries arrived to tour and inspect The Lady Hardinge Hospital. The party included the Duchess of Bedford, Duchess of Somerset, Earl and Countess of Clarenden amongst many other philanthropic aristocrats. Everyone was met at Brockenhurst railway station by a number of motor cars provided by Dr Child, then President of the Automobile Association, to transport VIPs a short distance to the hospital complex.
A report of the visit appeared in The British Journal of Nursing (BJN), March 6th, 1915, an extract of which is printed below:
..There are twenty wards in all, of twenty-four beds, with the usual annexes, and single wards for native officers, who looked very smart as well as warm in the beautiful dressing-gowns sent by Lady Rothschild, of dark blue cloth with red facings, and one noticed a new use for the knitted scarves, which were ingeniously worn in more than one instance as turbans…beds had quilts of Turkey twill.
The wards had wooden floors, perhaps not the most hygienic. Upon arrival at a military hospital, all patients would have their clothes removed and disinfected, many soldiers were riddled with lice and other parasites. The patients’ clothing was then stored in the Pack Stores until, and if, the patient was discharged.
Medical facilities at The Lady Hardinge Hospital complex included a theatre block, two operating theatres, sterilizing room, preparation room, anaesthetic room and an x-ray room. Convalescing patients could relax in the recreation room which was carpeted and had divans with bright green velvet bolsters and low tables which the men could prepare their tobacco, play cards or chess on.
Following an escalation in hostilities, overcrowding soon became a problem at The Lady Hardinge with many patients forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Conditions were uncomfortable, many soldiers reported that there was a lack of food and inadequate heating. The Indian soldiers also found it difficult to adjust to the cold, damp British climate. Patient Sepoy Ranga Singh, wrote a letter from the hospital complaining about conditions there:
There is no fireplace. We are not given milk…It is very cold. We have to call the nurses “mother” and the European soldiers “Orderly Sahib” – if we do not we are reported. The five Brighton hospitals are good. The others are not good. We are not given soup. We get nothing.
(Reprinted in Mark Harrison, Disease, Discipline and Dissent: The Indian Army in France and England, 1914-1915. in: Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark, Sturdy Steve, eds Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, 1999) p. 192)
Despite patient Sepoy Singh’s unhappy experience at the Lady Hardinge, clearly efforts were made to cater for the various dietary requirements of both Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients. According to the BJN‘s 1915 report, beside every bed there was a locker. Muslim patients were given a ‘lotah’ (drinking vessel) made out of aluminium and Hindus a ‘lotah’ in brass.
Muslim patients were served their meals on white china with a dark blue surround and Hindu patients had white china with a blue border. There were two kitchens one catering for Sikhs and Muslims, the other for Hindus. Their complex dietary requirements meant that a system of coloured discs were hung over each bed to help the servers at mealtimes. The numbered system operated as follows:
Chicken soup/mutton soup and milk;
Non-meat, sugar instead of meat;
Rice diet and meat;
Chapatis, unleavened cakes, made of unadulterated wheat flour, with meat.
It is likely that some housekeeping standards did slip from time-to-time. The overstretched staff would have struggled to keep-up with increased numbers of wounded soldiers being admitted. In 1915, in an attempt to alleviate the problem of overcrowding, a combination of tented and galvanised accommodation units were erected to the south of Brockenhurst, at Tile Barn, a ridge overlooking both village and forest, a short distance from the station. Tile Barn’s complex of temporary, metal structures was nicknamed “Tin Town” by locals and provided five hundred extra beds. The site at Tile Barn is now an outdoor adventure centre for adults and children. The Indian Army Corps finally left Brockenhurst, for Egypt, in November, 1915.
A wounded soldier in a London hospital reads a magazine with a Red Cross nurse by his bedside. 20th July 1918. (Photo by A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
In 1916, the New Zealand authorities took over administration of The Lady Hardinge Hospital from the War Office. The site at Brockenhurst became the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital incorporating a specialist centre for orthopaedic injuries. Tin Town remained but expanded with the addition of further huts for staff and stores. Balmer Lawn and Forest Park became minor medical sections.
By August 1917, the site also had a specialist neurological section under the supervision of Captain Marshall MacDonald. This department treated patients with neurasthenia (a non-somatic illness) and shell shock. Below is a letter written in May, 1917, by a New Zealand serviceman at No.1 New Zealand General Hospital:
You will have read in the papers that the New Zealanders were in the thick of the fighting on the Somme in the middle of September, and since that time we have been exceedingly busy. Prior to that thirty-six of our orderlies had been sent over to France; one has since been killed and several wounded. Our admissions have been heavier even than they were in Cairo, and a very large number of the cases were serious. The operating theatre at each section deals with as many as half a dozen —and even more— cases each day. We are badly understaffed in nearly all departments, and patients -when well enough – are occasionally attached temporarily. Just now the orderlies we have, seem to be quite a good lot of men, and include a few parsons and men who held good positions in civilian life.
The hospital here is divided into three sections. The first is headquarters, which used to be occupied by the Lady Hardinge Hospital for wounded Indians. Here over six hundred patients are accommodated. It is built of hutments, and it is possible to reach all parts without going out-of-doors. There is additional accommodation for the staff and for stores. This section is known as “Tin Town,” and its occupants as “Tin Hats.”
The other two sections are hotels, one at either end of the village of Brockenhurst, and on the edge of the New Forest. Each accommodates between two hundred and three hundred patients. Both are very fine buildings, and are as well equipped in every way as the central section. Besides these three, there are five auxiliary hospitals, each taking from twenty to sixty patients. They are sent there as soon as they are well enough to require light dressings. The names of these five are: Morant War Hospital, at Brockenhurst; ‘Home Mead,’ at Lymington; ‘Hill House,’ at Lyndhurst; ‘Thorney Hill,’ at Bransgore; and Lady Normanton’s, at Ringwood. “There has recently been added a convalescent home for officers at “Avon Tyrrell,” Lady Manners’ House. At all of these places New Zealanders receive the best of attention, and all those mentioned are within a radius of fifteen miles, from Brockenhurst.
New Zealand soldiers aiding the war effort during their convalescence in Britain World War One. (Press Illustrating Service/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
One Australian nurse that worked at the Hospital was Staff Nurse Blanche (Alice) Atkinson. Blanche had trained in Adelaide and was a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNSR). She arrived in London on 22nd July, 1915 and soon found herself stationed at Brockenhurst. The following year, she was so overworked that she caught double-pneumonia and had a breakdown. Unfortunately, this led to her being invalided out of QAIMNSR and sent back to Adelaide to convalesce. She also caught Tuberculosis and died on the 9th December, 1916, aged thirty-eight. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for her ‘devotion to service’ by King George V.
Below is an extract from a letter written in November, 1916, by a New Zealand serviceman, Corporal Oswald de Witt Vaughan, who served in the Wellington Infantry, 3rd Regiment Battalion and was injured at the Somme. He is writing to his father, Reverend Charles Vaughan in Kingston, Tasmania. Corporal Vaughan’s words provide a first-hand account of a wounded soldier’s journey from the battlefield to Brockenhurst. Corporal Vaughan did recover from his initial injuries and returned to the Western Front only to be tragically killed in action less than a year later, on 4th October, 1917, at Ypres, Belgium.
Short (silent) film clip of ‘trench cooking’ in World Ward One, British Pathé .
The cooks had orders to have breakfast ready early, and turning out betimes myself on account of the cold. I found a good fire going and tea and porridge on the boil. A few of us were standing round the fire, which they had built on the side of the trench, when, without warning, the whole business blew-up and the dixies [cooking pots] and their valuable contents were scattered far and wide. The cook got a bad hit in the leg, and I felt a heavy smack in the left side, about the lower ribs, which threw me to the ground for a time.
I picked myself up, and found I was smothered in porridge, a gruesome spectacle. I thought at first it was only a severe blow from something blunt, but as I began to turn a bit faint, and found difficulty in breathing, some of my mates turned their attention to me, and found a small wound just above the lower midribs.
