7-13 March 1916: Battersea Polytechnic’s Women Students

The March edition of the Battersea Polytechnic Magazine carries updates from students and former students, including the seventh edition of the Roll of Distinction of those serving. There is also an update of the roll of honour, giving details of two former students who had been killed – Victor Haskins and Thomas Turland.

Part of the Polytechnic was the Training Department of Domestic Science, who had been actively involved in the earlier campaign to make shirts for soldiers and many of whom were now working as VADs, nurses, or in other war occupations.  The magazine has a list of what former Domestic Science students were doing, it includes two who were working as “Instructresses in His Majesty’s Commisariat Department” (this seems to have been part of the Army Service Corps) and several who were working as VADs in various hospitals around the country.

One of the hospitals listed was the VAD Hospital, Clapham Common. There does not appear to be a great deal of information about the hospital, it as at 9 Cedars Road but is not listed in any directories at the time.  The Imperial War Museum holds a souvenir embroidery from the hospital, which is referred to as the 3rd London Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital.  The Red Cross has lists of their hospitals from the war, and the Cedars Road hospital is referred to as having been accepted by the War Office through the Red Cross.  More information on Red Cross hospitals can be found here.

Photographs of the hospital and nurses are at Lambeth Archives and can be found on their photo page, where it is referred to as Battersea Auxiliary Hospital – showing that the name was a bit variable!

The student who was based there was called M Holman.  The Red Cross have lists of VADs online, including several M Holmans, but we haven’t been able to match their records to a VAD who was at Cedars Road.  Several others were at the First London General Hospital in Camberwell, which is also where Vera Brittain served initially so for an account of life as a VAD in London you might want to consider reading Testament of Youth.

Battersea Polytechnic Magazine, ref: S14/5/9

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7-13 December 1915: Battersea Polytechnic

The December issue of the Battersea Polytechnic magazine includes an update on students and staff who were serving with the Armed Forces. An entire page and a photograph are devoted to Lieutenant F H Johnson, who recently visited the college whilst home on sick leave, mentioning that he had received a “slight leg wound in the Hill 70 action”. Lieutenant Johnson was covered in more depth in this post from the University of Surrey, he also won the VC at Hill 70 – something he didn’t tell the Polytechnic when he visited. The magazine also contains photographs and information about former students who had been killed in action, including Private Albert Alder, Sergeant S G Eaton, Private F N Dexter and Sergeant E T Croager.

Several accounts of life at the front had been received from former students, including an account of nursing in Serbia by Monica Stanley, who had been a member of staff at the Serbian Relief Fund Hospital in Kragujevacs (sic), and was a former Polytechnic student. She had previously been in Antwerp and France, and her experience in Serbia started with an epidemic of typhus. The hospital was lost to Bulgarian forces with the city, including an arsenal. Miss Stanley refers o having to spend much of her journey back to London in a cattle truck, but also refers to others who were travelling: “At the railway stations I witnessed the tragic flight of the refugees. All they had ben able to take with them they had wrapped up in large counterpanes or some sort of bed coverings, and the children looked very pitiful. They were all moving on, but where they were going to eventually nobody seemed to know. They appeared to rely upon the Allies.”

Battersea Poly munitions class, Dec 15The magazine also contains two images of munitions classes at the Polytechnic, with only a short paragraph to explain these further. Two members of staff, Mr Shaw and Mr Tottle, were congratulated on the work being done in the Engineering Workshops. They were training men in munitions work, but also hoped to have delivered 400 anti-aircraft shells before Christmas in addition to other work for the War Office. The shells in questions were apparently one of the “most difficult to manufacture”. The Engineering department had also lost their Instructor in Motor Engineering to the Admiralty, although he was not permitted to tell them what he was working on.

Current students were raising money for the Polytechnics War Fund, including the making of shirts which were sent to English, Belgian and Serbian Forces – so far over 1783 had been made and sent out. The War Fund report also listed the total numbers from the Polytechnic who had volunteered, two Governors, eighteen members of staff and three hundred and eighty four students up to December 1915. The Domestic Science students were raising money by producing “Polytechnic Plum Puddings” and other festive treats for sale, which the magazine urged reders to purchase as soon as possible due to limited supply.