A home for these men, who had come so far from their kith and kin to fight

Our wounded allies were nursed in Sulhamstead. The house is now the Thames Valley police training centre.

The Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital which was organised and carried on by Lady Watson at Sulhamstead House has now been closed, after rendering splendid service. The hospital was opened in May, 1915, for the reception of 15 convalescent soldiers from Reading Military Hospital, and this number was increased to 22 in July, 1916. Lady Watson’s main object was to receive overseas troops, and as far as military rules allowed, to make a home for these men, who had come so far from their kith and kin to fight. The number of convalescents passed through the hospital was close on 400. The work has been a great pleasure to Lady Watson…

For the last two years Sister Helen Parker has devoted herself unselfishly to the most important duty of caring for the health and happiness of the men in hr charge. A word of thanks is also due to the indoor and outdoor staffs, who were keen to help with the work of the hospital and arrange the men’s amusements, not forgetting Mr Ralph the engineer, who willingly gave up two evenings weekly all through the winter, while the hospital was open, to give the men cinema entertainments.

(From “The Reading Mercury”.)

Sulhamstead parish magazine, February 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Advertisements

Income from the treatment of discharged soldiers has been very large

Newbury District Hospital was profitting from treating discharged soldiers.

The Chairman’s Statement

The Chairman said with regard to the report and the accounts, he would make a few remarks only. They would have seen from the report that the character of the Hospital’s work was very similar to that of the previous year. For the first time they had a small out-patients department for the purpose of treating discharged soldiers who required some special treatment such as massage. Their income from the treatment of soldiers had been very large, but it was not only from the military that their income had increased. Every single item of the ordinary income showed an increase during the year.

The Annual Report

The thirty-third annual report was as follows:-

The past year, 1917, has been a very important one for the hospital. The figures, giving the number of civilian patients admitted, show a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of soldiers admitted. This is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the new Annexe constructed during the early spring. The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The local branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew-street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds. Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward. The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages, swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated.

Miss Wasey organised a Pound Day, which was most successful. Many entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers. Special donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the hon. sec. Mr. Tufnall sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance, which amounted to £67 17s., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18 s.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading. The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital: this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose. A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their medical referee.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday April 19th 1918: Newbury District Hospital minute book (D/H4/3/2)

An American Spiritualist’s presence of mind saves the dispatches

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade wrote to him optimistically after a disappointing Christmas. She had seen one of the patriotic/propaganda films which were circulating, and also had a remarkable story to tell about the American woman who saved British secret papers when the ship she was travelling on was captured. Charlotte Herbine was a leading Spiritualist – a phenomenon of the period in Britain and the US. Although she was a neutral American, her sympathies were firmly pro-British, and she sponsored a war hospital in London named for her “spirit guide”, Dr Coulter, which was next door to the American Embassy. She was clearly a lady of great resolve and character. Perhaps her experience running seances had developed a gift in misdirection which helped on this occasion.

Dec 29th [1915]
23 Wilton Place

My own darling Ralph

I wonder if this can reach you to wish you a very happy New Year darling, & all the best things in the world for 1916. Today I feel that victory must be in sight now that the Government have really faced that we must have conscription, & it is splendid, isn’t it? Xmas wasn’t Xmas this year, but a dismal caricature. On the very day I was to have taken the babies to Peter[borough], Mother sent me a telephone message to say her kitchenmaid has just developed measles so of course we couldn’t go, & I did feel miserable…

John went to a Medical Board on Dec. 23rd who found that the holes in his back are no better now than when he left hospital in the end of October! So they gave him another month. But it doesn’t prevent him from shooting every day, & they are having a happy time together….

The great bit of news in the Meade family circle is that Cecil is going Commander in Chief at Portsmouth next March! He came to London 23rd to 28th Dec. to fix it up, & he returned to “Madeira” till the end of Feb. when he comes south again for a month’s leave before taking on Portsmouth on March 5th. Of course he is quite inconsolable that he is not afloat but still I am so glad he’s got the billet if it’s only for the sake of Addie & the boys. But of course he’ll find it difficult to collect the cheery sort of Staff that he’ll want, because all the best men are afloat, & naturally wish to remain so…

Aubrey Smith took me this afternoon to a Cinematograph show at the Empire, all about soldiers training to start with, & then there was an interval during which Arthur Balfour came on the stage & began his speech by saying “Though I am unaccustomed to this stage of operations”, loud laughter & applause, & he went on to explain what the being of the Grand Fleet meant to everyone, & put it very well, & then followed a wonderful show of portions of the Grand Fleet at sea, & the sea was rough in some! Queen Elizabeth came in for a lion’s share, the photographer must have lived on board, & then we saw a lot of the Iron Duke too, & light cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers etc etc.