They had me up, and helped me down to the first-aid station, and from there I progressed to the advanced dressing station…I finally reached the [36th] Casualty Clearing Station at Heilly, about ten miles back from Albert…I stayed there till Sunday morning, the 17th….they put us on an ambulance train….we travelled all day, very slowly for a good part of the journey on account of the heavy traffic, finally reaching the coast, early in the morning of the 18th. Leaving here again on the 20th we motored to Havre, about eighteen miles, and embarked on a hospital ship, leaving that night, about 10.3opm.
Reached Southampton early next morning after a good trip, and went by train to Brockenhurst, only about thirty minutes’ run on the L.P.S.W railway. The No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital is established here, and staffed entirely by New Zealand doctors and nurses, with a few Australian nurses attached. There are three sections, Forest Park, Balmer Lawn and Tin Town. I was in the first named, which is just outside the village; it was very comfortable and the food excellent. They shifted me from that placeto this place [Thorney Hill Auxiliary Hospital, Bransgore] on the 26th to make room for cases coming in.
April 1915: Playing a record on the gramophone to while away the time whilst recuperating in hospital. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Short (silent) film clip showing Australian and New Zealand soldiers return back home country in 1919, British Pathé.
(The Mercury, 21.11.1916)
Between 1914 and the end of January 1919, when the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital closed, three thousand Indian soldiers and twenty-one thousand and four New Zealand soldiers had been treated at the various medical facilities across the village. Any Indian soldiers that died whilst at Brockenhurst were of course cremated in-line with their religious beliefs. However, cremation was a relatively new practice in Britain at that time and had only been legal since 1902. A suitable site to perform the cremations was found nearby, Perry Wood.
Ninety-three New Zealand soldiers died whilst receiving treatment in Brockenhurst. The cause of death of a majority of these New Zealand soldiers was either battle wounds or sickness. The soldiers are buried in the cemetery adjacent to St. Nicholas Church, close to the former site of Tin Town at Tile Barn. Every head-stone tells its own story.
Short film about Private Potene Tuhuro, one of the New Zealand soldiers buried at St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. Video published by Hampshire Museums 30.10.13
The imposing memorial cross, at the back of the plot, was erected in 1927. Every year, on the nearest Sunday to Anzac Day, representatives of the New Zealand High Commission and members of the New Zealand Forces attend a service at the cemetery.
There are additional head-stones of servicemen from other countries in the Commonwealth including South Africa. During World War One, South Africa was still part of the Commonwealth until apartheid came into force in 1948. The country did not re-enter the Union until 1994. Here is a summary of, both military and civilian, burials at the cemetery, all from World War One:
93 New Zealand soldiers;
1 Australian soldier (Australian Infantry, 22nd Battalion);
1 Canadian soldier (Canadian Forestry Corps);
3 unknown Belgian civilians (who worked nearby at Sopley Forestry camp);
3 members of the Indian Expeditionary Forces;
3 British soldiers;
1 South African (Royal Flying Corps).
When war broke-out in 1914, Brockenhurst was a tiny village of two thousand inhabitants. In 1918, the village had lost seventy-eight of its own men. Private Leonard Baden House, whose parents lived at Carey’s Cottages in the village, died on 24th November, 1918, aged eighteen. He had been a member of the Hampshire Regiment.
Another well-established local family, the Bowden-Smiths, who lived at Careys Manor in the village (now a luxury hotel), lost their youngest son, Lieutenant Commander Victor James Bowden-Smith RN (1887-1918). Victor was killed by an accidental explosion whilst recovering a German Torpedo which had gone adrift in the North Sea near Runswick on 22nd August, 1918, he was aged thirty-one.
The Bowden-Smiths had lived in the village since the eighteenth century. Victor’s father was Reverend Frederick Hermann Bowden-Smith and died less than a year after his son on 7th February, 1919. Reverend Bowden-Smith had been the Rector of Weston Patrick near Basingstoke, Hampshire.
The nearby town of Lyndhurst lost sixty-eight men and the hamlet of East Boldre lost seventeen. No village in the New Forest escaped without tragedy.
A Contemporary Conversation looks at the period 1914 to 1918 and also considers the urgent subject of war today. World War One inflicted suffering on all sides, and while our account of this is non-partisan, the focus is on New Zealanders’ experience of the war. This is told through diaries, letters, and other documents drawn from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand. These often poignant first-hand accounts provide a sense of what it was like to endure the vicissitudes of war.
