On the Society of the Sacred Heart War Memorial at the University of Roehampton is the following inscription:
Lieut. S. Staff. Regt.
Killed near Ypres
George Archer-Shee (6 May 1895 – 31 October 1914) was a young Royal Navy cadet whose case of whether he stole a five shilling postal order ended up being decided in London’s High Court in 1910. The trial, which became a British cause célèbre, was the inspiration for the play The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan. Archer-Shee was successfully defended against the charges by the notable barrister, judge and politician from Ireland, Sir Edward Carson. Following the acquittal, the boy’s family were paid compensation in July 1911. Archer-Shee was commissioned in the British Army in 1913, and killed aged 19, at the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914.
The full story of George’s acquittal can be found here. But how did he come to be on the memorial, as he has no obvious connection to Roehampton?
George is honoured on the Society of the sacred Heart War Memorial as his half-sister, Winifrede Archer-Shee was at school at Roehampton, becoming a novice in 1908 and ultimately Mother Superior at Roehampton. In her memoirs, held in the Society’s archives, she is quoted as saying “This place [Roehampton] has always meant more to me than any other place”.
With thanks to Gilly King, University of Roehampton, who provided the information and photographs in this post.
Copies of The Winslow Boy play text and on CD are available through Wandsworth Libraries.
Queen Mary’s Hospital in 1930
This week’s Wandsworth Borough News reports on the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the Queen Mary Auxiliary Hospital for Limbless Soldiers at Roehampton (to use its full title as given by the paper). The royal couple made a tour of the wards, talking to the patients and examining the artificial limbs – including a group of convalescent men walking round them to demonstrate how well they were getting on.
They also visited the work-rooms, where a basket maker gave the Queen an apple-basket, and they saw men working at type-writing, book-keeping and carpentry. The King was curious as to how the limbs were actually constructed and, following one man doing a military salute with an artificial hand and arm, some of the limbs were stripped and disconnected so that he could see how they worked. The Hanger Limb Department was where the men made the artificial limbs, and the King and Queen were shown round it and had questions answered. From the article, it seems that most of those at work making the various prostheses had lost limbs themselves – one man at Loos, another at Givenchy – and that the work was part of their rehabilitation.
Queen Mary’s Hospital opened in June 1915, having been offered rent-free accommodation in Roehampton House, which had been previously requisitioned as a billet for soldiers. 25 soldiers were patients there, rapidly rising to 224 by October 1915 and 550 by June 1916. By June 1918 there were 900 beds at the hospital and a waiting list of 4321 men. The limb workshops mentioned above were set up in September 1915 as training workshops, as well as fulfilling the demand.
A summary of the hospital history can be found here and details of the the Queen Mary’s Hospital Archives & Museum Group can be found here.
Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm