14-20 September 1915: Gifford House

(c) Surrey Flying Service

(c) Surrey Flying Service

The Wandsworth Borough News of 17 September reports on 70 wounded soldiers being entertained at Winchester House, which was the Putney Constitutional Club.  The soldiers came from Gifford House, which was being used as an auxiliary hospital from King George’s Hospital at Waterloo.  Entertainment included tobacco or cigarettes on arrival, followed by bowls or billiards.  Prizes were pipes and tobacco and there was then a concert, including singing, “humorous sketches were immensely enjoyed”, recitals and “exceedingly clever ventriloquist sketches”.  When the soldiers reached their transport, more cigarettes were apparently showered on them, having been bought specially by club members.

Gifford House was a mansion on Putney Heath, the site is now part of the Ashburton Estate, bordered by Innes Gardens, Tildesley Road and Putney Heath.  The house was originally built around 1760 and had a range of occupiers, including James MacPherson and Baron Charles Joachim Hambro, before being purchased by the Charrington brewing family in 1892.  The Charringtons carried out extensive remodelling of the house, including adding the ballroom for 120 people, but moved to Ashburton House around 1910.  The Duchess of Westminster occupied briefly around 1913, but the house appears to have been empty when it was offered up as a location for a hospital.

Patients in the hospital were expected to follow military rules for discipline and routine.  According to Cpl William Lunn, whose reminiscences are included in the book “The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History”, the patients all wore uniform and provided their own cutlery, as it was part of their kit.  Patients who were able to regularly headed for London after breakfast, as they were usually allowed to travel for free, but they had to be back in good time.  “We had to be back by 1900 hours.  Many who were late climbed in over the fence – legless or not… I was caught more than once – and sent back to Roehampton [Queen Mary’s Hospital] as punishment, but they did not have room for me and so I returned to Gifford House.”

Gifford House continued to be a hospital until 1919, when it became the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Home for Discharged Soldiers In memory of Lady Ripon”. It formally opened under this name on 9 July 1919 and stayed until 1933, when it moved to Worthing – where it remains.  Many of the QAHH’s old photographs are available online here.

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm.

Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History available for reference use in the Heritage Service

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31 August – 6 September 1915: Royal Visit to the 3rd London General Hospital

The first edition of the Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital was published in October 1915, and included a report on the visit of the King and Queen to the hospital on 1st September.  Understandably, this was also reported by the Wandsworth Borough News and between the two publications we can get a good idea of the scale of the visit.

According to the paper, the Royal party visited with only a few minutes notice, having driven up from Windsor, but when they arrived around 200 patients were “drawn up in double file.  They were all in the now familiar blue uniform”.  The Hospital Gazette phrases it slightly differently, saying that it was as nearly a surprise as was reasonably practicable and that no preparations were made aside from lining up the chairs outside for the patients.  The party arrived, went inside for introductions then returned to go up and down the lines of patients, accompanied by the CO, the Matrons and Sir Alfred Pearce-Gould.

The Borough News reported on exchanges between the royal visitors and the patients, including one patient who asked if he could have a job in the royal stables.  Another said that they were fed like cattle, to which the King replied: “You don’t mean they fed you on hay” – apparently this “caused many smiles”.  The King and Queen subsequently passed the kitchens as orderlies were fetching food for patients (the Gazette reports that apart from the patients outside, everything else carried on as usual), and paused to inspect the food, perhaps spurred on by the conversation.

Third London General Hospital PCWC109The visit lasted two and a half hours, during which the King and Queen visited almost every ward.  The Borough News notes that the wards have passages over a mile long, and there were additional wards built to the side of the Royal Victoria Patriotic building as well (forming what was known as “C block”).

The visit was summed up by the Gazette as:

The King and Queen had come down to Wandsworth, really, to say just two words to each of those blue-clad men.  And the words are: “Thank you”.

The Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital is available on request

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm

For details of a nurse at the 3rd London General Hospital: http://www.schoolsofnursing.co.uk/Collections1/Collections18.htm