Peter wrote to say that he was working on a case content refresh for the exhibition. One of the items on display is a register belonging to Archives New Zealand that records the deaths of New Zealand servicemen in England, some of whom are buried at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Cemetery, St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst.
Peter came across this article and contacted me asking whether I would grant permission to the Library for them to include a selection of my photographs, featured here, alongside the register. I am delighted to confirm that I have now sent the photographs to Peter and these will indeed be on display in the exhibition very soon.
In the meantime, Peter has kindly provided me with a selection of images featuring this exhibition which I am thrilled to share with you here.
More information about ‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ can be found here.
More information about the National Library of New Zealand can be found here.
The National Library of New Zealand have also produced a series of guides for anyone wishing to research aspects of World War One using their Library as well as The Alexander Turnbull Library. Both institutions have significant collections relating to all aspects of New Zealand and New Zealanders during World War One. For more information on this click here.
************* NEWS UPDATE ENDS **************
For The Fallen
By Laurence Binyon (1917)
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
Later on this Spring, a new six-part drama production The Crimson Field (previously known as The Ark) will be aired on BBC One. Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Eastenders) and directed by David Evans (Downton Abbey, One Night), Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Life On Mars) and Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Silent Witness, Single-Handed).
Set in a field hospital on the coast of France during The Great War, The Crimson Field, features a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers (Voluntary Aid Detachments – VADs) battling against the odds to save the lives of men wounded in the trenches. The hospital becomes a frontier between battlefield and home front where class and gender frictions are rife amongst a group of men and women thrown together under extraordinary circumstances.
Actress Oona Chaplin, who plays VAD Kitty Trevelyan, comments:
‘The War To End All Wars’ – unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We keep fighting each other and committing horrific acts of violence. Although the technology of war may be different, the people have hardly changed, which Sarah Phelps has captured here so beautifully. In The Crimson Field we follow men and women on their journey of survival, their struggle with meaning and love, and the small victories that mean so much.
Actress Hermione Norris, who plays the field hospital’s Matron, Grace Carter, adds:
The emotional and psychological impact World War One had on a generation and beyond has always held a deep fascination for me. Sarah Phelps has crafted a compelling script with rich and complex characters who really explore the depth and impact of love and loss in this heroic, yet tragic period in British history. It’s a privilege to be involved in this BBC production 100 years on, bringing the drama of World War One into the hearts and minds of this generation. ‘Lest we forget.’
In the firm belief that prevention of distress is better than its relief, and that employment is better than charity, I have inaugurated the Queen’s “Work for Women Fund”. Its object is to provide employment for as many as possible of the women in this country who have been thrown out of work by the war. Mary R.
(Queen Mary’s Message to the Women of Great Britain, August 1914)
World War One was a time of unprecedented change in the roles of women in society. Before the outbreak of war, opportunities for women to obtain paid work were limited, apart from obvious roles in domestic service. Approximately four hundred thousand domestic servants left their jobs in order to take-up roles as part of the war effort. Once war had been declared, in August 1914, wider employment opportunities slowly materialised, attracting thousands of women to volunteer their services.
Trade unions agreed that, for the duration of the war, women could be employed in roles previously occupied by men. This agreement was known as ‘Dilution’ but came with the strict understanding that once war was over, women would leave their jobs thus creating re-employment for returning servicemen. However, many firms went on to retain their female workers after 1918. A shortage of able-bodied men returning from war necessitated this course of action.
Production at Hampshire-based metal works Taskers, thrived during World War One and many of its employees served in the armed forces. Women were recruited to Taskers in large numbers to fill the workforce gap and some were retained after war had ended. A number of men, who had previously worked at Taskers, died or were seriously injured in the conflict. The Managing Director’s son, Henry, was shot dead. A former apprentice who worked at Taskers during this turbulent time, recalls:
Some who returned to work suffered or were handicapped as a result of being gassed or injured in some other way. ‘Sab’ Hallett was invalided out and came here to work as a turner in the erecting shop. He had been gassed. Our Managing Director had lost his oldest son Henry shot, but his second son Cyril returned from the Navy to the firm here at the end of 1919.
