4-10 April 1916: 3rd London General Hospital

April’s edition of the Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital covers the usual wide range of subjects, including noting that the magazine was now six months old and talking about its success.  Some rivalry creeps in here, as it refers to one of their artists being sent there and “not to one of the other hospitals with whose magazines ours is in such pleasant rivalry”.  The Gazette benefitted from a group of artists who had joined up as hospital orderlies – some of whom this blog has covered before, such as C RW Nevinson, but for this issue also included Australian artist Private Vernon Lorimer, who was a patient.  The editors were pleased to have reached six months, as a voluntary endeavour often dried up after the first two or three, and felt that the Gazette “was never more alive than it is to-day” – although they did hope for the end of the Gazette when the war itself ended.

There were several articles about the nursing staff, as there often were, this edition including a photograph of Queen Amelie of Portugal, who was one of the nurses.  Although she mainly lived in France after Portugal became a republic, she came to the 3rd London General Hospital to help with the wounded, “performing the ordinary duties of a probationer, going to her ward on arrival, and leaving when her duties were finished”.  Few photographs of her at work existed, as she preferred to focus on what she was doing and not the press – the photographs in the Gazette were presumably taken purely because it was the hospital’s own magazine.

Nursing staff contributed their own articles to the magazine, including one about the first Zeppelin raid. It’s not clear if it refers to the first ever Zeppelin raid over London, or the first one which crossed over the hospital, but it does include an anecdote about a sister who sprang out of bed, dressed in perfect uniform at speed and disappeared to the wards, muttering: “let me die with my men”.

The nurses and artists were also the subject of an illustration by Corporal Irving, showing one nurse in the style of the various artists. Left to right, those are: Stephen de la Bere; C R W Nevinson; Miss VAD Collins; patient Captain Tomkin McRoberts; “as she really looks to the average human eye”.

Nurses and Artists' Styles

Advertisements

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

21-27 December 1915: Christmas at the 3rd London General Hospital

The December edition of the 3rd London General Hospital Gazette was produced with some Christmas cheer in mind, as it includes a poem “For a War Christmas” and a Timetable of the 25th.  A full report of Christmas at the hospital does not appear until February, as both the December and January editions were sent to the printers before Christmas.

The February edition even carries an explanation of why the January one did not have an account of Christmas

…a cautious scribe is shy of effervescing over events which, at the moment of writing, have not yet taken place… It would have been sae enough to compose an “intelligent anticipation” in the past tense, asserting that Yuletide had been a stunning success – and the risk of fire, earthquake, or Zep bombs preventing the consummation of the prophecy was one which would have deterred no modern journalist from so congenial an exercise of smartness.

It also has a write up from the Matron, describing Christmas at the hospital. On Christmas Eve, all the nurses went round all the wards with Chinese lanterns, singing Christmas carols.  The Ladies’ Committee of the hospital had spent the weeks beforehand gathering presents to make Christmas stockings for all the men, which the nurses put on the ends of their beds for the morning and had what the Matron describes as “the greatest joy at Christmas… watching the men wake up and find them in the morning.”  Buttonholes were given out on Christmas day by Matron and Mrs Bruce Porter, the Australian men got wattle (better known as acacia) in theirs.  Dinner was served in each ward, with turkey, plum pudding and crackers.  Queen Amelie of Portugal, who was a nurse, came in specially to have dinner with her patients – even getting a special cheer at the concert party which was given later.  HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, attended the afternoon tea part of the day with a special message from the King to the men – conveying his pride in them and wishes for a speedy recovery.  Afternoon tea also included a cinema showing, as it had been recently gifted by a Mr Nichols, an American who was a friend of the Commanding Officer.  It was all very different from the timetable of the 25th in a German Military Hospital which appeared in December’s Gazette, written up in sarcastic fashion by a returned Prisoner of War.Timetable of the 25th POW Hospital

The other reference to Christmas in December’s Gazette was a poem by H M Nightingale, “For a War Christmas”. Helen Nightingale appears to have been a nurse at the hospital, she frequently wrote poetry which appeared in the Gazette referring to nursing and caring for the men, as well as on the war in general:

For a War Christmas poem 1915

2-8 November 1915: Tooting Military Hospital

The Tooting and Balham Gazette of 6 November carried several notes relating to the Tooting Military Hospital, including notes on the entertainment of the troops there by two groups of local pupils. The first group were pupils of the Misses M Pinnell, the Red House, Burntwood Lane and the second were pupils of Miss Emily Clifton, Garratt Lane. Miss Clifton’s group also distributed over 900 cigarettes and ten pounds of chocolate, bought with money raised by the pupils and the girls of Mrs Piper’s laundry.

Tooting Military Hospital had originally been the Tooting Home for the Aged and Infirm, and was on Church Lane. On 27 May 1915 the minutes of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union Board of Guardians record that the Military were to take over the building from 1st June that year. The existing patients were to be transferred to Mitcham Workhouse, Swaffield Road institution or St John’s Hill Infirmary, and some of the staff were also to transfer to Swaffield Road. It would appear that the Board actually offered the building up, as the Local Government Board wrote to them on 17 May to express their appreciation of the patriotic action.

St Benedict's Hospital, 1930s - the former Tooting Military Hospital

St Benedict’s Hospital, 1930s – the former Tooting Military Hospital

After the war, the hospital was taken over by the Department of Pensions, and in 1931 re-opened as St Benedict’s Hospital, run by the London County Council. It’s difficult to find much more detail about military hospitals (this post on the Scarletfinders website explains why) – a search on the National Archives catalogue for “Tooting Military Hospital” comes up with three records relating specifically to it, one a medal card and the other two relating to the Committee on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War (see here and here for details).

Silver War Badge medal card for A M Hallen

Silver War Badge medal card for A M Hallen

The medal card is for Agnes Hallen, who seems to be also listed as having received a Silver War Badge, the card for which is available via AncestryLibrary and says she was a Sister in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – her other medal card says she was “Nurse and Sister-in-Charge” at Tooting Military Hospital. At the time she received the Silver War Badge, she is listed as living at 8 Montserrat Road in Putney – although no other record of her at that address survives and further details about her are difficult to trace. The Silver War Badge was designed to honour those who had been discharged because of wounds or illness, so that former military personnel could wear it to deflect criticism for not being in uniform. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service still exists, although it is now known as Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).

Tooting and Balham Gazette available on microfilm

All Wandsworth Libraries have access to AncestryLibrary.com which includes medal cards