I was very amused at your indignation about Mr Jack Wilson having been collared on the Greek boat by the Huns. All sorts of rumours flew about London about that adventure. First we heard that the bag of important despatches had only “been saved by the resource & presence of mind of an American lady”. Lucky that skirts are wide nowadays! And it turns out that the American lady is no other than the great Mrs Herbine! Does that convey anything to you? Perhaps as you don’t live in such proper spirituelle circles as I do! her fame may not have reached you. Mrs Herbine is the medium of Dr Coulter, who is the spirit of 10 combined famous Americans! (Some spirit!) A large “circle” attend her weekly sceances [sic] when Dr Coulter will only communicate if the circle sit round a table with the white tablecloth & fruit on the table, also flowers! Lord Sandwich is a prominent figure in the circle.

Apparently the King of Greece is also a member of the circle, & Mrs Herbine had just been to Athens to tell Tino from Dr Coulter that he must do whatever the Allies wanted him to do! & she was returning to England on the same Greek boat that carried Mr Wilson & the dispatch bags. Mrs Herbine was on deck when the submarine was sighted. She hurried down to Mr Wilson & said, If you give me the bag of important dispatches, I will see that they reach the War Office in London alright. She also told him to write out some false cipher telegrams, put them in his other bag, & throw it overboard so that it should float, & when the Huns collared it they should think that it was the one & only important bag he carried! This was all done & the Germans duly duped & they never searched the boat or Mrs Herbine for another bag! Mrs Herbine then discovered someone on board who had passports which would bring him to London a week earlier than she could arrive, so she gave him the bag which was safely delivered. The WO say they can’t publicly thank Mrs Herbine, as being an American subject, she really infringed the laws of American neutrality. It’s a comic story, but what foundation of truth it has I’m not prepared to say, though it [is] generally believed to be true.

…Your ever loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“We are all very cheery about the war”

The army chaplain with friends in Mortimer had more information about his life behind the lines in France, preparations for Christmas, and dramatic and musical entertainments for the troops.

Mr. Bowdon writes happily about his cinematograph; “quite a lot of stuff has been given, and the Globe Film Co. have promised to supply me with a weekly programme free of charge except cost of carriage.”

He also sends the following for publication:

14, Stationary,
Wimereux,
Boulogne.

20th December.

Dear Vicar,

I feel I must devote half-an-hour or so to writing a few lines for the magazine, though I am busier than ever in the midst of preparations for Xmas. We are arranging a concert party to go round to all the wards in the hospital, and in the largest there will be a Xmas tree for patients there, and all convalescents who can crawl so far. On Xmas Eve a party of sisters and officers are going round singing carols with lanterns, &c. Then on the Monday we have a big Xmas dinner for our orderlies and N.C.O.’s and a concert and tea at the Recreation Hut in the evening. I regret to say the cinema is not yet ready – the goods are delayed at the Millwall Docks. It is a terrible job getting things out from England and getting work done here, but we hope to overcome all difficulties in time.

I am also arranging a pantomime, a play, and a grand concert by the officers of the A.S.C., to include if possible Kennedy Rumford and the chief tenor from the Italian Opera, so we look forward to a very gay and enjoyable Xmas season. We have built a magnificent stage at the Hut with spacious ‘green rooms,’ draw curtains, electric head and foot-lights. The hut has become very popular, and our lady helpers are kept hard at work from early morn till dewy eve. They all work like bricks, and have been serving on an average 200 hot lunches and suppers a day, in addition to all the usual canteen fare.

The hospital, I am glad to say, is rather empty, so I am not quite so rushed as I have been – at any rate I have more time for seeing to the Xmas festivities. There will be a great number of Xmas communions, in almost all the wards, all over the compound and in the camp services will have to be held. I think they will have to extend over Xmas Day, Sunday and Monday. Much time will be occupied in preparing the patients. We also have three celebrations at our little church, and a special service for the orderlies of our isolation compound who are not allowed to go outside.

We are to have the great pleasure of welcoming Dr. Gore amongst us on Sunday week. He is going to preach, at my request, at our church in the evening, and will dine with me at the Mess afterwards. He is visiting the Boulogne Base for a fortnight. We are having splendid congregations at church, especially at Evensong; when the Bishop comes I doubt if we shall fit them all in.

We are all very cheery about the war, and expecting great things in the Spring. I could a tale unfold but mustn’t. One hears interesting things at our Mess from the innumerable visitors of note who come to dine with the general and other of the Olympians.

With every best wish for Xmas and kindest remembrances to all friends at Mortimer.

Yours very sincerely,
W.S. Bowdon.
C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)