Girls and women workers were brought into the firm and apart from Shell work were employed working shaping machines, painting and in the saw mill and carpenter’s shop. I well remember the fun getting the two in the carpenter’s shop to know how to handle the woodwork tools….It was generally felt that our cause was a righteous one, and that our mates on the front-lines in France would expect us to be really behind them. After the Armistice many of our girl and women war workers remained working at Tasker’s works and were called ‘The Hangers On’.
According to historians, Neil Storey and Molly Housego:
Many ladies had taken over the vacancies to carry out simple clerking and shop work in local businesses, factory work (such as boot making or tinned foods) and light agricultural work (such as fruit picking or helping with the grain harvest) since August 1914…On 17 March 1915 the Board of Trade issued an appeal to women to register for ‘war service’ work at their local Labour Exchange…After the first week of the announcement over twenty-thousand registrations were received the take-up by employers was slow…
Following the introduction of the Military Service Act and conscription in 1916, the window of opportunity for women seeking employment changed dramatically. Initially, the Act specified that all single men aged eighteen to forty-one years old were liable for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of a religion. By the Summer of 1916, conscription was extended to married men and eventually the age bracket extended to fifty-one. This meant that by 1918, more than a million women were employed in previously male-orientated occupations:
Far more women were taken onto the national workforce in 1916 after the introduction of conscription saw thousands more men leave their places of work to serve in the forces. More women were becoming drivers of horse-drawn delivery carts as well as motorised vehicles and vans. Many upper-class women could already drive, and a number of them owned their own cars drove for the Royal Automobile Club Owner-Drivers’ War Service Corps.
The VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) played a significant part in the war effort. Formed in 1909, in every country, with the aim of providing assistance during time of war. Both men and women could join a detachment to undertake a variety of roles such as cooks, kitchen-maids, clerks, house-maids, ward-maids, laundresses, motor-drivers and of course nurses. When war broke-out, the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John formed the Joint War Committee in order to pool both monetary and human resources. Members of both were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments. The term ‘VAD’ later come to be used when referring to both an individual member as well as an entire detachment:
There is not, and never has been, any reasonable doubt as to what constitutes a fully trained nurse…In every large hospital there is a matron, and there are sisters, staff nurses and probationers. The matron and sisters are addressed by their titles, but staff nurses and probationers are alike addressed as ‘Nurse’. A probationer of only one day’s standing would consequently be called, for example, ‘Nurse Jones’…It was, therefore, in accordance with the usual practice that a VAD member engaged in the nursing department of any hospital should be called ‘Nurse’.
All VADs were trained in basic first-aid and others would then go on to specialise and receive further training in nursing, cookery or hygiene and sanitation. All VADs had to pay for their own training, food, sleeping accommodation and uniform, which for a nurse cost £1 19s 2 1/2d. It was not surprising then that many VADs came from middle and upper-class families who had plenty of free time on their hands, financial resources and could work for free.
The iconic 1915 VADs recruitment poster was so successful that it was the only one ever needed and by 1918 there were twenty-three thousand nurses and eighteen thousand nursing orderlies that had joined a detachment. At end of the war, ninety thousand people had joined the VADs. When peace returned the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John became two separate voluntary aid societies once again but the VAD scheme continued until the 1930s.
VADs could and would turn their hand to almost anything, earning the female contingent the nickname, ‘very adaptable dames’. However, according to historian and former nurse, Yvonne McEwen, (speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 17th February, 2014), there are a number of myths surrounding the role of VADs in World War One. The nursing VADs did not replace the professional nursing corps (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – QAIMNS) but assisted them in their daily duties both on the front-line and in military hospitals across Britain. The QA nurses were highly trained, unmarried women over the age of thirty who had chosen the nursing profession as a career for life. However, as the war progressed demand for trained nursing staff grew and recruitment restrictions, such as age limits, were relaxed. Even these changes did not attract the numbers of professional trainees required and VADs became even more vital to the war effort, taking-on increased duties. All nurses faced harsh working and living conditions in the various theatres of war:
By 1915, the role of the VAD had actually moved in to military hospitals both at home and on the fighting front. Having said that, VADs never, ever worked in Casualty Clearing Stations which is another mythology…Base hospitals were relatively comfortable but as the war escalated the bombing raids became more and more frequent. It is interesting that 1917-18 is when the highest rates of death [amongst nurses] occurred because of the shelling and bombing of hospitals and clearing hospitals.
For those who worked on the front-line and of course it was not just on the Western Front, we had nurses working in Mesopotamia, Germany and East Africa. It was a global war and nurses were deployed in a global war. In the Gallipoli campaign, the nurses slept on rocks on blankets because there was no accommodation to put them in. In fact there was no proper accommodation for anybody when they first arrived, no tents erected for the sick and wounded, everyone was sleeping on blankets or mattresses on rocks and gradually over the months on the island, tented hospitals were constructed.
Yvonne is also keen to point-out, that nurses from Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America all worked alongside British nurses. Her research has also revealed that in both World Wars, a total of one thousand seven hundred nurses were killed on active duty. The first nurse died in November 1914. However, this total is expected to rise as further fatalities, from both wars, come to light. For the purposes of these statistics, there is no distinction being made between professional and volunteer nurses both are equal upon death. Yvonne is campaigning for a nurses war memorial to be erected in their honour. You can read more about this appeal on The New Cavendish Club website.
I got a very septic hand, because the VADs didn’t wear rubber gloves…and if you got the slightest prick it always went septic.
During World War One, auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes were created right across Britain to treat sick and injured military personnel from the front-lines. Large private estates and houses were also transformed into hospitals. By 1918, in Hampshire alone there were fifty-nine such facilities and VADs were the lifeblood of these establishments. One of the most important military hospitals on the mainland was the former Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire.
Built in 1856 and opened in March, 1863, this once imposing red brick complex provided the very best medical care to wounded service personnel throughout World War One. In addition to the impressive medical facilities, there was a theatre, extensive gardens, comprehensive range of outdoor activities and endless craft activities for servicemen undergoing rehabilitation. In 1966, the army demolished all the buildings save for The Royal Chapel which still survives and houses a heritage centre, gift shop and exhibition about the history of the former military hospital.
Silent film, from a series of five made in 1917. Each one features a range of ‘War Neuroses’, including the horrific effects of shell shock. Filmed mainly at The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Warning, this film contains images that some viewers may find upsetting. (Uploaded by the Wellcome Library to You Tube, 2.11.2009. For more information about their educational catalogue, click here.)
The Royal Victoria Hospital was located by the shores of Southampton Water. There was once a steel and wood pier connecting the hospital to Southampton Water. Troop ships and hospital ships could unload their wounded before docking in Southampton. However, the water levels by the pier were too shallow to accommodate some of the bigger ships and as the war progressed these vessels only came into Southampton Docks, where the wounded would be transferred to either ambulances or trains for their onward journey.
The hospital was serviced by a railway which in World War One brought a succession of ambulance trains directly there from Southampton Docks. It was said that a soldier could be injured in France on a Friday and be on a ward at the hospital by Monday. Following the Battle of the Somme (1.7.1916), one hundred and fifty-one ambulance trains transported thirty thousand casualties from Southampton Docks to mainland hospitals. A majority of the casualties ended-up at the Royal Victoria. In total one thousand two hundred and twenty ambulance trains arrived at the hospital throughout the duration of the war.
A short while after war broke-out, the War Office requested that a further five hundred bed, Hutted Hospital, be erected on a terrace behind the main building. Netley’s Hutted Hospital consisted of three separate hospitals, the Red Cross, the Irish and the Welsh. One of the conditions of erecting these temporary structures was that, if required, they could be easily dismantled and moved to France. Due to the high numbers of casualties coming through Netley as war escalated, huts were increased in number to accommodate a total of one thousand patients. The Hutted Hospital had a staff of three hundred and fifty including many VADs. Despite their temporary nature, the Hutted Hospital complex contained some very modern facilities, including x-ray equipment, electrical equipment and whirlpool baths.
We young nurses on night duty used to sneak off to the soldiers’ wards. They loved us coming down…I think it cheered them a lot…They’d say ‘Give us a kiss, lassie’. We didn’t think it was wrong at all.
Of course you felt like crying, you had a heart, you had feelings.